Saturday, September 02, 2006
Holiday Weekend Links I
A nanny state way too far....
Go ahead, prove you are a complete nerd. Now maybe in the days when I carried a slide rule...
Any bets there was a divorce filing the day after?
Da Tovarisch, we left them there in secret plot to revivie Soviet Union after many days.
Near my sister's home - thank the Lord they missed my niece and nephew. Now, about my sister :-)
Stand in the dugout, now try and throw a ball and hit a pitch on it's way to home plate. That's what they did.
Because somebody worked hard and it's pretty doggone funny:
(HT: Dwayne's World)
It's nice to know we finally have control and can properly schedule these things. "Set for" indeed!
Yes, but these days, what precisely is it bound for? And will it know when it gets there?
Related Tags: courts, global warming, nanny state, joke, humor
were a part of the Defenders, we turn our attention today to Hellcat. Here's the basic bio. In "real life" she is Patsy Walker, now Patsy Hellstrom, and Patsy Walker may have had the strangest evolution of any character in comics. She started as sort of Marvel's answer to Betty and Veronica (from the Archie comics) -- married the "Son of Satan" (we'll get to him soon) and now is undead. This "official" bio barely mentions her past, at least in terms of "reality" - She even rates a Wikipedia entry (but then who doesn't?) which also includes some interesting information on her older incarnations.
The analog to Batman's nemesis "Catwoman" seems obvious, but is never discussed. The two characters have such radically different stories that the analog is completely superficial, but comics are a visual medium.
But then, while she is a feminine feline character, she is drawn quite differently too - and I don't mean just the differences in costume. Selina Kyle (Catwoman) always, and I mean always, looks like she is trying to seduce every man in sight. (Remember Michelle Pfifer in that second Michael Keaton Batman film?) Patsy, on the other hand, is all teeth and claws. You sort of had the impression that if she did seduce you it would hurt - maybe that is why she had to marry the "Son of Satan"?
I do think this goes a long way to account for the relative success of the two characters. Catwoman was a fantasy - Hellcat was just another costume.
Patsy did hold her own on the Defenders, she was quite the competent hero. And, given the generally mystical nature of the Defenders foes, her "Hell" connection was probably more important than her feline qualities.
Do not confuse Hellcat with an earlier use of the costume called Tigra - that was a mutant that went on to go all furry on her own and did not need the costume anymore. Walker inherited the costume, and somehow seemed to gain power from it in some completely inexplicable manner. Which may also account for a lot - she has the least sensical "origin" of any hero I have ever encountered.
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, Marvel, The Defenders, Hellcat
Friday, September 01, 2006
Build, Fix, Or Just Complain
Yet, there is a role for critics in the world, regardless of the endeavor, criticism is a means to improvement, but there are some rules that make it so. I'm going to suggest two such rules, and use myself and comic books as an example.
First, master the topic you seek to criticize. It is fair to say that when it comes to comics, I have some expertise - I own 8000 of the things and have read every last one of them, sometimes more than once. But there are limits to that expertise. For example, my collection is almost solely limited to the superhero genre. I do not like, for example, the so-called "underground" comics that started largely with Crumb and have very little to say about them. I have never been involved in the production or sales of comics - these aspects of the world of comics I know only from what I read on occassion, and conversations I have had with those that have been so involved. So in the end what I have is a fan's expertise, but that does not rise to the level of true expertise. My mastery of the topic is limited, thus my credibility as a critic is limited.
The second rule for criticism is to work hard to make it a part of the effort to improve and not simply criticism for the sake of building yourself up. Like the cliche says, "if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." I work really hard when I write about comics to write about what I like and don't like - that's information useful to publishers, it tells them what the fan base is enjoying and not enjoying. What you won't find me doing is writing about how lousy Writer X in the extraordinaily vain attempt to get that particular writing gig - face it, Writer X has the job, he must be better than me.
If I had to summarize this it would be to say that criticism is an important thing if viewed as a creative act - part of improving the creation it criticises. But if criticism is nothing more than an effort at self-aggrandizment, or purging of some emotional wrong, if it is a purely destructive act, then it is pointless, it's not criticism, it's complaint.
Now about blogging....
Related Tags: criticism, complaint, build, fix, create
Tale As Old As Links
Tony Blair is a great ally in the GWOT, but this is horrific. I hope Parliment has the common sense to stop him dead in his tracks.
Speaking of horrific political ideas, let's just undermine the US Constitution, what do you say?
Because we all need a little wisdom from time-to-time.
At last, the perfect past-time.
With good reason! Way too many people in positions of power in denial, that's why.
Global Warming - activism or extortion? The answer may not come as easily as you think. Speaking of which - yes, things are nuts here in CA! Besides, who said global warming is a bad thing? But if you still believe we are all gonna die in the hellfires of global warming, please say your creed out loud.
Suddenly, the Batcave is no fun anymore.
What do you know - liberals are wrong - again.
Finally, art even I can understand.
This may be true, but if she is really lucky, like my wife, you get both! (Humility thrown in to boot)
Related Tags: online church, social engineering, wisdom, global warming, segregation, joke, humor, sarcasm
Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans."
He gave Noah the blueprints, saying, "You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights."
Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.
"Noah!" He roared, "I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?"
"Forgive me, Lord," begged Noah, "but things have changed. I needed a building permit. I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.
Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.
Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!
When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me.
They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.
Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.
I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew.
Immigration and Naturalization is checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work!
The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.
To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.
So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark."
Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, "You mean you're not going to destroy the world?"
"No," said the Lord. "The government beat me to it."
Related Tags: joke, humor, Friday humor, Noah, government
Thursday, August 31, 2006
We Must Start At The Beginning
But then, as Mohler has done before, he overstates his case and does not consider carefully the ramifications of all that he is saying. Mohler admits there is much in the letter with which he disagrees, but then selects the following paragraph as a place where agreement and dialog could begin.
Surely we can agree that each species, however inconspicuous and humble it may seem to us at this moment, is a masterpiece of biology and well worth saving. Each species possesses a unique combination of genetic traits that fits it more or less precisely to a particular part of the environment. Prudence alone dictates that we act quickly to prevent the extinction of species and, with it, the pauperization of earth's ecosystems.As I said yesterday, that is a place of maximal disagreement from my perspective. For starters, most environmentalism, in all its expressions, is entirely naturalistic. However, this fundamental philosophical difference has been well discussed, so I will not dwell on it. The problem I have with this "starting point" is that from a Christian perspective it would mean that we hold God created a static universe, one that should not change - ever. And yet, the evidence is quite strong that we live in a dynamic universe, one in which change is the norm. Unless you want to argue that the fall destroyed creation as much as man - which I cannot - then I for one cannot accept the static universe view. I will make two brief arguments.
Firstly, leaving aside the details of evolutionary theory, there is simply too much evidence of species coming and going to believe in a static creation. To buy the static creation viewpoint, one must assume that the fossil record is mischief of some sort, either created by God as some sort of giant cosmic joke, or planted by the devil purposefully to mislead us. Personally, I do not think God's humor is misleading and I think Satan has far more subtle ways to achieve his ends.
Secondly, I would argue that as we are made in God's image, and creativity is perhaps God's most visible attribute (look around you), that we too are intended to create. One of the things that separates us from God is that we cannot create ex nihlio; therefore, for us to exercise our "imageness" in creativity, we must change creation somehow. In other words, we are definitionally God's agents of dynamism in His creation.
This means that any form of Christian environmentalism is going to be asking a very different set of questions and have very different goals from a secular one. Secular environmentalism seeks to preserve creation in its current, or perhaps some regressive state. Christian enviroinmentalism can do no such thing; it's essential tenant is instead how best to alter creation to serve God's purpose.
Now, back to where we began, I am sure there is some pragmatic common ground within those two radically different perspectives, but we must exercise extreme caution in any such dialog, and especially in any joint action. To make it appear that we share worldview on issues like this with the secular will harm evangelism in general. Further, in such common cause we risk eroding our own worldview, something I am not sure Christianity can withstand much more of.
Related Tags: environment, envrionmentalism, Christian environmentalism, wordlview, perspective, Al Mohler
The Theme From Links
I really hate this law - and yet I'm liable to make a fortune off of it. California can cause your head to explode that way. See, these things only help the lawyers and consultants, and I'd rather earn an honest living.
Inspired by boredom or coutoure? You decide.
Anti-religous bigotry is ugly, very ugly. I thought in this country we needed evidence of a problem before a guy lost his job.
What happens when you release frozen salmon?
Brief global warming discussion surrounding a potenital Presidential candidate - part one -- part two. Part two is especially good at pointing out how some of the overheated misleading claims of global warming activists get started.
Paranoid? - this is for you.
I may hate myself for writing this, but given her teeth, I'd just call this a "giddy-up."
Way to go - Lowell
The problem with prophets - somtimes they're wrong.
Related Tags: religious heritage, carbon emissions, global wamring, fashion, insult humor, joke
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
How Broad Is Your View?
Self-deprecating humor aside, it is a reminder that each person has a very unique viewpoint on all sorts of levels. One of the tricks when you want everyone to share something, like say faith in Jesus Christ, is that your definition of "faith in Jesus Christ" has to be elastic enough to accomodate all those viewpoints, but not so elastic as to become something entirely different altogether. That's a pretty tricky proposition.
It is particularly tricky when we have poeple that spend their lives trying to figure out precisely what that definition is, in excruciating anf often mind-numbing detail. There is a tendency in such a pursuit to become rather narrow-minded, to even forget the necessity of elasticity in the defintion. I mean think about it, it is very hard to define something that is never exactly the same shape twice.
But again since we are talking about something we want everyone to share, we have to remember there are people in this world who will share it, but not give a moments thought to definitions or boundaries - they will be perfectly content with something so amorphous, so shapeless, as to be almost without meaning in any academic sense. And yet those people's live will be radically changed by this indefinable amorphous "whatever" to levels the more academic types may never even dream about.
Which is why it so important to remember that it is the object of faith that matters, not the faith itself. Jesus Christ was fully human, therefore He had shape and definition; He could be experienced, measured, bounded. Jesus Christ was also fully God - infinite, unimaginable, incomprehensible, unbounded and undefinable.
When the preacher says:
Eccl 1:2-3 - "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun?He is not telling us to quit trying, He is reminding us of the proper place of our effort. He reminds us that neither our experience nor our understanding are sufficient - and that they never can be.
All must be subject to the God we can know but never understand.
Related Tags: knowledge, experience, faith, undertsanding, Jesus
Oh jeez, this is how trouble starts. Mohler looks at an attempt from an secular environmentalist to reach out to Christians and says this represents a starting point:
Surely we can agree that each species, however inconspicuous and humble it may seem to us at this moment, is a masterpiece of biology and well worth saving. Each species possesses a unique combination of genetic traits that fits it more or less precisely to a particular part of the environment. Prudence alone dictates that we act quickly to prevent the extinction of species and, with it, the pauperization of earth's ecosystems.Al - THAT'S NO STARTING POINT! Christians can't agree to that - what about dinosaurs? The world is full of evidence of extinction as a part of God's plan, even if you are a young earth creationist. One of the distinct problems of "Christian environmentalism" is there is so little environmental action that can be deemed biblically based unless you KNOW it's what's best for the planet from extra-biblical means - and the extra-biblical means are VALUE-BASED more than data-based, thus you end up compromising the values. Here's an example - polar ice melt of 12 million years ago, tell me again about anthropogenic global warming. Here's another value dilemma that's hard to answer - how to spend the money.
How long before we sterilize them? That's nothing short of Nazi-esque - and it is the problem with 3rd-party payer health care. Speaking of which, why is it severe mental impairment of some sort always shows up when treatment is long term and exspensive? - thus takng the decision out of the patient's hands.
Tornadoes hate trailer parks - even in the UK.
Could it be because there actually is some non-materialistic part of our being? Nah, couldn't be, God must be a function of biology. (Nope, no sarcasm here)
If he reads it, will he give it back? - That would be a GREAT sermon.
This is why image is not as important as substance. Ahnold acted indominable - but alas, it was only acting, and Sacramento ain't the movies.
We do have a low pain threshold.
I knew it, I just knew it - the earth farts - that's were global warming comes from.
Related Tags: memorials, environmentalism, Christian environmentalism, global warming, obesity, healthcare, eugenics, California politics, evangelism, joke, humor, sarcasm
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
What Kind Of Conservative Are You?
Reflecting upon it, it strikes me that the ultimate division between left and right lies in whether a person believes man to be basically evil, or basically good. Conservatives believe the former and liberals the later.
Conservatives can then be dividied into those of faith, and those not of faith - this division is vidily illustrated in the recent discussion surrounding Heather MacDonald's piece of a week or two ago. This is the best overview of the discussion I have found.
Kern appears to be of the "not of faith" variety of conservative and I am struck by the extreme cynicism and lack of hope evident in his piece. He centers his discussion on W's contention that all people hope for freedom, which I explain to set up these quotes I present to illustrate the hopelessness:
I wish I could disagree with Bush's quote. As a conservative, I hate everything about it. The quote goads me to lash out with cynicism and sarcasm -- or, better still, with the kind of pseudo-sophisticated nihilism that sometimes passes for worldly conservative insight.Kern then goes on to find "hope" or at least credibility for Bush's contention in the facts of history itself, that saints do, in fact, arise, and that freedom has, in fact, prevailed.
Nothing explains saints. Nothing acts upon them to make them good. What they are, they choose to be -- freely, happily, without hope of reward, without coercion. Saints become saints through the exercise of free choice, which all men possess.
But I am struck by an interesting problem with his analysis. As he admits - from whence does the saint arise and how did that longing for freedom take shape if we are indeed so hopeless? Now that these things are here, the standard is visible, but where did it first come from?
The answer is, of course, religion. Mr. Kern says:
We don't know what makes saints. But we do know that some circumstances are more likely to produce saintliness than others. We know that strong families and intermediary institutions are conducive to decency and dignity. We know that small governments have limited ability to wreak havoc. We know that democracy tends to encourage accountability and transparency. We know that love begets love and hate begets hate.Religion is that which assigns value to those circumstances that are more likely to produce saintliness. The same history that Mr. Kern appeals to to create any sense of hope also tells us that government cannot coerce or create these conditions - only religion seems to ever have been able to do that, and specifically, only Christian religion.
So what really is the lesson of history? That a healthy and free society requires hope, and that religion is the best source of such hope. Without religion, I am left with the near fatalistic hopelessness of Mr. Kern, finding hope only in the unexplainable rising of "saints" - or I can be a liberal and place my hope in man himself - which Mr. Kern and I, and history, agree is no hope at all.
Related Tags: religion, politics, society, hope, history
Just You and Links
The definition of gratitude.
I have to think it's the money. As politics now so often out strip the scientific reality (say global wamring or stem cells) I just have to believe people are chasing money. What else could motivate something like this?
I've had it with these *(&%&%$&^%#&^# snakes...well just about anywhere.
It's sad that this does not distress me that much. It's what I would expect from Ahnold at this point, and frankly, as Christians, if we truly believe what we say, we should nto be sucking up to the government teet that much.
Life imitates SNL.
Did you know? - You should.
Nothing will ever taste the same again.
Bigotry or doctrinal preservation? I'm still wondering.
Where Democrats come from.
ABOMINATION!!!!!!!!! "French Elvis" indeed - "jumbo shrimp" makes more sense.
Related Tags: population bomb, science and politics, politics and morality, religious purity, evangelical, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
My wife is pretty funny in these comics, but I am afraid reality has surpassed her. I'm guessing there was nothing good on TV at the time.
Related Tags: cartoons, catblogging, Aggie, Flash
Monday, August 28, 2006
In The End
A: Man?s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
I quote those opening words from the Westminster Shorter Cathecism with some regularity on this blog. I am inspried, by a sermon I heard a couple of weeks back to focus on the word "end" and it's frequent conpanion "means."
The theme of that sermon I heard was that too often we treat God as a means to some other end rather than the end in and of Himself. The ramifications of this statement are all too obvious in our personal lives, and I no doubt as many read the words, the "amens" went through their minds. But I want to look briefly at two practical ramifications of this idea that may not be so widely explored.
The first has to do with the church. How often is God the means to build the organization instead of the organization the tool to aid the end of God? The temptation is so strong. The church being temporal is easy to lay hands upon, set goals for, work towards those goals, it is easy to confuse those goals and efforts with the God they are intended to serve. We need to remember the personally transformational reason Christ came - God had come to build a nation already, that of Israel, He had found that to achieve the nation He desired He needed first to change men at their very core. The business of the church is not to build itself, but to change men and to change men in a way that God is the end.
The second area where this ends/means idea gravely concerns me is politics. I am deeply worried that faith is becoming a means of political manipulation; that people are conservative or liberal first and choose thier faith practice accordingly, instead of the other way around. We do not nurture faith in God so that people vote one way or the other.
There is indeed an alignment right now between one political philosophy, one poltical party, and most people of faith. That, in and of itself, is not bad. However, in such an alignment people often confuse thier priorities, they often confuse their means and their ends.
Many would argue that such means we should somehow abolish the alignment - I disagree with that, I just think we need to delineate carefully the boundaries, and reinforce strongly, precisely what are the means and what are the ends.
Worse yet, both of these areas of application of this idea feed each other, in the wrong direction. Confusing the boundaries of politics and faith seems also to help build the faith organization. From a temporal standpoint, there appears to be some synergy, but at what cost?
Think about it, this is the same issue raised by things like the EU and NAFTA - are the economic benefits worth the loss of national identity? I don't want to debate that right now, but I do want to point out that the problems are the parallel, but the stakes much higher in matters of faith.
You see the loss of a point of national identitity, like say a currency in the EU case, is in some sense a trivial matter - but the loss of a point of identity like say "disciple of Christ" is in no way trivial. It cannot and never should be "disciple of Christ/Republican."
Our ends. our prize is what matters
Phil 3:14 - I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Stay focused on that upward call, remember it is our end - He is our end.
Related Tags: ends, means, Christ, politics, church
You Ain't Nothing But A HoundLink
Meanwhile, this guy has an excellent point on the matter.
What's this?! Dramatic short term climate chaneg long, long before industrialization? Couldn't possibly be - then we'd have nothing to feel guilty about. (HT: Greenie Watch)
When Enviros need something to do. Pollution happens by the ton. What I mean is that the world is a vry big place and small individiual incidents, even ones that happen daily, do not amount to much in terms of truly harming anything. This story has got to be about somthing else - neighbors that don't like the traffic and noise is my guess - too bad - Sea World was there first.
What environmental law is often about - wealth transfer. Here is a key maxim to alwasy rememebr - the first to benefit from any law are the lawyers.
This is; however, worth worrying about. Right up there with the asteroid collision.
This is a sickness. The misplaced priorities are a huge problem, but personal harassment is beyond the pale. Sometimes you wish you could fight back as dirty as they do, but then they win.
Where is Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?
Some people are just mean.
Where is Adrian Warnock on this list?
Related Tags: pollution, environment, global warming, fireworks, animal activists, joke, humor
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Sunday Morning Coming Down Links
My fellow citizins, The foundation of our town is...well, messy and nasty and not very pleasant to think about.
As a decidely upper-middle class (formerly) morbidly obese person - HOGWASH! In a similar vein, this story requies reference by a slang term for bovine excriment.
So, wave/particle duality is the "weirdest" physics theory? Now, here is my question of that ages: "Why can completely rational physicists the world over use that theory without comment on that fact on a daily basis, and at the same time decry religious notions like the Trinity and Christ's dual nature as hocum?" Just wondering.
The effects of communism linger even today in Russia.
Sadly, things are never quite what they seem, at least on some issues. (HT: Instapundit)
It appears I have a shot at a military career after all, now all I need is to be 30 years younger.
Related Tags: stem cell, sarcasm, joke, humor
Sermons and Lessons
Ex-Principal and Barbour professor of divinity in Theological College of Presbyterian Church of England, 1888-1907; born Port Glasgow, Scotland, August 14, 1835; educated at Dumfries Academy, Edinburgh University and New College, Heidelberg and Erlangen; ordained at East Kilbride, 1859; colleague to Dr. Candlish in Free St. George's church, Edinburgh, 1861; resigned through ill-health, 1864; spent three years without charge in Melbourne, Australia; minister of. Regent Square church, London, 1869-88; author of "The Beatitudes of the Kingdom," "Laws of the Kingdom," "Relations of the Kingdom," "From Jerusalem to Antioch," "Abraham the Friend of God," "Daily Prayers for the Household," "Sermons," etc.
"It shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel." - Gen. 3:15.
Most nations which have achieved independence and renown, have either possest or fabled in the dawn of their origin some famous national hero - the champion and the deliverer of his people. Indeed, the earliest names that have struggled down to us, encrusted with legend, from dim ages, are probably the names of strong and valiant men who in their day wrought a kind of deliverance on the earth. In the most primitive times of all the contest was necessarily with hostile powers of nature; the monster of the forest or the pestilential swamp. How many a dragon legend is to be found in traditional story; how many a giant to be slain; how many a tale of romantic exploit by adventurous pioneers, who pierced the savage wildernesses of the world to clear its forests, slay its wolves, drain and till its fens, till the land grew safe and healthy for human habitation. Within historic periods, the task of a national champion has more often been to contend with hostile tribes, to fire his countrymen with the love of freedom or to lead their resistance against some more powerful neighbor. But whether it be in the legend of a Hercules or Perseus, or of Romulus or Arthur, or in the more sober pages which record the name of Leonidas or Tell, Wallace or Washington, all such champions represent a battle which has never ceased since the world was - the ancient endless battle of spirit against brute strength or craft, of order against lawless self-will, of liberty against tyranny, of light against darkness. It is with good right that such tales, dear to the heart of boyhood, linger on in the memory of grown men. For they all preserve some obscure episode or another in the struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Strangely distorted as they may be or drest in allegory and in fable, they do serve for unconscious types of His mighty task who from the beginning has been the expected champion of human deliverance.
In men of this heroic type no nation's story was ever richer than the sacred annals of the Jews, with one notable distinction. Such names as Moses, Joshua, Samson, Gideon, David, represent deliverances wrought for their fellow countrymen indeed; yet deliverances in which, not man, but God Himself was the evident and acknowledged Deliverer, even more than in the case of their fellow Semites, though the trait is a Semitic one. In the nation's perils, whether from the Egyptian, or the Bedouin, or the Canaanite, warrior after warrior was raised up, champion after champion, stout of heart and strong of arm; yet always he bore Jehovah's direct commission; always he acted in Jehovah's name; always it was not his bow or sword the people were taught to extol, but the outstretched arm of Israel's God and King. While most other nations, therefore, semi-deified their ancient heroes, this was the language of the Hebrew poet:
Through thee will we push down our enemies:
Through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us.
One example will show how this continued to be the sentiment of the best men in the nation till the close of its career. The last of Israel's great "deliverances" was that from the bondage in Babylon. In speaking of this, the most eloquent of its prophets depicts Jehovah as contemplating "with dismay" the waste and wrongful ruin inflicted upon His repentant people by heathen hands. "Wondering" that no man arose to redress such oppression, He Himself, Jehovah, arms Himself for the combat. With justice for a breastplate, salvation for a head-piece, and the zeal of an avenger for a warrior's crimson cloak, the Almighty descends into the arena against Israel's adversaries:
And his righteousness - it sustained him!
Thus by worthier and still worthier instances do we approach that supreme Hero and Deliverer of mankind, divine yet human, who, predicted in the infancy of our race, was manifested in its old age. Fulfiller of all Gentile and Hebrew hope, greater than all Gentile or Hebrew precedent, Jesus is the champion of all men ?s cause, who in single combat has overthrown the giant dragon, fountain of unnumbered woes, and won for every nation rest and liberty and prosperous life.
Keeping in view this aspect of our Lord's work, foreshadowed in the first prophecy, let me single out in a few sentences some of His characteristics as the ideal champion - dragon-slayer, and rescuer of men from evil.
In the first place our Lord stands alone in this, that He aims at the deliverance of all men from all evil. In other words, it is rescue universal He seeks to compass, and rescue complete. Not the men of a tribe or of a land only, but man as man, human na¬ture and the human family in its integrity. As much as this is implied in the title given Him in this ancient oracle - "the seed of the woman." And the same idea is continued in the title (with a similar meaning) which He adopted for Himself: "the Son of man." It is as One qualified to represent every other human being, the Head therefore and the champion of us all, that He enters the lists. And the deliverance is to be as thorough as its benefits will be wide. For He fights not against this or that form of evil, for this or that single blessing; but against the head seat and fontal source of all human ill, that He may restore us to the whole of our forfeited inheritance. His adversary is the ancient ser¬pent, to whose craft human innocence fell a prey. In him is summed up, as in a single head, the whole of that alien and hostile force with which, under its innumerable hydra shapes, men have been contending from the beginning. In these combatants are incarnated, as it were, two realms of good and evil. "He shall bruise thy head."
From this we gather, in the second place, the region and character of the struggle. Human nature and human life are devastated by a malignant power, not native to us, but intruding from without. Where is its chief seat or citadel? When our Lord Himself described His task under this figure of a combat with the ruler of the darkness, He spoke of "the strong man armed," as one whose goods must lie in peace so long as he held possession of his "house," his central fortress and habitation of strength, where like a robber chieftain he sits secure, lording it over the whole territory of this world. Now, what is this "house" of Satan, where first he must be mastered and bound, if ever the goods he has ravished from us are to be restored? It is the moral nature and moral choice of man himself. It is by perverting to sin the tastes and preferences of each of us, as of the first human pair, that evil gains admittance to the true citadel of life. The central seat of the mischiefs that afflict mankind lies there: in a heart turned aside from God, subdued to lawless desire and preferring evil to good. All evils flow from choosing the bad; and choosing the bad from distrust of God. Within the wide circumference of physical lies moral evil; and at the core of moral you lay your finger on religious evil - the sin of an ungodly nature. Here sits the grisly king that holds us captive; and here must the true Deliverer grapple with the power that has ruined man. It follows that the theater of this tremendous conflict is to be sought inside of man's own spiritual being. Have we not here the key to the mysterious experience of temptation which, like a dark thread, traversed and colored the earthly life of Jesus? From His first great trial in the wilderness to His last in the olive-garden, Jesus' life was a struggle against evil choice, conducted within the recesses of His own personal life; a fight for purity and goodness and pious trust against every form of seductive or appalling evil, fought out in His own human soul. The weapons of His warfare were not carnal, but spiritual. He fought first to safeguard the citadel of His personal integrity and holiness. Like the ideal knight of romance, He became invincible only by being pure. To borrow His own words: The prince of this world came, but found nothing of his own in Him.
It is quite in harmony with this inward and moral character of Christ's own conflict that His victory should always work from within men outward. The evils of life which are the first to arrest attention and claim deliverance of some sort, are such as affect the body and its outward well-being; physical evils, first of all, in the wild beasts and savage and destructive elements which have to be overcome if human life is to grow orderly, settled and civilized. There, also, are the oppression of man's rights by his stronger fellow man; individual slavery, serfdom, subjection of woman, military oppression of one tribe by another, feudal lordship over vassals, despotic forms of government. Even now the evils we most keenly realize and of which we most loudly complain are such as arise out of social or political causes. Ignorance, pauperism, class legislation, expensive justice, preventable disease, contests of labor with capital - such are the modern ills to which brave men toil to apply a remedy. True successors they of their forefathers who fought the savage beast or curbed the rage of kings. The form of the contest has changed, but we have still, under other forms, to compel the elements of nature to minister to human welfare; still to check, if we can not prevent, the wasteful action of social injustice and selfish passion. But while all other champions of human deliverance are thus operating on the outside, more or less, Jesus to this hour continues to act by preference from within. He did not ride abroad redressing wrongs; nor does He yet. He did not make war in His own day upon unequal laws or domestic slavery or military despotism. No more is it here that we are now to look for His peculiar sphere. But knowing that if once the individual will be renewed, all other reforms will follow of themselves, Christ goes to the root of the disorder. He acts on units first in order to act the better on the mass. He aims at religious, that He may achieve moral, social, and political regeneration. lie addresses to each of us His gracious word and desires leave to put forth within us His regenerating power. Within your soul He wants to be master in the name of God - to break down the fortress of pride, to sweeten the sour temper, to bridle the hot lips of passion, to reconcile you to the dominion of your Heavenly Father, to restore to the little inner realm of your heart order and law and peace and purity and sweet graciousness. For if that be but done, and the serpent of selfishness within you wounded to death, and the strong evil power of ungodly preference and rebellious will chained, then full well does He know that in the train of that victory will flow all victories, and that spiritual deliverance will be the harbinger of all deliverances.
Here, then, is a champion fit for such of us - (pity they should be so few!) - as desire above all things to subdue sin within themselves. If this be the enterprise on which you are bent - to slay the dragons of pride, temper, lust and ungodliness within you?be sure One is at your side who fighteth for you! This is His elected field of combat, and these spiritual enemies who oppress your better will, and threaten forever to quench the life of faith - these are the foes He has faced in personal encounter and subdued. Cling to His aid and faint not! Grasp His weapons and strike hard! Lean your feebleness against Christ's mighty arm and hide you beneath the shield of His protection: for this is He by whom "the principalities" have been worsted, "the rulers of the darkness of this world," the "spiritual wickedness" that sits in "heavenly" places! This is He who bruised the serpent's head.
In the third place, the character of Jesus Christ is our ideal of the hero. I said His weapons were spiritual, not carnal. They were so because the struggle is a moral one within the heart. Unlike in this all His types in romance or in heroic tale, nevertheless He required for His enterprise the same high qualities of soul which men praise in them. What are the hard tasks given to the sons of men? To face physical peril with material weapons; to beard the lion like David or rend him like Samson; to brave toil and exposure and fatigue, whether in battle or in exile, or in pioneering the steps of the colonist and the trader in arctic frost or tropic swamp; to lead a philanthropic movement or advocate a just reform in its early unpopular days when public ridicule assails It - these all are enterprises of very dissimilar character and all of them unlike our Lord's contest with sin. Yet the qualities which these call forth and exercise in brave men were still more demanded for His work. What is the type of nobleness men style heroic? What ideal floats before the enthusiastic imagination when in youth we picture to ourselves the chivalrous, champion of right against powerful wrong? On the one side, the manful virtues: strength, skill, endurance of hardship, tenacity of purpose, fearless valor, indifference to blows or pain, and the power to smite evil with unsparing hand. Yet on the other side?no less tenderness to the weak, pity for the opprest, magnanimity, generosity, scorn of all meanness, hatred of all cruelty and lies. My friends, I am describing Jesus Christ. If it be not actually from Himself we have drawn our ideal of the blameless hero, at least in Him is that ideal realized. True, He wore no sword of steel. With no earthly arms He fought, but with saintly meekness, with continual prayer, with words of heavenly truth, with deeds of gentle kindness. All the resistance which He offered to evil was the resistance of His will to sin; to armed hostility, to brute force He offered none. He gave His wrist to the fetter and His back to the scourge. He let the serpent bite Him in the heel, the lowest and only vulnerable part, which was His material life and fleshly mortal body. That heel of His He suffered to be stung unresisting; yet with the very heel that was stung did He crush the serpent's head. For in such a contest of spiritual and moral forces, material defeat is often the substance of victory. In physical weakness Jesus discovered His true strength - strength to endure for love's and justice's sake. Thus He overcame, not by material, but moral forces: in meekness, not in pride; suffering a seeming defeat, not with the insolence of a triumph. He crowned bleeding brows with a coronet of thorn and wielded a reed for a rod of power. But from His example heroism learned a new nobleness. What tenacity was His to a generous enterprise! What firmness of moral fiber, true as steel to duty! What silent courage to sustain disaster hopefully and take buffets without complaint! What prodigality of Himself! What unselfish sacrifice for others! What fearlessness of foes in earth or hell! What amazing strength of soul veiled under lamblike submission! As the contest was without parallel, so was this a hero without compeer!
Of one heroic attribute, at the least, has He need to this hour. A victory which is spiritual is a hidden victory. A deliverance which begins within man's soul and works thence outward is slow to become apparent. The spiritual intelligences in heaven and earth, who look beneath the surface, know that the fatal dominion of Satan over man has long been a broken and a doomed dominion. The first sinful soul whom the cross of Jesus turned into a penitent and His grace lifted to Paradise was token enough that the head of the evil one was bruised, sin, in principle at least, destroyed, death (as Paul says) abolished, and victory won for mankind over its ancient foe. Yet because the rescue and the victory lie within the spiritual sphere, in the change of each man?s relations to God and the renewal of each man's will, therefore they are realized but slowly, man by man, and they do not at first betray themselves by any material consequences. The bruising of Jesus' heel we see; for that was physical suffering. The crushing of Satan's head we do not see; for that was a moral conquest. Hence is this champion robbed of His need of laurel. Men will not praise what they can not see; nor applaud a success that leaves the physical condition of humanity where it was. Very slowly indeed, and in a very partial measure, Christ has shown Himself able to better the social, political, and even material condition of the nations. That has come about very fitfully, very gradually, and very imperfectly. Yet to this extent and no further is Christ owned by the world at large as a benefactor. His real claim, His great achievement, the world overlooks. Let us try to be wiser than the world! Ask for eyes to see things spiritual. Pray to be no longer blind to the true meaning of Christ's work or the true glory of His conquest. Enter by faith into the victory He achieved for you over sin and Satan, over death and hell; and by faith and prayer and spiritual effort make that victory your own. He bruised Satan for you; in you He will bruise him likewise. He will enable you to bruise him. He will make you sharers in His own inward and moral supremacy over temptation, fear, unbelief, fleshly desire, and spiritual pride - helping you also to plant your foot upon the head of every sin that lifts itself within your soul. It may be you, too, will suffer in the process. It may be your heel must be stung. It may be you have to pay with material loss or bodily pain for each moral victory you win. It may be, therefore, that no splendid or pleasant fruits of conquest are yours to boast of in this life. Meantime your victory over the dragon may be as far from apparent as your Lord's. Yet wait. I said He had still need of one attribute of heroes. Here it is: Patience to wait for the fruits of victory. This also belongs to the conquest of faith over sense, of spirit over matter. To believe that the dragon's heal is bruised; that the lord of the castle is bound and his power passed into better hands; that all things therefore will be righted one day, and the real conqueror crowned, and His true followers made glad, and all old things pass and all things grow new; to believe this now, when little or nothing of it is to be seen; to believe in it, I say, and to wait for it and in patience work for it: here is the faith and patience of the saints!
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