Saturday, October 28, 2006
You May Never See These Links...
I have to agree about the specific issue addressed here. But the proviso must be added, genetic and reproductive science has moral consequencesa to be avoided as well. Improving human life by genetic manipulation of non-sentient is a miracle of human ingenutiy, but when we get to the sentient, constraint must be the order of the day. The temptation to usurp the role of God is too strong.
There's cool, there's macho - then there is way too much money.
For fans of my wife's Kitty Kartoons: This looks like one and acts like the other.
You figure it out.
Would that this were funny.
In California, this would be a major environmental violation, resulting in penaltie, fines, PI lawsuits, and other nasties.
Take that organic food fans!
A Prebyterian explosion.
Everybody is an Elvis Fan
Related Tags: Science, joke, humor, cats, wisecrack
How MT could join even an unteam, I'll never know. He's not human, he has no intelligence, he's just sort of a pile of walking muck that responds to emotions - lately turned into swamp guardian. No emotions himself, no intelligence, just a pile of muck responding to emotions, usually in the form of some fem fatale. In the later "swamp guardian" incarnation, he appeared in a recent and god-awful SciFi Channel Original movie.
Have to be honest, in his "swamp guardian" gig, he borders on an eco-terrorist and I never really liked it too much.
MT came out virtually simultaneously with the much better done DC analog - SWAMP THING. Both were based on a golden aged character known as The Heap. ST was far more interesting to me because while no longer human and in some istance unable to communicate, the underlying human consciousness remained intact, so the character could think, emote, react - creating and actual character instead of what amounted to a prop, and that really was all MT ever was - a prop in the story. From the pages of Swamp Thing also sprang on of the most interesting occult characters in the history of comics - John Constantine, Hellblazer. It is obvious that Swamp Thing was shaped by the creative near-genius of Alan Moore that has produced so much good in comics.
But, back to MT, who here is seen dealing with the Hulk, which may be the character he most resembles, because of the brainlessness, but absent the naked aggression of the Hulkster and the personal drama of the tranformations and the tragedy that is Bruce Banner, you got squat.
Personally, I think it is a character with a lot of potential, though they would need to kill off the beast made from Ted Sallis and make a knew one that had some sort of primordial intellect and capability to interact, then make the monster the character instead of the plot. I also think a few powers better than "He who knows fear burns at the touch of the Man-Thing" would be in order.
He does look better than Swampy though.
Related Tags: comics, comic art, comic books, The Defenders, Man-Thing
Friday, October 27, 2006
The For-Profit "Church"
In the first place, the entertainment business in general makes way more money than other business. Fact one: In that business you sell exactly the same product over and over. Unlike automobiles or home building, or whatever, the artist does not record the song each time it is sold, no they sell the same recording. The cost of production is not attached to each unit sold, only a tiny, tiny fraction is. For a hot seller, the cost of production is negligible. Second fact: in the days of digital download, the cost of distribution is almost nil. Back in the days of records and retail, it cost a great deal to get a record to the market place, shipping, etc. But in this day and age, all it takes is a bank of servers. Again, this cost ends up being negligible for a decent seller.
What is different is capturing market - it is much harder to get noticed to in any appreciable sense because the loss of power for the former gatekeepers (radio and the former distribution system) means something on the market does not automatically sell.
I say all that simply because what is really happening is the entertainment business is having to compete for the first time like the rest of us have since the beginnings of capitalism, and their response is not to learn how to compete, but to whine and complain and attempt to restore their almost monopolistic, extraordinarily high profit margin business models. Which, by the way, has made them very lazy at cost control. Given such, when I start hearing this stuff from the music industry, I just have a hard time mustering much in the way of sympathy.
Now to get into the Christian part. One's life is ministry from my perspective. That's the nature of being a Christian, we simply are ambassadors for Christ, regardless of our profession. Within that framework, some are called out to devote themselves exclusively to the institutions that attempt to continue God's work here on Earth. Part of what happens when such people are called out is that when it comes to their livelihood they no longer have the assurances and security offered by the world of commerce. Inclusive of that calling is a total reliance on the blessings of the Lord to provide for their material security. For certain, that material security becomes secondary to that to which they are called.
Paul sets the example:
1 Cor 9:11-19 - If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we should reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share with the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things that it may be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.In the end, I guess that is where I am bothered by this article, not that they are making a living from "spreading the Word" (although whether Christian music qualifies for that category, I have my doubts), but that they demand that living, and that they feel somehow entitled to it.
As "Chirstian" becomes a brand and a market demographic, we stand to lose genuine faith. Market share and profitability are not measures of the success of the gospel, or even our success as ministers thereof.
Related Tags: Christian music, industry, ministry, compensation, entitlement
I'm At GodBlogCon Links - Why Aren't You?
Look, real pollution, in Russia, involving nukes. Where is the political activism? Where the outrage? Unlike global warming, this is real and it is dangerous.
OMG, what if this happens again? Quick - form a PAC, protest, pass laws. collect taxes - PANIC!
I am not being sarcastic here, but because of air pollution regulation on bovine waste here in Southern California, this would be impossible. Think about it, then think about the wisdom of regulation.
I find this cool, I don't know about the rest of you, but I think it's just boffo.
Beware the water gun nerd. They will make you very wet.
And while we are being wary - watch for the fish bomb.
Most people will laugh at this - I know a divorce that came from it. It's sad.
You'll either laugh or you won't. I laughed, but I am sophmoric like that.
Related Tags: weather, regulation, radiation, space, science, divorce, joke, humor, wisecrack
Jack, a handsome man, walked into a sports bar around 9:58 pm. He sat down next to this blonde at the bar and stared up at the TV. The 10:00 news was on. The news crew was covering a story of a man on a ledge of a large building preparing to jump.
The blonde looked at Jack and said, "Do you think he'll jump?"
Jack says, "You know, I bet he will."
The blonde replied, "Well, I bet he won't."
Jack placed $30 on the bar and said, "You're on!"
Just as the blonde placed her money on the bar, the guy did a swan dive off of the building, falling to his death.
The blonde was very upset and handed her $30 to Jack, saying, "Fair's fair. Here's your money."
Jack replied, "I can't take your money, I saw this earlier on the 5 o'clock news and knew he would jump."
The blonde replies, "I did too; but I didn't think he'd do it again."
Jack took the money.....
Related Tags: Friday Humor, joke, humor, blonde
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Christians and Creation - It's A Plot
This article and its related links (HT:SmartChristian) gives near bald naked view into the genuine political facts of the matter.
A little study of history should make the political ploy apparent - we've seen this before. The Christian impulse to charity is easily exploited for political gain, and mischief. Socialism is naturally attractive to Christians - it is theoretically chraritable, it is even apparently modeled in scripture (Acts 2), but people fail to see the difference between it arising naturally in a community of faith, and employing it as a means of government with the force of coercion.
Because of this natural attraction Christians jumped on the socialism, in varying degrees, bandwagon in great droves in the 50's, 60's and into the 70's. This lead to a general decline in our society and is also, I think, responsible for much of the downfall that the mainline denominations are experiencing. From this decline arose the parallel movements of Reaganism politically and modern Evangelicalism in the church. To be sure, both existed prior, but the genuine explosion came starting in the late 70's. As the ultimate expression of socialism, the Eastern Bloc, was first confronted and then fell, the problems of this coercive approach to genuine charity became apparent.
Rush Limbaugh is fond of saying that the green movement is the new home of old socialists and communists. This is not just Rush being glib. Both movements are very much based in the concept of foregoing individual property and having everything belong to the community. Both count their perception of the public good as more important than personal property. Both seek to coerce the chartiable (although in the case of environmentalism, the actual charitiable nature of the proposed activity is questionable) and so in these attempts that "aligns evangelical goals with the goals of countless grassroots environmental groups around the U.S..." we see, once again, the forces of political mischief attempt to co-opt the charitable impulse of Christians.
As you consider these things, I would ask you to examine yourself closely. Is your desire to coerce charity really an attempt to have someone enforce the discipline in yourself? Is it a desire to deflect attention from your own lack of personal charity? Why is your response to a perceived lack of charity in the world to coerce it from others rather than to be more charitable yourself?
The growing political power of Evanglicals in this country will, I think, in the end harm them as it harmed the mainlines some decades ago. We risk becoming a group to be fought over and a group whose agenda others want to capture - rather than a group that worships God and then acts accordingly.
It is time to get deep; it is time to get serious about your faith, what you believe, what you think, and how you live. It's not a trend; it's not a lifestyle; it's not just for weekends.
Related Tags: Christians, creation, environmentalism, politics, socialism
Speaking of which, tying weight to fuel consumption, now you have a sin in fuel consumption and obesity - double sin, double taxes. Meanwhile, genuine sin continues upabated; which gives me an idea - let's grant same-sex civil unions, but have the liscense cost $100K each! Now that's a sin tax!
I laughed when I read this remembering my tour o the UK where the guide pointed ou thte earthquake center of Great Britain with the largest recorded quake in the last couple of centrueis being 2.8. "Geologically suitable" indeed!
AMEN! to that.
How to make an astronomy nerd even nerdier - 3D glasses! But in a pinch, this merchandise will label you nerd, no problem. But if you are still not satisfied with your nerd status, just use math to take all the fun out of Halloween. Then you will not only be nerdy, but curmudgeonly.
Given how my phone has been ringing - I hope this trend holds.
Marital bliss? -- Less so? Sometimes, poeple are just nuts, regardless of marital status.
Why I lost weight - I hated being a fire hazard.
Related Tags: global warming, sin tax, science, nerd, obesity, joke, humor, wisecrack
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Suffering and Success - Politics
Now bear in mind the basic preinciple we are working with here is that the metric of success that Christianity would apply to our lives is not the metric we are so used to in the world, but rather it is suffering. This is pretty hard to apply to politics in a democracy where it is all about the vote and all about winning, which seems pretty antithetical to suffering.
I think the answer to this seeming dlilemma lies in the concept of service and the related concept of humility. When one looks at the last two presidents, on cannot help but be struck by the fact that Bill Clinton wanted to be president, but George W. Bush wanted to do something with the presidency. Do you see the distinction? One was about a person succeeding, the other was about the a person serving.
I think we get confused about politics and religion sometimes because we think that if our religion wins elections, or court cases, we win. But why do we want to win? Certainly not for the sake of winning, but because, hopefully, we believe that our positions will make the nation better.
Have you ever thought about what it takes to actually do politics? For a candidate on the stump, it can be unbeleivably monotonous. Delivering the same speech over and over, many times day. Sometimes when I do training at a clients, I will deliver the same spiel 8-10 times in a day, by the end of the day I am exhausted and I am without mental vitality, my mind turned to some sort of mush be the sheer repitition. Think about doing that weeks in a row.
In the campaign headquarters, its all about mailing lists and stuffing envelopes - about the dullest, most mind-numbing activities you can imagine. Governing itself requires extensive hours, and you can never just make a decision, anything important requires days of conversation and coordination.
Does any of this sound like fun? Not to me, in fact some of it strikes me as near torture. Why would anybody put themselves through that? Well the humble ones, the good ones would do it because they know it needs to be done for the betterment of the community. Some on the other hand, perhaps too many, do it simply for the thrill of victory.
Christianity does not "win" politically - it's still just one faith in a nation of faith diversity. Nope Christianity wins when people accept it, which they do regardless of a specific political issue. But politics is a worthy pursuit for a Christian, provided the right attitude and viewpoint - one of service.
Phil 2:3 - Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself;Politics, when done from the Christian perspective is not about winning, it's about regarding one another as more important than oneself. When done that way, politics will involve a lot of suffering, and then we will all succeed to some extent.
Mark Daniels has been quite kind to this series of posts and sends this quote which is, I think an excellent way to conclude.
"In a little writing, Preface to His German Works (1539), Luther says there are three things you need to become a theologian .... oratio, meditatio and tentatio, which are three Latin words for "prayer," "meditation" and "suffering" ....Related Tags: success, suffering, politics, humility, service
This does not mean that we should bring suffering on ourselves .... But as we look over the history of the Christian Church we discover that it is especially those who are in crisis or anguish of soul that find renewal and reformation from the Word. Suffering makes them more open to the Word. Suffering makes them depend on God's promises instead of on themselves. Whereas before they approached the Word as a lifeless object of curiosity and study, in the midst of suffering they approach it as an anchor for their souls. In suffering they see the Word for what it really is, the living voice of God helping them, renewing, restoring, and reviving them in their troubles..."
- Richard P. Bucher, "Revive me according to your Word," February 27, 2002, Evangelical Trinity Lutheran Church Web Site, users.rcn.com
Link of Ages
AMEN! Invasive Species regulation will make the Endangered Species Act look downright sane. Are you aware that scienestists cannot agree on the definition of "species," let alone "endangered" or "invasive." This is pure power grab on nearly, if not actually, unconstitutional levels.
OH PLEEZE! Global warming will wipe out an entire phylum? Really now.
Yo see, science is not perfect.
Where churches should NOT be involved.
Fatter=Smarter - I like it!
And now he weighs 700 pounds. Because, it's caught by food day here at Blogotional.
I'd say there are insecurity issue all the way around here.
DANGER! Will Robinson DANGER!
Well, at least they didn't riot.
The potty stop from you know where. Captain? Can you pull over at that island?
Related Tags: reorting, global warming, invasive species, joke, humor, wisecrack
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Suffering and Success - Career
As the leader of a Bible study for high school students I am struck by how much pressure kids feel today, as kids, about career. "Gotta get good grades, gotta get it the right college so I can have a good career." Most of the kids are clueless about what they want to do for a career, and if they are like most of us, their education will end up only nominally related to whatever career they do end up having. The latest statistics show that most people change careers several times in their adult lives. So why all the pressure?
I think this lies at the heart of the metric we use for success. The equation seems to be pretty straightforward: education = career options = financial reward = success. But I don't think this equation holds. I think it is best illustrated by a parable.
There were two good friends. They met in junior high school. They hung together all the way through college. The one friend was driven to be a doctor and worked very hard to acheive that goal, and with it came seeming financial and family success. By age 30 his income was well in the 6-figures and some years closer to a million dollars than it was from it. He had a wife and lovely children. By age 38 he was divorced and for the rest of his life hated by different of his children at different times until his death. Yes he was dead by age 48, had a little too much to drink and the story ended in an all to familiar way. He left his children quite well off, but that was about all he left them.
The other friend was not nearly so driven, Despite great academic success, he wandered from career to career until his 30's when he finally started his own business on a shoestring. For years the business survived, but money for anything fun, fancy, or simply entertaining was hard to come by. This friend was not so lucky in love. He was quite old by the time he found the woman he would marry, which left him and his wife childless. Regardless, he and his wife found great love with each other and moderate financial reward eventually came.
As I look at the friends, I see one that rushed to "success," achieved his desires, and lost it in a pile of great suffering that terminated everything. In the other I see someone that suffered some thoughout his life, but found happiness, love, and joy in the suffering.
Who do you think succeeded?
Part VI of the series is here.
Related Tags: suffering, success, career, parable
Sometime You Just Have To Link
It's a bad question, but I'll answer it anyway. No, No, No, No, No. Bad writer, Baaaad Writer.
Greenpeace, no understanding of how things work combined with paranoia. A dangerous combination.
This is the kind of stuff that happens when you have an official state religion. The church's real job gets shunted aside for the sake of international diplomacy.
I'm sure he listened to every word. Word to animal lovers everywhere, for "scolding" to be effective, it requires cognition. But then what do you expect from people like this?
The Old West meets Mary Shelley. What, there's a movie in this - "Billystein"!
What the heck, it's Kitty Kartoon day and this bit of cuteness will entertain my wife endlessly.
Now, here is a thesis I could have pursued. Come to think of it, I did spend a lot of time trying to figure out what made the perfect head on beer.
Quick - call Chevy Chase.
Proof: Both the French and the Japanese have some serious issues.
The funniest, and most tasteless, thing I have seen in a very long time. I'll have to practice when my wife is not at home.
Related Tags: environment, animal rights, Christianity, church/state, joke, humor, wisecrack
Monday, October 23, 2006
Suffering and Success - Blogging
Too many people, way too many people, start a blog out of completely narcissitic reasons. They need a place to vent - they think they are smarter than the next guy - they are lonely, regardless it is usually about some form of self-satisfaction or personal agrandizment. It is those factors that measure their success, do I get sympathy? - do I get interaction? - do I get an audience.?
But if we hold the idea that suffering is in fact a measure of success, we must ask ourselves how does a blogger suffer? This is not some sort of perverse thing where the less audience you have, the more you suffer and the more successful you are as a blogger. Nope, I am talking about genuine suffering here. The kind of suffering that Eustace felt when Aslan removed the dragon skin, or Hind felt when her heart was removed. I think there are three ways that suffering can enter into blogging - hard work, genuine self-examination and revelation and what I shall call "the onslaught."
Let's consider hard work. Good blogging is not simply completing the sentence, "I think..." and then waiting for the starving masses to come hang on your very word and concept. Have you ever thought about the fact that good blogging begins with good reading? But not only does good blogging require a good knowledge base, it requires good organizational skills of the knowledge you have. It's not as simple as sitting down at the computer and starting to type. Reasearch, outline, then wordsmith. That's hard work, and I have never known hard work to be entirely pleasant.
Let's turn next to "The onslaught."
Luke 21:12 - "But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name's sake.Consider here that Christ promises us persecution if we are faithful to Him. If our blogging truly reflects Him, then I consider it quite likely that we will be assualted from every corner of the Godblogosphere. We've seen it happen countless times. This is not an equation that says if you are so assualted you are right, but such an onslaught does not necessarily mean you are wrong either. Christ keeps pushing our envelopes and if we accept that pushing, our lives will push others and they will react in a negative fashion.
Which brings me to the third method by which suffering enters blogging. I am a firm believer that as God used a person to bring salvation to the world, so He uses people to spread the gospel, not words, people. If blogs are to be effective transmitters of the gospel, then they must be self-revelatory. We cannot be satisfied with simply telling people the gospel, we must be the evidence of its effectiveness. At the heart of our witness to the gospel lies not our "perfection" but the love of Christ we experience in spite of our imperfections.
Rom 5:8 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.I know of no suffering more deep, or painful than the suffering we experience in the realization of our own brokenness. As bloggers, as Christians, it is not enough merely to experience that pain, no we are called to reveal it to the world. Not as an act of sympathy-seeking, but as a revelation of that tremendous love God has for us. Our pain is doubled in such revelation.
I know most of my readers are bloggers. Does your blogging cause you to suffer? Maybe it should.
Part V of the series is here.
Part VI of the series is here.
Related Tags: blogging, Christ, suffering, success
I'm Actually Home Links...
The wonderful logic of climate science. Glaciers are metling making fresh water, and yet, there is no drinking water becasue of climate change. 'Cuse me, I'm a bit dizzy.
Besides, what's really happening is that the earth is turning into the Fantastic Four.
One of the wiser things Holy Coast has ever said
This effort by the Dems is not about saving the planet. It's about winning control of Congress, and if they can convince evangelicals that global warming is more important than the many issues upon which most evangelicals vigorously disagree with the Dems, they'll get the votes they're looking for and we'll all lose.It's funny Evangelicals are moving in that direction when science is going the other way.
OMG, we're all gonna die.
Religion and God in America. (HTL Justin Taylor) I truly dislike the "god" survey - it creates false divisions, God is both "authoritarian" and "benevolent" for example.
Go to church, buy a Chrysler? BHT says it can't be parodied, agreed, I am to preoccupied crying.
My guess is that given the weather in Toronto - it's a snake popsicle by now.
There are geeks then there is the Ultimate Geek.
Related Tags: environment, global warming, Evangelicals, quiz, joke, humor, wisecrack
Sunday, October 22, 2006
"Where Have All The Links Been?" Links
Link now, think lots, comment at length later. What is an "Evangelical?"
It wasn't me and all familial ties are hereby denounced.
Here's a reason to hate politics. Are people really dumb enough to for this? Maybe they are - look for more blogging on this piece later.
The only thing I ever find when I set down something in the widerness is animal waste.
Because no Sunday has enough to do.
Why I'll not visit Seattle again soon.
Related Tags: Evenagelical, church, politics, joke, humor, wisecrack
Sermons and Lessons
William Boyd Carpenter, English divine, was born in 1841 in Liverpool, educated at the Royal Institution and Cambridge University, where he was appointed Hulsean lecturer in 1878. After holding several curacies he was appointed vicar of Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, in 1879. He held also a canoncy of Windsor until 1884, when he was consecrated bishop of Ripon. In 1887 he delivered the Bampton lectures. He has published a large number of works, among which may be reckoned "Commentary on Revelation" (1879); "Lectures on Preaching" (1895); and a "Popular History of the Church of England" (1900).
And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, "Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make a place there where we may dwell." And he answered, "Go ye." - II Kings 6:1, 2.
There are two conditions of real personal power in the world. One is that we should be able to look above this earth and see some heavenly light surrounding everything we meet. We call this, in ordinary language, asserting the power of insight, and it is that which redeems life from being regarded as commonplace. Everything is tinged with heavenliness for those who see heaven's light above all; and the possession of this power gives that dignity of conception to life which is one of the secrets of power. But there is another condition also, and that is that there shall be the strength of personal assertiveness. A man may be possest of never so much insight, and yet he may lack that robustness of personal character which can make itself felt among his fellows; he may, in fact, be deficient in the powers of personal action.
Now these two gifts Elisha possest. He possest the loftiness of insight. He had seen when his master was taken up the glimpse of the fiery chariot which took him into the heavens, and from that time forward his life was tinged with the consciousness of heaven. Nothing could be mean or low to a man who had beheld that first vision of God. This was, as it were, an enduring and abiding background of all his after-conceptions. So in the hour when it seemed as though beleagured by armies and enemies, that there was no power of release, his eyes, as it were, were still open to behold the heavenly brightness about him. He possest also that power of personal assertiveness. Standing in front of the Jordan, he smote aside every difficulty which hindered him commencing his career.
But there is a third qualification still which is needed, in order that these two powers may be brought, as it were, into practical contact with life. Great men, it has been said by one of our own great teachers, are men who live very largely in their own age; that is to say, they are persons the drift and set of whose mind does not belong to the generation before themselves exactly, although they may be possest of powers of insight, nor to the generation after their own age, but have much power of sympathy and comprehensiveness toward the interests and exigencies of their own time. They are men to use the phrase, who are in touch with their own age. And therefore it is, tho a man may be possest of so much insight that heavenly light breathes upon all things, though he may have a certain robust assertiveness and energy of character, yet if he have no power of adjusting his capacities, so to speak, in language understood of the men among whom he moves, all that power will, for the practical purpose of life, be thrown away.
Elisha possest the two. Does he possess the third? Is he a man, in fact, who can make his influence felt among the men of his day? Is he in touch with his time? Can he be a man capable, not only of acting for himself, but capable, by that subtle and magical influence, of arousing the activity of others? For a man may, indeed, hold a position of isolated splendor, which may produce the admiration of the men of his day, but to be a real prophet, I take it, is to be able to merge largely our own individuality into the individualities of others, and to be not so much the cause of admiration as the cause of activity.
Now I think that the scene will explain to us that Elisha was largely possest of that gift. If you watch it you will see that here is a scene which has since then often been exhibited in the story of all great movements. One of the great conditions of life is the capacity to expand. Dead things may indeed crystallize into a sort of cold uniformity, but that which has life in it is always possest of expansive energy. Here are these sons of the prophets becoming conscious that the place where they dwell is too strait for them. It is a movement which, as it were, arises outside the prophet's suggestion; he is not the one who tells them that the place is too strait. They gather themselves together and say, "The place is too strait for us; let us go and build a larger and ampler habitation for ourselves." And immediately you watch him in the midst of these men whose minds are alive to the spirit of progress. He identifies himself with their aspirations; he is one with them in the movement; he does not coldly frown upon their glorious aspirations, which are from the extension of their own institutions, but rather makes himself one with them- Not only so. See how he allies himself to their individual life. He does not even dictate to them the whole method of the movement; each man shall be free, he says, to choose his beam. When they say, Let us go and select our own beam for our own habitation, be it so. He is not to frown down their individual efforts, but, at the same time, by going with them he preserves the coherence, as it were, of their work. He allows the freest scope of individual activity, but yet preserves them in the great unification of their work. And when the episode happens which often does happen in the story of great movements - when the hour comes when one man's heart is smitten through with despondency, when the work is still before him, but the power of carrying on the work has dropt from his hand, slipping into the stream which is ever ready to drown our best ambitions and endeavors - Elisha stands beside a man in despondency, cheers his spirit, which is overwhelmed by hopelessness, and restores to him hope, capacity, and power. I say this is a man who is, in a great sense, a true prophet of his day, not simply posing for personal admiration, not merely asserting himself and destroying the capabilities of those about him, but with that sweet flexibility and that wondrous firmness combined, which is capable of giving movement to the young life about him and at the same time drawing them into the one great purpose of existence.
And thus it seems to me that the scene spreads beyond its own age. It is a type of all great movements, and it gives us a fitting attitude of those who would direct and control such movements. Here is the prophet in relation to the idea of the age of progress. The place is too strait for us. It is not the cry of the Jewish Church only; it is the cry of all ages. "The place is too strait." You and I might say that is a vision of the growth of Christendom; the place is too strait. The little upper chamber at Jerusalem did not suffice for the three thousand converts. "The place is too strait," they are forced to exclaim. The limits of Judea are too small for the ever-extending energy of Christianity. Every land and every nationality must be brought within its sway, and the workers shall be as the workers in this scene, manifold. Here shall be men like St. Paul, who shall go, with a strong forensic sense of what the gospel is, to speak it to the hearts of men who need it, and lift them high above commonplace things. Here shall be one like St. John, reposing upon the bosom of his Lord, and able to unfold to them heavenly visions and the anticipations of the outgrowth and development of the world. Here is one who, like Origen shall collate, like Jerome shall translate, like Augustine shall expound, like the men of later ages shall preach the spirit of reformation. The place is too strait, but given to each man his individual freedom, the power and the expansion of the Church goes on.
But is it not true that while, on the one side, we might say that this is a glorious picture, untouched and untinged by any dark lines, the moment that we begin to look at it in its practical form we begin to see the difficulties of its development? Let us go unto Jordan, and let us take each man our own beam. As long as the expansion of the Church is in the direction of the increase of its numbers or accession of new territories, so long indeed the men who have had the spirit of zeal have been willing to sanction such extension. But there comes a time when the consciousness of its expansion does not move according to the line of numbers merely, but it moves according to the line of new institutions and of new thoughts. How, then, will it be received by those into whose hand is placed the responsibility of its guidance? "The place is too strait for us;" so they cried in the early Church when they found that Judaic institutions were too narrow for the spirit of Christianity. The new wine could not be left in old bottles. "The place is too strait for us;" so they cried when they found within the bosom of the medieval Church that there was not the opportunity for the expansion of their spiritual life and the development of their missionary energy. But has it always been true that the spirit of this religious zeal which longs for new developments and new departures has been received with the spirit of wisdom? You and I know full well that the history of the Church of Christ is the history of a thousand regrets. Did the medieval Church never regret the act by which it drove forth the Waldenses into schism? Has our Church never regretted the day when it looked askance at the work of John Wesley? You know full well, whatever might have been the feeling of earlier times, there is growing up among us a larger and wider spirit, catching - shall I say? - the true directing spirit which shone thus in the life of Elisha; and believing that it is possible after all that each man may have his function in life, and each man, choosing his beam, may in bearing that beam be building up the temple of God. But, alas! it is hard for men to believe it. Still, even now, the spirit of prejudice surrounds every aspect with which we regard life and Church movement. It is difficult for a man bred in one communion, for example, to believe in the types of saintship which have become the favorites of another; harder, perhaps, for men bred in the very heart of Rome to believe in the spirit of saintship which dwelt in the breast of Molinos; hard for those dwelling in the heart of Protestantism to understand Bonaventura or Xavier; hard for one who has been taught in Presbyterian lines to believe in that sanctity which descends to us as an heritage from Cosin and Ken; and difficult, perhaps, for Episcopalians to recognize the sanctity which dwelt in Richard Baxter and John Bunyan. . .
You may believe that there is the danger of the Church - shall I say ? - growing stereotyped in its forms, by checking the freedom of individual life. There is the danger, on the other side, of the Church, as it were, spreading itself in the aggregation of splendid individualities; and because men believe intensely in their own mission, because they can not but see that the beam which they are hewing down is one of paramount importance to take some place in supporting the temple of God, they are inclined to prefer the attitude of isolation. Is this wise, and is it well? Pardon me if I ask you to say that this spirit, if allowed to grow, is a spirit which, from its various aspects, is one which, by all means in our power, we ought to set our faces against. Our own beam is not the temple of God. Each move and form of religious thought is not comprehensive of the whole; but it is here where men, choosing their own beam, begin to believe in their own, and their own alone, and seek to impose that little thing of their own as though it were an absolute necessity of every portion of God's Church, that you get the spirit of actual division. "The whole is greater than its part." If we could only bring the aphorisms of ordinary life into the bearings of the Church of God we should be happier. But, let me assure you, when a man has his beam, and tells me that that beam will be built into the temple of God, will support its roof, and perhaps be the very thing which will add new dignity to the splendid arch which will spring from it. I am content to accept it. Let him believe anything that will beautify and extend. But when he tells me that it is catholicity to believe in his beam being all, he simply, as it were, sins against the very thing he is seeking to maintain. It is a sign of intellectual mediocrity; it is the spirit of- sectarianism; it is the spirit ultimately of skepticism. When a man believes that pious views, which have been found profitable to his own soul, are to be made the rule for the whole catholic Church; when he tells me that special hours for special services are essential -f or the well-being of all Christian souls; when he tells me that special attitudes in the house of God are essential to catholicity, it is intellectual mediocrity, as the brilliant French poet has written which can not comprehend anything beyond itself. It is a spirit of sectarianism; for what, I pray, do you mean by sectarianism, if it is not this spirit, that you exaggerate your own particular doctrine into such proportions as to make men feel that there is none other than that? You are of your own little Church and you are doubtful of the rest of the world. That is the spirit of sectarianism, and that, if you understand it rightly, is the only fault of skepticism for to believe that God is to be narrowed down to - the conception of such a thing - as that, to believe that God's temple is to be brought down to the measure of your own little beam, is to believe with such a stunted growth, such a stunted conception of God, that it is practically denying Him altogether.
Sometimes I venture to think that we have lost faith in Christ altogether. We believe in a Church which can be manipulated by human wisdom, we believe in a Church which can be galvanized by organization, but we can not believe in a Church whose development is being overruled by the guiding spirit and eternal presence of Christ Himself. If you take a large view of Christianity the danger becomes yours. Some, indeed, hew down beams for the temple of God not themselves knowing of that temple into which they are placed; for I do believe that in the development of God's great world the efforts of earnest and honest men who know not indeed in what direction their efforts are tending will be found to have been real efforts for the promotion of something, for the bringing out of some truth, for the establishment of some truth by which the Church may live, on which the Church may build, of whom the whole building, fitly framed together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, shall thus grow into the holy temple of the Lord.
But the scene is not the scene merely of these activities uncrossed by a single reverse. Here is the accident, here is the time in which men begin to feel that their power has left them. One, in hewing down his beam, animated by a spirit of a little overeagerness, perhaps gifted with that egotism of his work which made him develop it more rapidly than that of his fellows, strikes too hard a blow, and the loose ax-head slips off the haft and falls into the stream. Immediately he is face to face with, and conscious of, that most painful consciousness which can ever visit the heart of man - the contradiction between the grandness of the work and the ideal of the work which he has to achieve and his own impotence. There is the beam, and all about me are the workers, and the house is to be built for the sons of the prophets. But here, in my hand I hold this simple haft, bereft of the power of doing my share in that great work. It is a picture which has been repeated often and often. Does there not come a time when we feel that the power, as it were, of things has forsaken us? There was a time when our creeds afforded us great delight. We believed in God; we believed in redemption; we believed in the Spirit which could guide human affairs; we moved to our work full of the exuberance of confidence in that faith. But behold, there has come a time when we, perhaps almost unconsciously, lose the very thing which has given us hope.
Now whenever a new doctrine or new truth has come up in the history of the Church, it has been held, in the first instance, by men who lived by it and tied their own lives to it. No power of that ax-head slipt off into life's stream. They knew what they were doing. When men brought out the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible, they knew what they were doing; they hewed down the trees about them, and they really believed it. Their lives were created by this truth. So when they believed in the real presence of Christ, they believed that Christ was really present. It was no fiction. When they believed in the doctrine of justification by faith, they believed that God had taken them into His own hands that God had grasped their lives, and God Himself was behind their lives. Truth was to them truth, and it was a consecrated thing; but remember that truth, which is a flower, has its roots there, and it is only as you grasp it by its roots it becomes true to you. Truth is not a thing of the intellect only; it descends into our moral nature, it grafts upon our affections and conscience; the moment I cut it away from it it ceases to be truth; it becomes dogma for the sake of distinction. That is to say, the men of our age who do not live by that truth wish, as it were, to attach that truth to them; they wish to make it actually the cry of party. They stole the wand of the enchanter, but they had not the power of the enchanter. They knew that they had the flower, but the flower cut away from its moral root had no force and no vitality, and therefore it crystallizes it. Hence, the natural history of a doctrine is this: when men are taking it rightly, using it as for God, rightly handling it, it is a power in their hands. Taken up for their own purposes, for the purpose of satisfying an indolent understanding, for the purpose of evading the claims of God which other truths may be making upon their minds, it then becomes evacuated of its power; it is impotent, it is buried underneath the stream of constantly changing time.
And, then, how shall it be restored? By, again, I say, being taken up out of the stream by the true handle. If you wish to restore the power of truth, you must see that it is the truth which has a claim upon your moral being. For just as we are told that the sun may pour down its beams eternally upon the face of the moon, burning and blistering with its rays its surface, and that there everything remains cold and frozen underneath those beams, because no sweet atmosphere can hold the sunbeams in its fold, so it is true that when you take truth and use it from its false side, it- shall pour its brightest rays into your intellect, not the dry light which Bacon meant, but the false light which some substitute for it. You receive a true light upon your understanding, and there is no moral atmosphere upon your nature to embrace those sunbeams, to keep them and make them your own, and make them your life blood by their presence. If thus we take truth it becomes false to us, a buried and useless thing. But if you take truth from its moral side, and approach it from its moral and spiritual side, it shall again become a power in your nature.
When men believed in the inspiration of God and the Bible it was a power to them; but when this dropt down into a belief that every jot and tittle was part and parcel of God's inspiration, then they merely crystallized into a dogma what was a great and living truth. When men ask us, Are the doctrines of Christianity dead; are they played out? My answer is, They are dead to those who use them wrongly, as all truth is dead to those who have no moral love of truth - dead to those who will use them as charms and incantations, sewing them, as the Pharisees sewed some texts, into the border of their robes; dead, indeed, they are to those who are not making them part of their own life, but not dead to those who, though they may not be able to formulate their view into any way that will satisfy a partisan section of Christianity, yet feel that to them the old inspiration is life. God's living voice will speak to them godlike in every line, to them because they believe in a Christ behind all these truths, and that these are but the endeavors of men to express the power of the living thought and voice of God. Then to them ordinances will live; a real presence will be about their path. Sacraments and ordinances will live because something lives behind them. They are not using them falsely but reverently, and truly God has spoken to their souls; He has put back the truths into their hearts by the handle of some new-found life.
It is the same with our own lives; often and often it happens that you feel life has lost its power and charm; its vigor was once great. I came up, for instance, into the midst of my fellows here, with all the enthusiasms of university life, and I rejoiced in them; but now, somehow or other, the novelty has gone away, and the interest has palled, and I do not care. Life has lost its meaning to me, and I do not feel that life is worth living at all. Yes, it is a contradiction in your own mind between the conception of life as in your nobler moments you form it and your own impotence. Has the ax-head gone? Has it slipt into the water? How can it be restored? The first thing a man discovers in his own impotence, is that the power which was in his hands was not his own.
It is only when you and I see this that we can take it up again. Take life, and make it the reason for indulgence; take amusements, and make them the instruments for mere enjoyment; take study, and make it the reason for mere pride; and you will find the ax-head will slip off. All the knowledge you possess will be like blinded knowledge, capable of being applied to nothing. But believe it to be your own, given you of God - these hands, this brain, this heart, God's, not your own; these ordinances of religion God's, not your own; these teachings of the Church in all ages God's varied voice, which, if heard aright, shall blend into one mold in your ears. Take it up as His, and not your own; lift up your life right reverently; bend as you receive it from His hand, who can alone give you the restored fullness of His powers. You are surrounded by workers; your mind is often disturbed among the many cries and many sounds; but believe it, each of you has your own beam, and God can put into your hand the weapon which you are to use in hewing it down. Go forward, and be not afraid.
Related Tags: sermon, lesson, William Boyd Carpenter