There Are No Shortcuts to Knowledge

winding road (250x302)The road to knowledge is less freeway and more winding mountain road in the Scottish highlands with unexpected turns, pitfalls, and occasional dead ends. If it were easy, it would be boring. And it wouldn’t be knowledge.

Read this quote from John Henry Newman on the idea that there are no shortcuts to knowledge. It’s a brilliant reflection on the fact that learning rarely moves in straight lines. We have to make mistakes, sometimes alone but often together, and work through those mistakes on our way to truth.

I particularly appreciated the idea that sometimes you have to live with something that feels like error for a while. We don’t have all the facts, and probably never will. So we often have to live with ideas and beliefs that have apparent holes in them, not out of a lazy unwillingness to wrestle with the inadequacies of our ideas, but from a firm commitment to pursuing a truth that is often bigger and more complex than we are currently able to understand, and a consistent hope and anticipation that we will continue to grow in our knowledge of that truth.

“There are no short cuts to knowledge; nor does the road to it always lie in the direction in which it terminates, nor are we able to see the end on starting. It may often seem to be diverging from a goal into which it will soon run without effort, if we are but patient and resolute in following it out; and, as we are told in Ethics to gain the mean merely by receding from both extremes, so in scientific researches error may be said, without a paradox, to be in some instances the way to truth, and the only way. Moreover, it is not often the fortune of any one man to live through an investigation; the process is one of not only many stages, but of many minds. What one begins another finishes; and a true conclusion is at length worked out by the co-operation of independent schools and the perseverance of successive generations. This being the case, we are obliged under circumstances, to bear for a while with what we feel to be error, in consideration of the truth in which it is eventually to issue.”

John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University (Yale University Press, 1996), p. 230

Flotsam and jetsam (12/9)

how to catch Santa

Good Reads

  • Teen Pregnancies Drop a Whopping 52 Percent in Two Decades: Our teenagers–our Kardashian-watching, Molly-popping, Dougie-doing teenagers–have their heads screwed on much more tightly than we give them credit for, more tightly than they even give themselves credit for. They’re waiting longer, having less sex, and becoming pregnant at young ages with a lower frequency than at any point in the last two decades.
  • 9 Lies the Media Likes to Tell about Evangelicals: while there are certainly exceptions, I’ve identified nine common lies perpetuated by people in the media. Granted, there are enough vocal evangelicals to bolster each of these stereotypes, so the media isn’t completely responsible. But nuance is necessary here. Thus this post. (Frank Viola)
  • A Bibliology Grounded in Christology: Starting one’s doctrinal statement with the Bible gives one assurances that the primary source of theology, the scriptures, is both true and trustworthy. I don’t start there, however. I have come to believe that the incarnation is both more central than inspiration and provides a methodological imperative for historical investigation of the claims of the Bible. (Dan Wallace)
  • The first war on Christmas: Each Advent Mary calls us to confess that God became vulnerable, “took the form of a servant” for creation’s sake, especially for the sake of the poor. (ABP News)

Other Info

Just for Fun

  • Corgi + carousel = happy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvqzubPZjHE#t=35

A Prayer for Sunday (John of Damascus)

john-of-damascusOne of the greatest theologians of the early church, John of Damascus is viewed by many as the last of the church fathers. (This of course depends greatly on how you define the “church fathers.”) He was born in Syria as Yuhanna ibn Mansur ibn Sargun and was one of the earliest and most influential theologians to live and write entirely under Muslim rule. His writings on theology, law, and philosophy influenced thinkers in both the east and the west, and he is particularly famous for his defense of religious icons against those who wanted to remove all images from Christian churches (i.e. the iconoclasts).

The details of John’s life are somewhat uncertain, and we don’t even know the date of his death for sure. But the traditional date of his passing is December 4, 749. So in honor of his amazing life and ministry, today’s prayer comes from him.

O Lord and Master Jesus Christ, our God,
who alone hath power to forgive the sins of men,
do thou, O Good One who lovest mankind,
forgive all the sins that I have committed
…….in knowledge or in ignorance,
and make me worthy to receive without condemnation
…….thy divine, glorious, immaculate and life-giving Mysteries;
not unto punishment or unto increase of sin;
but unto purification, and sanctification
…….and a promise of thy Kingdom and the Life to come;
as a protection and a help to overthrow the adversaries,
…….and to blot out my many sins.
For thou art a God of Mercy and compassion
…….and love toward mankind,
and unto Thee we ascribe glory
…….together with the Father and the Holy Spirit;
now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
Amen

Saturday Morning Fun…The Star Trek Christmas Carol

To the tune of “Let It Snow,” Captain Picard and the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise sing “Make It So.” I think this should become a holiday tradition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiSn2JuDQSc&feature=youtu.be

Flotsam and jetsam (11/6)

Yep, that's pretty much why I don't watch local news.

Yep, that’s pretty much why I don’t watch local news.

Good Reads

  • Hell Links and Lessons: To finish up my eschatology class yesterday, I took my students on a tour of the best articles on the Internet on the subject of Hell. Here are some of the links and lessons we drew from these posts. (David Murray)
  • Biblical Adoption Is Not What You Think It Is: In adoption, the adoptee got a new identity. His old obligations and debts were wiped out, and new obligations were assumed. From the standpoint of the family religion, the adoptee became the same person as the adopter. (Christianity Today)

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Flotsam and jetsam (12/4)

Because-Im-Smart-685x513

Good Reads

  • Seven Ways Pastoring Has Changed in Thirty Years: We are out of clichés about change or the pace of change. Sometimes we forget how much particular vocations have changed in a short time. In fact, in thirty years pastoring has changed in ways we likely would have never predicted or imagined. (Thom Rainer)
  • Jesus Pushed the Elf Off the Shelf: As the traditions of the holidays swirl around my children, my hope is that they will learn to distinguish the law from the gospel. I want my kids to know that God is not another Santa Claus. I long for them to embrace the fact that they are not capable of being good enough to receive anything but coal in their stockings and that our hope for goodness can only be found in the only One capable of perfection. (Liberate)
  • When Do We Cross the Line into Plagiarism? Preachers today feel under much more pressure to be spectacular than they used to feel. Christians are much less likely to be loyal to a church of a particular place or a particular theological tradition. What they want is to have a great experience on Sunday, and that means they will travel to get to the most gifted preachers. When you put this pressure together with (a) a busy week in which you haven’t felt able to prepare well, and (b) the accessibility of so much sermon material through the internet—the temptation to simply repreach someone else’s sermon is very strong.

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When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

Sometimes you just need to put the book down, step away from the computer, and give yourself some space to be awed again by how amazing God is.

night sky (550x308)

As Walt Whitman said in his famous poem about astronomy and the wonder of the universe:

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;

When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;

When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;

Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

……………..~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1900

Whitman is, of course, talking about the danger of focusing so much on the data of science that we miss the mystery and wonder of the universe itself. How much more is this true for those who seek to know God himself.

Take this as a timely reminder to let yourself be awed by him today.

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C. S. Lewis on Love, Reward, and Desire

pleasure (300x295)In his 1942 sermon “The Weight of Glory,” C. S. Lewis challenged people to consider the difference between love and self-denial, arguing that the Bible’s emphasis on love and reward means we need to reconsider the role of self-denial in the Christian life. He’s not encouraging a wanton lifestyle of excess and selfishness, but one that views human desire and pleasure as good things, albeit twisted by our failure to understand what desire and pleasure are really all about.

I thought it would be good to hear Lewis’ words again as we make our way through this holiday season. They seem appropriate for reminding us both that God created pleasure, so we can enjoy life shamelessly, and that we are created for far higher pleasures than those with which we often try to satisfy our desires.

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Flotsam and jetsam (12/2)

Antisocial-Technology-685x476

Good Reads

  • My Ministry Is Harder Than Yours! (And Other Lies We Tell): So, please, let’s not compare our ministries on who has it toughest. I promise not to if you don’t. Let’s just get behind one another in concerted prayer and support. Let’s get rid of this spiritual one up-manship and face the facts that it’s all a privilege anyway. We serve the King of the Universe. Just let that sink in. (Mez McConnell)
  • The C.S. Lewis you never knew: The Christian icon whose image we see in bookstores may first seem distant. He spoke and dressed like a prim Englishman from another time. But his life was messy, contradictory and tarnished by thwarted dreams. (CNN) (I do wish the article put some of this in context by mentioning when he became a Christian instead of making it sound like all of this characterized his life as a Christian. But it’s still an interesting read.)

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