Friday, March 29, 2002

I know, I know. I read books in a strange way - I start ten or fifteen at the same time, and read them all wock-sockeyed all over the place. I really AM reading all the books on my list, it's just that I read twenty pages here, twenty pages there...so it's a while sometimes before I get back to the first book in the rotation. The one I finish first is usually the one that consistently stays in my bedside basket. Which is to say, Umberto Eco and Philip Lee are winning that contest.

Last night, however, Duane and I were going through our auxiliary back-up books (books that we can't fit in our apartment which we keep outside in our storage closet) and I came across a copy of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. A friend of mine who is working on her PhD in Victorian Literature gave it to me as an I'm-quitting-my-job-because-I'm-pregnant present when I left Wash U. I put it aside, absolutely terrified that I wouldn't have the brain power to read it. I've never read it, and don't know much about it except from what I learned from the Star Trek episode where a space-dwelling non-corporeal energy life form (there were never any of those in Star Trek, were there?) takes over the holodeck in the middle of Beowulf and poses as Grendel, eating all the holodeck people who had their safeties turned off.

Anyway, in college I started to feel guilty about not reading the Introductions to scholarly books, since they are usually long and insightful. (Um-hm. Whatever.) I dug into Heaney last night, and lo and behold, I find out he's a dyed-in-the-wool philologist like Tolkein, and that Tolkein actually wrote the definitive paper on the creative treatment of Beowulf back in the 30's.

I don't know anything about Anglo-Saxon, and I do not understand the syntax or meter, but to an ignorant layman, Heaney's English verse is beautiful. I would compare it to Fagles' translation of the Iliad. I might even be tempted to read some of Heaney's own poetry.

I'm hooked.
I bet a lot of you read my blog and think I must have no personality, no sense of humor, no sense of adventure...and you think, "How can she be married to Duane? He's so upbeat, so clever, so witty..." (Well, maybe except for the Mexican food-movie theater blog.)

Well, I really do have a sense of humor, it just doesn't come out on the computer at midnight, which is when I am usually blogging. So, I apologize to those of you who think that I must really be a stick-in-the-mud, and to you I promise I will have a "5 Funniest Movie Lines Ever (in my opinion)" soon.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

So now I come to Schilder refuting Heyns’ argument that there is a type of “covenant grace” which is grace imparted to every member of the covenant in a partial regenerative sense, whether elect or non-elect, that is some way removes the total depravity of the covenant member and makes them freely able to receive the salvation offer apart from the salvific regeneration of the Spirit. This reeks of Arminianism, however, and we must still acknowledge God’s elective decree and that salvific election differs from covenantal election. The Arminian view would be considered common grace, that the Word of God is nothing more than a “free offer”, able to be rejected by those who, by receiving a type of regenerative grace upon entrance into the covenant, have become in their natural state willing to believe.

So, all this said, it seems to me that particular election is still very real and necessary, but not for us to know, or to try to discern. Membership in the covenant does not remove our nature, and we must still, by the grace and decree of God, be regenerated.

Knowing how God works within the covenant, however, now makes me ponder the last phrase of the WCF article below, “…who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

In the covenantal economy, does this ever happen? The statement above seems full of presuppositions and gnosticism in a sense, that God would impart some sort of special knowledge to those who were not capable of hearing it or understanding it.

First, we are assuming that we can discern who is uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. How do we know infants are not outwardly called by the ministry of the Word?

Second, we are assuming that someone in a very real sense, in some way, is uncapable.

Third, we are assuming that because someone cannot “understand” or seemingly respond with faithfulness and obedience and “true belief” (whatever that means) they must be given some extra measure of unseen ministry by the Spirit (above and beyond the normative working of the Spirit in salvation, through the hearing of the Word). (I might REALLY be overstepping my bounds here, and I DO NOT argue lightly with the WCF, I am simply chewing on it.)


Monday, March 25, 2002

Reading Rick's post about last words made me think about a conversation I had recently concerning the acceptability of "lazy" English.

How long will it be, for instance, before the subjunctive disappears from usage altogether? How much longer will I be able to get away with saying "to whom" or "for whom" without getting cross-eyed looks?

Why is it that a language buckles and gives in to evolution under the weight of lazy colloquialism?

I wish that when I look up "data" in the dictionary, I would see "ALWAYS plural. The ONLY acceptable form of the singular is DATUM."

I suppose the evolution of a language is a large part of what Shippey talks about concerning philology. The etymology of a word can paint a thousand pictures of a lost or vanishing culture. The ideas packaged inside words are what makes the words themselves mean anything. I am not arguing for subjectivity or linguistic relativism, however. In proper context, words will always mean what they are supposed to mean.
Hallelujah, praise Jehovah,
O my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises
Of my God through all my days.
Put no confidence in princes,
Nor for help on man depend;
He shall die, to dust returning,
And his purposes shall end.

Happy is the man that chooses
Israel’s God to be his aid;
He is blest whose hope of blessing
On the Lord his God is stayed.
Heaven and earth the Lord created,
Seas and all that they contain;
He delivers from oppression,
Righteousness He will maintain.

Food He daily gives the hungry,
Sets the mourning prisoner free,
Raises those bowed down with anguish,
Makes the sightless eyes to see.
Well Jehovah loves the righteous,
And the stranger He befriends,
Helps the fatherless and the widow,
Judgment on the wicked sends.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah,
O my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises
Of my God through all my days.
Over all God reigns forever,
Through all ages He is King;
Unto Him, thy God, O Zion,
Joyful hallelujahs sing.

I finally finished the Jordan, Wilson, and one of the Leithart books. (Whew!) The Schilder came today, so I dug right into that. Matt was right; it is extremely hard to read. My main struggle is my lack of understanding concerning the whole binding issue. Schilder's argument against the binding by the American and Canadian RC's is going straight over my head.

However, I believe I am getting the gist of the book, which is to say that election is not what we look to for our salvation and assurance, but rather, we look to the promise of God's Word and His faithfulness to the generations of His covenant people. In other words, I am not concerned with whether or not my daughter Bailey is elect, but rather I can be confident in her preservation because she has been brought into the covenant by means of the covenant sign, baptism, and she therefore is a recipient of the blessings and promises of the covenant God made with His people. However, she is also potentially a recipient of the curses of the covenant, should she prove unfaithful to the conditions of the covenant.

Thinking about the covenant in this way leads me to Chapter X of the Westminster Confession, Article I:
Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit who worketh when, and where, and how He pleaseth; so also are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
I am just mulling over this, so someone please rebuke me if this is completely off-track. I am not disagreeing with election; I still believe it in a very real way. However, the article above seems to say that if an infant of a covenant parent (or parents) were to die, we would only be able to comfort them insofar as to say "If God has chosen him, if He was pleased to elect him, etc., and so forth, THEN your child is certainly with Christ in heaven, and you can be assured." Well, I would agree that all infants (or persons) who are in heaven with Christ were elect, but I see more to it than that. Would it be wrong to say, instead, that children of the covenant, who persevere inasmuch as they are able at their age, who die in infancy, are promised by the Word of God to have been saved? Should we not dwell on the very real history and example of God working and promising within His covenant community? We know what God has promised to His people. We do not know who is truly elect. I think that God gives us very real hope and assurance within the covenant so that we do not have to venture into the things God has not revealed.

So why can so many of our Reformed brothers and sisters acknowedge that God most certainly had a corporate elect people in the nation of Israel, and that there were those who were under the covenant, bound to the covenant, and those who were unfaithful to it, but they cannot see that we truly are Israel as well, not just "spiritual" Israel, but physical Israel, in the very real and corporeal sense?

I am only starting to chew on the whole picture of the covenant, and it would be arrogant to say that I am even approaching understanding, but the more I learn the more I realize what a blessing the body of Christ is to us here and now, inside of history, in our timeline. Some say that your theology really doesn't matter and that it rarely comes out into your life in a practical way. I would have to say that understanding the covenant, and who is in it, and what God does to bring us in and sustain us in it, and our responsibilities to it, most certainly affects my life in a very immediate way.

Friday, March 22, 2002

I have been reminiscing lately about my time at the U.S. Naval Academy (a long time ago, in another lifetime...). I had been wanting to put a few scrapbook pages together. I thought about "Table Salt," which were a series of paragraphs that we had to learn verbatim to recite if an upperclassman asked us the appropriate question. They were silly and inane, fun in a way, but I have to say, learning them all on my first day helped to exercise my memory. Here are some examples (in the order of frequency I was asked):

Someone would be two inches from my face with their finger in my eye, and they would shout at the top of their lungs...

"Luce! (My maiden name)...Why is there no excuse?"

"Sir, since I have no bombastic baccalaureate with which to create the basic augmentation of the phybitiphor, I must rely on the cooperation of the cerebrum and the medulla oblongata which compose the basis of intellectual perception. When sufficient adrenaline is not provided to cause a gagulation, then the cerebellum is placed in an inert state which brings about my position from which there is no excuse, sir."

"Why didn't you say sir?"

"Sir, sir is subservient word surviving from the surly days of old Serbia, when certain serfs, too ignorant to remember their lord's names, yet too servile to blaspheme them, circumvented the situation by surrogating the subservient word sir, by which I now belatedly address a certain senior cirroped who correctly surmised that I was syrupy enough to say sir after every word I said, sir."

And my favorite mealtime game,

"How's the cow?"

"Sir, she walks, she talks, she's full of chalk. The lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the (pick up the nearest carton of milk, shake it, and guess how many glasses of milk are left, and insert the number of glasses left here) nth degree!"

Needless to say, I almost never got that right.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

I just finished the foreword to Tom Shippey's Tolkien: Author of the Century. A friend recommended the book knowing that I am probably a closet philologist. I think he was right, based on the fascinating stuff I've read so far. From the foreword:
"He (Tolkein) thought that people, and perhaps as a result of their confused linguistic history especially English people, could detect historical strata in language without knowing how they did it. They knew that names like Ugthorpe and Stainby were Northern without knowing they were Norse; they knew Winchcombe and Cumrew must be in the West without realizing that the word cwm is Welsh. They could feel linguistic style in words. Along with this, Tolkien believed that languages could be intrinsically attractive, or ...repulsive. The Black Speech of Sauron and the orcs is repulsive. By contrast Tolkien thought that Welsh, and Finnish, were intrinsically beautiful; he modelled his invented Elf-languages on their phonetic and grammatical patterns.

But Tolkien also thought - and this takes us back to the roots of his invention - that philology could take you back even beyond the ancient texts it studied. He believe that it was possible sometimes to feel one's way back from words as they survived in later periods to concepts which had long since vanished, but which had surely existed, or else the word would not exist."
I am really excited to get started on this book. I'll have a while before the Schilder comes. The last time I ordered a book from Inheritance, it took seven weeks to get here.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Recently I accompanied a local high-school student at a Solo & Ensemble Festival. He plays the trombone (very well) and we performed the Morceau Symphonique by Guilmant.

While preparing the piece, I listened to Christian Lindberg perform it. I think I am a new fan of the trombone. While I was trying to learn the accompaniment on my own, I couldn't find the melody and I couldn't settle into the phrasing. Once I heard Lindberg perform it, I was instantly hooked.

I play the viola, and the trombone feels to me like the viola of the brass section. The trombone has such a rich, thick sound (like the "chocolate" sound of the viola) and plays in the same register.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

My sister and brother-in-law have finally made the decision to put their dog, Meska, to sleep. She has had debilitating arthritis for a long time, and now my father has told me there is a lump on her neck that might be malignant. Without a doubt, I support Jen and Rich in their decision. We all love Meska, as much as someone loves a pet, but we don't want to see her suffer any more. Meska has been a part of our lives for 12 years now.

I know my sister will grieve, but I know that when it is all said and done, she'll know that she did right by Meska. We have been given dominion over the animals, and part of that dominion includes compassion and care for those we have taken into our homes.

Meska has been such a blessing for all of us and so much fun, too. She has protected my sister and her home, and she has been a faithful and loyal companion.

God created all things. Meska is part of God's good creation, and I thank Him for that.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

A lot of people confront me insisting that theology doesn't really affect the way you live. In an early story we heard about Andrea Yates, we heard that she said that she killed her children before they got to a certain age to save them from Satan. Granted, she was consistent, and followed her theology out to its logical conclusion. I can't even stand hearing the reports on the radio or seeing her face on TV. As a person, I am revolted. As a Christian, I am grieved. As a mother, all those reactions are multiplied exponentially. I look at Bailey, and I think about the children to come (if God should so choose to bless us), and I wonder, how could I ever look at them and not desire to see their grandchildren?

Today, when I heard she had been found guilty, I was initially concerned at my feeling of relief. Why should I, as a Christian, always feel obligated to desire mercy and lenience? I say praise to the Lord, justice has been done.
"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
so are the children of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has a quiver full of them;
they shall not be ashamed,
but shall speak with their enemies at the gate."

"The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice;
Let the multitude of isles be glad!
Clouds and darkness surround Him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.

A fire goes up before Him,
and burns up His enemies round about.
His lightnings light the world;
The earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,
at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
The heavens declare His righteousness,
and all the peoples see His glory."

Monday, March 11, 2002

I'm so proud of my Latin students. I have a class that ranges in age from 9-13 (brothers and sisters and one friend). They have only been learning since September with several weeks off here and there, and a semester break. Last Thursday we covered prepositions, preposition cases, the future and imperfect tenses for the 1st and 2nd conjugation, and the second conjugation paradigm. That's a lot to learn, especially for students as young as they are.

I just had to brag on them for a minute. It makes me feel so good when I come to class and they start shouting "Salve, magistra!" (Hello, teacher!) and showing enthusiasm. Now, it isn't all fun and games, but they're learning and they're having a good time, too.

K. Schilder's Extra-Scriptural Binding: A New Danger was recommended to me by a fellow covenanter. I ordered it from Inheritance Publications today and eagerly await its arrival. However, as you can see by my "books I'm reading" list, it is going to have to wait a little while.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

James Jordan, in Creation In Six Days, begins the fourth chapter with a review of gnosticism. He says in a footnote
"For an illuminating if incomplete study of gnosticism in recent centuries, see Philip J. Lee, Against the Protestant Gnostics (New York: Oxford, 1987). Lee's critique is inadequate because, as something of a Barthian, he is himself a gnostic."
(Whether Lee is a gnostic consciously or unconsciously, Jordan does not say.)
Someone told me the other day that she once heard a friend say "We should hope for pre and pray for post!"

I had a good gut-laugh with that one. Who comes up with these ditties? That would even fit on a bumper sticker. Then I got to thinking...think of how much more money could be endowed to the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy (a.k.a. "Bad Apocalyptic Fiction Headquarters") if this woman were wrong.

For those of you who aren't sure where I am going with this, check Nathan Wilson's authoritative parody Right Behind. Notice the subtitle is A PARODY of Last-Days Goofiness. Don't read it if you take yourself too seriously.

Of the Father's love begotten ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending he,
Of the things that are, that have been, And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

This is he whom heav'n-taught singers Sang of old with one accord,
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets Promised in their faithful word;
Now he shines, the long expected; Let creation praise its Lord.
Evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heav'n, adore him; Angel hosts, his praises sing;
All dominions bow before him, And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent, Ev'ry voice in concert ring.
Evermore and evermore!

Christ, to thee, with God the Father, And O Holy Ghost, to thee,
Hymn, and chant, and high thanksgiving, And unwearied praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory.
Evermore and evermore!

Friday, March 08, 2002

On a lighter note...
"The major problem (encountered in time travel) is quite simply one of grammar. The main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streementioner's Time Traveler's Book of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting experiments while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.

Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up; and in fact in later editions of the book all the pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be."

Duane ordered Against the Protestant Gnostics and it came in this week. He's so wrapped up in the Eco that I went ahead and absconded with it. It is an absolutely fascinating look at the intricately-woven and not-so-subtle gnostic thought present in evangelicalism today.
"...Augustine, of course, had come to his mature faither by way of Manichaeism and, therefore, was especially sensitive to the threat of that form of gnosis. For the Manichaeans, this world must be escaped because sin - the demonic, the evil, the deficient - exists as a physical reality which has entered the cosmos from the outside. Paul Ricoeur interprets this particular gnostic vision:

'This exteriority of evil immediately furnishes the schema of some thing, of a substance that infects by contagion...the existential anguish which is at the root of Gnosticism is immediately situated in oriented space and time.'

Because of the Manichaean materialization of evil, "the evil which man confesses is less the act of doing evil...than the state of being in the world, the misfortune of existing."
He spends some time on Augustine's per generationem theory, which I had never heard about. Please jump in and correct me if I am getting this wrong, because this is an extremely important aspect to gnostic thought today. Per generationem is the theory that our depravity is actually passed through our physical being genetically, and that our flesh actually inherits the evil, leading some to the conclusion that the physical body itself is evil, and that only by purging our spirits of our bodies will we be pure and holy.

Lee goes on to say that
..."so long as Christians are aware that language about original sin and total depravity is being used to describe an imagined world apart from the graciousness of God for the purpose of increasing the thanksgiving of the faithful, Christian thinking remains orthodox. As soon, however, as such language is no longer seen as a poetic suspension of the actual but is taken literally in the sense that evil is believed to have infused the cosmos from the outside, a barrier has been broken and those profound but perilous doctrines of the Church have become gnosticized."
I haven't digested this well enough yet to make any comments. I'm still chewing on it.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Covenant Media Foundation is getting ready to reprint Bahnsen's Theonomy in Christian Ethics. (Thanks, Rick!) They are now taking advance orders - $100 for the limited-edition leather-bound and $35 for the hardback. It comes with all kinds of goodies.

I'm so excited I can't stand myself. I've not read any of Bahnsen's works yet but this one comes so highly recommended, I'm going to buy one.

Monday, March 04, 2002

John has included on his Amazon wish list Kieslowski's Decalogue.

Duane and I enjoyed the trilogy so much we bought the VHS set, about one year before we bought a DVD player. I hope the trilogy comes out on DVD someday.

A small college somewhere in the bowels of St. Louis played the Decalogue a few years ago over a weekend. It was $10 per night for three on Friday night, three on Saturday morning, one on Saturday night, and two on Sunday afternoon. Supposedly the Decalogue was never supposed to be released in any mass-produced print format. We didn't have the stamina to go back three more times, so we saw the first three. Very disturbing, very thought-provoking, yet with redemption for the penitent players as well. Kieslowski supposedly used Biblical allegory intentionally in Three Colors and in the Decalogue.

I also just finished Chapter 6 (The Domestication of Death) in Ann Douglas' Feminization of American Culture. I find myself in a very melancholy mood each night after reading, so I will have to move on to something lighter. I'd like to read Pressfield's Gates of Fire again, which is one of the best works of fiction I have ever read, although not much lighter, I'd have to say. Is it weird to cry profusely at the end of such a masculine novel?

I've also found a "new" author who writes about Ancient Rome. His name is Steven Saylor, and I find his main character, Gordianus the Finder, very sympathetic and level-headed, quite unlike M. Didius Falco (whom I admire, but am annoyed at his persistence in remaining in the slums despite his new class) and the fellow from the SPQR series. Speaking of which, does anyone have all of the books from that series? John Maddox Roberts was the author. He was known for Science Fiction, but I rather enjoyed his books, especially The Cataline Conspiracy. They went out of print about ten years ago, I believe.

Since Duane is reading the Eco, I will make do with the new book that came today, Against the Protestant Gnostics. Very interesting introduction and first chapter. I've ordered James Jordan's Creation in Six Days and am awaiting its arrival.

I think I've just about got the first 20 grammar lessons knocked out in my Greek curriculum. I'm about to get started on the vocabulary lists.

I need a catchy name and a lot of energy to start typing all those passages for the reading sections.

In between all this, my daughter has almost started talking, walking, and trying to make funny noises by covering her mouth with her hand. She is such a riot to watch! I sure don't want to miss any of the moments of her life (at least until she's married, at which point I will gladly send her off to start having my grandchildren...).

Duane and I watched Atlantis last night. We were discussing (thanks to Wade Bradshaw’s lecture Spectators But Not Spectating: The Art of Watching Movies) if the movie preached panentheism, ancestor worship, or both.

I just received an email from a doctoral candidate at Cornell. He's working on his dissertation in Classical Languages (Latin and Greek). There's nothing like reading qualifications like his to make you feel basically useless and quite humble.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend this past weekend. He mentioned that he had the opportunity a few years ago to sit and talk with one of the world's greatest jazz-crossover musicians. (I'm embarassed to say, I don't know the musician’s name.) What Andy said that I appreciated was about people who are so far beyond and above you, who have many various significant things to accomplish, and who live and breathe what you only dream about understanding, will honor you by simply sitting and talking shop. Andy is an accomplished musician and trombonist in his own right. I thought about that for a minute and realized he is right. It is an honor to be included, even in passing, in someone else’s world, especially someone who is rich with knowledge about things you see as though through a cloud.

It's my sister's birthday tomorrow. She's turning 32.

Happy Birthday, Jen! (I don't know how to say it in Spanish.)

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