After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lenten Reading, Wednesday, March 31

Lent Reading: Riches of God's Grace. Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight
 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him
 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,
 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lenten Reading, Tuesday, March 30

Lent Reading: Eagerly wait. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,  that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge,
 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you,
 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lenten Reading, Monday, March 29

Lent Reading: Power of His Resurrection Philippians 3:7-11

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lenten Reading, Saturday, March 27

Lent reading: Lives to intercede. Hebrews 7:22-28

[S]o much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.  The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing,
 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.
 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens;
 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lenten Reading, Friday, March 26

Lent reading: Wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
 For it is written,
 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom;
 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,
 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;
 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,
 so that no man may boast before God.
 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
 so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lenten Reading, Thursday, March 25

Lent reading: Radiance of God’s glory. Hebrews 1:3-13

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
 For to which of the angels did He ever say,
         "YOU ARE MY SON,
         And again,
 And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,
 And of the angels He says,
 But of the Son He says,
 But to which of the angels has He ever said,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lenten Reading, Wednesday, March 24

Lent reading: Image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15-22

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him.
 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,
 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach--

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lenten Reading, Tuesday, March 23

Lent reading: Man of sorrows. Isaiah 53:1-7

Who has believed our message?
         And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
    For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
         And like a root out of parched ground;
         He has no stately form or majesty
         That we should look upon Him,
         Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
    He was despised and forsaken of men,
         A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
         And like one from whom men hide their face
         He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
    Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
         And our sorrows He carried;
         Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
         Smitten of God, and afflicted.
    But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
         He was crushed for our iniquities;
         The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
         And by His scourging we are healed.
    All of us like sheep have gone astray,
         Each of us has turned to his own way;
         But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
         To fall on Him.
    He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
         Yet He did not open His mouth;
         Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
         And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
         So He did not open His mouth.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lenten Reading, Monday, March 22

Lent reading: Very nature of God. Philippians 2:5-11

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lenten Reading, Saturday, March 20

Lent Reading: Healing on the Sabbath. Luke 13:10-17

And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all.
 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your sickness."
 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
 But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, "There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day."
 But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him?
 "And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?"
 As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lenten Reading, Friday, March 19

Lent Reading: Faith of the centurion. Matthew 8:5-13

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him,
 and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented."
 Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him."
 But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
 "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it."
 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.
 "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;
 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
 And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lenten Reading, Thursday, March 18

Lent Reading: Do you want to get well? John 5:1-14

After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.
 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]
 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?"
 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me."
 Jesus said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk."
 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.
 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet."
 But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Pick up your pallet and walk.'"
 They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Pick up your pallet and walk'?"
 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.
 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lenten Reading, Wednesday, March 17

Lent reading: "Unless the Lord..." Psalm 94:17-19

If the LORD had not been my help,
         My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
    I$f I should say, "My foot has slipped,"
         Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up.
    When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
         Your consolations delight my soul.

The Celtic Cross

The most enduring symbol of the Christian religion is the cross. In reality, of course, the cross is much more than a mere symbol, but it’s representation graces many things—from churches to hospitals and ambulances, to fine chains hung around the necks of people around the world.
One of the most beautiful representations of cross symbology is the Celtic Cross. Most distinctively, a circle is centered around the intersection of the cross. Examples hundreds of years old exist in abundance across England and Ireland. Many symbologists have found examples of the basic shape (cross over the circle) from even pre-Christian times, but the ornate versions we call Celtic Crosses have their genesis in the earliest days of Christianity in Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Also called High Crosses (presumably because many were carved from tall standing stones left by the Druids and other ancient societies), there are still examples dating back to the 7th Century, such as the Cross of the Scriptures (pictured left) on the banks of the Shannon River in Ireland.
Characteristic of Celtic art is a highly ornamental style, with an avoidance of straight lines and, even occasionally, symmetry. While some Celtic crosses do incorporate frescoes, most display runes or symbolism that is undecipherable, far from the classical tradition of the Greeks or Romans.

Many traditions exist as to why this particular shape of cross has come to be associated with the Celtic tradition, with explanations running the gamut from pagan symbol to navigational aid. In the absence of consensus, perhaps the favorite one of native sons will suffice: It is said that St. Patrick, preaching to some soon-to-be-converted pagans, was shown a standing stone marked with a circle, symbol of their moon goddess. Partick drew the sign of the Latin cross across the circle and blessed it, making it the first Celtic Cross.

W. S

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lenten Reading, Tuesday, March 16

Lent Reading: Healing the blind and mute. Matthew 9:27-33

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"
 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord."
 Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith."
 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: "See that no one knows about this!"
 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.
 As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him.
 After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lenten Reading, Monday, March 15

Lent Reading: "Someone touched me." Luke 8:40-48

And as Jesus returned, the people welcomed Him, for they had all been waiting for Him.
 And there came a man named Jairus, and he was an official of the synagogue; and he fell at Jesus' feet, and began to implore Him to come to his house;
 for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. But as He went, the crowds were pressing against Him.
 And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone,
 came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.
 And Jesus said, "Who is the one who touched Me?" And while they were all denying it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You."
 But Jesus said, "Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me."
 When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.
 And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adeline Grace

Age three days. Oh, yeah, I've got plenty more.
--"Papa" Wayne S.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lenten Reading, Saturday, March 13

Lent Reading: Enter that rest. Hebrews 4:1-11

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.  For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,
         although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
 For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: "AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS";
 and again in this passage, "THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST."
 Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,
 He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,
 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.
 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.
 For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.
 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lenten Reading, Friday, March 12

Lent Reading: Better is one day. Psalm 84

How lovely are Your dwelling places,
         O LORD of hosts!
    My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD;
         My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
    The bird also has found a house,
         And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
         Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
         My King and my God.
    How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
         They are ever praising You. Selah.
    How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
         In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
    Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
         The early rain also covers it with blessings.
    They go from strength to strength,
         Every one of them appears before God in Zion.
    O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
         Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
    Behold our shield, O God,
         And look upon the face of Your anointed.
    For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
         I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
         Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
    For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
         The LORD gives grace and glory;
         No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
    O LORD of hosts,
         How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lenten Reading, Thursday, March 11

Lent Reading: No Separation. Romans 8:37-39

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lenten Reading, Wednesday, March10

Lent Reading: "Come unto Me..." Matthew 11:28-30

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
 "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Welcome, Adeline Grace

    Our first grandchild entered the world today. Her name is Adeline Grace. Her nickname will be Addi, and her street name (so says her aunt) will be Addi-G. Her parents are my son, James, and his wife, Bernnie.  Adeline was born around 2 AM, weighs 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and is 20.25 inches long. Cheryl, the proud grandmother, was in the delivery room and said both James and Bernnie performed flawlessly.
    I have often said most newborns look like little red raisins with eyes, but I feel I must say this is a beautiful girl. And she has spent all of her life, so far, looking around, taking in her new world (and all these strange faces--mom, dad, aunt, uncle, great-uncle, both grandmothers, and me, Papa.).
    Thanks be to God for this wonderful gift.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Lenten Reading, Tuesday, March 9

Lent Reading: Love and rest. I John 3: 11-20

For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;  not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous.
 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.
 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him
 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Lenten Reading, Monday, March 8

Lent Reading: Joy in God's presence. Psalm 16:7-11

I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;
         Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
    I have set the LORD continually before me;
         Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
    Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
         My flesh also will dwell securely.
    For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
         Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
    You will make known to me the path of life;
         In Your presence is fullness of joy;
         In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Love, forgiveness and grace

Photo: Fox News

"I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love. I didn't leave [the Islamic] religion to put myself in another box of religion. At the same time it's a beautiful thing to see my God exist in my life and see the change in my life. I see that when he does exist in other Middle Easterners there will be a change.
"I'm not trying to convert the entire nation of Israel and the entire nation of Palestine to Christianity. But at least if you can educate them about the ideology of love, the ideology of forgiveness, the ideology of grace. Those principles are great regardless, but we can't deny they came from Christianity as well."
Mossab Hassan Yousef, son of Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, from an interview in the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of the new book Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Lenten Reading, Saturday, March 6

Lent Reading: Pure joy. James 1:2-8

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Lenten Reading, Friday, March 5

Lent Reading: Avoid the wicked path. Proverbs 4:10-15

Hear, my son, and accept my sayings
         And the years of your life will be many.
    I have directed you in the way of wisdom;
         I have led you in upright paths.
    When you walk, your steps will not be impeded;
         And if you run, you will not stumble.
    Take hold of instruction; do not let go
         Guard her, for she is your life.
    Do not enter the path of the wicked
         And do not proceed in the way of evil men.
    Avoid it, do not pass by it;
         Turn away from it and pass on.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Lenten Reading, Thursday, March 4

Lent Reading: Watch yourself. Galatians 6: 1-5

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
 Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
 But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.
 For each one will bear his own load.

Ayn Rand and Blaise Pascal

   I recently finished reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. I feel like I ought to get some sort of attaboy just for doing so; there are an arm-wearying 1168 pages in the paperback version I own.
Most people are at least cocktail party familiar with the novel. Published in 1957, the novel describes, in obviously rich (and frankly, plodding at many points) prose the dissolution of the United States into a totalitarian—then anarchic—mess, all under the guise of laws designed to "spread the wealth" and "lift up the poor." Whole organizations have sprung up around this novel, and many accord it a Nostradamus-like prescience about where American society is headed.
   Personally, I found the novel off-putting for two reasons—one unintentional, the other unavoidable.
   The unintentional was that Rand preached too much. She spent page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page telling us over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over that government control over private enterprise was dangerous and ruinous, that taking profits at the point of a gun and giving them to people who won't work is deeply dishonest and unlawful, and that it would eventually bankrupt the nation.
   My willingness to cut her some slack was that this was written in 1957, years before The Great Society, food stamps and the GM bailout. I think she had to hammer it because, in 1957, probably only one in a hundred people would believe it could ever happen. Now, in 2010, polls indicate that as many as 70% of the people believe it will happen. So, to many, Rand is preaching to the choir. And many of the songs have already been sung.
   But the most disappointing aspect of the novel is that the heroes are all men of reason. Reason is king. Not feelings. Not faith. Life is to be governed by a rational moral code. That sounds good on the surface. But the antithesis of coerced self-sacrifice (what today's politicians call "paying your fair share") is not rational selfishness, or what Rand called "ethical egoism." Her philosophy is that intellectual and moral (based on reason) people will naturally lead others to fulfillment and beneficence to society. In other words, man is an upwardly evolving creature, and those more evolved will, and should, lead, although they don't have to.
Rand had no appreciation at all for religion, and detested the notion of Original Sin. But without original sin, we don't even have a basis for moral improvement, much less an objective standard for it. She worshipped the rational, the intellectual, the vaguely moral. She has more in common with Nietzsche than with any other philosopher.
   Her heroes are flawed but oddly likeable. They amass great fortunes, suffer great losses, and the central character, John Galt, almost dies in being reasonable, perhaps at tip of the hat to a suffering savior, at least as a type.
   If all you have is man and his measure, then Rand's utopia should be much desired. But if there is more than man, then Rand's world is simply not possible.
   One of the historical figures most like the heroes in Rand's book would be Blaise Pascal. He was a staggeringly smart mathematician, a scientist and inventor of some note (a calculator, public transportation in Paris, the vacuum, as well as work on probability and barometric pressure—in the mid 17th century!). Pascal would have been a hero in Atlas Shrugged. Except for one thing: Pascal, after his conversion in 1654, realized that intellectual achievement was a distraction in the search for truth and meaning. As he states clearly in Pensées:

What amazes me most is to see that everyone is not amazed at his own weakness. We behave seriously, and everyone follows his calling, not because it is really a good thing to do, in accordance with fashion, but as if everyone knew for certain where reason and justice lie. We are constantly disappointed and an absurd humility makes us blame ourselves and not the skill we always boast of having. But it is a good thing for the reputation of scepticism that there are so many people about who are not sceptics, to show that man is quite capable of the most extravagant opinions, since he is capable of believing that he is not naturally and inevitably weak, but is, on the contrary, naturally wise.

   I really thought I would like the book, and recommend it to others. After all, I am a believer in the "if they don't work, they don't eat" school, even though I usually eat better than I work. But alas, I cannot recommend it. At best I can say it is a cautionary, fantastical tale with an unsatisfying—and equally cautionary—conclusion.
W. S. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Lenten Reading, Wednesday, March 3

Lent Reading: For a little while I Peter 1:3-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,
 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lenten Reading, Tuesday, March 2

Lent Reading: "Each one is tempted when..." James 1:12-15

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.
 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Monday, March 01, 2010

C. S. Lewis on how even neediness can cause contentment

  Christ said it was difficult for ‘the rich’ to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, referring, no doubt, to ‘riches’ in the ordinary sense. But I think it really covers riches in every sense—good fortune, health, popularity, and all the things one wants to have. All these things tend—just as money tends—to make you feel independent of God, because if you have them you are happy already and contented in this life. You don’t want to turn away to anything more, and so you try to rest in a shadowy happiness as if it could last for ever. But God wants to give you a real and eternal happiness. Consequently He may have to take all these ‘riches’ away from you: if He doesn’t, you will go on relying on them. It sounds cruel, doesn’t it? But I am beginning to find out that what people call the cruel doctrines are really the kindest ones in the long run. I used to think it was a ‘cruel’ doctrine to say that troubles and sorrows were ‘punishments’. But I find in practice that when you are in trouble, the moment you regard it as a ‘punishment’, it becomes easier to bear. If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction, and it’s not so bad.
   Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. So that what seems the ugly doctrine is one that comforts and strengthens you in the end. The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists: the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic.
--C. S. Lewis in God in the Dock

Lenten Reading, Monday, March 1

Lent reading: Common to Man 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;
 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
 and all ate the same spiritual food;
 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY."
 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.
 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.