The New Saturday Review. – 20th Feb
Christianity for Modern Pagans; Along Came a Spider, John Anderson Conversations; WWII in Colour; Beautiful City Across the River; Cancel Culture; Garfish.
Books: Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensées: PASCAL’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained – Peter Kreeft – 10/10
I very rarely give a book 10/10 – but this book, recommended to me by my good friend John Ellis thoroughly deserves it. I stopped highlighting it because the whole book is basically a highlight. What Kreeft, a Roman Catholic scholar does, is systematise Pascal’s Pensees and show how it is a great manual for communicating Christ to modern pagans. It is utterly brilliant….I have taken so many insights from it. Perhaps the one I repeat to people in helping them to think about how to communicate the Good News is that we first have to show it is reasonable, then beautiful, and then true. I would add to that trilogy we must also show that it is good.
This description sums up the book – “Kreeft has selected the parts of Pascal’s Pensées which best respond to the needs of modern man, and offers his own comments on applying Pascal’s wisdom to today’s problems. Addressed to modern skeptics and unbelievers, as well as to modern Christians for apologetics and self-examination, Pascal and Kreeft combine to provide a powerful witness to Christian truth.”
Here are just a few of the highlights to give you a wee taste:
“We are metaphysically very good because we are created in the image of the absolutely good God. But we are morally very bad because we have despised our Creator. Modern paganism says we are not metaphysically very good at all, because we are merely trousered apes; and not morally very bad at all because there is no divine law to judge us as very bad. There is only man-made societal law, that is, our own pagan society’s expectations, and these are quite low, negotiable and revisable. “Here, kid. Take a condom. We know you’re incapable of free choice and self-control. We expect you to play Russian roulette with AIDS, so we’re giving you a gun with twelve chambers instead of six.”
“If we seek the truth without realizing how far we are from it, we will be dogmatists. If we realize how far we are from it but do not seek it, we will be skeptics. If we both seek the truth and realize how far we are from it, we will be wise.”
“Here are the three essential truths that we must admit as our data and explain in our religion: First, the eternal truth about God: that he is our summum bonum, our end. Second, the bad news about us: that we are fallen away from God. Third, the good news about us: how we can be saved. We find the same essential strategy and structure in all orthodox Christian apologetics, from Sts. Peter and Paul in their sermons in Acts to C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.”
“The golden key that alone unlocks the closed door of the riddle of the paradoxical greatness and wretchedness of man—the key the world will not accept—is right here: that God alone can tell us what we are. To understand and repair any machine, you must read the repair manual written by the inventor. The world judges what is natural and normal to man empirically, from observing his present state. This is the world’s base line. Christianity begins with a completely different base line and therefore judges everything differently. Its assumption is that what we see is not normal but abnormal; not natural but unnatural, inhuman, fallen. The reason it judges so differently is that it judges human experience by divine revelation, while the world judges divine revelation by human experience. Christianity sees the present experience of human behavior as abnormal, while the world judges this religion as abnormal. Each implicates the other’s standard. The key to all anthropology, for Christianity, is the sentence: “You are no longer in the state in which I made you.”
“The two truths of man’s greatness and wretchedness are not only true together simultaneously, but each includes the other. Each can be “concluded” from the other—not by deduction but by seeing, by insight. The height of the mountain and the depth of the valley measure each other.”
Films: Along Came a Spider – 6/10
This is a better than average police thriller from 2001. Morgan Freeman is as always superb in the lead role. The plot is a little convoluted but I loved the twist at the end. A good film but not one I would return to again.
Podcasts: John Anderson Conversations – 7/10
This is a good podcast from Australia….John is a former deputy Prime minister of Australia. He is a Christian, a gifted and intelligent man, with a great interviewing style. His former position and connections means that he is able to get some great guests like Jordan Peterson, John Lennox and Helen Lindsay. Yours truly even appeared on it a long time ago – although I don’t’ think that is still available. If you like intelligent, balanced, reasonable, political and cultural comment – this is the podcast for you.
Music Beautiful City Across the River – Dave Alvin – 8/10
This is a beautiful song about humanity, sin, death, redemption and heaven. I love the way it starts out as some kind of soft gentle religious song – and then morphs into a rock/country/blues song. I only heard this song for the first time last week…Love it!
TV WWII in Colour – 8/10
World War II In HD Colour is a 13-episode television documentary series recounting the major events of World War II narrated by Robert Powell. It includes original footage and colourised black and white. I was sceptical but it works really well. Powell is a great narrator and it helps that he has excellent material to work with. As an overview of WWII it would be hard to beat – although it still doesn’t come near the classic The World at War.
This article by Brendan O’Neill nails the whole denialism of those who say there is no cancel culture (Billy Bragg being the latest left winger to deny reality)…Be warned the language is at time ‘colourful’ because it quotes some of the abuse that people are getting. Here is a key paragraph.
“The cultural pressure to conform to the new orthodoxies, and to silence our inner dissenter, is palpable. Sometimes it is overbearing. A society in which you can be sacked for criticising Islam is not a free society. A society in which you can be arrested for making an off-colour joke or for taking part in a rude chant at a football match is not a free society. A society in which women are threatened with rape and punched in the face for criticising gender self-ID is not a free society. A society in which you can be hounded for days on end for refusing to take the knee to Black Lives Matter is not a free society. A society in which people silence their own views on issues like immigration and transgenderism – as a recent survey suggests that people do – is not a free society.”
Have you ever wondered why the Lord gave us taste buds and a sense of smell? He could have created the world so that all we needed to live off was bland and tasteless. But he didn’t – why? So that we could richly enjoy all good things? Some people eat to live, others live to eat – most of us are in the fortunate position where we can eat – that’s why we can say the Selkirk Grace (otherwise known as the Covenanters grace).
Some hae meat, an canna eat,
and some would eat that want it,
but we hae meat, and we can eat,
and sae the Lord be thankit”
It is God who “gives us all things richly to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). That does not excuse gluttony or greed, but it does indicate the attitude of thankfulness we should have. So I was thankful that my good lady took me out to our favourite restaurant – Garfish in Manly. It was a glorious and beautiful night – and the food was stunning. I love oysters….(Annabel doesn’t). There is much to give thanks for.