Debt and Forgiveness

From Matthew 18:

On approaching [Jesus], Peter said to him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus says to him, “I don’t tell you, up to seven times—rather, up to seventy times seven times!

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Subtraction and Addition

Today marks seven months since my father died. My eulogy can be found here.

After having visited home for the first time without him there, I am reminded of something C. S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves:

Lamb says somewhere [see below] that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but “A’s part in C,” while C loses not only A but “A’s part in B.” In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles [Williams] is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [J. R. R. Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, “Here comes one who will augment our loves” [Paradiso Canto 5, line 105]. For in this love “to divide is not to take away.” (page 61 of the Harcourt paperback)

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Notes on Polygamy

detail of “Bathsheba” by Hayez

There’s something irresistible about the endnotes of a good book. In the course of an argument, one comes to trust a writer’s judgments and his judiciousness about sources—precursors, precedents, and pathfinders. So a favorable mention of an author or book in an endnote or an annotated bibliography provides further lines of exploration of the topic at hand, often yielding a genealogy of sound thought.

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Alan Jacobs and the Book of Common Prayer

Screen shot 2014-06-11 at 9.48.16 PMAlan Jacobs, a professor of humanities at Baylor University, has written a beautiful and wise book about The Book of Common Prayer and its many iterations since it’s initial publication by Thomas Cranmer in 1549. It is both a feat of compression, bringing 500 years of history into the scope of some 230 pages, and of scholarship, gracefully knitting together several course strands of literary, liturgical, and ecclesiastical history. And yet somehow Jacobs maintains an effortlessness, a gracefulness of style, that is rare in academia. Continue reading “Alan Jacobs and the Book of Common Prayer”

C. S. Lewis on forgiveness

Randy David Newman quoted from this passage about forgiveness during a sermon today.  I thought it warranted redistribution:

There is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says, “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you, and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.” But excusing says, “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.” If one was not really to blame, then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites.

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Worship by Default

In his book God Is Not One, Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero tries to get at the distinctive characteristics of the major world religions by setting out a key problem that each tries to solve. The problem in Christianity is sin; the solution, or goal, is salvation. In Prothero’s telling, “sin refers more generally to the human propensity toward wrongdoing and evil. . . But happily Christianity is a ‘rescue religion,’ and this rescue was made possible as Jesus was dying on the cross. . . . The ‘good news,’ therefore, is that anyone who hears this story, confesses her sins, and turns to Jesus for forgiveness can be saved. Or, as the Bible puts it, ‘the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23)” (pp. 14, 71–2).

But what is sin? Continue reading “Worship by Default”

The Fairest Idea

hs-2014-04-a-small_webParagraph 17 from Centuries of Meditations by Thomas Traherne (1637–74):

To know GOD is Life Eternal. There must therefore some exceeding great thing be always attained in the knowledge of Him. To know God is to know goodness; it is to see the beauty of infinite love: to see it attended with almighty power and eternal wisdom; and using both those in the magnifying of its object. It is to see the King of Heaven and Earth take infinite delight in giving. Whatever knowledge else you have of God, it is but superstition. Which Plutarch rightly defineth to be ‘an ignorant dread of His divine power, without any joy in His goodness’. He is not an object of terror, but delight. To know Him therefore as He is, is to frame the most beautiful idea in all worlds. He delighteth in our happiness more than we; and is of all other the most lovely object. An infinite Lord, who having all riches, honors, and pleasures in His own hand, is infinitely willing to give them unto me. Which is the fairest idea that can be devised.

HT: David Bentley Hart.

Christian Wiman’s Abyss

Perhaps not unlike other readers, I picked up a copy of My Bright Abyss: Mediation of a Modern Believer because of the reputation of its author, Christian Wiman. Since 2003, he has been the editor of Poetry, a prestigious and influential monthly journal published by the Poetry Foundation. While he stepped down from that position in June 2013, he took up joint appointments to Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music this fall. So, naturally, I was intrigued when I learned that he had reportedly come to faith during a battle with a rare form of cancer several years ago, at the age of 39. It’s not often that one hears of such conversions among intellectuals or literati, not the least of which a poet, so I was curious.

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In Praise of Robert Alter, part 3

spine compThis post should be entitled “In Praise of Margaret M. Wagner,” since she created the design and typography of Robert Alter’s translations of the Bible for W. W. Norton, beginning with the very first, The Book of Genesis (1996). More than most readers may even be aware, her contribution, evident on every page, mediates Alter’s words, making each translation handsome, accessible, and eminently readable. Indeed, it may be the greatest compliment to the design that most readers see through it and never notice how it functions so clearly and effortlessly.

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