I Can Speak Whale: Interrupted by Moby-Dick

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Pascal by day, but Melville by night. No wonder I can’t get a New Year’s letter out the door. Last night I finished Moby-Dick, an enterprise I started, once, long ago, and found too mind-numbing even for me. My daughter, an English Lit major, warned me. “Read only if assigned. Then you can write a [Read More...]

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: The Back Story

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Okay, this week we’re diving into French history, which might not be your cup of tea. But I’ll try to make you feel it was worth your while. If we back up a bit to the 16th century, we find France undergoing seismic shifts in economy, religion, and culture—all of these, of course, playing on [Read More...]

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: A Personality Quirk?

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As we pointed out last week, Pascal’s actual scientific and mathematical work has been far surpassed. We may like stories about Euclid and Galileo, Newton and Leibniz but we don’t usually come across them in the Google rankings of “most quotable.” In fact, for a scientist/logician/mathematician, Pascal has a remarkably unscientific reputation among many contemporary [Read More...]

Becoming Neo-Pascalian: An Introduction, from Cones to Gambling

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Pascal, this unusual 17th-century giant, seems to be poised to speak again from a distance to a 21st-century generation feeling pulled in multiple directions. While Pascal’s life was unusual for his age, he seems oddly a man of our time in many ways. Most common people of the 17th century had very limited exposure to [Read More...]

Becoming a Neo-Pascalian

Pascal

Yesterday I wound up the last obligations of my fall courses. This included grading a handful of papers I couldn’t finish before the holidays. Many of these papers were from the Spiritual Formation class I teach—galloping through scripture and speed-dating with historical figures who have so brilliantly pointed the way for us. There they are, [Read More...]

Ad(vent)oration

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The darkness of December weighs heavily. Despite the glories of living in Colorado, with its bright blue skies and the heady weight of light during the days, still, December is dark early and late. Dark when we leave in the morning; dark as we drive home from work. The day barely peaks before the long [Read More...]

According to a Certain Studious Old Man, Objects in Mirror Are Closer than They Appear

I read the Psalms, and I imagine you do too. Many read the Psalms when they wouldn’t touch Leviticus with a ten-foot pole. The Psalms are on the “beloved” list, along with things like the parable of the Good Samaritan and Paul’s ode to love; Ezra, perhaps, along with Obadiah and some other books, on [Read More...]

Tales from My Father: On Prayer and Two Old Women, One with Blue Hair

As pastor’s kids, we enjoyed a certain amount of both notoriety and adulation, depending on who the observer was. As a little one, I remember weaving in and out of adult legs and conversations with a sensation of ownership, as though the church lobby was my fair demesne and these were all stewards of some [Read More...]

Thanksgiving, Sin, and Naming the Hunger

My Catholic friends reassure me that I know nothing about guilt. They are experts. The very ritual of confession generates guilt, they say. They remember feeling guilty that they didn’t feel guilty, and making up sins to confess. The darkened confessional, the sliding door, the whispered prayers, the priest’s questions – all operated as a [Read More...]

Learning to Talk Like Tina Fey

Today I read a review of Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood, her account of spending a year trying to “take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible.” This has her end up calling her husband “master,” keeping her mouth shut in church, and staying in a pup tent [Read More...]

Why, Today, I Am Still a Protestant

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Tomorrow is Reformation Day, the day on which, 495 years ago Martin Luther posted his Facebook protest. Er, I mean, Wittenberg protest. I remember many years ago hearing a chapel talk that was supposed to be on the glories of the Reformation, but was instead a reflection in the tragedy of the Reformation. That speaker [Read More...]

What Difference Does It Make?: The Kaleidoscope Effect

For the better part of a year, I’ve been working on understanding a book and a doctrine that, shall we admit, are not “bestsellers.” In fact, one of my readers very softly commented: “It was a long and complicated series, and I’m afraid that the truly interested layman ‘in all the details’ might be hard [Read More...]


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