George Herbert on Lent

George Herbert: Lent


Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,

He loves not Temperance, or Authority,

 But is composed of passion. 

The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now: 

Give to your Mother, what you would allow 

To every Corporation.


It ‘s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day; 

Yet to go part of that religious way, 

Is better than to rest: 

We cannot reach our Savior’s purity; 

Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he. 

In both let ‘s do our best.



Who goes in the way which Christ has gone, 

Is much more sure to meet with him, than one 

Who travels the by-ways: 

Perhaps my God, though he be far before, 

May turn, and take me by the hand, and more 

May strengthen my decays.



Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast 

By starving sin and taking such repast 

As may our faults control: 

That ev’ry man may revel at his door, 

Not in his parlor; banqueting the poor, 

And among those his soul.


St. Anthony syndrome

Great and widely-applicable story from Dawn Eden at National Review Online, from a discussion of Planned Parenthood and the left’s absolute hatred of abstinence education:

Some 1,700 years ago, a hermit living in the Egyptian desert predicted “a time is coming when people will go mad.”“And when they see someone who is not mad,” continued the man known today as St. Anthony the Great, “they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.’”

What are some examples of this syndrome?

What’s the use of studying a poem?

Thanks to Frank Sonnek for alerting me to this piece by literary critic Stanley Fish, trying to figure out what the value is of literary study.  He begins with a fine reading of some lines from George Herbert, and he nails Herbert’s Reformation emphasis on how Christ does EVERYTHING for our salvation.

Fish became a big postmodernist theorist, but he was also a first-rate George Herbert critic.  In fact, he was, like me, an early promoter of a Reformation reading of Herbert’s spirituality, in contrast to the Roman Catholic interpretations that dominated the scholarship until then.

So Fish tosses off this brilliant little example explaining a line from Herbert.  And, in fact, his overall discussion shooting down the various claimed uses for this sort of thing (to change your life?  not really.  to make you a critical thinker?  other things can do that too.  to enrich your conversation in the culture?  or make the conversation duller.  to promote liberal thinking?  but conservatives read the same texts) is pretty much true.

But what he is no longer able to do, given his postmodernist worldview–which makes him have to explain everything in terms of a “community of discourse”–is to use classical, Aristotelian analysis, whereby some things, such as a poem and studying a poem, are good IN THEMSELVES.  Not everything HAS to be “useful” (good because it leads to other goods).   The pursuit of things good in themselves was also the hallmark of a classical, liberal arts education (as Cardinal Newman explains).

Hobbit, the Movie

Peter Jackson, who directed “The Lord of the Rings” movies, has finally untangled some legal complexities and will start filming The Hobbit next year. He is splitting Tolkien’s novel into two separate films, with the first to be released in 2010 and the second in 2011.

Bible Stories for Children

I once reviewed for WORLD a whole slew of “Christian” videos for children and found that very few of them had any true Christian elements. They were mostly just moralism, with little mention of Christ and the Gospel. This is also true of much SUNDAY SCHOOL curriculum, especially the “generic” variety designed to be used by all denominations and thus intentionally void of theological or spiritual content.

According to this story in USA Today, no less, this is even the case with children’s Bible story books! It quotes Ted Olsen, editor of “Christianity Today,” on the difficulty he has in finding books about Jesus for his son Leif:

“Most Bible stories are told like Aesop’s fables, refitted to a moral lesson that is almost always, ‘Obey! Obey your parents! Obey God! Oh, look how good Noah is — he obeyed God!’ ” Olsen says.

“Sure, we want Leif to understand obedience, repentance and forgiveness. But we’re more concerned that he get to know Jesus is the grand arc of the Bible story. We’re like a lot of young parents who don’t want to be talked down to. We’re not afraid of encountering theology. We want to be intellectually and spiritually engaged when we read to Leif.”

I was so proud, just coming back from a board meeting of Concordia Publishing House, to see that company lifted up as an exception, with stirring quotations from publisher Paul McCain (see his Cyberbrethren site on my blog roll):

“The more seriously a church body regards the Bible, the more seriously they will present it, in a child-friendly way, but not water the content. We don’t throw the King James Bible at them, but we don’t turn it into Mother Goose, either. We don’t avoid the s-word, for sin; the G-word, for God; or the J-word, for Jesus,” McCain says.

Concordia has compilations such as A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories that have sold steadily since 1948 and a 40-year-old series of 105 pamphlets known as the Arch books. They feature scores of stories, from the Nativity to obscure stories such as Zerubbabel Rebuilds the Temple, from Ezra 3:6.

“I grew up on these books,” says McCain, 45. “We update the illustrations regularly, but we’re much less prone to waffle with the culture. We don’t make the Bible what it’s not. But the booklets are a neat way to inculcate Bible literacy.”

CPH has a huge list of children’s books, including God Made It For You by Charles Lehmann and What Happened to “Merry Christmas”? by Robert Baker, both readers and commenters on this blog. And the brand new Growing In Christ Sunday School curriculum is beautifully Christ-centered all the way through.

What other resources for children would you recommend that parents either consider or stay away from?

UPDATE: See this for an account of Paul McCain’s interview with the reporter and how she liked one particular Arch book, saying, “I notice that no matter what Bible story you are telling you always end up coming back to talk about Jesus!”

Prince Caspian, the Movie

The trailer is out for the movie, which will be released May 16. This chronicle of Narnia by C. S. Lewis is about a time when the land has forgotten Aslan. In other words, it is about OUR world. Yes, I’ve written a book expounding Lewis’s novel, which will come out in February. Here is the trailer for the movie, which has the same young actors as “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and which looks promising, though we’ll see how much the producers do with the extensive culture war themes of the book