Wednesday, August 30, 2006

His Glassy Essence

I put a little qualifier on my definition of "dominion" the other day, because there seems to be a prevailing view that the rape and pillage of the planet can be blamed on a Christian world view. It's a gross misunderstanding if that view is either actually held by some Christians, or just perceived to be the case by some environmental campaigners. But that is another spiel.

Being a conservation biologist, who has spent years researching species extinctions, and a Christian myself I see the two as fundamentally and necessarily compatible.

Something that used to irk me was the popular science attitude that Christianity involves some sort of arrogance about the superiority of humanity. We do believe we have a God-given place of dominion over the creatures, and also responsibility for them, because we are made in the image of God, as different from the rest of the creatures. But seeing yourself in right relationship to the creator, as he has revealed himself to be, can only elicit a true humility - to be and do what he has created you to be and do.

So, that's why I was irked by the likes of Stephen Jay Gould writing thoughtless and inconsistent things like "science is stripping man off his every last pedestal" - and yet having the audacity to stand up and say that he, just a self-confessed meaningless and accidental speck on his own vast time span, can tell us all where we came from and who we are. That's arrogance. All science is doing is putting itself on a pedestal.

Reminds me of Shakespeare:

But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.

-William Shakespeare, playwright and poet (1564-1616)

Monday, August 28, 2006

What is man?

The essay that I don’t think was so brilliant was actually on the topic of what we can learn of God’s estimate of man from his creation (see Psalm 8:4). Basically what I had to say was that God made man is his image, with personal and transcendent qualities, set him in dominion (as in kingly rule, as in to look after it) over the creation, for relationship with himself. It was slightly more involved than that, but seemed to be lacking in grit to me, so I thought, when in doubt add Calvin. Hence, I dug up the Geneva Catechism:

Master. — What is the chief end of human life?
Scholar. — To know God by whom men were created.
M. What reason have you for saying so?
S. Because he created us and placed us in this world to be glorified in us.
And it is indeed right that our life, of which himself is the beginning,
should be devoted to his glory.
M. What is the highest good of man?
S. The very same thing.

The nature of a created thing is in accordance with its purpose, so I worked this in to the conclusion of my not-so-brilliant essay.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Weight of Glory

Just thought this had something to say about the way we should value and cherish and care for people, and consider them "good" ... (and I am having a short lunch break, after taking my turn in the staff lunch room to heat up my rare leftovers, so will leave the rest up to C.S. Lewis). Today I am obsessed with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto.

The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis ...

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations--these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ode to Joy

Today I realised what has been missing from my life for months. I went digging for some CDs on my way out to work and rediscovered the "Life is Beautiful" CDs from ABC Classic FM. I am currently obssessed with the Cradle Song by Skinner from the second CD. Ahhh the cello. You could soothe wild bears with this music. Life is indeed beautiful.

An die Freude!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Security and Significance etc

Following on from the Alanis Morrissette's song, I was actually having a discussion with my brother-in-law recently about the pursuit of personal glory, beauty, significance and security and all that sort of thing.

He made the comment that for most people unconditional love is not enough – that if love can spring from at least two sources, duty and desire, most people want to experience a love motivated by more than a sense of duty, more than a decision. We actually want to be loved for something unique, amazing, particularly attractive about us as an individual – to have a quality that makes us hard not to love, to be worthy of love, to be desired. It's a true and valid point I think.

But unconditional love is certainly a comfort. This brother-in-law of mine went on to make the point that a love springing from desire is something that we have less control over (though we can certainly foster right desires). So this kind of love is a very fragile, difficult thing, and for that reason, precious when it is experienced.

Maybe that is why people come back to singing "that I would be good" – because we all realise how precarious desire really is.

Friday, August 18, 2006

That I Would Be Good

I went to a writing group last Saturday, at which we began, getting our 'juices flowing', by attempting to write about a song. The song I cut short when I turned off the ignition in my car upon arrival was "That I would be good" by Alanis Morrissette, so feeling out of creative sorts I went with that one. I heard this song playing in a music store in a shopping centre once, stopped to listen, and later acquired the album. I wouldn't recommend that anyone buy this album, and fill their mind and subject their thoughts to such wailings. But I do like this song, even if only for the way she deliberately plays the flute badly at the end. Maybe it's a song for girls only, but it's about the longing to be good, despite committing such relationship fatalities as being clingy, gaining ten pounds and losing your youth.

That I Would Be Good

that I would be good even if I did nothing
that I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
that I would be good if I got and stayed sick
that I would be good even if I gained ten pounds

that I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
that I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
that I would be great if I was no longer queen
that I would be grand if I was not all knowing

that I would be loved even when I numb myself
that I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
that I would be loved even when I was fuming
that I would be good even if I was clingy

that I would be good even if I lost sanity
that I would be good
whether with or without you

The last line always strikes me as curious. Up until then the song sounds like a different perspective on the marriage vows. But with or WITHOUT you? Is it a plea to be free of needing the approval and/or love of others to be "good"? I suppose it might be, but I don't know ... and I don't know that it's worth my time contemplating Alanis Morrissette either. I'm watching Little Women at the moment, which is all about pure and wholesome goodness and strength of character and moral courage. I can't be bothered with the introspections of Alanis Morrissette.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Blog Silence and Smacking Kids

I have gone blog quiet of late, mainly because I have been attempting to write a doctrine essay, which is due in tonight. I chose the question for which the answer was the least apparent to me, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but I have since concluded that that is not such a good reason for choosing an essay topic. Anyway, I think my essay is rubbish, so I am going to wait until I get the feedback on it before I blog anything of the sort. But, if you want to read something interesting, go to this blog and read the author's summary on smacking children, posted 14th August. And I'll be back later!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Comment to Self

I thought I’d write this in as a comment to myself, instead of just editing my own blog, to see if anyone else had anything to say on the idea. I realise I made slight error, or misleading statement, in my last blog in using the phrase "God is kind to us when ..." (the dangers of blogging rapidly). God may well be kind in providing me with friends I happen to get along with very well, but he isn’t ONLY kind when he gives me things I like. I do believe that God is equally as kind when he puts me in difficult situations that enable me to grow, or to test my faith, or for any other reason that he puts me there. Infact, I believe that God is ultimately kind because he sent his son to die on the cross for my sins, to rescue me from condemnation, so that I could actually be a child of his ...

But am I just overanalysing? (Sometimes it’s a pest having to be so cautious in what is said, but I guess if I want to ensure that I represent my views appropriately to whomever reads them, then I need to stop and consider ...)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Mutual Appreciations

I recently received a lovely belated birthday package from an old and dear friend, who would be a founding member of my society for those of mutual appreciations - not that such a thing exists, I just made it up then. But God is kind to us when he puts us in the vicinity, for a time, of such like-minded people. This friend and I have an unspoken pact that everything comes with a poem. The poems she included in my lovely card seem rather apt to my recent blog musings, and I just like them, so here they are, both from Emily Bronte:

It is hope’s spell that glorifies
Like youth, to my maturer eyes
All Nature’s million mysteries,
The fearful and the fair –
Hope soothes me in the griefs I know;
She lulls my pain for other’s woe,
And makes me strong to undergo
What I am born to bear.

from 'Anticipation'

Still, let my tyrants know, I am not doomed to wear
Year after year in gloom, and desolate despair;
A messenger of Hope, comes every night to me,
And offers for short life, eternal liberty.

He comes with western winds, with evening’s wandering airs,
With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars.
Winds take a pensive tone, and stars a tender fire,
And visions rise, and change, that kill me with desire.

from 'The Prisoner'

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Story Of Us

So many things to blog about, the question is when, and should I? ... Tonight I am just going to swipe something I wrote for "Couldn’t Help Noticing" when I worked for Matthias Media. I have discovered that movies really are a great source of blog material:

The Story of All of Us
April 29, 2005

I sat down on Saturday night to watch a chick flick, with some other chicks, and after tossing up our various options we went for The Story of Us.

It is the tale of one couple’s marriage, seen from about 15 years after the “big day”. I watched on as the whole relationship disintegrated literally before our eyes. About halfway through, I turned to my friend and said “It’s kind of scary isn’t it…”. Scary because of how ordinary the whole scenario was and how easily it seemed like it could be any of us on the screen.

What made me tense throughout the whole film was just observing at how many points there was a decision, be it ever so small, that was made—a decision between working at the relationship and building the marriage, or giving it up as all too hard. I’d wait to see the way each conversation or encounter went, and then sigh when it fell to pieces, as one person or the other dragged up a past grievance, or railed about various inequalities, or just acted like they couldn’t be bothered anymore. The state of the relationship was very apparently the result of years of small, “bad” decisions.

The movie made me think again about how living a life for Jesus, and in growing likeness of him, is the product of a million little decisions every day: do I snap now, or do I remind myself “love is patient” and be kind; do I stroll around Cremorne Point, looking at the magnificent houses with water views and luxury yachts, and think “some people are lucky - wish it was me” or take stock and remind myself that ‘we take nothing with us that we carry in our hands’ (Eccl 5:15); do I invite that awkward, but lonely, person to join me and my friends in an outing or decide it’s just more fun without the bother …

The consequences may not always be as big as a saved or failed marriage, but our obedience and godliness depends on the small decisions, as well as the big. The good news is that the very power that raised Christ from the dead is available, and indeed necessary, to make us holy in all these things; and we can and should pray for that (Eph 1:15-20, 3:14-21). Don Carson, in his great book A Call to Spiritual Reformation elaborates on the prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21 as a “plea for power - power to be holy, power to think, act and talk in ways utterly pleasing to Christ, power to strengthen moral resolve, power to walk in transparent gratitude to God, power to be humble, power to be discerning, power to be obedient and trusting, power to grow in conformity to Jesus Christ”. The couple from The Story of Us could use some of that, as could we all.

Noticed by Alison at April 29, 2005 10:03 AM

Blog Etiquette

I believe it is basic blog etiquette to respond to any comments left on your blog by people so inclined to leave them. So, profuse apologies to those who have been denied this common courtesy. I will hereafter respond.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

One Man's Big Fizzer

I recently acquired a Nathan Tasker CD, the reason being that at the Equip Conference this year Jane Saunders sang "Living Word" from that CD, and then recently that same song was played during a church service I attended, after a sermon on "The Holy Spirit and Word", so I just decided I needed it. It's a great song. On a bonus CD that comes with this CD Nathan sings "I heard the voice of Jesus say". I love that hymn, but to my great disappointment he has changed the tune. He wrote the new tune the day his grandmother died so obviously it means something to him and so be that, but I don't like it so much. Perhaps because one of my oldest, bestest friends and I grew up playing the flute in our local church and this hymn was one of our favourites - and we used to harmonise beautifully (or so we thought) on the old tune.

Some old hymns do well with new tunes, and some, well, some of us are just stuck on the old tunes. But one hymn, which has been written in every omer of manna I have ever had (I took up the habit of calling my sporadic journals that over the years) because I loved the words definitely needed a new tune (reminder: this blog contains my opinions only). I came across it (the new tune that is) in Sweden and promptly ordered the CD from the Reformed University Fellowship in the US. The hymn, which I come back to time and time again (it's more personal than congregational I think), needs to be written in this omer of manna. The author, George Matheson, had his own big fizzer (see the history link below), out of which he wrote this:

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine's blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

You can see the piano music for the new tune here and it's worth reading the history of the hymn (and getting past the atrocious grammar of the write up) here.