Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Authorized Version: Celebrating 400 Years

Title page to the original 1611 King James Bible
When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 without issue, King James VI of Scotland was called upon to govern the nation. This was no easy task for the thirty-seven year old Scotsman. Though Elizabeth had successfully held the kingdom together during her reign, tensions between various factions ran deep.
At the heart of the tensions lay acrimony between three different religious groups: Anglicans, Puritans and Roman Catholics. Each of these groups hoped to influence the monarch and, through him, the nation.
During the reign of Elizabeth’s predecessor, Mary Tudor (1516 –1558), Roman Catholics had enjoyed ascendency. Though Mary’s sister and successor, Elizabeth, had been fair to the catholic community, they resented being part of a nation that was once again officially Protestant. When James took the throne, the Catholics took heart. Even though they knew James was a Protestant, they hoped he would look kindly on them since his mother (Mary Queen of Scots) had been a Roman Catholic.
Another faction was the Puritans. The Puritan movement had its origins in the reign of Mary Tudor, when Protestants had been mercilessly persecuted. Those who remained faithful to the Anglican Church were imprisoned, burned and tortured. As a result, scores of English Protestants fled to the Continent, where many of them took up residence in Geneva Switzerland. Here the English Protestants were exposed to the more extreme forms of reformation preached by John Calvin and the exiled Knox. The result was that they became deeply dissatisfied with their native Anglican traditions, which they felt too closely resembled Roman Catholicism. They wished to purify the English church and make it more like the Reformed Church of Geneva or the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland. The Puritans hoped that they would have a champion in the new king, since his tutor had been the fiery Calvinist scholar George Buchanan.
The third faction was the Anglican bishops and those who wished to keep the Anglican church as it was. The bishops were deeply distrusting of the Puritans, who wanted to rewrite the Prayer Book and threatened to break the unity of the English church. Their concerns were not without warrant, given that thirty-nine years later the Puritans took to arms and criminalized the religious practices with which they disagreed. The Anglican bishops hoped that the new king would take a strong hand against the Puritan, whom they perceived to be trouble-makers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Art as an affirmation of creation's goodness

In an article I published at the Charles Colson Center, I mentioned that throughout human history there have been various traditions which have denied that anything spiritual, or even anything of significant value, can be transmitted through the elements of physical matter. As an example of this, I pointed to the Gnostics of the 3rd century who taught that while the world of spirit is good, the world of matter is evil. 
In contrast to the Gnostics, the early Christians were committed to affirming the goodness of the created order. The God who redeems the world is also the God who proclaimed in Genesis 1:31 that this world is “very good.” In the article for Charles Colson I suggest that art is an important way that Christians can affirm the goodness of creation over and against the lie of the Gnostics. Click on the following link to read the article:


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Friday, July 15, 2011

Remember Christ Crucified

St. John of the Cross once said, "Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.”

I don't know about you, but whenever something disagreeable happens to me, my first instinct is often to complain about it. However,. St. John of the Cross reminds me that there is a better way. By meditating on Christ crucified, our own sufferings are put into perspective. We can then learn to either remain silent or find occasions for giving praise. 

At the Charles Colson Center, I have prepared a week's worth of Bible readings around this very theme. To view the readings, click on the following link:

Christ is the Solution to Grumbling

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Truth About the Greek Bailouts

History has shown that a common tactic of governments with totalitarian aspirations is to create a problem and then present themselves as the only solution to that problem. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to the European Union's handling of the Greece bailouts.
As Daniel Hannan (one of the few remaining law makers with any sense) has pointed out, the EU continues to presents itself as the answer to the Greek economic crisis. In actuality, the EU is one of the principal causes of the disaster.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Review of The Social Animal

After giving my first (and perhaps unfair) impression of David Brook's The Social Animal in an earlier post, I promised that a more formal review of the book would be forthcoming. I've just finished reviewing it for the Christian Voice newsletter and they have kindly given me permission to post it at the Alfred the Great Society. Just click on the following link:

Following are some excerpt from what I wrote in the review:

Brooks suggests that the end towards which politics must strive is not freedom but the well-being of society. This requires a holistic approach which aims to solve social problems with cultural remedies that grab us at the level of our gut instincts, intuitions and unconscious. The health of the neural network controlling our unconscious minds are determined largely by the health of social networks in which we grow up, and these social networks can be shaped by political forces.By giving attention to social networks, government can devise “programs that reshape[…] the internal models in people’s minds.” To do this the state needs “to be somewhat paternalistic”, occupying itself not merely with the external environment but with the internal landscape of a person’s soul. As Brooks puts it, “Statecraft is inevitably soulcraft.”

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Social Animal

David Brook's bestselling book The Social Animal is about the hidden sources of human happiness and motivation that define who we are as people. These sources of happiness are rooted in the social relationships we encounter from the moment we are born and operate beneath the surface of our conscious minds.
Brooks uses the fictional characters of Harold and Erica to tell the story of the human person from infancy to old age, ransacking all the latest discoveries in neuroscience, genetics and behavioural psychology to give credence to his thesis. That thesis is simply this: the unconscious mind both shapes and is shaped by society, influencing everything from the small choices that individuals make to the larger direction of society.
The book resonates with other material I’ve recently been reading. Charles Taylors’ discussion of ‘social imaginaries’ in A Secular Age, and James K.A. Smith discussion of the affective unconscious in Desiring the Kingdom, have both recently alerted me to the role that the unconscious plays in defining who we are, what we think and how we measure the good life. (Actually, it was the pop-psychologist Malcomb Gladwell and his fascinating bestseller Blink who first helped me to understand the crucial role of the unconscious.)

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