Quote Me: talking to strangers

image

Advertisements

The Injudicious Eye

This is the third post in a five-part series on Aesop’s Fables. You can read this post independently from the others or you can read the introduction here for more background on the history and use of Aesop’s Fables and catch up on the first fable I examined here.

THE SNAIL AND THE STATUE

snail

A Statue of the Medicean Venus was erected in a grove sacred to Beauty and the Fine Arts. Its modest attitude, its elegant proportions, assisted by the situation in which it was placed, attracted the regard of every delicate observer. A Snail, who had fixed himself beneath the molding of the pedestal, beheld with an evil eye the admiration it excited. Wherefore, watching his opportunity, he strove, by trailing his filthy slime over every limb and feature, to obliterate those beauties that he could not endure to hear so much applauded. An honest Linnet, however, who observed him at his dirty work, took the freedom to assure him that he would infallibly lose his labor: “For although,” said he, “to an injudicious eye, thou mayest sully the perfections of this finished piece; yet a more accurate and close inspector will admire its beauty, through all the blemishes with which thou hast endeavored to disguise it.”

It is the fate of envy to attack even those characters which are superior to its malice

Many applications could here be drawn but I would like to focus on just three:

(1) the glory of God in essence
(2) the glory of God manifested in Man
(3) the glory of God manifested in the Earth

(1) The Glory of God in Essence

The fable of the Snail and the Statue reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis, in his book, The Problem of Pain:

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

This is both a sobering and liberating thought–we can’t mess up the glory of God and neither can anyone else. Yes, we pursue holiness. Yes, we defend the Word of God when it is reviled. Yes, we desire for the glory of God to be manifested in all the earth. But the pressure is off. The fear is gone. We can listen to the blasphemous venom of a man like Richard Dawkins, spewing hatred and slander against Yahweh and walk away with our chins up, knowing that no slime he can manufacture will deface the beautiful image of God and that there will come a time when all the slime shall be scraped away and all shall see Him as He is.

2. The Glory of God Manifested in Man

I have written elsewhere:

It has been said: “To err is human, to forgive divine.

But by what authority do we redefine humanity? When we sin, we do not merely dishonor God in the same way that the stranger at the department store dishonors the woman behind him when he allows the door to slam shut in her face. When we sin, we blaspheme God’s image branded on us, we violate and misrepresent the humanity God created good like an ambassador speaking other than the words given to him to deliver. It is not in human nature to err but in corrupted human nature.

Sin is the ugly slime that sullies the image of God in man but it does not deface it, only obscures it. The “accurate and close inspector” will see beyond the slime, looking to Christ as the spotless representation of of Manhood as God designed it to be and look forward to the day the distortion will be removed.

3. The Glory of God Manifested in the Earth

As again, I’ve written before:

“…by what authority do we declare God’s good creation, the Earth, “evil”? Who are we, forgiven wretches, to declare something irredeemable? Will not the Earth, upon whom we brought a curse by our own transgression, also be finally liberated from corruption?

{Romans 8:19-22} For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

There is much confusion among Christians as to what “worldliness” is. Many mistake physicality and pleasure for worldliness. But worldliness does not reside in things or places but in affections. “You lust and do not have”, James tells us, “so you bite and devour one another”.

The problem is not with “the world” as in “the physical Earth”, but what depraved human beings do in it.

Dr. Bob Gonzales makes the following point:

“John describes “the world” and “all that is in the world” not primarily in terms of “things” or even “deeds” but in terms of heart affections and attitudes.

This is seen in at least two ways. First, John’s prohibition is directed toward the heart, not toward a particular object or activity. He doesn’t say, “Don’t touch such and such” or “Don’t drink such and such” or “Don’t listen to such and such.” The Greek word translated “love” refers to an attitude, affection, or inclination of the heart. Second, John’s description of “all that is in the world” does not refer to material objects or to human activities per se but to the way in which we view such objects or activities. Movie theaters, electric guitars, sports cars, dancing, drinking beer, smoking cigars and card playing are not the real problem.

The real culprit is the human heart: “For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world” (emphasis added). This is not to deny that worldliness manifests itself in “worldly” behavior. Verse 17 implies that behavior is a component of loving the world. But John zeros in on the essence of worldliness and defines it primarily as a matter of the heart.”

So “loving the world” is about loving the sinful-world system: its measure of success, its value-structure, its aspirations of self-glory–not a list of physical activities.

It’s a subtle form of Gnosticism (the belief that matter is evil and anything spiritual is holy) that urges for separation from external manifestations or associations of evil as the sum of godliness.

The Devil has no power to create–only to pervert, no power to design anew only to misappropriate the old. To an “injudicious eye” the image of many of God’s gifts are sullied. But the Devil didn’t create sex–God did. The Devil didn’t create alcohol–God did. The Devil didn’t create music–God did. Don’t give the Devil more credit than he deserves. His chief power lies in making good things ultimate things and in offering good things in wrong ways and wrong places. “A more accurate and close inspector will admire its beauty, through all the blemishes with which [the Devil] hast endeavored to disguise it.”

The material earth is not something we must flee in order to be godly.

We should look forward to the day when at the passing of this present earth, a New Heavens and Earth are created, the Earth and its gifts living once more in harmony with the dwelling place and character of God, a living portrait of what God first created the natural world to be. It will be a day when the Earth too, and all her gifts, shall have the slime wiped away from her name.

What other applications do you draw from this fable?

Revisionism and Reductionism

This is the second post in a five-part series on Aesop’s Fables. You can read this post independently from the others or you can also read the introduction here for more background on the history and use of Aesop’s Fables.

THE MAN AND THE LION

0034lionstatue

A Man and a Lion once argued together as to which belonged to the nobler race. The Man called the attention of the Lion to a monument on which was sculptured a Man striding over a fallen Lion. “That proves nothing at all,” said the Lion; “if a Lion had been the carver, he would have made the Lion striding over the Man.”

One story is good, till another is told

Most homeschoolers have run into this problem at one time or another in their education: revisionist history.

It’s what distorted Christopher Columbus’ voyage of discovery and evangelism into a revolutionary attempt to prove wrong the flat-earthers.
It’s what distorted the Pilgrims into Indian land-thieves.
It’s what distorted “the War of Northern Aggression” into “The Civil War”.
It’s what distorted the long legacy of creation scientists into an embarrassing lineage of frauds and anti-progressives.

The list could go on and on. True is it said that “he who wins the war writes the history books”.

And those who have been a faithful student of history will also have recognized a sub-category of revisionism that is subtler, and that is: reductionism.

Revisionism is the complete refabricating of a historical event. In brief: it’s making things up. The men of Christopher Columbus’ crew did not believe in a flat earth–no one did–they were starving to death and feared their supplies would run out before they reached land. So much for battling against Christian anti-progressives.

But reductionism on the other hand, involves the telling of true facts…selectively.

20140424-155319.jpg

This problem plagued me when I studied American History in homeschool. “Founding Brothers” by Joseph Ellis, demonstrated by many proofs and direct quotations from the founding fathers the heavy influence of the enlightenment on their ethics, values, and worldview, but also quietly discredited the Christian faith of these men. This wasn’t a prominent discussion in the book–more like something running in the background. There was one section where the author claimed that Jefferson and Adams looked forward to Heaven not because they would be with God but so they could continue to debate. The author quoted several of their letters. Then there was one off-handed, unsupported comment about George Washington believing that Jesus had possibly been buried alive. I almost missed the comment because it seemed to come out of nowhere. I kept thinking that Joseph Ellis would bring it back up later but he never did. So I looked it up online. Though I could not find any source material about George Washington’s stance on the resurrection I did discover that Joseph Ellis believes that George Washington was not a Christian.

545370_George-Washington-In-Prayer-at-Valley-Forge2

George Washington in Prayer at Valley Forge (public domain)

I then pulled out “Christianity and the Constitution” by John Eidsmoe, thinking to lay the matter to rest once for all. But I was shocked to find that one of Mr. Eidsmoe’s primary sources for his statements about Washington is the Rev. Weems! Weem’s biography on George Washington is where “The Cherry Tree” and other anecdotes originated.

In “Rediscovering George Washington” Richard Brookhiser points out that “the only problem with these stories is that, in order to tell them, Parson Weems had to first make them up, since we know very little about Washington’s education or his father.” He said that Weems responded to the needs of the public for an emotional bond to the austere president and that he assumed, like many people over the course of history, that George Washington was born with the qualities we so admire rather than that they were cultivated over a lifetime. “We treat what was a result as a natural condition, as if Washington had been carved from the same stone as his monument” says Richard Brookhiser.

Gilbert_Stuart,_George_Washington_(Lansdowne_portrait,_1796)

Gilbert_Stuart,_George_Washington_(Lansdowne_portrait,_1796) Public Domain

Yet, John Eidsmoe uses Parson Weem’s book as one of two primary sources for his chapter on George Washington, arguing that just because Weem’s account is unsubstantiated does not mean it is false.

This is an unpardonably sloppy assertion for a historian to say, an argument that would hold no ground amidst serious historians. Yet John Eidsmoe’s book remains a popular source among many Christian homeschoolers because it gives them the Christian nation they desire to claim as their heritage and uphold as a precedent in modern politics.

I am just as wary of Christians with an agenda as I am with secularists. When you have an agenda, you will always see what you want to see.

But this is an instance of reductionism not revisionism because there were, in fact, enlightenment thinkers and Christians both among the Founding Fathers. I believe that there is no denying the strong humanistic convictions of Thomas Jefferson and the lesser influence humanistic ideals had on others of the Founding Fathers. But, that is not all there is to the story because you also find Christian men seeking to apply their Christian principles to the constitution and establishment of America. It’s not one or the other but both. Any position that denies the influence of either Christianity or humanism in our nation’s founding is guilty of reductionism.

History is rarely as clear-cut as we’d like it to be.

My favorite book on George Washington ended up being “Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington” by Richard Brookhiser quoted above. Though written by one whom, as far as I can tell, is a secular author, I found in it the historical integrity I was looking for. The author pointed out the opposite errors of historical traditions in making George Washington the epitome of piety on the one hand and on the other, renouncing all marks of a Christian worldview on the man.

It did not personally matter to Richard Brookhiser that many historians say George Washington “never referenced the Bible” but because he desired truth, Mr. Brookhiser took these historians to task for their suppression of the truth–then went on to discuss the famous president’s lesser-known affiliation with the Freemasons, a back-door entry to enlightenment principles blended with Christianity, a fact which best explains the duality of ideas present in George Washington, evidenced by this famous quote:

“[Americans] are, from this period, to be considered as the Actors on a most conspicuous Theatre, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity.” GW, First Farewell Address, Circular to the States, June 14th, 1783

Christians leap on the references to Providence and the stage metaphor but sail over “the display of human greatness and felicity”, a statement which, if closely examined, demonstrates the blending of enlightenment ideals with Christianity that marked both the man and his time.

What is the solution to overcoming revisionist and reductionist history? –Reading the history books of both man and the lion. Read original documents. Look for historians who love the truth too dearly to sacrifice it on the altar of their agenda. This gives them credibility because it demonstrates integrity. If a man defends a lion’s show of strength though he ultimately disagrees with his mission, mark him, for that is a man of integrity.

In addition to the proverb: “the story depends on the teller,” I would also add: “An honorable man acknowledges the truth even when it’s not in his best interests.”


You can read the rest of the series here:

The Snail and the Statue – The Injudicious Eye

Wisdom, Virtue, and Reputation – The Guardians of Reputation

The Redbreast and the Sparrow – To Imitate the Strains I Love

Yesterday’s Fluke

image

Sorry about the post fluke yesterday. I have not changed Monday quotes to Sunday (I prefer not to operate my blog on the Lord’s Day) that one was meant for today. I schedule out my quote posts months in advance and I mistakenly thought March the 1st was a Monday–which meant that after I realized the mistake yesterday evening, I got to rescheldule quote posts all the way out to July to each be a day later since I calculated the date for each post based off of the previous Monday-post.

Moral of the story: technology is helpful but use it in conjuction with a calender.