water rests not on barren hill summits

From the yesterday’s Valley of Vision devotional prayer (a collection of Puritan prayers):

Help me to see myself in thy sight,
   then pride must wither, decay, die, perish.
Humble my heart before thee,
   and replenish it with thy choicest gifts.
As water rests not on barren hill summits,
   but flows down to fertilize lowest vales,
So make me the lowest of the lowly,
   that my spiritual riches may exceedingly abound.
When I leave duties undone,
   may condemning thought strip me of pride,
   deepen in me devotion to thy service,
   and quicken me to more watchful care.

weak on dragons

Thanks to my sister for this passage from Future Men by Douglas Wilson (which I have not read). Most of it is a quote from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Eustace Scrubb had stumbled into a dragon’s lair, but he did not know what kind of place it was. “Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.”

don’t forget to spell it with an H

Lewis’ sentiments on the weightiness of being human come through beautifully in these two passages from Prince Caspian (chapters 13 and 15 respectively). Take heed all those who “come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve.”

“Very well, I will dictate,” said Peter. And while the Doctor spread out a parchment and opened his ink-horn and sharpened his pen, Peter leant back with half-closed eyes and recalled to his mind the language in which he had written such things long ago in Narnia’s golden age.

…it is our pleasure to adventure our royal person on behalf of our trusty and well-beloved Caspian in clean wager of battle to prove upon your Lordship’s body that the said Caspian is lawful King under us in Narnia both by our gift and by the laws of the Telmarines, and your Lordship twice guilty of treachery both in withholding the dominion of Narnia from the said Caspian and in the most abhominable, – don’t forget to spell it with an H, Doctor – bloody, and unnatural murder of your kindly lord and brother King Caspian Ninth of that name.

Here Lewis references a popular folk etymology of the word, in which “abhominable” was derived from the Latin ab homine “away from man” (beastly or inhumane). Our humanity gets another gentle prodding form Lewis in this passage from the end of the story:

“You, Sir Caspian,” said Aslan, “might have known that you could be no true King of Narnia unless, like the Kings of old, you were a son of Adam and came from the world of Adam’s sons. And so you are. Many years ago in that world, in a deep sea of that world which is called the South Sea, a shipload of pirates were driven by storm on an island…. Do you mark all this well, King Caspian?”

“I do indeed, Sir,” said Caspian. “I was wishing that I came of a more honourable lineage.”

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”

safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls

Christ makes classical studies (and other things) safe:

One was a youth, dressed only in a fawn-skin, with vine-leaves wreathed in his curly hair. His face would have been almost too pretty for a boy’s, if it had not looked, so extremely wild. You felt, as Edmund said when he saw him a few days later, “There’s a chap who might do anything absolutely anything.” He seemed to have a great many names – Bromios, Bassareus, and the Ram were three of them. There were a lot of girls with him, as wild as he. There was even, unexpectedly, someone on a donkey. And everybody was laughing: and everybody was shouting out, “Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi.”

“Is it a Romp, Aslan?” cried the youth. And apparently it was. But nearly everyone seemed to have a different idea as to what they were playing.

…At that moment the sun was just rising and Lucy remembered something and whispered to Susan,

“I say, Su, I know who they are.”

“Who?”

“The boy with the wild face is Bacchus and the old one on the donkey is Silenus. Don’t you remember Mr Tumnus telling us about them long ago?”

“Yes, of course. But I say, Lu”

“What?”

“I wouldn’t have felt safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan.”

“I should think not,” said Lucy.

From chapter 11 of Prince Caspian.

what would have been the good?

It is a terrible thing to have to wake four people, all older than yourself and all very tired, for the purpose of telling them something they probably won’t believe and making them do something they certainly won’t like. “I mustn’t think about it, I must just do it,” thought Lucy.

This passage reminded me of the task faced by teachers (to some small degree) on most days. It comes from the end of a longer passage with much to say about discipleship and the prophetic office (chapter ten of Prince Caspian):

“Lucy,” he said, “we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so-”

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that . . . oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh dear,” said Lucy.

“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

“Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.

“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.

“…Now you are a lioness,” said Aslan. “And now all Narnia will be renewed. But come. We have no time to lose.”

where you won a glorious victory

You can’t help feeling stronger when you look at a place where you won a glorious victory not to mention a kingdom, hundreds of years ago. Peter and Edmund were soon so busy talking about the battle that they forgot their sore feet and the heavy drag of their mail shirts on their shoulders. The Dwarf was interested too.

Believers should all recognize this feeling because our lives are full of victories and defeats that are hundreds, even thousands, of years old. This passage from Lewis’ Prince Caspian (chapter 10) reminded me of some concepts from this passage:

Those who celebrate Pesach are not spectators, they are participants. “It is I who came forth out of Egypt,” says Rabbi Gamaliel.

and still looked like men

Ever perceptive, Lucy has the following thought (from Lewis’ Prince Caspian chapter 9):

“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day, in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”

“We’ve got enough to bother about here and now in Narnia,” said the practical Susan, “without imagining things like that.”

Some talking animals evidently went back to being wild and witless during the long reign of the Telmarines kings. When Trumpkin and the four children have just shot a bear for food on their march to join Caspian, they worry briefly that it may have once been a talking bear.

not rooted in a desire to change

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter pages 231 to 234.

Christians are called to related to the world within a dialectic of affirmation and antithesis. The first moment in the dialectic is affirmation. …The significance of affirmation as the first moment in the dialectic is accentuated in a larger public culture defined, in large part, by negation. …It isn’t just that the social order is preserved because the rule of sin is restrained … but that goodness, beauty, and truth remain in this fallen creation.

…More than any Christians would like to admit, believers themselves are often found indifferent to and even derisive of expressions of truth, demonstrations of justice, acts of nobility, and manifestations of beauty outside of the church.

…It is also important to underscore that while the activity of culture-making has validity before God, this work is not, strictly speaking, redemptive or salvific in character. Where Christians participate in the work of world-building they are not, in any precise sense of the phrase, “building the kingdom of God.” This side of heaven, the culture cannot become the kingdom of God, nor will all the work of Christians in the culture evolve into or bring about this kingdom. The establishment of his kingdom in eternity is an act of divine sovereignty alone and it will only be set in place at the final consummation at the end of time. It is only then that “swords will be beaten into plowshares and … spears into pruning hooks”; only then will “the world … dwell with the lamb, and the leopard … with the kid”; and only then will “the earth … be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Perhaps it will be that God will transform works of faith in this world into something incorruptible but here again, it is God’s doing and not ours.

…For Christians to regard the work of culture in any literal sense as “kingdom-building” this side of heaven is to begin with an assumption that tends to lead to one version or another of the Constantinian project, in which the objective is for Christians to “take over” the culture…. …All versions of the Constantinian approach to culture tend to lean either toward triumphalism or despair, depending on the relative success or failure of Christians in these spheres. This is why it is always dangerous to aspire to a “Christian culture” or, by extension, a Christian government, a Christian political party, a Christian business, and the like.

…Indeed, insofar as Christians acknowledge the rule of God in all aspects of their lives, their engagement with the world proclaims the shalom to come. Such work may not bring about the kingdom, but it is an embodiment of the values of the coming kingdom and is, thus, a foretaste of the coming kingdom. Even while believers wait for their salvation, the net effect of such work will be a contribution not only to the good of the Christian community but to the flourishing of all.

Let me finally stress that any good that is generated by Christians is only the net effect of caring for something more than the good created. If there are benevolent consequences of our engagement with the world, in other words, it is precisely because it is not rooted in a desire to change the world for the better but rather because it is an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth, a manifestation of our loving obedience to God, and a fulfillment of God’s command to love our neighbor.

It is a major premise of this blog that “goodness, beauty, and truth remain.”

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