My Song Is Love Unknown

Kris | Love,Poetry | Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend,
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!”
is all their breath,
And for His death
they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries!
Yet they at these
Themselves displease,
and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He
to suffering goes,
That He His foes
from thence might free.

In life no house, no home,
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb,
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav’n was his home;
But mine the tomb
Wherein he lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend,
in Whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend.

–Samuel Crossman, 1664

Penetrating insights

Kris | Books | Monday, May 18th, 2015

Irvin D. Yalom is an atheist and an existentialist. I’m a Christian–one of those who actually believes in the supernatural and a personal God who makes himself known. Yalom believes the only meaning we have is what we create. I believe God created us and gives us meaning. At the most fundamental level of the way we view ourselves and our world, we couldn’t agree less.

Isn’t it amazing that people so out of sync can learn from each other? Not just the simplest most practical things, either–soul-exposing insights into humanness and love.

Along with a group of friends, I’m auditing a CCEF course taught by Ed Welch, and Yalom’s The Gift of Therapy was one of the texts. According to Welch, we read it to help us develop a methodology of counseling. Yalom certainly gave us plenty of grist for our methodological mills. But I learned much more (perhaps because I know so little) about human beings.

As Spock would have said: Fascinating.

A little book with a big picture

Kris | Books | Saturday, May 16th, 2015

After being pushed to the limits of my cerebration by James K. A. Smith’s How (Not) to be Secular, I hardly recognized Smith in the breezy voice of his Letters to a Young Calvinist. And I have good news: this isn’t yet another exposition of the so-called Five Points of Calvinism. Rather, Smith takes a much more expansive (though very brief and readable) stroll through Augustinian-Edwardsian-Kuyperian Calvinism, which sounds very dull when I write it like that, but is really exciting and soul-delighting when you taste it. Trust me.

I have a few quibbles with a misstep or two (as I see it) and his style is lucid but not delightful like, say, The Screwtape Letters or Letters to Malcom. Still, a worthy little read.

Comprehensive and indispensible

Kris | Books | Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Not-so-wayward sons

Kris | Films | Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Kansas: Miracles out of Nowhere is a little documentary film that probably won’t win any awards. But I have to tell you I liked it a lot.

It starts with the band members talking about the joy of their childhood in Topeka. And in a sense that’s the whole film: six adults reminiscing about their lives together as good friends who happened to love music and who had the skill to create it. Let me emphasize the word “adults” in the last sentence. These men talked like men. They weren’t a bunch of Peter Pans who never grew up. They weren’t trying to recapture their lost glory. They were truly humble and surprised by their success–they attributed it all to a series of “miracles.” They gave credit to each other and honored each other. They credited Don Kirchner and others who helped them along the way. Steve Walsh even confessed that he was writing songs for the wrong reasons at one point, and admitted that Kerry Livgren was the one who came through for them. I don’t think they uttered a single profanity (the only vulgarisms in the film come from some other rock stars who are interviewed). The raciest thing they said was that when they went to Los Angeles to record an album they lived the rock-and-roll lifestyle. No details.

So the pleasure of the film is as simple and genuine as these men and their lifelong friendship. How refreshing!

The Bobby Knight of jazz?

Kris | Films | Friday, May 1st, 2015

If that’s what it takes to be great, then I’ll keep my mediocrity, thank you very much.

Whiplash is certainly intense. And if you enjoy vulgar insults, you’ll get your fill of them. (Though I found Fletcher’s verbal abuse to be relatively uncreative and limited in its themes. He would have benefited from some time with Shakespeare.)

Anyway, I appreciated the study of mad obsession with greatness and glory–and how life-draining and humanity-destroying it can be, even as it generates glorious beauty. But I’m trying to recall–please help me with this: can you think of a story or film of someone who pursued greatness without sacrificing the things that make us human, like actual relationships with other human beings?

On second thought…

Kris | Books,Who can find wisdom? | Sunday, April 19th, 2015

In my previous post I claimed to be enthusiastic about finding some smart people to read How (Not) To Be Secular and discuss it with me. But when I thought about how the discussion might run, I imagined myself as Charlie Brown in this cartoon.

Don’t read this on an empty stomach (but read it!)

Kris | Books,Foolishness to the Greeks | Sunday, April 19th, 2015

I’m in the fifth day of being sick and I’ve defended myself against boredom with a tactical thermonuclear weapon: James K. A. Smith’s How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. Not being a bona fide genius, I’ve had to read it on my tip-toes just to hang on to the faintest inkling of what he’s talking about. Fortunately, Smith includes a glossary. Unfortunately, it barely helps:

Closed world structures (CWSs) Aspects of our contemporary experience that “tip” the immanent frame toward a closed construal. See also spin; take.

Got it? The next entry is priceless:

Cross-pressure The simultaneous pressure of various spiritual options; or the feeling of being caught between an echo of transcendence and the drive toward immanentization. Produces the nova effect.

Still with me? I’m not sure I’m still with me.

Anywho, all joking aside, it’s almost been worth being laid-up just to be able crawl through it. Smith wrote this little book as a “map” to reading Charles Taylor’s “inaccessible” (ha!) 900-page gorilla, A Secular Age. Smith offers an acute analysis of Taylor’s acute analysis of how we human beings can understand ourselves in our secular society. Unfortunately, I can’t offer you an acute analysis of Smith’s acute analysis, etc. I can tell you that he strips away all grounds for the smug confidence of exclusivist humanism, as if it had an obvious explanation of reality and Christianity is totally deadsville, as any moron can plainly see. (He doesn’t write it quite that way, alas.)

Having reached the end of the book, while my head is still spinning, I’ve decided I need to read it again–but I’ll need reinforcements. So I’m recruiting a few others to read and discuss it with me. Maybe together we can ferret out the arguments and recast them in terms that are more useful for us than CWSs and nova effects. Or maybe we’ll just learn a new language together.

And if I haven’t made myself clear yet, I’ll spell it out for you: this book is worth your (excruciating) effort.

Short and sweet, but it packs a punch

Kris | Books | Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

In Why We Pray, William Philip doesn’t try to convince us to pray or motivate us to pray (though what he says is powerful motivation): he assumes we pray. And he explains why. The whole book is very good–and the last two chapters (of only four total) are excellent. “We Pray Because God Is a Sovereign God” makes good sense out of the puzzler that some people toy with: If God is sovereign, why bother asking him to do anything? His answer is not only good sense; it’s biblical.

In the last chapter he also steers people away from some nonsensical notions of faith and prayer. In fact, I was surprised how many fine points he made in such a short book. And all in a warm and encouraging way.

If you like triads, this is your book

Kris | Books | Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

Since October I’ve been using John Frame’s Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology in a group study of (you guessed it) systematic theology. I can’t recall whether I’ve read any other “introductions” to systematic theology, but I suppose this is a good one. Frankly, I prefer the “director’s cut” versions: like Frame’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. If you’re going to dig into theology, why not dig all the way?

And the reference to triads above is an allusion to Frame’s tri-perspectivalism: his pedagogical model for organizing knowledge. It can be helpful.

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