Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another good excerpt from Modern Physics and Ancient Faith:

G.K. Chesterton once compared his own intellectual development to the voyage of an English yachtsman "who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas." The yachtsman of his story "landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton."

Those who manage to pass through intellectual adolescence all follow a journey that is somewhat like that. They are taught some simple truths as children, only to discover as teenagers or young adults that those truths were far too simple and that they themselves were embarrassingly simple to have accepted them. They strike off on their own, leaving the comfortable mental world of their childhood to find a wider and stranger world of ideas. They may experience this world as disturbing or as liberating, but in any event it is more exciting.

If they are fortunate, however, they may come to rediscover for themselves the truths they were taught as children. They may return home, as T.S. Eliot put it, and know it for the first time. If so, they may see that, although they first learned these truths as simple children, neither the truths themselves nor the people who taught them were quite as simple as they supposed.

On reason and faith

Particle physicist Steve Barr goes a long way towards dismantling the obtuse modern idea, held by the more simplistic atheists and theists alike, that faith and science are inimicable in his excellent book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. Picking it up again, I ran across this in Appendix A:
Reason & Faith

These reflections can help us understand something about faith and its relationship to reason. Even the atheist, precisely to the extent that he is rational, has a certain kind of faith. He asks questions about reality in the expectation that these questions will have answers and that these answers will make sense. Why does he believe this? It is not because he already has the answers and can therefore see that they exist and make sense -- if he already had these answers he would not be seeking them. Yet he has the conviction that these rational answers exist. This is a faith. It is a faith that reality can be known through reason. It is a faith that those particular, limited acts of understanding through which he will grasp the answers to his questions are there waiting for him, so to speak, even if he does not succeed -- even if no human being ever succeeds -- in reaching them. It is what drives the scientist in his all-consuming quest. This faith, far from being opposed to reason, is a faith in reason.

The faith of the theist is of this kind. He has faith not only that there are some limited acts of understanding through which he will grasp the answers to his particular questions, but that there is a perfect and complete act of understanding which leaves no further questions to be asked. This complete act of understanding is God. For the believer, faith in God and faith in reason are profoundly linked. The Book of Genesis asserts that human beings are created "in the image of God." This has always been understood to refer primarily to the fact that human beings have rationality and freedom. Our reason, finite and limited though it is, is a reflection of the infinite divine Reason. Like God, therefore, we can grasp the world by our intellects, though unlike God, we can only do so partially. Both the rationality of the world and our capacity to understand it have the same ultimate source.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pistols at 20 paces

Burt Prelutsky has an amusing article about the benefits of bringing back dueling to the political arena. It ends with:

Heck, I bet if you could arrange for Ann Coulter to have a mud-wrestling match with Hillary Clinton, you could sell enough tickets to pay off the national debt, with enough left over to pay off Ted Kennedy’s bar tab!

Heeheehee. Reality programming has brought us to the point that this is not out of the realm of possibility. Especially as a post-career-peak activity.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Christian Science Monitor recognizes the sane response of the Amish

The title of the article is The Amish Protest Against Evil, and it echoes my sister Marguerite's thankfulness for the essential sanity of the Amish response to the horrible school killings. And don't forget that three of the girls are still in critical condition.

Remaining apart from the world: one Christian community's method is looking pretty good right now

My sister Marguerite was struck by the essential sanity of the response of the Amish community in Lancaster County -- 20 miles or so from where we live -- to the terrible school shootings. I was mindful of that when I ran across this from a news article:
In keeping with all aspects of Amish life, today's services will be unadorned, humble and intently focused on God.

About 500 people are expected to attend the four funerals, to be held in large barns. The funeral for the fifth girl, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, will be tomorrow.

There will be no flowers or singing, though hymns will be chanted. There will be no eulogies: The Amish believe praise is for the Lord, not the dead.

And though the massacre caught the horrified attention of the world, there will be no tearful relatives flown to New York to appear on morning TV shows, no pictures of the victims getting their own mournful theme song on CNN, no book deals. For once, there will be dignity.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mea culpa

Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life, came to campus yesterday at the invitation of the Pro-Life Vanguard (PLV), the UD pro-life student group. Audrey Dandoy, president of PLV, had tried to get the Women's Studies Program to support Foster's talk. I had made a couple of phone calls myself. Predictably and annoyingly, the Women's Studies Program declined.

Foster's talk offered solutions to the root causes that women have abortions, and told of several universities at which pro-life and pro-choice groups had formed coalitions to make the campus more "pregnancy friendly", practical support for pregnant students to counteract the commonly held notion that pregnancy derails one's education.

The disappointment for me was that very few pro-choice students, and no pro-choice faculty that I could see, came to hear the talk. Foster talked a lot about the polarization of sides around the abortion issue, and how polarization harms and does not help.

Kate Rogers and I had written a letter to The Review, the student newspaper, criticizing the Women's Studies Program for not supporting Foster's talk. As the pre-eminent purveyor of feminism on campus, they should have welcomed a nationally known feminist figure who has worked hard for pro-women legislation that does not directly address abortion but seeks to eliminate root causes that make abortion seem the only choice possible for so many women.

The Review did not print our letter. I heard from one student that the letter was discussed, but that Women's Studies said that they do not sponsor anything on abortion that does not cover both pro-life and pro-choice points of view.

The irony was, Serrin Foster's talk did exactly that.

I have grown bitter, I confess. I feel nothing but anger and disappointment at pro-choice faculty who dominate Women's Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences. I work with these folks, and have been hurt personally by them. I think this has clouded my whole approach. Once upon a time, I had Serrin Foster's attitude that women from all points of view could work together to make abortion unthinkable. She and Feminists for Life have taken that positive attitude and succeeded.

I have lost my innocence as far as trusting in the innate goodness of the other side, which once was my side. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. What good fruit can come from my bitterness? Perhaps five years ago, when I tried to bring Serrin Foster on campus, I could have sustained a vision that would have allowed me to approach my colleagues with a belief that they and I shared a mutual care for making things better. That vision of hope is gone within me. The loss of it embitters me. Oremus.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Judean Hills Are Holy

Browsing through my volume of Christ and the Fine Arts by Cynthia Maus, I came across a poem titled Judean Hills are Holy. I don't know if it hit my hollow places because of the language, or because it was placed in the book on a page across from a reproduction of the painting Christ Tempted by Satan by George Cornicelius.

Cornicelius must be fairly obscure, there is little about him on the Net. I couldn't find a copy of the painting to put here -- it was burned during WWII. The Maus book was published in 1938. Kind of a sad thing to run across a haunting work that is gone forever. Jesus' eyes are looking right "at the camera" (the artist) and his head is resting on his upraised right hand closed into a fist. It's a realistic painting, one can almost see the model with long, roughly groomed hair and beard. Behind the staring Jesus is the darkly shadowed face and ghostly light hands of Satan, also realistic, a hooded figure leaning and almost embracing Christ with arms raised high to put a simple royal crown on his head.

The poem is by William L. Stidger:


Judean hills are holy ...
Judean hills are fair,
For one can find the footprints
Of Jesus everywhere.

One finds them in the twilight
Beneath the singing sky,
Where shepherds watch in wonder
White planets wheeling by.

His trails are on the hillsides,
And down the dales and deeps;
He walks the high horizons
Where vesper-silence sleeps.

He haunts the lowly highways
Where human hopes have trod
The Via Dolorosa ...
Up to the heart of God.

He looms, a lonely figure,
Along the fringe of night,
As lonely as a cedar ...
Against the lonely light.

Judean hills are holy ...
Judean hills are fair,
For one can find the footprints
Of Jesus everywhere.

Sunday morning

My new daughter-in-law Carrie is back at her mother's, with a pain in her abdomen since Tuesday. Walter was with her last night, I don't know if he stayed the night or went back to their place. MRIs were inconclusive, several possibilities. She has to wait until Thursday when she meets back up with her OB/GYN who will then have results of numerous tests.

Waiting for medical results while in pain and uncertainty is one of life's more nerve-wracking experiences. There's a knotty mass under her skin that all can feel. What is it? One would like to assume that the medical folks know what they are doing and that if it were a life-threatening situation they would admit her to the hospital and do something. She did have the choice of being admitted to the hospital, but basically only to wait until all the test results come in but with stronger drugs than percoset. She is in enough pain that it all feels wrong and very, very scary.