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In response to: The Penultimate Post

2013-09-27T19:15:12Z

It's been great reading this blog. I have enjoyed it and look forward with eager anticipation to the coming blog.



In response to: The Penultimate Post

2013-09-27T16:52:09Z

Thank you, Diss. Our lives have been changed in no small part because of what we have learned here. Jesus, still lead on, till our rest be won.



In response to: The Penultimate Post

2013-09-27T13:03:47Z

Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult.



In response to: The Penultimate Post

2013-09-27T12:58:50Z

Thank you, sir.



In response to: The Penultimate Post

2013-09-27T07:23:20Z

You took my "old blog" comment too seriously, Dissidens! Looking forward to what lies ahead.



In response to: The Penultimate Post

2013-09-27T05:32:30Z

My fingers, by memory and habit, typed 'r-e-m-o-n...' just before I turned in for the night, and what a surprise awaited me. I'm looking forward to the final here and to the new elsewhere. The years spent lurking here have changed my life. A thousand thanks.



In response to: Just For the Sake of Comparison

2013-09-26T22:16:44Z

Yes, all three comments are helpful. It is always right that we can recognize and therefore appreciate the difference between simple and complex, basic and ornate, colloquial and highbrow, direct and elliptical, etc. Properly speaking these things are not accidental. And it can never be good that we miss what we were intended to appreciate. We should always be able to appreciate the difference between Bunyan and Milton, Burns and Donne, Isaiah and Micah…. The mistake is often made in assuming that the simple, basic, colloquial, and direct is inferior, but in one sense that’s only a mistake. The tragedy that follows this mistake is in thinking that bad also has a place on the spectrum. It doesn’t. Simple can work and complex can work; bad can never work. This is one of those things that real reform will have to deal with. It’s one thing to not know what gift to buy your wife; but she will appreciate our effort. The one thing she will not appreciate is if we just throw a charge card at her and tell her to go buy herself “something nice”. The nice is what she wants us to discover. How can we demand of God that he do for himself what he asks us to do? Makes no sense at all.



In response to: Just For the Sake of Comparison

2013-09-26T08:40:58Z

"Surely Mr. Hamilton knows at least the bowlderized version of O Sacred Head. Has he neverreally listened to it? Is there nothing in that text or in Bach's setting that haunts him? Are fundamentalists even haunt-able?" and "Perhaps a person with A Heart of Stone would have eyes to see God's Lamb upon the cross if he actually looked away from himself and toward the cross for a minute" Sometimes, I wish there were "like" buttons on this old blog.



In response to: Just For the Sake of Comparison

2013-09-26T06:29:33Z

I'm a poor judge of art but one thing that immediately stood out to me about Hamilton's piece is that it is focused on the self. Granted, it's self-criticism and not boasting. But it's not worship, either. "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" is real worship. It proclaims the merits of Christ. Perhaps a person with A Heart of Stone would have eyes to see God's Lamb upon the cross if he actually looked away from himself and toward the cross for a minute



In response to: Just For the Sake of Comparison

2013-09-26T01:56:17Z

Two things seem obvious after your comparison. One, Bernard's knowledge of theology is profound and informs his poetry. His grasp of theology goes beyond the simple logic of the catechism to the rhetorical beauty of the psalms. Mr. Hamilton's understanding is more grammatical, the kind of thing we got from the flannalgraph lessons about the crucifixion. Fundamentalism still issues fatwas from time to time against preachers who show signs of theological acumen. Atonement, redemption, wrath, and all the rest are terms in the fundamentalist lexicon are void of significance, without virtue, and cut off from any tradition whatever. Learning real theology often requires consulting writers on the Index Librorum, some of whom were Calvinists and some of whom might even have drunk wine once. Two, Mr. Hamilton seems to be equally ill-informed about western culture or at least that part of it that he plashes around in. It isn't just that Patch isn't conversant with the Swan of Avon or George Herbert. One learns never to expect such things from fundamentalist divines. Rather, one wonders if he's even really read and meditated on Wesley, Watts, and Cowper. These more recent poets belonged to a tradition that honored and even imitated earlier writers like Bernard. Surely Mr. Hamilton knows at least the bowlderized version of O Sacred Head. Has he neverreally listened to it? Is there nothing in that text or in Bach's setting that haunts him? Are fundamentalists even haunt-able?



In response to: Just For the Sake of Comparison

2013-09-24T03:10:59Z

Walter: As for your first question, it’s not relevant to what is at issue here. Let us suppose for the sake of argument that there has been nothing in the last century. So what? Does that mean we cannot make rational aesthetic judgments about what is being turned out by Hamilton? Or Fundamentalists? (And is this, by the way, the standard Fundamentalists such as Hamilton applied to the people they condemned? I’m not going to play this game, not just because it is silly but because it gets us nowhere. Let’s not compare imaginary works. We have the output of the two men: let’s a) compare, and b) learn. Let’s stop being fan-boys. “He may be a dud, but he’s our favorite son and best-selling dud! And let’s make a hymnal out of this kind of thing!)” Again, this is not a helpful question! In an attempt to defend some manifestly inferior work you demand the impossible. If you think Hamilton has done something comparable, please put it forward. As it is I don’t think Hamilton’s best compares to Bernard’s worst. And where would that get us? Would it make us better worshipers or would it just play to this tribalism we got goin’ here. How will this state of affairs be remedied with this kind of celebrity-boosting? What are these people supposed to do? you ask. Again I’m amazed: they are supposed to do what all saints have always done, not blame their incompetence on their “times”. Learn art, learn the art of feeling, learn what worship involves. “…if we weren’t blessed with his abilities?” There is a whole host of answers to this but I’ll leave this suggestion. If we cannot do the work, then let us not publish inferior stuff and blame God for the gifts he failed to give this church; let us offer the best we have to God even if it is not from our heroes…and in the meantime let us learn from our betters, not try to replace them (and make money at it). Having said all that, the point of my posting was to suggest a thing we are still missing; something I think we must internalize before we presume to compare anything. If it is true that the social function of the church is to establish the motives on which we depend (a thing we have clearly done poorly) and teach the art of feeling, bear that fact in mind and re-read the two poems. Bernard helps us in that respect. Hamilton’s is the bleat of the incompetent. Instead of helping us, he goes to God demanding that he force us to do the thing we ought to relish offering out of our own free, observing heart! out of the admiration we ourselves feel, out of love willingly offered. Hamilton's demand is more hideous than anything he says or tries to say. That, if I can say without offending you, is what is needed, not a “fair” comparison that will flatter our meager efforts.



In response to: Just For the Sake of Comparison

2013-09-24T00:41:22Z

Walter: I’m obviously not Diss, but I’d like to respond to several of your arguments. For starters, Hamilton and Garlock have put themselves before us as experts — professional — ones whom we should learn from and follow. It is not unfair to evaluate the art of such people. Second, it might be illuminating to consider WHY pieces written in the last 100-150 years cannot generally compare with the works of many who have come before. How does what we say about God—what we feel about God—differ from what they said and felt? While she does not make your 100 year cut-off (more like 150 years ago), consider this from Anne Ross Cousins, 19th century (hymn tune CONSOLATION): O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head! Our load was laid on Thee; Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead, Didst bear all ill for me. A Victim led, Thy blood was shed; Now there’s no load for me. Death and the curse were in our cup: O Christ, ’twas full for Thee; But Thou hast drained the last dark drop, ’Tis empty now for me. That bitter cup, love drank it up; Now blessing’s draught for me. Jehovah lifted up His rod; O Christ, it fell on Thee! Thou wast sore stricken of Thy God; There’s not one stroke for me. Thy tears, Thy blood, beneath it flowed; Thy bruising healeth me. The tempest’s awful voice was heard, O Christ, it broke on Thee! Thy open bosom was my ward, It braved the storm for me. Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred; Now cloudless peace for me. Jehovah bade His sword awake; O Christ, it woke ’gainst Thee! Thy blood the flaming blade must slake; Thine heart its sheath must be; All for my sake, my peace to make; Now sleeps that sword for me. For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died, And I have died in Thee! Thou’rt ris’n—my hands are all untied, And now Thou liv’st in me. When purified, made white and tried, Thy glory then for me!



In response to: Just For the Sake of Comparison

2013-09-24T00:05:21Z

[1] Can you think of any piece written in the last 100 years that would compare favorably to the one you selected? . . .[2] So what are we (collectively - people like Hamilton) supposed to do? I was thinking along the line of Mr. de Janes's first question after concluding that while "Heart of Stone" isn't a fair comparison, the simple fact is there are no fair comparisons from his oeuvre. I also thought a lot about his second question, and I think the answer has much to do with figuring out why #1 is so manifest a fact, i.e. what's wrong with us.



In response to: Just For the Sake of Comparison

2013-09-23T20:14:26Z

I have no desire to defend the Hamilton piece, but your "challenge" (if I may call it that) is not exactly fair. You're asking us to compare a recent piece to one of the most profound poems ever written. Lots of people other than Hamilton would fail that test. People other than fundamentalists would fail that test. Can you think of any piece written in the last 100 years that would compare favorably to the one you selected? And, you've (arguably) not even picked Hamilton's best meditation for the test. His "It is Finished" it probably better, although compared to (or contrasted with) "O Sacred Head" it too would fall way short. I suspect St. Bernard wrote some things that, for valid reasons, didn't stand the test of time. There's obviously a reason O Sacred Head has been around for hundreds of years. So what are we (collectively - people like Hamilton) supposed to do? This may sound a little smart-aleck but it's not intended to be. I really would like your thoughts. Should none of us write any poetry at all if we can't measure up to St. Bernard? Or should we give it our best shot, even if we weren't blessed with his abilities? Or... (what)? [As an aside, this exercise kind of reminds me of the way Salieri purportedly felt when he listened to Mozart - at least as portrayed in the Amadeus movie which is probably 100% fictional in that instance, but you probably get the idea if you've seen the movie.)



In response to: The Darkness Within

2013-09-21T13:04:44Z

Yes. And there's another as well: Monday's post.



In response to: The Darkness Within

2013-09-21T08:26:03Z

Curious both the superficial similarity and the profound contrast with Rossetti's "Beneath Thy Cross". Perhaps a helpful lesson to compare the two.



In response to: The Darkness Within

2013-09-20T17:05:21Z

d4: And perhaps even longer if it turns out that confession of evil works requires first a simple recognition that they are in fact evil. Among people like Katelyn Beaty and Ryan Weberg, this may be something Hercules might not even attempt.



In response to: The Darkness Within

2013-09-20T16:43:10Z

If the confession of evil works is the beginning of good works, perhaps we have a long season of penance ahead of us.



In response to: The Darkness Within

2013-09-20T16:06:46Z

Ryan Weberg: Thanks for sharing your concern. I’d like to report that my heart was warmed and lifted by your sharing, but that would perhaps be an entirely inaccurate representation of the feelings I actually experienced. It might help clarify things a bit if I were to remind you of two very simple facts. First, this blog has not created a culture, is not creating a culture, and never will create a culture. I can put your mind at ease on this score. Second--and this fact can be confirmed with nothing more than a careless reading of history--a culture is not created, preserved, or sustained by any individual, by any blog, by any parochial interest group, or by any unusual university. What we see in this example of Ron Hamilton’s maudlin and inarticulate worship is the result of exactly that misperception of culture. Mr. Hamilton and his friends, followers, and like-minded stagehoppers have an international reputation for their childish criticism of “worldliness” in other people and in the songs they sing. But when we observe their own hearts in worship, this is what we get. I think to call this “Christ-honoring” is a kind of profanity, don’t you?



In response to: The Darkness Within

2013-09-20T14:30:10Z

Dear Sir, I sincerely appreciate your genuine concern for faith and culture, and have benefited greatly from many of your recommendations. However, I am equally concerned for the lack of grace and discernment you demonstrate on this blog from time to time. While “An Army of One” may have been an acceptable slogan for our national military (though, apparently that was contested), it is no slogan for the army of Christ (cf. Gal 5:15). If “By this they shall know you are my disciples…,” my concern is that the “culture” created by this blog may be doing more harm than good. It is easy to pull the trigger. Sometimes it’s not so easy to identify the enemy. It may be only my opinion, but this was posted in poor taste.