Archive for March, 2009

A friend pointed me to this article which is Professor Thomas Bertanneau’s depressing analysis of the “scholars” who are presently taking up space in our colleges and universities. I’ve seen this sort of thing firsthand but I’ve been hoping that what I was seeing was not widespread. Unfortunately, it appears that it is.

Here’s the author’s conclusion regarding the future we’ve made for ourselves:

“I see in the resentful incapacity of so many students a not-so-dim “Shape of Things to Come” whose characteristics will be theirs: perceptive obtuseness, expressive coarseness, extreme limitation of language and therefore also of concept, radical unfitness to judge complicated technical or moral problems, complete disconnection from any meaningful past and, to borrow a term from Oswald Spengler, in a condition utterly “historyless.”

The world soon to be dominated by such people (their world is already rapidly consolidating itself around us) will be awkward and ham-fisted; it will respond slowly and in all likelihood badly to the complicated problems that will impose their contingency on it. Petulance will characterize it universally: people who find it hard to think straight or to sort out complexities will balk at doing so and become adept at finding reasons for ignoring urgent social, moral, and political challenges. They will be even more amenable than many people already are to pandering, “magical” solutions to emergencies offered by cynical politicians who are interested solely in re-election.

Secretly aware of their limitations, they will also be susceptible to flattery designed to boost their all-important self-esteem. The level of commercial culture will descend even further than it already has to placate the taste of people who have rejected humane education and who do not really understand adult issues. As a student wrote in response to Iphigenia by Euripides, getting the tragedian’s message exactly backwards, people “must trust their leaders and things will be fine in the end.” Many older, genuinely educated people surviving into this not-too-distant future will find the new world infantile and exasperating.

William James wrote that the role of the intellect is to resolve into a comprehensible image the raw perceptual blur of reality. When the educational system rejects cultivating intellect as its primary goal and dedicates itself instead to fostering feelings, opinions, and baseless pride, it will discharge at the end of twelve years young people for whom the Jamesian “buzz” of phenomena cannot resolve into a comprehensible image. I mean to argue, in citing the student passages given above, much more than that contemporary undergraduates are poorly educated and lazy, even though they are those things in spades. I mean to argue that a deficient but entrenched pedagogy based on “progressive” theories of education has betrayed students by refusing to grant them the dignified status of real mentality, of adult awareness, and of literate sensibility.”

Now, explain to me again why you oppose Christian classical education?


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Today is Flannery O’Connor’s birthday and it just wouldn’t be right to allow it to pass without acknowledgment. Flannery is the queen of American writers.

She once said, “Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

If you haven’t read her, do it.



(the painting is by Lauren Pope, see some of her other works here)

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If you weren’t here for John Barach’s lectures on Philippians, you really missed a treat. John did a great job in covering Paul’s epistle, giving both exegetical and practical insights that were extremely helpful. Here are a few of the tidbits we heard:

“Being in prison is not bad news . . . it’s the first stage of dominion.”
“Paul is a Trojan Horse for the gospel.”
“The support of the Spirit comes through the prayers of the people.”
“Paul saw his mission as making people joyful. This is the pastor’s job.”
“Unity is a gift and a mandate.”

And there was a lot more that I don’t have time to put in now — really great stuff.

Go to the MP3 site and download the lectures as soon as they’re ready, they are excellent.

(and we are already looking forward to seeing them in a future “Through New Eyes” commentary!)

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One of our sons (Bray) is in the Young Artists program at the Seattle Opera and will be singing in the performance of Benjamin Britten’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for a couple of weeks (six performances at the Meydenbauer Theater), starting March 27.

Click here for a preview from the director Peter Kazaras.

If you’re in the area, well then, go see it, ought to be fun.

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If you’re going to be in our area this Saturday (or if you are close enough to drive) you’ll want to come to the Bucer Institute Spring “Special Session” which begins Saturday at 9:00 a.m.

Pastor John Barach (pastor of Christ Church, Medford, OR) will be here to give four lectures on the book of Philippians.

Yep. It’s going to be really fine. Call us, we’ll save you a place.

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Paris and love

Larry Lawlace mentioned this movie in a comment and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed it. It’s a collection of 18 short films directed by 18 different directors. The stories are based upon various locations in Paris. It’s been a while since I saw it and I can’t remember exactly which of the films are not so hot (there are some and so I can’t give it an unqualified endorsement) but let me commend one of the shorts in particular: “Bastille.” Written and directed by Isabel Coixet, “Bastille” is the story of a man who meets his wife for lunch prepared to tell her that he is leaving her for another woman. Before he can give her this news, however, she tells him that the doctors have determined that she has a terminal illness and only has a few months to live. What begins as another story about infidelity, ends as a story about love. Beautiful.

[Ok, going back to review the contents, you can safely avoid the majority of the shorts. But don’t miss “Bastille”; “Loin du 16e”; “Parc Monceau”; and “Place des fêtes.” These four are worth your time — and if the only one you watch is “Bastille,” you won’t be a loser]

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St. Patrick

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We commemorate the life and work of Sucat (aka Patrick of Ireland). The life of Patrick (like so much else in the early centuries of the Church) is surrounded by mystery and legend. He was probably born in Dumbarton in England in the latter part of the 4th century, around 375-390 A.D. His mother was a sister of, or at least was related to, the famous Martin of Tours. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all appear to have been clergymen. When Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by the Irish raiding king, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and carried away to Ireland where he was sold into slavery. His new master, Milchu, sent him into the fields to keep cattle. It was there, in the Irish fields, that Patrick began to consider the God of his fathers:

And there the Lord opened (to me) the sense of my unbelief, that, though late, I might remember my sins, and that I might return with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who had respect to my humiliation, and pitied my youth and ignorance, and took care of me before I knew Him, and before I had wisdom, or could discern between good and evil; and protected me and comforted me as a father does a son.

After many adventures and an interval of years of which little is known, Patrick was able to return to his mother and father who begged him never to leave them again. But though Patrick was out of Ireland, he could not get Ireland out of himself. One night he had a dream:

And there I saw, indeed, in the bosom of the night, a man coming as it were from Ireland, Victoricus by name, with innumerable letters, and he gave one of them to me. And I read the beginning of the letter containing “The Voice of the Irish.” And while I was reading aloud the beginning of the letter, I myself thought indeed in my mind that I heard the voice of those who were near the wood of Foclut, which is close by the Western Sea. And they cried out thus as if with one voice, “We entreat thee, holy youth, that thou come, and henceforth walk among us.” And I was deeply moved in heart, and could read no further; and so I awoke. Thanks be to God, that after very many years the Lord granted to them according to their cry!

In response to the dream, Patrick left for Ireland arriving around the year 432 and spent the rest of his life in evangelizing the Irish people. The “Lorica” (or “Breastplate”) was composed by Patrick as a prayer begging God for protection when traveling. We no longer realize the importance of such prayers but in the days of the early missions into pagan lands they were invoked with great earnestness. Patrick said, “I daily expect either murder, . . . or to be reduced to slavery, or mishap of some kind. But I fear none of these things, on account of the promises of the heavens; for I have cast myself into the hands of the Omnipotent God, who rules everywhere, as saith the prophet, ‘Cast thy thought on the Lord, and He will sustain thee.’”

God mightily blessed his labors and for that, we rightly remember him and give thanks for his life and faithfulness.

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