Archives For Faith seeks understanding

Stumbling through some images yesterday, I came across an ‘old’ e-formatted copy of Leo Tolstoy’s 1879 work – ‘A Confession’. I had originally been looking for humorous pictures about coffee, power etc. Instead, I found myself navigating my way through this book.

As I made my advance into Tolstoy’s world,  I found it difficult to put down.

There are free versions of this available from Christian Classics (Link: A Confession CCEL).

In short, Tolstoy’s documented struggle with theology, science, life, faith, the Greek Orthodox church, severe depression and mental illness, is ripe for contemporary reflection. Which is saying a lot for a 134 year old academically astute work of art.

Karl Barth was aware of Tolstoy’s work. However based on the indexing in his Church Dogmatics I could only find a loose connection to the imagery of being ”held over the abyss by the infinite” (CD, IV:I:411), which Tolstoy uses in the abridged quote below.

Considering that Barth was born in 1886, there is a strong possibility here that Tolstoy had a big influence on Barth’s thought and theology. I am keen to confirm this link, so if anyone can point me in the right direction with this, I would appreciate it.

For me, among the highlights of this journey was this postscript (Some of which I hope to write and post about this week. After I pray and mine it some more):

I had a dream.

Leo Tolstoy

The dream was this:
I saw that I was lying on a bed. I was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable: I was lying on my back.
I looked down and did not believe my eyes. I was not only at a height comparable to the height of the highest towers or mountains, but at a height such as I could never have imagined. I could not even make out whether I saw anything there below, in that bottomless abyss over which I was hanging and which I was being drawn.
My heart contracted, and I experienced horror. To look thither was terrible. If I looked thither I felt that I should at once slip from the last support and perish. And I did not look. But not to look was still worse, for I thought of what would happen to me directly I fell from the last support. And I felt that from fear I was losing my last supports, and that my back was slowly slipping lower and lower.
Another moment and I should drop off. And then it occurred to me that this cannot be real. It is a dream. Wake up!
I try to arouse myself but cannot do so. What am I to do? What am I to do? I ask myself, and look upwards.
Above, there is also an infinite space. I look into the immensity of sky and try to forget about the immensity below, and I really do forget it. The immensity below repels and frightens me; the immensity above attracts and strengthens me.
I am still supported above the abyss by the last supports that have not yet slipped from under me; I know that I am hanging, but I look only upwards and my fear passes. As happens in dreams, a voice says: “Notice this, this is it!” And I look more and more into the infinite above me and feel that I am becoming calm.
I remember all that has happened, and remember how it all happened; how I moved my legs, how I hung down, how frightened I was, and how I was saved from fear by looking upwards.
I ask myself how am I held: I feel about, look round, and see that under me, under the middle of my body, there is one support, and that when I look upwards I lie on it in the position of secured balance, and that it alone gave me support before. And then, as happens in dreams, I imagined the mechanism by means of which I was held; a very natural intelligible, and sure means, though to one awake that mechanism has no sense. I was even surprised in my dream that I had not understood it sooner.
It appeared that at my head there was a pillar, and the security of that slender pillar was undoubted though there was nothing to support it. From the pillar a loop hung very ingeniously and yet simply, and if one lay with the middle of one’s body in that loop and looked up, there could be no question of falling. This was all clear to me, and I was glad and tranquil. And it seemed as if someone said to me:
“See that you remember.”
And I awoke.

Source:

Leo Tolstoy 1879 A Confession  Kindle for PC. (Loc. 962).

Image credit: Tolstoy, Wikipedia

(Originally posted 7th July 2013)

rl2016-christmas-letter-with-borderInstead of writing letters to Santa Clause, we write to the Grinch. The aim is to persuade the Grinch to give Christmas a second chance.

This is our second year of using such a brilliant, practical lesson in persuasive writing. [i]

It’s quirky and fits well with our homeschooling style.

I had another focus for craft last year around this time, which meant that I had to leave out the part where we get to make a Grinch face.  This year, however, I needed a craft-filler with some level of serious coolness, so it was full steam ahead.

If, like us, you haven’t sold your kids the line about Santa Claus “bringing nice things, only if you do nice things”, this is a real alternative to the Dear Santa petitioning.

Let me follow that up by saying that I have no issue with who the modern myth of Santa is based on. Nikolaos of Myra did exist. He stood by his convictions, made some mistakes, such as punching a heretic or two and gave to help those who couldn’t help themselves.  He’s my kind of Saint; the John McClane of all Christian forebears.

What I stand opposed to is teaching kids something that will cause them to question their trust in us as parents later on in life. If we manipulated them with the Santa line, it’s only right that they’d wonder whether there were other areas where their parents weren’t being completely honest with them.

This is as psychologically abusive as any Christian parent misrepresenting the fear of God in an attempt to encourage a child to behave.

Santa Claus isn’t the problem, the lie perpetuated by the modern myth of Santa is.It’s the packaging, not necessarily the content of that packaging.

For parents, teachers and homeschoolers, speaking the truth in love should be of paramount importance. Even when there are family members who might get angry with us for not wanting to become co-conspirators in what is, in all bluntness, an outright Westernised, excessively commercial, lie.

This may seem heartless. It does to some in my own family. I ask, though, isn’t it heartless to raise kids to believe in a lie; to abandon them to figure out the truth for themselves? Isn’t it heartless to misconstrue the truth and distort reality? Not just this, but then consciously employ that lie to manipulate a child’s behaviour?

Coming from a highly dysfunctional family, I’m more accustomed to the effects of this. I acknowledge that this has left me with a slight bias. For reasons other than Santa Claus, I’ve not only experienced it, I’ve also witnessed the harm done by parents who don’t tell their children the truth and instead lead them to believe a lie; the impact of which is made worse when that lie is used to control a person’s behaviour. It doesn’t end well for either the parent or the child. [ii]

If I am going to be teaching my children about faith and reason, these need to be taught with integrity. Believing in the modern myth of Santa Claus isn’t an example of what a faith that seeks understanding looks like.

There is nothing heartless in teaching our kids the truth about Christmas; teaching them about Jesus Christ and the fuller meaning of Christmas is part of a rounded holistic education. The nativity alone confronts our inhospitable tendencies, doubts, weariness and need for rest.

In answer to the charge that I’m simply swapping belief in Santa Claus for belief in Jesus Christ, I would say, no. The context is totally different.

To begin with, I’m not teaching my kids about Jesus Christ for personal gain. It’s a gift given to them to benefit them. It’s not something I’m taking from them to benefit me. Secondly, my sources come from authorised, written historical recounts about a real historical person. Thirdly, in contradistinction to neo-Pelagianism and some well documented bad theology, I’m not teaching them that they’ll get nice things, if they do nice things.

There is no anxiety about whether Santa is happy or sad because of their behavior. There is joy in a deeper learning about the immanence of God, in Christ, who is Immanuel [God with us]. One extended by the fact that on the 25th December every year, most countries in the Western World and the church in the majority world, join together to mark what is generally considered to be the birthday of Jesus Christ.

It unifies ethnicity and draws together cultures. It opens doors and hearts to the good news, has even prompted a ceasefire, brought respite to busy workers and seen both, rich, poor, king and queen bow equally before the one who is, and was, and is to come.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
– (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)

If choosing to do this makes me the Grinch or someone like a Dickensian Scrooge, so be it.

grinch-christmas-rl2016


Notes:

[i] How the Grinch Stole Christmas Persuasive Writing Project

[ii] Sir Walter Scott’s, ”O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive” from  ‘Marmion: The Battle‘ comes to mind.

Surreabral Footnotes

June 10, 2016 — 2 Comments

Musical notes project_squareThis particular song took a few weeks to put together. I had a sound in mind and decided to take the time to flesh it out. Usually I’m able to put a three-minute song together in a day and polish it (as best I can, with the basic tech that I have) over a week. This one was tough.

I started with a constant rhythm running in the background with two layers of drums, both sequenced to correspond with the consistent rhyme of the rhythm guitar. The intro is a reworked piece of the drum line and the lead guitar. The bass line was played on using keys and guitar.

The latter is dipped in reverb to better introduce the tune.

The title reflects the surrealist art. The picture looks like a brain walking around with crotchets as legs. If you stand back from it you’ll notice the two double crotchets that the form their own framework around the piece.

I’m content with the overall sound. I’m very fond of how the drums turned out. The lead was a bit touch and go. I had trouble getting the right tone and finding a melody that complimented the mood. One other thing I’m not 100% thrilled with, is how I ended it. The fade out works, however, it’s too easy of a fix.

Of course, the perfectionist in me would have liked to have had the time to tighten it all up a lot more, but it’s time to just post it and leave it for now.

There isn’t a lot of depth to the meaning of this. If I was to put a description to it, I’d go with “faith seeks understanding.”

On the spot, I’d say that ‘’Surrea-bral footnotes’’ are what we are left with when we are encountered by God, His Word, His promise, His presence. We wrestle with the cognitive challenges of our day; the abrasive questions about the realism of it all. Similar to those, who after Jesus encountered them, faced a hostile interrogation from those around them.

Karl Barth pointed out that joy is the radiance of God’s glory. That joy encapsulates the point: we march on, even when the world (sometimes those about us) are all to happy to mock and tear down.

it is a glory that awakens joy […] God’s glory radiates it […] because it is God who Himself radiates joy […] His glory is radiant, and what it radiates is joy. It attracts and therefore it conquers.’ (CD. II:1, pp.655, 654, 661) (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 30:5; Isaiah 55:12; John 15:11)

May the radiance of God’s glory warm you, comfort you, counsel you and be more real to you than just a surrea-bral footnote.

 

 


(RL2016)

The process for this weeks creative offering was fairly simple. I created the bass line, sequenced the drums, added keys and then lead guitar. I approached this a little differently by mixing the bass, drums and keys during the week, then layering the guitar on top of that a little later on.

Upside: it wasn’t as much work.

Downside: I couldn’t control the volume of the keys.

So, the high end sound of the keys is a little too dense for my liking. Overall, though, I’m pleased with the outcome.

Inspiration was drawn from Mark 7:7-11, ESV and the old Christian adage, ‘Faith Seeks Understanding.’

 

 

 

 


(RL2016)

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