Thursday Potpourri, 8/23/18


An interesting and unexpected twist on St. Clive the New Academic:

When C.S. Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931, he admitted that he did so in large part because Christianity answered the pagan longings he had experienced in his love of mythology and of all things northern …

Epigram to a Brad Birzer article on C.S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis: Man of Faith or Warmed-Over Pagan?. After some tart words about Evangelical and fundamentalist worship of Lewis, and his own frustration with Lewis at times, this:

[S]uch Pagan lingerings should not really surprise the modern reader. When Lewis converted to Christianity in late 1931, he admitted that he did so in large part because Christianity answered the pagan longings he had experienced in his love of mythology and of all things northern. Christianity, he claimed, then and later, did not overturn the past; it baptized it. Christianity did not kill the magic, it sanctified it, making it holy and good. In ways Lewis could not understand but knew to be true, dryads remained, but they could no longer wield their power in the way they had before the coming of Christ. Further, Lewis wrote openly about the Pagan powers as real and tangible, such as when Venus, the goddess (or angelic power) of love, descends upon the wedding cottage of Jane and Mark Studduck in the finale of That Hideous Strength. And, if this is not enough proof, one need only read (or reread) what many regard to be his greatest work, Till We Have Faces, a novel so openly pagan at times as to shock.

Yet, within many Evangelical and Protestant Christian circles, Tolkien remains suspect as a pagan because of his stories of wizards, magic, necromancers, orcs, and elves.

To be sure, these are double standards. What Lewis and Tolkien each understand—and with piety and intelligence—is that the world God created still holds profound mysteries that are at once sacramental and perilous, open to the deepest longings and imaginings of the soul.

The next time you hear a bustle under the hedgerow, pause, wonder, and move on.

As someone who experienced major changes in my Christian tradition twice in life, and who recognizes (1) that my rationales may not have exhausted my reasons and (2) that I have “baggage,” acknowledged and undiscerned, I sympathize with Lewis and appreciate Birzer’s perceptive comments.

Now I think I understand why, deficient as I am in knowledge of mythology, I never could finish Till We Have Faces. But I’m not dead yet. I may give it another try, without looking for the hidden Gospel in it this time.


The Left is wrong, the Right is wrong, but there’s still legitimate asymmetry between sides of any racial divide:

For the left, their perspective is that historical injustice has created such a degree of unfairness that it is not right to treat oppressed groups exactly the same as privileged groups. For the right, their perspective is that we have to ignore the past and treat everyone the same.

We should be clear about the content of some of [Sarah] Jeong’s tweets. She tweeted about the joy of being cruel to old white men, that whites should become extinct and compared whites to dogs. A reasonable person does not respond to specific trolls with such dehumanizing comments about groups of individuals. It is wrong plain and simple …

Not only are such comments wrong, but they also coarsen our discourse and make it harder for us to find solutions that we can all accept. How do we expect whites to react to such comments? Do we really think that they will have some type of Kumbaya moment and realize their privileged position? Or is it most likely that those who already do not experience white guilt will merely harden their resistance to any suggestion by people of color since they will link those suggestions to anti-white bigotry? I think to ask these questions is to answer them.

I know that some progressives will say that we should not care what white people think. They are the oppressors right? We merely need to impose whatever “woke” solution of the day is out there as a matter of justice. Makes sense to me. Telling whites that their opinions do not matter has worked wonders in achieving an awareness of racial privilege. In fact, it has worked so well that we now have President Trump. Truly insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

George Yancey, Lessons from the Sarah Jeong affair. There’s quite a bit more.


Then what about some of the traits among those in TDW [Theological Dark Web]? If you go back to the sorts of things you might hear around IDWers, you might arrive at certain theological equivalents:

There are fundamental biological differences between men and women.

There are fundamental differences between evangelicalism and Protestantism of the Reformation.

Free speech is under siege.

Having theological disagreements is mean.

Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart.

Dietrich Bonhoffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. may not have been the most orthodox of theologians.

Then if you want an analogous set of principles, it might look like this:

Willingness to disagree ferociously, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject: religion, abortion, immigration, the nature of consciousness.

Willingness to disagree about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, ordination, limited atonement, small group Bible studies and small group prayer.

Determination to resist parroting what’s politically convenient.

Determination to resist what’s popular on the conference circuit.

Purged from institutions that have become increasingly hostile to unorthodox thought — and have found receptive audiences elsewhere.

Working outside moderate evangelical institutions and finding receptive audiences in Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican settings.

In fact, what may identify TDW more than anything else is an identification with a communion or denomination first, with parachurch institutions functioning on the periphery.

I think it’s time for a Theological Dark Web.

D. G. Hart 


Bobby Jindal, the former promising policy wonk, now a failed former governor, is back to wonkery, and makes one very good point: the GOP could end up inadvertently spurring single-payer.


This may deserve more prominent mention, but I’m not yet ready for abject “mea culpas: From down under comes word of moderate success in “sexual orientation change efforts,” with few reported ill-effects, for “men who have a religious motivation to change.”

As implied, I pass it on because I’ve expressed skepticism about sexual orientation change efforts (though not about the possibility of chastity).

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Our lives were meant to be written in code, indecipherable to onlookers except through the cipher of Jesus.

Greg Coles.

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