A Child Sees “The Moon!” and “The Son!”

Children have a winsome way of instructing adults.

My son, Gideon, not yet two years old, teaches me a lesson about worship and the wonders of God.

If we walk outside right after dusk it’s not very long until he lifts an expectant gaze upward. With an awe-inspiring wonder in his eyes he exclaims, “Moon!” (sometimes pronounced “Boon!”)

It never gets old to him. He sees it near every night, but each time he is caught by complete surprise when earth’s companion reveals itself. He points to the heavens with a tiny index finger, gasps, and exclaims it again with more emphasis, “Moon!” He’ll then look to me to make sure I’m not missing out on this exquisite display of the cosmos. And I can’t help but look up with him and force the amazement in my voice while joining with him,

“Moon!”

When his brother, Josiah, was this age we had the same ritual.

The wonder of a glowing orb perfectly suspended before a pitch black backdrop is a mystery we “refined” adults rarely recognize anymore.

My son knows nothing of Cosmology or Astronomy, tidal forces or Neil Armstrong. But he knows the proper response to divine phenomena when he sees it (Psalm 19).

We should be more like children (Mat 18:3). Sophistication, tradition, materialism, and blatant worship at the altar of fallen reason have left us cold and dead inside. Our blind dedication to theoretical principles has left us passionless and purposeless.

As GK Chesterton once intimated: the problem is not that we are so advanced as a species but that we are so dull. One defining mark of spiritual maturity is when the curious marvel that is a blade of grass or tad pole can bring us to our knees in worship. The splendor of God’s power in those simple things rarely grips us anymore.

 The Halo of God I Took For Granted

A few nights ago there was a great halo around the moon that extended down into our stratosphere with epic brilliance. Around 10:30 my wife woke me up from a near dead sleep so I could go outside and witness it with her. She was as giddy as a schoolgirl about the sight, calling up her dad to awake and see the spectacle too.

ring around the moon
The moon I took for granted.

I was impressed. But standing in my chilly driveway with my boxer shorts on my demeanor was a little more reserved. The killjoy left side of my brain took over as I said:

“It’s just light from the moon refracting off ice crystals…”

And there I was, trying to be more than a child. I would have been much better off if I took notes from my one year old and just pointed up while exclaiming,

“MOON!”

The wonder of the gospel will make us children again (Mat 19:14). May we never view the empty tomb as some abstract historical fact or ecclesial tradition. There is an eternal chasm of difference between assenting to information about God and being ruined by a revelation of God.

The Christian paradox: Be mature in faith yet childlike in trust.

Today: may we look to the gospel of Jesus Christ with childlike astonishment, point to His cross and empty tomb and cry out to God and man, “The Son! The Son! The Son!”

What areas in life do you feel you need to be more “child-like”?

Bryan Daniels

A Dead Brit On Modern American Politics (Chesterton)

GK Chesterton (1874-1936) is (probably) my favorite dead political/religious commentator. Compare him with some of the modern hacks who make appearances on the FoxNews/MSNBC celeb circuit.

The “Apostle of Common Sense” would be shocked to witness the un-commonness of such a virtue in the political/public arena of our day. Most all of these quotes are found in publications leading up to, or immediately after, World War I. Many are in reference to Great Britain, yet they also apply neatly to the current state of American politics.

On government:

“All government is an ugly necessity.”

“Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.”

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

“Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern.” – The New Name, Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays, 1917

On the Declaration of Independence:

“The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.”

On patriotism:

“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”

On war:

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

“War is not the best way of settling differences; it is the only way of preventing their being settled for you.”

On political progressivism:

“Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.”

“My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.” – New York Times Magazine, 2/11/23

“He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.”

On the economy:

“There cannot be a nation of millionaires, and there never has been a nation of Utopian comrades; but there have been any number of nations of tolerably contented peasants.”

On liberty:

“The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.”

On his journalism career:

“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

God Is Younger Than We Are….

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

-GK Chesterton

The Atheist God

“In that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”  No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt.  Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”.’

– G.K. Chesterton

 

Man Crush Confession #3: GK Chesterton (1874-1936)

{This is a blog series. For context, please go to my Man Crush Confession numero uno and number two}

When a brilliant mind, winsome personality, and a scathing humor combines into one portly jovial frame you get my Man Crush Confession #3: Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

GK Chesterton was a renaissance man with a wickedly diverse writing palate. As a popular English author he churned out works that included poetry, political, literary and art criticism, biography, fiction and apologetic. His greatest apologetic work “Orthodoxy” had a great impact on me in college. I was grappling with what it meant for a Christian to be intellectually and spiritually driven. Or, as CS Lewis coined, what it meant to be a “Romantic Rationalist.” I found Chesterton’s writing to be winsome and challenging, entertaining and scholarly.

Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” and “Everlasting Man” should both be required reading for the thinking and apologetically minded Christian. In fact, CS Lewis once said, “the [very] best popular defence of the full Christian position I know is G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man.”

I’d submit to you this: If you have the slightest mancrush on CS Lewis, then you are indebted to GK Chesterton in some way. I read “Mere Christianity” before I read “Orthodoxy” by Chesterton. I was shocked to see the clear parallels in writing styles, logic, and apologetic flow of argument. I saw the 300 pound ghost of Chesterton in much of the polemic of Lewis. On top of this, both men were considered respected Christian philosophers, authors of fiction, and noted apologists for their day. To me, Lewis was just the Anglicanized version of the Roman Catholic Chesterton; they both impacted the thought life of Great Britain during the World Wars (Chesterton WWI, Lewis WWII).

I think one of the best ways to get introduced to Chesterton is through his quotes. He had a quotable quip for almost every topic; here are some of my favorites (sorry, some are without reference):

“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man”The Book of Job: An introduction (1907)

“Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

“The word “good” has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”What’s Wrong With the World?

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.”Illustrated London News (16 July 1910)

“As for science and religion, the known and admitted facts are few and plain enough. All that the parsons say is unproved. All that the doctors say is disproved. That’s the only difference between science and religion there’s ever been, or will be.”Michael Moon in Manalive (1912)

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton : The Illustrated London News

“Every remedy is a desperate remedy. Every cure is a miraculous cure. Curing a madman is not arguing with a philosopher; it is casting out a devil.”Orthodoxy, Chapter II : The Maniac

“It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.” Orthodoxy, Chapter 3-Suicide of Thought

“He is only a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of the Conservative”Varied Types (1903)

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”-What’s Wrong With The World?

“Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.”

“All things are from God; and above all, reason and imagination and the great gifts of the mind. They are good in themselves; and we must not altogether forget their origin even in their perversion.” The Dagger with Wings, Part One: The Homelessness Of Man, Ch. 5

Maybe my favorite Chesterton story was when a major British publication asked him to write an article on “What’s Wrong With The World.” Chesterton gave his classical pithy response:

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,
― GK Chesterton”

If Spurgeon was the “Prince of Preachers”, then it is certainly true Chesterton was the “Prince of Paradox.” He was also deemed the “Apostle of Common Sense” by his contemporaries. He was one of the few men in the world where “Paradox” and “Common Sense” seemed to reside effortlessly. Such paradox pointed to a mind awakened by the Christian worldview, not deadened by legalism. As his debating friend and antagonist, George Bernard Shaw, noted after his death, “He was a man of colossal genius.”

As a RCC adherent, he didn’t have glowing view of the Protestant Reformation or Puritanism. So in my opinion he left some things to be desired on the theological front. But he had a contagious view of the world that restored child-like wonder to even the most intellectual secular stiff. He could muse poetically and deeply on the meaning of a blade of grass, friendship, or the Trinity.

So I pay homage to this unlikely vessel God used to awaken my imagination to the wonder and mystery of the world around me.

Who are some of the unlikely vessels of godly influence in your life?

Bryan Daniels

Going To The Movies Instead Of Moving (What Harry Potter and Joan of Arc Have In Common)

I’m always intrigued how art and popular culture use themes such as redemption and transcendence. This thread is most apparent in the movies.

Captain America, Batman, Harry Potter and all cultural blockbusters grapple with major philosophical concerns such as good vs. evil, justice, and sacrificial love. This is an undeniable God-planted yearning in the heart of every man, even those bred on the post modern values of Hollywood or Broadway. Many times in film and literature, the most hardened unbeliever, in creating his own art, will necessarily borrow from a worldview he scoffs at.

This Imageo Dei must make its way out in some way, even if inadvertently.

Just Move!

Tom, the lead character of Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie, knows of this internal groping. He wants more to life than his nightly routine of movie screening after another monotonous workday. He’s not buying what his culture is selling anymore.

“I’m tired of movies… Look at them! All of those glamorous people – having adventures – hogging it all, gobbling the whole thing up! You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! Yes, until there’s a war. That’s when adventure becomes available to the masses! Everyone’s dish, not only Gable’s! Then the people in the dark room come out of the dark room to have some adventure themselves Goody, goody! – It’s our turn now, to go to the South Sea Islands – to make a safari – to be exotic, far-off! – But I’m not patient. I don’t want to wait till then. I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move!”

Tom’s aching for self-actualization is misplaced. He knows he’s made for more than watching movies. But he deduces that means he should be the star and the center of the screenplay. As always there is a mixed  bag of truth here for us.

People go to the movies instead of moving. I like the way Tom puts it. People go through the motions of life instead of living. The pit we can fall into is very similar. A self-professed Christian may go to church instead going out into the world. They sit in comfortable pews instead of reaching and loving until in hurts. They gaze into their narcissistic mirrors in preparation every morning instead of beholding the face of Christ in prayer and study. They watch T.V. programs about fictional families and friends instead of spending quality time with their own family and friends. In many ways, and many times quite literally, many of us go to the movies instead of moving.

Move Like An Illiterate Farm Girl

This trap of mere examination can be fallen into by philosophers, authors and theologians. G.K. Chesterton observes the common snare when comparing Joan of Arc to some of the respected thinkers of his day, Tolstoy and Nietzsche:

Joan of Arc, age 19, burnt at the stake for "heresy"

Joan of Arc….chose a path, and went down it like a thunderbolt. I thought of all that was noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially plain pity, the actualities in earth, the reverence of the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find its secret…I thought of his (Nietzsche) cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their antagonistic ideals….she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing.

Unfortunately, I find a large portion of my life strongly parallels that of Nietzsche and Tolstoy rather than that of Joan of Arc. Many times I am no more than an onlooker in the spectator sport of careful scrutiny. The sad narrative may be that many 21st century cultural Christians do have more in common with an atheist philosopher than a fearless crusader and national hero. The dilemma for the elitist philosopher and peasant believer is one and the same: We have grown accustomed to going to movies instead of moving. Nietzsche had a belief system but it rarely compelled him to any valuable action (and when his belief system was really strictly adhered to in Nazi Germany it was ultimately exposed as the malicious sham it was).

Move Like A Nerdy British Boy With A Wand

An illiterate teenage farm girl is rebuke to all ivory tower speculators and intellectuals who talk much and do little. The same is true for our modern-day cultural icons. We don’t admire Harry Potter for his views on evolution or the string theory, we admire him for his fearless stand for justice in the face of utter darkness and evil.

What Harry is in fiction, the saints of God have been (and are) in fact.

Similarly, we may have a stalwart of good doctrine but no accompaniment of sound action. A Christian worldview means little if not lived out in view of the world.

You know, those inescapable elementary twin truths of “faith and works”.

I pray my theology has hands and feet.

And I pray I find myself swept up into the only real eternal drama of good vs. evil, justice, and sacrificial love. It’s not found in a nerdy teenager with a magic wand, or a cheesy grown man wearing red, white, and blue tights.

It’s found at the cross of Jesus Christ. Forevermore. There every knee, expression of art, and philosophical musing will bow in humble awestruck reverence and fascination.

Bryan Daniels

Why Dragons are Real and Parents are Stupid

Some adults just don’t get it. I encountered one in a recent movie excursion with my wife, where we viewed the adapted CS Lewis novel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in 3D. The prude was there with his wife and two young children, as he must have gotten time off from his busy schedule of joy-killing to stoop to his kid’s level to watch this movie.

After a satisfactory viewing experience my wife and I headed to the restroom facilities to unload about eight gallons of carbonated syrup we accumulated in the past two hours. As I was waiting outside the bathrooms for my wife to finish (a common experience for a man with a wife in her third trimester) I overheard the JK (joy-killer) speaking with a fellow adult he happened to know within earshot of his children. The convo went like this:

Stupid talking lion

“How was the Narnia movie?” fellow adult

With a snarky tone, “It was a bit farfetched,” said JK. “Extreme.”

My mouth dropped open. The only response my bewildered mind could conjure up was, “Really? Ya think?”

It is a movie based on a fantasy children’s book for mother Mary’s sake! I thought boys who turn into dragons, a sword dueling mouse and a talking lion were quite logical myself. But seriously, why don’t you just go ahead rip the imagination and innocence right out of your children’s little souls? While you’re at it tell them Santa is just your drunk great-uncle and all dogs go to hell.  

It brings to mind one of my favorite GK Chesterton quotes:

“Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”

I feel a bit sympathetic for the JK, because some parental injustice must have been done to him in his early childhood, and as a result his ability to process allegory and wonder has been greatly diminished. In this rationalistic materialistic brainwashing he’s missed the forest for the trees, and the redemption themes behind nearly every movie are (possibly) lost on him. The adult qualities of dignity and pretension has made JK a dull boy.

No wonder the lion of Judah, Jesus, told adults, “Unless you are converted and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Hopefully, in the new year this childlike wonder will give us a fresh unction to see and worship Christ more, even in 3D movie events. And possibly then a mole cricket or blade of grass may bring us to our knees in curious delight.

I guess the moral of this story is: Don’t be a joy-killer; God loves to challenge the comfortable traditions and long-held presuppositions of our hardened humanity. Don’t scoff too hard at a fanciful land of mermaids and giant sea snakes, the truth just maybe more far-fetched and stranger than such fiction.

Bryan Daniels