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978Monday's Belfast blog: literary criticism

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  • Jon Kennedy
    Jan 20, 2014
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      The text, only, from today's blog follows:

      JONAL ENTRY 1386 | MONDAY, JANUARY 20 2014

      Today's Scripture: . . . the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke," we too believed, and so we speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
      — From St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 4,
      from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
      See the homiletical thought below.

      Today's diary
      Before-dawn prayer meeting this morning (but as the caption on the photo below indicated when I posted it on Google+, dawn here today was after 8:30; I took this from the bus stop when setting out for Cafe Wah). 

      This afternoon, Jack Lamb is having all of his consultants on the Rev. Elvis concert meet with representatives of the Children's Hospice, the charity that the concert will benefit. The "Rev. Elvis" is Andy Kelso, a retired Anglican vicar from across the water, as they sometimes refer to England here. Kelso does a tribute concert which includes some of his gospel songs, with commentary on Elvis's faith. I'm along as a publicity consultant.
      Tonight we are scheduled to go to a Moravian Church a mile or so away for a unity service. Though I'd heard of the denomination before coming here (they are descendants of Czech reformer John Hus, who preceded Luther, and some of them founded the town of Bethlehem, Pa.), but I've not been to one of their churches before. Jack mentioned last night that Moravians' spiritual practices influenced John Wesley, the Oxford Anglican preacher who was a leader of one of Colonial America's "great awakenings" and is considered the founder of Methodism. «
      Today's writing thoughts
      One of C.S. Lewis's major contributions to Christian apologetics (or "defense of the faith" as that theological term is defined), often passed over when his contributions are summarized, is his defense of the authenticity of the Gospels in terms of the literary criticism that was his professional specialty. In a context of debunking the "higher critics" of the Gospels who often to dismissed them as mythology, he speaks to John's Gospel in particular: "I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this.
      "Either this is reportage—though it may no doubt contain errors—pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell [biographer of Samuel Johnson]. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn't see this has simply not learned to read."
      Writing in Crisis Magazine for today, Timothy J. Williams makes a related point but puts a new spin on it: "the anomalies [in the Gospels] were actually evidence of authenticity, proving that the Gospels most decidedly do not belong to the realm of imagination. Pointing as they do to each writer’s human limitations and modest intentions, the variants assure us that what we are reading, though at times quite dramatic and beautiful, is not some work of creative fiction." If they had been literary fiction, they would have been much more careful to avoid inconsistencies in their details. But, as he elaborates, if every witness to an event in court gives the very same account of it, that is always seen as evidence that the testimony has been rigged. No two people see the same event with the same eyes or from the same point of view, and no two come to any event with the same background for understanding what events mean or what they should show, so eyewitnesses will invariably give accounts that vary widely and even wildly.
      The basic accounts of Jesus' teaching and miracles are in agreement, but many of the details vary. Sometimes young students of the Bible see these discrepancies as faith-shattering. But Williams points out that they rather prove that each writer was writing from a different perspective. Not only was one eyewitness able to see things happening that another missed because another person or a tree or a passing vehicle blocked that from his sight, or someone coughing blocking the words from his hearing . . . but sometimes the teachings were not just "one-off," as they say here in the U.K. to refer to events that occur more than once. Even some of the miracles were so similar to others that some critics not going far enough into the texts failed to notice that they were not identical, similar but not the same events.
      Today's Inspiration
      Today's embedded video is Carrie Underwood singing "How Great Thou Art," with Vince Gill. Though it's a very good performance of a great hymn, to me the most inspiring thing was the audience's reaction.

      Today's quotes
      We can only know God well when we know our own sin. And those who have known God without knowing their wretchedness have not glorified Him but have glorified themselves.
      — Pascal «
      Homiletical thought: Do you see a link in the passage from Paul above to the expression for which Rene Descartes is most remembered? Paul: "I believed, and so I spoke." Augustine: "I believe in order to understand” (credo ut intelligam), and Descartes, "I think, therefore I am" (cogito ergo sum). Paul's allusion to "he . . . who wrote" was referring to the Psalmist (Psalm 116:10). «

      §     §     §
      Jon R. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis Writer in Residence