Archive for September, 2007

The Jena 6

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Like so many of Dumas’s novels, Count of Monte Cristo is set at the end of the Napoleonic era, which the French regard as one of the most exciting and tumultuous eras of modern times. It is a story of Edmond Dantès, a charismatic young seaman falsely accused of treason. The story of his cruel imprisonment, miraculous escape, and carefully engineered revenge keeps the reader spellbound. This is no Jean Valjean who is in Hugo’s Les Misérables. In light of contemporary issues, racial injustice is still with us.

I cannot justify the excesses of my race nor will I try. Sin is sin. But I know this. we all must forgive. Perhaps I have no right to say this, since I am a white person.


Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

The following is an excerpt of a letter written to me by the president of my publishing company, Broadman & Holman:

I recently came across an article that gave voice to something I have often considered–that being the lack in our day of significant literature coming from evangelical authors despite the glut of books from Christian publishing houses.

B&H author Donald T. Williams (Mere Humanity: G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition) writes in the September 2007 issue of Touchstone Magazine: “My fellow Evangelicals publish reams upon reams of prose. What we have not tended to write is anything recognized as having literary value by the literary world.”


Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Dostoyevsky’s last and greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov, is both a crime drama and a pedantic debate over truth. In fact, no novel—since Plato’s Republic—so fervently addresses the issue. The worthless landowner Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is murdered. His sons—the atheist intellectual Ivan, the hot-blooded Dmitry, and the saintly novice Alyosha—are all at some level involved. As one critic explains, “Bound up with this intense family drama is Dostoyevsky’s exploration of many deeply felt ideas about the existence of God, the question of human freedom, the collective nature of guilt, the disastrous consequences of rationalism.


Monday, September 24th, 2007

George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a great fable turned into a novel. Its simple plot camouflages a much deeper, darker message. The story is about a farm run by a mean farmer, who is later run out of the farm by the animals. The animals take control of the farm and find that it isn’t as easy to run as they thought. Also the mean farmer doesn’t look so mean! As I listen to all these criticisms of our president I am reminded of the animal farm. Someday maybe the animals will control the farm­ God forbid! ­I bet they will be surprised. In Orwell’s book the animals eventually become more tyrannical and evil than the farmer. Indeed. I think George Bush is a real history maker. I love the man. I thank God for this president. How many lives has he saved through his opposition to partial birth abortion? What if Hilary Clinton was president on Sept. 11, 2001? Yes, George Bush is one of the greatest American presidents in history. His animal farm, I fear though, are planning an uprising.


Friday, September 21st, 2007

The writing of history is the selection of information and the synthesis of this information into a narrative that will stand the critical eye of time. History, though, is never static. One never creates the definitive theory of an historical event. History invites each generation to re-examine its own story and to reinterpret past events in light of present circumstances.

The creation of this story is more difficult than it seems. From the beginning the historian is forced to decide what sort of human motivations matter most: Economic? Political? Religious? “Every true history is contemporary history,” historians Gerald Grob and George Billias write. The student is asked to make the theories of historical events personal and contemporary.


Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Aldous Huxley’s vision of the future in his astonishing 1931 novel Brave New World continues to intrigue me. Huxley’s world is one in which Western civilization has been maintained through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where people are genetically designed to be useful to the ruling class. The Controller has a meeting with John, the Savage, in the climactic confrontation of the book. John laments that the world has paid a high price for happiness by giving up art and science. The Controller adds religion to this list and says, “God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness.” The Controller, in Huxley’s 1931 voice, is stating the essence of Postmodernism. Postmodernism, which emerged after 1990, is inherently suspicious of modernity and its fervent commitment to epistemology and science. Postmodernism celebrates subjectivity ­not unlike the early 19th century transcendentalists­ but without the focused metaphysical edge of eccentric believers like Emerson and Thoreau. No, Postmodernism is a post-Jean Paul Sartre movement that can no longer cozy up to any cosmology and is caught in the throes of human subjectivity. As one critic explains, “For Huxley, it is plain, there is no need to travel into the future to find the brave new world; it already exists, only too palpably, in the American Joy City, where the declaration of dependence begins and ends with the single-minded pursuit of happiness.” The Postmodern pursuit of happiness has a decidedly selfish edge and wouldn’t be recognized by the Founding Fathers. Scholar Peter Bowering concludes: In the World-State man has been enslaved by science, or as the hypnopaedic platitude puts it, “Science is everything.” But, while everything owes its origin to science, science itself has been paradoxically relegated to the limbo of the past along with culture, religion, and every other worthwhile object of human endeavor. It is ironic that science, which has given the stablest equilibrium in history, should itself be regarded as a potential menace, and that all scientific progress should have been frozen since the establishment of the World-State. And so it goes . . .


Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Agamemnon a tragedy of unparallel proportions was written by the Greek playwright Aeschylus. Although Shakespeare’s tragedies employ some comic relief, Greek tragedies are altogether tragic: every event leads the characters toward imminent disaster. Greek tragedies are like that. Not much is known about Aeschylus, the first of the three great masters of Greek tragedy. We know that he was born at Eleusis, near Athens, in 525 B.C., the son of Euphorion. Agememnon is one of three tragedies on the same topic. The three tragedies are called the Oresteia Trilogy.

In 458 B.C. Agamemnon returns to Argos from the Trojan War and is killed by his wife, Clytemnestra, and his first cousin Aegisthus. The Oresteia Trilogy, then, is a study in justice. With all its vivid, groundbreaking language and its universal popularity, it was the Star Wars Trilogy of its age. I repeat, Greek tragedies are like that. Every event leads the characters toward imminent disaster. There is no abatement; no happy ending. No humorous sidebar where a colorful character does something profane in the corner. Real tragedy. That is the way I see so many things in America today. Parents throwing gasoline on their children and burning them up. I heard today about an elementary student in Boston who went to the restroom and was never seen again. Aeschylus’ nightmare seems to be playing out on our television screen . . . yet, there is still Good News. The God we serve is very much in control. And it is not that He changes the script, ­He rewrites the Script. And God is the only one who can do that..

American History: The Colonial Period

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

One of the worst monetary investments in the early 17th century was an investment in the Virginia Company. The Virginia company was a stock-option company set up to raise funds for new colonizing enterprises. It was a bust for its investors.

Its first and only real undertaking was the Jamestown investment. The Jamestown investment proved to be an extraordinarily bad because it lost vast amounts of money for its investors. Principally, this was due to the unwillingness of the early colonizers to do the necessary work of providing for themselves. At the same time, and in defense of the early settlers, the investors never really provided enough capital for adequate supply of the venture. Nevertheless, how extraordinary that the United States, whose business is business President Calvin Coolidge once said, started as a bad business venture!