The Sea Wolf

I’ve been out of touch with my writing side for some time. I doubt it’s coming back anywhile sooner. That said, I’m eager to at least throw some bones to the events around me.

I’m reading Jack London these days. I scored a free (actually free) collection of London’s works, purportedly complete, from Amazon last month, and cracked it open to discover the Sea Wolf. It’s a story about a privileged young man who gets press-ganged into service as a cabin-boy on the Ghost, a sealing vessel in the late 1800’s, or early 1900’s (not sure which).

The tale chronicles Humphrey’s growth from almost effeminate lifestyle to rugged, self-sufficient and hardened survivor thanks to the quintessentially amoral tutelage of Wolf Larsen, a virile, sailor of sailors who has incredible powers of both physique and mind, as well as utterly ruthless and particularly vicious moral convictions.

I won’t go further but to say that the philosophical and moral challenges in this story are profound and cause me to consider more carefully my own tenuous grasp of this mortal life which we all inhabit.

For my regular readers, The Sea Wolf is vitally connected to other readings of mine such as Shardik, Into The Wild, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (especially), and many of the survival stories I’ve read that are based in the late 19th century.

This is short, I know, and a tease of what’s in my mind, but I say again that my ability to write is not up to par with my thinking. Life is difficult enough that I can’t keep up on the keyboard what is running in the ether of thought.

Just Because It’s Sandy Eggo

Gotta share this one.

Apostles Creed Heady Doctrine, Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin (Best IPA Ever), ACPC club pipe by Chuck Long, reading Jack London’s Sea Wolf. Can’t beat that with a stick.

what m i smoking

Christianity is not a religion of do and don’t. It is a religion of done – “It Is Finished.”

law-vs-gospel1“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Could it be likely that the monumental impact of this verse is probably among the most missed in Scripture? If read as an epic tale of God’s interaction with his creation, the Bible should probably produce moments of awe and wonder, this one being one of the greatest. But we are too often lost in the verse-by-verse exposition that has become popular over the years.

Then we get distracted by the massive list of do-and-don’t commands surrounding this central point of “It is finished.”

The point of Christ saying what he said is not just, “whew, suffering is over.” or, “Obedience mission complete.” or even, “Covered all the prophecies.” That would be a religion of do and don’t, preached right from the Cross.

I know that there are threads upon threads of debates regarding the Law and how we interact with it. The case can be presented that our religion is one of do-and-don’t, however that is not what the Scripture seems to present. It is a religion of God Did It For Us. From the very beginning, the Creator has been responsible for doing what we cannot ourselves; making us, rescuing us, remaking us, preserving us, completing us.

So when Christ said “It is finished.” He changed the orders of things so that what we do and don’t do are products of what he did for us. Out of a changed heart, gratitude, peace with God, the working of the Spirit, worship and so much more, we are dedicated actors for the benefit of God’s kingdom, but not because of the rules.

The Gospel means “It is finished.” Can we believe any other thing to be saved? Can we go to church every Sunday to hear once again what to do and not do, expecting salvation? Do-and-Don’t is a legalistic religion. It says we earn our salvation. Christ earned our salvation and we must learn (and teach our successors) that our salvation rests in that.

John Calvin said in the Institutes that our hearts are idol factories. Martin Luther wrote extensively on Christian freedom and how all the trappings of works are but product of our salvation. And then, when these men, or the writers of the N.T. are giving instructions on what to do and not to do, they’re portraying what the victorious, faithful and saved life looks like. They’re telling us how we love God and ourselves, where to turn when sin rears up its ugly head and how it all works.

I think we can argue all day about the Law and that we really do have to do things but it’s when we fail to do things, when we sin in word, deed, omission and commission that we have to remember that Christ did them for us – It really is finished. Rest on that.

Things I heard About Christianity and the Bible

The following quotes and observations are a list I’ve compiled on page 0 of my Bible. Some are from my pastors, others from known speakers, authors or church Fathers. Still others are my own or those of other laymen who probably just got lucky with the right combination of words. All are paraphrased to some extent except where obviously direct quotes from writing. I find them all worthwhile, though just to read them they may not come out clear in meaning or intrinsic value. So I’ll try to spend some time on each as I can get to them. First, to record some of the lot.

1. Christianity is not a religion of do and don’t. It is a religion of done – “It Is Finished.”

2. Don’t just do something; Sit there.

3. The trinity is not a matter of common sense, but of revelation. – Rev Nutting, N. City PCA

4. Of course I realise it’s all rather too vague for you to put into words. On the contrary, it is words that are too vague. The reason why the thing can’t be expressed is that it’s too definite for language. – C. S. Lewis, Perelandra

5. Q: Why are there some who believe and some who do not?
A: Because there is a sovereign God who presides over all.

6. Don’t take the Word from the hands of the people. – Rev Michael McBride. Use the translation of the day.

7. There is not one square inch of creation in which Jesus does not lay his claim “Mine!” – Abraham Kuyper

8. Do we take the long view? What if the last two thousands years is just the beginning? – Rev Brian Tallman

9. They tried to kill us. God saved us. Let’s eat.

10. Never forget, the Devil is God’s Devil. – Martin Luther

11. Scrolls are expensive. When we read a passage, we must ask why it is so important that it made it to print. – Rev Brian Tallman

12. The new testament is concerned not so much about what happens when we die, but more when we are resurrected. – Rev Brian Tallman

13. The difficulty does not lie in believing in God but in believing God. – R. C. Sproul

14. Whatever God does – it’s right.

15. We are not blessed because of our faith and commitment to God and His promises. We are blessed because of God’s faithfulness and relentless commitment to His promise.

16. Go through the motions. There are many on their couches today, missing worship because they didn’t want to go through the motions. Go through the motions and God will meet you in the ordinary ways. – Rev Brian Tallman

17. I sometimes wonder if a tradition is like a creed. – Rev Brian Tallman

18. Man cannot have God as his Father without the church as his mother. – Cyprian

19. Most funerals put the honoree into heaven because most ministers – most Americans believe in justification by death. – Rev Brian Tallman

20. Tradition and historical church: Christianity is tied to a historical event with doctrinal implications.

21. God is so sovereign that he ordains his own interaction in time and history.

Things I Want To Do

This is a sort of bucket list. It was supposed to be a 101, but I haven’t got that far. Guess it’ll grow in time. I might get round to a lot of these. Some might likely go to the grave with me. But here they are, a bunch of things I want to do, both small and large.

In no particular order:

1. Make a hope chest for each of my girls.
2. Review all the beers I have tried.
3. Make a few really awesome pipes.
4. Find a job that is both rewarding and satisfying.
5. Reconnect with my distant family.
6. Write more.
7. Look forward to work.
8. Appreciate the depth of the Psalms and Proverbs I read every day.
9. Visit more of the fine breweries and restaurants where I live.
10. Read more.
11. Write more reviews of what I’ve read.
12. Teach.
13. Serve in church.
14. Unlose all my dear friends who are so far away.
15. Make more beautiful pictures.
16. Bring joy to my beloved wife.
17. Replace the precious books I’ve lost or tossed.
18. Buy my wife a beautiful home. Bang!
19. Grow my hair out.
20. Get out with the guys more.
21. Grow a fantastic, mixed-up garden that has hundreds of plants.
22. Discover the perfect beer and tobacco combination.
23. Sort all my music.
24. Find the time to listen to all my music.
25. Build a fantastic furniture collection for my Wife.
26. Make a really amazing piece of wood-work that is museum quality and worth a lot.
27. Live in the desert.
28. Find freedom to travel and see all the sights I’ve dreamed of.
29. Meet Heinlein and Harrison.
30. Write comprehensively on depicting the Faith I have.
31. Write on Covenant Theology and its implications.
32. Write on baptism and its vital part in salvation.
33. Take over Hoagies & Stogies, or start another variant.
34. Establish a routine theology and fellowship meetup with friends.
35. Own at least a couple of Michael Whelan prints.
36. Visit the Grand Canyon for a week.
37. Live on the frontier, frontier style, for a month or two.
38. Go on a cruise through the Caribbean, hitting all the good ports without having to stand duty.
39. Build a suitable “man-cave” for me, my work and my friends.
40. Maintain a fantastic garden for a long time (rather than a couple of years).
41. Take pedestrian tours through Ireland, Scotland, England and maybe France.
42. Own the Virginia Edition.
43. Take college classes that are stocked with fresh thinking and discussing (English, writing, literature, history).
44. Own a genuine Winchester lever-action rifle and a S&W six-shooter.
45. Bow-hunting.
46. Open a real bookstore.
47. Build a real hobbit door for my house.
48. Become a regular at a good pub.
49. Write a book.
50. Fish for an afternoon with Jimmy Buffett.
51. Camp at Four Corners or Mesa Verde.
52. Climb in the Superstitions.
53. Read Louis L’Amour in a canyon.
54. Houseboat on Lake Powell.
55. See Jimmy Buffett in Concert. (and shake his hand if possible)
56. See Sting in concert. Or see his musical, “The Last Ship.” (and shake his hand if possible)

Updated Literary Encounters

Sorting is Fun

A Literary Sampler

Here are the latest additions to my list of read books, not necessarily books since the last update, but older reads as well. My opinions and updated comments ensue on my Authors List Page.

As of 20 January 2015:

New Authors: Cain, Chödrön, MacArthur, Mitchell, Muir, Renick, Steinbeck, Thompson, Walser and Westrup.

Updated Authors: Bradbury.

I’m always thinking more about past reads, returning to old favorites and taking on new works. I can’t claim professional critic status or even well-read, but I love digesting books both old and new. As my readers probably know by now, I can prattle on and on about most of them. Enjoy.

Again, the List is here:

The Most Preposterous Notion



Robert A. Heinlein said,

“The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.”

This quote is from the collected aphorisms known as The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, Lazarus Long being Heinlein’s masterwork of a character who is primarily found in the book “Time Enough For Love.”

“…that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up…”

That’s what makes Heinlein right. Everything people have pulled out of their own heads and guts has the singular result of serving human ends. What we come up with that is supposedly in our best interests funds the least productive (and most destructive) industry in history. Religiosity and all its trappings, whether inclusive or exclusive, whether sadistic or masochistic, self-serving or other-loving gets us less than nowhere other than, usually, warfare and oppression.

The correct answer to Heinlein’s observation is not that he’s wrong, but that there is something he didn’t have in mind. That there really is an actual Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, one who was not dreamed up by H. sapiens, rather who revealed Himself to H. sapiens through His own machinations, really did create all the Universes with His very breath, and upholds them, with their best interests in mind, with His most unopposeable whim.

Anything we humans dream up cannot have all of creation (what creation, then?) as his footstool. If we come up with a fantastic god, how is that god worthy of our adoration, interested in our prayers or able to rule over anything? Conversely, this god of ours is most inevitably likely to become petulant if he does not receive the flattery of our adoration and prayers because (wait for it) he’s just like us! When have humans come up with anything that is any more than an expression and likeness of ourselves? And what more do we do when we find ourselves lacking in approval, value  or other self-validation? Petulant indeed.

Somehow we cannot seem to fathom that we are lesser and a likeness of our Creator, the Real One, who came up with us. That’s why the only option, going back to the beginning, is that God dreamed us up. He conceived the idea and making of us. And he obviously chose to reveal himself  to us, rather than leave it to us to come up with him. In the conundrum Heinlein offers, the necessities for Scripture and a God-who-is-not-a-copy are absolute. We don’t have the right or lofty position to design God, how He is worshiped or to define our relationship to Him or His created Universes, including our relationships with other humans. This God doesn’t get petulant, He is rightfully angered and saddened by the childish self-righteousness of His created beings.

I understand Heinlein’s apparent opposition to religion. I agree with him and certainly enjoy the opportunity to join him in complaining about it. For example: Yep, the Religious Right sucks. I don’t see anything particularly redemptive about christianised politics or anything else that gets “baptized in the name of Jesus” (I’m quoting my pastor with that catchy phrase). Even what appears generally banal and harmless in religious practice should not get a pass just because “Jesus.” Most of the time, sensible people don’t even need to think much on the more extravagant “spirit-led” ideas out there. Snake-oil and modern-day miracles are flimsy covers for power-trips and ultimately God-denying religion.

When we who believe criticize unorthodox religions or practices, we are (had better be) speaking out of Scripture in and through that which God has revealed of Himself and His policies. When we do so, we are actively opposing that dreamed-up deity of Heinlein’s observation and all the constructs that have flowed from him. We are opposing the man-made processes and fallacies that come from man’s belly. This extends from the concept of deity to the composition of deity, from comprehension of His communication to how we communicate back to Him. From worship to lifestyle.

We have to keep in mind, at the forefront of our minds, that what Heinlein is talking about is not a new, nor even a simply well-aged concept. This problem reaches all the way back to the time immediately after God dreamed US up! Our dreaming up of a “Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes” came around just when we hit the REM of sleep in sinning. Adam hooked us up with a great Make-Your-Own-God™ playset. We therefore must be willing to challenge our own seemingly harmless ideas of tradition and practice, with a surgical viciousness if necessary, every time we act in the realm of God’s revelation.

And we have to keep in mind that God really did reveal Himself to us. We didn’t dream Him up and we have no place dreaming Him up. Here’s one place where creativity is not appropriate. In fact, coming up with a new idea is practically guaranteed to be horrible. There’s historic evidence on that one. Start with 1st John, maybe, if you’re looking for some clear examples.

For those who remain convinced that the statement of Heinlein is the end-all of religion, all I can say is that seriously considering the possibility, ramifications and end-state of a creation whose God is self-revealing within that creation (general revelation) and specially revealed in His disclosure via His people (Scripture) is more than worth the effort. Such effort is worth your life itself.

Notes: Some resources that have influenced my lines of thought recently, including producing this article, are (in no intentional order of significance):

Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics
Horton, Covenant and Eschatology
Heinlein, Time Enough For Love
Adams, Shardik
Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Mumford and Sons, lyrics in general
Conversations with Ben E. and Phil
Brian’s preaching and articles

I list these just as a sort of taster of some of the things that serve to converge into singularities in my head from time to time. Maybe someone can connect the dots between them all besides me. Sometimes I wonder, myself, how I get to a particular end from these sorts of components. Often all I can assert is that they do each play a part in the final product.

I’ve noticed, also, that many of my articles are continuations of thoughts I’ve had in the course of my personal life. They appear unfinished, unprecedented, or disconnected – without context on LAH. Comments may serve to drag out more meat. Possibly.


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