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Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

As the heir of the Reformers, the Puritans, and the Revivalists of the First Great Awakening, Evangelicalism was the steward of a theological legacy that I still espouse with all my heart.  It is therefore heartbreaking to watch the current iteration of the movement tearing itself apart and selling its birthright and its very soul for various messes of theological, cultural, and political pottage.  I try to capture a bit of the pathology here.  See if there is anything you recognize.

Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Newton: What would they think of us?

COUNTERFEIT SPIRITUALITY

American Evangelicalism in the New Millennium

A sanctimonious sobriety

That masquerades as godly discipline;

A pathological anxiety

That claims to be a zeal to flee from sin;

A stupid, stubborn contrariety

Presenting itself as love of truth and right;

Ears that itch for notoriety,

Eyes not strong enough to bear the light:

We suffer from the sad satiety

Of pietas degraded into “piety.”

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest books: Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016) and “An Encouraging Thought”: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of L. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018)!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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235

 

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

The “he” here is actually I, and the intersection of Black Mountain Road and Old Georgia Highway 17 is where my house can be found, blessedly surrounded by national forest land and certain reminders of bigger things.  Only a Spenserian Sonnet could contain the richness (including an allusion to Hopkins’s “Pied Beauty” in the last line).

BLACK MOUNTAIN ROAD AND OLD HWY. 17 N.

Habersham County, GA.

Over eighty species he had counted

Of plants and animals within a mile.

He knew that figure probably amounted

To just a tenth of what one could compile

Who really knew his stuff.  Still, he could smile

At all the fertile superfluity

That seemed to constitute the Maker’s style.

Yet all this infinite diversity

Was structured in a vast congruity

You could in reason call a universe.

Black-eyed Susans, several brands of bee,

Five kinds of oak, three pines, magnolias, firs,

Eastern bluebird, wood-dove, cardinal, crow:

The pure, white Beam is scattered thus below.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest books: Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016) and “An Encouraging Thought”: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of L. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018)!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

234

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Rom. 13:13 does not appear in any of the standard lists of evangelistic passages Christians memorize for use in personal witness.  It’s not in The Roman Road, The Four Spiritual Laws, or the diagnostic questions of Evangelism Explosion.  But it was the key to Augustine’s moment of realizing that salvation was by grace, not by his own continually failing efforts.  The key phrase is “put on Christ.”  Don’t just keep trying; put your full trust in Christ, in His merits, in His efforts.  Here in a villanelle is the famous scene where the future saint heard a child’s voice chanting “Take up and read,” and he opened his Bible to that verse.  The rest, as they say, is history.

St. Augustine much later, as a bishop

THE CONVERSION OF AUGUSTINE

Commentary, Rom. 13:13

The Voice cried out in answer to his need

To take the plunge, to be converted now,

Singing, “Tolle, lege, take and read.”

For years he’d stumbled over the hard creed

Of Jesus in the flesh—who could see how?

But nothing less would answer to his need.

His mother’s prayers were destined to succeed

Through Ambrose’ preaching, his own quest, and Thou

Singing, “Tolle, lege, take and read.”

“But can you live without us? They would plead—

His mistresses—as if to disallow

The Voice that cried in answer to his need.

“Yes!  Rather put on Christ who came to bleed

And make no plans the field of flesh to plow.”

Such was the answer he took up to read.

At last the Hound of Heaven had him treed,

Weeping, broken, and prepared to bow.

The Voice cried out in answer to his need,

Singing, “Tolle, lege, take and read.”

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest books: Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016) and “An Encouraging Thought”: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of L. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018)!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

233

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 A requiem for the death of English Literature as a humane academic discipline: Horace, Sir Philip Sidney, and Matthew Arnold are the authors respectively of the first three italicized points of view, now considered quaint at best in current English departments. The attitudes of those departments are reflected in the standard print.  My commentary on the whole fiasco appears in the last italicized bit, the concluding couplet.

Sir Philip Sidney

HORACE, SIDNEY, AND ARNOLD,

LOOKING DOWN ON EARTH FROM ELYSIUM,

SCRATCH THEIR HEADS

The purpose, by delighting thus to teach

And then by teaching also to delight?

Nothing but a lame excuse to preach

Oppressive values—how naïve, how trite!

The good of History and Philosophy,

The concrete and the abstract, unified?

A quaint archaic curiosity

From European White Males who have died.

To see the thing for what it really is,

To know the best that have been thought and done?

Merely factual answers for a quiz;

No more a map for any race we run.

It’s how the academic game is played,

And Goodness, Truth, and Beauty are betrayed.

Matthew Arnold

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest books: Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016) and “An Encouraging Thought”: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of L. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018)!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

231

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

On his way to be burnt at the stake for the  Gospel, English Reformer Hugh Latimer turned to his companion Nicholas Ridley and said, “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, and we shall this day light such a candle in England as by God’s grace shall never be put out.”  It would almost be worthwhile being martyred to be remembered for a fiery pun like that!  (I said “almost”; don’t get any ideas.)  What makes his courage and defiance especially impressive is that at that moment the future of the light of the Gospel in England looked very dark.  There was no reason to expect that Bloody Mary’s persecution would not extinguish it forever—except one’s faith in the sovereignty and faithfulness of God.

Latimer at the Stake

LATIMER

The more they smothered it, the more it burned

With courage and unconquerable will,

A candle that could never be put out:

It was a blazing soul which only yearned

To sow the seed of light, and then to till

The soil until the fruit shone all about.

 

He saw what only men of faith can see:

“Play the man, and by God’s grace we will,”

He said, the promise burning through his doubt,

“Light such a candle as shall never be

Put out!”

Hugh Latimer

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest books: Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2016) and “An Encouraging Thought”: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of L. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018)!

Donald T. Williams, PhD