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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.”

WHY GOD IS TO BE WORSHIPPED

God is a Circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” – Traditional Definition

I am like the center of a circle equidistant from all points on the circumference, but you are not.” – Love, in Dante’s Vita Nuova

Dante Alighiere

He is pure Light without a hint of turning

Or shadowed spot.

He is pure Vision, perfectly discerning

Which from what.

He is pure Holiness, forever spurning

Stain or blot.

He is pure Love.  Our story from His yearning

Derives its plot.

He is pure Might, whose will cannot be hindered

By rebel plot.

He is a Sphere whose every point is centered,

And we are not.

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)!  Order from the publisher or Amazon.

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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.”

 The great thing about villanelles (see last week’s blogpost) is the focus they can give to a topic if you can manage to keep the repeater lines from sounding too repetitious.  They help keep us on track when trying to describe a very intense emotional experience, like the death of Dylan Thomas’s father in perhaps the most well-known example of the form—or Dante’s first encounter with the smile of Beatrice, as re-imagined here.

Beatrice

BEATRICE

In her smile I knew that I could see

All the bliss that Heaven keeps in store:

The stronger God that ruleth over me.

I was but nine years old the day that she

First dawned on me, unlearned in lover’s lore,

But in her smile I knew that I could see

The beauty that resides in sanctity,

The joy of the Creator’s skill, and more:

The stronger God who ruleth over me.

When on the street she gave her greeting, free,

There was no greater boon I could implore

Than in her smile I knew that I could see.

When I was slandered by an enemy

And she withheld it, oh, my heart was sore,

For still the stronger God ruled over me.

And when she died and I was lost, her plea

For grace retaught me what I should adore.

For in her smile I knew that I could see

The stronger God who ruleth over me.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Dante

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)! Order from the publisher or Amazon.

 

CXXXVIII

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.”

This is what I call a “catalog poem”: a poem that mainly consists of a list.  You need a good reason to write such a thing, and cataloging titles that are occasions of praise to God counts, I think.  Even then, you need to pepper it with some alliteration, assonance, and consonance as well as some strong images to keep it from becoming less than poetic.  Let’s see how well I did.

 

Ascriptions

Sonnet XLIV

CelticCross

Shepherd of stars and winds and ocean waves,

Watcher of sparrows, Numberer of hairs,

Fierce Flinger forth of lightning flares,

Mountain Molder, Carver out of caves,

Smoke of Sinai, Setter-free of slaves,

Grain-Gatherer, Burner-up of tares,

God alone who sees, alone who cares,

Life Giver, Opener of graves;

 

Our language lacks the necessary words,

Our minds the wit, to sing your praise aright:

Inhabiter of hearts and vaulted naves,

Mighty Warrior, Healer, Lord who girds

His waist with righteousness, whose life is light:

God alone who lives, alone who saves.

100_0210

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.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

IS GOD GOOD?

Is God good?  What does it mean to claim that He is good?  Can a case for a good God be made in a world so permeated by evil and suffering as ours seems to be?  For many people who doubt God’s existence, the issue is not really His existence as such, but really His goodness.  There is after all no successful argument against God’s existence, for that would be proving a negative. But many people think they have a compelling argument against His goodness from the suffering He permits in His world—and if He is not good, why bother with faith in Him anyway?  So one step toward restoring our ability to have faith in Him must be to examine more carefully the idea of His goodness.  Is it even a coherent claim for Christian theists to make?

Let’s begin by assuming for the sake of argument that God exists and created the world as Genesis teaches.  When God created the universe He obviously gave it being and form; He also gave it value by calling it “good” (Gen. 1:4, etc.).  Goodness then flows from God as much as being or design does.  It is therefore also one of His essential attributes.  As C. S. Lewis summarizes it, “God’s will is determined by His wisdom which always perceives, and his goodness which always embraces, the intrinsically good” (Problem of Pain 88).

But what does this mean?  Is it simply circular to say that the good comes from God because God is good?  It is hard to talk about goodness and God without Plato’s “Euthyphro Dilemma” coming up:  Is something good because God says it is, or does God say something is good because it is good?

Plato
Plato

Lewis understood that the dilemma is of course a false dilemma.  The correct answer to it is “neither.”  God’s attribution of goodness to His creation is not an arbitrary decision, nor is it based on some standard external to Himself.  Rather, his own character is the standard for goodness, and we see that this standard is not arbitrary but necessary once we ponder His identity as the Creator alongside Augustine’s analysis of the nature of evil as a privation or perversion of the good.  For creation is inherently a constructive, not a destructive, act.  Creation is creative, not destructive; giving, not taking; orderly and purposeful, not chaotic.  How else could it produce a world that could hold together?  And what else do we mean by “good’?  Evil, on the other hand, is always a perversion of some prior good; otherwise it could not exist at all.  So Lewis asks,   “Is it rational to believe in a bad God?”  No, he concludes: such a God “couldn’t invent or create or govern anything” (A Grief Observed 27).

Lewis was certainly right about this.  We often ask why a good God would create such an imperfect and often painful world.  The answer is that He didn’t.  He permitted the Fall of His world.  But if He had been destructive rather than creative, harmful rather than beneficent, chaotic rather than intelligent and purposeful, there would and could have been no world to fall in the first place.  Creation is of necessity an act of superabounding goodness.  A world that continues to exist and to be redeemable simply cannot have Satan as its source.

"And God saw that it was good."
“And God saw that it was good.”

Lewis confirms the biblical teaching that God is good—or, perhaps more accurately, perceives its necessary truth—by performing two different thought experiments.  The first was trying to imagine an evil god and finding that the idea just won’t work, as we saw above.  The second involves the difficulty of knowing God as evil.  If God were evil, how would we ever know it?  Lewis reasons,  “If a Brute and Blackguard made the world, then he also made our minds.  If he made our minds, he also made that very standard in them whereby we judge him to be a Brute and Blackguard.  And how can we trust a standard which comes from such a brutal and blackguardly source?” (“De Futilitate” 66)

An evil god by definition then is not a knowable god; but we do know something about God.  At least, we have some idea of God.  And so once again we see that to affirm His goodness is not to spin a logical circle but to bow to the necessity of who He is and must be.  Logically, then, God’s goodness is just as necessary a concept as His existence.  And this is consistent with the way Scripture presents Him: as Creator, Judge, Shepherd, and ultimately as the One whom Jesus called Father.  What could be better than that?

Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College and President of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.  For more of his apologetic work see his book Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy (Lynchburg: Lantern Hollow Press, 2012) or his other Lantern Hollow books.  Order them ($15.00 + shipping) at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.
A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

GOD: Concrete or Abstract?

The "Trinity Knot": Three in One
The “Trinity Knot”: Three in One

C. S. Lewis wants to combat the modern tendency to associate transcendent being with abstraction so badly that he boldly calls God “concrete.” If God is a spirit, this word cannot be meant literally in its normal meaning of tangible. But Lewis wants us to think of God as something more solid than physical reality, as something at the opposite pole from nebulous. He conveys this idea effectively in his portrait of heaven in The Great Divorce, where the grass pierces the feet of the spirits from the gray town. So if we take “concrete” metaphorically, it is one of Lewis’s more brilliant descriptions of God as the One who is ultimately real. There is nothing nebulous about Him; He has a definite what-ness. “He is ‘absolute being’—or rather the Absolute Being—in the sense that He alone exists in His own right. But there are things which God is not. In that sense He has a determinate character. Thus He is righteous, not a-moral; creative, not inert” (Miracles 90).  He is a Trinity, not a monad. One of the clearest statements is this one:

Very definitely one thing and not another!
Very definitely one thing and not another!

“God is basic Fact or Actuality, the source of all other facthood. At all costs therefore He must not be thought of as a featureless generality. If He exists at all, He is the most concrete thing there is, the most individual, ‘organized and minutely articulated.’ He is unspeakable not be being indefinite but by being too definite for the unavoidable vagueness of language” (Miracles 93).

Not an abstraction.
Not an abstraction.

To combine the solidity of a Being who exists necessarily and eternally and is the Source of all other existence with the definiteness of a God who is personal and holy and active taxes our imaginations and our understanding; but this is the God the Bible presents to us. This God has all the absoluteness a philosopher could desire, but He is not the god of the philosophers but of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of creation and Sinai, of the Cross and the Resurrection. His is what He is, and we must adjust to that uncompromising Reality. “And as Jill gazed at [Aslan’s] motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience” (The Silver Chair 20).

Aslan
Aslan

Not absolute or personal, not infinite or individual, not transcendent or dynamic: this is not the god we might have imagined but the unconditioned Reality that just is, and who is serenely and supremely both.

Donald T. Williams is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College in the hills of NE Georgia.  For more of his writings, check out the Lantern Hollow e-store!
https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/

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