THE LIGHT

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.”

We pause today to remember Good Friday in anticipation of Easter.

THE LIGHT 

And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it” (Jn. 1:5).

There is no deeper darkness.

The rattle of the dirt upon the lid

Must cause some sound waves, even in the close

And muffled air; they fall on a deaf ear.

No light wave even tries to tempt the eye.

The rasping of the rock that rolls to close

A cave would have a similar effect,

Though louder—just as futile for the ear

And just as good at cutting off the eye.

An earthquake opened this one up again,

Which should have made no difference at all.

But when the rising sun stooped and looked in,

Its photons found the night already fled.

A Light that dawned before there was a dawn,

A Light too light and subtle for the eye,

Had flashed already.  The more garish sun

Came later, just to let the eye catch up.

The women brought theirs first to gaze upon

What sights the sun was competent to show:

The grave clothes folded and the body gone,

Two men in white who simply made no sense,

A gardener who—but no, that could not be.

Their hearts stopped cold—then started up again.

They blinked their eyes and suddenly could see

The empty cave now gaping in the garden,

The road out to the village of Emmaus,

An upper chamber in Jerusalem,

A campfire on the beach in Galilee

Saw many cold hearts starting up again

And heavy eyelids blinking into vision.

Once let loose, it could not be contained.

The Light leapt forth: Jerusalem, Judaea,

Samaria, the far ends of the earth.

To eyes invisible, from heart to heart

It traveled.  Darkness could not overcome it.

Deserts, oceans proved no barrier.

Murderous opposition only served

To fan the Flame.  It shines around us still,

Still pointing to the Cave beside the Hill.

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.

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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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 STAKES:

A Small but Neglected Part

We flash through time and hardly leave a trace.

If one could somehow capture in a jar

The final photon of a dying star

That traveled for millennia through space

To end its pilgrimage in such a place,

And watch it flicker out, alone and far

From home:  a fleeting glimpse of what we are?

Say what we would be were it not for grace.

 

The lovely things that pass before our eyes

Would fade as if they’d never even been

As quickly as the mind that holds them dies,

And we would know that darkness as the end

We travel to.  If Christ did not arise,

We’re truly the most miserable of men.

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), An Encouraging Thought: The Christian Worldview in the Writings of L. R. R. Tolkien (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2018), and The Young Christian’s Survival Guide: Common Questions Young Christians Are Asked about God, the Bible, and the Christian Faith Answered (Cambridge, OH: Christian Publishing House, 2019)!  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.”

 When I finally made it to C. S.  Lewis’s grave in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, Oxord, I was struck by the fact that, though his remains were only six feet away, I had been closer to him with my head stuck in one of his books on the other side of the Atlantic.  For that very reason it was a powerful experience of the futility of death, and hence of life, if the Christian hope of the resurrection is not true.  But if it is true . . .  Only a villanelle (think Dylan Thomas and “Do not go gentle into that goodnight”) could come close to capturing that moment.

THE GRAVE OF C. S. LEWIS

Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, Oxfordshire

 

There was a marble slab, the evidence

Of burial, with writing on the stone

Which said, “Men must endure their going hence.”

The mind that had restored my mind to sense

Was there reduced to elemental bone;

There was a marble slab, the evidence.

That well of wisdom and of eloquence

Was now cut back to just one phrase alone,

Which said, “Men must endure their going hence.”

No monument of rich magnificence

Stood fitting one who had so brightly shone;

There was a marble slab.  The evidence

That plain things have their power to convince

Was in that simple block with letters strewn

Which said, “Men must endure their going hence.”

The weight of time was focused there, intense

With wrecked Creation’s universal groan:

There was a marble slab, the evidence,

Which said, “Men must endure their going hence.”

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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)!

 

 

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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.”

 What is the true meaning of the symbolic meal at the heart of their worship that Christians call Communion or The Lord’s Supper?  One way of getting at it is to ponder all the meanings that can be attached to one sentence: “The King of Kings provides the feast.”

THE SUPPER OF THE LAMB

 

Hatred is the hunger fed;

Fear can make the mighty pine.

Plaited briars crush the head;

Splinters grate against the spine.

For the ruler and the priest,

The King of kings provides the feast.

 

Ravenous revenge is sped;

The demons gain their dark design:

Drawn by livid lines of red,

Gnats and flies descend to dine.

For the angel and the beast,

The King of kings provides the feast.

The hands are clenched, the arms are spread,

The knees are twisted out of line;

The blood congeals, the breath is fled,

The body is to dust consigned.

Earth’s appetite has never ceased:

The King of kings provides the feast.

 

The Seed descends into its bed,

Out of sight and out of mind.

The world is turning overhead;

The rain will fall, the sun will shine.

From the grain of corn deceased,

The King of kings provides the feast.

Brought to focus in the bread,

Freely flowing in the wine:

Drawn by living lines they’ve read,

The sinner-saints ascend to dine.

For the greatest and the least,

The King of kings provides the feast.

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 book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

He is Risen Indeed!

As we approach Good Friday and Easter, we might wonder whether we can really believe in the historicity of the events we celebrate.  Let’s tackle then the strongest argument ever made against them.  One of the more influential arguments in the history of philosophy is David Hume’s argument against the rationality of belief in miracles.  It goes like this:

1.  A miracle is a violation of a natural law.

2.  Natural laws are based on “uniform human experience.”

3.  Therefore any report of a miracle has the entire experience of humanity against it.
4.  Therefore it is always more rational to believe that the person reporting a miracle is either deceived himself or is deceiving you than it is to believe he is telling the truth.
David Hume
Hume’s infamous argument does explain why we are rightly skeptical about most claims of the miraculous and demand pretty good evidence before we believe them. But it has two flaws.  First, we do not have to accept the definition that a miracle would violate natural law.  God might perform miracles by applying  force to nature that our understanding of natural law could not have predicted–but the object to which that force was applied could respond to it without breaking any laws at all.  If the definition of miracle need not be accepted, then the rest of the argument is moot.
Second, Hume commits the fallacy of circular reasoning.
How is the argument circular?  It is because he cheats on the phrase “uniform human experience.” How could we know that human experience of the irreversibility of death was uniform before looking to see if the alleged eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were truly exceptions to it?  We couldn’t. and Hume didn’t.  Having cheated on the word “uniform,” Hume cannot then justify his use of the word “always” when he says it is always more rational to believe that the one reporting a miracle is either deceived or deceiving than to believe he is telling the truth. If the attestation is strong enough, if the alternative explanations are sufficiently stretched and unable to account for the data, and if the miracle in question fits elegantly enough with what we know to be the plan and purposes of God, then there could be times, albeit rare, when it is indeed more rational to believe.

 

Hume thinks he is nailing shut the lid on the coffin when he says that we would only be justified in believing a miracle if the alternative was more miraculous than the miracle itself. He thinks he is driving the last nail into the coffin, but he has really just handed Christian believers the game. For the resurrection of Christ neatly meets precisely that criterion. When you compare the egregious ignorance of the physiology of crucifixion and tomb construction required to accept the “swoon theory,” or the gullible naivety required to believe in mass hallucinations, etc., with the demands made on our credulity by the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead, the finality of Hume’s defeat becomes inescapable.

For it is not some random dude about whom we make this claim. It is the Son of Man.  It is the one whose coming had been prepared by Providence and predicted by prophecy for two thousand years.  It is the one whose disciples kept asking themselves “What manner of man is this?”  This is one who spoke like no man ever spoke.  This is one who had already shown himself to be sovereign over life and death. If ever there was one about whom we could rationally believe such a thing, it was this man. It was Jesus of Nazareth.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.
Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College in the hills of NE Georgia.  He is the author of ten books, most recently Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Lantern Hollow Press, 2016).