God In The Dark

 

I know the darkness is appalling sometimes;—but it is the only way of learning that we depend entirely on God, that we have nothing from ourselves, that even our loves and desire of Him tends to be selfish. The “royal way of the Holy Cross” is the only way. But you will find out that the darkness is God Himself; the suffering is His nearness.

— John Chapman

From Abbot John Chapman’s extraordinary collection of letters on prayer. I hope to write more about this. 

Alien Virtues

 

The New Testament not only praises virtues of which Aristotle knows nothing—faith, hope and love—and says nothing about virtues such as phronesis which are crucial for Aristotle, but it praises at least one quality as a virtue which Aristotle seems to count as one of the vices relative to magnanimity, namely humility.

— Alasdair MacIntyre

The Difference God Makes

The idea that God’s causality could interfere with my freedom can only arise from an idolatrous notion of God as a very large and powerful creature—a part of the world. We see an ascending scale of powerful causes. The more powerful the cause, the more difference it makes. And we are inclined to locate God at the top of the scale, and to imagine that he makes the most difference of all. But God does not make the most difference. He makes, if you like, all the difference—which is the same as making no difference at all. So far as the kind of world we have is concerned, the atheist and the theist will expect to see exactly the same features. The only difference is that if the atheist were right the question would not arise—indeed, the atheist would not arise.

—Herbert McCabe (Faith Within Reason, 76)

I talked about this a bit in this post, but McCabe says it better. This point comes up in preaching and popular theology all the time, but its most egregious iteration is in worship music. I would be very happy to never again have to sing that God is better and bigger and stronger. I understand the sentiment, of course, but it begins to sound like a Kanye West song.

In Praise of Fine Writing

When most modern writers come in for our praise, it is because of their little tricks or little twists. When Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, Eliot or Checkhov are recalled, it is as if tidal waves are washing over us. We cannot catch our breath. If I have taught you only to write so that your contemporaries may say nice things to you, I have failed you. I should have been teaching you that the one goal you must aim for is the stunned, silent gratitude of history

— Roger Rosenblatt

This quote comes at the end of Rosenblatt’s otherwise excellent Unless It Moves the Human Heart. Like the writing he favors, Rosenblatt’s advice is brief, direct, and unpretentious. The characters he conjures are amiable and their conversation–the substance of the book–is insightful without feeling contrived. One almost forgets one is reading A Book About Writing. Until this quote. Yes, yes–writers today will be forgotten tomorrow. But to suppose that the stature of a Homer or a Milton is the one goal to which writers should aspire is silly. The world needs fine writers, writers who can craft a sentence without embarrassing themselves or the English language. To ask for all writers to aspire to greatness is to ask them not to examine their abilities honestly or to ask most to excuse themselves from the endeavor. There is–it is true–a certain motive force to grand aspirations but it is also true that grand disappointments tend to arrest motion. It would be a pity if, judging themselves unequal to writing worthy of “the silent gratitude of history,” fine writers were to fall silent.