Tag Archive | C.S. Lewis

A Century Ago: Contemplation on Veterans I Have Known, and on the End of the Great War

My father, Albert Jackson (Jack) McCarn, Sr., in Cerignola, Italy, in 1945 during World War II.

My great-grandfather, Josiah Easley McCarn, a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War.

The year of my birth marked the centennial of the great American Civil War. At that time, the “late unpleasantness,” as some Southerners called it, was barely removed from the realm of living memory. The last Union and Confederate veterans had passed away only a few years earlier, but their collective experience and their impact on my Southern world lived on – and continues to live on to this day.

It is on this day, November 11, 2018, that our human journey through time passes another centennial: the one hundredth year since the end of the Great War. As with the centennial of the Civil War, World War I is barely beyond living memory. The last American veteran, Frank Woodruff Buckles, died in 2011. I recall an exhibit featuring him and a handful of other World War I veterans in the Pentagon. Mr. Buckles participated in the ceremony dedicating that exhibit in 2008. Sadly, although I was working in the Pentagon at the time, I missed that event. It’s a pity; now that I am an old soldier, I cherish opportunities to honor those who have gone before me.

My father-in-law, Chaplain (Col) (Ret) Raymond E. Barry, veteran of the Cold War and Vietnam.

Tomorrow I will join my family in doing just that. How fitting that, on the day America officially celebrates the centennial of Veteran’s Day, we gather at church to pay our respects to my father-in-law, Chaplain (Colonel) Retired) Raymond Barry. He left us just a few days ago after a long and fruitful life. Being the only other military person in this branch of the family, it was my honor to write his obituary. The experience taught me much about him. People don’t think much about Chaplains when they think of soldiers, but without our Chaplains, we soldiers would not do our duty half so well. Theirs is truly a thankless task. They bear some of the heaviest burdens, but few recognize it. Doctors and nurses deal with the visible consequences of combat, but Chaplains deal with the invisible consequences – not only of combat, but of the daily grind of life for the soldier and his or her family. Life is hard enough as it is, but soldiers have the added burden of service to an often ungrateful nation. It is a service that takes them frequently to the most undesirable and dangerous places, where they must do the most difficult of tasks that may or may not solve the problems they are sent to address. Who can fix Somalia, or Afghanistan, or Iraq? Thus, we soldiers endure the worst, often only to see the temporary solutions we have bought at such a dear price come unraveled before we have had time properly to process our ordeals.

Properly processing, by the way, means doing so with the loved ones from whom we have been so long – and so often – separated. They, too, suffer while we are away. During my last tour in Iraq, my greatest pain came not in what I endured in the combat zone called Baghdad, but in the grievous hurt inflicted on those at home. My family and the families of many of my comrades had to deal with death, injury, assault, sickness, and more while we were away and unable to protect or help them. Does anyone think of that when they think of veterans? Probably not.

Which is why we need Chaplains. That’s what my father-in-law did. He was a pastor in uniform for 30 years, serving on three continents through most of the Cold War, and a hard year in the hot war called Vietnam. One might not be surprised to learn that he prayed for and with soldiers about to leave this world in the midst of combat. They died in his arms, and he wept for them. At other times, they died in peacetime, and he stayed by them in the hospital to pray for and weep with their loved ones. That is the kind of service no one saw, but the kind that produces good fruit that impacts generations. And that is why we honor Ray Barry, now and always.

Two World War I veterans who continue to influence me through their writings: J.R.R. Tolkien (left) and C.S. Lewis (right).

We honor all veterans on this day, but in particular I hold in my heart those who gave so much a century ago. The course of nations and of peoples was established in that war to end all wars. As a historian, I can explain how World War I shaped the current global system and continues to define the way nations relate to one another. Yet instead of a history lecture, let me offer some personal examples of how the Great War shaped my life. Two British veterans of that war became my favorite authors. Through their collective works, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien helped me see the world. I still filter much through a Tolkienesque lens and draw considerable inspiration and wisdom from the observations of Professor Lewis. Could either of them have been mentors to three generations without their combat experience in France? I think not. They would have been honorable men and respected scholars, but had they not endured that horrid crucible, would Lewis ever have embarked on the intellectual faith journey that brought him to the cross of Jesus Christ? Would Tolkien have been able to synthesize the totality of human experience in the mythical epics that bear his name? And without those influences, where would I be? Where would you be?

Garland McCarn with his three children. From left to right, Joe Earl McCarn, Alice Belle McCarn Moore, Garland McCarn, Albert Jackson McCarn, Sr.

Then there is my grandfather, Garland Victor “Bill” McCarn. I knew him as a kind elderly man who rarely left his apartment, but who always appreciated seeing his grandsons. A stroke took him from us when I was but six years old. It was not until some time later when my father explained to me about his service in the Great War. Daddy Mack, as we knew him, did not see combat, and with the hindsight of a lifetime I consider that a blessing for him. Yet he did see France in 1918. At the age of 30, when he was establishing a clerical career and settling down with a wife and infant son, his nation called on him to don the uniform and depart for a distant shore. He learned the skills of a combat engineer, employing those to good effect in the first half of 1919 to repair war-ravaged France. To my knowledge, after his return home in May of that year, he never went overseas again. Even so, he knew what to expect when his children served in Europe during the next war. He told my father, Jack, that he wished he could go in his place. I do not know what he told his daughter, Alice, but as a father of daughters myself, I surmise his heart broke even more grievously than when he said farewell to his son.

My grandfather, Garland Victor McCarn, was drafted in 1918, soon after the birth of his oldest child, my uncle Joe Earl.

I surmise as well that he remembered his own wartime service as a watershed event of his life. He was never the same afterward. I do not know what Daddy Mack was like before the war; my father was born several years after he had put off the uniform. The experience no doubt hardened him, but nothing could prepare him for the loss of his beloved wife, Ammie Clyde Latimer McCarn. She died of pneumonia just two years after my father was born. It unhinged Daddy Mack. His life had taken two serious turns in less than a decade, and even before he was able to adjust to the new normal, the Great Depression arrived to take away all he had worked to achieve for his diminished family. The story is long and sad, and it seems that the grace of God, shown in the form of many kind and caring hands and faces of many colors, carried him and his children through the hard years ahead. In all that brokenness, Garland still succeeded in helping my father become the man he was, and through him, to help me become the man I am.

What did he think of his World War I service? The only answer I have is in a book he left behind. When I first saw it, the book was charred and damaged from a fire that had engulfed many of his belongings. Years later, I took possession of that book and had it rebound. It sits on my bookshelf today, a fond legacy of my grandfather that he purchased in the midst of the Great Depression. It must have been very important to him to make what others might deem a frivolous expense in times when the little money he had should have gone toward more pressing needs. The work is called Forward-March! The Photographic Record of America in the World War and the Post War Social Upheaval, published in two volumes by Disabled American Veterans in 1934. Some years ago, I discovered that this work had been republished online. My grandfather probably owned both volumes, but only the second survived the fire. Nevertheless, that single volume was enough for a small boy enthralled with the stories of a bygone era. As I paged through its contents, it never occurred to me that, many years later, the same DAV would help me make the transition to civilian life upon my retirement from the Army. All I knew at the time was that the pictures told stories of soldiers long ago, and of a world enduring a cataclysmic transformation.

My grandfather was part of that. One hundred years ago, in Brest, France, he breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that he would be returning safely home. I can think of no better way to honor him than to share some of the photos from Forward March! that captured my childhood imagination. Consider this a tribute to all veterans of all wars, regardless of the uniform they wore. We might have been adversaries in days gone by, but nothing changes the fact that we are all human.

I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the first world war, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

These images were downloaded from the online edition of Forward-March! The Photographic Record of America in the World War and the Post War Social Upheaval. The captions are as they appear in the original work published in the 1930s.

MARS RULES THE NIGHT. September 25, 1918— 10:59 P.M. All quiet. 11 P.M. Four thousand guns—standing hub to hub—open the world’s greatest artillery bombardment. The earth trembles for miles. The fierce, roaring, barking, vibrant thunder grows in intensity. The sky slobbers a ghastly red. Huge hills literally topple over and those who lived therein, live no more. 5:30 A.M. The Rolling Barrage. Seventy-three tanks tear holes in the barbed wire already wrecked by the artillery. The infantry, with a rifle strength of 108,000, jumps off. In the tense darkness, they crawl among the dead and the dying. Shells are whistling and bursting. Machine guns are spitting. It is a test for any man. Five hundred planes overhead keep back the enemy airmen and assist the infantry. The gates of hell seem to have opened.

Our batteries barked like savage dogs. The havoc wrought beyond the embankment is beyond description. It can be likened to nothing that ever happened before or that has happened since. Lightning, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, typhoons, all combined, could not produce such complete, widespread devastation.

KEEP YOUR CHIN UP, BUDDY Members of Company E, 131st Infantry, 33rd Division, Captain Herman H. Weimer commanding, in front line trench prepared for anything. From this trench can be seen the Valley of the Meuse where more than 70,000 men are buried.

COLORED SOLDIERS DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES The 369th Infantry, 93rd Division, awaiting a counter-attack in the Argonne. This outfit distinguished itself in the Champagne-Marne operation, July 15, 1918, as well as in the Argonne. The Division’s casualties were 3,927.

THE RAINBOW IN THE ARGONNE Stokes mortar being fired by men of 165th Inf., 42nd (Rainbow) Div., who, after relieving the 1st on nights of Oct. 11-12, captured Hill 288, Hill 242, and Cote de Chatillon on the 15th. They were at the front again Nov. 5.

ALTERED PERSONALITIES No one who passed through one of these was ever the same again—physically or mentally. This is the 308th Field Hospital, 77th Division, receiving and dressing the wounded, La Chalade, in the Argonne Forest, September 28, 1918.

THE RESCUE Something out beyond the wire! Yankee eyes peer under tin hats, watch for motion between spouting geysers of the morning strafe! Steady—steady—a dog’s bark rings out—the scarlet emblem of the Red Cross on his side. And a Yankee Sergeant goes over as machine gun bullets whistle. A hasty bandage about the dog’s wound—a rescue!

THE ACE OF ACES Maj. E. V. Rickenbacker, Commander, 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron, who shot down 26 enemy planes, his unit 69, the best records of the A.E.F. He was awarded Congressional Medal of Honor, Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre.

“CALAMITY JANE” AND HER CREW This gun, serial No. 3125, 11th F. A., 6th Div., fired the last shot of the war for the Allies, in the bois de le Haie, on the Laneuville-sur-Meuse, Beauclair Road, France. It is rumored that the gunners’ watches were slow.

FORCED SMILES “Fini la guerre! It is the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, and the greatest war in history is over. Men of the 64th Inf., 7th Div., have just received the news of the Armistice.” So reads the story of this picture.

“OUR FATHER, WE THANK THEE” At altar of Jeanne d’Arc, an American and French soldier give thanks that the war is over and that they still live.

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Does Israel Have a Distinct Place in the Age to Come? – Dan Juster

The multitude of people who have influenced my spiritual views (and worldview in general) include many who would not appreciate being in the same company with one another. Some of them are pictured here. Top row (L-R): Dr. Edgar Arendall (Southern Baptist); Pastor Mark Biltz (Non-Jewish Messianic); Rabbi David Fohrman (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Dan Juster (Messianic Jewish). Second Row (L-R); Monte Judah (Hebrew Roots/Two House); C.S. Lewis (Anglican); J.K. McKee (Non-Jewish Messianic); D.L. Moody (Evangelical Christian). Third Row (L-R): Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Francis Schaeffer (Evangelical Christian); Dr. R.C. Sproul (Presbyterian); J.R.R. Tolkien (Roman Catholic).

The multitude of people who have influenced my spiritual views (and worldview in general) include many who would not appreciate being in the same company with one another. Some of them are pictured here. Top row (L-R): Dr. Edgar Arendall (Southern Baptist); Pastor Mark Biltz (Non-Jewish Messianic); Rabbi David Fohrman (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Dan Juster (Messianic Jewish). Second Row (L-R); Monte Judah (Hebrew Roots/Two House); C.S. Lewis (Anglican); J.K. McKee (Non-Jewish Messianic); D.L. Moody (Evangelical Christian). Third Row (L-R): Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (Orthodox Jewish); Dr. Francis Schaeffer (Evangelical Christian); Dr. R.C. Sproul (Presbyterian); J.R.R. Tolkien (Roman Catholic).

A continuous source of amazement for me is the fact that many of the men and women who have contributed substantially to my spiritual growth most likely would not be comfortable sitting in the same room with one another.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise.  Inspiration for my life has come from Baptist Christians, Presbyterian Christians, Anglican Christians, Catholic Christians, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, Messianic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Reformed Jews, and Hebrew Roots Torah teachers of many different streams.  It is amazing what these people have in common.  It is more amazing what divides them, and how senseless that division is in the long run.

What fellowship, for example, does D.L. Moody have with R.C. Sproul?  That is a question most readers could not answer, not having a clue who either of those esteemed gentlemen are.  Had they been contemporaries, however, the simple tenets of Moody’s evangelism (“Ruined by the Fall, Redeemed by the Blood, and Regenerated by the Spirit”) would clash with Sproul’s elaborate Reformed reasoning. 

We might say similar things of many, many others – even of the two authors who have had the greatest influence on my life.  It just so happens that they were contemporaries, serving as professors in related fields at prestigious English universities.  It is no secret that J.R.R. Tolkien was instrumental in bringing C.S. Lewis out of atheism and into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah).  Yet Tolkien was disappointed that he could get Lewis no closer to what he considered true Christianity (Roman Catholicism) than the Anglican Church.  And yet the two remained friends and colleagues, greatly influencing each others’ literary and other works.

This begs the question:  If Tolkien and Lewis could get along, why is it that Hebrew Roots believers have trouble getting along with one another?  Or why is it that traditional Christians and Messianic believers of all stripes find it easier to condemn one another rather than support and pray for one another?  Or why do Christians and Jews have such difficulty accepting one another as part of the same covenant people of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  It seems that our divisions are doing more work for the enemy of our souls than the good we hope we are doing for the Kingdom of our God.

In the interest of helping to correct this tendency, I am pleased to share an article recently published by Messianic Jewish leader Daniel C. Juster.  Much of my understanding of the Hebrew Roots (or Jewish Roots, as he would say) comes from Dan Juster.  I have been blessed to sit under his teaching and to be discipled by this writings.

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Picture of the Week 12/17/16

If Almighty God is not limited by death, why should we suppose He is limited by time?

bfb161217-isaiah-46_9-10


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2016-17.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why Did Tolkien Care About the Jews? | PJ Media

The headstone at the Tolkiens' grave in Oxford, England.

The headstone at the Tolkiens’ grave in Oxford, England.

Somewhere in my boxes full of old photographs there is a picture I took in 1986 while on a pilgrimage to Oxford, England.  The purpose of that trip to England was not to visit Oxford, but to attend a conference with one of my oldest friends (who probably would prefer to remain anonymous).  I was stationed in Germany at the time, and he was in need of a vacation, so we met in England to join other friends at a Christian conference.  When it was over the opportunity arose to see Oxford.  Since we had met two very charming British girls at the conference, and since they shared some of my enthusiasm for Tolkien, they joined us on this journey.

Ah, Tolkien.  He was the attraction to Oxford.  J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have captured my attention since I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at age 11.  Of the handful of authors who shaped my worldview, he and C.S. Lewis share the top position.  It was his grave I particularly wanted to see, after enjoying a pint in his honor at The Eagle and Child, the pub where he, Lewis, and others shared their literary ideas.  The old photograph lost somewhere in the boxes is the one I took of his grave.  One day I will dig it out and put it in an album of good memories.

Tolkien left us far more than good memories, of course.  He has made a lasting impact for good on four generations of English-speaking youth.  That impact shows no sign of slowing – provided youth of the present and future read him, that is.  Watching the cinematic adaptations of his works is not enough.  The depth of Tolkien is not in the action sequences of Elves fighting Orcs and Dwarves hunting dragons, but in the way he weaves the essence of humanity into his stories.  I view this as a gift from the Almighty. 

My guess is that David Goldman would agree.  In this article reposted from PJ Media, he investigates what appears to be a major motivation for Tolkien:  neutralizing the anti-Semitic messages of German composer Richard Wagner.  Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Nazism knows the high place of Wagner in Adolf Hitler’s esteem.  It should be no surprise that Wagner, like Hitler, despised Jews.  Tolkien did not despise Jews; he despised those who twisted our historical and literary inheritance into something evil to justify the eradication of that which is good.  That is what Goldman relates as he presents the back story of a masterful author’s life work.

Why is this important?  The literary-minded understand.  Words, music, and images capture the soul and shape the mind.  Regarding Tolkien and Wagner, Goldman sums up the point this way:

Wagner’s legacy remains baleful.  Fortunately, many more people know Tolkien than know Wagner, and we may pronounce Tolkien’s project a success.  Unfortunately, Wagner’s hold on the cultural elite remains strong, and influences modern culture in ways of which the popular audience is unaware.  

How did he arrive at this conclusion?  Read on and find out.

And thanks very much to my anonymous old friend, who not only accompanied me on that Oxford pilgrimage long ago, but brought this piece to my attention.

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Connecting the Tribulation Dots: A Review of The Cooper Chronicles, by Daniel Holdings

BFB160530 Daniel HoldingsWhat happens when an author combines the mega-conspiracy theories of Thomas Horn, the spiritual warfare depictions of Frank Peretti, and the science fiction apocalyptic vision of Larry Niven?  The result is The Cooper Chronicles, Daniel Holdings’ End of Days trilogy recounting the adventures of physicist and inter-dimensional globetrotter Dr. Bryce Cooper. 

Apocalyptic literature is fascinating to say the least, but such works are not necessarily encouraging or fun.  If done with the appropriate touch of realism – as, for instance, Nevil Shute’s post-nuclear war drama On the Beach – the work is depressing and scary.  The subject, after all, is the complete eradication of human life on planet earth.  On the other hand, a Terra-über-Alles yarn like Footfall (co-authored by Niven and Jerry Pournelle) makes the human cost merely the backdrop of an adventure story featuring mankind’s technological prowess and luck in overcoming an invasion by a fantastic foe from deep space.  The loss of all of India, for example, registers little to a reader certain that somehow the story will have a happy ending. 

The challenge of balancing realism with readability takes on an added dimension in spiritual subjects.  A writer of Christian fiction must remain true to the Bible, or at least to his or her interpretation thereof.  The result can be dismally flat, contrived, and divorced from real life – which is why it takes a special gift to write such a work.  C.S. Lewis comes to mind as the pioneer and first master of modern Christian apocalyptic fiction, a genre which Peretti further develops.  Yet when it comes to End Times novels which try to tell the tale of the Great Tribulation from a realistic viewpoint, no one has done quite so well as Daniel Holdings.

It helps that Holdings approaches his subject with the understanding that no one is exempt from the trials and devastations prophesied to come upon the earth according to the Bible.  This gives him an advantage over Christian authors who write from the belief that there is a “pre-Tribulation rapture” which will remove Christians to some heavenly safe haven.  To such authors, the real prize is not being on earth when bad things happen, which means their interest is not really in figuring out how the bad things are going to happen. 

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Fox Byte 5775 #44: D’varim (Words)

דְּבָרִים

"The King and Queen inspecting the tarts", by Sir John Tenniel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).

The King and Queen inspecting the tarts”, by Sir John Tenniel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).

One wonders whether Lewis Carroll required chemical substances to help him create the absurd worlds of his literature.  Readers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and audiences of the screen and stage adaptations thereof often conclude that the author – whose real name was Charles Dodgson – must have been on opium or some other sort of mind-altering substance fashionable in Victorian England.  If we are to believe the Lewis Carroll Society of North America and other authoritative sources, there is no truth in such allegations.  How, then, could a rational man come up with such outrageous fiction, creating characters and situations that defy logic and even sanity?  Most likely Carroll would have explained in the same way C.S. Lewis explained how he could create the diabolical correspondence of the demon Screwtape a generation later:

Some have paid me an undeserved compliment by supposing that my Letters were the ripe fruit of many years’ study in moral and ascetic theology.  They forgot that there is an equally reliable, though less creditable, way of learning how temptation works. “My heart”—I need no other’s—“showeth me the wickedness of the ungodly.”  (C.S. Lewis, 1961.  The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast.  New York:  MacMillan.)

What Professor Lewis tells us is that all humans have the capacity to imagine evil, and to act upon it once it is imagined.  Evil is abnormal; the opposite of good and right and true.  If our hearts are inclined toward evil, they are also inclined toward everything else that is contrary to good and right and true – things which are unsuitable, wrong, and illogical.  That is why Carroll can depict an absurd criminal trial with such success.  The King and Queen of Hearts sit as judges to determine the guilt or innocence of the Knave, who stands accused of having stolen the Queen’s tarts.  As judge, the King has trouble getting beyond his instructions to the jury to consider the verdict before any evidence has been given.  As witnesses, the Mad Hatter and the Knave say nothing of substance, and throughout the trial no one seems to care that the stolen tarts are there in the courtroom, presumably having been returned by the thief.  The trial ends with a mockery of due process of law as the Queen says, “Sentence first—verdict afterwards”, and then pronounces summary judgment on Alice:  “Off with her head!”

The sad thing about this trial is that it is not far removed from reality.  For much, perhaps most, of history unjust judges have made people’s lives miserable and shorter than they should be.  This is true even for judges among the people of God, which is why in promising to restore His nation of Israel, YHVH delivers this glowing promise:

“Then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning; after that you will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful city.”  Zion will be redeemed with justice and her repentant ones with righteousness.  (Isaiah 1:26-27 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #36: Beha’alotcha (In Your Going Up)

בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ

Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by  Danacea on Flickr.com via via Wikimedia Commons)

Stephen R. Donaldson (Photo by Danacea on Flickr.com via Wikimedia Commons)

In a response to a reader’s question about his works, author Stephen R. Donaldson provided this enlightening comment about the motivation behind his writing:

I’m a storyteller, not a polemicist.  As such, my only mission is to help my readers understand my characters and appreciate what those poor sods are going through.  (Stephen R. Donaldson Official Website, February 23, 2004)

Donaldson’s best known writings might be categorized as postmodern American science fiction and fantasy literature.  The worlds he creates are not the pristine, archetypical fantasy worlds of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, but darker realms that mirror our present ambiguous reality.  Donaldson explores human nature in a secular, relativistic world detached from the moral underpinnings of Christian civilization.  Good and evil manifest in the worlds he creates, but they are often uncomfortably intertwined so as to be nearly indistinguishable.  Such is the case with his most famous protagonist, the anti-hero Thomas Covenant.  In ten novels published over the span of 36 years, Donaldson follows Covenant through three epic quests in The Land, the world of his creation where magic and Earthpower shape the lives of mortals.  Covenant is one of the most unlikely heroes in the history of literature:  a leper living in present-day America who is magically transported to The Land to save it from destruction by Lord Foul the Despiser.  He wears a wedding band of white gold, the source of Wild Magic, which is the greatest power ever known in The Land.  He does not know how to wield this power, nor does he desire to do so, yet the dire circumstances of The Land compel him to find a way.  Each victory comes at a cost.  Ultimately it is Covenant himself who pays the greatest price, and thus he earns not only sympathy, but redemption.

We learn much about power in White Gold Wielder, the last novel of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  The Elohim, supernatural beings who keep watch over the Earth, “silence” Covenant, placing him in a catatonic state so he will not use his ring unwisely and risk destruction of the world.  After Covenant is revived by his companion Linden Avery, Findail of the Elohim explains their actions to her:

The ring-wielder we silenced, not to harm him, but to spare the Earth the ill of power without sight . . . Thus the choice would have fallen to you in the end.  His ring you might have taken unto yourself, thereby healing the breach between sight and power.  Or perhaps you might have ceded the ring to me, empowering the Elohim to save the Earth after their fashion.  Then would we have had no need to fear ourselves, for a power given is altogether different than one wrested away.

Findail’s declaration, “a power given is altogether different than one wrested away,” is a restatement of something taught long ago by One Who understood power:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:25-28 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #21: Ki Tisa (When You Take)

כִּיּ תִשָּׂא

At the distance of two hundred years the specter of Napoleon Bonaparte is no longer frightening.  Now he is nothing more than a historical figure often depicted as a comic caricature of the man who once ruled most of Europe.  In his lifetime he inspired admiration to the point of worship not only for his genius at the art of war, but for his genius at bringing responsible government out of the chaotic revolution of France.  Yet his ambition pushed him beyond the limits of himself and of France, and in time he lost everything.

We have a picture passed on through the years of a bitter Napoleon who blames everyone but himself for his setbacks.  That is the picture C.S. Lewis invokes in his description of Napoleon in hell in his classic work, The Great Divorce.  A similar picture appears in Waterloo, the 1970 movie about Napoleon’s final battle starring Rod Steiger as the Emperor.  In the midst of the battle, illness overcomes Napoleon and compels him to leave the field briefly.  During that time Marshal Michel Ney (played by Dan O’Herlihy), Napoleon’s trusted subordinate, orders the French cavalry to attack when he believes the enemy is retreating.  What he does not realize is that the Duke of Wellington (played by Christopher Plummer) has ordered his infantry to shift their position to the other side of the hill they occupied.  As the French cavalry charge, the British infantry form squares, a tactic designed for defense against cavalry.  In charge after charge, the French horsemen expend their lives to little effect, eventually crippling that arm of Napoleon’s force and contributing significantly to his ultimate defeat.  In the movie, Napoleon returns to the field just as Ney is leading the charge.  In rage and dismay he says,

What’s he doing?  What’s Ney doing?  What’s happening?  Can’t I leave the field for a minute?  What’s he doing there?  How can a man go forward with the cavalry without infantry support?  What’s the matter with you?

To the military mind this outburst is perfectly understandable.  Napoleon the general trained his men well and expected them to act not only with initiative, but also according to his commands and within the parameters of good order and discipline.  It is no surprise that he became angry at learning that a trusted and experienced subordinate acted impetuously, violating a cardinal principle of war and endangering the entire army.  It is the same reason our God becomes very angry when His people disregard the good order, discipline, and sound judgment He expects of them.

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Fox Byte 5775 #18: Mishpatim (Ordinances)

מִּשְׁפָּטִים

Even hell must abide by the Laws the Creator has established for the seasons.  (It's so cold that now HELL has frozen over:  Michigan town falls victim to record cold temperatures, Daily Mail, January 8, 2014)

Even hell must abide by the Laws the Creator has established for the seasons. (“It’s so cold that now HELL has frozen over: Michigan town falls victim to record cold temperatures”, Daily Mail, January 8, 2014)

How would one describe hell?  Dante does a nice job in his Inferno, depicting levels of escalating unpleasantness corresponding to the earthly misdeeds of the unfortunate sufferers.  It is important to note that Dante’s descriptions, however grotesque, are not without a certain order.  In other words, hell is not complete chaos.  There is an organization, a hierarchy, and a supreme authority that keeps it functioning.  If there were no order then hell would splinter into a million pieces and never cause harm to another soul.  And thus Dante reflects something that Yeshua explained about the infernal realm:

And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.  If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?  (Matthew 12:25-26 NASB; see also Mark 3:23-27 and Luke 11:17-22)

This principle of diabolical organization is something C.S. Lewis explains as the rationale for his masterful work, The Screwtape Letters:

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.”  The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint.  It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps.  In those we see its final result.  But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.  Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.  (C.S. Lewis, 1961.  The Screwtape Letters with Screwtape Proposes a Toast.  New York:  MacMillan.)

If Yeshua and these literary masters are correct, our conclusion is that hell must be organized and lawful, to some extent at least.  But why is that so?  One would think that Satan, the enemy of the Most High God, would do everything opposite what God does.  That would mean he would preside over a completely lawless, chaotic realm.  Yet that cannot be so for a fundamental reason that Satan knows only too well:  without Law, nothing can function.

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Edible Rubies, Liquid Diamonds, and an Ox

BFB140210 The Silver ChairIn The Silver Chair, the fourth book of his fantasy epic, The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis introduces us to the Underland beneath Narnia.  That dreary, dark world is under the power of a witch who has proclaimed herself queen and enchanted both Prince Rillian, Crown Prince of Narnia, and Underland’s somber residents, the Earthmen.  Rillian is unaware of his enchantment and believes the witch is his savior.  The Earthmen also have no memory of their enchantment; they trudge about day after joyless day doing the queen’s bidding.  Then a miracle happens:  Lewis’ heroes, Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum free the prince, who kills the queen and puts an end to her enchantment.  This frees all the Earthmen and opens a chasm in Underland leading down to their true home, the Really Deep Land which they call Bism.  As the Earthmen make their way to the chasm and home, one of them invites the heroes to join him:

“Your honours, why don’t you come down to Bism?  You’d be happier there than in that cold, unprotected, naked country out on top.  Or at least come down for a short visit. . . Down there, I could show you real gold, real silver, real diamonds. . . I have heard of those little scratches in the crust that you Topdwellers call mines.  But that’s where you get dead gold, dead silver, dead gems.  Down in Bism we have them alive and growing.  There I’ll pick you bunches of rubies that you can eat and squeeze you a cup full of diamond-juice.  You won’t care much about fingering the cold, dead treasures of your shallow mines after you have tasted the live ones of Bism.”[1] Please click here to continue reading

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