Jason Hood Posts
April 15, 2013 by Jason Hood
Very few people living now were alive when it occurred. American involvement was much smaller than our role in World War 2. But the First World War left a deep imprint on the twentieth century.
“The Great War,” as it was known, shaped the lives of 20th century “shapers” ranging from Tolkien and Lewis to Hitler and Communism. It solidified the USA’s status as the greatest and most powerful nation in the world, contributed greatly to the Second World War and helped spread the infamous flu outbreak of 1918-19 (which killed more people than the war, perhaps upwards of 40 million people, or a few percentage points of the world population at the time). The League of Nations, the precursor of the U.N., was formed in the war’s aftermath as a quest for a world governing body to bring peace and prosperity. They called it the War to End All Wars. They were wrong.
More importantly, the rush to war and the awful nature of trench warfare helped build a resistance to war that was still going strong as Hitler was on the rise. Hawks like Churchill couldn’t sway the popular imagination and der Führer took full advantage of Europe’s martial immunity to expand his power and violate treaties or renegotiate them by blackmail. Perhaps one lesson of WW1 is that fighting meaningless wars makes us less likely to fight the important ones.
Next year we’ll mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war in August 1914, which makes it as good a time as any to learn something about this forgotten war. Here are a few good resources for learning more:
- Norman Stone, World War One: A Short History
- Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August, a masterful book which won the Pulitzer Prize.
- John Keegan, The First World War.
April 4, 2013 by Jason Hood
From The Four Loves:
Mrs. Fidget very often said that she lived for her family. And it was not untrue. Everyone in the neighborhood knew it. “She lives for her family,” they said. “What a wife and mother!” She did all the washing; true, she did it badly, and they could have afforded to send it out to a laundry, and they frequently begged her not to do it. But she did.
There was always a hot lunch for anyone who was at home and always a hot meal at night (even in midsummer). They implored her not to provide this. They protested almost with tears in their eyes (and with truth) that they liked cold meals. It made no difference. She was living for her family.
She always sat up to “welcome” you home if you were out late at night; two or three in the morning, it made no odds; you would always find the frail, pale, weary face awaiting you like a silent accusation. Which meant of course that you couldn’t with any decency go out very often.
She was always making things too; being in her own estimation (I’m no judge myself) an excellent amateur dressmaker and a great knitter. And of course, unless you were a heartless brute, you had to wear the things. . . . For Mrs. Fidget, as she so often said, would “work her fingers to the bone” for her family. They couldn’t stop her. Nor could they–being decent people–quietly sit still and watch her do it. They had to help. Indeed they were always having to help. That is, they did things for her to help her do things for them which they didn’t want done. . . .
The Vicar says Mrs. Fidget is now at rest. Let us hope she is. What’s quite certain is that her family are.
April 2, 2013 by Jason Hood
Here are the final two paragraphs of Alan Jacobs’s magnificent biography of Lewis, The Narnian. There are some slight disagreements I would have with the agenda lays out, but they take no shine off the spectacular achievement this book represents. Obviously I highly recommend the book; and if you think you might read it, please don’t spoil it by reading what follows.
Jacobs chose a story that happened a few months before Lewis died:
In July, when Lewis was in the hospital after his heart attack and still passing in and out of delirium, one of his visitors was Maureen Blake, whom he had known since she was a little girl…After decades as a music teacher, she had had a recent turn of fortune.
Earlier that year a very distant relation of hers with the utterly magnificent name of Sir George Cospatrick Duff- Sutherland-Dunbar, Baron Dunbar of Hempriggs, had died at his estate in Caithness, Scotland. Sir George was unmarried. and the lawyers had some difficulty discovering who was to inherit the estate. Astonishingly, the heir turned out to be Maureen.
When she arrived at the hospital she was told that Lewis had not recognized any of his visitors that day. She entered quietly, clasped his hand, and said, “Jack, it’s Maureen. ”
“No,” he replied—unsurprisingly, given his condition. But he added, “It’s Lady Dunbar of Hempriggs.”
Maureen was stunned: “Oh Jack, how could you remember that?”
“On the contrary,” he murmured. “How could I forget a fairy-tale?”
March 11, 2013 by Jason Hood
Gilbert Meilaender, being prophetic at First Things. The first lesson: stop obsessing over uniqueness more than unity.
If we Lutherans ourselves were clearer that to be Lutheran is to claim the catholic tradition as ours, we would avoid some of the mistakes that have gone a long way toward hollowing out Lutheranism in this country. In particular, we could get rid of the annoying tic that leads so many Lutherans to try—constantly—to articulate something distinctively Lutheran (a sure sign we are worried that our continued existence cannot be justified and, irony of ironies, must seek to accomplish that justification ourselves).
What is distinctively Lutheran is to think of ourselves first as catholic—as catholics who found at a certain point in history that they needed to reform the Church and, in the process, became independent churches themselves….
Secondly, and building on the first point:
“Taken by itself, as the whole of Christianity, the Lutheran corrective produces the most subtle type of worldliness and paganism.”It is, unfortunately, not hard to illustrate what Kierkegaard had in mind. If I am an inattentive, thoughtless, or even abusive husband and father—and my neighbor is just the opposite, an exemplary husband and father—what Lutheranism too often has to say to us is exactly the same: that before God we are sinners in need of justifying grace. And if I want help to become more like my exemplary neighbor, the message is likely to be precisely the same: that I am a sinner in need of grace.
All of which is, of course, true. But it is not the only theological truth, nor the one that always best suits our condition. A theology that has learned to speak in such a monotone about grace—always as pardon but not also as power—gives no guidance or direction to the serious Christian. The Christian life, engaged only in constant return to that pardoning word, goes nowhere. A theology that has learned to speak in such a monotone about grace—always as pardon but not also as power—gives no guidance or direction to the serious Christian. The Christian life, engaged only in constant return to that pardoning word, goes nowhere. Even as profound a theologian as Helmut Thielicke, whose Theological Ethics is to my mind the richest example of modern Lutheran ethics, could think of ethics only as a prolegomenon to preaching—only, that is, as the means of exposing the need we all share for the proclamation of the gospel’s pardon.
The corrective that was once needed for a church that had come to think of penance simply as a balancing of accounts has been made into a norm, producing exactly the opposite of what was intended. . . . When “paradox” becomes our first and last description of the Christian life, it has become a substitute for serious thought—and, worse still, for discipleship.
Near the conclusion, a recapitulation and summation:
The distinction between law and gospel, so powerful for the care of souls, gets turned into the organizing principle of an entire theology—a distinctive theology, to be sure, but one that, as Kierkegaard saw, “produces the most subtle type of worldliness and paganism.”
February 13, 2013 by Jason Hood
I’ve just finished writing roughly 200 pages on imitation, and I didn’t even cover everything in the Bible. One important passage I didn’t explore (part of my “Paralipomena,” if you will) was Hebrews 6:10-15, although I do sum up what it says in several places.
The author is of course building on everything before in Hebrews. But in the near context, note the way in which he appears to evoke Jesus’ parables on fruit-bearing and good soil (6:7-8) as a way to urge the audience to continue in the things “that belong to salvation”—things which he is sure they possess.
After all, God knows their history of love and works (6:10). He’s not unjust; he knows when you serve his people. Again, perhaps there’s an echo here of Jesus’ parable in Matt 25:31-46 (particularly in light of Heb 10:32-34 and 13:3).
Assurance of hope in 6:11 is fed by our earnestness in that same work. The author is concerned that ongoing temptations and threats might pull his audience off the way, just as it did for the Israelites in the wilderness (Heb 3-4). They fell because of “sluggishness” which manifested itself in disbelief and disobedience. Accordingly, he wants his audience to continue in belief and obedience, like Abraham (6:15) and others (6:12) who inherited God’s promises.
Just as the Israelites were negative examples in Hebrews 3-4 (see 3:18-19, 4:2, 6), so other “heroes” who believed and obeyed were positive examples in Hebrews 11. Crucially, it is faith that works, or living faith, that inherits what God has promised (6:12-14) and Jesus has secured (6:19-10:25).1 Comment
February 12, 2013 by Jason Hood
I’ve begun Alan Jacobs’s gem, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, and all I can say is that I should’ve sprung for a hardback. I hate giving out nuggets–you should go get the whole bar of gold, or the whole unprocessed chicken breast, etc.–but here are some nuggets.
(1) Lewis’s mother had a calendar with daily quotations from Shakespeare. On the day of her death were lines from King Lear: “Men must endure Their going hence, even as their coming hither: Ripeness is all.” The first six words were inscribed on CSS’s tomb by his brother 55 years later.
(2) Early in the book Jacobs describes the remarkable degree of misery Lewis was experiencing when he began writing the Chronicles. The reality of intense family suffering and the psychological, social, and financial cost borne by Lewis in that season of his life is radically removed (and therefore all the more important) from the common portrait of Lewis as a prof who takes long walks, enjoys beers with the gang at the pub, and writes letters.
(3) I particularly appreciate @ayjay’s sensitivity to Lewis’s approach to education, which “is not about providing information so much as cultivating “habits of the heart”–producing “men with chests,” as he puts it in his book The Abolition of Man, that is, people who not only think as they should but respond as they should, instinctively and emotionally, to the challenges and blessings the world offers to them.” Thus stories and imagination are not optional; they are in fact vital.
(4) We find an important note along the same lines in Lewis’s Preface to Paradise Lost, which was dedicated to his friend Charles Williams, who had lectured on Milton at Oxford: “It is a reasonable hope that of those who heard you in Oxford many will understand that when the old poets made some virtue their theme they were not teaching but adoring, and that what we take for the didactic is often the enchanted.”
(5) Alan Jacobs thinks the Narnia stories aren’t as good as the Harry Potter stories!2 Comments
February 7, 2013 by Jason Hood
Karl Popper vs. Hegel, “Christian Marxists,” “Great Man” approaches to history and liberal Protestant use of the great myth of Progress and Democracy as Eschatology. All of these approaches, and all of our other efforts at producing an account of humanity in history, only result in assorted histories “of power politics”:
The theory that God reveals Himself and His judgment in history is indistinguishable from the theory that worldly success is the ultimate judge and justification of our actions; it comes to the same thing as the doctrine that history will judge, that is to say, that future might is right . . .
To maintain that God reveals Himself in what is usually called ‘history’ . . . is indeed blasphemy; for what really happens within the realm of human lives is hardly ever touched upon by this cruel and at the same time childish affair.
The life of the forgotten, of the unknown individual man; his sorrows and his joys, his suffering and death, this is the real content of human experience down the ages.
If that could be told by history, then I should certainly not say that it is blasphemy to see the finger of God in it. But such a history does not and cannot exist; and all the history which exists, our history of the Great and the Powerful, is at best a shallow comedy.
I think it’d be better to take the both/and, as what he says in context pushes God away from sovereignty over “great men” and dictators. But given his historical context, I really appreciate the protest.
If (Redemptive) History doesn’t impact, contemplate, direct, and ultimately transform the mundane, it’s not a Christian account; and if it doesn’t encompass a judgment outside of history, it’s not a Christian account; and if every deed isn’t judged and every sorrow and complaint addressed and every question answered, it’s not a Christian account.
I post this on my wife’s birthday. She’s a spectacular person, but “history” will probably never see a glimpse of it–unless something goes badly wrong with me or our children! And in God’s story, she matters.0 Comments
January 6, 2013 by Jason Hood
My nine-year-old has begun using “epic” to describe nearly everything. His mother and I have pointed out that this really robs the word of its meaning. Thankfully, there’s one epic that really clarifies the definition.
New SAET fellow Philip Tallon has consulted with his braintrust to create a visual guide to the Great Epic. [[Update: credit to Allie Osterloh for some sweet artwork here; find her at http://www.arocreative.blogspot.com/]] The following five visuals riff on the biblical drama as articulated by Bartholomew, Goheen, Al Wolters, Sandra Ricther and others.
December 19, 2012 by Jason Hood
Permit me a personal note. At our house, it’s been a season of extremes. The death of my mother-in-law after a sixteen-year battle with ALS in September. We then experienced the birth of our fourth child on All Saints’ Day–a wonderful, chill boy who looks like he’s big enough to compete with his brothers. My father-in-law battles terminal cancer, with a tumor slowly taking over his cerebellum. He’ll move to hospice later today.
Those who know me well agree that I’m pretty even-keeled. You wouldn’t file me under “Shiny Happy People” most of the time, nor would you think, “This guy needs to be institutionalized for depression.” But lately joy has been a struggle. And the struggle itself creates a struggle, because after all, I’m supposed to be joyful.
I was walking around our local grocery store tonight, pondering my own daze and (apparent) lack of joy, and I asked whether joy in all things is all that realistic. Hebrews 12 came to mind. For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross, which in fact was not a joy.
To state the obvious, the joy wasn’t there in that moment. He had to look forward–past local moments of shame, stress, and horror–to the moment when it would fully be in his possession.
N. B.: in context, Hebrews is applying the experience of Jesus to the lives of his people.2 Comments
December 17, 2012 by Jason Hood
Not enough poetry and paean about the Bible these days, if you ask me. Psalm 19 and 119 are the classics, but there’ve been more than few nice efforts in centuries past.
The following poem was entitled “The Bible,” and appeared on the first page of a few English editions since 1594. For some reason this little poem, which is more a spur to tolle lege than high art, strikes me as more apposite than a “word from the translator” in our current editions (although of course back then the title was long enough then to serve as a “word from the translator”).
Here is the spring where waters flow, To quench our heat of sin;
Here is the tree where truth doth grow To lead our lives therein;
Here is the judge that stints the strife When men’s devises fail:
Here is the bread that feeds the life Which death cannot assail.
The tidings of salvation dear Comes to our ears from hence;
The fortress of our faith is here; The shield of our defence.
Then be not like the hog that hath A pearl at his desire,
And takes more pleasure in the trough And wallowing in the mire.
Read not this book in any case But with a single eye:
Read not, but first desire GOD’s grace, To understand thereby.
Pray still in faith with this respect To fructify therein;
That knowledge may bring this effect, To mortify thy sin.
Then happy thou in all thy life, Whatso to thee befalls;
Yea, doubly happy shalt thou be When GOD by death thee calls.
A rich view of the poem in a 1611 Bible may be found here; note that the poem serves as a sort of theological counterpart to the art and doctrinal chart on the opening pages.0 Comments