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A week’s answer, or none

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‘Hullo, Sam!’ Said Rosie. ‘Where’ve you been? They said you were dead; but I’ve been expecting you since the Spring. You haven’t hurried, have you?’

‘Perhaps not,’ said Sam abashed. ‘But I’m hurrying now. We’re setting about the ruffians, and I’ve got to get back to Mr. Frodo. But I thought I’d have a look and see how Mrs. Cotton was keeping, and you, Rosie.’

‘We’re keeping nicely, thank you,’ said Mrs. Cotton. ‘Or should be, if it weren’t for these thieving ruffians.’

‘Well, be off with you!’ said Rosie. ‘If you’ve been looking after Mr. Frodo all this while, what d’you want to leave him for, as soon as things look dangerous?’

This was too much for Sam. It needed a week’s answer, or none. He turned away and mounted his pony. But as he started off, Rosie ran down the steps.

‘I think you look fine, Sam,’ she said. ‘Go on now! But take care of yourself, and come straight back as soon as you have settled the ruffians!’

Tolkien, “The Scouring of the Shire,” The Return of the King

Written by Scott Moonen

May 2, 2020 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Quotations

Inevitable

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I hope no one will think that I am recommending a return to the Medieval Model. I am only suggesting considerations that may induce us to regard all Models in the right way, respecting each and idolising none. We are all, very properly, familiar with the idea that in every age the human mind is deeply influenced by the accepted Model of the universe. But there is a two-way traffic; the Model is also influenced by the prevailing temper of mind. We must recognize that what has been called ‘a taste in universes’ is not only pardonable but inevitable. We can no longer dismiss the change of Models as a simple progress from error to truth. No Model is a catalogue of ultimate realities, and none is a mere fantasy. Each is a serious attempt to get in all the phenomena known at a given period, and each succeeds in getting in a great many. But also, no less surely, each reflects the prevalent psychology of an age almost as much as it reflects the state of that age’s knowledge. Hardly any battery of new facts could have persuaded a Greek that the universe had an attribute so repugnant to him as infinity; hardly any such battery could persuade a modern that it is hierarchical.

It is not impossible that our own Model will die a violent death, ruthlessly smashed by an unprovoked assault of new facts—unprovoked as the nova of 1572. But I think it is more likely to change when, and because, far-reaching changes in the mental temper of our descendants demand that it should. The new Model will not be set up without evidence, but the evidence will turn up when the inner need for it becomes sufficiently great. It will be true evidence. But nature gives most of her evidence in answer to the questions we ask her. Here, as in the courts, the character of the evidence depends on the shape of the examination, and a good cross-examiner can do wonders. He will not indeed elicit falsehoods from an honest witness. But, in relation to the total truth in the witness’s mind, the structure of the examination is like a stencil. It determines how much of that total truth will appear and what pattern it will suggest.

C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image, 222-223

See also: Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Written by Scott Moonen

April 26, 2020 at 6:53 pm

Posted in Meta, Quotations

Regulations

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The question at once arises whether medieval thinkers really believed that what we now call inanimate objects were sentient and purposive. The answer in general is undoubtedly no. I say ‘in general’, because they attributed life and even intelligence to one privileged class of objects (the stars) which we hold to be inorganic. . . .

If we could ask the medieval scientist ‘Why, then, do you talk as if they did,’ he might (for he was always a dialectician) retort with the counter-question, ‘But do you intend your language about laws and obedience any more literally than I intend mine about kindly enclyning? Do you really believe that a falling stone is aware of a directive issued to it by some legislator and feels either a moral or a prudential obligation to conform? We should then have to admit that both ways of expressing the facts are metaphorical. The odd thing is that ours is the more anthropomorphic of the two. To talk as if inanimate bodies had a homing instinct is to bring them no nearer to us than the pigeons; to talk as if they could ‘obey laws’ is to treat them like men and even like citizens.

But though neither statement can be taken literally, it does not follow that it makes no difference which is used. On the imaginative and emotional level it makes a great difference whether, with the medievals, we project upon the universe our strivings and desires, or with the moderns, our police-system and our traffic regulations.

C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image, 93-94

Written by Scott Moonen

April 26, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Quotations

Manifold

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‘What’s all this?’ said Frodo, feeling inclined to laugh.

‘This is what it is, Mr. Baggins,’ said the leader of the Shirriffs, a two-feather hobbit: ‘You’re arrested for Gate-breaking, and Tearing up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-keepers, and Trespassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food.’

‘And what else?’ said Frodo.

‘That’ll do to go on with,’ said the Shirriff-leader.

‘I can add some more, if you’d like it,’ said Sam. ‘Calling your Chief Names, Wishing to punch his Pimply Face, and Thinking you Shirriffs look a lot of Tom-fools.’

‘There now, Mister, that’ll do. It’s the Chief’s orders that you’re to come along quiet. We’re going to take you to Bywater and hand you over to the Chief’s Men; and when he deals with your case you can have your say. But if you don’t want to stay in the Lockholes any longer than you need, I should cut the say short, if I was you.’

To the discomfiture of the Shirriffs Frodo and his companions all roared with laughter. ‘Don’t be absurd!’ said Frodo. ‘I am going where I please, and in my own time. I happen to be going to Bag End on business, but if you insist on going too, well that is your affair.’

‘Very well, Mr. Baggins,’ said the leader, pushing the barrier aside. ‘But don’t forget I’ve arrested you.’

‘I won’t,’ said Frodo. ‘Never. But I may forgive you. Now I am not going any further today, so if you’ll kindly escort me to The Floating Log, I’ll be obliged.’

‘I can’t do that, Mr. Baggins. The inn’s closed. There’s a Shirriff-house at the far end of the village. I’ll take you there.’

‘All right,’ said Frodo. ‘Go on and we’ll follow.’

Sam had been looking the Shirriffs up and down and had spotted one that he knew. ‘Hey, come here Robin Smallburrow!’ he called. ‘I want a word with you.’

With a sheepish glance at his leader, who looked wrathful but did not dare to interfere, Shirriff Smallburrow fell back and walked beside Sam, who got down off his pony.

‘Look here, Cock-robin!’ said Sam. ‘You’re Hobbiton-bred and ought to have more sense, coming a-waylaying Mr. Frodo and all. And what’s all this about the inn being closed?’

‘They’re all closed,’ said Robin. ‘The Chief doesn’t hold with beer. Leastaways that is how it started. But now I reckon it’s his Men that has it all. And he doesn’t hold with folk moving about; so if they will or they must, then they has to go to the Shirriff-house and explain their business.’

‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself having anything to do with such nonsense,’ said Sam. ‘You used to like the inside of an inn better than the outside yourself. You were always popping in, on duty or off.’

‘And so I would be still, Sam, if I could. But don’t be hard on me. What can I do? You know how I went for a Shirriff seven years ago, before any of this began. Gave me a chance of walking round the country and seeing folk, and hearing the news, and knowing where the good beer was. But now it’s different.’

‘But you can give it up, stop Shirriffing, if it has stopped being a respectable job,’ said Sam.

‘We’re not allowed to,’ said Robin.

‘If I hear not allowed much oftener,’ said Sam, ‘I’m going to get angry.’

‘Can’t say as I’d be sorry to see it,’ said Robin lowering his voice. ‘If we all got angry together something might be done. But it’s these Men, Sam, the Chief’s Men. He sends them round everywhere, and if any of us small folk stand up for our rights, they drag him off to the Lockholes. They took old Flourdumpling, old Will Whitfoot the Mayor, first, and they’ve taken a lot more. Lately it’s been getting worse. Often they beat ’em now.’

‘Then why do you do their work for them?’ said Sam angrily. ‘Who sent you to Frogmorton?’

‘No one did. We stay here in the big Shirriff-house. We’re the First Eastfarthing Troop now. There’s hundreds of Shirriffs all told, and they want more, with all these new rules. Most of them are in it against their will, but not all. Even in the Shire there are some as like minding other folk’s business and talking big. And there’s worse than that: there’s a few as do spy-work for the Chief and his Men.’

‘Ah! So that’s how you had news of us, is it?’

‘That’s right. We aren’t allowed to send by it now, but they use the old Quick Post service, and keep special runners at different points. One came in from Whitfurrows last night with a “secret message”, and another took it on from here. And a message came back this afternoon saying you was to be arrested and taken to Bywater, not direct to the Lockholes. The Chief wants to see you at once, evidently.’

‘He won’t be so eager when Mr. Frodo has finished with him,’ said Sam.

Tolkien, “The Scouring of the Shire,” The Return of the King

Written by Scott Moonen

April 18, 2020 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Quotations

Belonging

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Israel’s call to holiness may be grasped in a twofold manner. First, the need for Israel’s holiness is rooted in the essential nature of God—in his own utter holiness. Since God is ‘infinite, eternal and unchangeable’ in holiness, as the catechism has it, then if there is to be any intimate relationship with him, that is, if the goal of the covenant and telos of creation will ever be realized, Israel’s character must steadily be conformed to YHWH’s. Secondly, the source of Israel’s holiness is—and could only ever be—God himself. While Israel is called to keep laws, therefore, yet doing so did not make the people holy but rather prepared them to be made holy by YHWH’s Presence. . . .

Returning to the point, it is the reality of the miškān itself, of God’s dwelling amidst the camp of Israel, that holds the prospect for Israel’s holiness. Even as the tabernacle was consecrated by YHWH’s Presence, so too Israel would be consecrated through their Sabbath by Sabbath basking in his Presence. . . .

The process of Israel’s becoming holy (‘sanctification’), therefore, entailed becoming more and more like God, which may also be understood in terms of belonging, ever more deeply, to him.

L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? 208–209

Written by Scott Moonen

April 13, 2020 at 6:40 pm

Posted in Quotations

Grace

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Ben Virgo: How would you tease out Paul’s command to Timothy to be strong in the grace that is in our Lord Jesus Christ? The reason I ask is I think we tend to treat grace almost like a safety net in our time. And there’s grace if you fail, you know. But essentially, we don’t know about being strong in his grace. When you hear the gospel, and when you get it, when it strikes you, you realize it’s all grace. . . .

Peter Leithart: When we’re talking about grace, we’re not talking about something that’s somehow distant from or abstracted from the presence of the Spirit with us. But rather it’s the Spirit at work in us, and the Spirit is the spirit of Jesus; he’s a person of the trinity, who guides, leads, speaks, is grieved, and so on. So when you start thinking about the phrase you mentioned, be strong in grace, it’s talking about being filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit.

Christian Heritage London

Written by Scott Moonen

April 6, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Quotations

Sharper

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“I mean this,” said Dimble in answer to the question she had not asked. “If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family—anything you like—at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren’t quite so sharp; and that there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder. Like in the poem about Heaven and Hell eating into merry Middle Earth from opposite sides… how does it go? Something about ‘eat every day’… ‘till all is somethinged away’. It can’t be eaten, that wouldn’t scan. My memory has failed dreadfully these last few years. Do you know the bit, Margery?”

“What you were saying reminded me more of the bit in the Bible about the winnowing fan. Separating the wheat and the chaff. Or like Browning’s line: “Life’s business being just the terrible choice.’”

“Exactly! Perhaps the whole time-process means just that and nothing else. But it’s not only in questions of moral choice. Everything is getting more itself and more different from everything else all the time. Evolution means species getting less and less like one another. Minds get more and more spiritual, matter more and more material. Even in literature, poetry and prose draw further and further apart.”

C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Acts 17:30–31 ESV

This is not the only motion that history can take, of course; there is a sense in which the past can be forgotten. But there is also a sense in which the past will not be forgotten quietly, and even the forgotten past is present in some way.

See also: Light, Success

Written by Scott Moonen

April 6, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Quotations

So far does he remove our transgressions from us

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Walking westward, therefore, from the courtyard toward the sanctum was a movement toward God, representing Israel to him—an ascent into the summit of the architectural mountain of God. Walking eastward from the sanctum toward the courtyard was a movement away from God, representing him to Israel—and a descent from the cultic mountain of God. . . .

The text is careful to portray the goats as a set: the high priest takes them both from the congregation of Israel, presents them both together before YHWH at the door of the tent of meeting, and then casts lots for them both . . . Indeed, there is historical precedent [SCM: Morales cites rabbinical sources, but Jacob’s goats in Rebekah’s meal is a clear biblical–theological precedent] for understanding these goats to be identical in appearance, and chosen expressly because of this likeness, as if it were one goat accomplishing two different aspects of atonement—purification and expiation, cleansing from sin’s pollution and the removal of sin’s guilt. . . .

Moreover, as both goats begin together at the doorway of the tent of meeting, their movement may be tracked along an east–west alignment, movements coordinated with the early narratives of Genesis in relation to God’s Presence. Here it is worth emphasizing that the goats, as one symbol, stand for the sake of Israel: the sacrificed goat conveying Israel favourably into the inner sanctum vicariously, the led-away goat conveying Israel’s sins away from the face of God.

L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? 174, 179–180

From the day of atonement ritual, you would expect Psalm 103 to read, “so far does he remove our transgressions from him.” Surprise! Where does that place us? With Yahweh!

Written by Scott Moonen

March 30, 2020 at 7:49 pm

A reminder of sins every year

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With the tabernacle being a microcosm of the cosmos, its rituals, including those of the Day of Atonement, should be related to the reality of the cosmos. . . . The cultic drama of the microcosm’s cleansing points prophetically to a Day of Atonement not enacted on the cultic stage but rather upon its counterpart, the cosmos as true house of God. . . . The drama of the tabernacle’s defilement by the sin and corpse pollution of Aaron’s sons mirrors the drama of Adam’s own transgression and defilement of the cosmos. . . . What can be done? Is all lost? The answer provided in Leviticus through the Day of Atonement on the stage of the cultic drama, therefore, provides the answer for the cosmos as house of God as well—there must be a Day of Atonement for the cosmos. Ultimately, this annual purgation reiterates the need for a full and final cleansing—one that cannot be threatened or undone—for the covenant promise of humanity’s communion and fellowship with God to be realized.

L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? 171–172

Written by Scott Moonen

March 30, 2020 at 7:17 pm

Not contagious

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Moral impurity should be distinguished from ritual impurity. Ritual impurity is impermanent, sometimes contagious, may defile the courtyard altar, and, while requiring cleansing, does not require forgiveness; moral impurity requires atonement (sometimes being cut off or death), defiles the land, along with the innermost areas of the sanctuary, but is not contagious.

L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? 159

Written by Scott Moonen

March 30, 2020 at 7:05 pm