The Two Voices

WHAT COLERIDGE THOUGHT
OWEN BARFIELD

Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness. It is this which underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?

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Data And Wisdom

What Coleridge Thought
Owen Barfield

“Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness. It is this which underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?”

Continue reading “Data And Wisdom”

Distortions Of Meaning

UNMAKING LANGUAGE
Holly Ordway

Repentance.’ ‘Virtue.’ ‘Sin’: Words as relics
Of a weird, less sophisticated time,
A time that’s wholly past and derelict,
Which we can only now bring back to mind
Enveloped in protective irony.
We’ve cordoned off our past and its ‘concerns’
In the name of making us feel more free
We must re-phrase – it’s how our freedom’s won.
And so we slice our bodies with no pain;
We grope in loveless sex with no release;
We search for self, though nothing there remains;
We make a ceaseless noise and find no peace
Unmaking language, nothing left to say:
Blind impulse speaks, and wordless we obey.


“‎You’re not the same as you were before,” he said. You were much more… muchier… you’ve lost your muchness.” Ah yes, we are all lost in Wonderland a bit these days.  As with Lewis Carroll’s tale, communication and our collective conversation is handicapped by the discounting and rebranding of words.  When “spiritual” is good but “religious” is bad, we might think it sick or dope, and we might be right. No wait, that’s wrong. What?

In her book,  Apologetics and the Christian Imagination , Holly Ordway says:

As Owen Barfield says in Poetic Diction, “Of all devices for dragooning the human spirit, the least clumsy is to procure its abortion in the womb of language.” It is in the “womb of language” that ideas are conceived, and then can grow and develop. The wider, richer, and more precise our vocabulary is, the more we will be able to use it to express ideas clearly and reflect on them deeply. Unfortunately, our language is subject to verbicide—the ‘murder’ of words through exaggeration or misuse, so that the original meaning is lost. Verbicide can kill words by distortion as well as by watering down their meaning, as in the use of ‘sinful’ to mean ‘enjoyable.’ If a delicious slice of chocolate cake can be ‘sinfully good,’ then the word ‘sin’ has no real meaning at all.

Verbicide can occur through carelessness, but it can also be deliberately cultivated by those who find it in their interests to render certain words empty of meaning. Authentic debate and discussion—like authentic democracy—are messy and discomfiting processes that require confronting ideas that are disagreeable, and accepting that you can’t always have things your own way. To raise an issue for discussion and argument means at least tacitly accepting that you might not be able to convince the other side that you’re right . . . and having to live with that. The alternative to authentic discussion is to manipulate circumstances such that the debate never happens, and the position that you favor becomes entrenched—or to manipulate language so that the other point of view becomes unsayable and eventually unthinkable.

Thus, apologists must be prepared to deal not just with arguments and misunderstandings, but also with the conscious or unconscious manipulation and corruption of language.

 

 

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John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Meet The Author


Holly Ordway

Ordway author photo

Dr Holly Ordway is Professor of English and faculty in the M.A. in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University; she holds a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She is the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith (Emmaus Road, 2017) and Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms (Ignatius, 2014), and she has contributed chapters to C.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner (edited by Michael Ward and Peter S. Williams), C.S. Lewis’s List: The Ten Books that Influenced Him Most (edited by David Werther) among other volumes; she is also a published poet, with poems in Word in the Wilderness and Love, Remember (edited by Malcolm Guite).

Her academic work focuses on the writings of the Inklings, especially C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her current book project is Tolkien’s Modern Sources: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages (forthcoming from Kent State University Press, 2019).

She lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and travels regularly to speak on Tolkien, Lewis, and imaginative apologetics.

Dig Deeper at HollyOrdway.com and buy the book HERE.

Photo of Holly Ordway by Lancia E Smith

Philology by James Turner

The term philology is derived from the Greek terms “philos”, meaning“brotherly love” and “logos”meaning “word” and describes a love of learning, of literature as well as of argument and reasoning. By the time it morphed through Latin and Old English, it came to mean generally the“love of literature”. That’s a disservice because it is much more. It is the study and love of words and most specifically, how they came to meaning.

Words are 18730595tricky, as everyone knows.

Misunderstandings happen when the intent doesn’t align with the interpretation, but worse, words must carefully be chosen if one is to impart the fullness of one’s heart to someone else. They are by nature social. If one wishes to keep one’s thoughts within, silence is the only requirement. If one however truly wants to express themselves it requires an intimate understanding of the perception and capacity of the hearer.

Owen Barfield (an intimate of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien) understood this dynamic with brilliance. Barfield said that words unfold in a hearer’s consciousness and are different for each person. He said “the final objective record for each person of the whole series of thoughts or sense-impressions received by him every time he has spoken or heard that word.” Addressing poetry he said a poem does not mean only how it says; it means what each reader reads in it when he brings his full experience to bear upon it.

Words transmit more than sound, even more than lexical meaning. As Carol and Philip Zaleski wrote in their fine book The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, “words are catch-basins of experience, fingerprints and footprints of the past that the literary detective may scrutinize in order to sleuth out the history of human consciousness.”

For me, this led to a better understanding of Christ as the Logos of John’s Gospel. Jesus is The Word, which is to say he is the full expression of God in a form most meaningful to His intended recipients – mankind. In Jesus we see God, yes, but more so, we see God expressed for us.

As Jesus said, “whoever has ears, let them hear”.


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Lord Of All Creation

creacion_de_adan_miguel_angel

THE CANTICLE OF THE SUN
Saint Francis of Assisi

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord,
Praise, glory and honor and benediction all, are Thine.
To Thee alone do they belong, most High,
And there is no man fit to mention Thee.

Praise be to Thee, my Lord, with all Thy creatures,
Especially to my worshipful brother sun,
The which lights up the day, and through him dost Thou brightness give;
And beautiful is he and radiant with splendor great;
Of Thee, most High, signification gives.

Praised be my Lord, for sister moon and for the stars,
In heaven Thou hast formed them clear and precious and fair.
Praised be my Lord for brother wind
And for the air and clouds and fair and every kind of weather,
By the which Thou givest to Thy creatures nourishment.
Praised be my Lord for sister water,
The which is greatly helpful and humble and precious and pure.

Praised be my Lord for brother fire,
By the which Thou lightest up the dark.
And fair is he and gay and mighty and strong.

Praised be my Lord for our sister, mother earth,
The which sustains and keeps us
And brings forth diverse fruits with grass and flowers bright.

Praised be my Lord for those who for Thy love forgive
And weakness bear and tribulation.
Blessed those who shall in peace endure,
For by Thee, most High, shall they be crowned.

Praised be my Lord for our sister, the bodily death,
From the which no living man can flee.
Woe to them who die in mortal sin;
Blessed those who shall find themselves in Thy most holy will,
For the second death shall do them no ill.

Praise ye and bless ye my Lord, and give Him thanks,
And be subject unto Him with great humility.


In a recent lecture in New York, Oxford Professor John Lennox (watch the lecture below) said it is important to point out that science doesn’t explain anything. Take energy as an example.  Science does a terrific job of describing many aspects of energy and even builds predictability models around its attributes which are close enough to demonstrate repeatability. None of that truly defines energy’s essence.

To understand any creation, one must look to its creator for help.  It is within the creator’s prerogative to either reveal himself or to remain silent. The Creator of the universe speaks to us generally (that is, to all people at all times) through His creation and our discoveries of His autograph have led us to a better understanding of the components of the universe, but we are often misguided.

Ironically, the more we learn about God’s creation, the more fragmented and compartmentalized our understanding devolves.  We have lost context in reductionism.

In the 1970’s Owen Barfield (the lesser known Inkling) had this to say:

“Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness.  It is this which underlies most of the other threats.  How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?”

As Malcolm Guite wisely commented, “It is hugely ironic that the path Western thought and assumptions has taken – the path that was once called positivism and is now called materialism, has led to an experience of alienation from any notion of truth or meaning at all.”

The gestalt of understanding is lost on we who now somehow believe that the sum of the parts are equal to the whole.  The truth is staring us in the face.

As Gerard Manley Hopkins said

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

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Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Dig Deeper

Art: Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, 1510

The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted c. 1508–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis.

The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity. The painting has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies.

Literature and Liturgy: The Canticle of The Sun and John Lennox

Of the several “cantica in vulgari” which St. Francis composed, the only one that has come down to us, as far as is known, is the “Praises of the Creatures,” or, as it is now more commonly called, “The Canticle of the Sun.” Celano, who alludes to this laud, says of St. Francis that he was of the race of Ananias, Azarias and Misael, inviting all creatures with him to glorify Him who made them.  It is this side of St. Francis’ thoughts which finds expression in the Canticle; and in this particular order of ideas modern religious poetry has never produced anything comparable to this sublime improvisation into which have passed alike “all the wealth of the Saint’s imagination and all the boldness of his genius.” Tradition tells us that Fra Pacifico had a hand in the embellishment of this laud, about which a whole controversial literature has grown. Some light may perhaps be thrown on this delicate question in the new critical edition of the Canticle promised by Luigi Suttina.  The Canticle appears to have been composed toward the close of the year 1225 in a poor little hut near the Monastery of San Damiano.

Saint Francis of Assisi and Paschal Robinson, Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi (Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1906), 150.

 

Dr. John Lennox:  Seven Days That Divide The World

John C. Lennox (PhD, DPhil, DSc) is a professor of mathematics in the University of Oxford, fellow in mathematics and the philosophy of science, and pastoral advisor at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is author of God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? on the interface between science, philosophy, and theology. He lectures extensively in North America and in Eastern and Western Europe on mathematics, the philosophy of science, and the intellectual defense of Christianity, and he has publicly debated New Atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Bibliography

Berry, W. Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community (1993).
Gunton, C. The Triune Creator (1998).
Moltmann, J. God in Creation (1985).
Schmemann, A. For the Life of the World (1973).
Wright, C. God’s People in God’s Land (1990).
Wright, N. T. Surprised by Hope (2008).
Zizioulas, J. Being as Communion (1985).

For Further Reading

Bouma-Prediger, S. For the Beauty of the Earth (2010).
Collins, F. The Language of God (2007).
Dillard, A. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974).
Gunton, C. The Triune Creator (1998).
Levertov, D. The Stream and the Sapphire (1998).
Wilkinson, L., and M. R. Wilkinson. Caring for Creation in Your Own Backyard (1992).
Wilson, E. O. The Creation (2006).