The Twelfth Day Of Christmas

The evening of this day is Twelfthnight, the end of the Christmas season and the prelude to the season of Epiphany or “manifestation,” which celebrates the moments when we become newly aware of God at work in our world, meeting us even in the midst of our everyday lives.

Twelthnight was formerly kept as a time of merry-making and is associated with many old customs such as taking down the Christmas decorations. In Herefordshire there was a tradition of lighting 12 bonfires, representing the Twelve Apostles, to secure a blessing on the fruits of the earth, and similar practices prevailed elsewhere. The ‘Twelfth Cake’ was an ornamented cake made for the occasion, containing a bean or coin, the finder of which became the ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ of the festivities.

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To Time’s Analysis

F. Scott Fitzgerald died on this day, December 21st in 1940. Scott and his wife Zelda personified the manic depressive world of The Roaring Twenties which saw a zenith of monetary excess concluding with The Crash of Wall Street.  His beautiful prose is among the best of the twentieth century.  His friend Ernest Hemingway said, “His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings.”

Fitzgerald’s life ended in the tragedy he seemed to foresee.  In Tales of the Jazz Age, he wrote

At any rate, let us love for a while, for a year or so, you and me. That’s a form of divine drunkenness that we can all try. There are only diamonds in the whole world, diamonds and perhaps the shabby gift of disillusion.

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Why Did My Parents Send Me To The Schools?

Why did my parents send me to the Schools,
That I with knowledge might enrich my mind?
Since the desire to know first made men fools,
And did corrupt the root of all mankind:

Even so by tasting of that fruit forbid,
Where they sought knowledge, they did error find;
Ill they desir’d to know, and ill they did;
And to give Passion eyes, made Reason blind.

For then their minds did first in Passion see
Those wretched shapes of misery and woe,
Of nakedness, of shame, of poverty,
Which then their own experience made them know.

But then grew Reason dark, that she no more,
Could the faire forms of Good and Truth discern;
Bats they became, that eagles were before:
And this they got by their desire to learn.

All things without, which round about we see,
We seek to know, and how therewith to do:
But that whereby we reason, live and be,
Within our selves, we strangers are thereto.

We seek to know the moving of each sphere,
And the strange cause of th’ebs and floods of Nile;
But of that clock within our breasts we bear,
The subtle motions we forget the while.

We that acquaint our selves with every Zone
And pass both Tropics and behold the Poles
When we come home, are to our selves unknown,
And unacquainted still with our own souls.

We study Speech but others we persuade;
We leech-craft learn, but others cure with it;
We interpret laws, which other men have made,
But read not those which in our hearts are writ.

Is it because the mind is like the eye,
Through which it gathers knowledge by degrees −
Whose rays reflect not, but spread outwardly:
Not seeing itself when other things it sees?

No, doubtless; for the mind can backward cast
Upon her self her understanding light;
But she is so corrupt, and so defac’t,
As her own image doth her self affright.

Why Did My Parents Send Me To The Schools? by John Davies

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Karl Marx: Modern (1818–1883)


A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Czar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as Communistic by its opponents in power? Where the Opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of Communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
Two things result from this fact.
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European Powers to be itself a Power.
II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a Manifesto of the party itself.
To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London, and sketched the following Manifesto, to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages.

William Shakespeare

ALON. Now all the blessings
Of a glad father compass thee about!
Arise, and say how thou cam’st here.
MIR. O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in ’t!
PROS. ’Tis new to thee.

PSALM 37:4–6

Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heartCommit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.

When Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1516, he couldn’t have known he was coining a term that would be used for centuries to describe a perfect world. He wasn’t the first of course. Brilliant thinkers like Plato tried, alas in vain, to describe it. We are no different. We think our imaginations would suffice if we could only have this or that or some other thing, but it’s simply impossible because we can’t see the whole picture, nor can we eliminate man’s sinful nature. Just when we think we’ve envisioned our brave new world, we discover that we, like Shakespeare’s Miranda in The Tempest are only marveling at what actually is common and flawed.

John Mark Reynolds said this in his book, The Great Books Reader:

Karl Marx wanted the world to be better than it was. He wanted an end to poverty, hunger, and ignorance. He revered science and was well read. He looked at the modern West and rejected both the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian foundations of that culture. He believed history was inevitably moving past both and that secularism and Communism were the future.

Marx, at least philosophically, must be credited with good intentions, but his ideas have been applied badly. Any great idea can be perverted—Christians know this from experience—but Marxism has never been applied to a society without being perverted.

To many, this suggests that there’s something deeply wrong at the heart of the project. The likely root of the problem was that an honest desire to make things better was pushed in Marx, as for many other men, to utopian extremes. Attempting to make a fallen world better than it can be will break things better left unbroken. It will empower men to do great deeds, but great men fit for such deeds may be too rare for the challenge.

Which is more Christian; Capitalism, Socialism or Communism? Why?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.



John Mark Reynolds is the president of The Saint Constantine School, a school that aspires to preschool through college education. He is also a philosopher, administrator, and joyous curmudgeon. Reynolds was the founder and first director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He was provost at Houston Baptist University where he was instrumental in starting the graduate Apologetics program and a cinema and new media arts major. John Mark blogs at Eidos on the Patheos Evangelical platform and has written for First Things and the Washington Post. He is an owner of the Green Bay Packers.


D I G  D E E P E R

Reflections on the Communist Manifesto

Hunter Baker

We sometimes have trouble convincing people that they should care about what luminaries like Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas wrote. Part of the trouble with being modern is that we have a prejudice against the old. I can recall listening to an atheist at a public meeting argue vociferously that today we’re much more intelligent than men like the American Founders and, therefore, should not defer to them. With suitable rhetorical flourish, I would say it is “self-evident” that such a statement is untrue!

However, I write this short response to the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx (and Friedrich Engels), not because of the profound insights that should be learned and made part of our own intellectual armamentarium, but instead because the work in question exerted a massive influence on recent history and arguably led to a half century of intense (yet “cold”) conflict in which two huge portions of the globe glared at each other across a chasm of spiritual/ideological division and simmering nuclear conflagration.

The United States is a nation founded on the basis of certain strong political principles having to do with social contract, freedom, limited government, and exceptions to power brought together by the providential fusion of both Christian and classical sentiments.

Approximately 130 years later, the Soviet Union was similarly founded on political ideals (though much different ones) as it rocketed along into a supposedly “inevitable” future on the vehicle of Marx’s historical analysis of class struggle. For a long time, many—even those who loved America—feared that the Soviets would indeed triumph.

Whittaker Chambers, who successfully exposed Alger Hiss (his former colleague in Soviet espionage), sadly wrote that he felt he had left the winning side for the losing one when he decided to turn his back on the Marxist cause.


What to say about this incredibly consequential document? In truth, Marx’s analysis was reductive in the extreme as he boiled down the entirety of human history to the class struggle. Because the entire narrative is founded on this idea, it is vulnerable to questions about the premise. Is class really the most important aspect? What about race, ethnicity, family/clan, village, the nation-state? The Marxist revolution covered over these factors and held them in check through extraordinary coercion, only to see them spontaneously surge back into prominence when the Berlin Wall came down.

And what of his view of religion? His assumption that it’s merely an “opiate of the people” was all too easy and dismissive. He completely disregarded the possibility that religious truth could arise from events in time, space, and history, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which served as Paul’s “proof” to the men of Athens that his assertions about God’s character were grounded in reality.

Marx’s greatest error of all may have had to do with his view of human sin. Ranging over the history of class struggle, this revolutionary thinker dwelt upon the injustice of the propertied group oppressing their dispossessed brethren. The inequities that developed so dramatically with the rapid progress of the Industrial Revolution inspired his rage. He saw man treating his fellowmen as though they were mere commodities, cogs in a machine to perform deadening, unskilled work in never-ending repetition. Yet, somehow, he was able to easily believe that human beings—those same creatures who’d created the systems he found so evil—would then turn around and employ state power magnitudes above what previously had been known to bring about a socialist paradise. The assumption that an enlightened vanguard would prove much more trustworthy with power than those who held it before now seems quite naïve.

The authors of the Manifesto declared that the transition to its society of the future would require a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” But they imagined the period of dictatorship would come to an end as a new stage, the “withering away of the state,” took hold. At that point, there would no longer be a need for much coercion, as men would no longer struggle against each other but would live in harmony while experiencing the necessary leisure to fully develop their interests.

The Soviet Union, the world state that served as the pioneering Marxist experiment and the most powerful exemplar of the species, featured increasingly onerous dictatorship without much withering. Looking back, disappointed Marxist/socialists lament that Russia was the wrong country, or that the methods were wrong, or that Stalin was wrong. But the insight such persons have missed, as Martin Malia pointed out in The Soviet Tragedy, is that “the Soviet experiment turned totalitarian not despite its being socialist, but because it was socialist.” The domination of private property by the state radically undermines civil society and places individuals into such dependence that they’re unable to stand up for the preservation of their freedoms.

It has been on this point that many leftists have been blind. They protest that Castro’s Cubans may not have “civil rights,” but “economic rights” instead. Do they, indeed, have those rights? Or are these rights merely the reward of subsistence in exchange for obedience?

So read this most potent Manifesto and gain insight into the struggle for the world that dominated the twentieth century.

Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. is an associate professor of political science and university fellow for religious liberty at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He is the author of three books on politics and religion and has published in a wide variety of other outlets. He is also a research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and an affiliate scholar of the Acton Institute.

John Mark Reynolds, The Great Books Reader: Excerpts and Essays on the Most Influential Books in Western Civilization (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2011).

William Shakespeare: Early Modern (1564–1616)


Act II, Scene I
A hall in Leonato’s house


LEONATO: Was not Count John here at supper?
ANTONIO: I saw him not.
BEATRICE: How tartly that gentleman looks! I never can see him but I am heart-burned an hour after.
HERO: He is of a very melancholy disposition.
BEATRICE: He were an excellent man that were made just in the midway between him and Benedick: the one is too like an image and says nothing, and the other too like my lady’s eldest son, evermore tattling.
LEONATO: Then half Signior Benedick’s tongue in Count John’s mouth, and half Count John’s melancholy in Signior Benedick’s face,—
BEATRICE: With a good leg and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in his purse, such a man would win any woman in the world, if a’ could get her good-will.
LEONATO: By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get thee a husband, if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue.
ANTONIO: In faith, she’s too curst.
BEATRICE: Too curst is more than curst: I shall lessen God’s sending that way; for it is said, “God sends a curst cow short horns;” but to a cow too curst he sends none.
LEONATO: So, by being too curst, God will send you no horns.
BEATRICE: Just, if he send me no husband; for the which blessing I am at him upon my knees every morning and evening. Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face: I had rather lie in the woollen.
LEONATO: You may light on a husband that hath no beard.
BEATRICE: What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting-gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him: therefore, I will even take sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his apes into hell.
LEONATO: Well, then, go you into hell?
BEATRICE: No, but to the gate; and there will the devil meet me, like an old cuckold, with horns on his head, and say “Get you to heaven, Beatrice, get you to heaven; here’s no place for you maids:” so deliver I up my apes, and away to Saint Peter for the heavens; he shows me where the bachelors sit, and there live we as merry as the day is long.
ANTONIO: [To HERO] Well, niece, I trust you will be ruled by your father.
BEATRICE: Yes, faith; it is my cousin’s duty to make curtsy and say “Father, as it please you.” But yet for all that, cousin, let him be a handsome fellow, or else make another curtsy and say “Father, as it please me.”
LEONATO: Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.
BEATRICE: Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a pierce of valiant dust? to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I’ll none: Adam’s sons are my brethren; and, truly, I hold it a sin to match in my kindred.
LEONATO: Daughter, remember what I told you: if the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.
BEATRICE: The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not wooed in good time: if the prince be too important, tell him there is measure in every thing and so dance out the answer. For, hear me, Hero: wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinque pace: the first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical; the wedding, mannerly-modest, as a measure, full of state and ancientry; and then comes repentance and, with his bad legs, falls into the cinque pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave.
LEONATO: Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewdly.
BEATRICE: I have a good eye, uncle; I can see a church by daylight.
LEONATO: The revellers are entering, brother: make good room.

Like many, I was raised on the King James Bible.  I memorized verses written in 1611, and thought prayers must include “thee and thou” to make it to God’s ear.  Reading the Bible in a modern translation was transformative to me, but I always return to the KJV for poetic beauty.

Reading Shakespeare is no different.  It’s helpful to invest a little time in studying the mechanics and grammar to fully appreciate the work, but ultimately, the beauty of the language should flow to your ears like fluid music.

As John Mark Reynolds said in his book The Great Books Reader:

One advantage most of us have is that we know Shakespeare is good. We know that most films or plays we actually like have stolen a line or an idea from Shakespeare. There’s no pop cultural facet in which the Bard cannot make an appearance.

My own passion for Shakespeare came after I worked on the language. I had to stop being embarrassed for not knowing older English and simply work to learn the vocabulary and speech patterns as if it were a foreign tongue. Looked at this way, Shakespearean English is the easiest “second language” most of us will ever learn!

Is it possible to fully enjoy literature without understanding its grammar?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.



John Mark Reynolds is the president of The Saint Constantine School, a school that aspires to preschool through college education. He is also a philosopher, administrator, and joyous curmudgeon. Reynolds was the founder and first director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He was provost at Houston Baptist University where he was instrumental in starting the graduate Apologetics program and a cinema and new media arts major. John Mark blogs at Eidos on the Patheos Evangelical platform and has written for First Things and the Washington Post. He is an owner of the Green Bay Packers.


D I G  D E E P E R

On Much Ado About Nothing

Melissa Schubert

Some of us can be tempted to dismiss comedy as taking reality too lightly. But here’s why I take comedies seriously: they present and celebrate the world in which we survive our own and others’ mistakes, follies, transgressions, and deep sins. However lightly, dimly, or bleakly, comedies revel in our survival—in the delaying of death and the staying of the curse. Comedies tell the story of ruined folk somehow avoiding ruin.

The world turns out to be sufficiently ample, elastic, wide, and often bountiful, even for we who’ve been exiled from paradise. Sometimes the happy vision is as meager an offering as the survival of the thwarted villain still mired in all his disdain for the universe. But its happiest pictures include long-awaited reunions, the practice of forgiveness, and weddings—festive unions between undeserving lovers that promise even more life for the community and love for the world.

And so we have Shakespeare’s delightful play, Much Ado About Nothing. One primary subject (and a subject of all of his comedies) is love struggling toward marriage. Marriage is the goal of the lover’s quartet (Beatrice and Benedick, Hero and Claudio) as well as the goal of the community in Messina. Marriage is proposed, by the play, as a happy situation, not only for the characters of the play but also for the city. Benedick has it right when he proclaims, “The world must be peopled.”

But the road to union is thick with obstacles, those present in the self and those presented by others. The self-identified “plain-dealing villain,” Don John, sets himself against the formation of community both by refusing peace with his brother and by making himself an enemy to marriage. He takes his only pleasure in spoiling others’ happiness.

Claudio, whose naiveté leaves him vulnerable to Don John’s villainy, falls for the ruse that suggests Hero’s infidelity because his knowledge of and faith in her is insubstantial. Hero is much more a victim of her own lover’s mistake than of her own fault. She must—and what a profound task—forgive him his wrongs.

Beatrice, reluctant to submit to another in love, not wishing to be mastered, must learn to see Benedick as something besides a threat to her freedom. Benedick fears marriage, too, expressing anxiety about cuckoldry, so he postures himself as above it all.

The path for none of the four is smooth since, even in small and familiar ways, they stumble as they approach love and happiness. Thus they arrive at their happy ending not by the natural trajectory of character but by a series of delicate interventions.

Beatrice and Benedick’s friends employ their very faults to steer them toward loving each other. Human creatures need one another’s generous help. Often we’re most helped when our community can witness our faults and offer gentle correctives.

The other chief trick of the play is Hero’s feigned death for Claudio’s real sins. Here is where we see most deeply the insistence that it’s possible that, in the end, we will not get what we deserve, we will not suffer the full consequence of our sins, but we will be saved.
Notably, the redemption hinges on the luxury of time, a resource notably absent in Shakespeare’s tragedies. In Hamlet, the time is out of joint. Macbeth’s destruction seems wildly rapid. Bad timing governs both Romeo’s and Juliet’s deaths. But in Much Ado, there’s enough time—time for mistakes, for discovery, for repentance, for repair, for forgiveness.

With the provision of time comes also a call to patience, the sort most admirably displayed in Hero’s suffering. Here is a faithful image of life on earth: where we must sit and talk to clarify misunderstandings, where we abide winter’s waiting for the spring, where it takes time for criminals to come to justice, where love buds long before it blossoms. Here is a summons to Christian hope in light of the world’s story, this divine comedy, where, even in the face of the direst realities, we look for the resurrection of the dead and the blessed life of the glory to come.

Melissa Schubert is an assistant professor of English Literature at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Claremont Graduate University.

John Mark Reynolds, The Great Books Reader: Excerpts and Essays on the Most Influential Books in Western Civilization (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2011).