I just launched dansheffler.com and will be moving some content over there. It is much easier to write there because I use Jekyll to build a simple static site from markdown source files. Also, the domain name will take less explaining.

Listen, Stupid…

Сео услугиEpictetusPlease, God,” we say, “relieve me of my anxiety.” Listen, stupid, you have hands, God gave them to you himself. You might as well get on your knees and pray that your nose won’t run. A better idea would be to wipe your nose and forgo the prayer. The point is, isn’t there anything God gave you for your present problem? You have the gifts of courage, fortitude and endurance. With “hands” like these, do you still need somebody to help wipe your nose?

—Epictetus, Discourses 2.16.13–14

Odder Than You Could Believe

C. S. LewisIn my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who “happen to be there,” Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”

—C.S. Lewis, Four Loves

Bright Shadow

But now I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book into the real world and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged. Or, more accurately, I say the common things drawn into the bright shadow. Unde hoc mihi? In the depth of my disgraces, in the then invincible ignorance of my intellect, all this was given me without asking, even without consent. That night my imagination was, in a certain sense, baptized; the rest of me, not unnaturally, took longer. I had not the faintest notion what I had let myself in for by buying Phantastes.”

—C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy


C. S. LewisBridge-mania or golf-mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road [as drunkenness does]. But God is not deceived by externals.”

—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Nothing is Permitted

Slavoj ŽižekHowever, even if Lacan’s version [“If there is no God, then nothing is permitted”] appears an empty paradox, a quick look at our moral landscape confirms that it is much more appropriate to describe the universe of atheist liberal hedonists: they dedicate their life to the pursuit of pleasures, but since there is no external authority guaranteeing them the space for this pursuit, they become entangled in a thick web of self-imposed Politically Correct regulations, as if a superego much more severe than that of traditional morality is controlling them. They become obsessed by the idea that, in pursuing their pleasures, they may humiliate or violate others’ space, so they regulate their behavior with detailed prescriptions of how to avoid “harassing” others, not to mention the no less complex regulation of their own care of the self (bodily fitness, health food, spiritual relaxation…). Indeed, nothing is more oppressive and regulated than being a simple hedonist.”

—Slavoj Žižek, from God in Pain: Inversions of Apocalypse (via Alan Jacobs)

Gilson on Deism

Étienne GilsonFor almost two centuries…the ghost of the Christian God has been attended by the ghost of Christian religion: a vague feeling of religiosity, a sort of trusting familiarity with some supreme good fellow to whom other good fellows can hopefully apply when they are in trouble.”

—Étienne Gilson

Risky Love

Vladimir LosskyIf the God of the philosophers and the learned is only a First Necessity who ordains the chain of cause and effect and corrects automatically every chance deviation which introduces itself, taking no more notice of human freedom than of a grinding noise in the machinery, the God of the Bible reveals Himself by His very wrath as He who undertook the risk of creating a universe whose perfection is continually jeopardized by the freedom of those in whom that perfection ought to reach its highest level. This divine risk, inherent in the decision to create beings in the image and likeness of God, is the summit of almighty power, or rather a surpassing of that summit in voluntarily undertaken powerlessness. For “the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor. 1:25): it surpasses to an infinite degree all the attributes of majesty and dominion which the theologians enumerate in their treatises De deo uno. This category of divine risk, which is proper to a personal God freely creating personal beings endowed with freedom, is foreign to all abstract conceptions of the divine dominion—to the rationalist theology which thinks it exalts the omnipotence of the living God in attributing to him the perfections of a lifeless God who is incapable of being subject to risk. But he who takes no risks does not love: the God of the theology manuals can love only himself, and it is his own perfection which he loves even in his creatures. He does not love any person: for personal love is love for another than oneself. Now the jealous God of the Bible is not “the cruel God of the Jews,” greedy of His own glory, but a God whose love for His elect is “strong as death,” whose jealousy against everything which separates His creatures from Him is “cruel as the grave.” God’s dominion must be thought of in these terms of God’s personal love which exacts from the freedom of His creatures a total conversion towards Him, a freely accomplished union. But a claim as absolute as this, addressed to the liberty of the person loved, would not be the claim of perfect love it it were not a desire for the realization in the beloved of absolute fulfillment, wished for by the beloved and accomplished with the cooperation of his own will.”

—Vladimir Lossky, The Image and Likeness of God

Loving Each Individually

DostoevskyIt’s just the same story a doctor once told me,” observed the elder. “He was a man getting on in years, and undoubtedly intelligent. He spoke as frankly as you, though in jest, in bitter jest. ‘I love humanity,’ he said, ‘but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular, that is, separately, as single individuals. In my dreams,’ he said, ‘I have often come to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually have faced crucifixion if it had been suddenly necessary; and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together, as I know by experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs my self-esteem and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I can begin to hate even the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity.’”

—Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov

Unbelief is Disobedience

Leslie NewbiginThe worldviews differ in respect to the roles of seeing and hearing. In the classical view, the true knowledge is vision, theoria. It is the vision of eternal truth. One therefore makes a distinction between theoria and praxis. One must first grasp the vision and then, in a second step, find ways of embodying it in action. Readers of the Bible will have noticed that these terms are totally absent. Because ultimate reality is personal, God’s address to us is a word conveying his purpose and promise, a word which may be heard or ignored, obeyed or disobeyed. Faith comes by hearing, and unbelief is disobedience.”

—Leslie Newbigin, Proper Confidence