Tuesday, June 30, 2015

T.S. Eliot Chrestomathy: On Poetry and Poets Edition

T.S. Eliot's On Poetry and Poets is turning out to be a very insightful book. I put together a list of really insightful passages from the first chapter, "The Social Function of Poetry,"  for your edification.

T.S. Eliot on the decline of religious sensibility

"Much has been said everywhere about the decline of religious belief; not so much notice has been taken of the decline of religious sensibility. The trouble of the modern age is not merely the inability to believe certain things about God and man which our forefathers believed, but the inability to feel towards God and man as they did."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

I can relate to what T.S. Eliot said about foreign languages

"But I have also found sometimes that a piece of poetry, which I could not translate, containing many words unfamiliar to me, and sentences which I could not construe, conveyed something immediate and vivid, which was unique, different from anything in English -- something which I could not put into words and yet felt that I understood. And on learning that language I found that this impression was not an illusion, not something which I had imagined to be in the poetry, but something that was really there.  So in poetry you can, now and then, penetrate into another country, so to speak, before your passport has been issued or your ticket taken."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot on the Greatest Poets' Influence of Language

"A poet like Shakespeare has influenced the English language very deeply, not only by his influence on his immediate successors. For the greatest poets have aspects which do not come to light at once; and by exercising a direct influence on other poets centuries later, they continue to affect the living language. Indeed, if an English poet is to learn how to use words in our time, he must devote close study to those who have used them best in their time; to those who, in their own day, have made the language new."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot on Poets Having Small Audiences

"It matters little whether a poet had a large audience in his own time. What matters is that there should always be at least a small audience for him in every generation. Yet what I have just said suggests that his importance is for his own time, or that dead poets cease to be of any use to us unless we have living poets as well. I would even press my first point and say that if a poet gets a large audience very quickly, that is a rather suspicious circumstance: for it leads us to fear that he is not really doing anything new, that he is only giving people what they are already used to, and therefore what they have already had from the poets of the previous generation. But that a poet should have the right, small audience in his own time is important. There should always be a small vanguard of people, appreciative of poetry, who are independent and somewhat in advance of their time or ready to assimilate poetry more quickly."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot on Great Poets

"And when a civilization is healthy, the great poet will have something to say to his fellow countrymen at every level of education."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot on Emotion and Feeling in Poetry

"Emotion and feeling, then, are best expressed in the common language of the people -- that is, in the language common to all classes: the structure, the rhythm, the sound, the idiom of a language, express the personality of the people which speaks it."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot: "no art is more stubbornly national than poetry"

"That poetry is much more local than prose can be seen in the history of European languages. Through the Middle Ages to within a few hundred years ago Latin remained the language for philosophy, theology, and science. The impulse towards the literary use of the languages of the peoples began with poetry. And this appears perfectly natural when we realize that poetry has primarily to do with the expression of feeling and emotion; and that feeling and emotion are particular, whereas thought is general. It is easier to think in a foreign language than it is to feel in it. Therefore no art is more stubbornly national than poetry. A people may have its language taken away from it, suppressed, and another language compelled upon the schools; but unless you teach that people to feel in a new language, you have not eradicated the old one, and it will reappear in poetry, which is the vehicle of feeling."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot: Every people should have its own poetry

"For I think it is important that every people should have its own poetry, not simply for those who enjoy poetry -- such people could always learn other languages and enjoy their poetry -- but because it actually makes a difference to the society as a whole, and that means to people who do not enjoy poetry. I include even those who do not know the names of their own national poets. That is the real subject of this paper."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot on What Poets Have to Give Besides Pleasure

"I suppose it will be agreed that every good poet, whether he be a great poet or not, has something to give us besides pleasure: for if it were only pleasure, the pleasure itself could not be of the highest kind. Beyond any specific intention which poetry may have, such as I have already instanced in the various kinds of poetry, there is always the communication of some new experience, or some fresh understanding of the familiar, or the expression of something we have experienced but have no words for, which enlarges our consciousness or refines our sensibility."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot on Poetry with Views

"People sometimes are suspicious of any poetry that has a particular purpose: poetry in which the poet is advocating social, moral, political or religious views. And they are much more inclined to say that it isn't poetry when they dislike the particular views; just as other people often think that something is real poetry because it happens to express a point of view which they like.

I should say that the question of whether the poet is using his poetry to advocate or attack a social attitude does not matter. Bad verse may have a transient vogue when the poet is reflecting a popular attitude of the moment; but real poetry survives not only a change of popular opinion but the complete extinction of interest in the issues with which the poet was passionately concerned.

Lucretius' poem remains a great poem, though his notions of physics and astronomy are discredited; Dryden's, though the political quarrels of the seventeenth century no longer concern us; just as a great poem of the past may still give great pleasure, though its subject-matter is one which we should now treat in prose." 

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jeffrey Burton Russell on Hypocrisy

"Christians are commonly judged to be hypocrites who proclaim their moral superiority to others. Of course, the reality is that everyone is a hypocrite because almost everybody fails to live up to their own standards. The only people free of hypocrisy are those who have no standards to live up to. And if one judges ofhers for being judgmental, one is being judgmental oneself." ~Jeffrey Burton Russell, Exposing Myths About Christianity

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bad arguments in the Charleston Christian killer discussion

There are a few bad arguments being made by people in the gun rights and gun control crowd.

On the gun rights side, the SC shooter legally obtained his gun, specifically from his father on his 21st birthday. So arguments that "bad people will get guns anyway," meaning illegally, are invalid here, no matter how valid the arguments are elsewhere. It was also not a legally "gun-free zone."

On the gun control side, how legally disarming black people -- while white people who obtain guns both legally and illegally, and have plans to murder black people with those guns -- helps blacks is beyond me. While not a legally "gun-free zone," the place was, on the day of the shooting, in practice a gun-free zone, so the net effect was the same. This guy didn't choose a place where he knew black people would be armed. He picked the one place black people would be defenseless in large numbers: church. This is precisely why the NAACP President Cornell Williams Brooks can call him a "coward." He would have had second thoughts before opening fire at a march of armed Black Panthers.

Given the charismatic, energetic and ecstatic nature of many black churches worship services, I personally don't like the idea of people carrying handguns into church, for fear of them accidentally going off. Then again, many of these same churches have security guards. I don't mind them armed.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

John Murray on God's Loving Nature

"It is necessary to underline this concept of sovereign love. Truly God is love. Love is not something adventitious; it is not something that God may choose to be or not be. He is love, and that necessarily, inherently, and eternally. As God is spirit, as he is light, so he is love.

Yet it belongs to the very essence of electing love to recognize that it is not inherently necessary to that love which God necessarily and enternally is that he should set such love as issues in redemption and adoption upon utterly undesirable and hell-deserving objects. 

It was of the free and sovereign good pleasure of his will, a good pleasure that emanated from the depths of his own goodness, that he chose a people to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The reason resides wholly in himself and proceedes from determinations that are peculiarly his as the "I am that I am." The atonement does not win or constrain the love of God.

The love of God constrains to the atonement as the means of accomplishing love's determinate purpose."

~John Murray, "Redemption, Accomplished and Applied"

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Religious repression in the Soviet Union

Religious repression in the Soviet Union:

"Antitheist repression was so successful in the Soviet Union that under the penal code of 1927 you could get ten years' hard labor in a concentration camp for teaching your child the Lord's prayer." ~Jeffrey Burton Russell, Exposing Myths About Christianity (p. 57)

WCF Chapter One "Of Holy Scripture" Sunday School (Sept.-Oct. 2021)

Our text for Sunday School (also "The Confession of Faith and Catechisms") Biblical Theology Bites What is "Biblical Theology...