Month: March 2015

Joyous laughter

“Who is the most intelligent, creative, witty, an joyful human being in the universe? Jesus Christ.
Whose laughter will be loudest and most contagious on the New Earth? Jesus Christ’s.

When we face difficulty and discouragement in this world, we must keep our eyes on the source of our joy. Remember, ‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh‘ (Luke 6:21, emphasis added).”

From Heaven by Randy Alcorn, Tyndale House, 2014, p. 410.

We laugh at honor . . .

DOC032515-002Another quote below from C.S. Lewis to expand on his famous quote about an educational text of his day that seems all so contemporary:
“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” The Abolition of Man, p. 35.

“I think Gaius and Titius may have honestly misunderstood the pressing educational need of the moment. They see the world around them swayed by emotional propaganda — they have learned from tradition that youth is sentimental — and they conclude that the best thing they can do is to fortify the minds of young people against emotion. My own experience as a teacher tells an opposite tale. For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, p. 24.

Can we become good following Aristotle’s notion of virtue-habituation?

downloadA rather challenging and sobering insight from Steve Porter about the impossibility of becoming and being good simply through Aristotle’s notion of virtue-habituation. (BTW, this entire book is worth its weight in a year’s supply of oxygen). His thoughts remind me of the perennial assumption (in much contemporary teaching that spiritualizes and exemplorizes and moralizes biblical narratives) that the goal is to teach a “gospel of sin management” (a term Dallas Willard used in the Divine Conspiracy).

 “Unfortunately, the proposed mechanism by which practice and habituation is supposed to bring about virtue is problematic. The overarching problem is the connection between doing virtuous acts without a fully formed character and the supposed subsequent formation of such a character. That is, we can do virtuous acts for non-virtuous reasons/motives/desires and what becomes habituated, then, is not a virtuous character but a non-virtuous one. For instance, I can do brave acts, look outwardly brave, and become habituated to respond in brave manners and all the while possess a deep cowardice. Even though I am sincerely intent on becoming brave, my habituated brave acts continue to be the result of my attempt to overcome my cowardice rather than the result of an inner proclivity to respond bravely. Or, I can do kind acts towards my wife, look outwardly kind, and become habituated to respond to her in kind ways and all the while be thinking about how she owes me kindness in return. I am not in possession of a kind character. Rather, I have a self-absorbed character that nevertheless manifests itself in acts that appear kind. As these examples suggest, the outward practice of virtuous acts does not always (or even regularly?) translate into the inner reality of virtuous character. The outward practice of virtuous acts without virtuous character can just as easily habituate non-virtuous character as it can virtuous character.”  Steven L. Porter, Being Good, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012, p. 136.