Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.
Some suggest we can rid ourselves of all fear; the Bible recommends a different approach. Just as it instructs us to rightly order our loves – placing God first – it instructs us to rightly order our fears – again, placing God first. This surprises some, but true freedom doesn’t come from no fear; it comes from living in light of a Holy God, who owns everything, including our very lives. As the Proverbs declare, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
TK: I’ve been hearing a lot from Tim Keller fans. Some have forwarded articles. Others have sent favorite sermons. And some – like Russell Moore in this CT editorial – have noted that they already miss his perspective. (FWIW, I was most moved by a Tweet that simply read, “Gandalf isn’t supposed to die.”) If you’d like to read a bit more about TK, I recommend this National Reviewpiece. If you want to read a lot more, I suggest Collin Hansen’s biography, Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation. BTW, while no single person is likely to fill his role, there are a growing number of women and men of significant faith, insight, and stature to draw encouragement from. This Atlanticpiece on Gary Haugen provides one example.
The 18th Amendment – Take Two: I’ve seldom heard Prohibition described as anything but a misguided, priggish, moralistic disaster. However, the more I learn about what actually happened and why, the more it seems like a somewhat successful, pro-woman, anti-domestic-violence movement. If you want to learn more, start here.
Commencement Addresses Worth Listening To: Commencement addresses can be their own kind of awful. If you recently suffered through anything that included “Webster’s defines,” a quote from Dr. Suess, or something about turning lemons into lemonade (or, as I heard, turning lemons into whiskey sours) – you can cleanse your palate with one of the classics – e.g., Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 address at Harvard, Steve Jobs’s 2005 address at Stanford, David Foster Wallace’s 2005 address at Kenyon College, etc.). FWIW, though it does not rise to being a classic, I thought this addressby Ian Rowe, just delivered at Atlanta’s Classical Academy, was much better than most. Of course, you could skip all the speeches and reread the Book of Proverbs – it’s the best advice that can be passed along to the young.
Hermeneutics 201: If I say, “Sure, the Brewers have a better record than the Cubs, but the Cubs are a better team,” the one thing you can be sure of is that the Brewers have a better record. Why? Because people do not admit to things that undermine their claims unless those claims are undeniably true. Historians call this “the Hermeneutics of Embarrassment” and rely on it to navigate competing historical accounts. (Note: the HoE is behind Christians making a big deal out of both the Romans and the Jewish authorities admitting that the tomb was empty). I mention the HoE here to answer a question raised by several readers. A few Friday Updates ago, I was asked, “Why would you cite reports claiming that liberal, white girls are more likely to be depressed than their peers? You’re normally more balanced and non-partisan than this.” The reason I cited this stat is because: 1) it strikes me as important; and 2) it was brought to my attention by Jonathan Haidt, who, in addition to being a reputable social scientist, describes himself as “a liberal, New York, Jewish atheist.” In other words, given the HoE, this is not a stat he would cite if he did not think it was true.
Five Brief Asides: 1) If you want to explore the mental well-being of young, white liberal females, Haidt cites several sources: this Columbia University study; this survey from sciencedirect.com. You could also look at this articlethat references his comments; 2) My goal is not to be “balanced or nonpartisan,” it is to “understand the times” (I Chr. 12:32),” and reflect on it from a Christian worldview; 3) Haidt’s book, The Coddling of the American Mind, is worth reading; and 4) one of the challenges of a newsletter like this – in which my goal is to be as brief as possible, is that I try to cover complex, layered topics. Please know that I am very open to hearing from you when you think I get it wrong.
Quote Worth Requoting: “… the church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” G.K. Chesterton
Miracles: A few weeks ago, I shared this interview with Molly Worthen, the Yale Ph.D. in religion who’d written skeptically about faith for years before shocking everyone – especially herself – by coming to faith in Christ. I offer her Dec. 2022 NYT guest essay on medical miracles as a coda on her conversion.
Without Comment: 1) Thirty-eight percent of US teens list TikTok as their favorite social media platform, with over 60% of them saying that if forced to choose between losing it or the right to vote, they’d give up their vote; 2) according to this report, the US now has more 60-somethings than it does children under the age of ten; 3) In recent weeks, several reports suggest that boys are growing more conservative during High School while girls are growing more liberal; 4) among Stanford University’s 16,000 administrators, about 600 work in development; and 5) on an unrelated note, the NYT reported that Baby Boomers – who are now mostly in their 70s – will turn over $70T (that is $70,000,000,000) to their heirs (or to Stanford).
AI Update: Too much mind-bending stuff is happening to keep up with AI. Some of it is good – e.g., AI is not only helping scientists develop powerful antibiotics, but it is also helping the paralyzed walk. Some is scary – e.g., AI fine-tuned algorithms make social media even more addicting. I read a report suggesting that AI will soon be able to “read our mind.” I doubt that is true, but I’m pretty sure the voice inside my head started to sound like Rod Sterling. (BTW, you can read more about AI in Genesis 11:1-9).
Resources: Few countries are as old, confusing, or important as Israel. In this podcast, I go to 30,000 feet to look down on the history of the Holy Land from Abraham through the present.
Closing Prayer: “Set my heart on fire with love for you, most loving Father, and then to do your will, and to obey your commandments, will not be grievous to me. For to him that loves, nothing is difficult, nothing is impossible, because love is stronger than death. Oh, may love fill and rule my heart. For then there will spring up and be cherished between you and me a likeness of character and union of will, so that I may choose and refuse as you do. May your will be done in me and by me forever. Amen.” (Jakob Merlo-Horstius, 1597–1644)