Choosing what we read: a spiritual warfare?

It’s a dark, dull, rainy day today; and I am steadfastly refusing to notice.  Because I don’t want to let the rain influence my mood.  So far, it’s working!

We all do the same, I know.  But why limit it to the weather?

Yesterday I saw, on an American Christian site, Reviewing School Book Lists, Part Four: Reading is Spiritual Warfare, which begins with the following words:

A child. Curled up in a couch. Nestled in an old oak tree with a book. What could be more bucolic? In a church I visit frequently (which doubles during the week as a school), a picture on the wall shows a prepubescent boy—no more than 6th grade, if that—holding The Hunger Games.  He grips the book, looks up into our eyes, and smiles as if he is eating a strawberry sundae.  Would you like to hear what he might have just read?  Here’s one sentence from the first few chapters: “He falls to his knees and halves the brief remainder of his life by yanking out the arrow and drowning in his own blood.” (p.33) Not too bucolic, is it?

Every time I see that picture, I have to fight feelings of anger. And NOT because the kid is reading a possibly age-inappropriate story.  No, what makes me frustrated is that the picture illustrates a gaping disconnect between our perception of reading and its reality.

This young man is not merely having a fantastic, mind-expanding adventure as the brochure-like picture implies. With a book like The Hunger Games, he is involved in grave spiritual warfare.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he shouldn’t read the book. It certainly doesn’t mean the book should be banned by the government. But if reading generally is spiritual warfare, it changes everything. What we allow our kids to read and when. How they read, and the kinds of support they should receive. In short, it changes the most fundamental ways Christians ought to relate to books.

Nor is this limited to Christians, nor is it really about children, vulnerable as the latter may indeed be.  The article goes on to discuss various issues, probably of limited relevance here; but it caused me to think about the question: what do I want to read?

That I have just ordered the Loeb Petronius is relevant here.  I want no porn in my head.  Indeed I have taken pains to purchase the original 1913 edition, in the belief that the nastier elements should be bowdlerised in it.  What I want is the portrait of ancient life.

We all know that what people read influences their outlook, and the sort of people they become.  Of course this was widely denied in the 60’s and 70’s, as a pretext for removing the censorship of obscene books; but those who led those campaigns are now quite happily erecting a censorship of political opinions far more intrusive than anything the old Lord Chamberlain’s office used to do.  I think we can believe their actions, rather than their words.   Everyone knows that books and reading change minds.

What do we allow inside our heads?  What effect does it have?  Does it make us happier?  Healthier?  And, if not, can we get it out again, or will the images be seared into memories for life?

The answers to this will vary for each of us, Christian or not.  All of us remember the books of our childhood, even if we didn’t know what they were at the time.  Many in later life try to track down those books which left images in their minds, and I confess that I have done the same.  We know, even if we don’t acknowledge it, that what we read affects us greatly.

So what should we read?  Reading anything and everything that interests us is perhaps something that most people reading this site do.  But should we limit it in certain directions?

At the moment at bedtime I am reading Paupers and Pig Killers: the diary of William Holland, a Somerset Parson, 1799-1818.[1]  This I read because it consists of short entries, and is rather soothing really.  That isn’t likely to affect my mood or outlook greatly in any direction; although his consistent hostility to “Methodists” does highlight the poor reputation that the “Ranters” or Primitive Methodists had in the period, which is something that I had not known.

No book will leave us unmoved, you see, if we love it and read it repeatedly.

I shall leave out of my life books dedicated to cruelty and obscenity.  Indeed I have become stricter on this, in the last couple of years.  I do not wish to experience either, nor to enjoy the depiction of it as entertainment, nor to become dead to it if I happen to witness such evils.  I prefer my faculties to remain acute and unmarred.  I wish to remain capable of appreciating ordinary things, and milder sensations.  So do we all, in our saner moments.

But it’s not just what we avoid.  What do we choose?

The proponents of the English classics would step forward at this moment and recommend a course of reading.  (I do not, of course, refer to whatever rubbish has been advanced since 1970, but to the real classics).

There is merit in this.  To learn how the best writers expressed things, to learn to enjoy what the best of men enjoyed… these are good things.

Yet even here we may divide.  Dickens may be a classic, but the portraits of Victorian misery do nothing to cheer my heart.  I avoid them for that reason.  Jane Austen is more to my liking.  Walter Scott is something I can handle in small doses.

What should we read?  With that, I am reminded of Philippians 4:8 (ESV):

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.[2]

I’m not sure whether that takes us to anything specific; but it’s a great starting rule.

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  1. [1]Ed. Jack Ayres, Alan Sutton publishing, 1995.
  2. [2]I was rather cross to discover, when I looked up the exact text, several “translations” of the bible which rendered this “brothers and sisters”.  Shame on those who can’t tell the difference between translation and interpretation!

How the church changed after Constantine

Seen on Twitter this week, via David Walsh:

Jesus: ‘If someone strikes you, turn the other cheek’.
Chrysostom in 387AD: ‘Slap them in the face!’
– something lost in translation there.

It is always good practice to verify your quotations, but this is entirely genuine.  The reference is to the Homilies on the Statues, 1, 32.  In the NPNF version this reads:

32. But since our discourse has now turned to the subject of blasphemy, I desire to ask one favor of you all, in return for this my address, and speaking with you; which is, that you will correct on my behalf the blasphemers of this city.

And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so.

Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify thy hand with the blow, and if any should accuse thee, and drag thee to the place of justice, follow them thither; and when the judge on the bench calls thee to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels!

For if it be necessary to punish those who blaspheme an earthly king, much more so those who insult God. It is a common crime, a public injury; and it is lawful for every one who is willing, to bring forward an accusation.

Let the Jews and Greeks learn, that the Christians are the saviours of the city; that they are its guardians, its patrons, and its teachers.

Let the dissolute and the perverse also learn this; that they must fear the servants of God too; that if at any time they are inclined to utter such a thing, they may look round every way at each other, and tremble even at their own shadows, anxious lest perchance a Christian, having heard what they said, should spring upon them and sharply chastise them.

When I first read this, without considering the context, it looked like the utmost expression of arrogance, of the attitude of those in power.  But this is to ignore the circumstances.

In 387 the emperor Theodosius imposed an extraordinary tax on the city of Antioch, and the enraged citizens rioted and threw down the statues of the emperor.  The emperor then threatened to destroy the city, and negotiations took place between the emperors representatives and the townsfolk.

Paganism was still the official religion of the empire.  But it seems that pagans and Jews were taking advantage of the crisis to jeer at the Christians of the city, and perhaps even at the religion of the emperor.  This in turn couldn’t help the negotiations, when the survival of the city is at stake.   This is a reaction to a threat to everyone, not a gratuitous attack on unbelievers.  The citizens are appealing to the feelings of a Christian emperor – and, he reflects, these people are screwing it up!  Slap them in the face if they won’t pipe down.  It’s politics, in other words, and John Chrysostom speaks as the bishop of the city, almost in Byzantine terms as the ethnarch, rather than personally.

But Christ did not give his teaching conditionally.  Christians often feel a great deal of reluctance to endorse the actions of the church, post-Nicaea.  This is one reason why.  Here we have a popular preacher, and a gifted expositor of the bible, who, faced with a pagan reaction, incites his congregation not to turn the other cheek but instead to go out and do battle in the streets, for the benefit of the community as a whole.  It’s understandable; but somehow we are not in the same world any more.

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Jerome: God hates the sacrifices of heretics

An interesting quote came my way on Twitter:

God hates the sacrifices of these [i.e., heretics] and pushes them away from Himself, and whenever they come together in the name of the Lord, He abhors their stench, and holds His nose…

Fortunately the tweeter had a reference:

Comment in Amos Proph, P.L. 25 1053-1054.

Those are dramatic words.  But the first question with any quotation is the same: is it accurate?

The PL 25 is online, and col. 1053 is here (or here).  As soon as we open it, and find ourselves in the Commentary on Amos (Commentariorum In Amos Prophetam Libri Tres), book 2, chapter 5, we find that the context is the well-known words of God through Amos, vv. 21-22, to the corrupt Israelites, “I hate your festivals…”.

The words are these (1053 D):

Horum Deus odit sacrificia, et a se projicit, et quotiescumque sub nomine Domini fuerint congregati, detestatur foetorum eorum, et claudit nares suas.

Jerome is, then, simply addressing the words of Amos to the heretics also, and with good reason.

The phrasing is shocking to our polite sensibilities.  We tend to think of “heretics” as us: people of sincerity and goodwill, who merely happen to hold some mistaken opinion, perhaps even unknowingly, and are sought out by malicious and narrow-minded people bent on condemnation.

But a better example in our own time is the Caiaphas kind of churchman, full of his own “piety”, full of “holy” phrases, yet ever eager to acquiesce in, or to advance vice of any and every kind, so long as it is to his liking.  The heretic has contempt for Christian teaching.  Our Lord condemned such people in the strongest terms, and they are not absent from our own day, as anyone who has followed the sad story of the American episcopalian church will know.  The problem is rather that we are far too reluctant to identify these infiltrators as such.

The ancient term still has value.  It is a characteristic of these people today that they demand the name of Christian for themselves.  In consequence they tend to scream at anyone who dares to suggest that some people might not, in fact, be Christians.  In fact it is a fingerprint of the heretic that they refuse to allow anyone to suggest that someone else is not a Christian.  More than one Christian has found himself censored, when responding to an attempt to point out that such and such a view – happily accepted by the heretics – is not Christian.

Worth remembering.  The words of scripture do have a contemporary application, and we mustn’t let ourselves be intimidated in applying it when it is earned.

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A time to hold and a time to give – when to pass on old books

Today I made a decision to do something necessary, yet it was a wrench.  I decided to give away my copy of the 1608 Commelin edition of Tertullian’s works.

I bought it over the internet, years ago.  In those days we had no PDFs online.  The only way to get hold of the detailed apparatus, found in early editions, of the works of Tertullian was to venture onto the market and buy copies.

Indeed most Tertullian scholars have little collections of early editions; the 1539 of Rhenanus, the 1545 Paris edition, the 1550 of Gelenius – if they could find one – and the 1583 Pamelius edition, high-point of the counter-reformation scholarship.

My Commelin is a reprint of the Pamelius.  It is still bound in the original ornate white leather binding, a bit battered after the centuries but perfectly sound.  The book itself has clearly seen little use.

I got it from a German book dealer.  It arrived in a big yellow Deutsche Post box – for it is a folio volume, and some two inches thick.  And in that box it has remained; for, like most people, I live in a little house and I have no bookshelves suitable for folio-sized volumes.  There seemed no point in taking it out, merely to expose it to dust.

Also it would need to rest on its side.  I knew better than to stand it on end, thereby placing the whole weight of this heavy volume on its ancient stitching.  Where to put it?

This has been the question for many years.  I have seldom opened it.  Once it sat in a cupboard, inside its box.  For the last couple of years, or maybe more — how quickly the years pass these days, without my being aware of them — it has sat, big and obtrusive, atop a set of bookshelves that I constructed myself in younger days.

No more.  Today I decided that it was time for us to part.  I can’t sell it.  I don’t know the rare books market, and I don’t live near any dealers.  I could post it, and get it back, and do all that; but I do not care to, and I should certainly be taken advantage of.

Instead I have agreed with a fellow Tertullian scholar to donate it to him.  He will treasure it, I am sure.  Tomorrow I shall take it to the post office and send it on its way.

It has long been my policy not to keep a book unless I believe that I will read it again, or, in the case of reference books, have use of it in future.  This is particularly essential for novels, for which most of us have a tyrannous appetite.  Unless you have some similar policy, you will quickly find your book cases, and then your house, filled with books which you have no appetite to read.  I have a pile in the corner of one room, to which I assign books that I believe I will not read again; and, if after a suitable period, a book is still there then I dispose of it.  I took two bags full of books to a charity shop yesterday, in fact.

It is harder to know what to do with scholarly books that we no longer need.  Some have donated their books to libraries; yet I know too much about libraries and their practices to suppose that any such donation would be more than temporary.

Let us accept the fact that one day they must go on, and let us donate them freely to our fellow workers.  They will value them; and we need not grieve at their departure, knowing that they go to serve another as they have served us.

For one day all of our books will pass into the hands of others.  Rough hands will pull at our shelves and throw our treasures into boxes, most of which will perhaps end up in some second-hand shop.  The little paperbacks we bought at college, once fresh and bright as we ourselves then were, now foxed and yellowed, and which have accompanied us through life, and are almost friends to us, will end up in some second-hand shop.  If they are lucky they will pass into the hands of one whom we might have been pleased to call friend.

Sic transit gloria.  For the world and all that is in it are always passing away.

But the Christian has hopes of more than this from life!  He can thank God for Good Friday.  And so can all of us, if we sign up with them.

NOTE: Annoyingly WordPress deleted a large section of this post when I posted it.  I will try to recover it from memory.

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The inopportune polemicist in my email inbox

I get a lot of email, either directly or through the form on this site.  Most of it is very interesting.  Some of it makes work for me.  And sometimes I get an email which makes me rub my eyes and wonder what – or if – the author was thinking.

A couple of days ago, I had a query from someone about a page on the site.  As a postscript it asked me to explain what I thought about the catholic claims of the apostolic succession, and why we should hold to the bible, and what I thought about the period before the New Testament canon had been closed.

Now this was a bit of a nuisance.  Who is this person to me, that I should stop what I am doing in order to scribble something on these subjects? We’re all busy people.

Like most people who are not themselves Catholics – and probably like a good many who are – I don’t spend any time thinking about peculiarly Roman Catholic claims.  It’s a terrible waste of my time to do so.  They don’t impact on my world in any way.  They’re not ancient in origin, mostly arising during the medieval period, so they don’t come within my field of interest.  And, in truth, I am far more interested in history than theology.  It was a proud moment when I finally worked out what the issue was in the Nestorian dispute!  It took me a long time!

Anyway, I responded to the first query, and added a demurrer on the second.  I mildly commented that writing intra-Christian polemics was a waste of both our time in a world so bitterly hostile to Christians, and especially to the Catholic church.

If I had written a couple of days later I might have referenced the appalling episode, reported here (but not, I suspect, where anyone can see it), where a certain Christian street preacher in England named John Craven was approached by two boys who demanded he tell them what he thought about homosexuality.  He read the bible passage to them, and told them that God hates sin but loves the sinner.  They promptly insulted him, and denounced him to the nearest policeman.  The old man was arrested and held for 15 hours without food or water, and only released a couple of hours after that.  The courts had just awarded damages against the police.  That is the environment in which we live.  Why bother with in-fighting?

I wrote: and thought no more of the matter.

Today I received a further email, brushing aside my demurrer and reiterating and enlarging the demand.

I belong to a generation that is polite.  Ignoring someone is rude.  So, each time he demanded my thoughts, I wondered if I should at least say something briefly, out of couresy.  I thought for a moment on the subject; and found myself irritated at these presumptuous conundra, carefully crafted, not to inform, but to cause people to change their beliefs.  I found myself on the verge of defining exactly why I am not a Roman Catholic.  And this I do not wish to do.

The focus of the hate of the establishment is directed at the Catholic  Church.  It is so directed, under various pretexts, by people who simply wish to undermine its moral authority in order to promote their favoured vices.  The rest is simply eyewash.

But these same wicked men have just as  much loathing for all of us.  It is not because the Catholic church is Catholic, that it is abused.  It is because it is Christian.  Mr Craven was not a Catholic, yet the policemen felt no hesitation in arresting him.

So I don’t want to go here.  On the important points of our time, the Catholic Church has stood like a beacon in the world.  With its defects I am not concerned, since none of them affect me.

Yet this polemicist managed to get me to the edge of writing polemic against it.

It’s a warning, when we write about Christian subjects to non-Christians who seem friendly.  Just because someone is not an overt enemy does not mean that they are receptive to our arguments.  They may just be polite, and unengaged.  Unless people see Christ in us, they will not become Christians, whatever we say.

I also get protestant cranks write to me, from time to time.  I suppose everyone has the lunatic fringe.

But it’s a warning to be careful.

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Divine disapproval: the complete letter from David Silvester

Over the weekend the BBC and other media was calling for the head of a certain David Silvester, a councillor of the UKIP party in Henley-on-Thames.  His crime was to write the following letter to his local paper, the Henley Standard.  Since I can find the complete letter nowhere, I think it would be good to post it here:

Divine disapproval

Sir, — Since the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, the nation has been beset by serious storms and floods.

One recent one caused the worst flooding for 60 years. The Christmas floods were the worst for 127 years. Is this just “global warming” or is there something more serious at work?

The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.

I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same sex marriage Bill but he went ahead despite a 600,000-signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party saying that he should not do so.

Now, even as Cameron sheds crocodile tears on behalf of destitute flooded homeowners, playing at advocate against the very local councils he has made cash-strapped, it is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods.

He has arrogantly acted against the Gospel that once made Britain “great” and the lesson surely to be learned is that no man or men, however powerful, can mess with Almighty God with impunity and get away with it for everything a nation does is weighed on the scales of divine approval or disapproval. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Silvester (UKIP)
Henley Town Council, Luker Avenue, Henley

These views, involving as they do the suggestion that unnatural vice is wrong, has provoked an artificial media storm, demanding his head pour encourager les autres.  The BBC led the charge, and broadcast the “controversy” endlessly. Dr Goebbels would be very proud of the orchestrated “two-minute hate” now raging.

We are rather accustomed to these witchhunts, these days, in modern Britain.  Those who do what they know to be wrong cannot stand the slightest reminder of their wrongdoing.

I was amused to read some churchy types solemnly pontificating about Mr Silvester’s supposed theological naivety.  How embarassed they were!  On the contrary the view he expresses is pretty solidly biblical.  That it is unfashionable need not detain us.

Mr Silvester’s statements are thought-provoking. Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether, being unfashionable, he is right?

I had not, myself, seen the matter in these terms.  I blamed the flooding on embezzlement and negligence.  For I knew – what is fairly commonly known – that the authorities have long ceased to dredge the rivers, or to repair the flood defences properly.  The money raised in tax to pay for this very necessary work has been diverted for other purposes.   Until now, I had not thought beyond this, to the hand of God.

But maybe we should.  For a nation with a corrupt ruling class, which is busy with its own pleasures and indifferent to the public weal, will indeed experience floods, fires, disasters of every sort.  This is indeed the verdict of God on their corruption and selfishness; the one produces the latter.  God has created a world in which vice usually has consequences; and thank God for that.

If those rulers were attentive to business, if they repaired the sea-defences and did the million duties which they are paid for, then such natural disasters would not occur, or would be merely signals for concerted public endeavour.

Instead the floods come every year, to much empty handwringing from the officials who should be preventing them, and from the BBC, which bears so great a responsibility for the climate of opinion in which dereliction of duty is presented as a virtue.

Isn’t this the mechanism where a nation that has abandoned God experiences the hand of God?

Of course the worst injuries affect ordinary people, and not those in power.  So it has always been.

In the mean time we may congratulate David Silvester for his chance to tell the truth to the nation.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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Basil the Great discusses twitter, blogging and online discussion fora

From On the Holy Spirit, 1.1:

I admire your proposing questions not for the sake of testing, as many now do, but to discover the truth itself. For now a great many people listen to and question us to find fault. . . . [T]he questions of many contain a hidden and elaborate bait, like the hunters’ snare and the military ambush. These are the people who throw out words, not so that they may receive something useful from them, but so that they may seem to have a just pretext for war if they find answers that do not accord with their own liking.

Via Joel J. Miller, quoting a modern translation.

The work of Basil on the Holy Spirit may be found in the old NPNF translation here.  It is addressed to his brother Amphilochius, another of the Cappadocian fathers.  After a couple of sentences we find:

And this in you yet further moves my admiration, that you do not, according to the manners of the most part of the men of our time, propose your questions by way of mere test, but with the honest desire to arrive at the actual truth.

There is no lack in these days of captious listeners and questioners; but to find a character desirous of information, and seeking the truth as a remedy for ignorance, is very difficult.

Just as in the hunter’s snare, or in the soldier’s ambush, the trick is generally ingeniously concealed, so it is with the inquiries of the majority of the questioners who advance arguments, not so much with the view of getting any good out of them, as in order that, in the event of their failing to elicit answers which chime in with their own desires, they may seem to have fair ground for controversy.

Anybody who has encountered atheist “questions” about Christianity online will be very familiar indeed with this form of trickery.  It is generally advisable, if we have reason to suspect that our enquirer is really phrasing a statement as a question, to ask a question about his own beliefs in return.  This will be dodged, for such “enquirers” have no desire to query their own beliefs.  Most of them live by convenience; I invariably say so, and ask why.  The answers are rarely satisfactory, but it at least puts a stop to the pleasant game of throwing stones at any Christian who may be entrapped into being their target.

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Simeon Stylites – a new Diogenes?

Earlier I posted Theodoret’s account of the life of Simeon Stylites.  Written while the saint was stil alive, and as an eyewitness of at least some of his life, it has considerable value as a historical source.  The portions in square brackets represent later interpolation, it should be added.

Reading the life raised some uncomfortable questions in my mind.

Simeon’s life can be summarised very briefly.  He is famous for making himself very uncomfortable indeed, in a variety of ways, until at last he found fame by standing upright(ish) on a pillar for many years.  He became famous for this, and people flocked to see him and admire him, on the basis that making himself uncomfortable was the same as being holy.  From these he received enough to live on, and admiration.  In consequence of his reputation, he was able to address powerful people in direct language and give orders to them.

Medieval Europe is in the back of all of our minds.  Castles and knights and Robin Hood and monks and hermits and the like are a ready source of ideas, even if taken mainly from Sir Walter Scott or Hollywood than a real historical knowledge.  We are all familiar with the idea of the hermit who lives in poverty in a cave, as a “holy man”.

But it seems fairly questionable whether this idea is very like what the New Testament teaches about Christian living.  In what way is such a man serving God?

That we are familiar with the idea of monks praying all day does not mean that it is a biblical idea.  The idea of a man alone in the desert might derive from John the Baptist, from the life of Christ, and some Old Testament ideas.  Yet … is this really what the bible teaches?

If our Lord could say that the law consisted of loving God, and loving your neighbour as yourself, then we may ask how this form of life, divorced from any normal neighbourly relationship, fulfils it.

While thinking in this way, I was uncomfortably reminded of the pagan philosophers, such as Diogenes the cynic.  These too made themselves uncomfortable in public, in order to acquire a reputation as moralists, and to earn their living by donations from admirers.  Once attained, they also had a reputation for direct speaking to powerful people.

There were many differences, of course.  But the similarities are profound.  Both involve strong healthy people who live by the donations of others, and sell an idea to them to do so.

The Greeks, indeed, were somewhat cynical about their philosophers.  Both Diogenes and Plato were sold into slavery, as sturdy vagabonds.  We may wonder about the fate of unsuccessful “holy men” in the 5th century, who somehow didn’t make the cut, and achieve enough notoriety to “break even”!  There were numerous pillar saints in Syria after Simeon had shown the way.

Did the acceptance of hermits and asceticism in the late 4th century have anything to do with the mass “conversions” of pagans in the same period?  Did the wandering philosopher turn into the stationary hermit?

We must recall that physical endurance was no great achievement to the peasants of antiquity.  No education was required to be a “holy man”, unlike their philosophical predecessor.  It merely required a knack for publicity; and if you started by entering a monastery and outshining the others (who might well resent your success!), you already had a pool of people willing to spread the word.  Once in the groove, you worked out your special “trick”, just as the philosophers did, and so long as you could live with the ascetic life, you were essentially made.

Of course we need not suppose that the ascetics were duplicitous.  They may well have believed sincerely in what they were doing.  But that does not make it godly of itself.

When we look at the life of Simeon, we see a man whose main achievement was self-torment.  But does making yourself tired and hungry and uncomfortable necessarily make you charitable, self-denying, good, kind, gentle and close to God?  Mastering your body is equally likely to make you proud of yourself and contemptuous of others.  Starving yourself may give you delusions, which you may mistake for visions; but there is no inevitable access to genuine visions of God just because you starve.  Is there?

It is hard to say what Simeon’s life truly achieved.  It feels wrong, on so many levels.

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Oliver R. Barclay (1919-2013)

I learn by email of the death of Oliver R. Barclay, a former chairman of the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (CICCU), and then general secretary of the IVF (now UCCF).  He was the author of Whatever Happened to the Jesus Lane Lot? (1977), an excellent informal history of Christian work and witness among students in Britain during the 19th and 20th century.  He also helped found Tyndale House in Cambridge.  His obituary may be read at the UCCF website here.

He did good work all his life, and I myself benefited from it in so many ways.  Without the Christian Unions at Cambridge and Oxford, there would be many fewer Christians in Britain today; and without Barclay and his fellow-workers’ emphasis on solid biblical teaching, there would be no Christian Unions.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

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