“I Come to Bury Keats, Not to Praise Him.”

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“Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” –John Keats

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

In preparation for a History of Modernity mid-term this week, my fifteen-year-old daughter is listening to a lecture on the Romantic Poets. As I’m sitting in the same room, I’m afforded the possibility of reclaiming a few bits of literary knowledge grown fuzzy in the couple of decades since my last British Lit class. The lecturer is describing how the works of the romantics in art, poetry and literature were expressive rather than imitative in nature, focusing on experience rather than objectivity. To experience turbulent heights and depths of sensation and emotion was their desired end both in life and art; emotion and sensation divorced from any objective construct wherein they might serve anything larger or more lasting.

Keats’ declaration that “beauty is truth, truth beauty” takes on a somewhat disturbing light in this context. Without ever critically examining the poem, I had long assumed Keats was speaking of the inherent beauty of objective truth. Alas, now I think not. It seems that he’s actually subverting the idea of an objective truth. His “beauty equals truth” statement is less than a degree removed from saying “If it produces pleasure, then it’s good,” or, to phrase it as a more contemporary mantra “If it feels good, do it.” The experience is regarded as its own moral proof text. I suppose if that’s the case, then he must also be inadvertently subverting the idea of beauty.

The earlier pre-enlightenment geniuses like Shakespeare—though masters of the use of emotion in their stories—operated from a different worldview, one that didn’t employ emotion as an end in itself. Instead, emotional responses served some larger reality that was informing the meaning of a story, poem, play, or painting.

This is interesting to me from a personal journey standpoint, as only in my mid-twenties did I begin to appreciate the structures of truth and the requirements a concern for truth might place on literary expression. From the ages of sixteen to twenty-four, I was much more in sync with the romantics. I wanted to feel deeply, and I did. High highs, deep lows. I approached both theology and romance this way. It was raw emotion that fueled my poetry. I courted darkness and despair for the added edge such experience gave to my expression. Having no windswept moors to haunt, I wandered Southern fields on dark and stormy nights. I swung wildly between acts of asceticism and lapses of mild indulgence, partially because I had no understanding of the liberating message of the gospel, and partially because I prized sensation, emotion, giddiness and pain so highly as fuel.

For the sake of everyone around me, it’s a really good thing I didn’t remain twenty-one forever.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that the strictures of Truth entered the picture. Till then, form & emotion had been paramount. Now there was this whole added consideration of meaning. And the question of whether my writing lined up with, or failed to line up with, an objective reality. And whether the artifacts I created were ultimately redemptive or counter-redemptive in their effect.

Writing suddenly became a whole lot more difficult.

If things meant something, if art incarnated ideas and if ideas had consequences, if truth was not the same as beauty (at least not in the way that Keats believed it), then I was responsible for the impact of the things I made and therefore had need to be sensitive and discerning. It wasn’t enough just to spin evocative, poetic phrases that were fragments of no greater whole. This was a holier vocation than I had imagined. I became a much slower writer, which is to say, for the first time in my life, writing truly became work. It was no longer enough just to bleed all over the page. Truth is not something we often arrive at by chance after all. It must be sought and discerned. One does not want to blithely misrepresent those things that Flannery O’ Connor referred to as lines of spiritual motion*, for on some level by attempting to name such things, one is attempting to create roadmaps and signposts for others to follow. Nothing less than the recognition of grace as grace hinges on the act of naming the stuff of reality rightly. If we fail to name rightly then we as humans will never make sense of the twin wounds of our seemingly indefinable, unfathomable loss and of our seemingly inexplicable, lingering hope.

If one believes that such things as these spiritual lines of motion do exist, then one will probably agree that artistic portrayals of these lines might more often and more easily be drawn falsely than truly. Especially in a culture that has lost it’s place in the larger narrative and so has little point of reference by which to rightly name anything. This is where romanticism plunged us off a steep cliff.

But maybe we were already going there anyway.

It is perhaps the holiest work of the artist to discern and divine and reveal the names and locations of these lines of spiritual motion accurately. It is easy to create when one is a romantic after all, for no emotion or experience has to line up with anything beyond the glorious (or inglorious) abandon of the emotion or experience itself. It is declared to be its own validation simply because it is. But when we come to see ourselves as servants and stewards of an unyielding truth and love that preexisted the universe, forever unchanging, then we assume a quite different posture. We are humbled. We wonder whether we are fit to employ such tools at all in stumbling service of something beyond our comprehension. And yet, there remains the thumbprint of God in our souls, compelling us to create, compelling us to press forward, laboring to capture those lines of spiritual motion in lines of poetry, in brush strokes, in film. And so we do. Stumblingly. Haltingly. Imperfectly. Weakly. Brokenly. But oftentimes beautifully as well.

I’ve been ruminating on such things lately because of my involvement in an ongoing, collaborative art project that in some way hinges on detecting those fault lines along the surface of our existence. Several years ago, public spaces painter Jonathan Richter invited me to create pieces with him for a gallery show. Richter spends evenings in public spaces (mostly pubs) painting an ongoing series of off-kilter, spontaneous portraits. These paintings give off a vaguely disturbing, surreal aura, sometimes seeming fraught with a subconscious and archetypal symbolism, other times feeling like fragments from the watery language of dreams. At any rate, Richter is quick to say that the pieces in this series are not created with forethought or planning. Rather they emerge from the process itself, from the layering of paint, the subjects sometimes achieving a definite shape only towards the end of the physical process. Once the paint has dried, Richter turns the paintings over to me. I meditate on the images, mulling the portraits for however long it takes to begin to tease out their secrets such that I can express something of their essence in a line or two of poetic prose. There’s something about this process of filtering a work through two imaginations that seems to put a finer edge on it. Like double-distilling a vodka.

For my part, the process is all about trying to discern and name rightly whatever spiritual lines of motion might be inherent in the paintings. I recognize such a statement will sound strange to some. I’m certain it would have sounded strange to me in my romantic phase. I probably would have thought it ridiculous. Inherent meaning? In a spontaneously-wrought surrealistic painting? Are you kidding me? Doesn’t it just have whatever meaning each person subjectively brings to it? Isn’t the “truth” in it just a product of each person’s emotional and aesthetic response?

To respond in a word—No. To respond in five words—No, I don’t think so. Real choices have been made in the act of creation, and real things have consequently been set in motion. Something else is going on that, if not as predictable as clockwork gears, at least has the mysteriously organic physics of storm winds or ocean waves. We might apprehend only whispers and fragments of the songs such things are perpetually singing, but they are singing.

As a song lyricist of some eighteen years or so, I’ve found the most difficult cuts to write are the ones that an artist has already fleshed out musically and melodically when they hand them off to me. The first time I hear the song, it is already complete save for the thematic concept and the lyric.

Shouldn’t that be easy though? After all, in such a situation one could write about anything: Butterflies and moonbeams, a tragic ballad of ice road truckers, an ode to parasites that inhabit the lining of intestinal walls, young love, old love, lost love, found love. Anything! But alas, as I learned the hard way years ago, writing about anything is precisely what one must not do in that situation—because the music, the structure of the song, and especially the vocal meter and melody, is already saying something rather specific. The trick is to get inside the song far enough that you can look out at the world through it, casting about in your own soul and experience for an answer to the question “What is it in existence, in reality, in creation, in the human experience, in my own past or present,” that conforms to this same pattern, this same movement? What spiritual lines of motion are already being described here by this phrasing and melody and interplay of voices and instruments? What true thing is being described here?”

At the end of the day, there usually aren’t many things a particular vocal melody can say. At the end of the day, you find that you’re choosing from a very limited palette. From among all the colors in the visible spectrum say, it has to be red. And from all the varieties of reds, it has to be some variation of a rosy hue. That’s your wiggle room. Dark rose, light rose, redder, pinker, etc. Yes, you can still divide hundreds of variations from that little slice of the color wheel, but you can’t go blue or gold or even barn red. All of those options were excluded from the start by the melody itself. If you ignore this as a writer, you do so at your own peril, because you’re going to build a song that’s trying to pull in different directions.

When Richter gives me his paintings, I go through an almost identical process of narrowing what the possible meanings might be. The difference is that instead of melody, meter and inflection revealing the meaning, it’s the lines, the colors, the expressions on the faces of the figures, the objects they’re holding, their postures and positions. When I first began to work on these pieces, I had no assumption or expectation that this would be the case. It was only as I sat with the first few pieces that it became clear that this was not going to be a process of me assigning meaning to the paintings, but rather of identifying meaning that was already latent within them. It was a dawning revelation.

Nowadays, I begin my relationship with a painting believing that there are lines of spiritual motion embedded in it, though they are oftentimes wary and reluctant to show themselves. I wait them out. Armed with a pen and a yellow legal pad I sit quietly, watching the painting, making no sudden moves. Some reveal their secrets within a few minutes time. Others take hours, even days before the meaning begins to emerge. I return over and over to the clearing where I sit and wait for something to step into the open and give me a clear line of sight. I scour the ground for clues. I follow game trails into the bushes. I make notes. I attempt writing lines that branch off into new ideas. Eventually, the thing itself is revealed, standing there right in front of me. I nab it. I know it’s the thing I’ve been waiting for when, in hindsight, the conclusion feels inevitable. How could I not have seen it from the beginning? It was so obviously already there, waiting in the painting.

Apparently, some doors must be knocked on before they will open.

It would be very safe to say that I am no longer a romantic in the sense that the romantics were romantic. I regard my own emotional reactions to things with a great suspicion nowadays, as I recognize how dangerous and misleading my own sentimentality can be. And yet, I can’t help but believe that what I do believe is more wildly and frighteningly and wonderfully romantic than any merely emotional or sensational experience the romantics would have deemed romantic. Is it not more wildly romantic to operate from a premise that every facet, detail, and pattern in creation, even those that we perceive as random, are fraught with meaning far beyond our ability to comprehend? To believe that the stars are singing? To believe that the objective evidence points to the conclusion that we are living in an actual fairy tale? To believe that hunger and hope are our true guides, pointing us to something objectively real that will ultimately satisfy our deepest hunger and our most achingly beautiful hope? By my reckoning, all of that adds up to something far more romantic than the pursuit of intense but unmoored moments of sensation and emotion, divorced from any larger story.

Romanticism is dead. Long live romance.
______________________________

*“When a child draws, he doesn’t intend to distort but to set down exactly what he sees, and as his gaze is direct, he sees the lines that create motion. Now the lines of motion that interest the writer are usually invisible. They are lines of spiritual motion.” —Flannery O’Connor, remarks at Hollins College, Virginia (October 14, 1963)

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Profile photo of Doug McKelvey

The remote descendant of Scottish horse-thieving ancestors, Douglas McKelvey has already bested the dubious achievements of his predecessors by authoring five published books, writing and directing a passel of video projects, and penning lyrics for more than 250 songs recorded by a variety of artists including Switchfoot, Kenny Rogers, and Jason Gray. Under the alias “DKM,” McKelvey co-creates the ongoing “Subjects With Objects” collaborative gallery project. He currently serves as president of International Conspiracy & Trade Co. (This is not a joke, but probably should be…), and is hard at work completing the manuscript for a YA sci-fi/fantasy novel and developing with Ruckus Films a feature comedy-drama based on the shenanigans of notorious car thief Rabbit Veach.


16 Comments

  1. Sherry

    I want to scream right now! Reading this has waked up and put in motion the very things in me that are crying to be said.

  2. Debra Henderson

    Truth + Grace = Beauty.

    “If things meant something, if art incarnated ideas and if ideas had consequences, if truth was not the same as beauty (at least not in the way that Keats believed it), then I was responsible for the impact of the things I made and therefore had need to be sensitive and discerning. It wasn’t enough just to spin evocative, poetic phrases that were fragments of no greater whole. This was a holier vocation than I had imagined. I became a much slower writer, which is to say, for the first time in my life, writing truly became work. It was no longer enough just to bleed all over the page. Truth is not something we often arrive at by chance after all. It must be sought and discerned. …Nothing less than the recognition of grace as grace hinges on the act of naming the stuff of reality rightly. If we fail to name rightly then we as humans will never make sense of the twin wounds of our seemingly indefinable, unfathomable loss and of our seemingly inexplicable, lingering hope.”

    Thank you for sharing this Doug! It’s beautiful and true. I respect the ways you are a steward of grace and love your humble heart. I so hope that your project gets full funding!

  3. Becca

    I adore the great bulk of this post. You have done a marvelous job of emphasizing the artist’s need to listen with humility and communicate with careful honesty. I am so grateful that you took time to capture all of that in words.

    Perhaps I can offer a few thoughts on the Romantic movement that will soften you toward them a bit? They were rather a diverse group, so it would be messy work to sweep them into a singular mode of thought. Yet a common generalization is that the primary goal of the Romantics was to create poetry from a reckless emotional high.

    I think it would be truer to state that these men were chasing imagination and fighting artifice. In fact, Wordsworth’s _Preface_ (a primary document of the Romantic era) placed a strong emphasis on the importance of disciplined meditation during the making of a poem.

    Anderson (et al.) wrote: “A common misconception about Wordsworth is that he advocated a mindless and artless approach to poetry in his poetic theory. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling’ that he associated with poetic creation could be achieved only after sober thought and meditation. The result was a poetry that was highly crafted, not simply in terms of literary models and precedents but in relation to the evolving consciousness.”

    Furthermore, if the Romantics were seeking a new standard in writing, one can hardly blame them. Understanding the historical context in which they were operating is essential here.

    The Restoration had glorified order, conventionality, and reason. Imagination was not valued so much as the imitation of classicism, symmetry, balance, grace, and order. Dignity and decorum eschewed even those earthy, comic scenes that geniuses such as Shakespeare embraced. Literature grew sensible, instructive, cliché, boring. (At least that is my opinion of it.) So, the Romantics were not rebelling against the honest, innovative Renaissance genius like that of Shakespeare and Milton. They were bucking against the stiff-necked, imitative nature of their immediate predecessors. The jacket was too tight. They were stretching out of it. I think most of us would have.

    You wrote, “It is perhaps the holiest work of the artist to discern and divine and reveal the names and locations of these lines of spiritual motion accurately.” This is the work of listening to the deepest rhythms within something that already exists. It is also the work of all the best art, I believe. (I loved everything you wrote about this, BTW.) As I see it, that goal is very close to what several of the Romantics were attempting.

    The Romantic movement (like all movements) was a correction (at times an over-correction) in unhealthy philosophical tendencies of its time. I don’t think this was done perfectly. However, I think there was a certain humility and heroism to rejecting the dead mind-of-man standard and looking to new territory. I think we should not be over harsh with them. Every movement is flawed in its own way.

    That stated, I think the heart of this post is amazing. You are a thinker of big, beautiful thoughts and gifted in the way you put sentences together. I love the call to intentionality. I love the idea of listening to the true message in an object and writing from that. Every bit of that resonates very deeply inside me, and I am terribly grateful for all the time you spent finding words to describe that process. Brilliant work, Doug. Thank you for making time to call us higher. Hurrah for that!

  4. Madeline

    A few disparate chinks of this thought have been flying into me lately; thank you for putting them together in such an illuminating and lovely way! After watching yet another absurd Indie music video, and realizing that they don’t just perplex me; they irk me, I realized that it was for the same reason that I have little taste for modern imagist writing, writing that paints sentimental and uncommentated portraits of everyday objects, say, a soap dispenser, and expects that short of thing to fill a book. I’m all for seeing wonder in everyday places, but there are sublime places to see it as well, and in some cases, better. Maybe I have a specific bone to pick, some sort of fellow-writer’s grudge, but this excellent post (which I think I’ll have to spend more time meditating on) gives me some clarity on this vague notion. It’s not the medium of abstruse short film or sparse realist writing that is inherently off; it’s the lack of meaning & external standards to which art is answerable. Lack of accountability ruins art. If there are no rules, there can be no real drama or romance! There is objective beauty; stuff is in line with God’s excellence, or not–not merely subjective and existent.
    I’ll keep pondering. This is refreshing and intriguing stuff for an art-devouring, wannabe writer to think about, intriguing especially because this sort of “unmoored… sensation and emotion” was part of what I thought of when I first encountered the Subjects with Objects project. Glad to be told there’s more to it than that; I’ll look closer.

  5. Brave Sir Robin

    Oh, you’re Douglas McKelvey! How funny. I’ve enjoyed your work for a long time, never guessed YOU were the enigmatic DKM. 😉

  6. Amy L

    Ok, Becca’s post just blew my thoughts out of the water. So, to what she said: yes, there is still good to be found in the Romantics. But she said so much better than I would have.

    I love the connection of Romanticism to the wanderings of early adulthood. I feel sometimes that many of my generation (late X-ers, early Millennials) are still there, thinking that just because some things are relative, then all things inherently must be so. I also love the idea that a melody does contain a direction and a truth, even without lyric.

    Thanks for this post.

  7. Becca

    Something I would be very interested in hearing more about is how to know which inherent meaning is truth. The question of epistemology is something I have been thinking about for the better part of a year, and I would be particularly interested in how that applies to art.

    I do not doubt that there are lines of meaning inherent in music/visual art/dance. I know that is truth deep down in my gut. I have lived it experientially. (Your description of the ah-ha! moment is so familiar to me.) Yet, how do we explain that? How do we validate it? In the end, is that resonance simply a gut emotion? Or, do we attempt to involve reason?

    Moving back into the philosophical bones of our culture, we find Plato categorizing all poetry, emotions, dreams and religion as untrustworthy. In fact, in Plato’s view, nothing in the seen world was dependable. He valued invisible principles of reason and logic foremost.

    As time progressed, thinkers challenged this. (I think even Plato knew his system was flawed, actually.) Advocates for empiricism arose. (Empiricism truth tested by senses. Think “scientific method.”). Empiricists differed from those who would find truth through pure logic (truth tested by unseen principles of reason). The divide exists to this day.

    All of this has had catastrophic results on the search for truth. As far as I can tell, there is no watertight epistemology (in the earthly sense). We might agree that emotions are unstable things, but if you push that envelope far enough, you will find that there is equal instability to human reason and sensory input.

    The only reason we do not doubt logic and empiricism is because our culture has glorified them. Until very recently, our post-Enlightenment world crowned mind as master.

    Yet, people who have taken time to think and explore the more careful means of finding truth have found holes. As far as I can tell, it is impossible to become so perfectly reasonable (even in our art making) that truth is secured.

    The Romantics definitely erred at times. Many were young and reckless. However, I am not convinced that their attention to emotion or senses was their primary flaw. I think the mistake of the Romantics, is (essentially) the same mistake of the Restoration, of the moderns, of the post-moderns — of everyone who has ever lived. They found a good thing and made it god. Shelley was an atheist, Keats was agnostic. Had those same men been lovers of sensibility instead of sense they would have stumbled just as severely. (The Puritan Jeremiah Burrough’s has some very interesting thoughts on the sins of the restrained heart. I think they might also apply to art.)

    Anyway, my question is this. How do we secure truth? If emotion doesn’t nail it, what does?

    What I know experientially is that there is some sort of current (though current isn’t quite the right word) that involves emotion, logic, aesthetics, theology, honesty… and that this current runs through us. That current transcends art type. It is a certain sort of balance that provides an “ah-ha” when it is touched. I have noticed it in music, visual art, dance, poetry, prose.

    I’m not ready to agree to Jung’s view of the collective unconscious. However, I have wondered if God has implanted himself somehow in our receptivity so that we (at least sometimes) recognize when art reflects truth?

    I am put in mind of the order that overcame chaos in Genesis. Are we simply made to notice alignment? Remember this AP line: “A thing resounds when it rings true…”

  8. David V

    Good thoughts. Has anyone here read ‘Creed or Chaos’ by Dorothy Sayers or ‘Art Needs No Justification’ by Hans Rookmaaker. Both draw out some of these connections between the enlightenment and the secularization of culture and the arts. Rookmaaker argues that when art became Art! it left behind its connection to practical function in the world and the Artists became the prophets of a new religion. That religion being the self expressed for its own sake. And as the enlightenment left behind the body for the sake of ‘pure’ reason, we see the rise of a culture characterized by separation, the categories of objective and subjective, and the hope of progress.

    Its fascinating to me that the separation of soul and flesh in form of Gnosticism, was one of the first challenges the early church faced. These problems are nothing new and the earliest followers of Christ were aware of the perils of this separation. And much of the work of the early church was hammering out the doctrine of the Trinity and an understanding of how God who is One, exists as three, but always One. And how the Son, begotten in his personhood, yet eternal in his ‘God’ness, became both fully God and fully man. All sorts of heresies stream out of improper understandings of the Trinity and I am learning that today in evangelical America, we are unaware of many of the ways these same heresies affect our understanding of God and the Christian faith today.

    Great post, Doug!

    Becca in response to your thoughts. Perhaps truth isn’t any objective ‘other’ we can separate from the Living God and so walking in truth is walking in relationship to him. The Truth of the Creator would inherently be beyond the grasp of the creature and so we are left wondering our tightrope between reason and intuition. Maybe it was a missed step to ever separate the two and to try to hold one above the other. I like the idea that Truth is encountered in the person of Christ and he meets us in His body and blood, the bread and the wine, and in his body and bride, the Church, so that we might become deeply rooted in that Life which is the source of all the life that ever was, or is or will come to be.

  9. Chris C

    Great post, Doug.

    God’s creation certainly has inherent beauty. We just need to see it (we really do!). Whether in the seen universe or the people around us, the beauty is there. When a writer or artist or musician sees the beauty, grasps it, then “explains” it successfully with their art, then the source of that art, the real beauty, is appreciated even more. I’ve often thought about this – when we hear a good song or read a good book, what are we enjoying, the art or the real source of that art? A great song can only be as great as the subject (“can” is the operative word there). So great art must be inspired by objective truth and beauty.

    I’m not very read up on the different poets or their styles or influences, but when reading a writer/poet’s work, there are times it elicits a “yes and amen!” and helps me to appreciate the reality more. And there are times when I feel the poet is reaching a little too far away from the reality. The former would appear to be truer art and the latter misses the mark. If it’s not true, it’s not poetry. At least that’s what Donal says. And I tend to agree with him.

  10. Becca

    David V, I’ve read Rookmaaker (_Art Needs No Justification_ as well as several of his essays like “Letter to a Christian Artist”). And I love Dorothy Sayers, though I haven’t read that particular work you mentioned. I’ll dig all that out in light of this conversation, though. Thanks for the nudge.

    I’m so glad you wrote what you did about truth. A bit I wrote earlier (but deleted for fear of writing too much) asked if truth could exist apart from the Truth. ‘Would love to hear more about that.

  11. David V

    Hi Becca. Not sure I am a great source for these topics. I am just beginning to think about church history in relation to the enlightenment. I have some really smart friends that talk a lot about how much of an impact the enlightenment has had on our way of thinking and in turn how we understand God. To me, relationship is central to the Gospel. Somehow we got to a point where we feel comfortable breaking it into parts and analyzing it. But I think God wants us to be whole and holy people and he is doing that work in us through Christ. I’ll list some thoughts and some books that I have benefited from reading over the past year or so…

    Some exciting points for me have been
    1. A growing understanding of the distinction between the Creator and his creation. (“The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrim’s on the Way” by Horton. I haven’t finished this yet but his treatment of ‘The Presuppositions of Theology’ is phenomenal. He begins by assuming some type of estrangement between Creator and creation and gives three categories for understanding our relationship to God and the nature of reality in that context. ‘Overcoming Estrangement’ erases the distinction between Creator and creature, (Pantheistic and Panentheistic worldviews), ‘The Stranger We Never Knew’ says that there is no ‘Other’ to be estranged from or if there is, it is forever unknowable, (Atheistic and Deistic worldviews) and lastly, ‘Meeting A Stranger’ which is a covenantal explanation of the Christian understanding of a Creator who is distinct and whole apart from his creation, upholds that creation actively, and has chosen to reveal himself to that creation in a number of ways. He goes on to explicate those ways and its wonderful. Horton holds the position well that our understanding of God through revelation is analagous. God has chosen the analogy of a ‘Good Shepherd’ to communicate aspects of how he relates to his people, but he is not in fact a shepherd. Obvious, right? but a helpful position to remember as he moves onward into more complex theological issues.

    I need to be careful, this post might get really long… I’ll be more brief with these.

    2. Athanasius by Liethart is a hard read but I gained a lot from it in understanding the early Church leading up to Nicaea and in comprehending the relationship of the Son to the Father. ‘The Early Church’ by Frend as well. He gives an overview of the heresies the church was combating in its councils and creeds. These are dryer histories but still good. I want to read “On the Incarnation” by Athanasius as well.

    3. ‘And the Trees Clap Their Hands’ by Owens is a great read about perception, faith, science, etc. Easy and compelling read.

    4. ‘Answering God’ by Peterson is a nice treatment on the Psalms that emphasizes prayer as the means to knowing the Lord. ‘A Long Obedience In the Same Direction’ is also good in this regard.

    5. The Psalms. as a framework for daily prayer. The repeated emphasis on fearing God, trusting God, praising God, God as our refuge, tower, foundation, defender, etc, have taught me so much about how to depend on God in all aspects of daily life and to grow in knowledge of God in the mundane.

    6. ‘The Authority of Scripture’ by N.T. Wright dovetails nicely with Horton and concepts related to God revealing himself through his Word.

    A big thing for me has been the realization that Christ taking on flesh brings meaning to our lives. It was not beneath God to be human and in doing so he elevates all that we do. Really wrestling with the Incarnation has helped me to stop reaching for the super-spiritual, up in the clouds style of relating to God, but to be able to meet him in the simple daily things like, washing dishes, going to bed, waking up in the morning, working in my woodshop or working at my job. There is a person who had made himself known and available to us, and he IS Truth and Life. That’s amazing!

    Sorry so long…

  12. Becca

    David V.,

    Please don’t apologize for length on my account! I am thrilled to have a list of resources like the one you have provided. Thanks so much for taking the time to collect those for me.

    I am not proficient in this subject, but I think that the divide between the stuff of earth and the transcendent world goes back at least to Plato. (I’d have to brush up on thinkers before him.) As I understand it, his dualistic theories left the world with a general mistrust of the seen/tactile and elevated the “forms” that existed in a realm that could only be perceived via reason.

    Aristotle then looked for truth in the close. He believed that an object itself contained the essence of a thing, and therefore details of earthly things mattered a great deal.

    The reason that differentiation matters is this: I have heard that Augustine’s theology followed Plato and that Aquinas followed Aristotle. However, I haven’t made the time to verify how that plays out. This is something I would like very much to learn in 2013. The dominoes always fall, and I would like to trace them back.

    This past year I spent a lot of time in the book of John, and I was moved by the Lord’s identification with things that we tend to perceive as separate from a person (Truth, Life, etc.) Your postings remind me to go back and savor His declarations, to bank on them and explore them.

    Humanity’s long struggle to know truth seems rather ironic in light of all this, doesn’t it? (Eve, don’t you want to be like God? Apart from God?) Gives me the shivers. How we aimlessly we wander.

  13. Connie Cartisano

    Doug,

    This was very helpful. You articulate so well the struggle to find the truth and express it. In my novel-writing, this is the core of my difficulty and it can be paralyzing.

    Others ask why I don’t just write down my ideas, but it is never that simple. And when I look at prolific authors, I wonder how they are able to overcome the problem of making sure what we write is “truth” even in fiction.

    Anyway, thank you for putting words to my dilemma. Perhaps this will be a case of “defining the problem is half the solution.”

  14. David V

    Thanks for you posts Becca. I’ve enjoyed reading them. Sorry for the delayed response. Glad to have found you on facebook though.

    I heard a great quote today. “Prayerlessness is a statement of our independence from God.” Fits in line with your last thought there.

    I like what you said. The dominoes do always fall. Its fascinating to me how the philosophies of the age shape what we see and are even able to see. I think our culture now tends to think of itself as progressive, but it is the product of old ideas that we easily overlook and often are unaware we ascribe to. We, as creatures it seems, are bound to serve a master. As we in the United States, throw off the framework of Christian theology and morality in exchange for the myth of ‘freedom from consequence,’ do we realize that we are building/embracing another culture that will bear the fruit of its foundations. As Christians our lives must be built on Christ, the eternal and true (in every sense of the word) foundation. All other ground is sinking sand.

    I know, no one asked me about this, but I like to hear myself type and it helps me to think these things out… Carry on!

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