Chance or the Dance: A Review

“The myth sovereign in the old age was that everything means everything. The myth sovereign in the new is that nothing means anything. Thomas Howard~

Chance or the Dance: A Critique of Modern Secularism by Thomas Howard
is a book for those searching for meaning in life–for an alternative to the secular view that we are here by chance and live without lasting significance.

It is also a book for those of us who already believe in God. We know His presence. And we see His work in the world around us. We ponder His ways and see in them the meaning that infuses every moment of our lives. 

Howard explains this way of looking at the world:

“It is a way of looking at things that goes farther than saying this is like that: it says that both this and that are instances of way things are. The sun pours energy into the earth and the man pours energy into the woman because that is how fruit begins–by the union of one thing and the other” (Howard’s emphasis).

Howard points out that, in spite of the world’s acceptance of the new myth, deep within ourselves, the old myth lives on. It is part of us–and we can only pretend to deny it. 

Everything has meaning.

Howard analyzes our partiality for poetry and art, the rhythms and patterns of language and image. The new myth presents a common experience in “order and harmony and serenity, and hence joy [as] a most rewarding fiction” without meaning. The old myth presents the “supreme reality: the way things are.” And that way is full of meaning.

We act out the old myth through a ceremony of meals that we mark by setting the table and arranging the food on the plate in an orderly way.

And we embrace freedom, which is more than “mere self-determination . . . [which would be] tragically limiting.” “Your freedom in the Dance is to be able to execute your steps with power and grace, not to decide what you feel like doing.”

Howard’s book is a delight. It was originally published in 1969–at the height of the sexual revolution. Yet it comes to us in this second edition with a foreword by Eric Metaxas. Metaxas read the book as a new Christian in 1988 and calls it “a kind of prose symphony” and a “rambling yet manicured and sweeping lawn” full of things “you will simply never forget.” 

It’s a book you’ll want to read slowing–to savor the ideas–since such beauty is not to be rushed–as in fruit taken too soon from a vine. 

And through your savoring, may you come to the Dance–to the idea that all we do has meaning now and into eternity.

“In this view, there is no hiatus between what we are given to do in life and what life is ‘really about.’ There . . . a synonymity. All this commonplace stuff is what life is really about.”

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Hank Hanegraaff's Distortionist Critics

“While there are many secondary issues genuine believers will continue to debate this side of eternity, I have and will always champion what C.S. Lewis called mere Christianity. ‘In essentials unity, non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.'”  Hank Hanegraaff
Hank Hanegraaff recently joined the Greek Orthodox Church. His change of congregation has caused a great gasp in some corners of evangelical Christianity. A voice of evangelicalism through a syndicated apologetics radio program, Hanegraaff and his wife on Palm Sunday were accepted into the Greek Orthodox Church.
He’s walked away from Christianity! He’s gone from grace to works! That’s the view many have of anyone who moves from evangelicalism to a liturgical tradition–especially to Catholicism or Orthodoxy.
But lately, many have changed pews, some, like Hanegraaf, moving from evangelical to liturgical and others from liturgical traditions to under the steeples of evangelicalism.
My two favorite authors illustrate this point. Eric Metaxas came to evangelical Christianity from Greek Orthodoxy. And Rod Dreher came to Eastern Orthodoxy from Methodism.
Now Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, has followed Dreher’s route–to Orthodoxy. And some are horrified. Continue reading “Hank Hanegraaff's Distortionist Critics”

Mother Teresa and the Hunger for More than Food

Repost from October 2015–a tribute to Mother Teresa.
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. Ezekiel 16: 49-50.
When I teach students to write, I always tell them to save the most important point for last. In Seven Women and the Secret of their Greatness, Eric Metaxas saved the most profound story for the end of his book, the story of Mother Teresa.
I don’t remember where I was when I learned about the death of Mother Teresa even though she died on the same day in 1997 that Princess Diana died. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember. It seems odd now because Mother Teresa was one of the most iconic figures of the second half of the twentieth century.
I knew that she ministered in Calcutta, India, that she lived a modest life of self-sacrifice. That’s who she was in a nutshell, but she was so much more as Metaxas points out. Continue reading “Mother Teresa and the Hunger for More than Food”

BLOGPOST: American Martyrs on American Soil

“My uncle says his grandfather remembered when children didn’t kill each other. But that was a long time ago when they had things different. They believed in responsibility my uncle says.” Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.
My copy of Voice of the Martyrs arrived the other day. The magazine features stories of people who are persecuted because of their Christian faith. This month’s cover photo was of a woman standing in front of a refugee tent. When we think of Christian martyrs, that’s how we imagine them. They are people in far off lands, as if they were from a different time, even from some other planet. Continue reading “BLOGPOST: American Martyrs on American Soil”

BLOGPOST: Seven Women, an Aviatrix, and the Amish

A couple weeks ago, I was flipping channels and came across an old movie, Pancho Barnes, starring Valerie Bertinelli as the title character. Pancho was a bored wife and mother who found her passion in flying airplanes. She wanted to do something only men and Amelia Earhart did at the time.
But she had to defy convention and her husband to do it. He was holding her back. She wanted to soar. They couldn’t have it both ways. Continue reading “BLOGPOST: Seven Women, an Aviatrix, and the Amish”