Sir Joshua Reynolds: Some Thoughts


Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Discourses on Art is continually informed by mimesis. The importance of mimesis for Reynolds lies in the fact that it produces perfection – a key motive in any production of art, for Reynolds.

Therefore, Reynolds’ discourse is grounded in the concept that art imitates nature, where the endeavor is to realistically portray life and reproduce natural objects and actions.

The justification of this grounding is provided for Reynolds by the old masters whom he admires for their success, and advocates that artists must follow in their footsteps in order to achieve and produce perfection. As well, there is the concern that without classical models artistic vices will proliferate and artistic virtue will not be attained.

There are several varieties of imitation: painting in the spirit of the old masters and using their general principles; borrowing from the old masters with the necessity of accommodating the material to the artists own age; and the collection and use of special “beauties” in technique and expression from the works of the best painters.

Let us look at mimesis a little more closely. The recurring theme in the production of discourse in the eighteenth-century is the desire to arrive at a definition of taste and good sense, thereby to place men and women into the eternal scheme of things.

As such, we confront a continuous tension between opposing forces, binaries of sorts: the classic with the Romantic, the rational with the sentimental, the town with the country, art with nature, religion with irreligion, to mention but a few. Joshua Reynolds’ Discourses on Art participate in this agonistic method by positing a discourse that is firmly grounded in classical esthetics, where the old masters are to be emulated as paradigms of perfection.

Thus, Reynolds is continually valorizing one mode of discourse over another: “I would chiefly recommend that an implicit obedience to the rules of art, as established by the great masters, should be exacted from the young students.
That those models, which have passed through the approbation of ages, should be considered by them as perfect and infallible guides as subjects for their imitation, not their criticism.”

But let us briefly turn aside and flesh out the key characteristics that constitute the paradigm of the old masters. The modus operandi for this esthetic is the classical period, or the ideals, and idealized versions, of Greece and Rome. Thus, Reynolds emphasizes taste, polish, common sense, and reason over emotion and imagination.

Therefore, upon the Renaissance idea of the limitless potentiality of human beings Reynolds imposes a view of human being as limited, dualistic, imperfect. For Reynolds, the intensity of human responses is checked by a reverence for order and a delight in reason and rules.

Imagination is tempered by a distrust of innovation and invention. Individualism comes to be defined only in terms of the human potential within a group and generic quality. The tension that results because of these polarities lead Reynolds to an esthetic that stresses order, logic, restrained emotion, accuracy, “correctness,” “good taste,” and decorum.

Consequently, Reynolds defines art by a sense of symmetry, a delight in design, and by the centrality of the human subject, which in turn lead to the categories of proportion, unity, harmony and grace.

Thus, for Reynolds, the aim of art is to delight, instruct and correct human beings (in that primarily human beings are social animals): “Every opportunity, therefore, should be taken to discountenance that false and vulgar opinion that rules are the fetters of genius.  They are fetters only to men of no genius.”

Highlighted in the discourse of emphasizing the old masters is the moral discourse of imitation, or mimesis. The concept of art as imitation has its origin with the classical critics. Aristotle says at the very beginning of his Poetics that all art is a mode of imitation; and by extension, art is an imitation of nature. Consequently, in ancient Rome and Greece the imitation of models (created by past masters) was an accepted form of composition.

Therefore, for Reynolds, imitation is the key instructive tool. Imitation of nature, for him, becomes a realistic portrayal of life, and a reproduction of natural objects and actions.

As well, there is a marked admiration of the success of the greater classical artists, who had closely followed nature, and were therefore worthy of being imitated.

The moral aspect of this notion is fully visible when we consider that genius for Reynolds is not an inborn ability, but an acquired attitude: “Let us not destroy the scaffold until we have raised the building.”

In fact, an adherence to models created by past masters inculcates a method for Reynolds that successfully avoids artistic shortcomings and ensures the attainment of literary virtues.

Imitation is further defined by Reynolds. It is the borrowing from the ancients with the necessity of accommodating the material of the artist’s own age. It is the collection and use of special “beauties” in form and expression from the works of past masters. And it is the exercise of paraphrase and translation of the devices used by the past masters.

Consequently, for Reynolds, creativity can only be housed in mimetic expression, that is, in models created and perfected by past masters: “The pictures, thus wrought with such pain, now appear like the effect of enchantment, and as if some mighty genius had struck them off at a blow.”

The force that governs the mimetic concerns of Reynolds is, of course, nature. Contained within nature is the implicit workings of a universal esthetic whose validity leads the human subject to a reverence for rules and such reverence is then taken as an evidence of the basis of these rules in what is universal in human nature. The rules, for Reynolds, are grounded in models proven by the old master.

Therefore, it is necessary to include with nature the human capacity for reason – since both are grounded in the idea of “order” – nature is order in external existence, and reason is order in the internal existence of the human subject: “He who endeavours to copy nicely the figure before him not only acquires a habit of exactness and precision, but is continually advancing in his knowledge of the human figure; and though he seems to superficial observers to make a slower progress, he will be found at last capable of adding (without running into capricious wildness) that grace and beauty which is necessary to be given to his more finished works, and which cannot be got by the moderns, as it was not acquired by the ancients, but by an attentive and well-compared study of the human form.”

Thus, we see that Reynolds discourse in his Discourses on Art is continually informed and determined by mimesis, which advocates imitation of the old masters in whose works perfection is housed, and which students are to imitate in order to garner and benefit from the genius housed in artistic works of the past: “He who endeavours to copy nicely the figure before him not only acquires a habit of exactness and precision, but is continually advancing in his knowledge of the human figure; and though he seems to superficial observers to make a slower progress, he will be found at last capable of adding (without running into capricious wildness) that grace and beauty which is necessary to be given to his more finished works, and which cannot be got by the moderns, as it was not acquired by the ancients, but by an attentive and well-compared study of the human form.”


The photo shows a self portrait by Joshua Reynolds, painted, ca. 1780.

Dialogos: Dr. Widdowson on Exposing the Aboriginal Industry

The controversial Dr. Frances Widdowson joins us in a talk about exposing the “Aboriginal Industry” in Canada.

The interview touches on her book “Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry: The Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural Preservation,” Ontario school’s push to teach “Indigenous Ways of Knowing,” and Dr. Widdowson’s most recent controversial presentation, “Does University Indigenization Threaten Open Inquiry,” at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Dr. Widdowson is a professor from Mount Royal University in Calgary. She was recently invited to Lindsay Shepherd‘s Laurier’s Society of Free Speech and Open Inquiry to give a talk on Indigenization.  In addition, Widdowson runs her own blog, “Offended by Offense,” and is a coordinator for the Society of Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS).




The photo shows, “Onigoheriago,” one of the Mohawk Kings who visited Queen Anne. Painted in 1710, by John Verelst.

Orthodox Christianity: A Faith For Our Times

In these days of changing ways, so-called liberated days, it is not only political beliefs that are getting a fresh look from a lot of people, but beliefs about all aspects of human life. These include the beliefs of traditional Christians in America, whose options for Christ-centered communal worship within an organized framework narrow every day.

The Roman church is both corrupt and led by that man of perdition, Jorge Bergoglio; the degradation of ecclesiastical Protestantism is complete; evangelicals offer only Moralistic Therapeutic Deism or obeisance to Trumpian caesaropapism. This leaves as the last institution standing the Orthodox Church, which shows no signs of trimming its sails to modernism and for whom Saint John Chrysostom might as well as have died yesterday. Hence the recent surge in popularity of this 2001 book, a modern exposition of Orthodox spirituality, written by a man with a foot in both the West and the East.

That man, Kyriacos Markides, is a Greek Cypriot, whose education and academic career (in sociology) were centered in America. As he describes, until the writing of this book his spiritual life had gradually moved from stock Western academic agnosticism to an interest in various forms of mysticism, ending up, at the conclusion of this book, in an ambiguous, but very favorably disposed, relationship with Orthodoxy.

Markides also wrote an earlier book, Riding with the Lion, about the Orthodox monastic communities on Mount Athos, in Greece. Confusingly, this book, whose title refers to Mount Athos, takes places nearly exclusively on Cyprus. Regardless, the form of this book is essentially narrated dialogues between Markides and an Orthodox monk, here called “Father Maximos,” who was sent to Cyprus from Mount Athos in 1993 to form a new monastery (and who is now Bishop of Limassol, the second-largest city in Cyprus).

Other people and places appear, and there are travelogue aspects and digressions about the politics of Cyprus, but the core of the book is an ongoing conversation between those two men. The goal of these dialogues is to primarily to narrate and explicate Orthodox spirituality, with heavy emphasis on its mystical aspects.

Through his dialogues with Father Maximos, Markides develops several threads of Orthodox spiritual thought, on their own terms, in relation to Western Christian (that is, for all practical purposes, Roman Catholic) thought, and, to a lesser extent, in relation to non-Christian spirituality and even secular psychology. (Though accurate here, I hesitate to use the term “spiritual,” because it smacks of the odious phrase “spiritual but not religious,” which is code for “stupid”).

The reason that Markides was able to open his mind to Orthodoxy was his prior realization that “materialist superstition had kept Western thought stranded and imprisoned for the last three hundred years”—a realization, though only nascent, that the Enlightenment was far from the unalloyed benefit it is often portrayed. That realization is what makes this book possible; it is neither Orthodox fanboy-ism, or a cloaked attack by a skeptic, but an honest attempt to find the truth.

A substantial part of Markides’s approach is that he identifies up front, and then directly asks Father Maximos to address, problems and questions that are commonly raised in objection to Orthodox or Christian beliefs.

These include questions with a practical basis, such as whether monks are wasting their lives, or are self-centered or inward focused when they should be serving their fellow man, or whether abbots psychologically coerce vulnerable individuals to join the monastic life. It’s these questions, in fact, that Markides addresses first.

Then he turns to questions about belief, both theology and practice, including ones often asked by Protestants, such as whether icons are idols (that one is easy, but many aren’t). This segues into broader theological questions—ultimately, into the meaning of life. All this is done in dialogue; the author taped his conversations, so presumably they are accurately set forth.

The focus here is on monastic practice, but that is portrayed as merely a more perfect form of the practice to which all Christians are called. While Maximos’s explanations of the reasons for, and the value of, monasticism are best read in their entirety, they revolve around the necessity of some set of people’s “providentially assigned life’s task” to be an “exclusive preoccupation with the reality of God.”

It is apprehending and approaching that reality towards which monastic life in Orthodoxy is oriented. Such monastic life is eremitic, more so than communal (though some meals and some worship are typically communal), in the spirit of the early monastics, and is not directed toward external acts of service in the way of some Western monastics.

The vast majority of the monk’s day is devoted simply to prayer, especially the Efche (the “Jesus Prayer”), often (but not necessarily) along with some manual labor. Fasting and other forms of periodic self-denial are also important in creating the necessary focus.

Collectively, these practices are askesis, the root word of “ascetic,” but here it means spiritual athleticism, not (just) suffering through self-mortification. The repeated message is that such practices, applied to a lesser degree, are the path to holiness and union with God for all people.

In Markides’s telling (I cannot opine myself), Orthodox spirituality does not rely on strict rationality and logic nearly to the degree that Western Christianity does. Thomism, scholasticism and the like, tied to Aristotle, is not so much denigrated as regarded as incomplete (although Father Maximos comes very close to rejecting metaphysics entirely).

The ability of certain saintly men and women to directly apprehend the divine, and thereby to benefit and illuminate others, is prized and assumed much more than it would be in Catholicism, where the structures permit and recognize it, but usually not without hesitation.

This shows up most clearly in the nearly continuous references by Father Maximos to Elder Paisios, an Athonite monk and wonderworker who died in 1993. But signs and wonders, including such dramatic events as the physical appearance of Christ Himself to individual monks, as well as the appearance of saints in the flesh, and direct physical contact with demons and angels, are held as normal, or at least not infrequent, events in Orthodox monasticism, which (again, in Markides’s telling) has not been infected with Western materialism and skepticism. Markides himself does show some skepticism about the frequency of reported miracles, including querying whether they might be explained by science or hallucinations, but by no means wholesale skepticism.

It’s not just materialism and skepticism that can undermine askesis, though, but also an over-exaltation of knowledge itself. As Father Maximos says, “Spiritual knowledge by itself does not lead us to God. It may in fact push us in the opposite direction.

We may succumb to the temptation and fantasize that because we are knowledgeable we are especially favored by God. It could stimulate our pride and vanity.” Speaking from experience, I agree with this—not that I have all that much spiritual knowledge, but I am keenly interested in theology, and too proud of the many books I have on it (though, even worse, part of my pride is in impressing visitors with my books—bad me).

Still, as I discuss below, and as Markides also seems to feel, despite the potential pitfalls, I don’t think metaphysics or other forms of rational spiritual knowledge should be denigrated excessively, especially as they relate to society overall.

This all fits within the overriding theme that runs through all Markides’s discussions with Father Maximos, which is theosis—the Orthodox belief that not only is our purpose and goal union with God, but that goal can be approached in this life, and that through it, in this life or the next, the believer can directly partake of the divine, in a form of ecstatic communion.

This state is reached not through study, or logical deduction, but by spiritual exercise devoted to reaching total humility and indifference to material things, while also being totally open to God. To reach theosis, both askesis and spiritual guidance are necessary, obtained from the lives of the saints and (ideally) from an elder. (Implicit in this is that self-guidance by reading the Bible in isolation to reach one’s own conclusions, the hallmark of Protestantism, is inadequate and foolish).

Theosis is a superseding goal—as Maximos says, “Christ didn’t come into the world to teach us how to become good fellows, how to behave properly, or how to live a righteous life in this world.” It’s not that those things are bad; rather it is that “the ultimate goal is to become perfect in the same way as our Heavenly Father is perfect, to become one with God.”

Several subthemes also show up repeatedly. One is the importance of overcoming temptations—not merely temptations as traditionally viewed in the West, where we picture Satan on our shoulder, but various troubles and difficulties, as well as good things that may happen, all of which are opportunities for spiritual development requiring an appropriate response.

An important category of these is logismoi, assaultive thoughts, defense against which is a matter discussed at considerable length in this book, with successful defense being a critical step in spiritual development, the defense resulting from repentance and humility. Another is the importance not only of personal humility, but of actively seeing the image of God in every other human being, no matter how evil he may act, and of loving that person as a consequence—and even loving demons (“as suffering entities,” despite their evil).

A third is that freedom does not consist in following one’s own desires, but being liberated from slavery to passions, and instead subordinating oneself to Christ. This is, of course, the only concept of freedom held in the West prior to the Enlightenment (not always with reference to Christ, naturally, since the ancient Greeks held it), but it has been mostly forgotten in the West, except, it seems, by antiquarians (though my guess is that its time is coming around again). None of these themes is exclusive to Orthodoxy, of course, but the emphasis on them seems much greater than in Western Christianity, or at least modern Western Christianity, of any brand.

It is important to note that in many cases, the Orthodox do not necessarily hold theological positions on which a final position has been reached, both because there is no single authority (other than a council and the approval of the laity) that can finally decide a matter, and because reaching a final decision is regarded as less important than in Catholicism, within certain basic parameters.

That said, three theological discussions in this book held special interest for me. The first is the possibility admitted in Orthodoxy, but almost totally denied in Catholicism, of the apocatastasis—the universal reconciliation, in which all humans, or even all created beings, including the Devil, will reach theosis. The Orthodox reject Purgatory, but a mainstream thread of Orthodox thought functionally treats Hell as Purgatory.

Markides focuses on it, but it’s hard for me to tell how prominent this line of thought is in Orthodoxy. It’s a lot more prominent than in the Roman Church, though, which mostly rejects it as heresy, although if pressed, some theologians (Hans Urs von Balthasar being the most notable modern example) will admit the possibility.

A second is the idea that the point of Christianity is not to improve this world. Father Maximos has never heard of “liberation theology” (monks are deliberately not up on the news). If he had heard of it, he would be revolted. As Father Maximos tells Markides, “[Christ] was not trying to make this world better and more just. Whatever Christ offered us through the Gospel had a deeper meaning, the salvation of humanity, our eternal restoration within the Kingdom of God.” No doubt, “Christ did go about doing good. . . . But that was not His chief mission for coming into the world.”

In the modern world, for the majority of Western Christians, this is the grossest heresy, or would be, if they knew what a heresy was. Certainly, the Presbyterian church my wife and I recently abandoned saw this as their only goal—implementing a left-wing vision of justice, cribbed from Rawls, not Romans.

In the words of that church’s new pastor, in the last sermon we heard before our family vomited him and his works out of our mouth, we are required to show that we are Christian to others, and our sole purpose in so doing is to aggressively demonstrate to non-Christians that we “reject theologies of hatred and exclusion”—that is, our chief goal as “Christians” must be to demonstrate our rejection of any form of traditional Christianity. So long, sucker. (I suppose my attitude here towards the pastor shows I am not making much progress on the path to theosis, though).

A third is the question of whether God wills a reason for all happenings. This seems to me clearly false; I agree strongly with the Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart, who in his meditation on the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, The Doors of the Sea, concluded that “God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark [a reference to a passage from Dostoevsky] were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, he will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes—and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away and he that sits upon the throne will say, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ ”

But Father Maximos is just as emphatic that “Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in the Universe without a deeper meaning to it.” I don’t buy it. I could harmonize Hart’s and Father Maximos’s statements, since “deeper meaning” is not the exact same thing as “willed reason,” but I think it would be sophistry—Hart’s and Father Maximos’s seem to be actually opposed opinions, and I am not sure which is closer to the Orthodox mainstream.

Regardless, I just can’t stand it when people say “I believe everything happens for a reason.” (It’s especially annoying when said by people who don’t believe in God at all, though. What reason is that then, exactly)? It doesn’t; much of history is false and damnable. This is also part of why theodicy has never seemed like a significant problem to me. God doesn’t owe us anything, and much less does he owe us current happiness. That’s easy for me to say, blessed beyond all words and measure. But it still seems obvious to me.

Anyway, on a more abstract level, and given that much of my thinking nowadays revolves around how, perhaps, the West can be dragged out of its dead end and return to flourishing, and that part of that flourishing relates to purely secular matters, I find the relative approaches of Orthodoxy and Western Christianity illuminating in relation to that goal.

I do not think it is a coincidence that the West, rather than the East, created the modern world. By “modern world,” I mean the approach to thinking, and thus to science, that ended in the Scientific Revolution and therefore the Industrial Revolution (to neither of which, of course, the Enlightenment had any relevance at all, so we can peel away the Enlightenment and return to continued material flourishing, or at least that’s my theory).

Certainly, the Roman East had less opportunity—under siege from Islam (which itself could never have created the modern world), not to mention it was abused at times by the West (the Orthodox remember the Fourth Crusade, forgotten in the West). But the mystical, otherworldly focus that, at least in this book, strongly characterizes Orthodoxy, and the related downplaying of high rationality and metaphysics, seems to me inherently likely to pinch material advancement.

The Western approach has its pitfalls, obviously, among them those outlined by Brad Gregory in The Unintended Reformation. I also often wonder if a truly wealthy society can be a virtuous society at all.

Not to mention that many aspects of modern science can be, and are being, used for utterly pernicious purposes, such as transhumanism and better ways of killing infants in the womb, so sometimes I wonder if we’d not all be better off, in the long run, living in the fourth century A.D.

In any case, it seems to me that Markides’s analogy of Orthodoxy and Western Christianity as “two lungs,” both contributing air and life, is a good one, and one that might conduce to a real renaissance in both West and East. And, despite Orthodox resentment against and distaste for the Roman Church, a rapprochement among traditional Catholics and the Orthodox is probably a necessary element to fight the forces that would destroy both, so some form of joint action would have both spiritual and secular benefits.

Finally, at the risk of seeming like a curmudgeon, I note (as I often do) that the book isn’t perfect. As probably in any book by a sociologist who likes to deal with shamans, there are irritating parts and odd claims about non-religious matters.

The frequent side references to the “eco-peace villages” that Markides’s wife apparently was devoted to, whatever those are, grate (mostly because they sound nonsensical).

Markides treats it as something other than ludicrous when someone asks him what penance the monks have done for “having killed millions of women as witches.” You just have to glide over those sections, though, and focus on the words of Father Maximos, to really receive benefit. I suggest you do that, today.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, “In Russia, Soul of the People,” by Mikhail Vasilyevich Nesterov. This was one of the last religious paintings by Nesterov before the Revolution of 1917.

Our Identity In Christ

From time to time we hear on the news of some people who through a traumatic experience in their lives lose their memories.

Maybe they have been beaten up with serious brain injuries and they cannot remember who they are; whether they are married or single, where they work or where they live. Their identity has gone. Sometimes their memory returns to them but in many cases it does not.

They have no idea who they are, no idea of their past, present or future. Their identity has gone. It is a terrible thing to happen.

Did you know that Satan is trying to erase your true identity and mine? He is you know. There is a spiritual war going on over your identity. Satan cannot create anything. Only God can create.

What Satan does though is, he perverts, he destroys, and he distorts your identity. Gradually he wants to rub it out.

So anything that God creates, he takes what God has created and perverts, distorts and destroys. He takes sex and perverts it; he takes relationships and destroys them; he takes thoughts and distorts them. He takes God’s truth and alters it too.

Satan cannot hurt God because he is not as powerful as God, if he was as powerful he would do it, but he can’t. Incidentally God created Satan, Satan did not create himself.  So because he cannot hurt God he hurts God’s children. He is very skilled at this.

If he can keep you from being you, and hide your true identity he has succeeded in hurting God.

How does Satan do this? How does he keep you from knowing your true identity.? Well He uses different tools to do this and they are generally always the same tools. They seldom change over the centuries.

One of them is the Opinions of other People.

Parents, friends, colleagues, family members have said things about you all through your life; some of the things have been good some of them bad; some of them true; some of them not true; and most of the time they have said these things to mould you and shape you to be like them.

They want you, to be what they want you to be. Not what God wants you to be. And Satan uses the opinions of others to prevent you from finding out the real you.

Secondly; he also uses hurt and pain to deceive you in your life. If he can get you guilty, angry, bitter, resentful, ashamed, hating, he knows you are going to miss your true identity. He wants to fill you up with these sort of things.

He can use hate or bitterness in your life to the extent that it becomes all consuming; that’s all you ever think off. Getting you own back or how to hurt that person.

Thirdly he uses the MEDIA all the time. The messages are why can’t you be like that person. You should look them, you should dress like them, you are never going to have their talent or their ability.

Be more like them, be more like everybody else. Why don’t you buy what they buy and have what they have; Not to be you – but to be like everybody else.

And Satan puts thoughts in your mind. When God puts a thought in your mind its inspiration, it’s a great thought; like a light coming on. When Satan puts a thought into your mind its temptation; there’s a twist to it; a hidden agenda.

We have thoughts as well; but most of those thoughts are stupid; one or two are good; most are stupid. WE choose which thoughts we are going to hold on to.

However; the thoughts that Satan puts in our minds are; you have to earn God’s acceptance to be loved and liked by him; you have to earn it. He says things like; you don’t matter, you’re not important, your worthless.  That sin you committed 3 years ago you could never be forgiven for that. You should be ashamed of yourself.

What are people going to say when they find out you did this.

It is tragic and it seems to be a daily occurrence when a young person takes their own life over comments made or photographs taken that have gone public, or the threat to do so; on social media. Something is very badly wrong in our society with social media.

All shame comes from Satan. It doesn’t come from God; shame comes from Satan. These are the things he says to you to prevent you from understanding your true identity. I hope you can see his methodology.

But the number one tool he uses is to erase your true identity is; to repeat what he has told you. How can that be, you may ask yourself??

Well He will plant a seed in your mind at some point, he walks away and allows you to keep on repeating it.

You heard and you believe it. I’m worthless, I’m no good, I’m never going to amount to that. I can’t do this and I can’t do that. I’m guilty, I’m ashamed and that’s me, that’s the true me. That’s my identity.

Things stick with you. You can believe your own assessment of yourself very easily.

Has that ever happened to you.  In my home church in Bangor we had very fine preachers in that church over the years. Very articulate, very well educated, natural orators.

Satan used to say to me you could never be like those men. You’re not educated to their level; you’re not an orator like them, you don’t have their command of English. You don’t have their presence. You not smart enough. Besides your too old; your past it.

Do you know what – I believed it?

Maybe you have convinced yourself through the seed Satan has planted or the seed he has got others to plant for him, that you are not good enough, too old, too stupid; you don’t have that talent.

Now then you may well ask;……If all these tools are being used against me to conceal and hide my true identity, how can I know the real me??

Blaise Pascal was a very famous French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher in the 17th century. An extremely intelligent and clever man. He invented many things but as a Christian he wrote; ‘not only do we know God through Jesus but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of life. We cannot know ourselves, we cannot know God; except through Jesus Christ.’

Now this term ‘in Christ’ is found 140 times in the bible which is a lot. It is the most used term to describe a disciple or believer. By contrast a ‘Christian’ is used only a few times.

About 35 of those times God says; because you are ‘IN Christ’ here is your true identity, here is who you truly are. Here’s who you were made to be, here’s the real you.

This is what it means to be ‘In Christ’.  These are the 4 finger prints of your true identity. Can you find the 4 marks? This is your test. What are the 4 marks:

  • You are chosen
  • There’s a Royal Priesthood
  • You are Holy
  • You belong to God

And because of these things God wants us to praise him, which is right and proper.

All of these fingerprints of your true identity given to us by God point to ONE thing that I am completely accepted. I am completely accepted by Christ.

The deepest wounds in our lives have come from Rejection. All of us have these wounds. Generally, they are hidden concealed wounds that we carry around with us.

They have been caused mainly by spouses, family, friends, or people at work. We have felt rejected through their actions; a divorce, cut out from the will; dumped from a relationship; ignored at work.

Out of that wound or wounds we try to find acceptance in our lives. But We look for it usually in the wrong places; we look to parents, family, work, partners; the pub; entertainment, activities; and what happens is that you see the same pattern emerging again and its usually based on how well we are doing. Am I wearing the right clothes; am I going to the right bar, driving the right car.

If You look back to the sixties, seventies or eighties and see what people are wearing; you say to yourself what on earth were they wearing those things or why did they have their hair in that way. Why because they needed acceptance. We’ve all been there.

The pain of not being Chosen is too great. Not being chosen in the school playground can last a lifetime and can lead on to other things.  At school I was good at sport so I was generally chosen first or second and you know what; it made me feel good.

I can still remember being chosen first for the football, cricket or basketball.

When you are chosen it makes you feel good doesn’t it. When you are selected to play for the first eleven or first 15 and your name is pinned up on the notice board it makes you feel good. Or chosen to represent your school or your work in a particular event. Being part of a promotional team for your work.

But invariably unless we are naturally talented and gifted in some particular way which most of us are Not; we run the risk of chasing after this acceptance from other people and other things and get disappointed.

But with God we don’t have to do that. With God he accepts you as you are.

It doesn’t matter to him if you are broken and hurting or bleeding inside. In fact, sometimes that is a good thing. You have been chosen by God himself. That is the truth.  But How do I know this even though I don’t feel it?

Because God chose me before everything. Eph 1:4 he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight by his love.’

Think about that for a moment. Before God chose to make the oceans he chose you. Before he made the solar system he made you. Before he put the moon, sun and stars in their orbit he chose you. Before he placed a flower, a tree, a mountain, or elephant on this planet; he chose you.

That’s how I know my true identity. He chose me because he has said so.

Jesus made me acceptable. Titus 3 v 7. Jesus treated us much better than we deserve. He made us acceptable to God and gave us the hope of eternal life.’

God Made us and gave us.’ Do not try to perform your way into acceptance by God because it is not based on performance it’s based on a gift. This is where the true identity starts.

That’s the mistake the rich young ruler made with Jesus. His idea of being accepted by Jesus was based on performance. He told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments since he was a boy. There was no one like him, very few could keep the commandments as he had.

His acceptance by Jesus was based on his spiritual performance.

God’s view of me ‘ IN Christ’ is this; I am extremely valuable. But We actually want more than acceptance, we want to be valued.

God says I don’t just accept you; …… I value you.

Holy’ and valuable. Holy means valuable. The Holy Bible is extremely valuable the holy land the holy city, holy of holies is considered more than just normal it is considered extremely valuable. God says your true identity is extremely holy and very valuable.

What is it that makes something valuable? First thing is who owns it. Things owned by famous people are of more value than things NOT owned by famous people.

Tennis shoes. You go on line and see that a football shirt worn by Messi is for sale and one worn by Alan Wilson is for sale. Which one will you buy. It’s a no brainer. It’s the same with a rare book or rare letter that has been hand written.

It’s not the owner of the book that is valuable but who wrote it. God is the author of your life.

If God is your owner/author you are extremely valuable. If you belong to the King of Kings you are his treasured possession because nobody values you more than God. Others may not value you, but God does.

Why am I extremely valuable; because God is my father and I am in his family. One day in heaven he will share all his glory and all his inheritance with me. He will share everything with his children. God wanted children and he has millions of them.

Now this is important; everybody is created by God, but NOT everybody is a child of God. Everybody is loved by God; but NOT everybody loves God.  I think we would all accept that.

You have to choose to be in God’s family and a lot of people do not choose to be in his family. You do not automatically qualify to be in God’s family because God happens to love you.  You are to love God.

Nor do people choose to trust in his Son Jesus Christ. And that’s the key to finding your true identity. Trusting in Jesus.

When we choose to trust in Jesus there’s that phrase again, In Jesus. When we choose to trust in Jesus our heavenly father promises to take care of all our needs.

Jesus says, “consider the ravens; They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds.” God takes care of birds, and animals and insects. If he does that for them, then He will take care of you

How much are you worth. Look at the cross and see how much you are worth. This is how much you are worth. Arms wide open.  Jesus is saying I’d rather die than live without you. I’m willing to die and shed my blood for you in order that you may have faith, forgiveness, and eternal life.

The greatest ransom ever paid in the history of the world was given by God to buy you and secure your identity in him.  Amen.


Alan Wilson is a Presbyterian Minister in Northern Ireland, where he serves a large congregation, supported by his wife. Before he took up the call to serve Christ, he was in the Royal Ulster Constabulary for 30-years. He has two children and two grandchildren and enjoys soccer, gardening, zoology, politics and reading. He voted for Brexit in the hope that the stranglehold of Brussels might finally be broken. He welcomes any that might wish to correspond with him through the Contact Page of The Postil.


The photo shows, “St. Mary Magdalene in House of Simon the Pharisee,” by Jean Beraud, painted in 1891.

Mill And The Happy Society

The content of John Stuart Mill’s philosophy is strongly influenced by eighteenth century French thought, and by the movement for reform in England to which he contributed. Mill believed in the possibility and desirability of social progress, but not in its inevitability.

Human society, as history shows, has moved from barbarism to civilization, and this forward movement takes different forms and occurs at various paces in different societies. Given this development, Mill proceeds to revise the ethical theory of utilitarianism in so far as it was applied to politics.

The end of the state, for the earlier Utilitarians, was the good of the individuals who composed the state, and that good was defined in hedonistic terms as the maximum pleasure attainable with the minimum of pain.

Thus, government was looked upon as an agency for increasing pleasure and decreasing pain. Mill accepted this view in principle, but he found it inadequate. For him, the fundamental principle of morality is known by experience, and he goes as far as offering an inductive proof for the greatest happiness principle.

Mill argued that the Utilitarians took a long view of human life, not distinguishing a life fit for animals from what is fit for human beings. Instead, Mill introduces a qualitative distinction among pleasures to supplement the merely quantitative. Some pleasures, especially the mental and spiritual, are in themselves superior to the bodily pleasures, regardless of quantitative or circumstantial considerations.

Thus, happiness would require not only a life of pleasure without pain, but also the achievement of the superior pleasures even at the cost of pain and the sacrifice of the inferior pleasures.

The core of utilitarianism is certainly present in Mill’s assertion that those actions, individual or social, are right which produce the greatest happiness of the greatest number. However, he has expanded and modified this core.

Thus, government does not exist merely to produce the maximum of that kind of pleasure, which the citizens happen to prefer. Rather some types of pleasure are better than others, and the government has the responsibility for having its citizens educated to pursue the higher pleasures in place of the lower pleasures.

Moral education, whether it is carried on by the government or by private individuals, which Mill prefers, is thus one of the responsibilities of the good society; and moral education must be directed at the individual, not simply as a pleasure-seeking animal, but as a progressive being.

In effect, the individual is prior to the state, for Mill, but not the individual as he or she is, rather the individual as he or she may become with proper education in a well-organized society.

This does not mean that Mill conceives of one pattern of human life, which should serve as a modal for all men, but rather there is a great variety of potentials in human beings, and society should provide the condition in which each individual can develop his special talents and make them available to the community.

The individual ca do this best by having the opportunity actively to use his or her talents. Mill sees the active life as morally superior to one of passive obedience at almost all levels of human achievement.

From this it follows that the government that encourages active participation in its operation by all its citizens is better, in spite of the problems which may arise as a consequence, than one which is more orderly but encourages citizens to be passively obedient to the commands of a ruling group, whatever the morality and justice of those commands.

Thus, Mill adopts the utilitarian doctrine that in the effects of an action, that is, in its power of promoting happiness, we possess a clear and natural standard by which to judge its moral worth. And the aim of human action should be the promotion of the greatest happiness of all sentient beings.


The photo shows, “Afternoon Tea on the Terrace,” by Irving Ramsey Wiles, painted in 1889.

Do We Still Have Enemies? Part I

The Last Men and the Death of Beauty:

In order to even pose this question one first has to understand who “we” are. If we can have enemies, “we” cannot be everybody. Coupled with this, there must have been a time when, according to the internal logic of the question, we can all agree that we had enemies. Herein lies the paradox because to ask this question implicitly accepts the possibility of a universal human community and yet implies that at one time the human community definitely wasn’t universal.

So, in a sense what this question seeks to truly explore is whether there has been a substantive change in the human community such that “we” are now everyone. In saying that the human community is now universal one makes a claim that the universal “we” must be living in the final stage of history, that there are now no more fundamental arguments to be had which would challenge the basis of the existing political and social order and thus as there are no more fundamental challenges, there are no more enemies.

Concretely, that would mean that in spite of the claims made by Carl Schmitt, that a “neutral domain” of discourse has been created, through which the “we” in question has become entirely universal. This “neutral domain”, if it is to fulfil the purpose outlined above, must be absolute in that it must direct all political discourse in such a way that nothing can challenge the premises of a social organisation built along the lines of neutrality, for the enemy is that person or group which challenges our existence as a group and the premises on which the group stands.

It would be to say that there is no difference between the Islamic fundamentalist and the liberal because both are subsumed under the same “neutral domain”. Therefore, the question to now answer is;

To what extent is it true to say that “we” have become everyone through the construction of a “neutral domain”?

In understanding whether “we” are everyone, what is crucial to comprehend is that the project of the modern liberal regime has been to take away from the human community all objective signifiers of right and wrong, of beauty and ugliness. Those who believe that “we” are now universal see no need to fight over the creations of man because there are no more signifiers of whether these creations have any value to them.

Under this understanding “we” have become like Nietzsche’s last men in that there is “No Shepard and one heard! Each wants the same, each is the same, and whoever feels differently goes voluntarily into the insane asylum”. One can argue, that the liberal order has taken away the need for values and because there are no values “we” can no longer disagree over what the values of society ought to be. Individual pleasures and displeasures remain but these are not the signifiers of right and wrong.

The Islamic terrorist or the socialist revolutionary is no longer an enemy of society, he is a sick individual. He does not represent a threat to the social order because he seeks to fight a valueless society with values. He is merely a problem to be solved within the universal “we”.

One can understand this position fully once one understands the fundamental changes which have taken place in the creative production of mankind. Media, like art, is a product of human creation, but art would be a question of “interpreting the intellect”, of realising moral perfection through human creation (something which requires the application of values and therefore inevitable disputes between groups). What dominates today is merely media, a domain which is free of values but imposes on humanity a social order that binds us in a universal knot.

As Adorno and Horkheimer wrote “The sociological theory that the loss of the support of objectively established religion … have led to cultural chaos is disproved every day; for culture now impresses the same stamp on everything.” Media is not only film or radio, it is an entire entertainment infrastructure which includes social media, on demand online services in addition to traditional forms of entertainment like film.

One can make the argument that the domain of media has become a “neutral domain” through which the liberal order has overcome values and yet has provided nothing to replace them. The fundamental tension in the domain of media is not being informed and uninformed, because media is merely entertaining not informational. The fundamental tension is instead between being connected and unconnected.

One does not interpret the contents with one’s intellect, but rather one seeks to be connected to everything regardless of its content. The media is simply a product to be consumed, it is no longer a moral statement. Thus, a social order is imposed through a media system which takes away all distinctions of good and evil, or ugly and beautiful and leaves one only with the imagined fear, the imagined danger of an enemy behind another screen.

In the social order, built on the domain of the media with this tension between being connected and disconnected, essentially everyone wants to be connected even if they disagree with what everyone else is doing. Even if you are a radical conservative who stands against the developments of modernity, you will favour connectivity in the media industry in order to spread your ideology.

No one sides with being disconnected, so even if there exist some substantive issues on which different groups disagree, no one actually dispute which side of the media industry they want to be on. Regardless of your beliefs, you will use Facebook, twitter and YouTube to spread your message and to be connected. Thus, everyone can be seen to now be united as a universal consumer of the media industry.


The photo shows, “Spring,” by William McTaggart, painted in 1864.

Tales Of The Brothers Grimm

Once upon a time, in a place not so far away, a black shadow spread across the land, slipping its long, inky fingers into every castle and cottage. Like a Midas of misery, everything it touched turned to wrack and ruin.

Children starved, mothers lay ill, fathers slain in battle, crops destroyed, houses burned. Nothing the people did could spare them from the evil and pestilence, and many believed the end of the world had come.

That time was the early 17th century. That place, Germany; and that shadow of darkness and destruction, the Thirty Years War. Yet, this bleak epoch gave rise to the fairy tale, a genre of fiction, which modern readers immediately associate with innocent enjoyment and far-fetched fantasy.

They frequently borrow Biblical themes such as resurrection (Sleeping Beauty) and numerology (threes, sevens and twelves abound in Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood).

And the tales of the Brothers Grimm are a grim collection of tales that embody the harsh realities of life such as death, but also the bonds that make life sweet, namely, love. Thus, the tales of Brothers Grimm move between these two eternal themes.

No place on the Continent was ravaged as brutally as Germany during the three ruinous decades collectively known as the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which cut a broad swath of disease, death and demoralization through the country.

One-third of the German population was dead, leaving the survivors without parents, offspring, homes, livelihoods, health, hence the harshness with which the Grimm tales unfold.

Fairy tales of the period reflect the uncertainty and staggering losses of war. Rampaging disease – the worst Europe had seen since the Black Death of the 13th century – brought with it the reality of wicked stepparents and -siblings (Cinderella), hunger and life-threatening poverty (Hansel and Gretel), and early death (Sleeping Beauty).

Theft, abduction, mutilation, and murder are common themes in the Brothers Grimm, from Rotkäppchen to Rumpelstilzchen – hardly our idea of child-appropriate entertainment, but story tellers of the day were more occupied with keeping their children clothed and fed than making good citizens of them.

Society generally regarded children as small adults, unlikely to survive to actual adulthood, and therefore took little care to coddle their emotional development. Fairy tales were intended to amuse parents as much as offspring, and the harshness of life is not clothed in sentimentality or euphemism.

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859), set about to produce a comprehensive printed version of European fairy tales, with an eye to adapting them for a younger audience. That we now refer to Snow White and Cinderella as “Grimm’s fairy tales” attests to the personal stamp they left on this hitherto collective cultural property.

They also made a significant contribution to the shaping of the genre by naming their collection, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1812) and redirecting the tales towards a – physically – smaller audience. Their work has gone on to become the single most translated German book throughout the world.

By today’s standards, even the Grimms’ fairy tales are brutal. If you grew up thinking Cinderella’s prince came around after the ball, blithely passing that left-behind slipper from one genteel foot to the next in search of its rightful owner, it may surprise you to read the version in circulation circa 1820.

The self-absorbed step-mother, keen on winning the reflected glories of royalty by marrying off her daughters to the eligible heir, cuts off part of each girl’s foot in order to get a proper fit and triumphantly jams on the shoe.

Both times the (apparently blind) prince rides off with the bleeding bride-to-be, saved from his mistake only a by a few helpful birds who clue the prince in to what has happened. The gore goes on in Snow White, where the wicked Queen summons a huntsman not merely to kill the young beauty, but to tear out her lungs and liver as well.

The Queen then boils this bounty and devours it with fiendish enjoyment. Rapunzel’s handsome rescuer also meets a nasty end. After his eyes are gorged out, his body, too, is pierced by the giant thorns, which flourish on the rose bushes surrounding poor Rapunzel’s tower.

Grimm’s fairy tales speak universally and directly to children in a way, which empowers and delights, terrifies and tickles, enabling children to recognize themselves and their place in the world. As Märchen scholar Max Luthi has noted, fairy tales draw in readers and listeners of all ages because they present the world in miniature.

The blossom of love and the thorn of death, the proverbial battle between good and evil, are presented in a form, which fits within the span of a bedtime story. Objects such as gold, water, iron and straw symbolize power, purity, strength, and industry.

Fairy tales reflect the hard injustices and grinding poverty of peasant life along with the rarefied, but no less suffocating limitations of royal existence. Dreary toil, illness, and hunger are as much a part of fairy tales as kissing frogs and spinning straw into gold.

The realm of dreams is represented by abundant food (Tischlein deck dich), luxuries such as soft beds and warmth (Hansel and Gretel) and wealth in the form of jewels and gold. The fairytale reached the zenith of its popularity in the mid-to-late 19th century, when Gothic revivalism swept the Continent. The tales spread from page to stage, be it puppet theater or grand opera (Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel was first produced in 1893).

Allegorically, children are presented with a first glimpse of the wide world beyond their bedroom walls. Fairy tale princes and paupers all tread the same path to adulthood, overcoming fears, resolving conflicts, and building friendships.

By confronting evil in the form of granny-devouring wolves or witches who roast children, children can explore the vivid fantasy side of fear. Wicked stepmothers, jealous siblings, and lost fathers are more realistic worries, which children confront through fairy tales.

Coming to terms with these anxieties emboldens children to master their fears, bringing them closer to adulthood, when they will close the circle and pass the magic onto their own children.

Thus the theme of love and death in the works of the Brothers Grimm derive from the harsh realities of the seventeenth in Germany, during the Thirty Years War.

The catalog of death and harshness that appears in these fairy tales is an account of the evil that is found in the world. Yet, despite this grim reality, there is love, which triumphs despite adversity, for Cinderella does marry her handsome prince.


The photo shows, “Snow White,” by Paul Hey, litho published in 1939.

Animals And Humans In King Lear

Scattered throughout Shakespeare’s King Lear are references to animals. These references serve as points of comparison, and affinity, with the human animal. The purpose of these references is to highlight human existence on the appetitive level – that which solely feeds and nurtures the body, without concern for concepts that drive human society, such as ethics and morality.

In fact, it is for this very reason that Lear is turned out into the wild heath, very much like a feral beast, wherein he can enact his tragedy, free from all associations with the constructs of civilization.

In effect, the animal references in King Lear emphasize humankind’s affinity with all living things, in that each of us is involved in a cycle – birth, begetting offspring, death – life outside civilization, life as the instinctual drive to breed and survive.

As well, it is important to realize that human society is also a construct of superfluity in that human beings tend to accumulate wealth and power, without thinking about why they need to carry on in this way.

This is precisely the painful lesson that Lear learns on the heath. He has been turned out into the storm like some mad, unwanted animal. He, the king, is powerless before nature. All his wealth, all his influence, even his fifty companions that he kept with him at all times as a show of his might – are all stripped away. On the heath, he is no more than a lost, old man whom no one wants.

Interestingly enough, Lear the king, living in his court, was more appetitive, more driven by his own sense of power (since he could make or break the lives of his daughter, especially Cordelia) – more like an animal – than the human being that he becomes on the heath.

It is by suffering like a wretched animal, by being cast to the very lowest level of subsistence, that Lear learns about truth of a human life, indeed the value of a human life.

It by suffering that he undergoes purification, where all superfluity is stripped from him, and he becomes a man that finally understands the value of love and compassion. And the animals teach this lesson to him:

Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp,
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just (III.iv.28-36).

Despite the darkness that pervades the entire play, King Lear is about the discovery of love. All too often a lifetime will go by before we understand the reality of love.

In fact, the entire play is structured around the idea of inversion – things that we assume are normal and therefore proper (such as Lear the King parceling out his kingdom to the daughter who loves him the most) – are twisted and inherently wrong, if not evil.

By his own action, by trying to see which daughter loves him the most, Lear unleashes the tragedy that shall consume in the end. Lear the “wise, old king” is in fact a foolish old man – for he actually believes he can discern true love by initiating a game – “Let’s play who loves Dad the most.”

But Cordelia refuses to play. She knows that true love is not contained in mere words, but is in fact found in actions and deeds – something Lear himself bitterly learns:

No, no, no, no! Come let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage;
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too –
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out (V.iii.8-15).

Birds in a cage are freer than kings at court. They are completely without guile and deception. The inversion continues, for the cage is the freest place for Lear; it is there he finds truth, and it is there that he finds true love that Cordelia bears for him.

Of course, it is in the nature of Shakespearean tragedy that death comes precisely – and only – when complete realization is achieved and truth laid bare.

Thus, when Lear finds Cordelia, it is too late. Death takes away the very person that Lear sought throughout the play – someone who would love him without hope for reward.

And it is at this very juncture that we have the strongest evocation of the parallel between human existence and animals – for as living creatures we share the same fate – some will die soon, others a little later, but human and animals – indeed all life – is bound to the cycle of life and death:

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never (V.iii.307-309).
The finality of “Never” rings like a knell upon all human hopes to be greater and higher than what we really are – human animals.

It is this question that Kent asks as he sees Lear carry in the dead Ophelia: “Is this the promis’d end” (V.iii.265).

When the play ends, we must answer Kent and say, “Yes. This is the promised end – for death makes animals of us all.” And it is to Kent that we must leave the final word: “Break, heart, I prithee, break”(V.iii.314).


The photo shows, “King Lear, Act I, Scene I (Cordelia’s Farewell),” by Edwin Austin Abbey, painted in 1898.

Nahum The Carpenter, The Fifth Epistle

Ezra and some of his friends have suddenly become big time horse lovers. Several of them own one or more and they often go riding in the country together. They recently have been having little contests to see who has the fastest horse.

A local wealthy farmer by the name of Hananiah agreed to lend some of his fields for a friendly race. He had his employees set up markers around the fields for the riders to follow and he cleared  a standing area for those wanting to watch.

On the Friday before the race it rained all day. They considered cancelling it, but when Saturday dawned it was sunny and bright so the race went ahead.

There were twenty entries. They decided to run five heats; the winner of each heat would run for the title.  Ezra won his heat by a good margin and was looking forward to the championship run.

Shortly after the final race started and the horses were just approaching the public standing area, Ezra’s horse hit a loose piece of turf, thrown up during the heats, and stumbled. Ezra was thrown head first into a huge mud puddle! His first reaction was to see if his horse was ok and she was, secondly he started to check to see if he had anything broken, he did not. But his pride was sure smashed!!!

As he laid there covered in mud and barely able to see, he looked in amazement through his muddy eyes, he thought he saw an angel helping him! This angel spoke to him and asked if he was ok, he said he thought so, but was very sore. To his amazement she took off a shawl she was wearing and started to clean his face. He tried to stop her and told her not to ruin her shawl, but she continued. By now she too was getting covered in mud. With his eyes cleared he could see she was beautiful, maybe the most beautiful girl he had ever seen!

She helped him sit up and was continuing to clean off his arms and shoulders when she said Hi, I am Elizabeth, and my daddy owns this farm. Oh, he said I know your father, he comes to our shop! She said now I know who you are, you make sandals! She said look these are the new red ones daddy had made for me. Oh wow he replied, I made those, I thought they were the prettiest sandals I ever made and now I see they are being worn by the prettiest girl I have ever seen. Through her mud splattered face Elizabeth was blushing.

By now friends were also helping Ezra to his feet, he was happy to be uninjured, but disappointed in not finishing the race, he asked if his horse was ok and a friend said yes she was fine and was being washed up too.

Elizabeth, now covered in mud, had removed her sandals and was carrying them, she took his arm and said come to our house, I will give you some of my brother’s clean clothes. Ezra tried to say he would be ok and would just go home and change, but she insisted.

After washing in the pond, he graciously accepted her offer of clean clothes.

Following the race and the winner declared, Hananiah invited everybody to come and enjoy some food and wine and celebrate the first horse race in Jericho! Ezra went with Elizabeth!

The following week when Ezra was working in his shop, he was surprised when he heard a female voice calling his name. He looked up and to his surprise there was Elizabeth standing in the doorway

He put down his tools and walked to meet her.  She explained that she told her Dad she wanted to see your shop and he told me just to stop in, that’s how all the other customers do it. She also explained that she was walking home from her class at the hospital where she was training to be a nurse. He was very impressed. Medicine was something admired as few people understood it or wanted to enter the profession.

They had a nice chat and Ezra asked if Elizabeth would like to go to the Pub Friday evening, she agreed. The young couple were seeing each frequently after that first evening, and it was getting serious.

Meanwhile, Isaac has been very busy working with the Christian disciples. He does occasionally come and help Nahum when he needs him.  His job with the Christians is what could be called a front man. He goes ahead of the leaders and makes arrangements for the Church services for them.

Most of the services are held in homes, preferably large homes, sometimes they are outside in the courtyard. He recently took Nahum to a service in a large home. Nahum noted that the speakers used a stand to hold their bibles and papers so they could glance down and see them clearly. The stand was called a dais and this one was taken from an old synagogue.

It was about chest high for most men. The front was sloped down so the papers could be easily read.

After the service Nahum went up to the home owner and asked if he could look at the dais, he then made drawings and took measurements.

Before he went to his shop the next day he went to a local woodcutter and bought some wood. He took his team of donkeys and wagon and took the lumber to his shop.

Let me interrupt myself here for a minute and tell you that when my father took over his father’s shop their main business was making carts, wagons and cabinets. It was my father who learned the leather business and he liked it better than carpentry. I felt the same way, but I still enjoyed working with wood whenever someone wanted a cabinet or table built I was delighted to build it.

He explained to Ezra what his plan was and they started making a dais! When finished they got some oils and stained the base a light colour and the top a shade darker. Ezra added his own touch by putting two large holes at either side at the top and front, to hold candles.

The following week Isaac told Nahum they would take the new dais to a service at Hananiahs .

When they arrived with the new stand people were very impressed and their comments made Nahum very proud and happy.

The next two weeks Nahum and Ezra produced 19 of the new dais. They had orders for 12 from locals and four more were being shipped to places beyond Jerusalem. They were very pleased to be able to build these new stands and provide them for the new Christian Ministry. This also meant more work and more revenue for their shop. They had actually hired a young man to assist them. He was the son of one of the local Christian families and was enjoying learning new trades. Ezra found that he really enjoyed teaching and coaching him, something he had never experienced before, much like when Isaac was teaching him.

Ruth and Nahum were very happy and thankful for their life at this time. They were enjoying good health and prosperity, Ezra was gradually taking over the shop, and his education was making the business more successful and the tax man never bothered them. Seeing their eldest son in love with one of the most beautiful and talented young ladies in the area was also a reason for happiness! Of course the possibility of having a “daughter” very soon made Ruth excited with anticipation.

The only thing missing was Ezekiel!

It is now over two years since Ezekiel left for Corinth. Ruth and Nahum have had several reports that he is healthy and doing very well in Greece. Ruth is hoping he would be home soon.

Ezra and Elizabeth have become a very popular couple in their community. They are invited to many social events and are often seen either walking hand in hand or riding on their horses. They make a very interesting couple as Ezra is quiet, and a little bit shy, however when he does speak people listen.

Elizabeth is out going and a confident conversationalist, they truly support each other.

Elizabeth has completed her medical training and even though she is still a young lady, she has quickly created a reputation of a caring, tender, compassionate and clever medical person. More than just a nurse! People say that she has a unique ability to diagnose your problem before she even examines you. People are coming from around the country to the hospital where she works and actually asking for her. Fortunately, the medical men in the clinic respect her abilities and often ask for her opinion as well. Ezra likes to tell her she has God-given abilities!  She laughs him off.

Ruth and Nahum are enjoying their roles as leaders of the new Christian Church. They are well respected and people listen and believe what they are saying about Jesus.

Life is good for Nahum the Carpenter and his family.


John Thomas Percival continues working with wood and pondering about the early history of Christianity.
The photo shows, “Christ,” by Eduard von Gebhardt, painted ca. 1890s.


The End Of The Cold War

One of the most notable events of the last century was the end of the Cold War, which quietly and rather passively removed the “Communist threat,” and fears of World War Three.

Thus, when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, the old concerns unexpectedly faded, but these concerns brought about a different disquiet of the post-Cold war world, in which the Soviet Union fragmented into various smaller political units, each vying not only for complete independence, but also attempts at garnering economic power.

In effect, the relative stability of the Cold War, in which there was a lot of posturing, but never really a great threat of all-out war, gave way to the instability of the post-Cold War world, with various factions and groups vying for power and importance. This transformation may be analyzed through the lens of realism, both in its defensive and state-centered or hegemonic expressions.

The basic tenet of defensive realism suggests that in the face of insecurity or threat leaders will invariably pursue aggressive military and political policies, in order to ensure security.

And such was the era of the Cold War, in which there was theoretically the threat (or the perceived threat) to the Free World. These aggressive policies resulted in a balance, where both the USA and the USSR sought to gain an equilibrium whereby neither side would have the upper hand.

This resulted in a harmony of sorts, especially given the fact that the world was generally divided into two spheres of influence – Communist and non-Communist, or Free, and the various states of the world aligned themselves with either the one or the other.

Thus, the Cold War era was one in which defensive realism held sway. The crisis points during this time came two times. One in 1979, when the Iranian Revolution saw the overthrow of the Shah (who was perceived as being sympathetic to the US), and the ensuing hostage crisis, which lasted some 444 days.

The second event was the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, which the US saw as a blatant threat to its security. Both these events had crucial impact on the two powers involved.

For the US, it led to a decline in its image abroad, and for the first time, it began to be perceived as being weak and ineffectual.

While for the Soviet Union, the Afghan campaign would prove not only to be a veritable quagmire, but also would contribute to its eventual fall and the disintegration of its empire.

Given this external threat, defensive realism allows for the government to mobilize massive economic, military, and personnel resources. This certainly defined the Reagan administration, which was nationally popular, because of these aggressive policies.

And the result was that the US effectively out-spent the USSR, which had no hope of staying abreast. And when the US felt it had the upper hand, it felt it could relax its aggressive stance, and implement a more conciliatory policy towards the USSR, which saw the era of Gorbochev and Perestroika.

This relaxation is also part and parcel of defensive realism. Thus, defensive realism policies effectively saw the end of the Cold War.

However, this eventual breakup of the Soviet empire, led to severe fragmentation, in which the various ethnic states, formally under Soviet control, began to break away, in an uncontrollable free-fall.

Thus, the end of the Soviet Union saw the beginning of a time of extreme instability, in which petty states suddenly became crucial players on the world stage, especially several of the Central Asian states housed deadly nuclear arsenals, which were feared to fall into the wrong hands. The result of this breakup was not only fragmentation, but also the assertion of age-old rivalries, hatreds, and ethnic divisions.

This was savagely made clear in the former Yugoslavia, where the term “ethnic cleansing” was introduced. Thus, in effect, the post-Cold War era was one in which hegemonic realism played itself out, and continues to do so. As well, states which seek to maximize their influence internationally, especially when they perceive that they have the upper hand, and can do so without too much risk.

This is certainly the case in the current post-Cold War era in which we see various states advancing their own agendas, because they feel they can “get away with it.” Thus, for example, we have Iran seeking to acquire a nuclear arsenal; we have Chechnya seeking to be free of Russia, and many other factions and groups.

Further, weaker states tend to cooperate with stronger ones, in order to further their own agendas. This form of cooperation is especially pertinent in the post-Cold War era because fragmentation has meant not only petty states, but also aggressive groups that fight to impose their will and ideology on others.

In fact, the post-Cold War era is one of terrorism, where terrorists group cooperate with client or friendly states in order to acquire not only shelter, but also legitimacy. Thus, there are Islamic groups that are intimately allied with nation states such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia.

This alliance offers protection to the individual groups, and provides nation-states with access to either money, or influence, or both. Thus, the post-Cold War era is a highly unstable one, in that most of the world cannot sustain the intense fragmentation that took place when the Soviet Union suddenly disappeared.

Further, the post-Cold War period is one in which religion has suddenly become a potent force to rally and motivate people to undertake acts of extreme daring and ferocity.

This was never the case during the Cold War period, in which it was imagined that religion was a tamed, and toothless force that would only serve to better the lot of humankind.

However, with the oncoming of hegemonic realism, and the effective cooperation between individual groups and nation-states, religion is the glue that gives meaning not only the actions of these groups, but also helps to unite disparate nations and people into a larger unit.

Thus, perhaps we have come circle, and ideology is again exerting its force in shaping the minds and hearts of people. Previously, it was a political ideology – the choice between capitalism and Communism.

Now it is a choice between religion and capitalism, for many in this world. The future of international relations is once again confrontational, and will continue to be so, until the religious force spends itself.

Therefore, the Cold War era was defined by defensive realism, and the result was a balance of power. In the post-Cold War era, it is hegemonic realism that holds sway, with its stress on convenient, quick alliances, and the advancement of ideology, whenever the conditions are right, and opportunity permits.


The photo shows, “The Leaflet,” by Shaban Hysa, painted in 1976.