A Short Rest

Bilbo and company come upon the Last Homely House, Rivendell. It is hidden in the valley, and when they find it, they are greeted by a song. It is the third song so far in the book. The song is playful and merry, and some members of the company, including Bilbo, are mentioned by name. Clearly, the Elves, who are singing this song, knew the company was coming, because Gandalf told them. The song itself invites the company to stay, because it would be foolish for them to continue on their journey in the dark. And so the company comes upon their short rest, fourteen days to be exact.

We meet Elrond. The description of him is regal, but notice the description does not focus on his physical features, but rather upon comparisons of him to other things, such as a king, or a wizard, or as “kind as summer.” We get a feeling of this character, a sense of his personality, which is far more important than what the character looks like. Tolkien knew this and allowed his readers to use their imaginations to craft their own images of his characters. Modern books are so fixated on describing what characters look like, sometimes the authors forget or don’t know how to describe who their characters are.

We also get, I believe, our first explicit reference to Tolkien’s Silmarillion, which at this point in time is not codified, but some of it has already been written. In fact, after the success of The Hobbit, the publisher wanted a sequel and Tolkien submitted the Silmarillion. Thankfully, the publisher wanted more hobbits, so in the long run we got both LOTR and the Silmarillion.

Elrond reads the Thorin’s map. Moon runes are revealed to be written upon it. Moon runes can only be read by the same moonlight in which they were written. The dwarves just happen to show up at a place where someone can read those runes and while that same type of moonlight is shining. But they don’t “just happen” to show up. Here again is another example of divine Providence. There are no coincidences in Tolkien’s world; the dwarves were meant to be at Rivendell at this exact moment.

This chapter is extremely short, but we get glimpses of an ancient past, magic, and prophecies amidst some much needed rest. There are also hints of Bilbo’s fascination with Rivendell and its Elves.  It is fitting that Bilbo decides to come back here at the beginning of LOTR. 

For being such a short chapter, it is a pivotal one. It’s also the last time for quite awhile that the company will have any peaceful respite.

Dad.

 

Advertisements

Roast Mutton

Bilbo begins his journey with a contract from Thorin, a funny contract about expenses and funerals, and a little push from Gandalf. Bilbo tries to make excuses, though we never get to hear what they are, and Gandalf cuts him off and gets him out the door. Sometimes people need a little push to get out of their comfort zone, or in this case, the Baggins side of Bilbo needed a push to the Took side.

Bilbo is to meet the dwarves at the Green Dragon Inn. This is a little inside joke for Tolkien because as a boy he always liked green dragons. In fact one of his first stories was about a dragon.

I remember nothing about it except a philological fact. My mother said nothing about the dragon, but pointed out that one could not say ‘a green great dragon’ but had to say ‘a great green dragon.’ I wondered why, and still do.

-Letters, No. 163

As they begin, the group gets soaked by rain and all Bilbo wants is to go back to his warm, dry, hobbit hole. The struggle of his two sides continues. They cross over an ancient stone bridge (a revision in later editions to coincide with LOTR) and notice that Gandalf is missing. Clearly this is a narrative device to place the dwarves and hobbit in peril, so that they have to get out of it of their own accord. But rather than simply just have Gandalf disappear, Tolkien has the characters mention it. They wonder if he’s along for the long haul, or the short term, and we as the audience don’t even know the answer. This is a storytelling trick; if you have a need to do something that is so obviously necessary to set up a plot point, and it doesn’t feel quite natural in how you did it, have the characters mention it. This lets the audience know that you know that there is a weak point in your story, but you don’t insult their intelligence by trying to ignore it. Of course in this story, Tolkien is even more skilled about what he is saying when Gandalf leaves, and we’ll get to that shortly.

Fili and Kili almost drown trying to save some ponies that almost drowned themselves. They lose quite a bit of provisions too. And two expert fire starters can’t start a fire. All bad omens and it appears this adventure has gotten off to a horrible start. Or has it?

The group sees a light in the distance, and as is clarified later in the chapter, they send Bilbo to investigate to possibly find some food. He does so and finds three trolls. Bilbo decides to play the part for which he was brought along: the burglar. He fails and is caught.

The trolls depicted here have common folk names (Bert, Tom, and William/Bill) and speak in a cockney accent, thus illustrating an urban lower class of English society. Tolkien depicts the trolls as slow, but I don’t think he is saying people with common names who speak in cockney are stupid. Rather, he’s writing to his audience, his kids, and the accent is almost an absurd joke on their ignorance of other dialects and forms of speech. And his kids would recognize the accent, thus the comical nature of it. This is contrasted by Bilbo’s ‘proper’ English as he speaks to the dumb trolls. His line about being a good cook, and that he cooks better than he cooks is particularly humorous.

It has been noted that the trolls in The Hobbit behave nothing like the trolls in the LOTR. The trolls in the LOTR are pure evil, whereas the trolls here are funny, and one of them even wants to let Bilbo go.

Again, The Hobbit was written as a children’s story long before the LOTR was ever conceived. There are going to be some inconsistencies here because of the nature of the two works, but Tolkien attempted to rectify this in his complete rewrite of The Hobbit that he began, but abandoned.

Another oddity about this scene is the talking purse. It only receives two lines and that’s it. I don’t think any such object like it is ever mentioned again anywhere else in the legendarium. The point of it is for comic effect, just another layer added to the funny accents, the funny dialogue, and the almost slapstick way in which all the dwarves get ‘sacked.’

The trolls’ downfall of being turned into stone by daylight is non-existent in English literature before this story. Tolkien is drawing on Norse and Icelandic tales and applies this motif to his own English story.

The trolls are defeated by their own nature. They are argumentative from the first time we meet them. Gandalf returns and tricks the trolls into arguing with each other until daylight comes, and their doom is sealed. A hall-mark of fairy stories are lessons contained within the story itself; in this case your own downfall can come about by your own hand.

How convenient that Gandalf returns just in time to save the day. However, as I’ve alluded to before, something more is going on here. At the end of the chapter Gandalf tells Thorin he left the company to “look ahead” and came back because he “immediately had a feeling he was wanted back.” We have to understand, that throughout all of Tolkien’s legendarium, that divine Providence is present. The divine hand of Ilúvatar (God), though never seen nor mentioned (except in the Silmarillion) is orchestrating or overseeing events. Much is said in The Hobbit about Bilbo’s ‘luck.’ Gandalf says in chapter one, that “there is a lot more of him than you can guess.” Even after the trolls are defeated, the group finds the troll hoard containing lots of provisions, gold, and very old Elvish blades, which will come in handy later on. The group only dared to venture after the light in the unknown night earlier in the chapter, because of their disastrous loss of supplies. Because of this, in the end, they come out richer, better equipped, and better armed. Divine providence lies underneath the entire chapter. And, as if Tolkien overplayed his hand with respect to this theme and pulled it back, in an earlier draft of this chapter, the dwarves also find the key to the hidden door of the mountain in the troll hoard. This is key that allows them to get back into the mountain safely and secretly, and they find it all because they lost some supplies and couldn’t start a fire. I think it was wise of Tolkien to not make this theme so obvious so early on. Tolkien’s Catholic faith informs his writing, as God controls all events for His end, though it is never heavy handed and you might miss it if you don’t pay attention. I will write more on this during a key moment of the book.

The problem of Christian books and movies today is no problem in Tolkien’s works. Tolkien’s work is not Christian, rather it is created by a Christian and its foundations and worldview are informed by Christianity. It’s all over the work, but never in your face. It is never presented in such a way that detracts from the story. If it were thrown in for the sake of being thrown in, it wold take the audience completely out of the story and the audience would reject everything that you want to tell them, mainly because you’ve written a bad story. That is what “Christian” stories, for the most part, do wrong today. They don’t tell good stories. They try to fit sermons into stories, and therefore the sermon suffers, and the story suffers, because the form that a story is presented in, is just as important as the story itself. It’s not wrong to have a Christian story, but it is wrong to have a bad story. Write a good story first, and if Christianity informs your worldview, it will come out in your story naturally.

“What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects – with their Christianity latent.” -C.S. Lewis

Dad.

What is a star?

A star is a luminous ball of gas, mostly hydrogen and helium, held together by its own gravity. Nuclear fusion reactions in its core support the star against gravity and produce photons and heat, as well as small amounts of heavier elements. The Sun is the closest star to Earth. This is a simple definition of a star. But it’s wrong.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, Eustace Scrubb makes a faulty statement about stars.

“In our world,” said Eustace, “a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”

[Ramandu replies,]

“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

What does that mean? I think Lewis is trying to show us, that in the modern age we live in, we have resorted to only speaking about things empirically, because that’s all we can say about them, lest we invoke God. To be fair, that’s all science can do, but the question asked is not a scientific one, it’a a philosophical one, or better yet, a theological one.

We need to remember to speak theologically about things. A star is made of gas, but that gas is a beautiful display of God’s power, immensity, and creativity.

Dad.

Review of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating 4/5

Who should read it and why?

Fans of Middle-Earth or fans of great writers will come away with a deep appreciation for the process of writing and all the influences and hardships it entails. Furthermore, there is a gold mine of background information to Lord of the Rings and all of Middle-Earth that even a casual fan will find fascinating.

Quotes

Well, I have got over 2 thousand words onto this little flimsy airletter; and I will forgive the Mordor-gadgets some of their sins, if they will bring it quickly to you…

Frodo had done what he could and spent himself completely (as an instrument of Providence) and had produced a situation in which the object of his quest could be achieved. His humility (with which he began) and his sufferings were justly rewarded by the highest honour; and his exercise of patience and mercy towards Gollum gained him Mercy; his failure was redressed.

His final line four days before his death:

It is stuffy, sticky, and rainy here at present- but forecasts are more favorable.

Review

The Letters of Tolkien is a window into the famous philologist, for he was a philologist before he was a prolific writer. From his study and love for words, came the fantasy world of Middle-Earth, with all its races, customs, history and unique names. The Letters provide valuable insights into Tolkien’s writing processes of the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion, and his other short works. Such insights are usually responses to fan questions, or clarifications on certain items to his publisher. Some hilarity ensues when he lampoons attempted translations of Lord of the Rings, and when he harshly criticizes an animated film treatment sent to him.
But perhaps his best letters are those in which he discusses the divine force in Rings that is never seen, but ever present. The work is no Christian allegory, nor does it parallel Christianity one to one, but Tolkien’s faith informs his writing, even his personal letters, and he explains and exemplifies a wonderful Christian imagination.

Letters is a simple read, though long, and audiences can get into Tolkien’s personal world directly from his pen, instead of secondary critics who usually try to make up things about the author for the sake of publishing a paper. There are a few letters that are quite long and dry because they delve deeply into word studies of elvish names or dwarf history. But they reveal the intricacy and attention to detail that Tolkien had for his work. Something we should all strive for in our own works.

Surprisingly, there are only a few references to his wife Edith, (whom he called Luthien) and no letters to her at all. Whether this is an editorial choice or a telling aspect of the private nature of Tolkien, I am not sure. Regardless, I am grateful for this collection, primarily as a writer, and a Middle-Earth fan.

Dad.

Theologian Trading Cards-Irenaeus

The first theologian I will talk about from my Theologian Trading Card set is Irenaeus.

Persecution, Gnosticism, and Marcionism are the enemies that Irenaeus would have to wage war against when he took up the bishopric in 177.  Fortunately for him, he was an inheritor of a great spiritual legacy. He was the son of Christian parents who placed him under the discipleship of Polycarp. This is the same Polycarp who was the disciple of John, the disciple of Christ. This is also the same Polycarp who was martyred in Smyrna in 166, uttering at his death the well known line, “I have served him eighty and six years, and he never did me any harm, but much good, and how can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”

Irenaeus primarily spent his life doing two things: taking care of his people at Lyons, France, and refuting Gnosticism and Marcionism. Irenaeus’ two major works, On the Apostolic Preaching and Against Heresies, reflect this defense. They both use Scripture to sustain his arguments. Irenaeus

quoted or referred to about nine hundred texts [of Scripture], and his work thus forms an important link in the chain of evidence for the authenticity and integrity of the canonical books.

Irenaeus is the first person to fully articulate the extent of God’s Word. He classified Scripture as the entire Old Testament and most of the New Testament. He recognized 21 of the 27 New Testament books, save Philemon, 2 Peter, 3 John, and Jude. He did not include the Gnostic books that were circulating in the 2nd century.

 

Gnosticism

Gnosticism had reared its head in the churches during the second century. Gnosticism is difficult to define in any satisfactory way. Gnosticism receives its name in that humans are freed by gnosis, which is the Greek word for knowledge. For Gnostics who used Christian writings and thought, this knowledge is esoteric and you need it in addition to the Bible to be freed. The reason is thus: The Supreme God is too great to know.  A sub-god, the Demiurge created the world, and everything he created is evil. The Demiurge is also known as Yahweh, the same from the Old Testament. However, the Supreme God had placed good spirits on evil Earth known as Aeons. Aeons would reside inside evil bodies and could be turned on to allow people to escape the evil world. These “seeds of light” could be turned on through the Son. Christ is another sub-god sent to enlighten the elect Aeons. Christ temporally joined with the man Jesus in order to give people the esoteric knowledge they would need to be freed. No one could come to the Supreme unknowable God unless they came through Christ.

It was primarily this form of Gnosticism that Irenaeus would be writing against, although he would apply it to all of the heresy of Gnosticism, no matter the form it took. His reasoning was:

It is not necessary to drink up the ocean in order to learn that its water is salty.

Irenaeus would attack this school of thought, which was propagated by Valentinus and his followers. It was no easy task, for Valentinians maintained that they accepted the Christian creeds of God and Christ, and they protested against being labeled heretics. This indicates that Valentinians were probably not clearly separated from other Christians, but were part of the same community. Valentinus even rose to prominence in Rome between 135 and 160 A.D. and Tertullian writes that Valentinus himself almost became the bishop of Rome. In later centuries Valentinus was identified as one of three arch heretics in the early church.

A key issue of debate between Irenaeus and Valentinian Gnostics is that of apostolic tradition. Valentinians claimed that their secret tradition was passed from the Apostle Paul, to Theodas, and from Theodas to Valentinus. Irenaeus would argue against this line of reasoning. He said that the apostolic tradition the Gnostics were arguing for could not be empirically verifiable. Who was this unknown Theodas? Irenaeus said an unknown person could pass down any kind of information, especially fictional information.

Furthermore, Irenaeus could point to a list of bishops that were empirically verifiable. He could point to Smyrna, to Rome, and to Antioch. He could cite earlier writers such as Clement, Polycarp, Justin, and Ignatius. Any tradition that was passed down through this line of writers could be publicly checked, unlike the Gnostic’s esoteric claims. Furthermore, none of the previous writers Irenaeus cited, recognized or even acknowledged the Gnostic’s claims. This is because, as Irenaeus correctly understood, no one can change the Word of God.

For Irenaeus, the Bible was not a collection of proof-texts, but it is a continuous record of God disclosing Himself to man. This disclosure reaches its climax in the person and work of Christ. Thus, the incarnation and resurrection of Christ was also a key refutation, since Gnostics believed all things material were evil, and that Christ’s work did not require incarnation. Irenaeus viewed the entirety of Scripture as a testament to the incarnational Son of God. This is why he was so adamant to defend against claims of rejections and distortions of Scripture. To do so threatened the incarnation, and therefore threatened salvation.

 

Irenaeus For Today

Finally, Irenaeus has special relevance today for a few main reasons.

  1. His recognition of most of the books of the New Testament in the second century refutes the argument that the church “created” the New Testament in the 4th century. This an implicit attack on the legitimacy and reliability of the New Testament.
  2. He argues against the idea in many Christian circles that the God of the Old Testament is wrath,  but Jesus is love. This idea tries to downplay and give license to sin, since Jesus will forgive everyone anyways.
  3. He provides arguments against Gnosticism, which yes is still around. See the movie Noah (2014).
  4. He shows that Christianity is a public faith from the beginning, and those faiths that have esoteric beginnings are suspect (Islam, Mormonism), because they cannot be empirically verified.
  5. He defends the person and work of Christ as disclosed in Scripture, both of which are constantly misunderstood or under attack.

 

 

An Unexpected Party

In which I begin my commentary and analysis of the Hobbit. But first, some quick background.

I first read The Hobbit when I was in seventh or eighth grade. My teacher told us to pick a book and read it. So I picked The Hobbit. I don’t remember why I picked it, maybe it was from a list I was given or maybe I liked the cover design. That in itself is absolutely horrible, because there was a chance I may never have read it. What a shame that would have been, and to me that’s a symptom of the poor quality of public school education in relation to literature. That’s another story.

The Hobbit is a children’s book and written for children, but it is also a fairy story. More on that later. It was begun in 1930 as almost a scribble on the back of an exam paper that Tolkien was grading. The tone of the beginning of the book is playful, witty, and bordering on childishness unbecoming of the Tolkien widely known for the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien would later make several revisions, mostly minor, to bring the tone of the book more in line with the Lord of the Rings. He even at one point, began rewriting the entire book to make it more “adult”, a project he wisely abandoned. The current revision, that most people will read today, is from 1966, and it provides notes on specific edits made. The most significant, of course, is the change of  Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum, re-written to better sync up with the Lord of the Rings. The revision of this encounter is quite significant from a character and thematic standpoint which I will touch upon later. For now, let us dive into the story.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

This opening is famous, I think, because its economy of words invites the reader into an odd sort of world. What is a hobbit? Why does it live in a hole?  The sentence instantly grabs our attention with unfamiliar and yet familiar elements. All good stories do this.

The story then proceeds to tell us who this hobbit who lives at Bag End is. But we are interrupted by the Narrator, who responds to a question that comes out of nowhere, a question we as the reader probably had ourselves. This gives us a little clue about this peculiar book. What is written here seems quite awkward written down, but not so awkward if the story was read aloud, especially read aloud to children, since children like to interrupt and ask all sorts of questions. Tolkien did read his stories to his children, and I think Tolkien wants us to read his story aloud to our own children.

We are finally introduced to this hobbit’s name, Bilbo Baggins. And Tolkien tells us about this hobbit through his ancestry. His father was a Baggins, a family of quiet non-adventurous types whom were well respected among other hobbits. But his mother was a Took, a family who took adventures and therefore was not well respected among other hobbits. (The line about a ‘fairy’ in the family tree doesn’t mean a Tinkerbell was part of the family. Rather, fairy is another word for elf.) Tolkien was deft in crafting genealogies for varying races, creating rich histories and backstories. Here he uses that skill to describe and give competing motivations for the central character. These two family traits will serve as the internal struggle that Bilbo has to deal with throughout the entire book, whether to go on adventures, or live a quiet normal life.

Then for the first time we meet Gandalf the Grey, though he is not called that here, nor is he all in grey. His first words to Bilbo are a bit shocking and comical I think, and set up a joke a few paragraphs down in which the same words can have the exact opposite meaning depending on the context. At first, Bilbo said “good morning” to greet Gandalf, then later he says “good morning” to get rid of him!

A little later in the conversation we see Bilbo’s internal struggle come out just a little bit, when he gets excited about all the uncommon things Gandalf can do, but then he calms himself down and blames Gandalf for all the havoc he has caused, echoing the label “disturber of the peace” that Frodo would later call him. Gandalf then solicits Bilbo on going on an adventure. Bilbo rushes inside saying no thanks, but not before he invites him to tea. That little act right there is common in fairy stories: good manners. Remember C, this is a book for kids, so the main character should have good manners. But Bilbo even asks himself, “Why did I invite him for tea?” I think there is something else going on within the story and I will touch on it in the next chapter. We see polite manners from Bilbo again when he lets the multitude of dwarves into his home, though he is not quite happy about it. In fact, we get an explicit reference of minding your manners when Kili and Fili show up. The manners, the odd narrator, the playful comedy (notice the joke about golf later on), and the songs later in the chapter, immediately set the tone of the book, a tone that would drastically change by its end and already hints at this change in this chapter.

We are introduced to all of the dwarves and all of their names sound alike except for one, Thorin. It is interesting that his name is completely different from the rest of the dwarves. Three times Tolkien shows or tells us that Thorin is “someone important.” Later we find out that he is a King, (though at the moment with no realm to reign). Thorin is almost portrayed as a jerk, and sometimes he is, but to Americans, I think it is difficult for us to understand that monarchy holds a special place in British society. Not that kings and queens are better than other people, but that their position and authority is set apart, regal, majestic, and something to be respected. This is very important to Tolkien as an Englishman, and perhaps more so as a Christian, knowing that king and queens are just reflections of the King of Kings, the one that deserves all reverence. This theme will be explored more fully with Aragon in LOTR.

The dwarves sing two songs in this chapter. The first is playful and kind of corny. After they eat, they sing a second song, and this time it gets a bit dark, with descriptions of dragon fire decimating a mountain and a town. The verse here is wonderful, very descriptive and yet suitable for singing. During the song, Bilbo’s Tookishness comes out briefly before his Baggins side returns and squashes all desires of adventure. But also another desire in Bilbo begins to stir, the “desire of the hearts of dwarves.” While not explicit, I think this may be a veiled reference to “the dragon sickness” that sickness of greed that has already gripped the dragon, and I think, has already begun to grip the dwarves, especially Thorin. We learn of the dwarf’s desire to reclaim their home from the dragon, but also to reclaim their stolen treasure. So in one sense, their entire quest is motivated by greed. And we will see what consequences that will have.

Thorin begins to tell everyone (including us the reader) what the purpose of their visit is. He begins with describing a perilous journey in which none may return from, which sends Bilbo into a fearsome shriek. Here Tolkien prolongs the explanation of the dwarf’s visit by interjecting a character moment with a trait of Bilbo’s he has already established, in order to keep us the reader in suspense which forces us to keep reading. It really is masterful at pulling the reader into the story, instead of pushing the story at the reader.

After Bilbo recovers from his shriek and “puts his foot in it” the plan to get to the mountain is described. Lots of locations are mentioned and you have to marvel a little bit at how Tolkien crafts a world with just names (he was a philologist after all). Tolkien would frequently drop a name in the middle of a conversation between two of his characters, knowing full well its backstory and history, but we the audience may never learn about it, unless we read his other works. These name drops would create the feeling of a world and a history outside the immediate context of the characters we are following, and generate a sense of scale, wonder, and intrigue that would help the reader to feel like they are experiencing a real live place. With the assistance of maps, and consistent descriptions of places in relation to other places, a reader can know the geography and terrain of a fictional location as well as they know the streets to their own neighborhood. When geography is combined with the history that occurred at that geographical location, a culture is created, and the foundations of world building have begun. Tolkien was one of the first, if not the first, to build a fictional world at an incredible level of detail and sophistication. All modern world building, such as comic books and other fantasy series, take their cues from Tolkien.

Finally we hear the story about Thorin and his father and grandfather, the dragon, the gold, how the mountain was lost, how the dwarves were defeated and why they have not decided to go back to the mountain until now. We also get a quick reference to the Necromancer. And the chapter ends with Bilbo once again, struggling with his Took and Baggins sides, and whether he will stay home, or go on an adventure.

Dad.

 

Who is God?

To answer this question, I will simply survey and quote from the various creeds and confessions.

The Apostles’ Creed

…Maker of Heaven and Earth

God made everything including you.

The Nicene Creed

…of all things visible and invisible

The Nicene Creed expands upon the Apostles’ Creed statement, making it clear that God did indeed make everything.

The Belgic Confession

We all believe in our hearts
and confess with our mouths
that there is a single
and simple
spiritual being,
whom we call God—

eternal,
incomprehensible,
invisible,
unchangeable,
infinite,
almighty;

completely wise,
just,
and good,
and the overflowing source
of all good.

The Belgic Confession gets even more detailed, describing God as simple (having no parts or dependencies) and spiritual. The next attributes described are self explanatory, but they describe God by what He is not (via negativa). He is not visible, thus He is invisible.

The Westminster Confession of Faith has three paragraphs describing who God is (WCF II:1-3). I will not repeat them here, instead I will repeat the Westminster Larger Catechism.

The Larger Catechism

Q. 7. What is God?

A. God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being,glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal,unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.

The answer to Question 7 is similar to the Belgic Confession, although it expands upon it, and describes God (mostly) by what He is. 

Now notice I framed the title of this letter in contrast to Question 7. Question 7 asks what, I ask who. I don’t know why the Westminster divines used what instead of who. That’s some history I’ll have to look in to. But offhand without any research, I would say they were mistaken to use that phrasing. You wouldn’t go up to someone and ask them, “What is your father?” you would ask them “Who is your father?” because a father is a person. And this leads me to my final point: all of the confessions and creeds imply that God is a person, (three persons in one essence really) but they don’t come outright and say it. Remember, we can use adjectives to describe what God is, and what He is not, but we must remember that He is a living being, the living God, a person(s), not just a thing to study. We must do this with fear and trembling.

Dad.

Dear C

God the Great Author took up his divine pen to write us letters about Himself for our benefit. In imitation of Him, for there is no greater one to imitate, remember this, I take up my human pen to teach you about Him and life for your benefit. I hope to write as much as I can on as many topics as I can, but I suspect most of my letters will be contained to matters of faith, literature, and history. We shall see.

I don’t know when you will read these since you are only one year, one month, and seven days young. Some of these letters may have no bearing on your life until you reach my current age (31) or later. Some may be absolutely worthless and utterly wrong. I do hope though, you will see their value.

I realize however, you probably won’t see the value of these letters until later in life, so I will preserve a hardbound copy to give to you when you’re ready, and a digital version for you to peruse at your leisure as you grow up, assuming of course, the digital version is still around.

These letters may seem overly sentimental and utterly pointless as I’ll be teaching you most things in person anyways, but remember, written words can be read and studied long after they were penned. Why do you think God wrote a book? So I wish to do the same, and maybe you will pass these letters down to your family, or write your own.

Finally, whatever I write, check it against Scripture.

Dad.