Friday, February 09, 2007


Well folks, I have been thinking about religions. Every so often, I look around in my beliefs and I wonder whether I believe what I do because I know it’s true, I think it’s true, I’d like it to be true, or – shudder – I don’t know how I came to believe it. That is, I try to be honest about my beliefs and their source.

My religious choice is Protestant Christian, specifically evangelical and fundamentalist as I consider it. I phrase it that way, because more than an occasional person has told me that I do not fit their idea of a fundamentalist. Well and good, I think, although again honesty commands me to consider that while they may be slapping a hasty label on fundamentalists, I should also be careful in how I describe myself, if I mean to be clear in my statements. I am certainly an individualist – I believe that God made billions of specific individuals, and so any generalization makes the mistake of missing His immaculate detail. I also believe that the scope of God can hardly be comprehended by any human, but we may hope to see a miniature of His design by broadening our perception to consider the greatest number of perspectives possible.

It’s usually impossible for me to write a small column, but for practicality’s sake I must try my best, or I shall lose my own attention in my explorations here. So for this article, I limit the matter to the question of judging a person.

One of the biggest problems I find as a Christian, is that non-believers do not understand Judgment. They point to verses which warn us not to judge, then claim that we must therefore tolerate any sort of sin. Some go so far as to say that if judgment is wrong, then even God must not judge; these people end up denying the Sovereign Lord the right to send anyone to Hell, and demand a universal right to Heaven, simply because they choose not to accept any semblance of Justice which might involve a permanent consequence. Others actually have problems with the doctrine of forgiveness. They point to a certain monster of recent or historical evil, and demand that we explain how a truly just God would allow such an evil person access to Heaven, while denying “deserving” humans that happiness. Again, the problem comes from someone promoting their own opinion to a place superior to God Almighty, but it does present the question to believers, and we would do well to sort out why we believe as we do.

Part of the problem is that non-believers do not understand that we must choose to accept Salvation, that it does not come automatically, because God is not a slavemaster or some kind of puppeteer. It also should be understood that Salvation does not come from saying the ‘right words’, but from making one’s heart right with God. Already we see that a perfect judgment is impossible for men, but available to God the Father.

The next part of the problem lies with the character of the resolution; Heaven or Hell. All or nothing, which we instinctively flinch at considering. This is because we all tend to believe in the superstition that we should receive rewards for the good we do, but punishment for the bad. Sound fair, right? Especially if we believe that most people are basically good, and that we mostly want to do the right thing. A full heaven of ‘good’ people, with only a few bad ones, politically correct in their sins, going to hell, like politicians and telemarketers.

The problem with that shows up in the accounting. Let’s say for argument that it’s right to say that most people are good-natured and try to do right. The problem is, every good thing we do is made possible by God. He gave us the means, the talent, the opportunity and the decision to do right. By a balanced measure, when we do right we are just doing what we should be doing, nothing more. That’s not to say that God is not pleased when we do the good things, but it’s not right to say we should be presenting a bill to God for those things which He alone made possible, with some demand that we receive reward for doing what our duty and created purpose demanded.

And that in turn makes our debts that much worse. We already owe God for the blessings He gives to us each day, and the tools and opportunity He gives us for doing right. If we are so ungracious and mean that we also take what He gives us without praise to Him, but we even work wrong with those gifts, how much greater is our debt!

In the end, we all of us are debtors who cannot hope to pay what we owe.

Here is the mystery. God knew that no man born in the line of Adam would pass such a test, and so God worked that into His perfect plan. If any one man could live perfectly, it would condemn all the rest by the measure. So, since all men have sinned, we all stand united in our need. Which brings us to Jesus the Christ. Jesus took upon Himself not only the weight of living the perfect life as an example (made possible by the Grace of God), but also bore our sin in order that none of us should be burdened by it. It is, in the end, utterly impossible to understand unless you accept it. A logic greater than anything Man can design, and therefore the one proof not only of a Sovereign God, but of the compatibility of Love, Justice, Mercy, Truth, Hope, Faith, and Eternity.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Laws of Grace

More on this later, but here is my basic thought for today.

Men generally do not like rules and laws and ordinances. Sometimes this is because those laws and rules are unreasonable or unjust, but sometimes it is because Man is unreasonable and unjust. So, at some point we all break the law. If not the statutes enacted by Man, we certainly break trust with God.

Yet God is kind to us. Every day we receive renewed life and strength, every day we receive a thousand blessings most of us never notice. Even though there is a final justice to be answered for everything we do, yet even that is held in abeyance, to allow repentance and redemption. And to allow those who will scorn even the last chance at hope the opportunity to enjoy what blessings they will accept from the Lord, however ungraciously.

When we are redeemed, those of us who shall accept that gift, we are redeemed by God Himself, and through no merit of our own. Even those few good things we do, are only possible because God gave us the power and opportunity and motive to do them, so at best we sometimes do what we were meant to accomplish, and only sometimes. We are sporadic in joy.

Yet even that is a beginning, and God delights in being good to us, and in leading us to our best hope. So while we all who love God wish to obey His laws, it is ultimately a different set to which we align our lives. While the material man struggles to comply with requirements and conditional behavior, the man in Grace simply lives in joy and grateful thanks. We cannot do better than serve God with the same delight He has in us, and to reflect that joy to our fellow human wherever we find them.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rowling Quotes Which Affect Book Seven (“Deathly Hallows”)

My apologies in advance to those people who have no interest in the ‘Harry Potter’ stories, but I do love a good mystery, and J.K. Rowling is a cracking good author. For those who do have an interest, Accio Quotes has a handy way to check all sorts of things, and from there I present the following list of quotes which are relevant to the upcoming ’Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, the last book in the series which is going to be available July 21.

“Key things happen in Book Two [“Chamber of Secrets”]. No one knows how important those things are … yet.”

- Interview with, 2002

“Harry was very well protected until the end of Book Four [“Goblet of Fire”], which is the end of an era for him.”

- Interview with CBC Hot Type, 2000

“The fourth [“Goblet of Fire”] is a very, very important book. Well you know because you read it, something incredibly important happens in book four and also it's literally a central book, it's almost the heart of the series, and it's pivotal. It's very difficult to talk about and I can't wait for the day someone's read all seven and I can talk completely freely about it. But it's a very, very important book.”

- - Interview with cBBC Newsround, 2000

“MA: Does the gleam of triumph [at the end of “Goblet of Fire”] still have yet to make an appearance?

JKR: That's still enormously significant. And let's face it, I haven’t told you that much is enormously significant, so you can let your imaginations run free there.”

- Interview with the Leaky Cauldron, 2005

“David Moulds for the News of the World - How does Aunt Petunia know about dementors and all the other magical facts she knows?

JK Rowling: Another very good question. She overheard a conversation, that is all I am going to say. She overheard conversation. The answer is in the beginning of Phoenix, she said she overheard Lily being told about them basically.

Is that true?

JK Rowling: Yes. The reason I am hesitant is because there is more to it than that. As I think you suspect. Correctly, but I don't want to say what else there is because it relates to book 7.”

- Interview with ITV, 2005

“Peter: ... and I was wondering, are we going to learn a lot about Harry's mother?

Lydon: Will we?

JKR: yeah, you will. Erm - it's - errr - yet again kind of the - in - you won't find out ... OK, in book three, you're absolutely right, you find out a lot about Harry's father. Now, the - the important thing about Harry's mother - the really, really significant thing - you're going to find out in two - in two parts. You'll find out a lot more about her in book five, or you'll find out something very significant about her in book five, and you'll find out something incredibly important about her in book seven. But I can't tell you what those things are, so I'm sorry, but they - yes, you will find out more about her, because they're - both of them are very important in what Harry ends up having to do.”

- Interview on WBUR radio, 1999

[the question everyone should be asking, according to Rowling] “Why did Dumbledore have James’ invisibility cloak at the time of James’ death, given that Dumbledore could make himself invisible without a cloak?”

- “NAQ” from Rowling’s website, 2004

“There are two questions that I have never been asked but that I should have been asked, if you know what I mean. If you want to speculate on anything, you should speculate on these two things, which will point you in the right direction. The first question that I have never been asked—it has probably been asked in a chatroom but no one has ever asked me—is, “Why didn’t Voldemort die?” Not, “Why did Harry live?” but, “Why didn’t Voldemort die?” The killing curse rebounded, so he should have died. Why didn’t he? At the end of Goblet of Fire he says that one or more of the steps that he took enabled him to survive. You should be wondering what he did to make sure that he did not die—I will put it that way. I don’t think that it is guessable. It may be—someone could guess it—but you should be asking yourself that question, particularly now that you know about the prophesy. I’d better stop there or I will really incriminate myself. The other question that I am surprised no one has asked me since Phoenix came out—I thought that people would—is why Dumbledore did not kill or try to kill Voldemort in the scene in the ministry. I know that I am giving a lot away to people who have not read the book. Although Dumbledore gives a kind of reason to Voldemort, it is not the real reason.”

- Interview at Edinburgh Book Festival, 2004

[Not really related to the story, but it caught my eye!]

“I have a very violent rabbit”

- Interview with Scholastic Chat, 2000

“What did the Potter parents do for a living before Voldemort killed them?
A. I'm sorry to keep saying this, but I can't tell you because it's important to a later plot. But you will find out later! ”

- Interview with Scholastic Chat, 2000

[about whether the Lestranges were sent after Neville to kill him]
“No, they weren’t, they were very definitely sent after Neville’s parents. I can’t say too much about this because it touches too closely on the prophecy and how many people knew about it, but the Lestranges were not in on the secret.”

- From Rowling’s website, 2004

“I keep killing all my favourite members of the Order of the Phoenix, but there is one member of the Order of the Phoenix that you have not yet met properly and you will ¬¬ well, you know that they are a member, but you haven't really met them properly yet and you will meet them in seven, so I am looking forward to that.”

- Interview with ITV, 2005

“Have any of the Hogwarts professors had spouses?

JKR: Good question - yes, a few of them, but that information is sort of restricted - you'll find out why…”

- Interview, BBC Red Nose Day chat, 2001

“JKR: No, it's just studying. The Department of Mysteries is all about studying. They study the mind, the universe, death…

MA: Are we going back to that room, that locked room?

JKR: No comment.”

- Interview from Leaky Cauldron, 2005

“The final chapter is hidden away, although it has now changed very slightly. One character got a reprieve, but I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die ...”

- Interview with R&J, 2006

[about how readers will respond to the final book] “ I think some people will loathe it, some will love it, but that's the way it should be.”

- Press Conference at Radio City, 2006

“ Yes, I do know what's going to happen in the end. And occasionally, I get cold shivers when someone guesses at something that's very close, and then I panic and I think, "Oh, is it very obvious?" and then someone says something that's so off the wall that I think, "No, it's clearly not that obvious!"”

- Interview with BBC Radio4, 2005

[upset at an Italian cover, which shows Harry without glasses] “Don't they understand that they are the clue to his vulnerability?"

- Interview with ‘Reader’s Digest’, 2000

“And if you were offered a post as a teacher at Hogwarts what subject would you most like to teach?”

“Oh I think definitely Charms - I see that as the most imaginative bit of magic because you're adding properties to an object.”

- Interview with cBBC Newsround, 2000

Now the tough part - waiting for July!