Essay / Blog

The Metaphysics of Candlelight

Nature’s Distilled Sunlight Have you ever wondered why you loved candlelight? And what is so mesmerizing about the embers of a campfire? It is as though the depths of wisdom were contained in the spectrum of reds, oranges, yellows and blues, glowing and pulsing with life.

Essay / Culture

The Theologian’s Stone: Atonement In Harry Potter, Book I

This post originally appeared on Dr. Johnson’s website. “It is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn…. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you

Essay / Culture

Because of Fairies

Recently, I spent twelve hours discussing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with sophomores in the Torrey Honors Institute. (What a job!) I love this play more and more. It’s easy to miss its richness–it’s such a romp! Here’s the thing that struck me in reading

Essay / Literature

Some Books Just Aren’t Long Enough

Some books just aren’t long enough. I wasn’t more than a hundred pages into The Lord of the Rings by J.R. Tolkien when I began to dread the ending—not because it was so far away, but because it was going to come all too soon.

Essay / Blog

When He Became a Child, the Affection Came

Francis Spufford wrote not long ago of “why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense.” The great paradoxes of the faith–incarnation and crucifixion–would seem to resist any attempt to “make sense” of them. But, if one best enters these mysteries bowed low in

Essay / Literature

Beginnings and Creations in the Magician’s Nephew

In October 2014, five of the faculty of the Torrey Honors Institute had a public discussion of C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew as part of Biola’s annual University Day. There was a lovely audience there, but we barely let them get a word in. Did I

Essay / Literature

Hermeneutics with Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson gives some excellent advice in his Preface to Shakespeare (1765) that applies to reading in general, and especially well to Bible reading. Johnson advises readers to plow straight through a Shakespeare play, keeping up a good pace even when passages aren’t clear. To

Essay / Literature

Wordsworth in the West

William Wordsworth perfected a certain type of nature poetry, a particularly spiritual sort of nature lyric. He celebrated the movements of the infinite Spirit making itself known to humanity through the forms of nature as contemplated by poet-prophets who were the universe’s appointed spokesmen. Nature

Essay / Literature

Recommended: Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members

As the academic year rolls back around, I usually end up reading a late-summer silly novel. Nothing eases the pain of being a grown-up with a job quite like a dose of Wodehouse –though Alexander McCall Smith and Jack Handey also work pretty well. I

Essay / Education

The Abundant Style of Erasmus

I had heard that Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) wrote a book showing hundreds of ways to say “thanks for your letter,” so I went and looked it up, just to see what one of the Renaissance’s prime movers was thinking when he did that. The

Essay / Blog

Remembering Chris Mitchell

On Thursday night, my dear friend Chris died of a heart attack. We in the Torrey Honors Institute were—are—in complete shock. There were no warning signs, nothing indicating that his health was in decline. (An undetected heart disease proved to be the cause.) Chris and

Essay / Literature

Leaf By Niggle: A Recommendation

“Beauty, Eucatastrophe, and the Doctrine of Grace in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Leaf By Niggle” In September 1944, J. R. R. Tolkien received a request from The Dublin Review for a story that would be “an effective expression of Catholic humani­ty.” In response, he sent Leaf By