I heard Tim Keller use this quote in a talk recently and thought that it was worth saving and sharing. From the Norweigian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s play, Wild Duck:

If you take the life lie from an average man, you take away his happiness as well.

From Wikipedia (see ‘Wild Duck’ link above):

Different translations use different words for the “life-lie”. In Eva le Gallienne’s translation, Relling says “I try to discover the Basic Lie – the pet illusion – that makes life possible; and then I foster it.” He also says “No, no; that’s what I said: the Basic Lie that makes life possible.”


When you plug something into a wall, something is getting plugged into you

When you plug something into a wall, [something] is getting plugged into you.

-Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, p. 7

Postman was fond of saying, following McLuhan, that when you add new technology to an environment, you change the environment. Hence the big idea of media ecology. If you add an XBOX to your living room, you don’t just have your old living room plus an XBOX. You have a new living room – a new environment. Something fundamental in the environment has changed that will affect the total atmosphere/ecosystem.

The idea that when you plug something in, it gets plugged into you, is a helpful summary of this concept. When you plug your smartphone in – when you put it in your pocket – you don’t have you plus a smartphone in your pocket. You have new version of you.

This is not always bad (and Postman never claimed it was), but awareness is key. I often quote the GI Joe PSAs I grew up watching – Knowing is half the battle.

Chesterton on Following Advice and Being Different

I think I owe my success to having listened respectfully and rather bashfully to the very best advice, given by all the best journalists who had achieved the best sort of success in journalism; and then going away and doing the exact opposite. . .

I have a notion that the real advice I could give to a young journalist is simply this: to write an article for the Sporting Times and one for the Church Times and put them in the wrong envelopes…What is really the matter with almost every paper, is that it is much too full of things suitable to the paper.

– G.K. Chesterton, The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton

This quote now hangs on my office wall.


Not a Substitute

I am currently listening to the audiobook of James Bannerman’s The Church of Christ. A quote jumped out at me today that I thought worth remembering:

In the first place, the Christian Church, in reference to the world in which it is found, is designed and fitted to be a witness for Christ, and not a substitute for Christ.

A Campaign Against Sleep

I share this one without comment.

Indeed I am always expecting to hear that a scientific campaign has been opened against Sleep. Sooner or later the Prohibitionists will turn their attention to the old tribal traditional superstition of Sleep; and they will say that the sluggard is merely encouraged by the cowardice of the moderate sleeper. There will be tables of statistics, showing how many hours of output are lost by miners, smelters, plumbers, plasterers, and every trade in which (it will be noted) men have contracted the habit of sleep; tables showing the shortage of aconite, alum, apples, beef, beetroot, bootlaces, etc., and other statistics carefully demonstrating that work of this kind can only rarely be performed by sleep-walkers. There will be all the scientific facts, except one scientific fact. And that is the fact that if men do not have Sleep, they go mad.

-G.K. Chesterton, The Well and the Shallows

Creating More Energy Than You Demand

Chuck Palahniuk says that writing workshops allow a writer to test his or her stories, to “see if it’s a story that creates more energy than it takes to listen to it.”

I think that’s a good thought for a preacher as well; and for a blogger. Ask yourself if your work is going to create more energy than it takes to attend to it.

Want of Wonder

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.

-G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles

A couple of Shakespeare quotes come to mind; let’s rip them out of context and use them:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

“It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith” (Warfield)

Some 11 years ago I bought, and binged on, the works of B.B. Warfield. One of his statements that has held fast in my mind and experience is, “It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith.” That line came to mind this week, so I decided I would record it here with some context:

The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Saviour on whom it rests. It is never on account of its formal nature as a psychic act that faith is conceived in Scripture to be saving,—as if this frame of mind or attitude of heart were itself a virtue with claims on God for reward, or at least especially pleasing to Him (either in its nature or as an act of obedience) and thus predisposing Him to favour, or as if it brought the soul into an attitude of receptivity or of sympathy with God, or opened a channel of communication from Him. It is not faith that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ: faith in any other saviour, or in this or that philosophy or human conceit (Col. ii.16, 18, I Tim. iv.1), or in any other gospel than that of Jesus Christ and Him as crucified (Gal. i.8, 9), brings not salvation but a curse. It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith. The saving power resides exclusively, not in the act of faith or the attitude of faith or the nature of faith, but in the object of faith; and in this the whole biblical representation centres, so that we could not more radically misconceive it than by transferring to faith even the smallest fraction of that saving energy which is attributed in the Scriptures solely to Christ Himself…

So little indeed is faith conceived as containing in itself the energy or ground of salvation, that it is consistently represented as, in its origin, itself a gratuity from God in the prosecution of His saving work. It comes, not of one’s own strength or virtue, but only to those who are chosen of God for its reception (2 Thess. ii.13), and hence is His gift (Eph. 6.23, cf. 2.8, 9; Phil. i.29), through Christ (Acts iii.16; Phil. i.29; II Peter i.21; cf. Heb. xii.2), by the Spirit (II Cor. iv.13; Gal. v.5), by means of the preached word (Romans x:17; Galatians iii:2, 5); and as it is thus obtained from God (II Peter i.1; Jude 3; I Peter 1.21), thanks are to be returned to God for it (Col. i.4; II Thess. 1.3). Thus, even here all boasting is excluded, and salvation is conceived in all its elements as the pure product of unalloyed grace, issuing not from, but in, good works (Eph. ii.8-12). The place of faith in the process of salvation, as biblically conceived, could scarcely, therefore, be better described than by the use of the scholastic term “instrumental cause.” Not in one portion of the Scriptures alone, but throughout their whole extent, it is conceived as a boon from above which comes to men, no doubt through the channels of their own activities, but not as if it were an effect of their energies, but rather, as it has been finely phrased, as a gift which God lays in the lap of the soul.

B.B. Warfield, Works, Vol. 2: Biblical Doctrines (Grand Rapids:Baker), Reprinted 2003, pp. 504, 505, emphasis added