Henry V…Love and Neglect

“Take up the English short, and let them know
Of what a monarchy you are the head.
Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin
As self-neglecting.”

Henry V II.iv.72–75

Whenever I hear the phrase, my liege, I can’t help but think of Wormtongue from The Two Towers. But that’s another subject.In at least one way, I’m not sure the Dolphin is much different—hoping to turn the king to the Dolphin’s way of doing things.

But his words here are worth pondering. What is the difference between thinking highly of oneself versus thinking soberly of one’s limitations? The king of France is right to ponder the past as he thinks about the future and what war with England would mean. But the prince is not interested in thinking. He knows what Henry is like—at least he thinks he does—and he wants the king to act like a king, stand up to this worthless English monarch and fight.

The real danger in the Dolphin’s words are that his idea of self-neglecting and the king’s actual mood are two different things. The Dolphin sees nothing to worry about; he can’t imagine anything going wrong. The king is weighing the severity of the situation. In this case, the greater sin, indeed, is “self-love” for it fails to consider what could be lost. It fails to consider the men who will die in such a war. The Dolphin is heedless of these things. He is only interested in exalting self. In fact, in failing to consider others and the situation, he has already exalted self. And pride is the greatest sin, the first sin.

The Dolphin is the serpent to France’s Adam.

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Henry V and Miracles vs. Means

“…for miracles are ceased;
And therefore we must needs admit the means
How things are perfected.”

Henry V I.ii.67–69

If miracles have indeed ceased, then our means matter. If miracles are ceased, then discovering the means of success and the means to society’s moral standards must occupy our thoughts and time, for we must reproduce them (or force them)—if miracles have ceased.

For if miracles have ceased, can our goal still be heaven? If miracles have ceased and if we still long for a better place, we must admit two courses: 1) Either we deny our depravity is beyond cure and seek the means to improve the inner and outer man to attain to our understanding of heaven’s rules, and thus to heaven, or 2) we deny heaven is attainable at all and seek to improve what is plain before us to build heaven here on earth for ourselves or those that will follow. That is, we are tasked with ushering in the kingdom of God (or culture’s perfect man) on this earth only.

If miracles have ceased.

And they have for all practical purposes. Society does not believe in intervention beyond our technology and science and liberated thought. So technology and science and liberated thought need to save the day. They are the means. But what are the ends to which they lead?

The Slippery Slope

Conservatives like to use the slippery slope argument to point out why things they disagree with shouldn’t be allowed. If you allow x, it will eventually lead to allowing y.

“That would never happen,” cry others.

Abortion is one of those areas. We already see the horrific consequences of so called “partial-birth” abortion. And though the idea of infanticide is not new, it now has a new name: “after-birth abortion.”

The abstract of an article by Dr. Francesca Minerva and Alberto Giubilini from The Journal of Medical Ethics:

“Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

and in the conclusion:

“First, we do not put forward any claim about the moment at which after-birth abortion would no longer be permissible, and we do not think that in fact more than a few days would be necessary for doctors to detect any abnormality in the child. In cases where the after-birth abortion were requested for non-medical reasons, we do not suggest any threshold, as it depends on the neurological development of newborns, which is something neurologists and psychologists would be able to assess.”

The whole article can be accessed here.

Right, no slippery slope exists.

Abortion and infanticide are human rights issues. The left, which never had a leg to stand on in this debate to begin with, is coming closer and closer to losing all credibility in their worship of the god of selfishness.

Are Light and Darkness Mutually Exclusive?

Daniel Siedell wrote a piece recently critiquing Thomas Kinkade’s work. He basically raked Kinkade over the coals for not being enough like Dostoyevsky. My take on the article is that Siedell thought that the absence of pain, the absence of evil, the absence of the Fall failed to allow any sign of grace to shine through all that light. I suppose he has a valid point, but does all art have to mirror Dostoyevsky or someone like Flannery O’Connor for it to be considered grace-filled?

A clue might be in a quote Siedell attributes to Kinkade: “I like to portray a world without the Fall.” This appears to come from a Christianity Today article from 2000. You can read more of what he says there.

The beef with this statement from Kinkade is that is not the world we live in. And for that to be a goal is a misrepresentation of the truth. But Kinkade also says: “The world is very dark, but in heaven there is no dark.” Unfortunately, that brings up another problem: his paintings are not about heaven. They deal squarely with the scenes of earth.

Two questions: First, should we be concerned about an artist’s theological purpose if it is contrary to the way the Bible relates the world to us? Second, is Kinkade guilty of some sort of artistic heresy that we need to stamp out?

The answer to the first is yes—if the artist is intending to speak as a believer in Jesus Christ. His purpose should match up with Scripture, and this is irrespective of what we might think of the art. So does Kinkade break any theological rules? As long as we know and are aware of his purpose: fantasy, can we not then move on to whether or not it is good art? Tolkien wrote, in my opinion, a masterful work called The Lord of the Rings. He explicitly said that it was not meant to be an allegory—many have ignored these words and gone on to show how Christian it was. It may have been, but that was not his purpose. His purpose was to create a fantasy story, complete with other gods, other creators besides the creator God of the Bible. Whatever we think about the quality of Kinkade’s work, in purpose, is it different than Tolkien’s?

The second question is not so easy to answer because it involves all the people who love his work, and there are lots of people who love his work. But why do they love it? Do they need to love it only if it reveals the biblical concept of grace? Or is it ok to love it because it makes them feel good? Ultimately, our creations should point others to God. And when fallen humanity sees God, the Bible indicates that one of two responses is typical: “Woe is me for I am undone!” and “Oh the depth and riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” The response in various grades is either despair at our own condition or praise and adoration at our changed condition.

If Kinkade’s work draws us to heaven, and in the scenes of everyday life, we get glimpses of what life will be like: a present shadow—ironically achieved with light—of our future reality, then he is not guilty of such a vile act as Seidell accuses him of. If, however, his viewers are drawn to what might be here on earth, are made to loathe their existence here based on what they think their earthly life should be like, are left more focused on their own failures instead of God’s glory, then we should be more cautious in praising his work.

But that is an individual experience, is it not? Are we to become thought police for everyone who reads Dostoyevsky and sees only despair and never grace and then accuse Dostoyevsky of avoiding grace? I haven’t surveyed the landscape on what the Kinkade lovers see in his work.

For me, however, what Kinkade brings up is nostalgia: the idea that times used to be better. And that is patently untrue. Man has always been fallen. Man has always been depraved. Man has never been happy and comfortable in his cottage by the lake in static reverie. That is not to say that we consistently wallow in a joyless existence either.

So my take: if all the art you imbibe is Kinkade-like art, you are not getting a complete diet of art. It would be like eating sweets all day. And if we do that, we will enjoy the taste to our detriment and eventual death. So have some Kinkade if you like that sort of thing and it turns your eyes to heaven, but don’t forget your body’s—your soul’s—need for someone like Dostoyevsky.