Monday, September 28, 2009

What Jane Austen and Thomas Aquinas Have In Common

This past weekend I gave a presentation for a local chapter of JASNA (The Jane Austen Society of North America) on the theme of "The Faith of Jane Austen." I don't wish to recap all of my points here, but I came across a statement by (St.)Thomas Aquinas which summed up perfectly what Austen's attitude about faith was, as expressed (0r not expressed, I should say) in her books:

"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." Aquinas

The first half of this statement was particularly true for Jane when it came to writing her books. She mostly sidesteps the issue of religion, operating on the assumption that most of her audience were members of the Anglican church, just as she was. Being an Anglican in her day meant that you had familiarity with (and implicit agreement with) the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Faith, which school children had to study. Certainly, all of the genteel class, like the Austen family themselves, would have been thoroughly familiar with the articles, (which summarize the beliefs of the church). Children, in fact, were supposed to memorize it in whole or in part, including some of the psalms and collects from the Book of Common Prayer--the primary book of reading for adherents. Anglicanism was the "Church of England," the state religion, and so of course Jane
assumed that most of her readers were familiar with its teachings.

Jane's thrust in her books was to go beyond mere "religion," mere elemental outward tokens of an assumed faith, to sift the motives of her characters. Like Christ, she examines the heart.

Religion was necessary, and church is mentioned in passing often enough so that we know, for instance, that Mr. Darcy attended services, as indeed, all of her sympathetic characters do. Even the ones she is critical of are assumed to do the same. Additionally, these issues didn't present challenges for her personally--Austen doesn't bother with elemental faith issues because they were settled for her (she was devout), but also because she didn't feel an explanation was necessary. The important thing was to know how deeply people were, or were not, living the virtues of a life based on that faith, on their religion.

She was not afraid to poke fun at clergymen or others who were hypocrites, as she had no fears of such undermining the validity of her beliefs. Such people were moral failures in one way or another, and Jane was particularly able to spot them, for she grew up surrounded by models of what true churchman were. She knew better than most, what a proper clergyman was; she had a father and two brothers who served as models; she had cousins and uncles in the profession; she had neighbours and friends of the clergy. She was surrounded by models, both good and bad, and she knew how to show both types in her fiction.

No less than three of her six major works have clergymen as their heroes.The other three have men who are as morally developed as a clergyman should be, at least by the end of the novel (Darcy, Ferrers) if not at the beginning (Knightley). (Edward Ferrers is not yet fully developed in his social manners, but he has behaved with undeniably heroic virtue.)

Every sentence I've written here could be expounded upon at length, and I wish I had the time to do it! But right now I don't. However, let me add that for most of her life, Jane did not like or approve of evangelicals, another reason her works are singularly NOT evangelistic in nature; but she had no less a sincerity of faith than they; and by the end of her life, she reassessed her position, saying,

"I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be evangelicals, and am at least persuaded that they who are so from reason and feeling must be happiest and safest."

Note that "reason" and "feeling" are keywords in Austen. Reason and feeling=sense and sensibility, and only a balance of the two can make a person fully moral and actualized. One of Austen's themes is that decisions or behaviour based ONLY upon reason, or ONLY upon feelings, can be unfortunate at best, or disastrous at worst.
However, the person who acts upon a proper balance of both, (and with an implicit moral understanding based on their knowledge of God) will be acting wisely, and will get the best results in life.

During my presentation, I discussed how Austen always shows her sympathetic characters questioning their behavior (manners) based not on a modern idea of asking "Who am I?" but on the basis of who they are in society. This is an enormous distinction. In a sense it is, "to whom much is given, much is required." If you are truly noble, it is not your title that will determine it but your manners and actions. If you are truly Christian, it is not your outward vocation, but your motives and actions that will prove it.

I find myself thinking that Austen, in this light, has much to teach us today about the way we should live. Much to teach me. Who we are in society--our society, our personal circles of family, friends, and co-workers, should in large part determine how we behave. For example, are you a mother? Take care of your children. A wife? See to your husband. A manager? Treat those under you with compassion and mercy. The values in Austen's books will always be with us and always be relevant: they come from the Judeo-Christian ethic, the Bible.

This has been a jumble of thoughts about themes that I enjoy exploring in Jane Austen. There is much more to be said on any of them, of course. What about you? Care to comment? Have you found that the "manners and morals" of Austen have spoken to you in your life? I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Charge to Young Women
Note from Linore: Today's post comes from fellow writer Bryan Davis, which he shared on facebook. Be sure to read it all, as it gets better as it goes. : )
By Bryan Davis (

She is born with a passion to uplift, empower, and support. She is the mainstay and sail for the captain’s ship. She is the heat in the warrior’s resolve and the salve that heals his wounds. She is the heart that pumps vitality to every joint and sinew. Yes, she is a woman.

Every girl in existence has been lovingly fashioned—from her caring and sensitive brain, to her tender and compassionate hands, to her tireless feet—to be a pillar of strength and resolve. While she might not be a warrior who draws a sword, she is the healer who strengthens the warrior’s hands and heart. Without her, every weapon would drop in futility, every muscular arm would wilt, and every pair of tired legs would shuffle home in defeat, for the heart that drives the warrior forward has stopped beating.

Some young women choose to take up the sword themselves, to step out alone in the midst of darkness to carry a lantern to the lost, to battle oppression and bring relief to the abused and neglected, or to transport life-giving supplies to the destitute wherever they may be. Their partner is the Spirit of Christ, and their sword is His word. They must know Him well if they hope to shine His light and pierce the darkness without the help of an intimate human partner.

Speak the truth. Live the truth. Be the truth. Never let the faithless ones persuade you to abandon any of those three principles. Remember that you are an oracle of fire, as is every faithful follower of our Lord. For all true disciples possess the pure silver, purged of all dross, and the fire of God’s love burns within, an everlasting flame that others, even those who give lip-service to the truth, will never comprehend until you are able to pass along that fire from heart to heart.

Many girls will choose to partner with another in this pursuit, hoping to be the light, the energy, and the drive that pulses within the breast of another. Yet, some never discover what it means to be such a heart. They never learn the secret of the captain’s sail or the recipe of the healing salve. Why? Because they listen to a counterfeit call, a trumpet blaring a falsehood—that their beauty is a lure to capture rather than an inspiration to set free. The inner desire to help and support becomes a lust to take and own. The hope to hear words of affirmation that she has been a good and faithful helpmate transforms into a hopeless search for eyes that admire and lips that speak words of appreciation for her outward appearance rather than for the beauty of her soul. And such a search never ends in true satisfaction.

You, however, are listening to your creator’s call, a gentle voice within that whispers reminders of how you were really fashioned, to be a woman of virtue, of inner beauty, of priceless value. The trumpet announces your need to strut, expose, and seduce, while the inner voice sings of ways to dress your soul in virtue—to feed the hungry, cover those laid bare, infuse encouragement into the hearts of the downtrodden, and nurture the victims of poverty, disease, and abandonment.

As a young woman of virtue, you understand what will happen if you heed the trumpet’s call to lure with flesh and flair. You will draw attention, but from whom? Someone who values face and form but not the heart. He will take, use, and abuse. His desire is for his own benefit, because what his eyes perceive is a girl who offers to fulfill the cravings of his body, and he responds, not with love, but with lust for his own satisfaction. And when your flower of youth fades, he will not perceive value in your soul, and you will never achieve the holy union of hearts for which you were created.

If you listen to the creator’s call, you will suffer temporary loss. When you pour out compassion and pity instead of skin and superficiality, you will be considered old-fashioned, out-of-touch, a prude. Yet, within the fair bosom you are saving for a true warrior, you will be nurturing a heart of unspoiled beauty, for it has not been taken at a cheap price. It has not been hardened by a wolf who captures, abuses, and leaves. And with such a heart, you will be able to reach out and be the captain’s sail, the warrior’s reason for drawing his sword, and the soothing salve for hearts less whole than your own.

The heart of a woman is more precious than pearls, and a man of worth sees it as a priceless treasure. He knows that she is the energy that drives his purpose, and without her, the pursuit of his vision for God’s purpose will be sluggish indeed. For the honor of taking that heart to join with him in fulfilling that vision, he will give his life, his heart, and his soul. The woman who has prepared her heart for that adventure will never regret the small price she paid. Scorn fades, and satisfaction blossoms. Contempt crumbles to dust, and contentment rises in its place. Ridicule is forgotten, while refreshment of the soul lives for as long as the heart pumps its life-giving energy.

Whether you take up the sword yourself or choose to unite with a warrior, now is the time to live according to this standard. It might seem that you are walking the path alone, yet, you are never alone. The One who planted the heart within you will never leave your side, and He will continue to sing the song that fashioned you as a woman of virtue. Listen. It is there. You will have to tune out the surrounding noise, but the sounds of love and virtue will never be silenced, if only you know the Singer and His song.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What Single Women Should Remember

Ariana Forsythe, the heroine in my first two books, (Before the Season Ends, and, The House in Grosvenor Square) is not the typical regency miss when it comes to the "marriage mart"; Why? Because she is not satisfied to look for a husband who is merely wealthy or titled, attractive or agreeable. Instead, like the authentic young woman of faith that she is, she bases her discrimination of "husband material" on 2 Cor. 6:14.
"Do not be bound together with unbelievers."

This one thing sets her apart from the vast majority of single women, not only then, during the regency, but today.

In the first book, the above verse is recalled numerous times, but I had no opportunity to really delve into the reasoning behind it, the reasons why God instructs his people to be separate, to marry only fellow believers. It is not prejudice, or whim; it is not because God wants to make life difficult for his people: No! Quite the contrary. Note the following reasons, all of which are given in the context of that injunction: Why should Christians only marry fellow Christians?
  • Partnership "For what partnership have righeousness and lawlessness?" (2Cor.6:14b)
  • Fellowship "Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (Ibid)
  • Harmony "Or what harmony has Christ with Belial? (2Cor.6:15a)
  • Commonality "Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?" (2Cor.6:15b)
  • Agreement "Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God." (2Cor.6:16)

Wow. Read those words again: Partnership, fellowship, harmony, commonality, and agreement. I don't know about you, but I certainly wouldn't want to enter a marriage that was lacking in any of these areas FROM THE GET GO. In other words, before you even have a chance to disagree on something, you are in disagreement. You are coming from opposite camps, as it were, and the degree of partnership is forever limited, forever handicapped, if your spirits are not both in the Lord.

Christian, you are a temple of God. You have the enormous privilege of being called into the fold of the redeemed. There are many, many differences to face in marriage, differences of temperament, of habits, of viewpoints in many things. What a tragedy if all of the natural differences we bring to marriage are compounded by the irreconcilable difference of SPIRITS!
According to this passage, when a Chrisitan marries, they bring into that marriage the Holy Spirit in them (they are a temple of God); the unbeliever also has a spirit, but it does not contain God. (In fact, according to today's verse, it is the spirit of Belial.)

Some that will argue that the person they are dating is so nice, so "good," even if they are unbelievers, that they must be acceptable partners. However, unless they know Christ, according to GOD, there can be no real partnership. Do you chafe against this? Do you yearn for marriage apart from God's revealed will (the Word)?

Trust him, my sister. He will bring the right mate for you in His time.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


This morning as I gathered my equipment for my quiet time, (pen, notepad, Bible, devotional book), I suddenly realized that there are only two things that are essential for an effective time with the Lord. Two things.

1. ME (YOU)
2. GOD

The astounding thing about this simple realization is that there is never an excuse for anyone not to spend time with the Lord, at His feet, like Mary. We have ourselves (for better or worse); and God is always with us. No matter how busy we are, we can stop at any time and spend at least a few moments with the Savior. This is not an ideal way to expect change in your life, for that requires intention, purposeful listening, studying the Word. But, at its essence, you have yourself, and you can put yourself in a position to seek God. (ie., on your knees, or butt in chair.) Silence around you helps (immensely).

The thing is, some people seem to think that if God is real, (and worth my time) then He'll have to do something to prove it to me. Send a lightning bolt. Invade my mind forcibly, or do SOMETHING really drastic because they are just not convinced He is there, ready to hear them.

Let's review the facts: God has already DRASTICALLY, ONCE FOR ALL TIME, taken these steps:
1. He CREATED this huge, amazing, intricate, beautiful, unfathomable world. The earth and all that is in it is a drastic proof of His existence.
2. He ENTERED His creation in the most vulnerable way possible to experience it as we do--"in every way tempted"--He was born through a VIRGIN (how's that for drastic?), became a wriggling, wrinkled, squalling infant: Very man and very God! I mean, that's drastic, folks! [All you software developers and game creators, it's like you turning yourself into pages of code, a piece of software, so that you could enter the cyberworld as a genuine part of it--putting yourself in the midst of the rest of that code--smack dab in the middle of it--(sort of; there's no perfect analogy to this single, drastic action that God took, because it was SO singular, SO unprecendented, SO compassionate--SO gosh darn DRASTIC--that nothing can fully compare to it in all the world!]

3. This next drastic action requires a small story: The gospels tell of a rich man who daily walked past a poor beggar, paying him little heed. He was too busy with his successful business, thinking of ways to manage his wealth (think: investments, new bank accounts). (Luke 16:20-25)

When he dies suddenly and unexpectedly, and finds himself in a terrible, torturous place, he begs for the poor beggar (named Lazarus) who he sees (surprise!) in the "bosom of Abraham," a euphemism for heaven--to give him a drop of water to help his terrible thirst in that dry and hot place he is in; (thinks of his own needs first). Then, he begs Lazarus-- who is now the one in the enviable position--to return from the dead, go back to earth and to his brothers so that they won't end up in the same horrible place as he has.

This is perfectly understandable; having discovered that his whole life was wasted on erroneous principles of gain and pleasure, he doesn't want his brothers (who he KNOWS are doing the same thing) to end up with the same result. So again he calls to Lazarus the beggar to go and warn his brothers. If one returns from the dead, he says, they will listen! He thinks that returning from the dead would be so drastic that it will get the attention of his hedonist family.

But what does Lazarus tell him? For one thing, it's impossible for him to go back; he's receiving his reward, and there is no way to return to earth. Secondly, and this is the most interesting part, he points out that even if someone were to return from the dead, his family still wouldn't listen. Hmmm.
How does he know this?

He knows this because Jesus has already raised two people from the dead. The other Lazarus, from Bethany (a twist of irony, that this man, who WAS raised from the dead, DID go back, had the same name); And He raised the young man whose mother was weeping for him, an only child, and restored him to life. Did these resurrections make people listen? Some, but not most.

Jesus returned from the dead. He is alive today. Millions of people all over the world attest to this, and I am one of them. He changed my life, and continues to change me as I submit to Him.

You want a God who does DRASTIC things to show you He is real?
You got it!
The question is what are you gonna do about it?

Jesus entered the world of his creation by becoming like you, and then dying for you (through the drastically cruel method of crucifixion) and was raised from the dead. He lives again. These facts, my friend, are drastic.

Now, what will you do with this man/God named Jesus?