O LORD, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Christianity thus has an intrinsically dogmatic character, which is to say it remains confident in the truths on which it is founded. The Christian way is not based on pious feelings and good intentions. Inspired by the Spirit, faith is the enduring disposition of assent to and reliance upon God’s revealed Word. A Christian assents to truths made evident by God’s self-disclosure in Scripture, truths about God as Trinity, creation, redemption, and the consummation of all things at the end of history. These truths are reliably transmitted by human beings who, inspired by God, have also been shaped and influenced by their historical circumstances. They have been communicated, reformulated, and deepened in ways that invite ongoing discussion and debate about their full meaning and import. (See the ECT statement “Your Word Is Truth.”) This does not undermine the dogmatic character of faith. The Christian way uses reason to understand more fully divinely revealed truths, not in order to decide whether or not to believe them.
Even now, the Christian way bears witness to the fullness of life promised in Christ. Caring for the sick and the poor, friendship for the prisoner and the outcast, comforting the sorrowful and educating those who need instruction: These are works of mercy that embody the love of God in Christ. This active witness is crowned by ongoing prayer for the needs of fellow Christians, as well as for the world. The Christian overleaps the boundaries and limits imposed by a broken world. As Jesus teaches, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).
Do they work, these string-quartet arrangements? Oh, yes. They make the preludes and fugues different (I think they are keyboard works, fundamentally). But Bach is still Bach. He is always Bach, no matter what you do to him. When the Swingle Singers sing him, he is Bach. When you bang him on a can, he remains Bach. He will always out, always.
I think The Well-Tempered Clavier is one of the most miraculous things ever to appear on earth—and that the hand that wrote them was scarcely human.
In watching The Vietnam War, a viewer, hearing American officials pondering options, is tempted to burst out “stop, no, make the other choice.” But those making decisions did not know how the story would turn out. They had to act with the experiences they had lived through, not those we have accumulated since, based on imperfect knowledge and the typical set of “all bad” options.
But this comes only after 100 minutes of almost unceasing negatives on the war: from a Vietnam Veterans Against the War-heavy focus on the minority of veterans who bitterly opposed to it to Jane Fonda in Hanoi, John Kerry’s Senate testimony, drug-addicted U.S. soldiers, the Pentagon Papers, My Lai, and extensive footage of South Vietnamese army (ARVN) troops retreating in Laos and initially in the Easter Offensive (although ARVN soldiers won that battle). The plurality of Americans still supporting the war, which in that period included most veterans, got little airtime. A viewer could easily ask whether Burns and Novick were describing the same country that gave Nixon an overwhelming victory in 49 states in the 1972 election.
But beyond Vietnam-specific lessons, The Vietnam War lays out in a non-didactic, illustrative manner strategic truths of great import, including for us today. The four that matter most are about containment, incremental versus major war tactics, definitions of victory, and the criticality of determination in conflict.