Saturday, May 30, 2015

Apply as Needed

"It is hard to persevere in a close study when you can work up no prima facie confidence in your teachers."

—C. S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 154.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Good Reminder

"There are two sorts of outsiders: the uneducated, and those who are educated in some way but not in your way."

—C. S. Lewis, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," in Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 152–153.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Interpreting Scripture Theologically

Douglas Sweeney:
Edwards tried to interpret the Bible theologically. He handled it not as a collection of antiquarian artifacts, but as the living Word of the God who calls himself "I Am." Thus he studied it both as scholars study sets of primary sources (to understand the lives of those whom they were first put to writing) and—in a manner more important to his daily pastoral ministry—as priestly theologians study the oracles of God (to understand his will for those who still have ears to hear). This sets him apart from many modern Western biblical scholars, whether Christian or non-Christian. For higher criticism has ruled the roost in modern biblical studies, shaping the ways that even pastors think of preaching Sunday sermons. 
For several generations, learned preachers have been taught to think primarily as historians, explaining sermon texts by reference to their ancient, social contexts. Only later, if at all, have they been taught to expound their sermon texts in light of the whole canon, or the history of redemption, no matter how far apart the Bible's human authors stood. There are notable exceptions to this homiletical rule. But most of the time, when modern preachers have made theological moves they have become rather nervous. Scholars caution them to scrutinize the structural viability of the bridges that they build between the ancient worlds of Scripture and the worlds of their parishioners. Historians know better than to make great leaps of faith without sufficient natural evidence that one can survive the fall. Better to keep one's sermon fixed upon the lessons of the past than attempt to unite—awkwardly—such patently different worlds. 
But Edwards rarely worried about the bridges he built. He spent a great deal of time doing historical exegesis. He knew the Bible's contents better than most scholars, past or present. He knew the bulk of them by heart, in fact, as evidenced by the constant use of Scripture in his speech as well as the blanks pervading his sermon notes where Bible verses should be. (Rather than take the time to copy Bible verses into his manuscripts, Edwards frequently substituted long, squiggly lines, trusting his memory to provide the missing text while he was preaching.) Nonetheless, he spent the lion's share of his time—every week—interpreting Scripture theologically, preaching it doctrinally (with trust in its transcendence and an unapologetically synthetic methodology), and applying it explicitly to the lives of those around him. 
—Douglas A. Sweeney, "Edwards and the Bible," in Understanding Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to America's Theologian (ed. Gerald R. McDermott; New York: Oxford University, 2009), 70–71.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

True Humility

In "Grace Tends to Holy Practice," preached in 1738, Edwards says this of true humility's tendency:
True Christian humility of heart tends to make persons resigned to the will of God, patient and submissive to his holy hand under afflictions, full of awful reverence towards the Deity, ready to treat divine things with great respect, and of a meek behavior towards men, condescending to inferiors and respectful towards superiors, gentle, easy to be entreated, not self-willed, not envious, but contented with his own condition, of a peaceable and quiet spirit, not disposed bitterly to resent injuries, but apt to forgive.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 304–305.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Breadth and Depth of the Fear of YHWH

The parallel descriptions in Ps. 33:18—“those who fear him,” and “those who hope in his steadfast love”—show something of the breadth and depth and width of the meaning of the fear of YHWH. It is not just trembling before YHWH, or trembling at his Word. It is that. There’s really no doubt about it. But the fear of YHWH is a more expansive concept as well, as many have noted.

In Ps. 33:18, hope is at the heart of the fear of YHWH, as the parallel expressions make clear. Other texts could be adduced to support other aspects of the fear of YHWH, such as trust and delight. Yet, while noting that the texture of this term is indeed important for rightly understanding the fear of YHWH, noting this richness ought never to come at the expense of the trembling element—which undoubtedly belongs to the essence of the fear of YHWH. As many passages amply attest.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Missionary Oath

"Missionary, first, do no harm." This is what I'm calling the Missionary Oath. And I've come up with it mainly with so-called "short-term missions" in mind.

You've doubtless heard of the Hippocratic Oath. A modern translation of the classical version, originally in Greek, may be found here.

The popular modern summary of this oath today, wrongly attributed to Hippocrates (though some think that the substance of a part of the Hippocratic Oath is at least somewhat summarized by it), goes like this: "First, do no harm."

So: "Physician, first, do no harm." I would likewise suggest that churches adopt—especially for "short-term missions" work—the missionary form of this: "Missionary, first do no harm." And then each missionary would take this oath: "I, said missionary, do promise, to the best of my ability, first to do no harm."

Why, you might ask, is this necessary? Well, the reasons why are well documented: "Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Mission Trips"; "Toxic Charity"; and "When Helping Hurts."

And one of the remedies for addressing problems with "short-term missions" work would be for far more robust training and educating to prepare people to—above all else—do no harm. After which training and education the said trainee would swear the Missionary Oath.

Monday, May 11, 2015

In a Way that Hurts Abominably

C. S. Lewis:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to re-build that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He's doing. He's getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and which doesn't seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. 
—C. S. Lewis, Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God (London: Centenary, 1944), 48.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Family Meal

Yes, the Lord's Supper is the family meal of the church of God in Christ. And so there ought to be a visible, tangible expression of this on Sunday morning.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

God-Centered Anger

In "Charity Contrary to an Angry Spirit," preached in 1738, Edwards speaks of what God-centered anger looks like:
If men's own private interest was not what men sought, but the glory of God and the common good chiefly, then their spirit would be much more stirred in God's cause than in their own. And they would not be prone to hasty, rash, inconsiderate, immoderate and long continued wrath for injuries to themselves. They would in a great measure forget themselves for God's sake, and Christ's sake; and the end, at which they would aim in their anger, would not be making themselves feared, or getting their own will, but God's glory, and others' good.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 279.

Anger in Relationship to God

"Love to God is opposite to a disposition in men to be angry at others' faults chiefly as they are affected and injured by them; it disposes them to resent them more as they are against God."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 278.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sinful Anger versus Godly Anger

Edwards, from "Charity Contrary to an Angry Spirit," preached in 1738:
Persons sin in their anger with respect to the occasion of anger when their spirits are stirred at the faults of others chiefly as they affect themselves, and not as they are against God. We should never be angry but at sin. This should always be the evil which we oppose in our anger; and when our spirits are stirred to oppose this evil, it should be as sin, or chiefly as it is against God. If there be no sin, then we have no cause to be angry; and if there be a fault, or sin, then the sin is infinitely worse as it is against God than as it is against us, and therefore requires more opposition upon that account. Persons sin in their anger when they are selfish in it. Men are not to act as their own or for themselves singly, for they are not their own, as has been lately shown. When a fault is committed, wherein both God is sinned against and they are injured, they should be chiefly concerned and their spirits chiefly moved against it as it is against God, as they would show themselves to be more concerned for God's glory than their own temporal interest.
All anger in men is either a virtue or a vice. There is no middle sort which is neither good or bad. But there is no true virtue or goodness in opposing sin unless it be opposed as sin. The anger which is a virtue is the same which is called "zeal." Our anger should be like Christ's anger. He was like a lamb under personal injuries. And we never read of his being angry but in the cause of God against sin. So we read, Mark 3:5, "He looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." Thus anger may be unsuitable and unchristian with respect to the occasion or cause of it.
—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 276–277.

What Is Anger?

Here's a definition of anger, slightly modified from Jonathan Edwards:

"An intense, earnest, and passionate opposition of one's spirit to any real or perceived evil or fault."

—Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings (vol. 8 in the Works of Jonathan Edwards; ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven: Yale University, 1989), 272–273.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Reports versus Stories

 "Reports convey information. Stories create experience. Reports transfer knowledge. Stories transport the reader, crossing boundaries of time, space, and imagination. The report points us there. The story puts us there."

—Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008), 124.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Strategic Attentiveness

I'm on a bit of a blog binge today. And so here's another post, this one by Alan Jacobs, in response to Rod Dreher's and David French's posts, in which Jacobs suggests pursuing "a strategic attentiveness to the institutions and forms of life within which Christians can flourish" in the face of the cultural seismic shifts underway.

What ought this "strategic attentiveness" look like? Jacobs give us his inclination in answering the question: "My own inclination . . . is to think that our primary focus should be on the two chief modes of Bildung: paideia and catechesis."

You should probably read first the pieces to which Jacobs is responding (which you may find within Jacob's post). I point up Jacobs' post because it sums up, clarifies, and points the way forward best.

Evangelizing the Cemetery

Mark Dever's post "How to Survive a Cultural Crisis" over at The Gospel Coalition is well worth your time to read.

Here's one choice quote from point one of seven that he makes:

"The whole Christian faith is based on the idea that God takes people who are spiritually dead and gives them new life. Whenever we evangelize, we are evangelizing the cemetery."