Sunday, 22 August 2010

Quote of the Day: Talk to the Fool

'Are you in shadow? Are you in pain? Next to you, is Hamlet a happy man? ...

'Do not cry to me. I can only cry with you. I will not die for you. I am still too young in the meaning of love. Talk to the Fool, to the one who left a throne to enter an anthill. He will enter your shadow. It cannot taint Him. He has done it before. His holiness is not fragile. It burns like a father to the sun. Touch His skin, put your hand in His side. He has kept His scars when He did not have to. Give Him your pain and watch it overwhelmed, burned away by the joy He takes in loving. In stooping.'
- N.D.Wilson, from Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Everything, and more

by Steve Turner

Looks aren’t everything.
Luxury’s not everything.
Money’s not everything.
Health is not everything.
Success is not everything.
Happiness is not everything.
Even everything is not everything.
There’s more to life than everything.
from Up To Date (1993), p137 [HT: Mark Meynell]

Getting something of Ecclesiastes?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Clark Pinnock (1937-2010)

Theologian known most recently for his 'open theism', I wasn't aware of his much more helpful and orthodox contributions in the past. Justin Taylor brings a brief bio, with the news that Dr Pinnock died on Sunday. Read it here.

STEP and laugh!

A not-so-new, but recommended health regime: STEP and laugh. That's Stop Taking Everything Personally, and laugh! As in a Shakespearean comedy, we know the end, so it's ok to laugh in the middle. (Especially, to laugh at ourselves.) For more, see Ed Welch's post: Reasons to Laugh, Each Day.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Polemic against anti-polemic polemicists

It's in vogue to decry polemics. 'We don't like arguments: they're divisive.' We're all Trinitarian / we all believe in Jesus / we all believe we're saved by grace: why do we have to dredge up other details over which to argue? And somehow, everyone has a mental image of a man who'd hear of a tribe repenting and believing in Christ, and immediately ask questions until he found out that their missionaries were from the X Church of Y in Country Z, then issue youtube videos, podcasts and blog posts about how wrong they are on their interpretation of Revelation 20. I've never quite met such a man, but I'm sure if you spend enough time online reading comments in popular blogs, or message boards, you'll come across him before long - or someone who reminds you of him. No-one likes those who'll argue over the details.

It's not merely a contemporary feeling. My great-uncle, a missionary in China, objected to the presence of another missionary who didn't believe (or teach) that Jesus was God, nor that we have need of atonement for reconciliation with God. The missionary boards considered this nit-picking - who would be so un-Christian as to object to a brother who was so committed to a hard ministry in China? And of course, those in the 3rd Century who considered that the Son was less than eternally God, complained that the young hothead Athanasius and co. were nit-picking and even using non-Biblical words, in proposing that the Word was eternally God. When we now say, 'They're Trinitarian - stop fighting over the rest!', we're resting in the safe space provided by polemicists in the first place!

Yet, it still doesn't seem very British to fight over details. Surely we can accept differences? Surely unity is more important? How can we not be bullish and know what nits need picking? Carl Trueman writes a helpful article suggesting that the more Reformed or conservative evangelicals need not have so much self-loathing over a measure of polemics, for the health of the Church.
We must repent where necessary, where we have crossed the line; but, just as necessary, we must fight where we see the truth is at stake. We should be grateful for the truth that polemics have preserved so that we have a gospel to proclaim; and we should not allow a misguided commitment to being nice to allow us, in effect, to dump huge problems on the next generation by running up a massive theological and moral deficit in the church of the present. [Read more.]

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Puritans & prigs - reversed

Many people have read the best-seller novel Gilead. But author Marilynne Robinson is much more than a prize-winning novelist. With insight and a novelist's perception, she gives a fascinating interview with Michael Horton on Western culture and perspective, with topics ranging from Calvin as the best humanist, how Puritans weren't prigs, homelessness as a human condition, 'people struggle with forgiveness but God is capable of grace', and an author's definition of a good book. Worth hearing!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Batter my heart, three person'd God

John Donne (1572-1631) -

Spit in my face you Jews, and pierce my side,
Buffet, and scoff, scourge, and crucify me,
For I have sinn'd, and sinn'd, and only he
Who could do no iniquity, hath died:
But by my death can not be satisfied
My sins, which pass the Jews' impiety:
They kill'd once an inglorious man, but I
Crucify him daily, being now glorified.
Oh let me then, his strange love still admire:
Kings pardon, but he bore our punishment.
And Jacob came clothed in vile harsh attire
But to supplant, and with gainful intent:
God clothed himself in vile man's flesh, that so
He might be weak enough to suffer woe.

Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for, you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Frustrating, inefficient & ... fulfilling?

Encouraging, polished & fulfilling?
Frustrating, inefficient & messy?

Uses your gifts? 
Wears you out?

This is the way the Master went; should not his servants tread it still?

Ajith Fernando, of Sri Lanka, has a marvellous article in the Lausanne Global Conversation - short form in Evangelicals Now: Suffering Service
The cross must be an essential element in our definition of vocational fulfilment.
Young Christian workers who return to Sri Lanka after studying in the West struggle with this. They cannot use their qualifications fully because we cannot afford pure specialists. Some leave the country after a few years. Some start their own organisations so that they can fulfil their ‘vision’. Others pay the price of identifying with our people and ultimately have a deep impact on the nation.
Paul placed importance on the need to endure frustration patiently, groaning with creation as we await its redemption (Romans 8.18-25). Not including this in our understanding of vocational fulfilment today leads to a shallow church, failing to challenge the world’s standards of success and fulfilment. 
I have a great fear for the church. The West is fast becoming an unreached region. The Bible and history show that suffering is an essential ingredient in reaching unreached people. As the church in the West has lost a theology of suffering, will it be ineffective in its evangelism? [Read more.]

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

To all music-lovers

To all lovers of the liberal art of music Dr.Martin Luther wishes grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

With all my heart I would extol the precious gift of God in the noble art of music, but I scarcely know where to begin or end. There is nothing on earth which has not its tone. Even the air invisible sings when smitten with a staff. Among the beasts and the birds, song is still more marvelous. David, himself a musician, testified with amazement and joy to the song of the birds. What then shall I say of the voice of man, to which nothing else may be compared? The heathen philosophers have strived in vain to explain how the tongue of man can express the thoughts of the heart in speech and song, through laughter and lamentation. 

Music is to be praised as second only to the Word of God because by her are all the emotions swayed. Nothing on earth is more mighty to make the sad happy and the happy sad, to hearten the downcast, mellow the overweening, temper the exuberant, or mollify the vengeful. The Holy Spirit himself pays tribute to music when he records that the evil spirit of Saul was exorcised as David played upon his harp. 

The fathers desired that music should always abide in the Church. That is why there are so many songs and psalms. This precious gift has been bestowed on mankind alone to remind them that they are created to praise and magnify the Lord. 

But when natural music is sharpened and polished  by art, then one begins to see with amazement the great and perfect wisdom of God in his wonderful work of music, where one voice takes a simple part and around it sing three, four, or five other voices, leaping, springing round about, marvelously gracing the simple part, like a square dance in heaven with friendly bows, embracings and hearty swinging of the partners. He who does not find this an inexpressible miracle of the Lord is truly a clod and is not worthy to be considered a man.

Martin Luther, 1538, trans. in 'Here I stand', Bainton, paragraphs mine.

[Listening to: J.S.Bach, of course - Itzhak Perlman playing the unaccompanied partitas & sonatas (Here if you have Spotify). 'A German historian has said that in the course of 300 years, only one German ever really understood Luther, and that one was Johann Sebastian Bach.']

Monday, 2 August 2010

Don't look inside!

Amazon advises that we may 'look inside' a book before purchase. Wise advice, in the case of a book. But if you seek good news, or to see something of worth, don't 'look inside' yourself. Doctor Martin (no, not the clumpy shoes one) inspired a little ditty on the subject, a while ago:
Luther teaches that we all
Are involved in Adam's fall.
If we look ourselves within,
Feel the bite and curse of sin.
When dread, despair and terror seize, 
Contrite we fall upon our knees.
Then breaks for us the light of day;
Then the gospel may have sway. 

Then we see Christ: of God, the Son,
Who for us all things has done:
The law fulfilled, the debt is paid,
Death overcome, the curse allayed,
Hell destroyed, the devil bound,
Grace for us with God has found.
Christ, the Lamb, removes all sin:
By faith alone in Christ we win.

Translation of 'The Wittenberg Nightingale', by Hans Sachs, Nurnberg. From Here I Stand, Bainton, modernised slightly.