I’m no scientist, but if this is even close to accurate, it makes my head swim:
Archive for March 2012
Most of us at one time or another have heard (or maybe even articulated) a self-analysis something like this: “Just because I do bad things doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.” What, though, is the appreciable difference between a “good” person who does bad things and a “bad” person? Just because you’re a few notches over on the curve doesn’t mean you’re in a different class.
“The degree of damage or good that a person can do, just by how he speaks to others, is astounding and should never be underestimated. We must avoid all manner of evil speaking, that is, any destructive use of the tongue. . . . God will judge every idle word that comes out of our mouths; therefore be careful. . . . Weigh your words carefully, and say what ought to be said and no more. Loose, undisciplined tongues destroy friendships.” (Steve Wilkins, Face to Face: Meditations on Friendship and Hospitality)
Our cosmos (with its entire integrated web of creaturely relations) owes its very existence and sustenance to the love-relationship between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.
Reading Luke 6 this morning, I found it difficult to follow certain transitions in Jesus’ sermon (vv. 20–49). The appearance of the parable in verse 39 seems especially abrupt, and it’s not easy to trace the flow of thought through the next several sections. After some meditating, however, I think this may be the progression:
In the first part of the sermon, Jesus gives a description of life in God’s kingdom that’s hard to absorb by the world’s standards. His disciples couldn’t yet have put it in these terms, but essentially what He says is that the kingdom way is the way of the cross, and only the crucified will reign in this kingdom. You have to die to yourself and love your enemies, just as Jesus will shortly do at Calvary.
If you’re going to walk this kingdom way, you’d best make sure whom you’re following (v. 39), because if you follow a blind teacher you’ll end up in a pit, not on the high road of the kingdom.
Pretty obviously, the teacher to follow is Jesus (He’s the one teaching in this sermon, after all); and the great news is that if you follow Jesus, you’ll eventually become someone others can safely follow (v. 40).
However (and this is important), you don’t become a teacher by running around plucking specks out of the eyes of your brethren (vv. 41–42). The way of the kingdom is the way of humility, growing out of a sincere quest for personal repentance and holiness. There are too many would-be teachers; there are far too few who have sat at the feet of the true Master, seen themselves for what they really are, and repented. There are too many who are full of their own opinions, their own importance, their own wealth, their own sense of what they deserve, their own ideas about how others should behave: these people end up being blind leaders of the blind.
And it’s not as if you have to be particularly astute to figure out who’s who. The people who have repented and are really following Jesus in the kingdom way are going to bear good fruit (vv. 43–45); the others . . . just follow your nose to the rottenness. Lest we’re still unsure how to follow the clues, Jesus says to check what’s coming out of the various mouths in question: when you hear blessing out of the mouth of one being cursed, you know that person’s on the kingdom way (v. 28); when you hear lofty judgments, bitter condemning, and scorn being heaped on the poor, look around for a great big ditch.
“We must know that God’s providence, as it is taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous happenings. Now it has been commonly accepted in all ages, and almost all mortals hold the same opinion today, that all things come about through chance. What we ought to believe concerning providence is by this depraved opinion most certainly not only beclouded, but almost buried. Suppose a man falls among thieves, or wild beasts; is shipwrecked at sea by a sudden gale; is killed by a falling house or tree. Suppose another man wandering through the desert finds help in his straits; having been tossed by the waves, reaches harbor; miraculously escapes death by a finger’s breadth. Carnal reason ascribes all such happenings, whether prosperous or adverse, to fortune. But anyone who has been taught by Christ’s lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered [Matt. 10:30] will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God’s secret plan. And concerning inanimate objects we ought to hold that, although each one has by nature been endowed with its own property, yet it does not exercise its own power except in so far as it is directed by God’s ever-present hand. These are, thus, nothing but instruments to which God continually imparts as much effectiveness as he wills, and according to his own purpose bends and turns them to either one action or another.
“No creature has a force more wondrous or glorious than that of the sun. For besides lighting the whole earth with its brightness, how great a thing is it that by its heat it nourishes and quickens all living things! That with its rays it breathes fruitfulness into the earth! That it warms the seeds in the bosom of the earth, draws them forth with budding greenness, increases and strengthens them, nourishes them anew, until they rise up into stalks! That it feeds the plant with continual warmth, until it grows into flower, and from flower into fruit! That then, also, with baking heat it brings the fruit to maturity! That in like manner trees and vines warmed by the sun first put forth buds and leaves, then put forth a flower, and from the flower produce fruit! Yet the Lord, to claim the whole credit for all these things, willed that, before he created the sun, light should come to be and earth be filled with all manner of herbs and fruits [Gen. 1:3, 11, 14]. Therefore a godly man will not make the sun either the principal or the necessary cause of these things which existed before the creation of the sun, but merely the instrument that God uses because he so wills; for with no more difficulty he might abandon it, and act through himself. Then when we read that at Joshua’s prayers the sun stood still in one degree for two days [Josh. 10:13], and that its shadow went back ten degrees for the sake of King Hezekiah [II Kings 20:11 or Isa. 38:8], God has witnessed by those few miracles that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature but that he himself, to renew our remembrance of his fatherly favor toward us, governs its course. Nothing is more natural than for spring to follow winter; summer, spring; and fall, summer – each in turn. Yet in this series one sees such great and uneven diversity that it readily appears each year, month, and day is governed by a new, a special, providence of God.”
(John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Book 1, chapter 16, section 2)
Intellectual skepticism toward Christianity founders on “the law of the object.” If one does not come to the Triune God of Christianity as the Lord He has revealed Himself to be, then one has already denied His existence, and further debates about His existence, character, or claims are pointless. One is already at a discussion table from which He has been barred; one would have to move to an entirely different table (set by Him) to deal with Him at all.
“The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is always something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut. Man can hardly be defined, after the fashion of Carlyle, as an animal who makes tools; ants and beavers and many other animals make tools, in the sense that they make an apparatus. Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.” (G. K. Chesterton, Heretics)
O Lord my God, hear my prayer,
may your mercy hearken to my longing,
a longing on fire not for myself alone
but to serve the brethren I dearly love;
you see my heart and know this is true.
Let me offer in sacrifice to you the service of my heart and tongue,
but grant me first what I can offer you;
for I am needy and poor,
but you are rich unto all who call upon you,
and you care for us though no care troubles you.
Circumcise all that is within me from presumption
and my lips without from falsehood.
Let your scriptures be my chaste delight,
let me not be deceived in them
nor through them deceive others.
Hearken, O Lord, have mercy, my Lord and God,
O Light of the blind, Strength of the weak –
who yet are Light to those who see and Strength to the strong –
hearken to my soul,
hear me as I cry from the depths,
for unless your ears be present in our deepest places
where shall we go and whither cry?
Yours is the day, yours the night,
a sign from you sends minutes speeding by;
spare in their fleeting course a space for us
to ponder the hidden wonders of your law:
shut it not against us as we knock.
Not in vain have you willed so many pages to be written,
pages deep in shadow, obscure in their secrets;
not in vain do harts and hinds seek shelter in those woods,
to hide and venture forth,
roam and browse, lie down and ruminate.
Perfect me too, Lord, and reveal those woods to me.
Lo, your voice is joy to me,
your voice that rings out above a flood of joys.
Give me what I love;
for I love indeed, and this love you have given me.
Forsake not your gifts, disdain not your parched grass.
Let me confess to you all I have found in your books,
Let me hear the voice of praise,
and drink from you,
and contemplate the wonders of your law
from the beginning when you made heaven and earth
to that everlasting reign when we shall be with you in your holy city.
(Augustine, Confessions, Book XI, trans. Maria Boulding)
“God makes narrative room in his triune life for others than himself; this act is the act of creation, and this accommodation is created time. . . . God takes time in his time for us. This is his act of creation.” (Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 34, 35)