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Rest for Weary Souls

From the Olney Hymns
John Newton
Rest for Weary Souls 

Does the gospel–word proclaim
Rest, for those who weary be?
Then, my soul, put in thy claim,
Sure that promise speaks to thee:
Marks of grace I cannot show,
All polluted is my best;
Yet I weary am I know,
And the weary long for rest. 

Burdened with a load of sin,
Harassed with tormenting doubt,
Hourly conflicts from within,
Hourly crosses from without:
All my little strength is gone,
Sink I must without supply;
Sure upon the earth is none
Can more weary be than I.

In the ark, the weary dove
Found a welcome resting–place;
Thus my spirit longs to prove
Rest in CHRIST, the ark of grace:
Tempest–tossed I long have been,
And the flood increases fast;
Open, LORD, and take me in,
Till the storm be overpast.

Safely lodged within thy breast,
What a wondrous change I find!
Now I know thy promised rest
Can compose a troubled mind.
You that weary are like me,
Hearken to the gospel call;
To the ark for refuge flee,
JESUS will receive you all! 


Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: Book thoughts

I finished Michelle Lee-Barnewall's book Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian last night. Someone asked me if I was going to review it, and I intended to, but then the books for my Augustine course arrived on Tuesday, and my concentration for this book is beginning to wane. It's time to focus on school. Here are a few quick thoughts.

Lee-Barnewall's book re-evaluates the terms complementarian and egalitarian. She doesn't do so in an attempt to provide solutions. In fact, at the end of the book, she comes right out and says she doesn't propose any solutions. What she does do, though, is ask the reader to re-consider those terms. At the heart of this book, she is asking readers to contemplate the reality that their presuppositions may colour how they perceive issues of male and female roles in the church. She does so by suggesting that instead of making the issue about rights and equality, we look at principles like unity, love, and the kingdom guidelines.

Lee-Barnewall proposes that equality and rights may not be the best way to think. Rather, the unity of the Body of Christ and the principles of kingdom living are more valuable. I appreciated this comment at the end:

A focus on rights and equality can easily lead to an individualistic pursuit of self-interest and result in a perspective that is preoccupied with autonomy and personal benefit over seeing the self in relationship with others. The insistence on rights can be harmful if it causes someone to overlook or make secondary concerns for the impact of one's actions on others. This self-focus contrasts Christ's overriding concern for others, and we must ask whether our striving for equality highlights individual gain rather than a willingness to suffer loss for someone else.

It was definitely something that has me thinking. And that is the reason why I would recommend this book: to make you think. Knowing why we believe something is important.

Lee-Barnewall has done her homework. Her inclusion of the historial development of attitudes toward women in evangelicalism was worth the price of the book alone (although it being focused entirely on America means I'm wondering if the experience in Canada was exactly the same). Her handling of Genesis 2-3 and Ephesians 5 is excellent. The back of the book says she is an associate professor of biblical and theological studies. I knew there was a good reason for women to attend seminary to study those things.


Anxiety and Scaffolding

Last Monday, Adam Ford wrote a guest post about his experience with anxiety. It was well-received (as someone who struggles with this, I appreciated it), and Tim shared some responses to the post this morning. Some of those responses elicited a nod of support from me, and some of them led me to say aloud "wow, wow, wow." I am not here to respond to the individual responses, but I will say this: the connection between the physical and the emotional is more complex than we know, and to accuse an acutely depressed person of not really being ill because there is no blood test for it reflects ignorance and a lack of mercy. There is no blood test for stupidity, either, only behavioural evidence, but we know it exists. 

The issue of using medication for mental illness is still rather controversial. There are people who would shame those who use medication. I suspect those who would do so have never struggled with crippling anxiety; the kind that makes you afraid to be alone or not want to leave your house. A number of years ago, when I was teaching a ladies' bible study, there was a woman who struggled with anxiety and depression, and I made a comment that reflected my ignorance and lack of empathy. She called me on it, and I will always be grateful for her courage to confront me. In our conversastion, she shared with me a useful analogy. Medication is like scaffolding. It gives individuals support as they engage in the work of repair. How can someone who can barely get out of bed meditate on words of Scripture? She told me that medication helped her see things more clearly, so that she could identify how her patterns of thinking were contributing to her situation.

Every case of anxiety is different, but we tend to paint everyone with a broad brush. I think that is unwise. I have never struggled with being overweight. If I have put it on, I have been able to take it off again. Not every woman is the same. Some have different physical conditions, predispositions, and metabolisms. Every anxiety and depression sufferer has a different situation. There is no "one size fits all" approach to the matter, and we need to remember that if we're going to be remotely understanding.

If you can deal with your anxiety without medication, then praise God for it. But don't condemen someone who needs it. I suspect that those who take it already feel a certain amount of defeat as it is. No need to kick a brother or sister when they are down.



From the Olney Hymns
John Newton

My soul is beset
With grief and dismay,
I owe a vast debt
And nothing can pay:
I must go to prison,
Unless that dear Lord,
Who died and is risen,
His pity afford. 

The death that he died,
The blood that he spilt,
To sinners applied,
Discharge from all guilt:
This great Intercessor
Can give, if he please,
The vilest transgressor
Immediate release. 

When nailed to the tree,
He answered the prayer
Of one, who like me,
Was nigh to despair;
He did not upbraid him
With all he had done,
But instantly made him,
A saint and a son. 

The jailor, I read,
A pardon received;
And how was he freed?
He only believed:
His case mine resembled,
Like me he was foul,
Like me too he trembled,
But faith made him whole. 

Though Saul in his youth,
To madness enraged,
Against the Lord’s truth,
And people, engaged;
Yet Jesus, the Savior,
Whom long he reviled;
Received him to favor
And made him a child. 

A foe to all good,
In wickedness skilled,
Manasseh, with blood,
Jerusalem filled;
In evil long hardened,
The LORD he defied,
Yet he too was pardoned,
When mercy he cried. 

Of sinners the chief,
And viler than all,
The jailor or thief,
Manasseh or Saul:
Since they were forgiven
Why should I despair,
While CHRIST is in heaven,
And still answers prayer?


Let's get this party started

My school has a new portal for its students. Not only can I access my course history, marks, and grade point information, I can view my current registration and the relevant syllabi. Yesterday, I was able to find out my book list for the two courses I'm taking, and despite having other books I would like to finish before classes begin, I placed the order for my Augustine class. I already have the textbook for my systematic theology course, Christian Theology, by Millard Erickson. I've already read much of the first chapter, and so far, it's good. 

For my class, "The Life and Thought of Augustine," I will be reading:

Confessions. Obviously. How can one have a course without that?

St. Augustine: A Life. I will be doing a critical review of this book, so I hope my books arrive on time. I would like to read it as thoroughly as possible.

The Trinity. I'm especially looking forward to this in light of the brouhaha about the trinity which erupted over the summer.

Instructing Beginners in the Faith. I'm not familiar with this one, but looking forward to reading it after having read the description.

Augustine: The City of God Against the Pagans. I've always wanted to read this, and having the incentive of a class always makes it more likely I'll finish it.

There are quite a few writing assignments, but fortunately, I have them in the syllabus already, so I can plan ahead. My systematic theology class has weekly assignments and quizzes, plus an exam worth 50% of the mark. I kind of like the idea that I won't have to write four papers like I did last semester, because writing essays is so tiring.

I'm looking forward to getting started. As a child, I always looked forward to the beginning of school and the new material; I still do.