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An off day

I'm having a rather off day today, and I had planned on posting another snippet of B.B. Warfield, but I woke up late, and didn't have enough time to read much this morning.

Last night, I took a walk, and I listened to a favourite recording, so I shall leave that with my blog today.

Dan Fogelberg passed away in December 2000. His recording The Innocent Age remains my favourite one.


Personal choice, the new virtue?

Today, a friend of mine on Facebook made an observation about the inconsistency that is apparent when women who are pregnant have themselves photographated with a very huge, unclothed belly, but object and become offended if a women who is not pregnant has herself photographed in the same way.  I think his observation is worth considering.

I would never have bared my belly for a photograph when I was at full term of my pregnancy.  I am just not that made that way.  I won't wear tank tops that show my bra straps, nor will I wear low cut or plunging necklines or short shorts.  It's not like I couldn't.  I'm not as slim as I was when I married, but I still wear a size 8.  I choose not to because of a sincere desire to be modest.  Since I became a Christian, it is just something that is important to me.   So, no, I don't understand the belly shots of women who are at full term pregnancy.  Pregnancy is beautiful, to be sure, but I think this friend's question was a valid one.  I don't think the beauty of pregnancy means we can just throw away being circumspect about how we display our bodies during that time.

Well, my friend was castigated by a woman who told him that he needs his morality checked, and that it was a "personal choice" that needed to be left unjudged.  She then went on to compare this photographing thing to breastfeeding in public.  I don't think the two are exactly the same, because most women I know who breastfeed in public are quite discreet about it.  And one is a necessity at times, the other is not.

What struck me, and this has cropped up a few times recently, is how "personal choice" has become some kind of sacred cow.  Our personal choice is exalted as the thing which needs to be closely guarded and protected.  Who cares if our personal choice means a choice that has life altering consequences or is fairly benign?  We guard it as if it is a virute, as if it is a God-given right.

Personal choice is not virtue.  It isn't even consistently a good thing.  Often, our personal choices are based in selfishness and self-indulgence.  Personal choice does not always take into consideration our neighbour, our family, or anyone else around us.  To guard our personal choice too closely is quite simply pride.  If everyone put his personal choice first, what would that look like?  Well, take a look around.  We all know where that leads.

If someone wants to do what he wants to do, go ahead and admit it.  To make it seem like "personal choice" is some kind of virtue is simply misleading.


The Trials of Church History

My friend loaned me a little book called The Trials of Theology, which contains an article by Carl Trueman about the trial of church history.  The editors of the book open Dr. Trueman's chapter with this comment:

The study of theology may be 'dangerous business' - but what could possibly be dangerous about church history?!  Surely it is tame by comparison.  Why then a chapter about its 'trials?'

In his essay, Trueman begins by pointing out that  most people believe that the study of church history is a rather irrelevant one, one that it is disconnected from the study of theology in general.   Being a church historian, he obviously does not agree with the sentiment.  What he does in this essay is comment on two of the strengths of studying church history, followed by some of the difficulties that can arise with church history.  This morning, I want to share some of what he says about the strengths of church history.

First, he talks about the nature of Christianity:

Simply put, Christianity is not invented afresh every Sunday but what is read, sung, preached, and prayed in churches around the world stands within an established tradition; and church history allows us to understand how that tradition has come to take the form it has.

Take, for example the language of the Trinity with which typical believers will be familiar.  Typically, Trinitarian language speaks of God as three persons, one substance.  Such terminology is not specifically biblical, but the church has universally come to regard the terms as encapsulating important biblical concepts.  Why has it done this?  Why has the church come to use language which is not found in the Bible to express this important truth?  Well, the answer is that it is rooted in the creed approved by the church at the Council of Constantinople in 381; and the reason why this creed has the form and terminology which it does have can only be fully appreciated when the various debates and discussions about what exactly the Bible taught about God's being and nature have been examined.

Secondly, he points to the fact that the study of church history gives perspective on the present day church.

Studying history then is like emigration or extended foreign travel, only cheaper and generally less inconvenient.  It gives the student the opportunity to visit another time another place, another culture; and in so doing the student (hopefully) becomes more aware of hos the particulars of geographcal and chronological location come to shape and influence the way people think.  Thus at a time when 'contextualisation' is a popular contemporary cliche and shibboleth, history should really be coming into its own:  study of contexts is, after all, something that the historians have done for centuries.

I guess history in general seems rather inconsequential to many in a day and age when today's technology will be considered outdated in twelve months, or when the trivial elements of the lives of movie stars are termed "news" and followed along with as if they were earth shattering.  Who cares about the history of western civilization when there are exposes out there about the colour of Lady Gaga's nail polish?   I can honestly say that studying church hisotry, seeing how doctrines came to be hammered out and elucidated has given me a better understanding of them.  And of course, we don't look for the better understanding for its own sake.  We look for better understanding that we may gain a heart of wisdom.


Heart Aflame - August 8, 2010

Psalm 90:4-10

Who knows the power of your anger?  For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.  It is a holy awe of God, and that alone, which makes us truly and deeply feel his anger.  We see that the reprobate, although they are severely punished, only chafe upon the bit, or kick against God, or become exasperated, or are stupefied, as if they were hardened against all calamities; so far as they are from being subdued.  And though they are full of trouble, and cry aloud, yet the Divine anger does not so penetrate their hearts as to abate their pride and fierceness.  The minds of the godly alone are wounded with the wrath of God; nor do they wait for his thunderbolts, to which the reprobate hold out their hard and iron necks, but they tremble the very moment when God moves only his little finger.  The prophet had said that the human mind could not sufficiently comprehend the dreadfulness of the Divine wrath.  And we see how, although God shakes heaven and earth, many notwithstanding, like the giants of old, treat this with derision, and are actuated by such brutish arrogance that they despise him when he brandishes his bolts.  But as the Psalmist is treating of a doctrine which properly belongs to true believers, he affirms that they have a strongly sensitive feeling of the wrath of God which makes them qietly submit themselves to his authority.  Although to the wicked their own conscience is a tormentor which does not suffer them to enjoy repose, yet so far is this secret dread from teaching them to enjoy repose, yet so far is this secret dread from teaching them to humble themselves, that it excites them to clamour against God with increasing forwardness.  In short, the faithful alone are sensible of God's wrath; and being subdued by it, they acknowledge that they are nothing, and with true humility devote themselves wholly to him.  This is wisdom to which the reprobate cannot attain, because they cannot lay aside the pride with which they are inflated.  They are not touched with the feeling of God's wrath, because they do not stand in awe of him.


Yet another reason to keep books

I have spent quite a bit of time the past couple of days with my family history research.  My, it can be rather addicting to keep searching.  I think I may have missed my calling.  Yesterday, I was looking at a book that belonged to my grandfather.  It is a book produced for the Centennial of his community.  It has a lot of family histories of the people of that community, including the one he wrote for his own, where I am mentioned.  Unfortunately, while he got everyone's name correct, including the spouses of his grandchildren, my grandfather was the type of man that didn't pay much attention to dates of birth, marriages, and deaths, but he did remember driving a sleigh/bus thing when he was a young man, and he never forgot to mention what the wages were for the various work he did.  I am indeed glad that he included that tidbit, because that tells me something about him, but it's a shame that he didn't list the dates of birth of his children.

As I have been thinking about my family, names have popped up in my head, people I remember being at the home of my grandfather.  The name of a friend of my grandfather's came into my mind yesterday, and I looked up his family in the book, and sure enough, he was there.  He wasn't just a friend, he was a relative, and I found some more information from there.  I read a few other family histories that were connected and was able to piece a bit more.  These local history books are gems for doing this kind of research.  I probably need to read more, because the lives of these individuals in this small community were very connected, and one story may just have some kind of information about my relative.  I'm really enjoying this.

This Centennial book led me to inquire at the Manitoba Historical Society about a copy of a Centennial history book that was produced in the community where my grandmother was born.  Someone from the society got back to me very quickly, and gave me the name of a used book dealer who might be able to help me.  I did a quick look at the used book dealer's website, and I was very impressed with the variety of books he has.  I loved used book dealers.  I need to plan a vacation to Winnipeg so I can look at this guy's store.

This is why we need to keep books.  Sometimes, our old books can be of great interest to other people.  They can help.  Yes, we have digital records, but with the speed with which technology changes, I can't help but wonder if ensuring that all digital records can follow along with the changes won't be a huge challenge.  One thing I have found with reading old records online - even an obituary I read yesterday from 1976 - is that it is hard on the eyes, and I have a good computer.

Give me the feel and smell of a good old book any day.

Wow, I really am a nerd.