Training in Righteousness
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I finished reading John Frame's book The Doctrine of Knowledge of God.  It took me longer than I planned, but honestly, so much of what I read was so thought-provoking that I had to sit down and think about it.  I must write (with a pen and paper) things out to process them, so I had a notebook alongside this read, with attempts to summarize things well enough to understand them completely.  Even after doing that, however, I think I will want to read this book again in the future.  What would be really great is to find someone much smarter than I to read along with me so that we could discuss it.  Who knows?

There are far too many things about this book that I liked to start listing them.  I guess above all, though, is that despite the fact that Frame is a philosopher and an academic, and his writing reflects that, it is very evident to the reader that Christianity is not merely an academic thing to Dr. Frame.  He regularly emphasized the balance between knowledge and experience.  Furthermore, his emphasis on showing humility and charity in our theological debates was very encouraging.   I like how he regularly points to the reader to the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit in any theological endeavours.

Another aspect to this book I liked was the section discussing language in theology.  We must remember that Scripture is, above all, a language.  God has revealed Himself in language.  There are all kinds of interesting intracacies involved with how people learn and use language that will affect our study of theology.  I found that part quite interesting.

There are a couple of other books in this series of Dr. Frame's, The Doctrine of God, and The Doctrine of the Christian Life, and I would like to see those some day, but in the meantime, I think I'd better start reading what I already have!


The "walking hospital"

I subscribe to the little magazine which Banner of Truth publishes.  It has a lot of good material; book reviews, excerpts from upcoming releases, and articles about Church history.  This morning, as I had my coffee and woke up more fully, I scanned the January issue, which I have had for a while, but have not really looked at closely.  The first article is by W.J. Grier, and is entitled "Calvin's Frailties and Charm."

The first time I heard about Calvin was when in 11th grade when I studied Reformation and Renaissance history.  I don't remember much about that class other than that I found it very boring, which is funny, considering that I eventually earned a degree in history.  When I was in university, I took a course on 17th Century European history, and the prof did not like Calvin.  She portrayed him as a megalomaniac with a bible in his hand.  As time has gone by, and I have learned more, I have seen that historians often paint their own pictures which leave out details.  Of course Calvin was human and imperfect like the rest of us, but he did live a very extraordinary life.

In this article by Grier, things are recounted which I have heard of but never really spent much time investigating, and that is the frail nature of Calvin's physical health.  His successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza is quoted by Grier:

His diseases, the effects of incredible exertions of body and mind, were various and complicated.  Besides being naturally of a feeble and spare body, inclining to consumption, he slept almost waking, and spent a great part of the year in preaching, lecturing, and dictating.  For at least ten years he ... took no food at all till supper; so that it is wonderful he could have so long escaped consumption.  Being subject to hemicrania, for which starvation was the only cure he in consequence sometimes abstained from food for thirty-six hours in succession ... He became afflicted with ulcerated haemorrhoids, and occasionally for about five years before his death discharged considerable quantities of blood.  When the quartan fever left him, his right limb was siezed with gout; every now and then he had attacks of colic, and last of all he was afflicted with the stone.  The physicians used what remedies they could and there was no man who attended more carefully to the prescriptions of his physicians, except in that regard to mental exertions he was most careless of his health, not even his headaches preventing him from taking his turn in preaching.  While so oppressed with so many diseases, no man ever heard him utter a word of unbecoming a man of firmness, far less unbecoming a Christian.

Grier comments:

When we think of the vast amount of work done by this sufferer whose body was like a walking hospital, we may well be astounded.

I am astounded.  Clearly, Calvin had some kind of digestive aliment.  With such a litany of ailments, perhaps it is not surprising that he was reputed to be irritiable.  It always amazes me how the individuals who are weakest and sickest often produce the best work.  It is as if those of us who are hale and hearty feel comfortable with putting things off.  I'm certain that Calvin's lifestyle did not help his predispositions.  Sometime, I think it would be interesting to read a historian's view of Calvin's health issues, a historian who has expertise in medicine.  I'll read it if it ever gets published.

Just by way of explanation, "hemicrania" is a severe headache, judging from what I found when I did a Google search.  The "quartan fever" seems to refer to a malaria-like disease.  As for "the stone," I can only assume that it is a urinary tract stone which is referred to.  I wonder how the physicians treated such things without the use of screening devices which we benefit from today.  Now there is another interesting kind of history:  medical history. 

How can people say history is boring?



What redemption does to emotion and intellect

Please indulge me in another Frame quote.  I'll probably be finished the book this week, and the last few chapters are excellent.

In the chapter "The Existential Perspective - The Qualifications of the Theologian," Frame discusses the skills of the theologian, which includes emotion.  He discusses what redemption does to emotion and intellect:

Redemption doesn't make us more emotional (as some charismatics might suppose) or less so (as many Reformed would prefer), any more than it makes us more or less intellectual.  What redemption does to the intellect is to consecrate that intellect to God, whether the I.Q. is high or low.  Similarly, the important thing is not whether you are highly emotional or not; the important thing is that whatever emotional capacities you have should be placed in God's hands to be used according to His purposes.

Thus intellect and emotion are simply two aspects of human nature that together are fallen and together are regenerated and sanctified.  Nothing in Scripture suggests that either is superior to the other.  Neither is more fallen than the other, neither is necessarily more sanctified than the other.

I liked that.  It gives hope for someone like me, who tends to be on the emotional side.


Heart Aflame - Psalm 15:1

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  As nothing is more common in the world than falsely to assume the name of God, or to pretend to be his people, and as a great part of men allow themselves to do this without any apprehension of the danger it involes, David, without stopping to speak to men, addresses himself to God, which he considers the better course; and he intimates, that if men assume the title of the people of God, without being so in deed and in truth they gain nothing by their self-delusion, for God continues always like himself, and as he is faithful himself, so will he have us to keep the faith with him in return.  No doubt, he adopted Abraham freely, but, at the same time, he stipulated with him that he should live a holy and an upright life, and this is the general rule of the covenant which God has, from the beginning, made with his Church.

The sum is, that hypocrites, who occupy a place in the temple of God, in vain pretend to be his people for he acknowledges none as such but those who follow after justice and uprighteness during the whole course of their life.  David saw the temple crowded with a great multitude of men who all made a profession of the same religion, and presented themselves before God as to the outward ceremony; and, therefore, assuming the person of one wondering at the spectacle, he directs his dicourse to God, who, in such a confusion and medley of characters, could easily distinguish his own people from strangers.

If we really wish to be reckoned among the number of the children of God, the Holy Ghost teaches us, that we must show ourselves to be such by a holy and an upright life; for it is not enough to serve God by outward ceremonies, unless we also live uprightly, and without doing wrong to our neighbours.

David makes mention of the tabernacle, because the temple was not yet built.

The meaning of this discourse, to express it in a few words, is this, that those only have access to God who are his genuine servants, and who live a holy life.


A child of the digital age

I got the laugh of the day yesterday courtesy of my 15 year old son.

En route to taking him to his friend's house, we stopped at the post office so that I could mail a letter.  There are three mailboxes on the sidewalk outside the main post office, and all it necessitated was my pulling up to the curb.  Since my son was on the side where the mailboxes were, I handed him the letter and asked him to pop it in any one of the boxes.

I watched him through the rearview mirror, and to my amusement, I saw him standing before the mailboxes, scrutinizing.  I saw him cock his head a little, looking up and down the box.  I started laughing out loud; clearly this child of the digital age had never mailed anything before.  How did that lesson get left out of homeschooling?

Fortunately, an older man, smiling sheepishly himself, instructed the young fellow and my son returned to the car, where he admonished me immediately.

"I could hear you laughing at me."

I told him I was just glad he hadn't tried to put the letter in the newspaper vending machine that sits beside the mailboxes.  He was quite indignant that I would think he would do that.  I actually didn't think he would have trouble with the mailbox.

The reason for his visit to his friend was an afternoon of various games on Playstation 3.  I told him that he could feel bolstered because he had conquered the mailbox.  He just said that he is looking forward to a day when there is no need for mailboxes.