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Wednesday
Dec162009

I liked this

I am about halfway through John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.  It is a very challenging book.  You can tell as you read it that he is schooled in philosophy.  I have not shared much of what I am reading because it takes a while to digest much of what he says, and this is definitely a book I will have to read again.  It is a book I would absolutely love to take and read with a group of people, but I have a feeling that won't be happening any time soon.

The section I am reading at the moment is called "The Normative Perspective - The Use of Scripture."    Frame begins this section with a discussion of the trend toward anti-abstractionsim in theological thought.  I won't try to re-cap what he says, because it is far too lengthy.  I guess the most simple summary of the points he makes is that approaching theological thought in a purely abstract way or a purely concrete way is impossible.  The two work together.  His point is that in recent years, the trend toward anti-abstraction has been a negative one with regard to theological thought.  This concluding passage is an excellent re-cap and I liked it:

A biblical epistemology set us free to reason abstractly (recognizing the limitations of abstractions) and to seek (relative) concreteness (realizing that we will never escape entirely the abstract nature of finite thought).  It reminds us never to seek our ultimate epistemological security in either the abstraction or conreteness of our own thinking but to seek it in the infallible certainty of God's own Word.  Sinful thought-patterns always tempt us to think that we need something more secure than that or at least something in our own thought that provides us with an infallible access to the infallible Word.

The next section he discusses is the perspectival approach to biblical knowledge, and it was an excellent section, too.  My goal was to have this book finished by the end of the year, but I'm not sure I will make it. 

 

Wednesday
Dec162009

Ring out, wild bells

A Christmas poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be. 

Tuesday
Dec152009

By the way, folks.... 

Thanks to those of you who were so encouraging about my new space  here.  The nice thing about Squarespace is that there are a variety of nice templates to use.  

Thanks again for those who came by to check it out!

Tuesday
Dec152009

The Legacy of the Reformation

Now, of course that is a very broad topic, and much too big for this little old blog.  However, this morning, as I read through a transcript of a lecture by Dr. David Calhoun on the subject, I thought of a few things.  His purpose in the lecture was to summarize some of the major effects of the Reformation.

The thing that struck me was the fact that the Reformation created the Pastor/Scholar.   In the years immediately preceeding the Reformation, the Catholic clergy were notoriously ignorant by and large.  Some monks were totally illiterate as were many parish priests.  Their job was fairly clear:  to administer the sacraments and hear confession.  There was not the same kind of responsibility of a priest in this age that there would come to be.  With the growth of Protestant denominations came scholarship. 

There were a number of formal confessions drawn up at this time, which demonstrates that scholarship.  There was the Augusburg Confession, the Book of Concord, the Westminster Confession, the Gallican Confession, the Belgic Confession, Helvetic Confessions, and the Heidelberg Confession.  Even the Catholics followed suit with the Council of Trent, just to name a few.  These were draw up as Protestant denominations began to develop their distinctive differences.  Of course, this meant that the Church as a whole was seen as fractured.  Religious toleration was not very widespread at this time, and many saw this division as a very bad thing.

For us here in the 21st Century, the legacy of scholarship is invaluable to us.  We still draw on these confessions.  While we ought not to elevate a confession above the Word of God, these confessions were just as valuable to the Church as a whole as were the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed earlier in the history of the Church.  It is indeed important for a doctrinal system to be articulated.  We must know what we believe.

The scholarship and the participation of the pastor in scholarship had the impact of making faith more a matter of just what went on inside the parish churches and great cathedrals.  The spread of biblical scholarsip and the efforts for pastors to teach the ordinary people helped to emanicpate religion from being confined to just the inside of a building.  That a pastor had a home and family as opposed to being cloistered inside a monastery or a cathedaral also helped religion to exist in the ordinary.   This focus on scholarship also flowed over into the spiritual life of Protestants.  The Word of God was the central focus of the Christian life in the Protestant mindset, not the sacraments, which was the focus of Catholic life.  This scholarship, this tendency toward study was not only good for growth in understanding of the Scriptures, but it would affect the spread of education throughout the Protestant world.

Of course, this is only one little piece of the legacy of the Reformation, but when I read about all of those confessions, it really struck me how very fortunate we are that we have such a rich heritage of study to draw upon.

Monday
Dec142009

The love in chastisement

In two of the chapters of Spiritual Depression, Lloyd-Jones discusses the chastisement of the Lord.  Christians often become discouraged and depressed because they find themselves in hard circumstances.  They may fail to see the fact that the circumstance is a chastisement from the Lord, and that it is a reflection of God's love for us.   Lloyd-Jones begins with referring to Hebrews 12:5-11.

In the chapter  called "In God's Gynmasium," the reader is warned about having a wrong reaction to times of God's chastiement.  First, we may not take the circumstance seriously.  We are told not to despise the chastening of the Lord.  Neither should we just ignore it.  Better to examine ourselves to discern why we are going through that circumstance.  The second wrong reaction is to allow the chastening circumstance to weigh us down; to allow it to crush us.  We may wallow in the circumstance and say, "Woe is me, what shall I do?"  The Christian is not to do that.  We have means at our disposal to deal with trial, and we must utilize them.  The final wrong reaction is to become bitter.  In the same passage from Hebrews, in verse 15, we are cautioned against becoming bitter.  Bitterness is deadly:

Some people react to the trails and troubles and chastisements of life by becoming bitter.  I know nothing that is so sad in life, certainly nothing saadder in my life and work and experience as a minister of God, than to watch the effect of trials and troubles upon the lives of some people.  I have known people who, before the misfotrunes befel them, seemed to be very nice and friendly, but I have observed that when these things happen to them they become bitter, self-centered, difficult -- difficult even with those who try to help them and who are anxious to help them.  They turn in on themselves and they feel that the whole world is against them.  You cannot help them, the bitterness enters into their souls, it appears in their aces and their very appearance.

I must say that when I read that passage, I could see myself quite clearly.

Lloyd-Jones says that if we react in one or more of these three ways, the chastising circumstances will not help us, and that is what they are there for.  We must ask ourselves why we are going through these things.  They will not work upon our hearts if we do not recognize them for what they are.  Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God loves whom He chastens.  That is important to remember.  We seem to equate the love of God with happy and fuzzy circumstances.  A bad thing happens and we automatically see God in a negative light.  We treat Him with a combative heart.  I know; I have done it.  Of all three of those wrong reactions, I am sure I have been most guilty of the third.

It's kind of interesting that these verses came up and the principle of God showing love through chastening was part of my reading, because just last week, Rebecca made the same point in my comments box at another post.  It was really serendipitous.

I can quickly be dragged down because of my circumstances.  But it does not have to be that way.  By reacting to them correctly, I can quickly discern that God may be using them for my chastening, and that the chastening is evidence of His love for me.  In the end, I will be thanking Him for the circumstance.  The chastening leaves us wiser than when we began and knowing more about His character.