C.S. Lewis on the Value of History


All cultures at all times have had central tenets or values they hold to be fundamentally true and that are so integral to the culture’s beliefs and systems that most people in said culture are not even aware that they are holding these “beliefs that seem to not be beliefs but unchallengable, self-evident common sense” (Keller, Preaching, 125).

Our culture is no different. One such example is our culture’s general acceptance that “we are products of an impersonal universe yet [must] be committed to human rights” (Ibid.). These are not two assumptions that naturally stand side-by-side, yet our Western society has lashed them together with the dual cords of “scientific” and “enlightened” thought.

How do we become aware of such patterns of thought in our own worldview and even begin to evaluate whether or not they are indeed true? The first step is to become aware of them, and an excellent place to begin here is to be an avid student of the past. As C.S. Lewis explains:

…we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in  many places in not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.

-C.S. Lewis, from “Learning in War-Time”

Study the past, then, because of its value in helping to illuminate the blind spots we have today in the present.

7 Quotes Worth Sharing from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis


imitation

“Be imitators of me as I am of Christ.” —1 Corinthians  11:1 (ESV)

Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ has a strong claim to be the most-read book ever written aside from the Bible. What The Pilgrim’s Progress is to works written in English, The Imitation of Christ is to everything ever written.

So what’s so special about it? Why have countless individuals over the centuries since its publication treasured it and read it again and again?

Here are seven quotes to give you a taste for yourself of Thomas à Kempis’ classic on the Christian life. I highly recommend it—it’s one I enjoyed,was challenged by, and know that I will reread in the future.

1. Learning Must be Accompanied by Grace and Love

What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? …I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? (1)

2. Liberty and joy are incomplete without the fear of the Lord.

No liberty is true and no joy is genuine unless it is founded in the fear of the Lord and a good conscience (18).

3.Christ is the Only One who will never fail us.

He who clings to a creature will fall with its frailty, but he who gives himself to Jesus will ever be strengthened….Cling, therefore, to Jesus in life and death; trust yourself to the glory of Him who alone can help you when all others fail (34).

4. Following Christ entails suffering as well as consolation.

Jesus has always many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear his cross. he has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him (39).

5. No one (or no thing) is good except God alone.

He who considers anything great except the one, immense, eternal good will long be little and lie groveling on the earth. Whatever is not God is nothing and must be accounted as nothing (79).

6. The Disciple should glory in God alone.

Let Your name, not mine, be praised. Let Your work, not mine, be magnified, Let Your holy name be blessed, but let no human praise be given to me. You are my glory. You are the joy of my heart.

7. It is Grace alone that enables any goodness on our part.

What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?
Let your grace, therefore, go before me and follow me, O Lord, and make me always intent upon good works, through Christ Jesus, Your Son.

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Planned or Unplanned)


ten-commandments

Could not help but think of the recent discussion on Planned Parenthood while I read Calvin’s exposition of the Sixth Commandment in the Institutes.

“To be clear of the crime of murder, it is not to enough to refrain from shedding man’s blood. If in act you perpetrate, if in endeavor you plot, if in wish and design you conceive what is adverse to another’s safety, you have the guilt of murder. On the other hand, if you do not according to your means and opportunity study to defend his safety, by that inhumanity you violate the law.” -Calvin

Lord, show us the means you have given us to protect life.

Jonathan Edwards on Scripture and Psalm 119:18


Psalm 119:18 says “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (NASB).

This is a verse that a former mentor and discipler of mine would pray every time we sat down to read the Bible together and it’s stuck with me. I still pray it often, whether I’m reading just for myself or reading with someone else. Because it’s a verse that I like and use often, I was happy when I came across Jonathan Edwards’s thoughts on the verse in his sermon “A Divine and Supernatural Light.”

Commenting on the verse, Edwards says:

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What could the Psalmist mean, when he begged of God to open his eyes? was he ever blind? might he not have resort to the law and see every word and sentence in it when he pleased? And what could he mean by those “wondrous things”? was it the wonderful stories of the creation, and deluge, and Israel’s passing through the Red Sea, and the like? were not his eyes open to read these strange things when he would?

Edwards then answers his own questions, supporting his overall argument that while anyone can open the Bible and read the words printed on the page, it is only those whose vision the Spirit illuminates that hear the voice of God and see the person of Christ in them.

Doubtless by “wondrous things” in God’s law, he had respect to those distinguishing perfections, and glory, that there was in the commands and doctrines of the Word, and those works and counsels of God that were there revealed. So the Scripture speaks of a knowledge of God’s dispensation, and covenant of mercy, and way of grace towards his people, as peculiar to the saints, and given only by God, Ps. 25:4, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” (emphasis added)

Let us be encouraged to continually entreat the Lord to open our eyes as we read the Word.

Martin Luther’s Oscar-winning Hymn: “Let It Go”


ml snow
I bet Luther and Olaf would get along splendidly.

Martin Luther stood before the Holy Roman Emperor. He had been asked the day before whether he recanted of his teachings that he had expressed in his published works. Trembling at the prospect of opposing not just the entire church but the empire as well, Luther asked for a day to consider his reply.

The following day he again appeared before the Imperial Diet at Worms. He was eventually asked the same question: Did he recant or not?

Summoning his courage, Luther is reported to have replied[1]:

Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.

In a footnote in his newest book Preaching, Tim Keller contrasts this statement to the popular (and infectiously catchy…) song from Disney’s Frozen.

It is both interesting and ironic to compare the sung speech of the character Elsa in Frozen with that of Martin Luther before the Holy Roman Emperor. Both say, “Here I stand.” But Luther meant he was free from fear and from other authorities because he was bound by the Word of God and its norms. Elsa speaks for the contemporary culture by saying she can be free only if there are no boundaries at all.
(p. 283, emphasis mine)

Here then we find two completely different ideas of freedom—two opposing worldviews—represented by the same exact three words: Here I stand.

I have two thoughts to briefly share. The first is the importance of clarifying vocabulary in any discussion of importance with those who do not share your views. Do those we are communicating with really understand what we are saying? And is the same true when it’s our turn to listen?

The second thought is really just a few questions about the nature and meaning of freedom. What does freedom look like for you and I? Is our freedom found in and centered around Christ or is it found in and centered around ourselves? Where do we stand? These are crucial questions and deserve our time and attention, especially as we celebrate our nation’s beginnings this coming weekend.

Here we stand. God help us indeed!


[1] Though I am no expert in what Luther actually said, Justo Gonzalez includes this version of Luther’s response in The Story of Christianity Volume II: “My conscience is a prisoner of God’s Word. I cannot and will not recant, for to disobey one’s conscience is neither just nor safe. God help me. Amen” (p. 35).

The Bible: A Perfect Treasure of Heavenly Instruction


We believe the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;[1] that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,[2] and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter;[3] that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;[4] and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union[5] and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and opinions should be tried.[6]

New Hampshire Confession of Faith

The New Hampshire Confession of Faith, a Baptist confession of faith from the 19th Century, begins with this beautiful article on the Scriptures.

I love the phrase “God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without mixture of error, for its matter.” A perfect treasure indeed.

Also of interest is the last phrase: the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.

Do we try our opinion, conduct, and creeds by the Bible, or do we try the Scriptures by the standard of our opinions, our conduct, and our creeds?


[1] 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 3:21; John 10:35; Luke 16:29-31; Psa. 119:11; Rom. 3:1-2

[2] 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 11:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:16; John 5:38-39

[3] Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17; Rev. 22:18-19; Rom. 3:4

[4] Rom. 2:12; John 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 4:3-4; Luke 10:10-16; 12:47-48

[5] Phil. 3:16; Eph. 4:3-6; Phil. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11

[6] 1 John 4:1; Isa. 8:20; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Cor. 8:5; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6; Jude 3:5; Eph. 6:17; Psa. 119:59-60; Phil. 1:9-11

What Some Conscientiously-Dissenting Christians Think About the SCOTUS Ruling and Why


A great collection of relevant articles on the Court’s landmark decision today from Moore, Piper, and Mohler.

A blog by Adam W. Christman

This morning the Supreme Court handed down their decision ruling on the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage. Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances celebrate this, and quite a few of my friends and acquaintances do not. In my reading today, I have come across a variety of responses within those two streams. There are some Christians who are angry, even vitriolic, over the decision. On the other hand, there are LGBTQ folks and their supporters who do not understand why anyone might be a conscientious dissenter to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

What you will find below is a curated list of articles and a video that demonstrate what I consider good responses from biblical thinkers. I provide short introductions on who each person is and the subject they discuss in their article or video. I will update this list in the days and weeks ahead as more…

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