Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The suffering begins where?

Jesus is the suffering servant Son right from Bethlehem. We must think of the work of the cross, therefore, as beginning immediately with his birth, increasing in his growth into manhood, and deepening in intensity as he entered his public ministry. His whole life is his passion, for his very incarnation as union of God and man is an intervention into the enmity between God and mankind. Jesus Christ steps into the situation where God judges mankind and where mankind contradicts God. He steps in not as a third party but as the God who judges man, and steps into the place of man who sins against God and is judged by God. The very union of God and man, and the living out of that union from day to day in the realisation of God’s gracious election, intensified that state of enmity, making it ultimate, that is, making it the eschaton.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 110–11

Positive righteousness vs. negative righteousness

This is supremely important, for it is only through this union of our human nature with his divine nature that Jesus Christ gives us not only the negative righteousness of the remission of sins but also a share in the positive righteousness of his obedient and loving life lived in perfect filial relation on earth to the heavenly Father. If we neglect this essential element in the vicarious humanity and obedience of the Son, then not only do the active and passive obedience of Christ fall apart but we are unable to understand justification in Christ as anything more than a merely external forensic non-imputation of sin. Moreover, if we neglect this essential element we are unable to see the humanity of Jesus in its saving significance, that is, to give the whole life of the historical Jesus its rightful place in the doctrine of atonement. It is necessary for us then to give the fullest consideration to the place of the union of the human and divine natures in the being and life of the incarnate Son, for it is that saving and sanctifying union in which we are given to share that belongs to the very substance of our faith. In other words, what we are concerned with is the filial relation which the Son of God lived out vicariously in our humanity in perfect holiness and love. He achieved that in himself in assuming our human nature into oneness with himself, and on that ground gave us to share in it, so providing us with a fullness in his own obedient sonship from which we may all receive.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 82 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I have to admit that I don't recall ever having heard the terms positive righteousness and negative righteousness before, but I like the idea. I especially like this line: "If we neglect this essential element in the vicarious humanity and obedience of the Son, then not only do the active and passive obedience of Christ fall apart but we are unable to understand justification in Christ as anything more than a merely external forensic non-imputation of sin." So important!

to hear some people's theology, you get the idea that Jesus should have just come as a full-grown adult a week before the crucifixion. The life of Christ isn't important in their theology—they might say it is, but it isn't in there.
</idle musing>

God in the midst? (Tozer for Tuesday)

We have bushels of religious gatherings but only once in a great while is God in the midst. I would walk through mud up to my knees to get to a group where nobody was showing off, where only God was present. The Early Church prayed—talked to God. When they sang, they talked to God and sang about God. Today we have programming, that awful, hateful word “programming”; but God is absent.

The Early Church were worshipers; and when an unbeliever came in among them they said, “God is among them, of a truth.” It was not the personality of the speaker; they might not have even had one. It was the presence of the Lord that made them fall down and worship. I will join anything, any group, when I can go in to and spend 10 minutes and come away relaxed and say, “I’ve been where God was.” They were like that in apostolic times.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 59–60

Blessed are the pure in heart

369 Greenwood. S. M.

1 Blessed are the pure in heart,
   for they shall see our God.
   The secret of the Lord is theirs;
   their soul is Christ's abode.

2 Still to the lowly soul
   He doth himself impart
   and for his temple and his throne
   Selects the pure in heart.

3 Lord, we Thy presence seek;
   May ours this blessing be:
   O give the pure and lowly heart,
   a temple meet for Thee!
                         John Keble
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I don't recall singing this hymn, but I do like the sentiments and theology of it.

Hymnary.org inserts a second verse (and interestingly, so did the 1917 Methodist hymnal):

2 The Lord, who left the heavens
   His life and peace to bring,
   Who dwelt in lowliness with men,
   Their Pattern and their King;
</idle musing>

Monday, February 19, 2024

Overcoming—but not by violence!

It is a movement of reconciliation through the Son of God, in which the Word of God came as Son of God, bowing himself to enter our flesh of sin and bondage, in order that he the almighty God entering within the compass of our estrangement and death might destroy sin and death, and deliver us from our estrangement and captivity in sin and self-will. The Son of God become man is the strong man of Jesus’ own parable who invades the tyrant’s house and by his power subdues him, binds him, and spoils him of all that he has unjustly usurped. But he enters the house of alienation and bondage under the power of evil and subdues the power of evil not by divine violence, but by obedience and steadfastness as the Son to the Father's holy will in the face of the contradiction of sin, and the attack of all the power of evil; and so he overcomes by patience and passion, and sheer faithfulness and holiness and love, by living out perfectly within all the conditions of our humanity the obedience of the Son to the Father.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 78

<idle musing>
Let those with ears to hear, understand! It is not by earthly powers or violence or culture war. It is by the blood of the lamb, by obedience to his call, and especially, by humility and patience.
</idle musing>

The mystery of kenosis

Kenosis refers to the self-abnegating, redemptive descent of God into human life. Kenosis and tapeinosis (humbling) both refer to the self-sacrificial self-communication of God to mankind. That is to say, there is no ground for saying that in becoming man the eternal Son emptied himself of some of his divine properties or attributes in order to come within our human and historical existence. It is God himself, he who was in the form of God and equal to God, who condescended to be very man of very man. Nothing at all is said of how that takes place. All kenotic theories are attempts to explain the how of the incarnation in some measure: how God and man are united in one Jesus Christ, how the Word has become flesh. All that is said is that this union is a way of incredible humiliation and grace. The New Testament does have a great deal to tell us about the incarnation, in telling us what the Word and Son of God actually did, but refuses to explain the mystery that lies at the heart of it; that is the miracle of the Holy Spirit. Even in speaking of the birth of Jesus through the Spirit, and of his resurrection through the power of the Spirit, the New Testament at no point offers us an explanation, but refers the mystery to the direct act of the eternal God, to the will and love of the Father.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 76

Make me a captive, Lord

367. Leominster. S. M. D.

1. Make me a captive, Lord,
   and then I shall be free.
   Force me to render up my sword,
   and I shall conqueror be.
   I sink in life’s alarms
   when by myself I stand;
   Imprison me within Thine arms,
   and strong shall be my hand.

2. My heart is weak and poor
   until it master find;
   It has no spring of action sure,
   it varies with the wind.
   It cannot freely move
   till Thou has wrought its chain;
   Enslave it with Thy matchless love,
   and deathless it shall reign.

3. My power is faint and low
   till I have learned to serve;
   It lacks the needed fire to glow,
   it lacks the breeze to nerve.
   It cannot drive the world
   until itself be driven;
   Its flag can only be unfurled
   when Thou shalt breathe from heaven.

4. My will is not my own
   till Thou hast made it Thine;
   If it would reach a monarch’s throne,
   it must its crown resign.
   It only stands unbent
   amid the clashing strife,
   When on Thy bosom it has leant,
   and found in Thee its life.
                         George Matheson
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I don't recall ever singing this hymn, and it is fairly rare, occurring in about 120 hymnals. But this is an excellent hymn illustrating what Michael Gorman calls cruciformity, or what Scot McKnight calls Christoformity. Either way, it is the way of the cross—we win by surrendering to God. Our own striving simply binds us more tightly in the spiderweb of sin.

Oh, and if you read his brief biography that is linked to above, you will see that he knew a good bit about surrender.
</idle musing >

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Thought for the day

For happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.—David Steindl-Rast, quoted in The Holy Longing, 110

As pants the hart for cooling streams

366 Spohr. C. M.

1 As pants the hart for cooling streams,
   When heated in the chase,
   So longs my soul, O God, for thee,
   And thy refreshing grace.

2 For thee, my God, the living God,
   My thirsty soul doth pine!
   O when shall I behold thy face?
   Thou majesty divine!

3 I sigh to think of happier days
   When Thou, O Lord wast nigh;
   When every heart was tuned to praise
   And none more blest than I.

4 Why restless, why cast down, my soul
   Hope still, and thou shalt sing
   The praise of him who is thy God,
   Thy saviour and thy king.
                         Psalm XLII
                         Tate and Brady, 1606
                         Alt. by Henry F. Lyte
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Hymnary.org has more verses, and somewhat different lyrics, perhaps the original ones before Lyte altered them:

3 I sigh whene'er my musing thoughts
   Those happy days present,
   When I with troops of pious friends
   Thy temple did frequent;

4 When I advanc'd with songs of praise,
   My solemn vows to pay,
   And led the joyful sacred throng
   And kept the festal day.

5 Why restless, why cast down, my soul?
   Trust God, and he'll employ
   His aid for thee; and change these sighs
   To thankful hymns of joy.

6 Why restless, why cast down, my soul
   Hope still, and thou shalt sing
   The praise of him who is thy God,
   Thy health's eternal spring.

</idle musing>

Saturday, February 17, 2024

We hope in thee, O God!

365 Resignation. S. M.

1. We hope in Thee, O God!
   The day wears on to night;
   Thick shadows lie across our world,
   In Thee alone is light.

2. We hope in Thee, O God!
   Our joys go one by one,
   But lonely hearts can rest in Thee,
   When all beside is gone.

3. We hope in Thee, O God!
   Hope fails us otherwhere;
   But since Thou art in all that is,
   Peace takes the hand of care.

4. We hope in Thee, O God!
   In whom none hope in vain;
   We cling to Thee in love and trust,
   And joy succeeds to pain.
                         Marianne Hearn
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
This hymn seems appropriate for the times. It doesn't seem to have gained any attention, though, occurring in just six hymnals! As usual, cyberhymnal inserts a verse:

2. We hope in Thee, O God!
   The fading time is here,
   But Thou abidest strong and true
   Though all things disappear.
</idle musing>

Friday, February 16, 2024

Self-reliance and God

That is just what we, the children of Adam, refuse to do. That is the rebellion of sin in which we hourly repeat the rebellion of Adam. Adam refused to preserve the order of paradise, refused to keep within the limits of creatureliness imposed upon him by the creator, refused to contain himself within the bounds of God's will, and now man, as Adam's child, refuses to fit into the order of restoration; mankind will not admit that they are flesh standing under judgement and can live only by grace. They will not admit that God is right in his verdict on them, and thus cling only to God's mercy manifest in his very judgement, cling only to God's forgiveness which carries in its heart the judgement of the sin of the forgiven. Humanity resents that utter reliance on God; men and women want at least to co-operate with God in saving their lives — but that is the very way to lose their lives for by that very process sin is not really acknowledged, and its judgement and condemnation in the flesh are not really accepted.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 72

Incarnation as sanctification

But further, the assumptio carnis means also that God has joined himself to us in our estranged human life in order to sanctify it, to gather it into union with his own holy life and so lift it up above and beyond all the downward drag of sin and decay, and that he already does simply by being one with man in all things. Thus the act of becoming incarnate is itself the sanctification of our human life in Jesus Christ, an elevating and fulfilling of it that far surpasses creation; it is a raising up of men and women to stand and have their being in the very life of God, but that raising up of man is achieved through his unutterable atoning self-humiliation and condescension.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 66

More love to thee

364 More Love to Thee. 6. 4. 6. 4. 6. 6. 4.

1 More love to Thee, O Christ,
   More love to Thee!
   Hear Thou the prayer I make
   On bended knee;
   This is my earnest plea:
   More love, O Christ, to Thee,
   More love to Thee,
   More love to Thee!

2 Once earthly joy I craved,
   Sought peace and rest;
   Now Thee alone I seek,
   Give what is best;
   This all my prayer shall be:
   More love, O Christ, to Thee,
   More love to Thee,
   More love to Thee!

3 Then shall my latest breath
   Whisper Thy praise;
   This be the parting cry
   My heart shall raise;
   This still its prayer shall be:
   More love, O Christ, to Thee,
   More love to Thee,
   More love to Thee!
                         Elizabeth P. Prentiss
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
This hymn occurs in a little over 800 hymnals. You can read about the circumstances that led to it being written on the bio link above.

As usual, the cyberhymnal has another verse, inserted after verse 3:

3. Let sorrow do its work,
   Come grief or pain;
   Sweet are Thy messengers,
   Sweet their refrain,
   When they can sing with me:
   More love, O Christ, to Thee;
   More love to Thee,
   More love to Thee!
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Incarnation as reconciliation

From very early times the church has used the expression the ‘assumption of the flesh’, assumptio carnis, to describe egeneto in this fullness. The assumptio carnis means that God willed to coexist with the creature, that he the creator willed to exist also as a creature for the reconciliation of the estranged world to himself. Thus he the Lord of the covenant willed also to be its human partner, in order to fulfil the covenant from its side. But this very condescension of God, in which he humbled himself to enter into our lowly creaturely and fallen existence, means also the elevation of our creaturely existence, by the very fact of God’s will to unite himself to it and to bring the creature into coexistence with himself. Thus his very act of becoming man is itself an act of reconciliation.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 65

Becoming flesh

However, while we must say all that about the flesh that the Word assumed, we must also say that in the very act of assuming our flesh the Word sanctified and hallowed it, for the assumption of our is itself atoning and sanctifying action. How could it be otherwise when he, the Holy One took on himself our unholy flesh? Thus we must say that while he, the holy Son of God, became what we are, he became what we are in a different way from us. We become what we are and continue to become what we are as sinners. He, however, who knew no sin became what we are, yet not by sinning himself. Christ the Word did not sin. He did not become flesh of our flesh in a sinful way, by sinning in the flesh. If God the Word became flesh, God the Word is the subject of the incarnation, and how could God sin? How could God deny God, be against himself, divest himself of his holiness and purity? Thus his taking of our flesh of sin was a sinless action, which means that Jesus does not do in the flesh of sin what we do, namely, sin, but it also means that by remaining holy and sinless in our flesh, he condemned sin in the flesh he assumed and judged it by his very sinlessness.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 63

O for a heart of calm repose

363 Spohr. C. M.

1 O for a heart of calm repose
   Amid the world’s loud roar,
   A life that like a river flows
   Along a peaceful shore!

2 Come, Holy Spirit! still my heart
   With gentleness divine;
   Indwelling peace Thou canst impart;
   O make the blessing mine!

3 Above these scenes of storm and strife
   There spreads a region fair;
   Give me to live that higher life,
   And breathe that heavenly air.

4 Come, Holy Spirit! breathe that peace,
   That victory make me win;
   Then shall my soul her conflict cease,
   And find a heaven within.
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Well, after the last one occurring in over 2400 hymnals, this one only occurs in 28! I don't recall ever singing it. Looking at the hymnals it has occurred in, it appears to be in mainly Methodist-oriented ones.

Hymnary.org has no information about an author, so it truly seems to be anonymous.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The centrality of the incarnation

Now when we listen to the witness of holy scripture here we know we are faced with something we can never fully understand, but it is something that we must seek to understand as far as we can. One thing should be abundantly clear, that if Jesus Christ did not assume our fallen flesh, our fallen humanity, then our fallen humanity is untouched by his work — for ‘the unassumed is the unredeemed’, as Gregory Nazianzen put it. Patristic theology, especially as we see it expounded in the great Athanasius, makes a great deal of the fact he who knew no sin became sin for us, exchanging his riches for our poverty, his perfection for our imperfection, his incorruption for our corruption, his eternal life for our mortality. Thus Christ took from Mary a corruptible and mortal body in order that he might take our sin, judge and condemn it in the flesh, and so assume our human nature as we have it in the fallen world that he might heal, sanctify and redeem it. In that teaching the Greek fathers were closely following the New Testament. If the Word of God did not really come into our fallen existence, if the Son of God did not actually come where we are, and join himself to us and range himself with us where we are in sin and under judgement, how could it be said that Christ really took our place, took our cause upon himself in order to redeem us?—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 62

God's covenant fidelity

His wrath against Israel does not mean that he banishes Israel from his covenant of love and truth but that he affirms that covenant, negating everything that threatens to dissolve it. God's wrath against Israel does not mean his abandonment either of his eternal purpose or of his covenant promises, but on the contrary is the act of his holy love within the covenant in which he asserts himself as holy and loving creator in the midst of human perversity, in the midst of humanity's refusal of grace. God's wrath is judgement of sin, reprobation of our refusal of God, but as such it is already part of atonement, part of re-creation, for his wrath is in fact his reaffirmation of his creatures in spite of their sin and rebellion. Certainly, it is reaffirmation in judgement against sin, but it is a reaffirmation that the creature belongs to God and that he wills to remain its God. God's wrath insists that we remain his children, that we belong to him body and soul, and it is within that belonging that judgement takes place.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 54

Nearer my God to thee!

362 Bethany. 6. 4. 6. 4. 6. 6. 4.

1 Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
   E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
   still all my song shall be,
   nearer, my God, to thee;
   nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

2 Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
   darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
   yet in my dreams I'd be
   nearer, my God, to thee;
   nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

3 There let the way appear, steps unto heaven;
   all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;
   angels to beckon me
   nearer, my God, to thee;
   nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

4 Then, with my waking thoughts bright with thy praise,
   out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
   so by my woes to be
   nearer, my God, to thee;
   nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!

5 Or if, on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
   sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
   still all my song shall be,
   nearer, my God, to thee;
   nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
                         Sarah F. Adams
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Well, after a bunch of hymns that aren't very popular, this one is the exact opposite, occurring in over 2400 hymnals! Interestingly, she was Unitarian, but I don't see much Unitarian theology in this hymn, except perhaps the lack of mention of Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

Cyberhymnal, as well as a few others, adds a sixth verse:

6. There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
   There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
   Age after age to be, nearer my God to Thee.
   nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
</idle musing>