Saturday, May 27, 2023

1 Corinthians 13 (hymn)

844 S. M.
Charity, or Love.

HAD I the gift of tongues,
   Great God, without thy grace,
   My loudest words, my loftiest songs,
   ‘Would be but sounding brass.

2 Though thou shouldst give me skill
   Each myst’ry to explain;
   Without a heart to do thy will,
   My knowledge would be vain.

3 Had I such faith in God,
   As mountains to remove,
   No faith could work effectual good,
   That did not work by love.

4 Grant, then, this one request,-
   Whatever be denied,—
   That love divine may rule my breast,
   And all my actions guide.
                         Samuel Stennett
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Friday, May 26, 2023

Freedom requires dependence

We simply have to state—both negatively and positively the Christian position, derived from the centre of the Christian faith. God the Lord creates a creature, in whom He wills to be glorified, and with whom He wills to have communion. But He can only have communion with that which is not Himself. Communion presupposes differentiation. Further: God wills to have communion with His creatures in such a way that they freely return Him love for love, and in so doing give glory to Him. The whole of creation has been made for this maximum of creaturely independence, for the free creature, capable of loving God in freedom. On the other hand, if God wills to be glorified in His creation, then the freedom of the creature cannot be inherent in man’s nature, it can only be derived from Himself. It is not independence which constitutes the freedom based on God the Creator, but on the contrary, it is that freedom which is identical with complete dependence.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 150

More than conquerors

The most important truth about the Devil is this: Jesus Christ has conquered him. The Cross is the exact opposite of, and therefore the reaction against the ‘‘fall of Lucifer”: the rebellion against God of that being who could not endure not to be equal with God. The Cross is the Sign of the Devil's defeat, and a continual reminder of Him who conquered him; it is also the Sign of Him who “emptied Himself” of His Divine power, in order to express in His own person the Divine self-giving to the uttermost. Therefore it is also true that all genuine dynamic proclamation of the Name of Christ is a challenge to the devil, and “corners” him. Just as a magnet will draw iron out of wood, so the word of Christ draws the devil out of his hiding-place. He must stand at bay, and make a desperate effort to defend himself. That is why Christ came not “to bring peace but a sword”. The power of darkness does not abandon its position without a struggle.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 145

Crucified with Christ

835 2d P. M. 6 lines 8s.
Crucified with Christ.

HUMBLE, and teachable, and mild,
   O may I, as a little child,
   My lowly Master’s steps pursue!
   Be anger to my soul unknown;
   Hate, envy, jealousy, be gone;
   In love create thou all things new.

2 Let earth no more my heart divide;
   With Christ may I be crucified;
   To thee with my whole heart aspire
   Dead to the world and all its toys,
   Its idle pomp, and fading joys,
   Be thou alone my one desire.

3 My will be swallow’d up in thee;
   Light in thy light still may I see,
   Beholding thee with open face;
   Call’d the full power of faith to prove
   Let all my hallow’d heart be love,
   And all my spotless life be praise.

4 Come, Holy Ghost, all—quick’ning fire,
   My consecrated heart inspire,
   Sprinkled with the atoning blood:
   Still to my soul thyself reveal:
   Thy mighty working may I feel,
   And know that I am one with God
                         Charles Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

No, the devil didn't make you do it

Even in the Bible, the power of the devil, or the power of darkness, is never described as irresistible. It is not of such a kind that it could in any way influence human responsibility. The devil leads men astray, he suggests evil; but the man who allows himself to be led astray, and to be incited to evil, is wholly responsible for his action.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 139

<idle musing>
This is so true. I recently was editing a book on Romans 7, the wretched man who cries out for deliverance. The authors argue, correctly in the opinion of church tradition and surrounding Scripture, that this wretched person can not be a Christian. Ponder that and dig into the Scriptures—you will see that it is true.
</idle musing>

Humanity in revolt—against itself!

It is not simply characteristic of a certain type of human being—the divided self, the sick soul (William James)—to be man in revolt. To be “in revolt” is to be a sinner. For through sin man is in rebellion against his destiny; therefore he is fighting against his nature as God created it. The sinner is in revolt within himself—that is his chronic disease, whether he knows it or not, whether he is conscious of the “contradiction” or not. Sin is being divided not merely from God, but also—since human existence is always a relation to God—within himself.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 125

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah

832 8th P. M. 87, 87, 47.
The pilgrim’s guide and guardian.

GUIDE me, O thou great Jehovah,
   Pilgrim through this barren land:
   I am weak—but thou art mighty;
   Hold me with thy powerful hand:
   Bread of heaven,
   Feed me till I Want no more.

2 Open now the crystal fountain,
   Whence the healing waters flow;
   Let the fiery, cloudy pillar,
   Lead me all my journey through:
   Strong Deliv’rer,
   Be thou still my strength and shield.

3 When I tread the verge of Jordan,
   Bid my anxious fears subside:
   Bear me through the swelling current;
   Land me safe on Canaan’s side;
   Songs of praises
   I will ever give to thee.
               William Williams, translated from the Welsh by Peter Willams
               Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

It's more than law

The Law is the will of God, it is true, but it is no longer the fatherly, personal will, which touches man directly, but it is impersonal, concrete, and fixed. The law is the concrete form of the will of God. Hence it is the will of God, and yet it is not, it is ambiguous. The more legalistic it is, the more it takes statutory form, the less is it identical with the real will of God. It always requires “something”, whereas God does not ask for “something” but always wants “me” for myself. Even where the law is summed up in the commandment of love, and the statutory element has been removed, still, as law, it is not the essential will of God. For the real will of God is not first of all a demand, an abstract demand, but it is first of all the offer of love, and the claim on man to respond to this offered love which is the gift of God. The will of God cannot truly be expressed in the form of the law, of the law in an established or fixed form.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 120

<idle musing>
"It is first of all the offer of love, and the claim on man to respond to this offered love which is the gift of God." That's why I love reading Brunner so much. He cuts through all the clutter and distills the essence.

It truly boils down this this: God offers us unconditional love and acceptance. All we have to do is acknowledge that we need it, and accept his lordship/leadership/guidance. Of course, there's the rub, isn't it? Acknowledging our need of God requires abdicating our illicit claims to the throne of our life and the life of those around us.
</idle musing>

Complete in oneself?

Man is not to trespass on God’s preserve; he is to be wholly dependent upon God; thus he is wholly unlike God, since his freedom consists in dependence, not in independence. The eating of the tree of knowledge and of life, the infringement of the divine preserve, is the effort to achieve autonomy, to be entirely self-centred; it means exchanging the a Deo esse for an impossible a se esse. If man had not yielded to this temptation, he would have lived in communion with God; he would have received life as a gift; daily he would have received it as a gift at the hands of God.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 119–20

But the grammar doesn't allow it!

I suggest that a better solution to the πίστις Χριστοῦ debate lies somewhere in the middle between “faith in Christ” and the “faithfulness of Christ.” I find the traditional “faith in Christ” position, though rich in heritage and safeguarding the call for a human response to the gospel, ultimately dissatisfying because it does not capture the participationist themes that Paul weaves into his theological discourse. However, the “faithfulness of Christ” option, overflowing with a vat of theological new wine, doesn’t work for those of us damned with too much knowledge of Greek grammar, and it seems like a theological overread.—Michael Bird, An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans, 143

The servant's heart cries out

830 1st P. M. 6 line; 8s.
An eye single the glory of God.

BEHOLD! the servant of the Lord,
   I wait thy guiding hand to feel;
   To hear and keep thy every word,—
   To prove and do thy perfect will:
   Joyful from my own works to cease,
   Glad to fulfil all righteousness.

2 And if thy grace vouchsafe to use,
   The meanest of thy creatures, me,
   The deed, the time, the manner choose;
   Let all my fruit be found of thee :
   Let all my works in thee be wrought,—
   By thee to full perfection brought.

3 My every weak, though good design,
   O’errule or change, as seems thee meet;
   Jesus, let all my work be thine!
   Thy work, O Lord, is all complete,
   And pleasing in thy Father’s sight;
   Thou only hast done all things right.

4 Here, then, to thee thine own I leave;
   Mould as thou wilt thy passive clay;
   But let me all thy stamp receive,-
   But let me all thy words obey:
   Serve with a single heart and eye,
   And to thy glory live and die.
                         Charles Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Can humanity invent evil?

Man is too closely connected with his senses to be the inventor of evil. He is tempted to evil. Hence human sin is never identical with demonic sin. Demonic sin—understood first of all purely in a phenomenological sense—has no sensual element; it is pure defiance, pure arrogance, purely intellectual and spiritual sin. Human sin always contains an element of frailty, of the non-spiritual, of the sense element. In the story of the Fall this is marvellously described in the combination of the desire to be “like God”, with the attraction of the fruit which was lovely to the sight. The sin of man is, it is true, arrogance, defiance, the presumption of alienation from God; but it is also at the same time a deception of the senses, the power of being tempted, weakness. Man is not sufficiently astute to have invented evil. Thus it has to be “suggested” to him. But the more genius a man has, the closer his sin approaches the demonic.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 108

<idle musing>
Wow! Did you catch that last sentence? "the more genius a man has, the closer his sin approaches the demonic." That's quite the statement—and makes me want to strike back against him. But, maybe that very impulse reveals the truth of it?

Maybe the more we think we have things figured out, the more we think we don't need a god? And what could be more demonic than that? Something to consider, anyway.
</idle musing>

Vices and virtues versus sin

When we speak of Sin we must insist on the truth that sin is not merely “something in man”, but that it is the very existence of man apart from God—that it means being opposed to God, living in the wrong, perverted relation to God. Sin ought not to be confused with vice; it is possible to be a virtuous or a vicious sinner. Sin belongs to a quite different category from that of vice and virtue. Vice and virtue belong to the empirical sphere, to that of the “qualities”. But sin, — like faith, lies beyond the empirical sphere, in the sphere of man’s relation to God. Indeed they are his relation to God; the one is negative and the other positive. The idea of inherited sin is therefore a most inadequate expression of this existence. Over and over again it leads to the mistaken view of Sin as something which can be described in naturalistic, deterministic terms, and therefore as something which cannot be avoided.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 106 (emphasis original)

Tozer for Tuesday

Christianity in our day does not see this as clearly as they could [that as Christians we are a holy nation]. We try to dovetail in and gear in and blend in, and the sharp outlines are gone, and nothing but a cowardly blending remains.—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 114

The hidden love of God

829 1st P. M. 6 lines 8s.
Christ in you, the hope of glory,

THOU hidden love of God, whose height,
   Whose depth unfathom’d, no man knows:
   I see from far thy beauteous light;
   Inly I sigh for thy repose:
   My heart is pain’d, nor can it be
   At rest, till it finds rest in thee.

2 Is there a thing beneath the sun,
   That strives with thee my heart to share?
   Ah, tear it thence, and reign alone,
   The Lord of every motion there;
   Then shall my heart from earth be free,
   When it hath found repose in thee.

3 O hide this self from me, that I
   No more, but Christ in me, may live;
   My vile affections crucify,
   Nor let one darling lust survive;
   In all things nothing may I see,
   Nothing desire or seek, but thee.

4 O Love, thy sov’reign aid impart,
   To save me from low-thoughted care;
   Chase this self-will through all my heart,
   Through all its latent mazes there:
   Make me thy duteous child, that I,
   Ceaseless, may Abba, Father, cry.

5 Each moment draw from earth away
   My heart, that lowly waits thy call;
   Speak to my inmost soul, and say,-
   I am thy love, thy God, thy all!
   To feel thy power, to hear thy voice,
   To taste thy love, be all my choice.
                         Paul Gerhardt,translated by John Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Monday, May 22, 2023

The corporate nature of evil

Indeed experience shows us daily how evil “infects” society, spreading from one person to another, and perhaps involving them in it against their will. The power of the “infection” is as great in the moral sphere as it is in physical epidemics. We ought to be aware of the fact—and to remind others of it—that evil spreads to institutions and conditions, “infects” them, and then breeds further evil, which, in turn “re-infects” the lives of human beings as individuals. Further, it is evident that the evil which is incorporated in social institutions, and the evil which becomes a mass phenomenon, waxes great and assumes demonic forms, which, as a rule, are not found in any individual evil. Evil which takes the shape of social wrong, or is incorporated in institutions, or as a mass phenomenon, is worse than evil in any individual form, in isolation. All this may be summed up in the idea of a “kingdom of evil”; in saying this we acknowledge our debt to Ritschl’s contribution to our thought. But all this does not yet lead us into the mystery of the Biblical idea of the solidarity of sin. This conception is strictly connected with the truth of the Christian revelation.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 96

The true nature of sin

The deepest root of sin therefore is not the senses—they are, at most, occasions of sin—but the spiritual defiance of one who understands freedom as independence, and thus only regards himself as free when he “feels that he owes his existence to himself alone” (Marx). Sin is emancipation from God, giving up the attitude of dependence, in order to try to win full independence, which makes man equal with God. The nature of sin is shown by Jesus in the son who asks his father for his inheritance in order that he may leave home and become “independent”.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 93

Living water

827 L. M.
The well of living water.

JESUS, the gift divine I know,
   The gift divine I ask of thee;
   The living water now bestow,
   Thy Spirit and thyself, on me.

2 For thou of life the fountain art,
   None else can give or take away;
   O may I find it in my heart,
   And with me may it ever stay.

3 Thus may I drink,—and thirst no more
   For drops of finite happiness;
   Spring up, O well, in heavenly power,
   In streams of pure perennial peace.
                         Charles Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Hungering and thirsting for God

825 L. M.
Evermore give us this bread.

FATHER, supply my every need;
   Sustain the life thyself hast given;
   O grant the never-failing bread,—
   The manna that comes down from heaven;

2 The gracious fruits of righteousness,
   Thy blessings’ unexhansted store,
   In me abundantly increase,
   Nor ever let me hunger more.

3 Let me no more, in deep complaint,
   My leanness, O my leanness I cry:
   Alone consumed with pining want,
   Of all my Father’s children I.

4 The painful thirst, the fond desire,
   Thy joyous presence shall remove;
   But my full soul shall still require
   A whole eternity of love.
                         Charles Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)