Wednesday, May 31, 2023

A self-limiting God

The God of revelation is indeed not the potestas absoluta of speculation, but the God who limits Himself, in order to create room for the creature. God wills to have a real "counterpart". God creates a creature, since He limits His absoluteness. The two ideas, Creation and self-limitation, are correlative. Anyone who has taken the first idea seriously has already conceived the second. It is not that the second is a result of the first, but the second is the same as the first, only it is seen from the opposite end. The idea of the divine self-limitation is included in that of the creation of a world which is not God, and in so doing the idea of potestas absoluta or of omni-causality has been given up.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 172–73

<idle musing>
Did you catch that? The very idea of creation means that God has willingly limited himself. It's not that he has become less than ominipotent in essence; he has chosen to self-limit that omnipotence.

Put another way, God is so secure in who he is that God can self-limit Godself without becoming less than God.

That is mind-boggling! I really can't wrap my head around it completely.
</idle musing>

The illogic of Calvin's determinism

Calvin denies human freedom, but he also maintains full human responsibility, while at the same time he asserts that God alone determines all that happens, without, however, ascribing to Him the origin of evil. This is the element in Calvin's thought which is so unsatisfactory, not to say painful and dishonest. He does not admit for a moment that there is an insoluble dilemma here, a paradoxical statement which cannot be regarded as free from contradictions, a statement which includes within itself two opposed assertions, but he proceeds as though everything were in order, while actually he is flying in the face of logic.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 172

<idle musing>
Indeed! That's the fly in the ointment for all determinists. It isn't a paradox; it's a logical contradiction.
</idle musing>

Bless the Lord, oh my soul

884 S. M.
The loving-kindness of the Lord.

O BLESS the Lord, my soul;
   His grace to thee proclaim;
   And all that is within me, join
   To bless his holy Name.

2 The Lord forgives thy sins,—
   Prolongs thy feeble breath;
   He healeth thine infirmities,
   And ransoms thee from death.

3 He clothes thee with his love,—
   Upholds thee with his truth;
   And like the eagle he renews
   The vigour of thy youth.

4 Then bless his holy Name
   Whose grace hath made thee whole;
   Whose loving-kindness crowns thy days:
   O bless the Lord, my soul.
                         James Montgomery
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The impossibility of determinism

It also shows itself to be a contradiction in the fact that no human being, not even the determinist, actually holds this causalism in actual life. "In practical life" nobody believes in absolute determinism; practically everyone presupposes an element of freedom which contradicts the theory of determinism. Finally, pan-causalism, or determinism, is opposed to our moral knowledge of responsibility; if everything happens because it must, then there is no room for responsibility; responsibility can only be maintained by the aid of intolerable sophisms. It is, of course, obvious that this determinism is opposed to the truth of revelation, given to faith.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 171

Miracles of a lower category

But the fact that the Cross becomes revelation is only possible through the Miracle of the Resurrection. By itself, the Cross can be understood from a purely human point of view, just as the death of Socrates is regarded as the martyrdom of a man who sacrifices himself for the truth. The fact that it is more than this, that it is the reconciling act of God, that Jesus is the Son of God, has been "declared with power … by the resurrection of the dead" (Rom. i: 4). Believers alone are eye-witnesses of the Resurrection. Only to faith is it given to see this new dimension above the Humanum — the freedom of God — "miracle" in the truest sense of the word. Just as a dog does not know Michelangelo as a Master, but only sees him as a man who strikes a stone with wood and iron, so for the unbeliever there is no Christ, no Risen Lord, but only a man, Jesus of Nazareth, who died on the Cross. The miracle of revelation can only be seen by faith. But this miracle of the God-Man is achieved without eliminating the natural order. The Son of God lived a natural human life, so that to many He seemed to be an ordinary man, and only the eye of faith was able to see the Son of God in His human "form of a servant". This central miracle is, as we have already said, surrounded by accompanying miracles whose significance is to point to the supreme central miracle; they are, if we may say so, miracles of a lower category. They too transcend what we usually call "normal" experience. They break through the enclosure within which our "ordinary" world is confined. We cannot say that in themselves they are more wonderful or "miraculous" than the wonders of the living organism, or than the wonder of human freedom; but they are more wonderful than these things because "usually" they do not happen. They are exceptional events whose purpose is to point to the central miracle in the Person of Him who works them.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 168–69

But it's written right here! (Tozer for Tuesday)

Orthodoxy says, “I know the answer, here it is in seven tenets.” But the humble Christian knows better. He knows he has the tenets there and subscribes to them as ardently as any man, but how to apply them at a given time and context takes the Holy Ghost, prayer, humility, sometimes fasting, more prayer and sacrifice.—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 132

Gracious Redeemer, shake this slumber…

861 S. M.
The warning voice of Jesus.

GRACIOUS Redeemer, shake
   This slumber from my soul!
   Say to me now,—Awake, awake!
   And Christ shall make thee whole.

2 Lay to thy mighty hand;
   Alarm me in this hour;
   And make me fully understand
   The thunder of thy power.

3 Give me on thee to call,—
   Always to watch and pray,
   Lest I into temptation fall,
   And cast my shield away.

4 For each assault prepared,
   And ready may I be;—
   Forever standing on my guard,
   And looking up to thee.

5 O do thou always warn
   My soul of evil near;
   When to the right or left I turn,
   Thy voice still let me hear:—

6 Come back! this is the way;
   Come back, and walk therein;
   O may I hearken and obey,
   And shun the paths of sin.
                         Charles Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Monday, May 29, 2023

Miracles and God

Miracle is rather the essence of faith. Faith and the miraculous are indissolubly connected. If miracle is eliminated the dimension of faith also disappears. Miracle is the correlate of the supernatural, of the Living God. When we speak of God we also speak of miracle; that is, if by "God" we mean the true God, the God of revelation, not the God of human speculation. To deny the reality of miracle would be to deny the freedom of God, of the God who is the Lord of the whole world. To see this God at work, who is the free Lord of the world which He has created, means encountering miracle, whether this miracle of the divine action works through the laws of nature or outside them. We do not say this in order to evade the actual "problem of miracles" — this will be clear in a moment — but in order to set the whole problem in its right perspective. The freedom of God is a vital concern for faith, but it is no more and no less concerned with what is called "miracle", or the so-called "miracles", than with the working of God through the constancy of nature and its laws. As against the Deistic view we would say that God is actively at work even where no "miracles" occur; as against the Pantheistic view we would say, that God's working is not confined to the sphere of natural causality. Both the "ordinary", and the "extra-ordinary" action of God, is equally wonderful; for everything that God does is wonderful, for those who see that it is God who does it.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 160

<idle musing>
Indeed. Reminds me of C. S. Lewis's argument in Miracles. Life in and of itself is a miracle, wrought by the hand of God. And Romans says the same thing, as does the opening of Psalm 19; for that matter, the Scriptures are full of those kinds of statement. You simply need the eyes of faith to see it.
</idle musing>

No problems?

We are here thinking of Providence, Election, and the Purpose of the world together. This eliminates that dangerous popular misunderstanding of Providence, nourished by certain phrases in the Psalms, which seem to suggest that those who trust in God "will always escape disaster". Certainly ultimately this is what is intended and real trust in God is based upon this conviction. But this does not mean that penultimately, within this world of space and time, even the most Christian people will not have to face the worst disasters! The disciple is not above his Lord. If Jesus the Son of God was crucified, owing to the most terrible miscarriage of justice and judicial murder in the history of the world, as a sacrifice to the most incredible blindness and malice, can any of His disciples expect to receive a guarantee that nothing of that kind will happen to him? A certain pietistic exposition of Providence, in the sense of direct "guidance" which removes all difficulties, and constantly turns everything to good, has done a great deal to discredit the idea of Providence; indeed, it has led some people into a state of complete bewilderment and loss of faith. The Good Shepherd does permit His sheep to go through the Dark Valley. The just man must suffer much. Indeed is there not a secret proportion between the measure of Christ's presence and a share in His sufferings?—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 158

<idle musing>
Bam! Take that, prosperity gospel, possibility thinking, and such. A real theologian with real theology puts you in your place.
</idle musing>

Outward religion

857 C. M.
The vanity of mere formality.

LONG have I seem’d to serve thee, Lord,
   With unavailing pain;
   Fasted, and pray’d, and read thy word,
   And heard it preach’d in vain.

2 Oft did I with the assembly join,
   And near thy altar drew:
   A form of godliness was mine,—
   The power, I never knew.

3 I rested in the outward law,
   Nor knew its deep design:
   The length and breadth, I never saw,
   And height, of love divine.

4 To please thee, thus at length I see,
   Vainly I hoped and strove;
   For what are outward things to thee,
   Unless they spring from love?

5 I see the perfect law requires
   Truth in the inward parts;
   Our full consent, our whole desires,
   Our undivided hearts.

6 But I of means have made my boast;
   Of means an idol made:
   The spirit in the letter lost,—
   The substance, in the shade.

7 Where am I now, or what my hope?
   What can my weakness do?
   Jesus, to thee my soul looks up:
   ’Tis thou must make it new.
                         Charles Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Awake! My sluggish soul!

853 C. M.
Lamenting spiritual sloth.

MY drowsy powers, why sleep ye so?
   Awake, my sluggish soul:
   Nothing hath half thy work to do,
   Yet nothing’s half so dull.

2 Go to the ants! for one poor grain
   See how they toil and strive;
   Yet we who have a heaven to’ obtain,
   How negligent we live !—

3 We, for whose sake all nature stands.
   And stars their courses move;
   We, for whose guard the angel bands
   Come flying from above :—

4 We, for whom God the Son came down;
   And labour’d for our good;
   How careless to secure that crown
   He purchased with his blood!

5 Lord, shall we live so sluggish still,
   And never act our parts?
   Come, holy Dove, from the heavenly hill,
   And warm our frozen hearts!

6 Give us with active warmth to move,
   With vig’rous souls to rise;
   With hands of faith, and wings of love,
   To fly and take the prize.
                         Isaac Watts
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

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)

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Following the savior

825 L. M.
Following the Saviour.

O THOU, to whose all-searching sight
   The darkness shineth as the light,
   Search, prove my heart, it pants for thee;
   O burst these bonds, and set it free.

2 Wash out its stains, refine its dross;
   Nail my affections to the cross;
   Hallow each thought; let all within
   Be clean, as thou, my Lord, art clean.

3 If in this darksome wild I stray,
   Be thou my light, be thou my way:
   No foes, no violence I fear,
   No fraud, while thou, my God, art near.

4 When rising floods my soul o’erflow,—
   When sinks my heart in waves of wo—
   Jesus, thy timely aid impart,
   And raise my head, and cheer my heart.

5 Saviour, where’er thy steps I see,
   Dauntless, untired, I follow thee;
   O let thy hand support me still,
   And lead me to thy holy hill.

6 If rough and thorny be the way,
   My strength proportion to my day;
   Till toil, and grief, and pain shall cease,
   Where all is calm, and joy, and peace.
                       Count Zinzendorf, trans. John Wesley
                      Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Friday, May 19, 2023

Misuse of the imago Dei

Sin is like a fire which is kindled by the divine destiny of man. Actually, man’s divine destiny means being "like God”, freedom. Man is intended to be free, to be like God; but now man wants to have both apart from dependence upon God.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 92


The Biblical view of sin, however, replaces the phrase “not yet” by “no longer”. Sin is not the primary phenomenon, it is not the beginning, but it is a turning-away from the beginning, the abandonment of the origin, the break with that which God had given and established. Wherever the Prophets reproach Israel for its sin, this is the decisive conception: “You have fallen away, you have strayed, you have been unfaithful. You have forsaken God; you have broken the Covenant, you have left Him for other gods. You have turned your backs upon Him!” Similarly, the Parables of Jesus speak of sin as rebellion, as leaving God. The Prodigal Son leaves home, goes away from the Father, turns his back upon him. The Wicked Husbandmen usurp the master’s rights and wrongly seize the land which they only held on a rental. They are actually rebels, usurpers. The Lost Sheep has strayed away from the flock and from the Shepherd; it has gone astray.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 91

<idle musing>
He's continuing the theme we saw yesterday. So, sin, rather than a moral issue, is a conscious turning away from God. Which makes perfect sense in the Hebrew, where the word šûb, "to turn, return," is the word commonly used for repentance.
</idle musing>

Christ in me

824 5th P. M. 4 lines 7s.
Christ liveth in me.

LOVING Jesus, gentle Lamb,
   In thy gracious hands I am ;
   Make me, Saviour, what thou art;
   Live thyself within my heart.

2 I shall then show forth thy praise;
   Serve thee all my happy days;
   Then the world shall always see
   Christ the holy child in me.
                         Charles Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Thursday, May 18, 2023

It's not a moral thing

In the Bible “sin” does not mean something moral, but it denotes man’s need of redemption the state of the “natural man”, seen in the light of his divine destiny. Just as man can only be understood in the light of the divine Creation, so also sin can only be rightly understood in the light of the Christian revelation. Here too we must make a clear distinction between the fact itself and the light in which it is perceived. We can only see what sin is, what man is as sinner, in the light of the Christian revelation, which effects the transition from the state of “being-a-sinner” to that of “being redeemed”.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 89

<idle musing>
Brunner says this quite a few times in this book. To him sin was not being in relationship with God through Christ. The rest is just the natural results of that lack of relationship. It's an interesting perspective—and in many ways I think he might be correct.
</idle musing>

The call to commune with God

From the standpoint of Jesus Christ, then, how can we conceive the man who has been created by God? All that we have been saying hitherto may be summarized in the following statements: In Jesus Christ we know ourselves to be creatures of God, who, in contrast to His other creatures, have been created not only through the Word, but for the Word and in the Word of God. We have been created as “body-soul” persons, whose personal being is based upon their responsibility, and whose responsibility is derived from the call of God. This call of God, however, is to be understood in the light of Jesus Christ, not as a purely categorical imperative or a moral law, but as the call of God to communion with Him the Creator, and through Him to communion with men. The true human quality which is due to this call of God is existence-in-love and is received in faith. The creation of God, true human existence, is an act of God, which can only be completed in the answering act of man. Man has been so created that he must answer, whether he will or no, either by responding to or reacting against the divine will of the Creator.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 73

When Jesus is revealed

805 C. M.
The world has lost its charms.

LET worldly minds the world pursue;
   It has no charms for me:
   Once I admired its trifles too,
   But grace hath set me free.

2 Its pleasures can no longer please,
   Nor happiness afford:
   Far from my heart be joys like these,
   Now I have seen the Lord.

3 As by the light of opening day
   The stars are all conceal’d,
   So earthly pleasures fade away,
   When Jesus is reveal’d.

4 Creatures no more divide my choice;
   I bid them all depart:
   His name, his love, his gracious voice,
   Have fix’d my roving heart.
                        John Newton
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

There's an order here, and it matters

This can be seen from the order of the statements about the Imago Dei and the mastery of Nature. The former must come first; the latter follows naturally from it. Man does not become human through culture and civilization. But civilization and culture become human when the man who creates them is truly human. The true human quality of man, however, is rooted in his relation to God, in the acceptance and realization of his destiny for love and for eternal life. When, instead of this, man seeks his supreme end in culture and civilization, and puts this in the place of God, and turns it into an absolute, the germ of inhumanity has been introduced into his life. A civilization and culture which has severed its connexion with God, and thinks more of achievement than of persons, necessarily becomes inhuman. It loses its true centre, and thus disintegrates into sectional spheres and sectional interests, each of which comes into conflict with the others, and tries to develop itself at the cost of the rest. True civilization and true culture can only develop where the cultural creation and activity is directed and ordered from a centre which transcends culture. A culture or civilization which is indifferent to morals and religion is bound to degenerate. Religion and morality, however, are identical, where the God of Holy Love is known as the foundation of all being, and His will as the norm of all morality; that is, where man knows himself to have been created by God for love, and for communion with the God of love, in faith in Jesus Christ.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 68

<idle musing>
Boy. He's certainly describing out culture right now, isn't he? But the antidote is right there: We were created in the image of God in order to love God, who created us for that purpose. And out of that love, all the rest flows.

And that doesn't mean culture wars! That means self-emptying sacrificial love, just as he's been saying throughout the book so far. Creation began by God's self-limiting of Godself; how can we do any less? "Unto the least of these…"
</idle musing>

On being truly human

Man's decisive position above Nature, however, is attained in the fact that he does not worship it as divine. Man's distance from Nature presupposes that he knows God as the Creator of the World, as the One who stands above the whole creation. So long as man regards Nature as divine—(as is the case throughout the pagan world)—he is not really its master, he has not really risen above it, and he is also not really capable of being truly human. When, as is the case to-day, he falls back into the habit of treating Nature as divine, inevitably he will once more lose his humanity. On the other hand, however, man also loses his true human quality when he believes that this consists in his mastery of Nature, in his civilization, or even in his technics. Civilization—in the broadest sense—is no guarantee of “humanity” (Menschlichkeit). On the contrary, where it is not subject to a Higher Power, it becomes perverted into something inhuman.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 67–68

<idle musing>
Wow! There's a lot going in in that passage, isn't there? We are between two gulf: Worshiping nature and losing our true humanity; or, just as dangerous, and the one we are probably most guilty of in the West, thinking we can control nature and therefore seeing ourselves as gods.

A good dose of healthy humility would be help! And a recognition of who we are: We are created in the image of God. We are created to love God, just as he loves us. And that also means loving our fellow humans and all that that entails, and loving creation, which means being good stewards of it.

Quite a charge, that. May we prove willing, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to take it on and fulfill it!
</idle musing>

Only Jesus will I know

800 12th P. M. 76,76,78,76
Determined to know nothing but Jesus and him crucified

VAIN, delusive world, adieu,
   With all of creature good:
   Only Jesus I pursue,
   Who bought me with his blood:
   All thy pleasures I forego;
   I trample on thy wealth and pride;
   Only Jesus will I know,
   And Jesus crucified.

2 Other knowledge I disdain;
   ’Tis all but vanity:
   Christ, the Lamb of God, was slain,—
   He tasted death for me.
   Me to save from endless wo
   The sin-atoning victim died:
   Only Jesus will I know,
   And Jesus crucified.

3 Here will I set up my rest;
   My fluctuating heart
   From the haven of his breast
   Shall never more depart:
   Whither should a sinner go?
   His wounds for me stand open wide;
   Only Jesus will I know,
   And Jesus crucified.

4 Him to know is life and peace,
   And pleasure without end;
   This is all my happiness,
   On Jesus to depend;
   Daily in his grace to grow,
   And ever in his faith abide;
   Only Jesus will I know,
   And Jesus crucified.

5 O that I could all invite,
   This saving truth to prove;
   Show the length, the breadth, the height,
   And depth of Jesus’ love!
   Fain I would to sinners show
   The blood by faith alone applied;
   Only Jesus will I know,
   And Jesus crucified.
                        Charles Wesley
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Tuesday, May 16, 2023


Brad Vaughn (aka Jackson Wu) has a great post on consumerism

Here's the takeaway line:

We shouldn’t start by asking whether we’re consumeristic. We should assume we are until proven otherwise.
I was once asked to teach a series of classes on 1 John at a church we were a part of. The section on “Love not the world” was very enlightening. I began the class by asking them to list the things of the world. They gave me a long list of stuff that I wrote on the white board. Then, I asked them if they had any of these things. All of a sudden, those things weren’t any longer “of the world.” I wasn’t surprised, but I was somewhat taken aback by the vehemence of their defense of the very same things they so confidently said were of the world less than five minutes earlier.

Not claiming immunity here! I really do need that $150 LXX grammar and that $200 LXX lexicon that I’ve been lusting over for a few years now. Right? But to get the most out of it, I’ll need to purchase the Göttingen LXX volumes.

Or that new $600 smart direct drive bike trainer because the dumb wheel-on one I’m using now is almost ten years old and is starting to have noisy bearings—but to get the most out of it, I’ll need to buy x, y, and z.

Or my Fitbit is only holding a charge for 36 hours, so I need a new one—and that Versa 4 looks so nice, or better yet, how about that $500 Garmin one? Think of the extra data I’d have, but to get the most out of it, I’d need a, b, and c.

The list goes on and on.

16 I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires.… 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. (Gal 5:16, 24–25 CEB)

</idle musing>

Made in the image of God

It is a very significant feature of the Old Testament Creation narrative that all other creatures are called into existence by the commanding word of the Lord, but man, as it were, by a divine decree: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” This clearly differentiates the creation of man from that of all the other creatures. It is not human arrogance to believe that he is the crown, the goal of creation. He is so—not only because he is the last in an ascending series, but because, by his very nature, he has been appointed for this. For in man alone can God truly glorify and communicate Himself, because here alone can His love be received by an answering love, because here alone can His Word be answered with a free response. It is foolish to imagine that the greatness of the universe is a counter-argument to this “childishly anthropocentric” way of thinking. What has a quantum to do with a quale! Man, who through his mind can think the universe, discover its laws, and estimate its extent, is greater than the universe. This Idealistic statement is not contradicted by the Bible; it only needs to be modified. The true greatness of man is not his reason, by which he learns to know, but it consists in the fact that he has been made for communion with God and his fellows. This includes the superiority of the Subject over the Object, but not the opposite.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 66–67

Received love

True humanity is not genius but love, that love which man does not possess from or in himself but which he receives from God, who is love. True humanity does not spring from the full development of human potentialities, but it arises through the reception, the perception, and the acceptance of the love of God, and it develops and is preserved by “abiding” in communion with the God who reveals Himself as Love. Hence separation from God, sin, is the loss of the true human quality, and the destruction of the quality of “being made in the Image of God”. When the heart of man no longer reflects the love of God, but himself and the world, he no longer bears the “Image of God”, which simply consists in the fact that God's love is reflected in the human heart.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 58–59

Believing against hope

784 L. M.
In hope, believing against hope.

AWAY, my unbelieving fear!
   Fear shall in me no more have place ;
   My Saviour doth not yet appear,—
   He hides the brightness of his face:
   But shall I therefore let him go,
   And basely to the tempter yield?
   No, in the strength of Jesus, no,
   I never will give up my shield.

2 Although the vine its fruit deny
   Although the olive yield no oil,
   The with’ring fig-trees droop and die,
   The fields elude the tiller’s toil,—
   The empty stall no herd afford,
   And perish all the bleating race,
   Yet will I triumph in the Lord,-
   The God of my salvation praise.

3 In hope, believing against hope,
   Jesus, my Lord, my God, I claim;
   Jesus, my strength, shall lift me up;
   Salvation is in Jesus’ name.
   To me he soon shall bring it nigh;
   My soul shall then outstrip the wind;
   On wings of love mount up on high,
   And leave the world and sin behind.
                         Charles Wesley
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
Not every day that you find a hymn built around Habakkuk 3! This hymnal has 1148 hymns in it, and this is the only one that is listed for Hab 3. I checked my copy of The Book of Hymns, and they list only one also, "Sometimes a Light Surprises," by William Cowper, but it's built more around Matt 6:25–34 than it is Hab 3.
</idle musing>

A royal priesthood

You are a priest, and not only a priest, but also a royal priest. The priests of the Old Testament were not royal priests. The royal line was Judah, and the priestly line was the Levitical line. The two lines never crossed. The New Testament Christian is neither Judah nor Levi (nor Dan, nor any of the other lines). He is of a new order of humans, twice—born human, and one of his functions is to act as a priest. Because he is born of royal seed, Jesus, he is a royal priest.—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 112

Monday, May 15, 2023

Freedom—with restrictions

The free Self, capable of self-determination, belongs to the original constitution of man as created by God. But from the very outset this freedom is limited. It is not primary but secondary. Indeed, it does not posit itself — like the Self of Idealism — but it is posited; it is not a se but a Deo. Hence although man's answer is free, it is also limited. God wills my freedom, it is true, because He wills to glorify Himself, and to give Himself. He wills my freedom in order to make this answer possible; my freedom is therefore, from the outset, a responsible one. Responsibility is restricted freedom, which distinguishes human from divine freedom; and it is a restriction which is also free — and this distinguishes our human limited freedom from that of the rest of creation. The animals, and God, have no responsibility — the animals because they are below the level of responsibility, and God, because He is above it; the animals because they have no freedom, and God because He has absolute freedom. Man, however, has a limited freedom. This is the heart of his being as man, and it is the “condition” on which he possesses freedom. In other words, this limited human freedom is the very purpose for which man has been created: he possesses this “freedom” in order that he may respond to God, in such a way that through this response God may glorify Himself, and give Himself to His creature.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 57 (emphasis original)

Knowing Jesus (Brunner style)

To look at man in the light of Jesus Christ is not the same thing as knowing Jesus Christ.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 53 (emphasis original)

He cares for us!

781 L. M.
He careth for you.

PEACE, troubled soul, thou need’st not fear;
   Thy great Provider still is near;
   Who fed thee last, will feed thee still:
   Be calm, and sink into his will.

2 The Lord, who built the earth and sky,
   In mercy stoops to hear thy cry;
   His promise all may freely claim:
   Ask and receive in Jesus’ name.

3 Without reserve give Christ your heart;
   Let him his righteousness impart;
   Then all things else he ’ll freely give;
   With him you all things shall receive.

4 Thus shall the soul be truly blest,
   That seeks in God his only rest;
   May I that happy person be,
   In time and in eternity.
                      Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
The hymnal actually said the author was unknown, but gives it as Samuel Ecking, who apparently only wrote two hymns. They also add four more verses, but don't include what are verses 3–4 above. Maybe that's why the hymnal says "unknown"?

3 His stores are open all, and free
   To such as truly upright be;
   Water and bread he'll give for food,
   With all things else which he sees good.

4 Your sacred hairs, which are so small,
   By God himself are numbered all;
   This truth he's published all abroad,
   That men may learn to trust the Lord.

5 The ravens daily he doth feed,
   And sends them food as they have need;
   Although they nothing have in store,
   Yet as they lack he gives them more.

6 Then do not seek, with anxious care,
   What ye shall eat, or drink, or wear;
   Your heavenly Father will you feed;
   He knows that all these things you need.

</idle musing>

Sunday, May 14, 2023

You gotta be kidding me!

Apparently they have the solution in Texas to kids dying in classroom shootings: Train third graders to administer first aid to gunshot wounds! Because, you know, we can't infringe on the right to own guns! Instead let's add to the trauma of young kids having active shooter drills by having them undergo training to treat gunshot wounds!

Meanwhile, we recall millions of airbags that might malfunction because about a dozen people have died from them over the last five-plus years! And we recalled some other thing the other day because about twenty-five people have died from it (I forget what the product was now, but you get the point). And we recall food products on a fairly regular basis, close down restaurants for health infractions, and the list goes on. And consumers sue, and win, on a fairly regular basis against manufacturers and retail food establishments for defective and/or dangerous products.

But, we have a product that is known to cause death, injury, and trauma on a scale that we can't even imagine, yet all we can offer is active shooter drills and first-aid training? It's against the law to sue gun manufacturers. We offer conceal and carry permits in many states without training. We allow known mentally unstable people to purchase weapons. We don't even require that households with young children store their weapons in a secure place.

You can't legally purchase cigarettes or vaping products until you are eighteen, but you can have a weapon that kills others, as well as yourself (via suicide) at pretty much any age (depending on the state). We allow a weapons ban law to expire that was shown to statistically reduce mass shootings, but we raise the legal drinking age to 21 from 18 because too many young intoxicated drivers were killing people (a good move that I applaud).

People, where are our priorities?

As a nation we are like the guy who fatally shot his girlfriend because she got an abortion!

I just don't get it…

Commit thou all they griefs and ways…

779 S. M.
Whoso trusteth in the Lord shall be safe.

COMMIT thou all thy griefs
   And ways into His hands,—
   To his sure trust and tender care
   Who earth and heaven commands;
   Who points the clouds their course,
   Whom winds and seas obey:
   He shall direct thy wand’ring feet,-
   He shall prepare thy way.

2 Thou on the Lord rely,
   So, safe, shalt thou go on;
   Fix on his work thy steadfast eye,
   So shall thy work be done. No profit canst thou gain
   By self-consuming care;
   To him commend thy cause,—his ear
   Attends the softest prayer.
                     Paul Gerhardt, trans. John Wesley
                    Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Trusting in the mercy of God

775 C. M.
Trusting in the mercy of God.

WHY, O my soul, O why depress’d
   And whence thine anxious fears?
   Let former mercies fix thy trust,
   And check thy rising tears.

2 Affliction is a stormy deep,
   Where wave succeeds to wave;
   Though o’er my head the billows sweep,
   I know the Lord can save.

3 His grace and mercy trust, my soul,
   Nor murmur at his rod:
   In vain the waves of trouble roll,
   While he is still thy God.
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
I haven't a clue who Colton is, and thinks it's Cotton, but I suspect that's just an OCR misreading of Colton. Either way, they have no information about the person.
</idle musing>

Friday, May 12, 2023

The historicity of Adam?

Thus the man who wants to “hold firmly the historicity of the story of Adam” is doing something quite different from what he thinks he is doing. He thinks he is preserving the faith of his fathers; in reality he is doing something quite different; he is trying to include in the modern picture of Time and Space, a process which belongs to a quite different picture of Time and Space, which he cannot possibly reproduce. Thus he is not “conservative”, but quixotic and reactionary.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 48

<idle musing>
OK, I wouldn't be so harsh as Brunner! But, he has a very valid point, which is frequently lost in the discussion. The Scriptures were written with a very different understanding of what the cosmos looks like than what we have today. To try to turn the Bible into a science book is wrong-headed and misleading—to say nothing of potentially opening the door to a loss of faith for some who discover that scientific discoveries have a solid foundation in the data—a point he brought up in the post I published a day or two ago.
</idle musing>

Anthropomorphism and God

Without this similarity between the human process which we call “speech” and “word”, and the divine process which we describe in these terms, we cannot speak of God at all. The Bible speaks of God so simply and “anthropomorphically”, and not in an abstract manner, so personally and not impersonally, because God reveals Himself to us in the Scriptures as Person, and because at the same time He reveals man as having been created in His Image.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 44

Why is my heart with grief oppress’d?

772 L. M.
The Lord is my refuge.

WHY is my heart with grief oppress’d
   Can all the pains I feel or fear,
   Make thee, my soul, forget thy rest—
   Forget that God, thy God, is near?

2 Hast thou not often call’d the Lord
   Thy refuge, thy almighty friend?
   And canst thou fear to trust that word
   On which thy hopes of heaven depend?

3 Lord, form my temper to thy will;
   If thou my faith and patience prove,
   May every painful stroke fulfil
   Thy purposes of faithful love.

4 O may this weak, this fainting mind,
   A Father’s hand, adoring, see;
   Confess thee just, and wise, and kind,
   And trust thy word, and cleave to thee.
                        Wilson’s Collection
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
I haven't a clue what the Wilson's Collection is and Google is no help. It pulls up this hymnal, and a piano tune book from 1860 with about one thousand hymns. Not terribly helpful. is no help at all.

Oh, I just found this at the Internet Archive. Apparently it's a compilation of hymns put together by a Rev. William Cams Wilson in 1838. Unfortunately, that's comes up blank on WorldCat, so I'm no closer than I was.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 11, 2023

More from Brunner on Creation

So this world, whose different successive states are described by the various natural sciences (astrophysics, geology, etc.) and are causally connected, is for faith a work of the Divine Creator, Creation. Just as the judgment of the art critic does not question the analysis of the chemist, but on the contrary, presupposes it, without bothering about details (“with certain chemical ingredients called ‘colours’, the artist has been able to say this or that”), so the conviction of the Christian believer is not shaken by the scientific description of the scientist; without troubling himself about details he takes it for granted. God has created the world in such a way that to scientific knowledge His Creation represents a series of definite stages in a definite causal connexion. The Creation is the invisible background of Evolution; Evolution is the visible foreground of Creation. Faith alone grasps that invisible aspect; science grasps this visible aspect. Evolution is the mechanism of creation; creation is the spiritual source and the Final Cause of Evolution.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 40

Brunner on free will

There is a tendency toward monergism in the thought of all the Reformers, due to their desire to protect the truth that God alone can pardon the sinner by His Grace, which, however, endangers the Biblical idea of Creation, and threatens to human freewill and responsibility. While here there is the danger of ignoring the relative independence of the creature, in the theology of the period of the Enlightenment, influenced by Deism, the opposite tendency predominated. Here creaturely independence was emphasized at the expense of permanent dependence on the Creator.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 37

<idle musing>
In other words—ok, in my words!—it's all God's grace, all the time, which enables us to even see, let alone choose, our need for God. He, by the power of his Spirit, elevates/enables us to understand the things of God so that we can freely choose—or decline—his offer. But, as Augustine said, the Holy Spirit is the "hound of heaven" and will chase us to our dying day, continually offering us the option of embracing God and his love.
</idle musing>

My refuge and rest

770 C. M.
The shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

NOW to the haven of thy breast
   O Son of man, I fly;
   Be thou my refuge and my rest,
   For O! the storm is high.

2 Protect me from the furious blast;
   My shield and shelter be:
   Hide me, my Saviour, till o’erpast
   The storm of sin I see.

3 As welcome as the water-spring
   Is to a barren place,
   Jesus, descend on me, and bring
   Thy sweet, refreshing grace.

4 As o’er a parch’d and weary land,
   A rock extends its shade,
   So hide me, Saviour, with thy hand,
   And screen my naked head.

5 In all the times of my distress
   Thou hast my succour been;
   And in my utter helplessness,
   Restraining me from sin;

6 How swift to save me didst thou move
   In every trying hour;
   O still protect me with thy love,
   And shield me with thy power.
                         Charles Wesley
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
Interesting that for Wesley, the thing he feared was not the trials and tribulations of public persecution—of which he had plenty, at least in the early years of the Methodist revival—but the onslaught of temptation! Take a look at the last two lines of the second verse, which explains what the furious blast is:

Hide me, my Saviour, till o’erpast
The storm of sin I see.
Would that we had that mindset today!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Brunner on Creation

The so-called “Mosaic” story of Creation is not only a wonderful testimony to the divine revelation, but it is also the product of a very primitive view of the world. Hence it tells the story of Creation with the aid of conceptions which, without ceasing to be vessels of divine revelation, are such that their intellectual outlook is in conflict with modern knowledge. The Biblical story of Creation is bound up with the picture of the world current in antiquity, which no longer exists for us. The failure to distinguish between a particular world-view and religious truth has made ecclesiastical theology first the enemy, and then the laughing-stock of science. At the present time theology as a whole usually fails to recognize the significance of these facts for modern man. This whole conflict might have been avoided if the Church had known how to make a distinction between the vessel and its content, between the view of the world and the statement of faith. Since even down to the present time the Church is still out-of-date on this point, we must try to give at least in outline some indications for the solution of this problem; the fact that it has been neglected for far too long, has been, and still is, a serious hindrance to the faith of countless men and women.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 28–29

How blind are we?

Thus it is possible to over-estimate, as well as to under-estimate, the blinding of the intellect by sin. We have indeed no right to assert, as some pessimists do, that sinful man as such, cannot know anything aright. This kind of pessimism is out of touch both with the Bible and with experience. On the other hand, an optimism which ignores or denies the significance of sin is equally unjustified. In the one case, as well as in the other, an undifferentiated general statement is wrong. Rather, it is necessary to make a distinction between knowledge of the world and knowledge of God. Sin does not hinder men from knowing the things of the world, the laws of nature, the facts of nature, and man in his natural, historical and cultural manifestations. But the more we are dealing with the inner nature of man, with his attitude to God, and the way in which he is determined by God, it is evident that this sinful illusion becomes increasingly dominant. The more closely a subject is related to man's inward life, the more natural human knowledge is “infected” by sin; while the further away it is, the less will be its effect.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 27

The only refuge

764 S. M.
The soul’s only refuge.

THOU refuge of my soul,
   On thee, when sorrows rise,
   On thee, when waves of trouble roll,
   My fainting hope relies.

2 To thee I tell my grief,
   For thou alone canst heal;
   Thy Word can bring a sweet relief!
   For every pain I feel.

3 But, O, when doubts prevail,
   I fear to call thee mine;
   The springs of comfort seem to fail,
   And all my hopes decline.

4 Yet, Lord, Where shall I flee?
   Thou art my only trust;
   And still my soul would cleave to thee,
   Though prostrate in the dust.
                         Anne Steele
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

The extent of knowledge

The legitimate sphere of reason is: the things of the world. Whether men know God or not, they can in any case know the things of this world; and that means, to know them aright. Even a man who does not know God properly can have a vast knowledge of the things of this world. For instance he may be an eminent scientist, or a great linguist, or a great mathematical genius. Thus, without knowing anything of the true Creator, man may know the orders and laws of the Creator, without knowing whose laws they are.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 26

Order of creation?

The idea of the “order of creation” interests us particularly as the principle of social ethics. In the human sphere there are certain natural constants, which at the same time belong to the sphere of human freedom and decision. For instance, God has so created man and woman that their sex union can only be accomplished according to the purpose which He has laid down for them in the monogamous permanent marriage. It is part of the very way in which God has created man and woman, in the unity of personal-being and the sex-nature, that only monogamy corresponds to the destiny given to man by God. Therefore Jesus Himself bases the indissolubility of marriage upon the order of creation. Why the “monos” in monogamy is so essential whereas in other circumstances, for instance, in friendship, it is not essential, cannot be understood save in the light of the truth that God has created sex. In creating man and woman God has appointed a definite order for the sex relation, an “order of creation”. The same is true of the relation between parents and children, and thus of the Family. Marriage and the Family are orders of creation, and, indeed, precisely in the similarities and inequalities which these involve. Thus the question can never be put thus: Are there orders of creation which constitute an ethical standard? but only: What are they? and which orders are merely due to human convention? How far the principle of the order of creation extends for the formation of a social ethic cannot be discussed here. Here all we need to do is to stress the fact that this principle as such—whatever its validity and its limits may be—is a central idea in the Biblical doctrine of Creation as indeed it has always been so used by the Theology of the Church at all times. It is not difficult to show that if one transgresses this law in ethics one does not go unpunished and also the other fact, that it can easily be misused, But abusus non tollit usum [abuse does not cancel appropriate use].—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 25–26 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
This sums it all up for Brunner: "Thus the question can never be put thus: Are there orders of creation which constitute an ethical standard? but only: What are they? and which orders are merely due to human convention?" (emphasis original)

Nothing like hitting nail on the head is there? And this is about 80 years before the current arguments on sexuality and gender in our culture.
</idle musing>

Tozer for Tuesday

You can be a wonderfully nice person and still not be a true Christian. You can be a nice person and not be born again. You can be a nice religious person and never have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Let us search our own hearts. Let us see for ourselves if these things be so in us. A resurrected Savior and a down-coming Holy Ghost confirmed forever the fact that the Bible is true; but is it true in us? That is the big question. Search yourself and ask in the light of God’s revealed truth, “Oh, God, I believe this; but is it true in me?” If it is not, it can be. Faith and repentance can make it real in your heart.—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 105

Feeling oppressed?

761 C. M.
Patient in tribulation.

WITH trouble laden-grief oppress’d,
   Wings had I like a dove,
   I’d fly away, and be at rest,
   Within a world above!—

2 A world where angels, pure as fair,
   Swell Jesus’ glorious train;
   Nor sin may make intrusion there,
   Nor death an entrance gain;—

3 Where God’s own hand shall wipe away
   The tears from every face;
   And Jesus to his saints display
   His mysteries of grace.

4 Yet, Lord, each murm’ring thought control;
   Each anxious wish repress:
   To thee I would resign my soul,
   And wait till thou shalt bless.
                         T. J. Judkin
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
Not a very common hymn; I had never heard it before and according to it only occurs in five hymnals.
</idle musing>

Monday, May 08, 2023

κένωσις started at creation

Yes, indeed, this is precisely the ultimate, and the real meaning of the divine Creation of the world. In the full sense of the word, God can only glorify Himself and lmpart Himself where a creature in freedom gives His word back to Him, the Word which He addresses to it, the word of love. Now we begin to see what a large measure of self-limitation He has imposed upon Himself, and how far He has emptied Himself, in order to realize this aim, to achieve it, indeed, in a creature which has misused its creaturely freedom to such an extent as to defy God. The κένωσις [kenosis, "emptying"], which reaches its paradoxical climax in the Cross of Christ, began with the Creation of the world.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 20 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
That is a mind-blowing throught! And then, thinking along the lines of what Brennan Manning pointed out about the eschaton, κένωσις endures throughout.

OK, that's totally mind-blowing, but then remember, we are called to be imitators of Christ. Guess what that means?

Hint: it doesn't mean taking over; it means servanthood. It doesn't mean being a "macho-man"; it means servanthood, κένωσις, emptying. It means cruciformity. Those ideas have never been very popular, have they? They could get a guy crucified—oh wait! They did.
</idle musing>

Who's in charge?

Indeed, nothing else was possible; either human thought has power over God—and then God is no longer Lord, nor is He Creator; or God is Lord and Creator, and then human thought has no power over Him; then God can only communicate Himself and His Being as Creator by His own act, and man cannot reach this truth by his own thought, he can only accept it in faith. The Lord God, who alone creates the world by His Word, is also the Revealer, who alone imparts Himself to man through His Word.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 12 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Classic Brunner. As I said, it's been a while since I read more than a snippet or two of Brunner at a time. I find him very thought-provoking; he always seems to get to the heart of the matter.

I'll be trying to post two quotations a day from the book. We'll see how that goes! But, I can't encourage you enough to grab a copy of all three volumes of Brunner's Dogmatics; Wipf & Stock brought them back into print around 2014; here's the link (I don't get any commission; I just think you should support independent publishers directly rather than supporting a billionaire).

Internet Archive also has a copy of volumes 1 and 2, but not 3. But, really, this kind of book is best read in hardcopy. You need to be fully focused on what you are reading and not distracted by the myriad of things on your screen(s).
</idle musing>

Thou Lamb of God, thou Prince of peace

756 L. M.
Meekness and patience.

THOU Lamb of God, thou Prince of peace,
   For thee my thirsty soul doth pine;
   My longing heart implores thy grace;
   O make me in thy likeness shine.

2 With fraudless, even, humble mind,
   Thy will in all things may I see;
   In love be every wish resign’d,
   And hal1ow’d my whole heart to thee.

3 When pain o’er my weak flesh prevails,
   With lamb-like patience arm my breast;
   When grief my wounded soul assails,
   In lowly meekness may I rest.

4 Close by thy side still may I keep,
   Howe’er life’s various current flow;
   With steadfast eye mark every step,
   And follow where my Lord doth go.

5 Thou, Lord, the dreadful fight hast won;
   Alone thou hast the wine-press trod;
   In me thy strengthening grace be shown:
   O may I conquer through thy blood.

6 So, when on Zion thou shalt stand,
   And all heaven’s host adore their King,
   Shall I be found at thy right hand,
   And, free from pain, thy glories sing.
                   Christian Friedrich Richter, trans. John Wesley
                   Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Sunday, May 07, 2023

God's presence

751 L. M.
God’s presence with his people.

WHEN Israel, of the Lord beloved,
   Out from the land of bondage came,
   Her father’s God before her moved,
   An awful guide, in smoke and flame.

2 By day, along the astonish’d lands
   The cloudy pillar glided slow;
   By night, Arabia’s crimson’d sands
   Return’d the fiery column’s glow.

3 Thus present still, though now unseen,
   When brightly shines the prosp’rous day,
   Be thoughts of thee a cloudy screen,
   To temper the deceitful ray.

4 And O, when gathers on our path,
   In shade and storm, the frequent night,
   Be thou, long-suff’ring, slow to wrath,
   A burning and a shining light.
                        Sir Walter Scott
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Saturday, May 06, 2023

Tozer for Tuesday

The big problem is not whether the Bible is true. The big problem is whether it is true in you. It is not whether the Bible is true, but it is whether these things are true in you and me... What we need to do today is go home, go to our room, open our Bible, get down on our knees and say, “Oh, God, are these things true of me?”—A.W. Tozer, Living as a Christian, 105

<idle musing>
I know, today is Saturday, but I forgot to post it on Tuesday! Anyway, this is indeed the crux of the matter, isn't it? We can debate the truth of the Bible all day, and still not be changed. It's only when it penetrates into the heart and we allow the Holy Spirit to mold us that change happens and it becomes "true in us."

May it be so!
</idle musing>

Hidden blessings

749 C. M.
Crosses are blessings.

SINCE all the varying scenes of time
   God’s watchful eye surveys,
   O, who so wise to choose our lot,
   Or to appoint our ways?

2 Good, when he gives, supremely good,
   Nor less when he denies;
   E’en crosses, from his sov’reign hand,
   Are blessings in disguise.

3 Why should we doubt a Father’s love,
   So constant and so kind?
   To his unerring, gracious will
   Be every wish resign’d.
                         John Hervey
                        Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

Friday, May 05, 2023

He is our life

The Christ within who is our hope of glory is not a matter of theological debate or philosophical speculation. He is not a hobby, a part-time project, a good theme for a book, or a last resort when all human effort fails. He is our life, the most real fact about us. He is the power and wisdom of God dwelling within us.—Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child, 148

<idle musing>
What a perfect way to end the book. It sums up everything he's trying to say.

I hope you enjoyed our little one-week delay in starting Brunner. I'll start excerpting from The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption on Monday.

This should be fun!
</idle musing>


A profound mystery: God becomes a slave. This implies very specifically that God wants to be known through servanthood. Such is God’s own self-disclosure. Thus, when Jesus describes His return in glory at the end of the world, He says, “Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at a table and wait on them” (Luke 12:3, emphasis added).

Jesus remains Lord by being a servant.—Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child, 141–42 (all emphasis his)

Solace in Christ

748 C. M.
The only solace in sorrow.

O THOU who driest the mourner’s tear,
   How dark this world would be,
   If, when deceived and wounded here,
   We could not fly to thee.

2 The friends who in our sunshine live,
   When winter comes, are flown;
   And he who has but tears to give,
   Must weep those tears alone.

3 But Christ can heal that broken heart,
   Which, like the plants that throw
   Their fragrance from the wounded part,
   Breathes sweetness out of wo.

4 O who could bear life’s stormy doom,
   Did not His wing of love
   Come brightly wafting through the gloom,
   Our peace-branch from above.

5 Then sorrow, touch’d by Him, grows bright,
   With more than rapture’s ray;
   As darkness shows us worlds of light,
   We never saw by day.
                        Thomas Moore
                         Methodist Episcopal hymnal (1870 edition)

<idle musing>
Sometimes it's best not to know too much about the author and let the hymn stand on its own merits. This is one of those times.
</idle musing>