Monday, July 15, 2024

Grace everywhere—but not the same everywhere

To identify a “common pattern” in Second Temple Judaism based on the priority of grace (the covenantal foundation) is to offer a one-dimensional analysis that discovers uniformity only by downplaying every other form of difference. Sanders is right that grace is everywhere; but this does not mean that grace is everywhere the same. Once we scrutinize the meaning of this concept, and disaggregate its Various perfections, we find that our Jewish texts differ not (primarily) in degrees of emphasis on grace, but in the forms of perfection with which they articulate it. Of the five texts we have studied, some perfect grace as incongruous, and others (for good reason) do not. Again, this is not because some “believe in grace” and others do not. We should resist the assumption that grace is by definition incongruous, and that the concept has become “diluted” or “corrupted” when it is not perfected in this form. That assumption is built into modern dictionary definitions of “grace” for historical reasons: it has become integral to Christian views of grace at least since Augustine, under inspiration from Paul. But incongruity is only one possible perfection of grace, and not necessarily present whenever grace-language is employed.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 319

Violence is NEVER an option

Never, ever, ever, is violence an acceptable option for the Christian. That's all.

Congruence—or recompense?

On the logic of the congruent gift, God’s grace is not the opposite of recompense, but is simultaneously gift and reward. There is no antithesis here between gift and merit; grace and recompense stand in conjunction, not opposition. This is not to make the gift any less a gift or something akin to “pay.” Those who deserve gifts are still the recipients of gifts, given voluntarily and without legal requirement. They do not cause the gift to be given (that is always a matter of the benefactor’s will), but they prove themselves to be its suitable recipients and thus provide the condition for its proper distribution. We must insist, against our instincts, that the ancients knew, and had reason to celebrate, a form of divine grace that rewarded those who were fitting recipients of its free and lavish beneficence.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 316

At the Name of Jesus

76 At the Name of Jesus

1 At the name of Jesus
   ev'ry knee shall bow,
   ev'ry tongue confess him
   King of glory now;
   'tis the Father's pleasure
   we should call him Lord,
   who from the beginning
   was the mighty Word.

2 At his voice creation
   sprang at once to sight,
   all the angel faces,
   all the hosts of light,
   cherubim in heaven,
   stars upon their way,
   all the heav'nly orders
   in their great array.

3 Humbled for a season
   to receive a name
   from the lips of sinners
   unto whom he came,
   faithfully he bore it
   spotless to the last,
   brought it back victorious
   when from death he passed;

4 In your hearts enthrone him;
   there let him subdue
   all that is not holy,
   all that is not true;
   crown him as your captain
   in temptation's hour;
   let his will enfold you
   in its light and pow'r.
                         Carol M. Noel
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
I don't recall ever singing this hymn, although it occurs in almost 250 hymnals. Hymnary.org adds two verses:

4 Bore it up triumphant
   with its human light,
   thro' all ranks of creatures
   to the central height,
   to the throne of Godhead,
   to the Father's breast,
   filled it with the glory
   of that perfect rest.

6 Christians, this Lord Jesus
   shall return again
   in his Father's glory,
   with his angel train;
   for all wreaths of empire
   meet upon his brow,
   and our hearts confess him
   King of glory now.

</idle musing>

Sunday, July 14, 2024

All Praise to Thee, for Thou, O King Divine

74 All Praise to Thee, for Thou, O King Divine

1 All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine,
   didst yield your glory that of right was thine,
   that in our darkened hearts thy grace might shine:
   Alleluia!

2 Thou cam'st to us in lowliness of thought;
   by thee the outcast and the poor were sought,
   and by thy death was God's salvation wrought:
   Alleluia!

3 Let this mind be in us which was in thee,
   who wast a servant that we might be free,
   humbling thyself to death on Calvary:
   Alleluia!

4 Wherefore, by God's eternal purpose, thou
   art high exalted o'er all creatures now,
   and given the name to which all knees shall bow:
   Alleluia!

5 Let every tongue confess with one accord
   in heaven and earth that Jesus Christ is Lord;
   and God the Father be by all adored:
   Alleluia!
                         F. Bland Tucker
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Himself (hymn)

Himself
By A. B. Simpson (1843-1919)

Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once ’twas painful trying, Now ’tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the utterrnost.
Once ’twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once ’twas constant drifting, Now my anchor’s cast.

Once ’twas busy planning, Now ’tis trustful prayer;
Once ’twas anxious caring, Now He has the care,
Once ’twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once ’twas constant asking, Now ’tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.
Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.
Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, Safe within the vail.
         As quoted in A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 130–31

Friday, July 12, 2024

The Dead Sea Scrolls on human worth

The Thanksgiving Hymns from Qumran represent another striking articulation of divine benevolence, with the distinctive accents of a sectarian community. Effusive expressions of gratitude for divine goodness punctuate these hymns with extraordinary regularity: in multiple variations God is addressed with thanks for what has transpired “by your kindnesses” (בחסדיכה), “according to the abundance of your compassion” (כהמון רחמיכה), because of “your abundant goodness” (רוב טובכה), and through “forgiveness” (סליחות) (e.g., 1QHa XIL38; XV.33; XVII.34).‘ The language of “abundance” mirrors the almost obsessive articulation of this theme, which matches the fact that the signature tune of all these compositions is the attribution of knowledge, righteousness, power, and glory — indeed, every dimension of salvation — to God. At the same time, there is an equal emphasis on the worthlessness of the recipients of mercy, an insistent assertion that there is nothing in the material, social, or moral quality of the human object that could provide grounds for this outpouring of grace.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 239

Philo on ancestry vs. virtue

“Nobility” (ευγένεια) is a matter of the soul, not of ancestry ([Philo] Virt. 187-27). That is why proselytes can share in the patriarchs’ heritage, while Jews must be warned not to place confidence in the virtue of their ancestors (πεποίθησις προγονικῆς αρετῆς, 226).—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 236

God Is Love, by Him Upholden

62 God Is Love, by Him Upholden

1 God is love, by Him upholden,
   Hang the glorious orbs of light,
   In their language, glad and golden,
   Speaking to us day and night
   Their great story,
   God is love, and God is light.

2 Through that precious love He sought us
   Wandering from His holy ways;
   With that precious life He bought us,
   Then let all our future days
   Tell this story,
   Love is life, our lives be praise.

3. Gladsome is the theme and glorious,
   Praise to Christ our gracious Head;
   Christ, the risen Christ, victorious,
   Earth and hell hath captive led.
   Welcome story!
   Love lives on, and death is dead.

4. Up to Him let each affection
   Daily rise and round Him move;
   Our whole lives one resurrection
   To the life of life above;
   Their glad story,
   God is life, and God is love.
                         John S. B. Monsell
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The more the better?

Since no perfection of grace can be regarded as its core characteristic, or its sine qua non, we are under no pressure to prove or to disprove that Paul is the bearer of some “essential” meaning. Nor can we assume that the more perfections of grace, the better. In fact, we may be wary of the tendency to pile perfections on top of each other, or to extend single perfections to a greater and greater extreme. Such tendencies may serve ideological interests, but there is no reason to think that the greater the number of perfections, the better the concept of grace.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 187

Let us, with a gladsome mind

61 Let us, with a gladsome mind

1 Let us, with a gladsome mind,
   praise the Lord, for he is kind:
   For his mercies ay endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

2 He with all-commanding might
   filled the new-made world with light:
   For his mercies ay endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

3 All things living he doth feed,
   his full hand supplies their need:
   For his mercies ay endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

4 Let us, with a gladsome mind,
   praise the Lord, for he is kind:
   For his mercies ay endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.
                         John Milton
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Seems that Milton, as was his wont, was a bit more verbose than just these four verses. Hymnary.org lists twenty-four verses!

1 Let us, with a gladsome mind,
   praise the LORD, for He is kind:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

2 Let us blaze His name abroad,
   for of gods He is the God:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

3 Let us all His praises tell
   who doth wrathful tyrants quell:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

4 He with miracles doth make
   heav'n and earth, amazed, to shake:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

5 He by wisdom did create
   starry heav'ns so full of state:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

6 He did solid earth ordain
   t'rise above the wat'ry plain:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

7 He, with all commanding might,
   filled the new-made world with light:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

8 He hath caused the golden sun
   all day long his course to run:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

9 He doth shine the moon at night
   with her spangling sisters bright:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

10 He with thunder-clasping hand,
   smote firstborn of Egypt land:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

11 And in spite of Pharaoh fell,
   He brought forth His Israel:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

12 Red Sea waves He cleft in twain,
   split in two the ruddy main:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

13 Floods stood still like walls of glass,
   while the Hebrew bands did pass:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

14 But full soon did they devour
   Egypt's king with all his pow'r:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

15 He His chosen race did bless
   in the wasteful wilderness:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

16 He in battle has brought down
   kings of prowess and renown:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

17 Conquered Sihon and his host
   of the Amorrean coast:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

18 Large-limbed Og He did subdue
   with his over-hardy crew:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

19 To His servant Israel,
   gave their land therein to dwell:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

20 He hath with a piteous eye
   looked upon our misery:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

21 Freed us from the slavery
   of th'invading enemy:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

22 All things living He doth feed;
   His full hand supplies their need:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

23 Let us therefore warble forth
   His high majesty and worth:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

24 He His mansion hath on high
   out of reach of mortal eye:
   for His mercies shall endure,
   ever faithful, ever sure.

</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The six possible perfections of "Grace"/Gift

We have identified six possible perfections:
(i) superabundance: the supreme scale, lavishness, or permanence of the gift;

(ii) singularity: the attitude of the giver as marked solely and purely by benevolence;

(iii) priority: the timing of the gift before the recipient’s initiative;

(iv) incongruity: the distribution of the gift without regard to the worth of the recipient;

(v) efficacy: the impact of the gift on the nature or agency of the recipient;

(vi) non-circularity: the escape of the gift from an ongoing cycle of reciprocity.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 186

<idle musing>
You need to remember these six points! They are vital to the rest of the book. I find myself continually referring back to them as I read. Not all six are perfected by every writer—in fact they rarely if ever are. A writer will choose to perfect one or two. And this is where the problem arises. Everyone assumes that their version is the correct one and therefore reads their version back into the sources. Think Augustine/Calvin, who perfect efficacy and then read that back into the New Testament (hint, it isn't there!).
</idle musing>

Unto the hills I lift my eyes (hymn)

57 Unto the hills I lift my eyes

1. Unto the hills I lift my eyes;
   O whence shall come my aid?
   My help is from the Lord alone,
   Who Heaven and earth has made.

2. He will not let thy foot be moved,
   Thy Guardian never sleeps
   With watchful and unslumbering care
   His own He safely keeps.

3. Thy faithful Keeper is the Lord,
   Thy Shelter and thy Shade;
   'Neath sun or moon, by day or night,
   Thou shalt not be afraid.

4. From evil He will keep thee safe,
   For thee He will provide;
   Thy going out, thy coming in,
   Forever He will guide.
                         The Psalter 1912
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Psalm 121 is one of my favorite psalms and there are a million variations on songs from it. I first learned it with the KJV put to music. I don't recall ever singing this version and Hymnary.org doesn't list it among their numerous variations.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Beware the modern assumptions about "gifts"

Our attempts to comprehend ancient conceptions of the gift have resulted in relativizing modern assumptions, especially the Western notion of the “pure gift” (1.3). We have suggested in outline the gradual transformations that have shaped the distinctively modern ideal of a gift-without-return. In this sketch, large-scale social, political, and economic changes were connected to the emergence of the preference for the one-way gift. This latter may have roots in Lutheran theology, but was universalized in Kantian ethics with its resistance to externally imposed obligation. We have thus become wary of the protestations of Derrida and others that a gift is truly such only if it entails no reciprocity or return. That peculiarly modern presumption does not correspond to the assumptions of antiquity and should not be allowed to determine what Paul or his fellow Jews might have understood by the grace or gifts of God.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 185

What does anthropology say?

Anthropology offers no model of “the gift” and provides no single definition, but it alerts us to the dynamics of reciprocity, power, and obligation that have been common in gift-relations, but are easily missed or misconstrued. Studies of gift-giving in pre-modern societies are of particular heuristic value in raising questions worth testing against ancient sources.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 183

Through all the changing scenes of life

56 Through all the changing scenes of life

1 Through all the changing scenes of life,
   In trouble, and in joy,
   The praises of my God shall still
   My heart and tongue employ.

2 Of his deliv'rance I will boast,
   Till all that are distress'd,
   From my example comfort take,
   And sooth their griefs to rest.

3 O magnify the Lord with me,
   With me exalt his Name,
   To him in my distress I cry'd
   He to my rescue came.

4 With grateful hearts observe his ways,
   And on his goodness rest;
   So will your own experience prove
   That pious souls are blest.

5 For while his fear inspires your breast,
   His mercy will be nigh,
   To guard your lives from threat'ning ills,
   And all your wants supply.
                         Tate and Brady 1696
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

The Tranquilized Church

The first offer from the Lord is not tranquility at all. The Lord at first offers us deliverance, forgiveness, renewal and making things right; and following that comes tranquility. But we are marketing tranquility now, selling it like soap, and asking our people in the name of John 3:16 to come and get tranquilized. And so we have a tranquilized Church that is enjoying herself immensely at banquets and times of fun and coffee-klatches and fellowships. Then she is singing about the Lord, “Thy Word is like a garden, Lord.”—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 138

Monday, July 08, 2024

O Lord, Our Fathers Oft Have Told

54 O Lord, Our Fathers Oft Have Told

1 O Lord, our fathers oft have told,
   In our attentive ears,
   Thy wonders in their days perform'd,
   And in more ancient years.

2 ’Twas not their courage, nor their sword,
   To them salvation gave;
   ’Twas not their number, nor their strength
   That did their country save.

3 But thy right hand, thy pow'rful arm;
   Whose succor they implor'd—
   Thy Providence protected those,
   Who thy great name ador'd.

4 As thee, their God, our fathers own'd,
   So thou art still our King;
   O therefore, as thou didst to them,
   To us deliv'rance bring.

5 To thee, the glory we'll ascribe,
   From whom salvation came;
   In God our shield we will rejoice,
   And ever bless thy name.
                         Tate and Brady 1696
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Note that Tate and Brady refers to the Psalter collection of Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady, which they published in 1696. Quite a few of their adaptations of the Psalms are still in use today.
</idle musing>

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Give to the Winds They Fears

51 Give to the Winds They Fears

1 Give to the winds thy fears,
   hope and be undismayed;
   God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears;
   God shall lift up thy head.

2 Through waves and clouds and storms,
   He gently clears the way;
   wait thou His time, so shall this night
   soon end in joyous day.

3 Leave to His sov'reign sway
   to choose and to command,
   so shalt thou wond'ring own His way,
   how wise, how strong His hand!

4 Let us in life, in death,
   Thy steadfast truth declare,
   and publish with our latest breath
   Thy love and guardian care.
                         Paul Gerhardt
                         Trans. by John Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Be sure to take the time to read the short bio of the hymnwriter at the link above. This hymn occurs in about 500 hymnals. Hymnary.org inserts four verses:

3 Still heavy is thy heart,
   still sink thy spirits down?
   Cast off the weight, let fear depart,
   and every care be gone.

4 What though thou rulest not,
   yet heav'n, and earth, and hell
   proclaim, God sitteth on the throne,
   and ruleth all things well.

6 Far, far above thy thought
   His counsel shall appear
   when fully He the work hath wrought,
   that caused thy needless fear.

7 Thou seest our weakness, Lord,
   our hearts are known to Thee;
   O lift Thou up the sinking heart,
   confirm the feeble knee.

</idle musing>

Saturday, July 06, 2024

My God, I thank thee

50 My God, I thank thee

1. My God, I thank Thee, who hast made
   The earth so bright,
   So full of splendour and of joy,
   Beauty and light,
   So many glorious things are here,
   Noble and right.

2. I thank Thee, too, that Thou hast made
   Joy to abound,
   So many gentle thoughts and deeds
   Circling us round,
   That in the darkest spot of earth
   Some love is found.

3. I thank Thee more that all our joy
   Is touched with pain,
   That shadows fall on brightest hours,
   That thorns remain,
   So that earth's bliss may be our guide,
   And not our chain.

4. For Thou, who knowest, Lord, how soon
   Our weak heart clings,
   Hast given us joys, tender and true,
   Yet all with wings,
   So that we see, gleaming on high,
   Diviner things.

5. I thank Thee, Lord, that Thou hast kept
   The best in store:
   We have enough, yet not too much
   To long for more,
   A yearning for a deeper peace
   Not known before.
                         Adelaide A. Proctor
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
I don't recall ever singing this hymn. It isn't very popular, only occurring in 222 hymnals. Hymnary.org adds a sixth verse:

6. I thank Thee, Lord that here our souls,
   Though amply blest,
   Can never find, although they seek,
   A perfect rest,
   Nor ever shall, until they lean
   On Jesus' breast.
</idle musing>

Friday, July 05, 2024

What hath Sanders wrought?

What may we conclude from these heated and often confused debates in the wake of Sanders? In large measure, they revolve around unexamined assumptions and predetermined decisions concerning the meaning of the term “grace.” Even when a definition is provided, its historical and cultural roots are generally left unexamined, as if the concept had some essential meaning across all times and cultures. That Sanders meant by “grace” the priority of God’s initiative in election, but sometimes added the language of “unmerited” (that is, incongruous) grace, is one cause of the subsequent confusion. But it is also often the case that a particular definition, accorded a structural role in the thesis to be argued, is taken for granted as obvious, “typical,” or “common.”—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 174

Captain of Israel's Host

46 Captain of Israel's Host

1 Captain of Israel's host, and guide
   Of all who seek the land above,
   Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
   The cloud of Thy protecting love;
   Our strength, Thy grace; our rule, Thy word;
   Our end, the glory of the Lord.

2 By Thine unerring Spirit led,
   We shall not in the desert stray;
   We shall not full direction need,
   Nor miss our providential way;
   As far from danger as from fear,
   While love, almighty love, is near.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Unusually for a Charles Wesley hymn, there are only two verses and I could find no variations.
</idle musing>

Thursday, July 04, 2024

Theology or ethics?

While supportive of the emancipatory movements that have engaged the churches in America since the 1960s, Martyn is wary lest the church’s social and political action becomes disengaged from its source, God’s action in Christ. If it does, ethics takes the place of theology, and reliance is placed on human agency in a cosmos that is conflicted at a deeper and more intractable level than the church is apt to recognize. In the context of a church that he perceives to be weakened by a moralism neither founded in nor energized by the gospel, Martyn stresses both the priority and the efficacy of grace as a liberating vision that frees the church to act boldly without relying on itself, and also carries the hope that, despite setbacks, God’s gracious power will triumph in the end.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 150

O Lord, Our Lord, in All the Earth

44 O Lord, Our Lord, in All the Earth

1 O Lord, our Lord, in all the earth,
   how excellent Thy name!
   Thy glory Thou hast spread afar
   in all the starry frame.

2 When I regard the wondrous heav'ns,
   Thy handiwork on high,
   the moon and stars ordained by Thee,
   "O what is man?" I cry.

3 O what is man, in Thy regard
   to hold so large a place,
   and what the son of man, that Thou
   dost visit him in grace.

4 On man Thy wisdom hath bestowed
   a pow'r well nigh divine;
   with honor Thou hast crowned his head
   with glory like to Thine.

5 Thy mighty works and wondrous grace
   Thy glory, LORD, proclaim,
   O LORD, our Lord, in all the earth,
   How excellent Thy name.
                         Psalm 8
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Hymnary.org adds two verses:

2 From lips of children, Thou, O LORD
   hast mighty strength ordained,
   that adversaries should be stilled
   and vengeful foes restrained.

6 Thou hast subjected all to him,
   and lord of all is he,
   of flocks and herds, and beasts and birds,
   and all within the sea.

</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Bultmann on grace

Influenced by both Luther and Barth, Bultmann makes the incongruity of grace the center of Pauline theology: this grace exposes, judges, and overcomes the perverted human desire to seek recognition and reward from our own resources. He likewise emphasizes the priority of grace, though distancing himself from the Augustinian understanding of predestination: God’s grace is prevenient (vorkommende) in opening up the possibility of a new self-understanding, not in determining how one will respond. Bultmann’s cautious treatment of Paul’s language of powers, and his emphasis on freedom, decision, and obedience, signal his reluctance to perfect the efficacy of grace, at least as found in the Augustinian and Calvinist traditions. Unlike Marcion and modern liberalism (but here like Augustine and Calvin), for Bultmann, grace is not singular in the sense that it is incompatible with notions of divine judgment and wrath: it is, rather, the paradoxical act of the righteous judge. Nor is it noncircular in the sense that it carries no demands: Bultmann’s emphasis on the demand of grace and the obedience of faith is markedly different from Luther’s, at least in tone. For Bultmann, to speak of “pure gift” or “radical grace” means above all one thing: there are no grounds for boasting before God, whose grace operates not in accordance with human effort but precisely to undercut the self-destructive human desire to establish our own righteousness and worth.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 140

Praise the Lord! ye heav'ns adore him

42 Praise the Lord! ye heav'ns adore him

1 Praise the Lord! ye heav'ns adore him;
   Praise him angels, in the height;
   Sun and moon, rejoice before him;
   Praise him, all ye stars of light.
   Praise the Lord! for he has spoken;
   Worlds his mighty voice obeyed;
   Laws which never shall be broken
   For their guidance he has made.

2 Praise the Lord! for he is glorious;
   Never shall his promise fail;
   God has made his saints victorious;
   Sin and death shall not prevail.
   Praise the God of our salvation!
   Hosts on high his pow'r proclaim;
   Heav'n, and earth, and all creation,
   Laud and magnify his name.
                         Psalm 148
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
While the Methodist hymnal doesn't list an author,Hymnary.org lists a Richard Mant as the translator from the Latin. They also add a verse:

3 Worship, honor, glory, blessing,
   Lord, we offer unto thee;
   Young and old, thy praise expressing,
   In glad homage bend the knee.
   All the saints in heav'n adore thee,
   We would bow before thy throne;
   As thine angels serve before thee,
   So on earth thy will be done.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Integral, but not prior

Calvin insists, “Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify” ([Inst.] III.16.1). Calvin is unwilling to follow the Lutheran distinction between inner saving faith and outer works of service, because the believers good works are integral to participation in Christ, whose purpose is to conform believers into his image (Rom 8:29) and thus to transform them into some approximation of the holiness of God (Inst. IIl.8.1). Calvin’s task—and considerable achievement—is to position a life of good works within the scheme of salvation, without making these works instrumental in obtaining or “meriting” grace, that is, without compromising the priority and incongruity of grace. To the extent that he succeeded, he laid the foundation for a Protestant theology of grace that envisaged an extended narrative of moral progress as an integral element of the life of faith.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 124

Party on! (Tozer for a Tuesday)

We want to play and have no hesitation advertising our Bible conferences as religious playgrounds, which proves how carnal we are. We live a life of play and trifles. In order to get many Christians interested in Bible study or missions, it must be camouflaged as play to make it more palatable. A carnal Christian must be tricked into studying the Bible and it must be made out to be something that is fun.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 125

O How Glorious, Full of Wonder

41 O How Glorious, Full of Wonder

1. O how glorious, full of wonder
   Is thy name o’er all the earth;
   Thou who wrought creation’s splendor,
   Bringing suns and stars to birth!
   Rapt in reverence we adore thee,
   Marveling at thy mystic ways,
   Humbly now we bow before thee,
   Lifting up our hearts in praise.

2. When we see they lights of heaven,
   Moon and stars, thy power displayed,
   What is man that thou shouldst love him,
   Creature that thy hand hath made?
   Child of earth, yet full of yearning,
   Mixture strange of good and ill,
   From thy ways so often turning,
   Yet thy love doth seek him still.

3. Thou hast given man dominion
   O’er the wonders of thy hand,
   Made him fly with eagle pinion,
   Master over sea and land,
   Soaring spire and ruined city,
   These our hopes and failures show,
   Teach us more of human pity,
   That we in thine image grow.

4. O how wondrous, O how glorious
   Is thy name in every land!
   Thou whose purpose moves before us
   Toward the goal that thou hast planned.
   ‘Tis thy will our hearts are seeking,
   Conscious of our human need.
   Spirit in our spirit speaking,
   Make us sons of God indeed!
                         Curtis Beach
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
The story behind this hymn is interesting. Read it here.
</idle musing>

Monday, July 01, 2024

More on Luther and grace

The superabundance of divine grace (“the overwhelming goodness of God”) is identified by Luther first and foremost with the Christ—event, not with the gifts of creation or nature. As we have seen, the Pauline terminology of “grace” is taken to signify a relationship of favor, not a quality in the character of God nor, by infusion, a human quality or capacity. God’s favorable relation to humanity is embodied in the gift of Christ, who comes to us only as the Savior who gives, not as a Legislator or Judge who demands. In this respect, Luther’s theology tends toward perfecting the singularity of grace, though (unlike Marcion) only in dialectical relationship to the law of the same God, who is “hidden” behind apparent contradictions, and with his “other hand” threatens us with judgment. The priority of grace is also fundamental for Luther: his Augustinian tradition equips him to make strong statements about the predestination of the elect, but he is wary to enter this perplexing terrain since the essence of the gospel is its address to individual lives, not the eternal disposition of God toward the world. At the heart of the gospel is the gift of Christ, “the foundation and chief blessing of salvation.” In Aristotelian terms, it is not the works that make the person, but the person who makes the works; in Lutheran terms, persons are reconstituted when they receive the all-sufficient gift of God in Christ. Sola gratia thus preserves the sense that all that is essential to salvation has not just been started but has already been achieved by Christ (solus Christus).—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 110–11

Luther and imputation

As recent analysis has rightly shown, Luther thereby melds the Pauline themes of justification by faith and participation in Christ without the polarity that has often arisen in later readings of Paul. Where Luther uses the language of “imputation,” this is never a bare “forensic” metaphor, and certainly involves no “fiction,” since Christ’s righteousness is real and really shared by the believer.“ Believers are justified by union with Christ.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 107–8

Many and Great, O God (Dakota hymn)

40 Many and Great, O God

1 Many and great, O God, are your works, maker of earth and sky.
   Your hands have set the heavens with stars;
   your fingers spread the mountains and plains.
   Lo, at your word the waters were formed; deep seas obey your voice.

2 Grant unto us communion with you, O star-abiding One.
   Come unto us and dwell with us;
   with you are found the gifts of life.
   Bless us with life that has no end, eternal life with you.
                         American Folk Hymn
                         Paraphrase by Philip Frazier
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Actually, it isn't an "American Folk Hymn"; it's a Dakota hymn. Hymnary.org gives the original Dakota:

1 Wakantanka taku nitawa tankaya qa ota;
   mahpiya kin eyahnake ça,
   maka kin he duowanca;
   mniowanca śbeya wanke cin, hena oyakihi.

2 Woehdaku nitawa kin he minaġi kin qu wo;
   mahpiya kin iwankam yati,
   wicowaśte yuha nanka,
   wiconi kin he mayaqu nun, owihanke wanin.

According to hymnary.org, there is no information available about the translator. They also say the hymn only occurs in 46 hymnals. I don't recall ever singing it, or even hearing it sung.
</idle musing>

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Let All on Earth Their Voices Raise

39 Let All on Earth Their Voices Raise

1 Let all the earth their voices raise,
   To sing the choicest psalm of praise,
   To sing and bless Jehovah's name;
   His glory let the heathens know,
   His wonders to the nations shew,
   And all his saving works proclaim.

2 He fram'd the Globe, he built the sky,
   He made the shining words on high,
   And reigns compleat in glory there
   His beams are majesty and light;
   His beauties, how divinely bright!
   His temple, how divinely fair.

3 Come the great day, the glorious hour,
   When earth shall feel his saving pow'r,
   And barb'rous nations fear his name:
   Then shall the race of men confess
   The beauty of his holiness,
   And in his courts his grace proclaim.
                         Isaac Watts
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Hymnary.org inserts a fourth verse:

2 The Heathens know thy glory, Lord;
   The wond'ring nations read thy word
   the nations have Jehovah known:
   Our worship shall no more be paid
   To Gods which mortal hands have made,
   Our maker is our God alone.
</idle musing>

Saturday, June 29, 2024

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

37 I Sing the Mighty Power of God

1. I sing the almighty power of God,
   that made the mountains rise,
   that spread the flowing seas abroad,
   and built the lofty skies.
   I sing the wisdom that ordained
   the sun to rule the day;
   the moon shines full at God's command,
   and all the stars obey.

2. I sing the goodness of the Lord,
   who filled the earth with food,
   who formed the creatures thru the Word,
   and then pronounced them good.
   Lord, how thy wonders are displayed,
   where'er I turn my eye,
   if I survey the ground I tread,
   or gaze upon the sky.

3. There's not a plant or flower below,
   but makes thy glories known,
   and clouds arise, and tempests blow,
   by order from thy throne;
   while all that borrows life from thee
   is ever in thy care;
   and everywhere that we can be,
   thou, God, art present there.
                         Isaac Watts
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
There are various additional verses to this. Hymnary.org adds this one:

4.In heav'n he shines with beams of love,
   With wrath in hell beneath:
   ’Tis on his earth I stand or move,
   And ’tis his air I breathe.
   His hand is my perpetual guard,
   He keeps me with His eye:
   Why should I then forget the Lord,
   Who is for ever nigh?
</idle musing>

Friday, June 28, 2024

Luther and union with Christ

This emphasis on the presence of Christ, and union with Christ in faith, is central to Luther’s theology from the very beginning. In a favorite metaphor, he refers to Christian existence as a marriage with Christ (drawing on Ephesians 5 and the Song of Songs): in this union, of which faith is “the wedding ring,” all that is Christ’s belongs to the believer and all that is the believer’s is taken by Christ. Through this “happy exchange,” the believer already possesses the righteousness, holiness, and goodness of Christ (who takes the believers sin, guilt and impurity) — “possesses” but does not “own,” since these gifts remain Christ’s own and are not “infused” into the believer. For this reason, Luther can insist that Christ’s righteousness remains <>alienus<>, extrinsic to ourselves (extra nos); at the same time, it is truly “ours” inasmuch as we are united to Christ by faith.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 107

<idle musing>
I would argue that it is also imparted, not just imputed...
</idle musing>

The Lord Our God Is Clothed with Might

32 The Lord Our God Is Clothed with Might

1. The Lord our God is clothed with might,
   The winds obey His will;
   He speaks, and in His heavenly height,
   The rolling sun stands still.

2. Rebel, ye waves, and o’er the land
   With threatening aspect roar;
   The Lord uplifts His awful hand,
   And chains you to the shore.

3. Ye winds of night, your force combine;
   Without His high behest,
   Ye shall not, in the mountain pine,
   Disturb the sparrow’s rest.

4. His voice sublime is heard afar;
   In distant peals it dies;
   He yokes the whirlwind to His car,
   And sweeps the howling skies.

5. Ye nations, bend, in reverence bend;
   Ye monarchs, wait His nod;
   And bid the choral song ascend
   To celebrate our God.
                         H. Kirke White
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
When I first saw the dates for the author, I thought it must be a mistake. They said he was born in 1785 and died in 1806. But, when I checked the bio, that is correct. He died at 21 years of age. Seems he was quite a remarkable person. Check him out at the link above.
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Augustine and grace

Throughout these final treatises: Augustine insists again that God’s grace is not grace unless it is “gratuitous” (e.g., Praed. Sanct. 43: non nisi gratuita), and by this he means his distinctive constellation of gift-perfections: prior, incongruous, and efficacious. At no point (after Ad Simplicianum) must grace be envisaged as secondary or reactive to human initiative: just as grace precedes our merits, and is not God’s response to them, so it is antecedent also to our faith. But this insistence on the priority of grace is a principle shared with Pelagius and John Cassian, and is by no means sufficient on its own, not even with additional emphasis on its incalculable superabundance. In the development of Augustine’s thought, priority becomes ever more closely affiliated with efficacy (God’s bringing about our response to his prior grace), such that grace remains in all respects incongruous, and never a reward for human effort. As Augustine’s opponents insisted, there is no a priori reason why grace should be perfected in these three dimensions at once, and serious theological objections could be raised to this configuration of grace. Not only did it challenge ordinary notions of equity and human responsibility; it was also not unambiguously supported, still less necessitated, by Scripture itself. But Augustine had integrated his theology of grace with the virtue of humility and with the common-sense piety of daily prayer, and had wielded this integrated doctrine-cum-practice as a powerful weapon against “Pelagian error.” Henceforth it would prove difficult to unpick Augustine’s tightly woven bundle of grace-perfections without appearing “Pelagian,” while its close connection with the routines of prayer made this definition of grace seem “obvious” and proper to the Christian faith. Such is Augustine’s influence that “grace” has come to mean for many theologians precisely that set of perfections with which he endows it (priority, incongruity, and efficacy). It takes a clear-eyed perspective to see that a strong theology of grace does not require to be perfected in this fashion. Whether this constellation of perfections is integral to Pauline theology, and whether the priority and incongruity of grace can be more fruitfully interpreted in other terms today, are questions that should remain open.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 96–97

<idle musing>
He's saying a mouthful here, but be sure to understand it, because it helps you to understand the debates even today. Augustine is bundling aspects of grace together that don't necessarily belong together, scripturally speaking. And that's the problem—especially if you are a non-Augustinian! Augustine's standing in the church is such that if you don't toe his line, you risk being seen as heretical, or sub-Christian.
</idle musing>

Great God Attend, While Zion Sings

25 Great God Attend, While Zion Sings

1. Great God! Attend, while Zion sings
   The joy that from Thy presence springs;
   To spend one day with Thee on earth
   Exceeds a thousand days of mirth,
   Exceeds a thousand days of mirth.

2. Might I enjoy the meanest place
   Within Thy house, O God of grace,
   Nor tents of ease, nor thrones of power,
   Should tempt my feet to leave Thy door,
   Should tempt my feet to leave Thy door.

3. God is our sun, He makes our day;
   God is our shield; He guards our way
   From all the assaults of hell and sin,
   From foes without, from foes within,
   From foes without, from foes within.

4. O God, our king, whose sovereign sway
   The glorious hosts of Heaven obey,
   And devils at Thy presence flee,
   Blest is the man that trusts in Thee,
   Blest is the man that trusts in Thee.
                         Isaac Watts
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Cyberhymnal inserts a verse:

4. All needful grace will God bestow,
   And crown that grace with glory too!
   He gives us all things, and withholds
   No real good from upright souls,
   No real good from upright souls.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Augustine on grace

Augustine notes the impossibility of frustrating the will of God, for “God has mercy on no one in vain” (Ad Simpl. 1.2.13). We see here the logical extension of a particular perfection of grace, the perfection of efficacy, once it is ascribed to a God whose will cannot be thwarted. While Augustine will continue to insist that the human mind is active and willing (indeed, becomes most truly “free”) in being moved by God, the combination of agencies will always give priority, in time and potency, to the divine agent. He justifies the selectivity in God’s effective calling by the notion that (following Romans 9:21-23) God can make from the same lump vessels of honor and vessels of destruction — the “lump” being henceforth dubbed the massa peccati or massa perditionis, which God justly condemns to destruction. The more Augustine stresses God’s prior, incongruous, and effective choice in grace, the more he is driven to appeal to the inscrutability of God’s decision (Ad Simpl. 1.2.16, appealing to Romans 11:33). But once the perfection of efficacy has reached deep into the human mind, there can be no limit to the impact of this grace, which operates with divine power.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 91

Come Let Us Tune Our Loftiest Song

23 Come Let Us Tune Our Loftiest Song

1 Come, let us tune our loftiest song
   And raise to Christ our joyful strain;
   Worship and thanks to Him belong,
   Who reigns and shall forever reign.

2 His sovereign power our bodies made;
   Our souls are His immortal breath;
   And when His creatures sinned, He bled,
   To save us from eternal death.

3 Burn every breast with Jesus’ love;
   Bound every heart with rapturous joy;
   And saints on earth, with saints above,
   Your voices in His praise employ.

4 Extol the Lamb with loftiest song;
   Prolong for Him your cheerful strain;
   Worship and thanks to Him belong,
   Who reigns and shall forever reign.
                         Robert A. West
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Not a very popular hymn, only occurring in about 60 hymnals. I don't recall ever singing it. The author also was on the committee that produced the first American Methodist hymnal.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

One does not entail the other five

It is clear from such examples that there is much at stake in the definition of “grace,” which is subject to strong and interested acts of interpretation. It is essential to disaggregate the various perfections of “grace,” and to warn against two matching assumptions: that any one perfection (or even a small cluster of them) is self-evidently the definition of grace, and that a perfection of one facet of grace will necessarily entail the perfection of others. When two different authors speak of divine benevolence or grace, but disagree on its meaning and its implications, this may be not because one emphasizes grace more than the other, or grasps its “true” meaning while the other does not, but simply because they are perfecting different facets of grace. As we shall see, Pelagius held firmly to the superabundance of divine grace, which was prior to all human activity; but (for theological reasons) he could not accept Augustine’s perfection of the incongruity of grace (see below, 3.2.3). Augustine did not believe in grace more than Pelagius; he simply believed in it differently.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 77

Before Jehovah's Awful Throne

22 Before Jehovah's Awful Throne

1 Before Jehovah's aweful throne,
   ye nations, bow with sacred joy;
   know that the Lord is God alone:
   he can create, and he destroy.

2 His sovereign power, without our aid,
   made us of clay, and formed us then;
   and, when like wandering sheep we strayed,
   he brought us to his fold again.

3 We'll crowd thy gates with thankful songs,
   high as the heavens our voices raise;
   and earth, with her ten thousand tongues,
   shall fill thy courts with sounding praise.

4 Wide as the world is thy command,
   vast as eternity thy love;
   firm as a rock thy truth must stand,
   when rolling years shall cease to move.
                         Isaac Watts
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

Monday, June 24, 2024

Grace a la carte

But as our classification has shown, there is more than one way in which gift/ grace can be perfected, and each of the six forms of perfection outlined above can stand on its own. To perfect one facet of gift-giving does not imply the perfection of any or all of the others. Thus, one could speak of divine gifts as superabundant or absolutely prior without implying that they are also incongruous with the worth of the recipient. Alternatively, God’s grace maybe figured as wholly and completely incongruous, without at the same time being “pure” in the sense of seeking no return. As we shall see in the following chapter, it is not uncommon for certain perfections to cluster together: the priority of divine grace is regularly paired with its efficacy, or its superabundance with its incongruity. The Protestant slogan sola gratia groups a number of these perfections, although even here we will note significant differences between Luther and Calvin (see below, 3.3 and 3.4). The important point is that these six perfections do not constitute a “package”: to adopt one is not to commit to any or all of the rest. Therefore, two authors may each perfect the motif of grace, but still disagree strongly in their interpretation of this motif, because each is drawing a different facet to its end-of-the-line extreme.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 75–76 (emphasis original)

All People That on Earth Do Dwell

21 All People That on Earth Do Dwell

1 All people that on earth do dwell,
   sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
   him serve with mirth, his praise forth tell,
   come ye before him and rejoice.

2 The Lord, ye know, is God indeed,
   without our aid he did us make;
   we are his folk, he doth us feed,
   and for his sheep he doth us take.

3 O enter then his gates with praise;
   approach with joy his courts unto;
   praise, laud, and bless his name always,
   for it is seemly so to do.

4 For why? the Lord our God is good;
   his mercy is for ever sure;
   his truth at all times firmly stood,
   and shall from age to age endure.
                         William Kethe
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Seems the author was one of the translators of the Geneva Bible and spent a good deal of time on the continent, avoiding persection.
</idle musing>

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

19 Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

1 Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
   bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones,
   raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
   Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
   virtues, archangels, angels' choirs:

Refrain:
   Alleluia! Alleluia!
   Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

2 O higher than the cherubim,
   more glorious than the seraphim,
   lead their praises, Alleluia!
   Thou bearer of th' eternal Word,
   most gracious, magnify the Lord: [Refrain]

3 Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
   ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!
   Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong,
   all saints triumphant, raise the song: [Refrain]

4 O friends, in gladness let us sing,
   supernal anthems echoing,
   Alleluia! Alleluia!
   To God the Father, God the Son,
   and God the Spirit, Three in One: [Refrain]
                         Athelstan Riley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

Saturday, June 22, 2024

How Great Thou Art

17 How Great Thou Art

1 Oh Lord, my God
   When I, in awesome wonder
   Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
   I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
   Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Refrain:
   Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
   How great Thou art, how great Thou art
   Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
   How great Thou art, how great Thou art

2 When through the woods and forest glades I wander
   And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
   When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
   And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:
   Refrain

3 And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
   Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
   That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
   He bled and died to take away my sin
   Refrain

4 When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
   And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
   Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
   And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art
                         Carl Gustav Boberg
                         Trans. by Stuart K. Hine
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
As I've mentioned before, this hymn wasn't in the hymnal I grew up with; it wasn't until 1969 or so when we got the new hymnal that we could sing it as a congregation. Before that it was always a solo special. One person who sang it especially well was Earl Knight, a friend of the family. He told the story of how one time he and his wife were flying to the Southwest and as they were flying over the the Rockies, he looked out and saw the mountains. His response was to take out his ukelele and sing "How Great Thou Art" right there in the plane. All the passengers applauded when he was done. I'm sure some joined him on the chorus.

One little factiod that I just learned by reading the short bios is that this is actually a translation from the Russian of a translation into the German from the original Swedish! So, a fourth generation translation.
</idle musing>

Friday, June 21, 2024

It's all about … power

Such claims about God are rarely theological niceties: they serve the interests (polemical or material) of those who deploy them. This is to say nothing, either positive or negative, about the truth of such claims, but it alerts us to the possibility that, in perfecting divine grace in one form or another, a struggle for superiority may be at work. Perfecting a theological motif may constitute an implicit or explicit claim to theological correctness, discrediting those who understand (and even perfect) the concept in a different way. Where such conceptual perfection is matched by social practice, it becomes the ideology of a distinctive pattern of life, and can prove enormously powerful in legitimating a religious tradition.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 69

Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above

15 Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above

1. Praise the Lord who reigns above,
   And keeps His court below;
   Praise the holy God of love,
   And all His greatness show;
   Praise Him for His noble deeds,
   Praise Him for His matchless pow'r;
   Him from whom all good proceeds
   Let earth and heav'n adore.

2. Celebrate th'eternal God
   With harp and psaltery,
   Timbrels soft and cymbals loud
   In His high praise agree;
   Praise Him ev'ry tuneful string;
   all the reach of heav'nly art,
   All the pow'rs of music bring,
   The music of the heart.

3. Him in whom they move and live,
   Let ev'ry creature sing,
   glory to their Maker give,
   And homage to their King.
   Hallowed by His name beneath,
   As in heav'n on earth adored;
   Praise the Lord in ev'ry breath,
   Let all things praise the Lord.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Somewhat unusually, there is only one more verse that appears to be part of this hymn. Hymnary.org has it:

2. Publish, spread to all around
   the great Jehovah’s name,
   Let the trumpet’s martial sound
   the Lord of hosts proclaim:
   Praise Him in the sacred dance,
   harmony’s full concert raise,
   Let the virgin choir advance,
   and move but to His praise.
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Taking it to the extreme

Rhetoric often tends towards extremes, absolutes, and disjunctions, employing polarity or paradox to set potentially compatible notions into conceptual opposition. In some Christian quarters, those who really live “by faith" live without predictable material support (such as salaried employment): interpreting “faith” in this way, and drawing it to an extreme, forges a polarity that other Christians would neither recognize nor welcome. As this example shows, perfections can serve an ideological function. One way to legitimate oneself as the bearer of a tradition, and to disqualify others, is to appropriate to oneself the “true” and “proper” meaning of a traditional concept, such that others are not simply limited in understanding but are fundamentally in error: what they mean by X is non-X, once it has been defined in a particular, “perfect” form.“—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 68

Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty

13 Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty

1 Open now thy gates of beauty,
   Zion, let me enter there
   Where my soul in joyful duty
   Waits on Him who answers prayer.
   O how blessed is this place,
   Filled with solace, light and grace!

2 Gracious God, I come before Thee,
   Come Thou also down to me.
   Where I find Thee and adore Thee,
   There a heav'n on earth must be.
   With Thy grace O enter Thou,
   Make my heart Thy temple now.
                         Benjamin Schmolck
                         Trans. by Catherine Winkworth
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Hymnary.org lists the following additional verses:

3 Here Thy praise is gladly chanted,
   Here Thy seed is duly sown;
   Let my soul, Thy blessing granted,
   Precious sheaves bring forth alone.
   Grant that all I hear may be
   Fruitful unto life in me.

4 Thou my faith increase and quicken,
   Let me keep that gift divine;
   When temptations come and thicken,
   Make Thy Word forever shine
   As my guiding star thro' life,
   As my comfort in the strife.

5 Speak, O Lord, and I will hear Thee,
   Let Thy will be done indeed;
   May I undisturbed draw near Thee
   While Thou dost Thy people feed;
   Here of life the fountain flows,
   Here is balm for all our woes.

</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

A modern construct?

For our present purposes, what is important to note is that Derrida’s construction of the impossibility of the gift is based on the premise that the gift by definition should be free of reciprocity or return. But this definition, I have argued, is a modern construction, not a natural or necessary construal of the gift. The pure gift, free of interest and unsullied by return, is an extreme “perfection” of the gift, reflecting a modern ideological polarization between freedom and obligation, interest and disinterest. From an anthropological point of view, “even the idea of a pure gift is a contradiction,” since such a gift, anonymous and unreturned, does nothing to enhance solidarity. Taking a long historical and anthropological perspective, one might even retort that Derrida’s treatment of the aporia of the gift “speaks of everything but the gift.” In any case, we should be conscious that, despite the enormous influence of Bourdieu and Derrida, it would be arbitrary to make the absence of reciprocity and “self-interest” the very essence of the gift.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 63

Let all the world in every corner sing

10 Let all the world in every corner sing

1 Let all the world in every corner sing,
   "My God and King!"
   The heav'ns are not too high,
   God's praise may thither fly;
   the earth is not too low,
   God's praises there may grow.
   Let all the world in every corner sing,
   "My God and King!"

2 Let all the world in every corner sing,
   "My God and King!"
   The church with psalms must shout:
   no door can keep them out.
   But, more than all, the heart
   must bear the longest part.
   Let all the world in every corner sing,
   "My God and King!"
                         George Herbert
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

O Thou in All Thy Might So Far

12 O Thou in All Thy Might So Far

1 O thou in all thy might so far,
   In all thy love so near,
   Beyond the range of sun and star,
   And yet beside us here:

2 What heart can comprehend thy Name,
   Or searching find thee out,
   Who art within, a quickening flame,
   A presence round about?

3 Yet though I know thee but in part,
   I ask not, Lord, for more;
   Enough for me to know thou art,
   To love thee, and adore.

4 And dearer than all things I know
   Is childlike faith to me,
   That makes the darkest way I go
   An open path to thee.
                         Frederick Ludian Hosmer
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The "free" gift

For our purposes, it is especially important to trace the emergence of the “pure” gift — the notion of the gift as ideally “free” from obligation, and unreciprocated, given without a return. As we have seen, in antiquity it was taken for granted that gifts are accompanied by obligations and should elicit some form of return; even philosophers who disavowed a material return (Aristotle) or scorned utilitas (Seneca) considered gifts/benefactions to be necessarily embedded in reciprocal relations. They did not share the modern idealization of the unilateral gift, which has such a powerful hold on contemporary notions of “altruism,” especially in religious discourse. Given the tendency of this ideology to color our reading of the ancient evidence, it is important to trace its origins. Once we understand the “pure” gift as a cultural product, we can resist the modern tendency to take it as a natural or necessary configuration of the paradigmatic gift.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 52

I'll praise My Maker While I've Breath

9 I'll praise My Maker While I've Breath

1 I’ll praise my Maker with my breath,
   and when my voice is lost in death,
   praise shall employ my noblest pow'rs;
   my days of praise shall ne'er be past,
   while life, and thought, and being last,
   or immortality endures.

2 Happy the man whose hopes rely
   on Israel's God; He made the sky,
   and earth and seas, with all their train;
   His truth for ever stands secure;
   He saves th'oppressed, He feeds the poor,
   and none shall find His promise vain.

3 The Lord pours eye-sight on the blind;
   the Lord supports the fainting mind
   and sends the lab'ring conscience peace;
   He helps the stranger in distress,
   the widowed and the fatherless,
   and grants the pris'ner sweet release.

4 I’ll praise Him while He lends me breath;
   and when my voice is lost in death,
   praise shall employ my noblest pow'rs;
   my days of praise shall ne'er be past,
   while life and thought and being last,
   or immortality endures.
                         Isaac Watts
                         Alt. by John Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
Again, more verses are available:

2 Why should I make a man my trust?
   Princes must die and turn to dust;
   vain is the help of flesh and blood:
   their breath departs, their pomp and pow'r,
   and thoughts all vanish in an hour,
   nor can they make their promise good.

5 He loves His saints, He knows them well,
   but turns the wicked down to hell;
   thy God, O Zion, ever reigns;
   let every tongue, let every age,
   in this exalted work engage;
   praise Him in everlasting strains.

Religious rattles

The carnal Christian cannot worship without religious rattles and toys; otherwise, he gets bored and loses interest.

For the mature Christian, any unlovely place is suitable for worship if the heart is right and the Spirit dwells within. Worship and communion with God can be real and can be unaffected, and the tranquility can remain the same, because the spiritual Christian does not rest in the external.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 123

Monday, June 17, 2024

Seneca on giving

To preclude the giver from always looking for a return-as-res, Seneca employs a famous paradox: the benefactor should immediately forget the gift; the beneficiary should always remember it (2.1o.4). At the end of the treatise, Seneca admits that this is somewhat hyperbolic language (7.22–25): what he is really targeting is the tendency of donors to keep harping on about their gifts and their desire to enhance their honor, to humiliate the recipient, or to prompt some material return. In the same vein, he criticizes any benefaction that is performed for the sake of utilitas: one should give for the goodness of giving alone (1.23), and for the benefit of the beneficiary, not for one’s own profit (4.1–15).—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 49

Come Ye That Love the Lord

5 Come, Ye That Love the Lord

1 Come, we that love the Lord,
   and let our joys be known;
   join in a song with sweet accord,
   and thus surround the throne.

2 Let those refuse to sing
   who never knew our God;
   but children of the heav'nly King
   may speak their joys abroad.

3 The hill of Zion yields
   a thousand sacred sweets
   before we reach the heav'nly fields,
   or walk the golden streets.

4 Then let our songs abound,
   and every tear be dry;
   we're marching through Emmanuel's ground
   to fairer worlds on high.
                         Isaac Watts
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

<idle musing>
As is usual for an Isaac Watts hymn, there are plenty more verses; there's even a refrain in some versions. Here's what Cyberhymnal has

1. Come, we that love the Lord,
   And let our joys be known;
   Join in a song with sweet accord,
   Join in a song with sweet accord
   And thus surround the throne,
   And thus surround the throne.

Refrain
   We’re marching to Zion,
   Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
   We’re marching upward to Zion,
   The beautiful city of God.

2. The sorrows of the mind
   Be banished from the place;
   Religion never was designed
   Religion never was designed,
   To make our pleasures less,
   To make our pleasures less. [Refrain]

3. Let those refuse to sing,
   Who never knew our God;
   But favorites of the heavenly King,
   But favorites of the heavenly King
   May speak their joys abroad,
   May speak their joys abroad. [Refrain]

4. The God that rules on high,
   And thunders when He please,
   Who rides upon the stormy sky,
   Who rides upon the stormy sky,
   And manages the seas,
   And manages the seas. [Refrain]

5. This awful God is ours,
   Our Father and our Love;
   He will send down his heav’nly powers,
   He will send down his heav’nly powers,
   To carry us above,
   To carry us above. [Refrain]

6. There we shall see His face,
   And never, never sin!
   There, from the rivers of His grace,
   There, from the rivers of His grace,
   Drink endless pleasures in,
   Drink endless pleasures in. [Refrain]

7. Yea, and before we rise,
   To that immortal state,
   The thoughts of such amazing bliss,
   The thoughts of such amazing bliss,
   Should constant joys create,
   Should constant joys create. [Refrain]

8. The men of grace have found,
   Glory begun below.
   Celestial fruits on earthly ground
   Celestial fruits on earthly ground
   From faith and hope may grow,
   From faith and hope may grow. [Refrain]

9. The hill of Zion yields
   A thousand sacred sweets
   Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
   Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
   Or walk the golden streets,
   Or walk the golden streets. [Refrain]

10. Then let our songs abound,
   And every tear be dry;
   We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
   We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
   To fairer worlds on high,
   To fairer worlds on high. [Refrain]

</idle musing>

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

I finished reading through the responsive readings in the 1939 Methodist Hymnal and am now starting the 1964 edition of the hymnal. When the church I grew up in changed over to in about 1969 or so, it had been renamed The Book of Hymns and the cover was changed to the familiar United Methodist cross and flame. As I mentioned many times before, there are many duplicates and overlaps with the 1930s version, so I will only post the ones that catch my fancy that weren't posted already from that edition. Consequently, the first one is #4:

4 Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

1. Sing praise to God who reigns above,
   the God of all creation,
   the God of power, the God of love,
   the God of our salvation.
   With healing balm my soul is filled
   and every faithless murmur stilled:
   To God all praise and glory.

2. What God’s almighty pow'r has made,
   In mercy He is keeping.
   By morning glow or evening shade
   His eye is never sleeping.
   Within the kingdom of His might
   All things are just and good and right:
   To God all praise and glory!

3. The Lord is never far away,
   but through all grief distressing,
   an ever present help and stay,
   our peace and joy and blessing.
   As with a mother's tender hand,
   God gently leads the chosen band:
   To God all praise and glory.

4. Thus, all my toilsome way along,
   I sing aloud thy praises,
   that earth may hear the grateful song
   my voice unwearied raises.
   Be joyful in the Lord, my heart,
   both soul and body bear your part:
   To God all praise and glory.

5. O ye who name Christ’s holy name,
   give God all praise and glory!
   all ye who own his power proclaim,
   aloud the wondrous story!
   Cast each false ido from his throne
   The Lord is God, and he alone:
   To God all praise and glory!
                         Johann J. Schütz
                         Trans. by Frances E. Cox
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1964 edition

Friday, June 14, 2024

It's all about gratitude

Thus, for Seneca, the essence of a benefaction is not its content, the favor or gift contributed by one party to another, but the goodwill in which it is given: as a Stoic, his primary focus is on the animus, not the res (2.34—35; 6.2.1). What matters about a benefaction is not what is given or how much it is worth (which may be determined by fortune, good or bad), but how it is given (15.3); it is at this, the deepest, level that human relationships are most powerfully formed. At the same time, and for the same reasons, what matters about the return is not the thing reciprocated but the grateful attitude of the beneficiary: since Stoics refer all things to the animus (2.31.1), what a benefit aims to achieve is not an external counter-gift but an internal virtue, gratitude.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 48

Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Roman Republic's collapse

The Roman Republic collapsed as powerful individuals sacrificed the common interests of the state to their quest for political supremacy, and in place of this dysfunctional pluralism Augustus eventually emerged as the supreme patron of the Roman state. Although Augustus and his successors certainly curtailed the exercise of senatorial patronage in Rome, and developed their own direct patronage of the Roman plebs, it would be a mistake to regard the emperor’s universal patronage as entailing a monopoly of patronal power.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 38

<idle musing>
Hmmm... sounds suspiciously familiar, doesn't it?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Euergetism and taxation (Greek)

In recent years, particular attention has been given to a form of public gift relation, “euergetism,” that is prominent in the inscriptional record of Greek cities deep into the Roman era. With roots in the royal gifts made by kings to their subjects, a form of civic benefaction arose in the Greek city-states where members of elite families were expected to perform “voluntary” services (λειτουγίαι) for their fellow citizens while exercising a variety of civic roles, including magistracies. In time, a large array of public benefits might be fulfilled in this way: the construction and refurbishment of public buildings, the provision of military equipment and defences, the dedication and enhancement of temples (together with the public sacrifices, feasts, and banquets associated with the worship of the gods), the funding of games and choral competitions, the equipment of gymnasia, and the performance of embassies, priesthoods, and civic administration — all, or chiefly, at their own expense. In most cities, where taxation was inadequate for “extraordinary” expenses, these burdens were shouldered by a small number of wealthy families, whose unequal status was tolerated by their fulfilment of such services.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 32

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The more things change…. SCOTUS and Pericles (5th cent. BCE Athens)

A parallel restriction of the power of gift-reciprocity is evident in laws concerning the administration of justice. Because gifts expect, and oblige, a return, those invested with judicial roles who are also embedded in gift relationships, and therefore have obligations to their benefactors, are liable to skew their assessment of legal disputes. Hence Pericles’ innovation, in fifth-century Athens, that citizens who took part in judicial hearings should receive payment from the state (a source that commits them to the interests of the city) —and this to counter the power of Cimon, whose gifts to his demesmen kept them beholden to him. Wherever we find civic oflicials swearing to conduct their roles without regard to favors, and judges required to refuse gifts, we find the clash between two transactional regimes, the regime of the gift, with its strong personal ties of loyalty and reciprocation, and the regime of civic-legal power, which claims a higher authority within its own domain.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift 30

<idle musing>
The more things change, the more they remain the same, eh? Not much has changed in 2500 or so years. Think SCOTUS, gits, and justice. Which one suffers when SCOTUS accepts gifts? (Hint: it isn't the gift-giver!)
</idle musing>

Tozer for Tuesday

Normally, we draw a conclusion based on evidence rather than go along with feelings. Carnal Christians tend to live by their feelings. First, they must have what they call a good atmosphere in the church and then they have had a good time. If there is not a good atmosphere, they do not have a good time. If this continues, they will look for a place more conducive to having a good time. They are more or less victims and fools of their environment.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 121–22

Monday, June 10, 2024

do ut des, but…

The common representation of Greek and Roman) religion as do ut des (“I give that you may give”) is right to recognize the reciprocity ethos of ancient religious practice, but is wrong in putting one-sided stress on the human giver as the initiator of the gift-cycle, and in suggesting a crude commercialism in the transaction. Just as friends are engaged in continuous cycles of benefit exchange, without calculating who started the process or totting up precisely what each benefit is worth, so Greek (and Roman) worshipers gave honor, gratitude, and gifts to the gods to recognize and continue the bonds of benevolence between them, always with the potential that the relationship may go sour. Among other things, such gifts made clear who were fitting recipients of the favors that the gods would distribute to worthy (e.g., pious and grateful) partners in such an exchange.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift 28