Thursday, February 29, 2024

Atonement is not an end in itself

On the other hand, atonement is not an end in itself, any more than the judgement of sin and the expiation of guilt are ends in themselves. The purpose of atonement is to reconcile humanity back to God so that atonement issues in union between man and God, but it issues in union between man and God because the hypostatic union is that union already being worked out between estranged man and God, between man's will and God's will in the one person of Christ. It is the hypostatic union or hypostatic at-onement, therefore, which lies embedded in the very heart of atonement. All that is done in the judgement of sin, in expiation of guilt, in the oblation of obedience to the Father is in order to bring humanity back to union with God, and to anchor that union within the eternal union of the Son and the Father, and the Father and the Son, through the communion of the Holy Spirit.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 196

God veiled himself

In Jesus Christ, God has come in the humble form of a servant, veiling his divine majesty, for we could not look on the face of God and live. If God came openly in his glory and majesty, we would be smitten to the ground in sin and death; the last judgement would be upon us, with no time to repent, no opportunity for personal decision in faith. The very humanity of Christ is the veiling of God; the flesh of sin, the humiliation and the form of a servant, the death of Christ all veil God — and so God draws near to us under that veil in order to reveal himself, and save us. It is sometimes asked if God could not reveal himself to us apart from or without Christ, without the humble form of a servant. But if revelation were to take place apart from the veiling of Christ, or in a form totally unknown to us, it would disrupt the conditions of our world and of our humanity, and instead of saving us, it would mean our disintegration. No, the very humanity of Jesus Christ makes salvation possible, for here in the man Jesus, God comes alongside us as man and within our historical existence with its temporal relations, choices and decisions, he acts there upon us personally through word and love, through challenge and decision.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 194

The Church's one foundation

381 Aurelia. 7. 6. 7. 6. D.

1 The Church's one foundation
   Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
   She is His new creation
   By water and the word;
   From heav'n He came and sought her
   To be His holy bride;
   With His own blood He bought her,
   And for her life He died.

2 Elect from ev'ry nation,
   Yet one o'er all the earth,
   Her charter of salvation,
   One Lord, one faith, one birth;
   One holy name she blesses,
   Partakes one holy food,
   And to one hope she presses,
   With ev'ry grace endued.

3 'Mid toil and tribulation,
   And tumult of her war,
   She waits the consummation
   Of peace forevermore;
   Till with the vision glorious,
   Her longing eyes are blest,
   And the great Church victorious
   Shall be the Church at rest.

4 Yet she on earth hath union
   With God, the Three in One,
   And mystic sweet communion
   With those whose rest is won;
   O happy ones and holy!
   Lord, give us grace that we
   Like them, the meek and lowly,
   On high may dwell with Thee.
                         Samuel J. Stone
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
This was one of my favorite hymns growing up. I was surprised to discover that it isn't more popular, occurring in only 847 hymnals. As per usual, cyberhymnal has an abundance of extra verses:

3. The Church shall never perish!
   Her dear Lord to defend,
   To guide, sustain, and cherish,
   Is with her to the end:
   Though there be those who hate her,
   And false sons in her pale,
   Against both foe or traitor
   She ever shall prevail.

4. Though with a scornful wonder
   Men see her sore oppressed,
   By schisms rent asunder,
   By heresies distressed:
   Yet saints their watch are keeping,
   Their cry goes up, How long?
   And soon the night of weeping
   Shall be the morn of song!

And mixes parts of two other verses to create two different ones:
6. Yet she on earth hath union
   With God the Three in One,
   And mystic sweet communion
   With those whose rest is won,
   With all her sons and daughters
   Who, by the Master’s hand
   Led through the deathly waters,
   Repose in Eden land.

7. O happy ones and holy!
   Lord, give us grace that we
   Like them, the meek and lowly,
   On high may dwell with Thee:
   There, past the border mountains,
   Where in sweet vales the Bride
   With Thee by living fountains
   Forever shall abide!

</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Assuming the whole nature of humanity

He who reveals God to man, and reconciles man to God, must be both God and man, truly and completely God, and truly and completely man. If the Son was to redeem the whole nature of man, he had to assume the whole nature of man; if in the Son man is to be gathered into the fellowship and life of God, it must be by one who is truly and completely God. Only he can be mediator who is himself the union of God and man, only he can be pontifex who is himself the pons.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 190

If Christ is not God, then?

If Christ is not God, if God is not fully and wholly present in Christ and identical with Christ, then God does not reconcile the world to, himself, and the work of Jesus is not eternally valid, but is only temporal and contingent and relative. If Christ is not God, then the love of Christ is not identical with God's love, and so we do not know that God is love. We may know that Christ is love, but if he is not really God in the complete sense, then all we have in Jesus Christ is a revelation of man, of humanity at its noblest reaching up into the clouds. If Christ is not God, then we do not have a descent of God to man. Thus as the obverse of the fact that Christ's real humanity means that God has actually come to us and dwells among us, Christ's deity means that God himself has come to save us. The dogma of the humanity of Christ asserts the actuality in our world of the coming of God, and the dogma of the deity of Christ asserts the divine content of our knowledge and salvation, the objective reality of our relation to God himself. The dogma of the deity of Christ means that our salvation in Christ is anchored in eternity: that it is more sure than the heavens.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 188

Jesus, with Thy Church abide

380 Litany (Hervey). 7. 7. 7. 6.

1. Jesus, with Thy Church abide,
   Be her Savior, Lord, and Guide,
   While on earth her faith is tried:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

2. May her voice be ever clear,
   Warning of a judgment near,
   Telling of a Savior dear:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

3. May she guide the poor and blind,
   Seek the lost until she find,
   And the broken hearted bind:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

4. May her lamp of truth be bright,
   Bid her bear aloft its light
   Through the realms of heathen night:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

5. Judge her not for work undone,
   Judge her not for fields unwon,
   Bless her works in Thee begun:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

6. May she holy triumphs win,
   Overthrow the hosts of sin,
   Gather all the nations in,
   We beseech Thee, hear us.
                         Thomas B. Pollock
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I don't recall ever singing this, but it certainly does make a good prayer for the state of the church. It's not very common, only occurring in about 100 hymnals, but for an uncommon hymn, it suffers from a variety of versions. As usual, cyberhymnal has the fullest version. Here are the extra verses

3. Keep her life and doctrine pure,
   Help her, patient, to endure,
   Trusting in Thy promise sure:
   We beseech Thee, hear us. 4. All her fettered powers release
   Bid our strife and envy cease,
   Grant the heav’nly gift of peace:
   We beseech Thee, hear us. 5. May she one in doctrine be,
   One in truth and charity,
   Winning all to faith in Thee:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

7. May her priests Thy people feed,
   Shepherds of the flock indeed,
   Ready, where Thou call’st, to lead:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

9. All that she has lost, restore,
   May her strength and zeal be more
   Than in brightest days of yore:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

10. Raise her to her calling high,
   Let the nations far and nigh
   Hear Thy heralds’ warning cry:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

13. May she thus all glorious be,
   Spotless and from wrinkle free,
   Pure and bright, and worthy Thee:
   We beseech Thee, hear us.

</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Why docetism fails

The humanity of Christ is also essential to God's act of reconciliation, for the actuality of atonement is grounded upon the fact that in actual human nature it is God himself acting on our behalf. Thus any docetic view of the humanity of Christ would mean that God only appears to act within our human existence, or that his acts are only of tangential significance, that they do not really strike into the roots of our existence and condition, and have no relevance to our need. Atonement is real and actual only if and as the mediator acts fully from the side of man as man, as well as from the side of God as God. If the humanity of Christ is imperfect, atonement is imperfect, and we would then still be in our sins. If Jesus Christ is really and truly man, then his death for sin is an act of God himself in human nature, and not just an external act upon human nature. But if atonement is to fulfil its object, it must be not only act of God upon man, but act of man in response to God, man's sacrifice, man's oblation, satisfaction by man for sin before God. Apart from the human obedience and human life and death of Christ, apart from his human sacrifice, we have nothing at all to offer to God, nothing with which we can stand before God, but our sin and guilt. But here in the full humanity of Jesus, as it is joined eternally to his deity in incarnation and atonement, man's destiny as man is actually assured and restored to its place in God from which it has fallen; man's wrong has been set aside in and with the judgement accomplished upon the humanity of Christ, and now in his humanity our new right humanity has been established before God.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 186

Going Deeper with Biblical Hebrew—a review

Going Deeper with Biblical Hebrew: An Intermeiate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the Old Testment, by H. H. Hardy II and Matthew McAffee. Brentwood, TN: B&H Academic, 2024.

When I read that Chip Hardy and Matthew McAffee had an intermediate Hebrew grammar coming out, I was curious. They are both excellent scholars and both teach Hebrew, so I was fairly certain it would be of value (see disclaimer below). Having had a copy now for a few weeks and working through it, I can assure you that I wasn’t disappointed. It is well-written and solidly grounded in modern linguistic theory. As I told them on my initial glance through it, it’s the second-year grammar I wish I had access to when I was learning Hebrew many long years ago. But enough introduction. Let’s take a deeper look.

First, the book is well-made, with a Smyth binding that will hold up through a semester of use and beyond as you refer to it over the years. The type face is clear and crisp, large enough to be easy on the eyes, but not too large. The layout is clear, with a generous use of tables to illustrate things. There is an abundance of Hebrew examples illustrating their points.

The contents are divided up into three parts, the first being a general introduction to the language and a chapter on textual criticism, written by John Meade. The second part (chs. 3–6, almost 200 pages) covers the verbal system (ch. 3), verbal stems (ch. 4), the prefix and suffix conjugations (ch. 5), and volitives (ch. 6). The third part (chs. 7–11, almost 300 pages) covers nouns and noun phrases (ch. 7), pronouns, adjectives, and participles (ch. 8), infinitives and temporal clauses (ch. 9), conjunctions, adverbs, and other particles (ch. 10), and prepositions (ch. 11). Three guided lessons (textual criticism, semantic analysis [word study], and syntactic analysis), four appendices (continuing with Biblical Hebrew, vocabulary, English-Hebrew list, and glossary), an ample bibliography, and three indexes (name, subject [with Hebrew words appearing together under the entry “Hebrew words”], and scripture index) round out the volume.

Each chapter begins with a brief introduction, then a section entitled “Going Deeper with…,” which consists of a look at a scripture passage, highlighting how knowing Hebrew sheds more light on it, specifically by highlighting the elements to be covered in that chapter. The selections are well-chosen and designed to pique the interest of the student. This is followed by an enumeration of the chapter objectives, another short introduction and then the meat of the chapter. Usually they begin by illustrating the points being made via English examples before diving into the Hebrew. As I mentioned, there are numerous examples from the Hebrew Bible highlighting each of their points. Footnotes provide a bibliography for the student who wants to go further, as well as a bit more background in some cases. Grammatical terms that might be unfamiliar to the student are underlined and defined in the glossary at the end of the volume.

Each chapter ends with exercises consisting of Hebrew to English translation (with instructions not just to translate, but to parse verbs and make other notations based on the theme of the chapter), a selection of sentences to translate from English to Hebrew, and a guided reading of a scripture passage, with vocabulary and notes to assist. Considering that this is a second-year grammar, the notes should be more than adequate.

The only note of concern I have is the chapter on textual criticism assumes access to works that only a well-equipped seminary or graduate school would have. I have a fairly well-stocked library, but I certainly don’t own the Göttingen LXX volumes (although I wish I could justify them!). Consequently, it’s obvious this chapter was written with the seminarian/graduate student in mind. That being said, the principles he lays out can be applied with the tools you do have. And the bibliography supplies links to public domain tools such as Kennicott and the Hexapla, which mitigates some of problems of not having access to a research library. And maybe it will spur the student on to learning other languages, such as Aramaic (for the targumim), Syriac, or Latin. Worse things could happen! And some might even decide to splurge and buy the Göttingen LXX on Accordance or Logos. (I admit, that one is tempting to me sometimes, even though I prefer print for reference works like that!)

The text is remarkably free of typographical errors. I understand that they are planning to post an errata sheet, but for now the only egregious error that needs to be noted is at the top of page 151, where the root גדל is reversed. Once the errata sheet is posted, I’ll add a link here.

In summary, this is an excellent second-year grammar that adequately prepares the student to be ready to more easily read the Hebrew Bible, while also preparing them to be able to read and understand more advanced works, such as IBHS or, to explore more historical grammar, Eric Reymond’s Intermediate Biblical Hebrew Grammar, as well as giving them a solid foundation in modern linguistic approaches to Biblical Hebrew—which will also equip them to understand linguistic approaches to Biblical Greek and English. I heartily endorse this book and encourage you to add it to your library.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of the book with no obligation to review it.
Secondary disclaimer: I read and recommended for publication at Eisenbrauns Chip's dissertation on Hebrew prepositions, although in the end it was published by SBL Press. And, I copyedited Matthew's revised dissertation for Eisenbrauns in the ENEAC series. That's why I was excited to read this volume, but it didn't prejudice me toward it before reading it.

Why the incarnation matters

The stark actuality of Christ's humanity, his flesh and blood and bone, guarantees to us that we have God among us. If that humanity were in any sense unreal, God would be unreal for us in him. The full measure of Christ's humanity is the full measure of God's reality for us, God's actuality to us, in fact the measure of God's love for us. If Christ is not man, then God has not reached us, but has stopped short of our humanity — then God does not love us to the uttermost, for his love has stopped short of coming all the way to where we are, and becoming one of us in order to save us. But Christ's humanity means that God's love is now flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, really one of us and with us.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 185

I love it! Hebrew humor

One should avoid several common misconceptions about meaning. First, meaning does not necessarily equal translation value. Words do not have identical semantic ranges in any two languages. Hebrew חסד may have some similar notions as English loyalty, but it is not identical in meaning or usage. A Hebrew market would not have a ḥesed-program for frequent shoppers.—Going Deeper with Biblical Hebrew, 590

Tozer for Tuesday

I grieve that we have so little manifestation of the Shepherd’s presence in our churches. We talk about His being here, but we do not sense that He is here. We do not have the feeling that He is here. Do not talk down feeling, for it’s part of our human constitution; and when He walks into the presence of His people. consciously, they cannot help but feel it.

I think that the most wonderful thing would be to each become so Christ-conscious and so Church-loving that we would clean up our lives and purify our hearts and wash our hands and forgive our enemies and love them too. Then we would focus on Him and learn to live and pray and preach and give and worship in the very conscious presence of the Son of God’s love. I think this would be the most beautiful thing in the whole wide world.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 75

I love Thy kingdom, Lord

379 St. Thomas. S. M.

1 I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
   The house of Thine abode,
   The Church our blest Redeemer saved
   With His own precious blood.

2 I love Thy Church, O God!
   Her walls before Thee stand
   Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
   And graven on Thy hand.

3 For her my tears shall fall,
   For her my prayers ascend;
   To her my cares and toils be given,
   Till toils and cares shall end.

4 Beyond my highest joy
   I prize her heavenly ways,
   Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
   Her hymns of love and praise.

5 Sure as Thy truths shall last,
   To Zion shall be given
   The brightest glories earth can yield,
   And brighter bliss of heaven.
                         Timothy Dwight
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Written by one of the early presidents of Yale, this hymn is quite popular, occurring in a little over 1300 hymnals. Cyberhymnal adds three verses, two after verse 2 and the third one just before the final verse:

3. If e’er to bless Thy sons
   My voice or hands deny,
   These hands let useful skills forsake,
   This voice in silence die.

4. Should I with scoffers join
   Her altars to abuse?
   No! Better far my tongue were dumb,
   My hand its skill should lose.

7. Jesus, Thou friend divine,
   Our Savior and our King,
   Thy hand from every snare and foe
   Shall great deliverance bring.

</idle musing>

Monday, February 26, 2024

Finding a christological balance

[H]ow can we be faithful in our theological statements to the nature of the eternal being of the Son who became man and who yet remains God, and at the same time be faithful to the nature and person of the historical Jesus Christ?

That has been the constant problem of theology. We see it already in the early church, in the contrasting emphases between Antioch and Alexandria, in the tendency of the logos christology even before that to depreciate the historical Jesus. Then, after the battle with Arianism, we see a tendency of post-Nicene christology while affirming the true humanity of Christ, to fail to give adequate account of the saving significance of the historical humanity of Christ, content apparently to give the historical Jesus a place only in the liturgical year, and not in the actual doctrine of Christ. By contrast the modern tendency, especially in the west has been to give an account of Christ solely in terms of what he did for man, rather than in terms of his person and being as the Son of God become man, with the result that the doctrine of Christ tended to be displaced by historicism on the one hand, or religious experience and spiritual values on the other hand.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 182

Jesus as eternal word

Again, if Jesus Christ is the Word of God to us, he is the Word of God antecedently and eternally in the Godhead. Not only is he the Word of God uttered by God in the incarnation, but the Word eternally spoken by the Father in the communion of the Holy Spirit within the holy Trinity. Were that not so, the revelation we are given in Christ would not have eternal validity or ultimate reality. That is why the fourth Gospel begins with the wonderful prologue of the eternity of the Word in God, for it is from the eternal God that the Word proceeded, and all that follows in the Gospel — all that Jesus said and was in his dependence as the incarnate Son upon the Father — goes back to and is grounded in that eternal relation of Word to God within God. Similarly, the epistle to the Hebrews begins its exposition of the high priestly work of Christ by teaching that the Son came forth from the Godhead, the Son by whose word all things were created. It is that Son who came and manifested himself, and now in the incarnation stands forth as the divine servant Son to fulfil his work of atonement in entire solidarity with man, eternal Son of God though he was. But all that Jesus did has reality and validity just because it rests upon that eternal relation of the Son with the Father, and therefore reaches out through and beyond the span of years in his earthly ministry into God.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 176

O come and dwell in me

377 Old 134th (St. Michael). S. M.

1. O come and dwell in me,
   Spirit of power within,
   And bring the glorious liberty
   From sorrow, fear, and sin.

2. Hasten the joyful day
   Which shall my sins consume,
   When old things shall be done away,
   And all things new become.

3. I want the witness, Lord,
   That all I do is right,
   According to Thy mind and Word,
   Well pleasing in Thy sight.

4. I ask no higher state;
   Indulge me but in this,
   And soon or later then translate
   To my eternal bliss.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Not one of Wesley's better known hymns, only occurring in about 160 hymnals. I don't recall ever singing it, but I do like it.
</idle musing>

Sunday, February 25, 2024

O how the thought of God

374 Sawley. C. M.

1. O how the thought of God attracts
   And draws the heart from earth
   And sickens it of passing shows
   And dissipating mirth!

2. ’Tis not enough to save our souls,
   To shun th’eternal fires;
   The thought of God will rouse the heart
   To more sublime desires.

3. God only is the creature’s home,
   Though rough and strait the road;
   Yet nothing less can satisfy
   The love that longs for God.

4. O utter but the name of God,
   Down in your heart of hearts,
   And see from the world at once
   All tempting light depart!

5. A trusting heart, a yearning eye,
   Can win their way above,
   If mountains can be moved by faith,
   Is there less power in love?
                         Frederick W. Faber
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Forever here my rest shall be

373 Martyrdom (Avon). C. M.

1 For ever here my rest shall be,
   Close to thy bleeding side;
   This all my hope, and all my plea,
   For me the Saviour died.

2 My dying Saviour and my God,
   Fountain for guilt and sin,
   Sprinkle me ever with thy blood,
   And cleanse, and keep me clean.

3 Wash me, and make me thus thine own:
   Wash me, and mine thou art;
   Wash me, but not my feet alone,
   My hands, my head, my heart.

4 Th' atonement of thy blood apply,
   Till faith to sight improve;
   Till hope in full fruition die,
   And all my soul be love.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Friday, February 23, 2024

Insights from Hebrew grammar

See also Gen 1:6, 9 (unmarked jussive), 11, 14, 20 (unmarked jussive), 22, 24. Note the shift in person for the creation of humanity in verse 26: נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם; “Let us make man” (unmarked cohortative). Rather than the function of a performative jussive, the cohortative states the action that God is going to do. The act of creation is expressed in verse 27: וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָֽאָדָם “God created man.” The use of the first-person verbal form contrasts with the indirect nature of the jussive, instead emphasizing God’s personal investment in the creation of humanity.—Going Deeper with Biblical Hebrew, 253 n. 61

Invasion—by suffering and love!

There can be no doubt about it that Jesus deliberately forced the issue. At last when the time drew near he marched straight upon Jerusalem and threw everything into the crisis, pressing the nation to come to an ultimate decision, pressing the people to the supreme point when as a whole people they would take a decision in the solidarity of their sin in resistance against the revealed grace of God. That was the Christ who came not to bring peace but a sword, who came to cast fire on the earth. And so Jesus kept his finger pressing hard upon the people, deliberately provoking evil to its final and complete reaction, and then he set himself to deal with it by the finger of God, in holy love. It was an act of aggression on his part for which he had long prepared. He invaded the realm of the strong man in order to bind him, invaded by suffering and by love, in order to bind him by atonement. The cross was the culminating point of the struggle when he touched people at the very roots of their being, at the point where sin was most deeply entrenched, and did the tremendous deed that reversed all things.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 155

In that awful hour mercy and truth worked together and kissed each other…

The more truth entered into the innermost centre of man's sin and guilt, the more it involved man in ultimate conflict with God who is truth and love. It was not that Jesus was making mankind more guilty, but that his absolute consistency as holy love, his truth, was exposing the infinite guilt of humanity as he drew it fully and completely upon himself in all its utter violence in order to bear it and bear it away as the lamb of God in atoning sacrifice. Here we have the ultimate compassion of Jesus Christ in which he so pours himself out upon mankind and for them that he enters into the innermost citadel of sin in order to take it upon himself. In exposing it he, the truth, drew out all its hate and enmity, revealing its true nature as sheer hatred of grace, and then he bowed beneath it and bore it all on his own body and soul on the tree in holy and awful atonement, and with groanings that cannot be uttered. But in that awful hour mercy and truth worked together and kissed each other, as the Old Testament would put it. The cross is at once the absolute truth and absolute mercy. God is both just and the justifier of the ungodly, and what joins these together is the steadfastness or faithfulness of Jesus Christ both toward God and toward man.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 151–52

Love divine, all loves excelling

372 Love Divine. 8. 7. 8. 7. D.

1 Love divine, all loves excelling,
   Joy of heaven, to earth come down;
   Fix in us Thy humble dwelling,
   All Thy faithful mercies crown!
   Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
   Pure, unbounded love Thou art;
   Visit us with Thy salvation;
   Enter every trembling heart.

2 Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit
   Into every troubled breast!
   Let us all in Thee inherit,
   Let us find the promised rest;
   Take away our bent to sinning;
   Alpha and Omega be;
   End of faith, as its beginning,
   Set our hearts at liberty.

3 Come, Almighty to deliver,
   Let us all Thy grace receive;
   Suddenly return, and never,
   Never more Thy temples leave.
   Thee we would be always blessing,
   Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
   Pray, and praise Thee without ceasing,
   Glory in Thy perfect love.

4 Finish, then, Thy new creation;
   Pure and spotless let us be;
   Let us see Thy great salvation
   Perfectly restored in Thee:
   Changed from glory into glory,
   Till in heaven we take our place,
   Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
   Lost in wonder, love, and praise.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
One of my favorite hymns. And hugely popular, ocurring in over 1800 hymnals across all denominations, even Roman Catholic ones and Reformed ones. The latter really surprises me, given the emphasis on imparted versus imputed righteousness and the emphasis on the ability to live in perfect love...
</idle musing>

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The attack of God's holy love

Jesus did not repudiate the preaching of John the Baptist, the proclamation of judgement: on the contrary he continued it, and as we have seen he searched the soul of man with the fire of divine judgement, but in Jesus that is subsidiary to — and only arises out of — the gospel of grace and vicarious suffering and atonement. In the incarnate life of Jesus, and above all in his death, God does not execute his judgement on evil simply by smiting it violently away by a stroke of his hand, but by entering into it from within, into the very heart of the blackest evil, and making its sorrow and guilt and suffering his own. And it is because it is God himself who enters in, in order to let the whole of human evil go over him, that his intervention in meekness has violent and explosive force. It is the very power of God. And so the cross with all its incredible meekness and patience and compassion is no deed of passive and beautiful heroism simply, but the most potent and aggressive deed that heaven and earth have ever known: the attack of God's holy love upon the inhumanity of man and the tyranny of evil, upon all the piled up contradiction of sin.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 150

<idle musing>
I love that line: "the attack of God's holy love upon the inhumanity of man and the tyranny of evil, upon all the piled up contradiction of sin." That sums up so well the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection.
</idle musing>

A new way of prayer and worship

Now if Christ's human prayer is an essential part of his atoning obedience offered to the Father, then it is not only the prayer of the victim but of the priest made on our behalf. Just by being what it was, his own life of petition and clinging dependence upon the Father was a life of intercession to God for us. In his steadfast obedience and life of prayer, Jesus penetrated into our life and recreated the bond between man and God, and therefore also between human beings. It is on that ground, of the recreated bond that he prays for us, intercedes for us, and acts as our mediator, high priest and intercessor, our substitute and representative before God, praying, and offering himself in prayer, standing in for us as our advocate, and pledging us in himself before God — and so he opens up through his flesh a new way to prayer and worship of God.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 120

Jesus, Thine all-victorious love

371 Azmon. C. M.

1 Jesus, Thine all-victorious love
   Shed in my heart abroad;
   Then shall my feet no longer rove,
   Rooted and fixed in God.

2 Refining fire, go through my heart,
   Illuminate my soul;
   Scatter Thy life through every part,
   And sanctify the whole.

3 No longer then my heart shall mourn,
   While, purified by grace,
   I only for His glory burn,
   And always see His face.

4 My steadfast soul, from falling free,
   Shall then no longer move,
   While Christ is all the world to me,
   And all my heart is love.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Well, for a hymn that only occurs in a little over 200 hymnals, this one is sure a mess. The Methodist hymnal from 1989 inserts these verses between verse 1 and 2, and doesn't have verses 3 and 4:

2. O that in me the sacred fire
   might now begin to glow;
   burn up the dross of base desire
   and make the mountains flow!

3. O that it now from heaven might fall
   and all my sins consume!
   Come, Holy Ghost, for thee I call,
   Spirit of burning, come!

While the Methodist hymnal from 1917 inserts a verse before their verse 2 and doesn't have our verses 3 and 4:
2 Love can bow down the stubborn neck,
   The stone to flesh convert,
   Soften, and melt, and pierce, and break,
   An adamantine heart.
And Victorious Life Hymns inserts this:
3 Thou, who at Pentecost didst fall,
   Do Thou my sins consume;
   Come, Holy Ghost, for Thee I call;
   Spirit of burning, come,
   Spirit of burning, come.
And, in trying to discover verse 3, I stumbled upon the fact that about 118 more hymnals have it listed under a totally different name, My God, I know I feel thee mine! And it was there, under Cyberhymnal that I discovered our verse 3. Incidentally, Cyberhymnal lists eleven verses! You can go see them there. I'm not going to list them here.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Prayer as dependence

It is in our place that Jesus prays, standing where we stand in our rebellion and alienation, existing where we exist in our refusal of divine grace and in our will to be independent, to live our own life in self-reliance. In that condition , Jesus prays against the whole trend of our existence and against all the self-willed movement of our life, for when Jesus prays it means that he casts himself in utter reliance upon God the Father, in utter dependence upon his will, and refuses to draw a single breath except in that reliance and dependence. In this way, Jesus prays as a creature fulfilling the covenant prayer of creation to the Father, but he prays it from within our alienation and in battle against our self-will. That is the prayer we are given to overhear: 'Not my will (that is, not the will of the alienated humanity which Jesus has made his own), but thy will be done.’ Thus he offers from out of our disobedience, a prayer of obedience. But such a prayer is his very mode of life as the Son of the Father on earth — it was prayer without ceasing, lived prayer, in which he ceaselessly sought from his Father in heaven his life and being as man on earth, in absolute reliance upon him at every point. And so by prayer in which word and life corresponded perfectly with one another, he offered again to the Father the steadfast answer of perfect filial obedience, and engaged the covenant will of God for his creatures.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 117–18

The heart of compassion

As the reality of the divine election of love, Jesus Christ was the mercy of God incarnate who saw the disobedience of man as the greatest need of mankind, and who hastened to meet that need by pouring himself out in compassion and self-giving to man. And yet the more he entered into man to gather human life into oneness with God, the more intensely he took this conflict into his own heart. In him who takes our place like that, God's heart beats for humanity, but in him who so joined himself to us, ‘touched with the feeling of our own infirmities’ and ‘in all things made like unto his brethren’, it is the judge who came to condemn sin in the flesh. In the ultimate self-giving of God in love to man in Jesus Christ, man is confronted with the ultimate things, the last things before which all the secrets and intentions of the heart are revealed. Here in Jesus, as the very heart of God is laid bare in compassion and mercy for man, the human heart is laid bare before God, in such a way that men and women are plucked out of their isolation and estrangement and alienation, out of their hiding place in themselves, and are placed before the light of the majesty and love of God where they must acknowledge the divine judgement upon them. ‘If any man would come after me’, Jesus said, ‘let him deny himself, and follow me!’,—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 112–13

O for a heart to praise my God

370 Belmount. C. M.

1 O for a heart to praise my God,
   A heart from sin set free!
   A heart that always feels Thy blood
   So freely spilt for me!

2 A heart resigned, submissive, meek,
   My great Redeemer's throne,
   Where only Christ is heard to speak,
   Where Jesus reigns alone:

3 A humble, lowly, contrite heart,
   Believing, true, and clean;
   Which neither life nor death can part
   From Him that dwells within:

4 A heart in every thought renewed,
   And hill of love divine;
   Perfect, and right, and pure, and good,
   A copy, Lord, of Thine!

5 Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart;
   Come quickly from above;
   Write Thy new name upon my heart,
   Thy new, best name of Love.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The suffering begins where?

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

Positive righteousness vs. negative righteousness

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

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

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

God in the midst? (Tozer for Tuesday)

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

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

Blessed are the pure in heart

369 Greenwood. S. M.

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

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

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

<idle musing>
I don't recall singing this hymn, but I do like the sentiments and theology of it. inserts a second verse (and interestingly, so did the 1917 Methodist hymnal):

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

Monday, February 19, 2024

Overcoming—but not by violence!

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

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

The mystery of kenosis

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

Make me a captive, Lord

367. Leominster. S. M. D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Thought for the day

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

As pants the hart for cooling streams

366 Spohr. C. M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

</idle musing>

Saturday, February 17, 2024

We hope in thee, O God!

365 Resignation. S. M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 16, 2024

Self-reliance and God

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

Incarnation as sanctification

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

More love to thee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Incarnation as reconciliation

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

Becoming flesh

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

O for a heart of calm repose

363 Spohr. C. M.

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

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

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

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

<idle musing>
Well, after the last one occurring in over 2400 hymnals, this one only occurs in 28! I don't recall ever singing it. Looking at the hymnals it has occurred in, it appears to be in mainly Methodist-oriented ones. has no information about an author, so it truly seems to be anonymous.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The centrality of the incarnation

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

God's covenant fidelity

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

Nearer my God to thee!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Who's at the center?

The danger lies in a subjective and pragmatic approach to Christ in which it is not Christ himself, but the human subject who holds the focus of attention. Let us take someone, for example, who knows Christ because they value Christ for what he has done for them, because Christ satisfies their needs, and their christological knowledge is built up in that way, by value-judgements (A. Ritschl) or by judgements of experience (F. Schleiermacher, W. Herrmann). But if our knowledge of Christ is built up on the fact that we experience or value Christ as our redeemer, that we pass a judgement about Christ, that we make an existential decision in which we come to know and find ourselves, then our christology is essentially anthropocentric in character. Such a knowledge of Christ requires a prior store of human principles or tenets, categories or values, with which to measure out, in this or that coin, the market value of Christ. But true Christian faith can have nothing to do with such thirty pieces of silver, for they mean Christ's coming under human standards, the betrayal of the Son of God to a self-righteous humanity. Mankind and the human self are here set up as critics and evaluators of Christ and his work, and the judgements passed on Christ will naturally vary with the scale of values that mankind possesses. But all this presupposes that humanity is in possession of values capable of measuring or judging Christ and estimating his person: or to put it the other way round, it starts off by presupposing that Christ can be brought under our normal standards and criteria. It means in fact that Jesus Christ is little enough to be domesticated or subordinated to our own ideas and satisfactions.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 34

<idle musing>
Pretty earth-shattering idea, isn't it? I found myself doing a doubletake the first and second time I read it.
</idle musing>

Avoiding that suffering Messiah

Just as Judaism had consistently avoided the whole notion of a suffering Messiah, so the New Testament witnesses themselves reveal that they too shrank from it but were forced to acknowledge it by the historical interweaving of the particular history of Jesus and the whole history of Israel. It was therefore against their own piety that they were forced to interpret the passion of Jesus in terms of the suffering servant. History would not allow them to do anything else.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 17

Tozer for Tuesday

Modern evangelicalism has surrendered to the world, excused it, explained it, adopted it and imitated it. More young preachers imitate men in the world with a good deal more energy than they imitate the holy saints of God. They are not interested in the saints and in imitating the saints of God, but rather they are interested in imitating the world and taking it in.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 58

Rejoice ye pure in heart!

358 Marion. S. M. with Refrain

1. Rejoice ye pure in heart;
   Rejoice, give thanks, and sing;
   Your glorious banner wave on high,
   The cross of Christ your King.

   Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,
   Give thanks and sing.

2. Bright youth and snow crowned age,
   Strong men and maidens meek,
   Raise high your free, exultant song,
   God’s wondrous praises speak. [Refrain]

3. Yes onward, onward still
   With hymn, and chant and song,
   Through gate, and porch and columned aisle,
   The hallowed pathways throng. [Refrain]

4. Still lift your standard high,
   Still march in firm array,
   As warriors through the darkness toil,
   Till dawns the golden day. [Refrain]
                         Edward H. Plumpfire
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
This one, according to cyberhymnal, has eleven verses! Verse 4 is their verse 8, with the others following verse 3 above. Here's the whole thing:

4. With all the angel choirs,
   With all the saints of earth,
   Pour out the strains of joy and bliss,
   True rapture, noblest mirth. [Refrain]

5. Your clear hosannas raise;
   And alleluias loud;
   Whilst answering echoes upward float,
   Like wreaths of incense cloud. [Refrain]

6. With voice as full and strong
   As ocean’s surging praise,
   Send forth the hymns our fathers loved,
   The psalms of ancient days. [Refrain]

7. Yes, on through life’s long path,
   Still chanting as ye go;
   From youth to age, by night and day,
   In gladness and in woe. [Refrain]

9. At last the march shall end;
   The wearied ones shall rest;
   The pilgrims find their heavenly home,
   Jerusalem the blessed. [Refrain]

10. Then on, ye pure in heart!
   Rejoice, give thanks and sing!
   Your glorious banner wave on high,
   The cross of Christ your King. [Refrain]

11. Praise Him who reigns on high,
   The Lord whom we adore,
   The Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
   One God forevermore. [Refrain]

You might also enjoy the biography of the author. He was a skilled translator, serving on the committe for the Revised English Bible; he also translated things as diverse as the Greek tragedians and Dante. So, not just Greek and Latin, but Italian too!
</idle musing>

Monday, February 12, 2024

The centrality of the incarnation

Everything in Christianity centres on the incarnation of the Son of God, an invasion of God among men and women in time bringing and working out a salvation not only understandable by them in their own historical and human life and existence, but historically and concretely accessible to them on earth and in time, in the midst of their frailty, contingency, relativity and sin. Whatever christology does it cannot depreciate or minimise historical existence with its stark factuality. It stands or falls with the fact that here in our actual history and existence is the saviour God. The historical element is absolutely essential, for apart from it the whole mystery of Christ is dissolved into thin air, and the incarnation means nothing at all.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, 8

All of God AND all of man

The fact that Christ is all of God, or that all of God is in Christ, does not mean that there is nothing of man in him, but the opposite, that all of man is in him. Torrance used to explain that in the logic of grace, ‘All of grace does not mean nothing of man. All of grace means all of man.’ The knowledge that forgiveness and salvation is all of grace liberates us out of ourselves into union with Christ, freeing us to live fully and freely out of him. All of grace means all of man, just as the action of God in Christ means all of man in Christ.—Introduction to Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, xlvi

Joy is a fruit that will not grow

357 Elizabethtown. C. M.

1 Joy is a fruit that will not grow
   In nature's barren soil;
   All we can boast, till Christ we know,
   Is vanity and toil.

2 But where the Lord has planted grace,
   And made His glories known,
   There fruits of heavenly joy and peace
   Are found—and there alone.

3 A bleeding Saviour, seen by faith,
   A sense of pard'ning love,
   A hope that triumphs over death—
   Give joys like those above.

4 To take a glimpse within the veil,
   To know that God is mine—
   Are springs of joy that never fail,
   Unspeakable, divine!

5 These are the joys that satisfy
   And sanctify the mind;
   Which make the spirit mount on high,
   And leave the world behind.
                         John Newton
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Not one of Newton's more popular hymns. It only occurs in seventy-nine hymnals.
</idle musing>

Sunday, February 11, 2024

How happy are they…

356 Rapture. 6. 6. 9. D.

1 How happy are they,
   Who the Saviour obey,
   And have laid up their treasure above!
   Tongue cannot express
   The sweet comfort and peace
   Of a soul in its earliest love.

2 That sweet comfort was mine,
   When the favor divine
   I first found in the blood of the Lamb;
   When my heart it believ'd,
   O what joy I receiv'd,
   What a heaven in Jesus's name!

3 'Twas a heaven below
   My Redeemer to know;
   And the angels could do nothing more
   Than to fall at his feet,
   And the story repeat,
   And the lover of sinners adore.

4 Jesus all the day long
   Was my joy and my song;
   O that all his salvation might see!
   He hath loved me, I cried,
   He hath suffer'd and died,
   To redeem such a rebel as me.

5 Oh! the rapturous height
   Of that holy delight
   Which I felt in the life-giving blood!
   By my Saviour possessed,
   I was perfectly blest,
   As if fill'd with the fulness of God.
                         Charles Wesley
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
I don't recall ever singing this hymn, but it is in over 700 hymnals. I have to admit that the theology of this one is pretty thin for a hymn by Wesley. inserts two verses after verse 4:

5 On the wings of his love
   I was carry'd above
   All sin, and temptation, and pain;
   I could not believe
   That I ever should grieve
   That I ever should suffer again.

6 I rode on the sky,
   Freely justify'd I!
   Nor envy'd Elijah his seat:
   My soul mounted higher
   In a chariot of fire,
   And the moon it was under my feet.

</idle musing>

Saturday, February 10, 2024

The King of love my shepherd is

353 Dominus regit me. 8. 7. 8. 7.

1. The King of love my shepherd is,
   whose goodness faileth never.
   I nothing lack if I am his,
   and he is mine forever.

2. Where streams of living water flow,
   my ransomed soul he leadeth;
   and where the verdant pastures grow,
   with food celestial feedeth.

3. Perverse and foolish, oft I strayed,
   but yet in love he sought me;
   and on his shoulder gently laid,
   and home, rejoicing, brought me.

4. In death's dark vale I fear no ill,
   with thee, dear Lord, beside me;
   thy rod and staff my comfort still,
   thy cross before to guide me.

5. And so through all the length of days,
   thy goodness faileth never;
   Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise
   within thy house forever.
                         Henry W. Baker
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Interestingly, the United Methodist hymnal from 1989 adds a verse after verse 4:

5. Thou spreadst a table in my sight;
   thy unction grace bestoweth;
   and oh, what transport of delight
   from thy pure chalice floweth!
</idle musing>

Friday, February 09, 2024

The nature of faith

Faith involves being taken out of our individualistic and self-enclosed modes of existence into genuine personal relation with God and with all others in the new creation of Christ.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, xliv

Can I be dismayed?

352 Day of Rest. 7. 6. 7. 6. D.

1 In heavenly love abiding,
   no change my heart shall fear;
   and safe is such confiding,
   for nothing changes here:
   the storm may roar without me,
   my heart may low be laid;
   but God is round about me,
   and can I be dismayed?

2 Wherever he may guide me,
   no want shall turn me back;
   my Shepherd is beside me,
   and nothing can I lack:
   his wisdom ever waketh,
   his sight is never dim,
   he knows the way he taketh,
   and I will walk with him.

3 Green pastures are before me,
   which yet I have not seen;
   bright skies will soon be o'er me,
   where darkest clouds have been;
   my hope I cannot measure,
   my path to life is free;
   my Saviour has my treasure,
   and he will walk with me.
                         Anna L. Waring
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Thursday, February 08, 2024

A static God? Not the biblical God

There is no spaceless and timeless knowledge of God. We cannot therefore think of a static eternal God apart from the living God who actively makes himself known to us in time and space in the history of Israel and above all in Christ. Abstract western or eastern philosophical views of God are very different from the God who makes himself personally known in word and action in the biblical story.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, xl

Sometimes a light surprises

351 Petition. 7. 6. 7. 6. D.

1 Sometimes a light surprises
   the Christian while he sings;
   it is the Lord who rises
   with healing in His wings;
   when comforts are declining,
   He grants the soul again
   a season of clear shining,
   to cheer it after rain.

2 In holy contemplation,
   we sweetly then pursue
   the theme of God’s salvation,
   and find it ever new.
   Set free from present sorrow,
   we cheerfully can say,
   “E'en let the unknown morrow
   bring with it what it may.”

3 "It can bring with it nothing,
   but He will bear us through;
   who gives the lilies clothing
   will clothe His people, too;
   beneath the spreading heavens
   no creature but is fed;
   and He who feeds the ravens
   will give His children bread."

4 Though vine nor fig tree neither
   their wonted fruit should bear,
   though all the field should wither,
   nor flocks nor herds be there,
   yet God the same abiding,
   His praise shall tune my voice;
   for while in Him confiding,
   I cannot but rejoice.
                         William Cowper
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

The hypostatic union (sort of) explained

For Torrance, the union of God and man in Christ is the basic fact of the Christian faith. The ‘hypostatic union’ (from hypostasis, the Greek word used for ‘person’) is the union of God and man in the one person of Christ, or the doctrine of ‘two natures (divine and human) in one person’. The hypostatic union established in the incarnation means that there is now a permanent union of God and man in the person of Christ. In him, in his living person, God and man are now united for all time. That means that Jesus, in his one person, is the living bond between God and man, the living heart of revelation and reconciliation and indeed himself the fact of revelation and reconciliation.—T. F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, xxxiv

How tedious and tasteless the hours

349 Contrast. 8. 8. 8. 8. 8. 8. 8. 8.

1. How tedious and tasteless the hours
   When Jesus no longer I see;
   Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flowers,
   Have all lost their sweetness to me;
   The midsummer sun shines but dim,
   The fields strive in vain to look gay.
   But when I am happy in Him,
   December’s as pleasant as May.

2. His name yields the richest perfume,
   And sweeter than music His voice;
   His presence disperses my gloom,
   And makes all within me rejoice.
   I should, were He always thus nigh,
   Have nothing to wish or to fear;
   No mortal as happy as I,
   My summer would last all the year.

3. Content with beholding His face,
   My all to His pleasure resigned,
   No changes of season or place
   Would make any change in my mind:
   While blessed with a sense of His love,
   A palace a toy would appear;
   All prisons would palaces prove,
   If Jesus would dwell with me there.

4. Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine,
   If Thou art my sun and my song,
   Say, why do I languish and pine?
   And why are my winters so long?
   O drive these dark clouds from the sky,
   Thy soul cheering presence restore;
   Or take me to Thee up on high,
   Where winter and clouds are no more.
                         John Newton
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
Sure sounds like the dark night of the soul to me!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Implications of the Trinity

Because Jesus Christ is God, he not only makes God known but what he does is the work of God. His word and deed is the word and deed of God. His love and compassion is the love and compassion of the Father. When he forgives that is the very forgiveness of God. This is likewise a point on which Torrance lays immense stress, the identity between the act of Jesus and the act of the Father. What he does is what God does. Torrance would often say, ‘There is no God behind the back of Jesus’. In other words, there is no other God than the one we see in Jesus and no act of God other than the act of Jesus. The word and act of Jesus and of the Father are identical. The deity of Jesus is therefore the guarantee that the reconciliation we see and receive in him is the reconciliation of God himself.—Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ, xxxi

Tozer for Tuesday

So the Holy Spirit gets into the benediction and verse three of hymn number nine. Further than that, the Holy Spirit is not necessary to the church; we have arranged it so that He is not required. He has been displaced by what we call programming and by social activity.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 55

Jesus, the very thought of Thee (Bernard of Clairvaux)

348 St. Agnew. C. M.

1. Jesus, the very thought of Thee
   With sweetness fills the breast;
   But sweeter far Thy face to see,
   And in Thy presence rest.

2. Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
   Nor can the memory find
   A sweeter sound than Thy blest name,
   O Savior of mankind!

3. O hope of every contrite heart,
   O joy of all the meek,
   To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
   How good to those who seek!

4. But what to those who find? Ah, this
   Nor tongue nor pen can show;
   The love of Jesus, what it is,
   None but His loved ones know.

5. Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
   As Thou our prize will be;
   Jesus be Thou our glory now,
   And through eternity.
                         Authorship uncertain
                         Ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux
                         Tr. by Edward Caswall
                         The Methodist Hymnal 1939 edition

<idle musing>
As is usual with these older hymns, there are a variety of verses in the various hymnals. Cyberhymnal adds these:

6. O Jesus, King most wonderful
   Thou Conqueror renowned,
   Thou sweetness most ineffable
   In whom all joys are found!

7. When once Thou visitest the heart,
   Then truth begins to shine,
   Then earthly vanities depart,
   Then kindles love divine.

8. O Jesus, light of all below,
   Thou fount of living fire,
   Surpassing all the joys we know,
   And all we can desire.

9. Jesus, may all confess Thy name,
   Thy wondrous love adore,
   And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
   To seek Thee more and more.

10. Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
   Thee may we love alone,
   And ever in our lives express
   The image of Thine own.

11. O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
   Of angel worlds above;
   Thy name is music to the heart,
   Inflaming it with love.

12. Celestial sweetness unalloyed,
   Who eat Thee hunger still;
   Who drink of Thee still feel a void
   Which only Thou canst fill.

13. O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
   Which unto Thee we send;
   To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
   To Thee our prayers ascend.

14. Abide with us, and let Thy light
   Shine, Lord, on every heart;
   Dispel the darkness of our night;
   And joy to all impart.

15. Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
   The virgin’s holy Son,
   All might and praise and glory be,
   While endless ages run.

Although the added verses are really good, it seems a bit long to be sung regularly :)
</idle musing>