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> 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. 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:

   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

   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:

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

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. 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> 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.

   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

Friday, June 07, 2024

Grace. What in the world is it?

More fundamentally, what do we mean by “grace”? In the Christian tradition, the nature of “grace” has been the subject of intense controversy and polemical redefinition; the term comes to us already over-determined by particular connotations. It is the strategy of this book to place the relevant terms and concepts, both those of Paul and those of his fellow Jews, within the category of “gift.” This is not to say that all the vocabulary we take into our purview is best translated as “gift”: in some cases, even for χάρις, that is manifestly not the case. It is rather to claim that the conceptual field we are studying, with its varied terminology, is best captured by the anthropological category of gift. This category is broad, but covers a sphere of voluntary, personal relations that are characterized by goodwill in the giving of some benefit or favor and that elicit some form of reciprocal return that is both voluntary and necessary for the continuation of the relationship. Hence, our study is confined to no single term (and certainly not to χάρις); its focus is on concepts, not words. Among other things, by approaching this topic through the category of gift we hope to gain some analytical distance from the specific theological meanings of “grace,” even where we continue to use that term.—J. M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift 2–3

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Relax and smile!

Thus, given that we live under a smiling, relaxed, all-forgiving, and all-powerful God, we too should relax and smile, at least once in a while, because, irrespective of anything that has ever happened or will ever happen, in the end, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and every manner of being shall be well.”—The Holy Longing, 241

<idle musing>
That's the final snippet from this book. I hope you enjoyed it and found some beneficial thoughts in it. I know I did.

Next up is John Barclay, Paul and the Gift. It's a monster of a book, but extremely interesting.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Projecting God

In the past, our concept of God was often too much a projection of our own anger and incapacity to forgive each other. Hence, we tended to paint God as a punishing God, a God with a great recording book within which every one of our sins was written and who subsequently demanded some kind of payment for every one of those sins. He was a God who had drawn up some very strict criteria (“the narrow way”) for salvation. Hellfire awaited those who could not morally Vault over that rather lofty high-jump bar. We lived in fear of that God.—The Holy Longing, 238

The four types of church-goers

The church of Christ includes at least four classes. There is the average church person who comes all the time but never is converted. They come and seem to enjoy it and have friends among the Christian people, but they themselves have never passed from death unto life. That is one class.

There is another class, those who are trained to be Christians but are not. They appear as Christians because they have learned the language and are able to perform certain things, giving every- body the impression that they are in fact Christians. Usually, you find them in charge of all of the activities of the local church.

Then there are true Christians, but they are carnal. They have never developed into a mature, functioning Christian. They are where they were when they were saved. Thankfully, there are also those who are true Christians and are spiritual. Unfortunately, this seems to be the minority in most churches.—A.W. Tozer, Reclaiming Christianity, 120

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Forget 80/20; it's 90/10

Sobriety is only 10 percent about alcohol; it’s 90 percent about honesty.

The Gospels would essentially agree with that assessment, spiritual health is 90 percent about honesty. What is best within the secular world would also agree with that; despite our moral and emotional struggles, we still identify integrity with honesty.—The Holy Longing, 229

Monday, June 03, 2024

Practicing atheists

Twenty-five years ago, while teaching at Yale, Henri Nouwen had already made the statement that, even among seminarians, the dominant consciousness was agnostic. God essentially had no place, even among people talking about religion and preparing for Christian ministry.—The Holy Longing, 216