Pray for PRAISE

J.I. Packer offers  Horatius Bonar’s prayer for praise in his book Rediscovering Holiness. Peek below for thoughtful adoration.

Fill thou my life, O lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy being and thy ways.

Not for the lip of praise alone,
Nor e’en the praising heart,
I ask, but for a life made up
Of praise in every part;

Praise in the common things of life,
Its goings out and in;
Praise in each duty and each deed,
However small and mean.

Fill every part of me with praise;
Let all my being speak
Of thee and of thy love, O Lord,
Poor though I be and weak.

So shalt thou, Lord, from me, e’en me,
Receive the glory due
And so shall I begin on earth
The song for ever new.

The life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration…No blend of zeal, passion, self-denial, discipline, orthodoxy, and effort adds up to holiness where praise is lacking.” J.I. Packer

Habakkuk’s Prayer of Awe

J.I. Packer’s Rediscovering Holiness

Flyboys

I finished Flyboys by James Bradley on Monday, which is an amazing story of the depravity and heroics of men and women in war. Please don’t get this confused with Flyboys the movie. No comparison! Warning if you get nauseated easy this will be a tough read, but well worth it. I have just started reading J.I. Packer’sjpacker Rediscovering Holiness, which has been quite refreshing. Similar to sliding into a cold mountain stream  during the summer (Stone Mountain State Park)—very cold, but so refreshing. Here are the chapter titles:

What Holiness Is, and Why It Matters
Exploring Salvation: Why Holiness Is Necessary
Appreciating Salvation: Where Holiness Begins
Holiness: The Panoramic View
Growing Downward to Grow Up: The Life of Repentance
Growing into Christ-likeness: Healthy Christian Experience
Growing Strong: The Empowered Christian Life
Hard Gaining: The Discipline of Endurance

Letters to a Diminished Church Part 6

letterstoadiminishedchurch Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers

Creed or Chaos? (Chapter 6)

“It is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality unless they are prepared to take  their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters
enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism.” (49)

“The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.” (49)

“Finally, there are the more-or-less instructed churchgoers, who know all the arguments about divorce and auricular confession and communion in two kinds, but are about as well equipped to do battle on fundamentals against a Marxian atheist or a Wellsian agnostic as a boy with a peashooter facing a fan-fire of machine guns. Theologically, this county is at present in a state of utter chaos,…,and rapidly degenerating into the flight from reason and the death of hope…there are signs of a very great eagerness, especially among the younger people, to find a creed to which they can give wholehearted adherence.” (50)

” ‘Take away theology and give us some nice religion’ has been a popular slogan for so long that we are likely to accept it, without inquiring whether religion without theology has any meaning. And however unpopular I may make myself, I shall and will affirm that the reason why the churches are discredited today is not that they are too bigoted about theology, but that they have run away from theology.” (51)

“…if we really want a Christian society, we must teach Christianity, and that it is absolutely impossible to teach Christianity without teaching Christian dogma…to put before you a list of half a dozen or so main doctrinal points that the world most especially needs to have drummed into its ears at this moment —doctrines forgotten or misinterpreted but which (if they are true as the Church maintains them to be) are cornerstones in that rational structure of human society that is the alternative to world chaos.” (51)

“But if Christian dogma is irrelevant to life, to what, in Heaven’s name, is it relevant?—since religious dogma is in fact nothing but a statement of doctrines concerning the nature of life and the universe. If Christian ministers really believe it is only an intellectual game for theologians and has no bearing upon human life, it is no wonder that their congregations are ignorant, bored, and bewildered.” (52)

“That you cannot have Christian principles without Christ is becoming increasingly clear because their validity as principles depends on Christ’s authority; and as we have seen, the totalitarian states, having ceased to believe in Christ’s authority, are logically quite justified in repudiating  Christian principles. If the average man is required to believe in Christ and accept His authority for Christian principles, it is surely relevant to inquire who or what Christ is, and why His authority should be accepted. But the question, ‘What think ye of Christ?’ lands the average man at once in the very knottiest kind of dogmatic riddle.” (53)

She has an absolute amazing ability with language.

“It is not true at all that dogma is hopelessly irrelevant to the life and thought of the average man.  What is true is that ministers of the Christian religion often assert that it is, present it for consideration as though it were, and, in fact, by their faulty exposition of it make it so. The central dogma of the Incarnation is that by which relevance stands or falls…It is, in the strictest sense, necessary to the salvation of relevance that a man should believe rightly the Incarnation of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Unless he believes rightly, there is not the faintest reason why he should believe at all…If the average man is going to be interested in Christ at all, it is the dogma that will provide the interest.  The trouble is that, in nine cases out of ten, he has never been offered the dogma. What he has been offered is a set of technical theological terms that nobody has taken the trouble to translate into language relevant to ordinary life.” (54)

“Teacher and preachers never, I think, make it sufficiently clear that dogmas are not a set of arbitrary regulations invented a priori by a committee of theologians enjoying a bout of all-in dialectical wrestling. Most of them were hammered out under pressure of urgent practical necessity to provide an answer to heresy. And heresy is, as I have tried to show, largely the expression of opinion of the untutored average man, trying to grapple with the problems of the universe at the point where they begin to interfere with daily life and thought.” (57)

“I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it…We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus, meek and mild, was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stone, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference; and he said in so many word that what he brought with him was fire and sword.” (58)

“I shall say that if the Church is to make any impression on the modern mind she will have to preach Christ and the cross.” (60)

In regards to the doctrine of work…
“Nothing has so deeply discredited the Christian Church as her squalid submission to the economic theory of society…the fundamental question waiting to be dealt with, and that is, what men in a Christian society ought to think and feel about work…The fallacy is that work is not the expression of man’s creative engery in the service of society, but only something he does in order to obtain money and leisure. A very able surgeon put it to me like this: ‘What is happening,’ he said, ‘is that nobody works for the sake of getting the thing done. the result of the work is a by-product; the aim of the work is to make money to do something else. Doctors practice medicine not primarily to relieve suffering, but to make a living—the cure of the patient is something that happens on the way. Lawyers accept briefs not because they have a passion for justice, but because the law is the profession that enables them to live’…If man’s fulfillment of his nature is to be found in the full epxression of his divine creativeness, then we urgently need a Christian doctrine of work, which shall provide, not only for proper conditions of employment, but also that the work shall be such as a man may do with his whole heart, and that he shall do it for the very work’s sake.” (69,70)

Letters to a Diminished Church Part 5

letterstoadiminishedchurch Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers

Creative Mind (Chapter 5)

“According to one great mathematician: ‘God made the integers; all else is the work of man.’ And, according to many mathematicians, number is, as it were, the fundamental characteristic of the universe. But what is number, other than a relation between like things—like groupings of atoms–like unities? We say that we see six eggs. Certainly we see egg, egg, egg, egg, egg, egg in a variety of arrangements; but can we see six—apart from the eggs?…There has perhaps never been a greater act of the creative imagination than the creation of the concept of a number as a thing-in-itself. Yet, with that concept, the mathematician can work, handling pure number as if it possessed independent existence and producing results applicable to things measurable and observable.” (35)

“…: the perception of likenesses, the relating of like things to form a new unity, and the words as if.” (36)

“It will be noticed that the words of that line—‘The singing masons building roofs of gold’—(mine–referring to bees) are far more powerful in combination than they are separately. Yet each word brings with it a little accumulation of power of its own–for each word is itself a separate unity and a separate creative act….” (38)

“Two images are fused into a single world of power by a cunning perception of a set of likenesses between unlike things. That is not all: in its context, the line belongs to a passage that welds the fused image again into yet another unity, to present the picture of the perfect state:

For so work the honeybees,
Creatures that by a rule in nature teach
The act of order to a people kingdom.

This is not scientist’s truth; it is poet’s truth, like the truth latent in that unscientific word, quicksilver. It is the presentation of a unity among like things, producing a visible, measurable effect as if the unity were itself measurable.” (39)

“Perhaps I ought to add a caution about words…It is as dangerous for people unaccustomed to handling words and unacquainted with their technique to tinker about with these heavily charged nuclei of emotional power as it would be for me to burst into a laboratory and play about with a powerful electromagnet or other machine highly charged with electrical force…Similarly the irresponsible use of highly electric words is very strongly to be deprecated” (46)

“At the present time, we have a population that is literate…but owing to the emphasis placed on scientific and technical training at the expense of the humanities, very few of our people have been taught to understand and handle language as an instrument of power. This means that, in this country alone, forty million innocents or thereabouts are wandering inquisitively about the laboratory, enthusiastically pulling handles and pushing buttons, thereby releasing uncontrollable currents of electric speech, with results that astonish themselves and the world. Nothing is more intoxicating than a sense of power: the demagogue who can sway crowds, the journalist who can push up the sales of his paper to the two million mark (blog nowdays), the playwright who can plunge an audience into  an orgy of facile emotion, the parliamentary candidate who is carried to the top of the poll on a flood of meaningless rhetoric, the ranting preacher, the advertising salesman of material or spiritual commodities, are all playing perilously and irresponsibly with the power of words, and are equally dangerous whether they are cynically unscrupulous or have fallen under the spell of their own eloquence and become the victims of their own propaganda. For the great majority of those whom they are addressing have no skill in assessing the value of words and are as helpless under verbal attack as were the citizens of Rotterdam against assault from the air.” (46-47)

“It is right that the scientist should come to terms with the humanities; for in daily life scientist also are common men, and the flight from language will never avail to carry them out of its field of power. They must learn to handle that instrument as they handle other instruments, with a full comprehension of what it is, and what it does; and in so doing they will come to recognize it as a source of delight as well as of danger. The language of the imagination can never be inert; as with every other living force, you must learn to handle it or it will handle you. ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.'” (48)

Letters to a Diminished Church Part 4

letterstoadiminishedchurch Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers

The Image of God (Chapter 4)

“It is observable that in the passage leading up to the statement about man, he has given no detailed information about God. Looking at man, he sees in him something essentially divine, but when we turn back to see what he says about the original upon which the ‘image’ of God was modeled, we find only the single assertion, ‘God created.’ The characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and ability to make things.” (24)

“All language about God must, as St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, necessarily be analogical…The fact is that all language about everything is analogical; we think in a series of metaphors. We can explain nothing in terms of itself, but only in terms of other things. Even mathematics can express itself in terms of itself only so long as it deals with an ideal system of pure numbers; the moment it begins to deal with numbers of things it is forced back into the language of analogy.” (25)

“To complain that man measures God by his own experience is a waste of time; man measures everything by his own experience; he has no other yardstick.” (26)

Examples of analogy
God as king
God as Father

“When we use these expressions, we know perfectly well that they are metaphors and analogies; what is more, we know perfectly well where the metaphor begins and ends…Ou r own common sense assures us that the metaphor is intended to be drawn from the best kind of father acting within a certain limited sphere of behavior, and is to be applied only to a well-defined number of the divine attributes.”

“The analogical statements of experience that I want to examine are those used by the Christian creeds about God the Creator.” (28)

“It is the artist who, more than other men, is able to create something out of nothing. A whole artistic work is immeasurably more than the sum of its parts.” (30)

“Outside our own experience of procreation and creation, we can form no notion of how anything comes into being.” (32)

“Poets have, indeed, often communicated in their own mode of expression truths identical with the theologian’s truths; but just because of the difference in the modes of expression, we often fail to see the identity of the statements.The artist does not recognize that the phrases of the creeds purport to be observations of fact about the creative mind as such, including his own; while the theologian, limiting the application of the phrases to the divine Maker, neglects to inquire of the artists what light he can throw upon them from his own immediate apprehension of truth. The confusion is as though two men were to argue fiercely whether there was a river in a certain district or whether, on the contrary, there was a measurable volume of H2O moving in a particular direction with an ascertainable velocity, neither having any suspicion that they were describing the same phenomenon.” (32)

“Our minds are not infinite; and as the volume of the world’s knowledge increases, we tend more and more to confine ourselves, each to his special sphere of interest and to the specialized metaphor belonging to it. The analytic bias of the last three centuries has immensely encouraged this tendency, and it is now very difficult for the artist to speak the language of the theologican or the scientist the language of either. But the attempt must be made; and there are signs everywhere that the human mind is once more beginning to move toward a synthesis of experience.” (33)

Letters to a Diminished Church Part 3

letterstoadiminishedchurch Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers

The Dogma is the Drama (Chapter 3)

15 & 16 – “It would not perhaps be altogether surprising if, in this nominally Christian country, where the Creeds are daily recited, there were a number of people who knew all about Christian doctrine and disliked it. It is more startling to discover how many people there are who heartily dislike and despise Christianity without having the faintest notion what it is.”

Sayers describes her play The Zeal of Thy House
“…involves a dramatic presentation of a few fundamental Christian dogmas–in particular, the application to human affairs of the doctrine of the Incarnation. That the Church believed Christ to be in any real sense God, or that the eternal word was supposed to be associated in any way with the word of creation; that Christ was held to be at the same time man in any real sense of the word; that the doctrine of the Trinity could be considered to have any relation to fact or any bearing on psychological truth; that the church considered pride to be sinful, or indeed took notice of any sin beyond the more disreputable sins  of the flesh—all these things were looked upon as astonishing and revolutionary novelties, imported into the faith by the feverish imagination of a playwright. I protested in vain against this flattering tribute to my powers of invention, referring my inquirers to the creed, to the gospels, and to the offices of the Church; I insisted that if my play were dramatic it was so, not in spite of the dogma, but because of it—, in short, the dogma was the drama. The explanation was, however, not well received; it was felt that if there were anything attractive in Christian philosophy I must have put it there myself.”

Sayers’ in regard to us following Christ…

20 – “Perhaps we are not following Christ all the way or in quite the right sprit. We are likely, for example, to be a little sparing of the palms and hosannas. We are chary of wielding the scourge of small cords, lest we should offend somebody or interfere with trade. We do not furnish up our wits to disentangle knotty questions about Sunday observance and tribute money, nor hasten to sit at the feet of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. We pass hastily over disquieting jests about making friends with the mammon of unrighteousness and alarming observations about bringing not peace but a sword; nor do we distinguish ourselves by the graciousness with which we sit at meat with publicans and sinners. Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore–and this in the name of one who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which we passed through the world like a flame. She continues “Let us, in heaven’s name, drag out the divine drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much worse for the pious–others will pass into the kingdom of heaven before them. If all men are offended because of Christ, let them be offended; but where is the sense of their being offended at something that is not Christ and is nothing like him? We do him singularly little honor by watering down his personality till it could not offend a fly. Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ. It is the dogma that is the drama–not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to lovingkindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death–but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.”

Letters to a Diminished Church Part 2

Dorothy Sayers

Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy Sayers

What Do We Believe? (Chapter 2)

9 – “In ordinary times we get along surprisingly well, on the whole, without ever discovering what our faith really is. If, now and again, this remote and academic problem is so unmannerly as to thrust its way into our minds, there are plenty of things we can do to drive the intruder away. We can get the car out or go to a party or to the cinema or read a detective story or have a row with a district council or write a letter to the papers about the habits of the nightjar or Shakespeare’s  use of nautical metaphor. Thus we build up a defense mechanism against self-questioning because, to tell the truth, we are very much afraid of ourselves.

10 – “Is there indeed anything you value more than life, or are you making a virtue of necessity? What do you believe? Is your faith a comfort to you under the present circumstances…we shall do well to reply boldly that a faith is not primarily a comfort, but a truth about ourselves. What we in fact believe is not necessarily the theory we most desire or admire. It is the thing that, consciously or unconsciously, we take for granted and act on.”

11 – I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things. “That is the thundering assertion with which we start; that the great fundamental quality that makes God, and us with him, what we are is creative activity…He is God the Father and Maker. And, by implication, man is most god-like and most himself when he is occupied in creation. And by this statement we assert further that the will and power to make is an absolute value, the ultimate good-in-itself, self-justified and self-explanatory.”

11 – “Our worst trouble today is our feeble hold on creation. To sit down and let ourselves be spoon-fed with the ready-made is to lose our grip on our only true life and our only real selves.”

12 – “The creative will pressed on to its end, regardless of what it may suffer by the way. It does not choose suffering, but it will not avoid it, and must expect it. We say that it is love, and sacrifices itself for what it loves; and this is true, provided we understand what we mean by sacrifice. Sacrifice is what it looks like to other people, but to that-which-loves I think it does not appear so. When one really cares, the self is forgotten, and the sacrifice becomes only a part of the activity.”