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.”

Fit Bodies Fat Minds

Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think  And What To Do About It by Os Guinness

An intriguing book with superb insights from one of the most fascinating minds in Christianity. Guinness examines the inconsistencies of our current culture attempting to love God with their whole mind while titillating their minds with entertainment. Guinness is adamant that for one to love with all their being they must exercise their mind in knowing Christ and making Him known. I have plugged in a few paragraphs for one to view the clarity of a Christian mind abandoned from the world.

Pluralism

52 –  “Tolerance is the virtue of those who don’t believe anything.” G. K. Chesterton

53 – “…historian Martin E. Marty’s description, America is religiously speaking a ‘nation of behavers’ rather than believers. Truth is commonly regarded as divisive, clarity of distinctions is not prized, and serious thinking is reckoned unnecessary…Modern evangelical thinking is riddled with relativism. But only a part can be blamed on secularism and the secularity of the modern world. The deeper, older part—rooted in a bland tolerance that holds no convictions and an esteem for good behavior over sound doctrine—is our responsibility alone.”

Pragmatism

55 – “Pragmatism, many seem to believe, is all gains and no losses.”

An Idiot Culture

74 – “Elite Christian thinking has not only become too secularized but too specialized. The resulting specialization and professionalization of knowledge creates a world where only other specialists can understand specialized knowledge. Expert knowledge therefore comes to be pursued as an end in itself. A gap is created between experts and ordinary people—and people who are experts in one field are often ordinary people in the field next door. Worse still, Christian thinkers often become closer to the ‘cultured despisers’ of the faith than to their fellow Christians. And worst of all, such specialization fosters a myth of expertise and professionalism that creates dependency and becomes disabling for anyone but the professional. The point is surely clear. An analysis of the problems of popular Christian thinking must not be mistaken for the assertion that elite Christian thinking is any better than popular thinking. Modern Christian intellectuals pose the danger of hubris just as much as gnostic intellectuals did in the second century. As Irenaeus put it then, ‘it does not follow because men are endowed with greater and less degrees of intelligence, that they should therefore change the subject matter of the faith itself.’ Our urgent need is for reformation at both the highbrow and lowbrow levels–including ‘a bridging of the brows’ that allows deep truth to be intelligible and practicable to all God’s people in a whole and healthy way.”

Amusing Ourselves to Death

77 – “Television’s real potency, therefore, is its blending of instancy and image. Television’s real problem, however, is that through this blending entertainment becomes the master-style of television. The problem, Postman stresses, is not that television has too much entertaining subject matter, but that all subject matter on television is presented as entertainment….Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas; they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities, and commercials…Again, the deepest problem is not the mindlessness of television but how television transforms even the life of the mind into entertainment.”

78 – TV  discourse has a bias against understanding, TV discourse has a bias against responsibility, TV discourse has a bias against memory, TV  discourse has a bias against rationality, TV discourse has a bias against truth and accuracy.

All Consuming Images

93 – “preoccupation with style is a major ingredient of the emptiness in modern culture. Thus it affects the drive to sex and violence, which is the prime compensation for emptiness in a culture that has only one sin left—boredom. The modern world that is crammed with images and frantic with changing styles is a hollow world, but is too dazzled to see it. As I have argued elsewhere, hollowness is the disintegrative disease of weightlessness brought on by our crisis of cultural authority.”

The Humiliation of the Word

95 – “Images now dominate words—the visual over the verbal, entertainment over exposition, and the artificial (including virtual reality) over the real and the natural.”

95 – “Today…images blot out nature. The world of fields, hedges, wood, and rivers has been replaced by a paper jungle of photographs, reproductions, signs, billboards, bumper stickers, comic books, charts, diagrams, labels, logos, trademarks, advertisements, and so on. Like it or not, this paper jungle is our total environment, our omnipresent way of life, our daily visual diet. Put more accurately, it is the nonstop cultural bombardment that assaults us.”

97 – “Atheist though he was, Asimov’s conclusion was more biblical than many Christians who reflect on the topic today. ‘There is a fundamental rule, then. In the beginning was the word (as the Gospel of John says in a different connection), and in the end will be the word. The word is immortal….But this stress on words is only because words are what we are. Created by a word-speaking God, human beings are word-speaking people. Unless words have meaning, everything becomes chaos. Unless words have power, everything becomes barren. In Hebrew, the ten commandments are the ‘the ten words.’ For the Jews, the heroism of Moses is partly that of an instinctive man of action who was not ‘a man of words,’ but whom God transformed into ‘the man who learned to speak.’

98 – “Historian Harry Stout of Yale University estimates that the average New Englander heard seven thousand sermons in a lifetime–about fifteen thousand hours of concentrated listening. There were no competing voices, he points out, so the sermon was an even more influential medium than television is today.”

98 – “…words are integral to the drama of revelation and salvation—in direct contrast to images and sight. The original unity of word and vision has been ruptured by sin, so now God is unapproachable by sight (‘No man shall see me and live’). Sight is now always associated with sin and hearing with obedience. Sight is also expressly linked to idolatry….Of course, the Bible is not anti-visual. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Word and vision are complementary and inseperable; words have power because they have pictures in them. Seeing is thoroughly proper—that is, when it is limited to that which can be shown. And hearing is never superior to sight. It is merely sufficient and necessary at a time when we have no sight of God without holiness.”

99 – “The link between images and idolatry is critical. Camille Paglia openly celebrates the triumph of the image as the return of paganism and idolatry–‘We are steeped in idolatry. The sacred is everywhere. I don’t see any secularism. We’ve returned to the age of polytheism. It’s a rebirth of the pagan gods.’ But too many evangelicals forget the biblical link between image, sin, and idolatry. They do not realize how our image-dominant culture is both essentially religious and decisively harmful to Christian notions of truth and falsehood.”

Cannibals of PoMo

105 – “In contrast, postmodernism announces itself as a break with modernism just as modernism did earlier with tradition. Where modernism was a manifesto of human self-confidence and self congratulation, postmodernism is a confession of modesty, if not despair. There is not truth, only truths. There are no principles, only preferences. There is no grand reason, only reasons. There is no privileged civilization (or culture, beliefs, norms, and styles), only a multiplicity of cultures, beliefs, periods, and styles. There is no universal justice, only interests and the competition of interest groups. There is no grand narrative of human progress, only countless stories on where people and their cultures are now. There is no simple reality or any grand objectivity of universal, detached knowledge, only a ceaseless representation of everything in terms of everything else.”

107 – “Modernism and postmodernism both have their insights, but both are equal dangers and equally inadequate half-truths. ”

107 – “Unquestionably the central impact of postmodernism on popular thinking is its philosophical reinforcement of the devouring, cannibalistic character of modern consumer culture.”

110 – “But perhaps postmodernism’s main challenge to the church is to our central mission as Christians: following Christ and making him Lord in all of life. The church cannot become simply another customer center that offers designer religion and catalog spirituality to the hoppers and shoppers of the modern world. Followers of Christ are custodians of the faith passed on down the running centuries. Never must we allow anyone outside or inside the church to become cannibals who devour the truth and meaning of this priceless heritage of faith. Letting the church be the church and the gospel be the gospel is integral to letting God be God.”

Real, Reel, or Virtually Real

131 – “The theology, politics, and cultural style are different, bu the heresy, blasphemy, and weirdness are the same. Paganism is growing up in our circles. A horror of great darkness is welling up in our own house. Yet judging by way heresy is published and marketed by respected evangelical houses and watched and read by millions of good evangelical viewers and readers, we evangelicals love to have it so. And this is only the beginning of the degradation of evangelical thinking that is coming unless we experience reformation.”

131 – “Our task, as followers of Christ, is not easy but it is clear: The challenge, in St. Paul’s words, is to ‘not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Thus the currents are swift and the pressures strong, but a focus on the negative is far from negative. It is the first step to the most glorious positive of all, having the mind of Christ.”

Let My People Think

132 – “…It is surely the easiest thing to look for what we lost where we lost it—except that humans characteristically either forget what we lost or look for it anywhere except where it can be found. This is certainly true of the Christian mind, or, more simply, just of wisdom. Exactly what it is, where we lost it, and how we can find it again are urgent but basic questions.”

133 – Neil Postman argues “Watching political commercials is hazardous to the intellectual health of the community…the television commercial has mounted the most serious assault on capitalist ideology since the publication of Das Kaptial.”

133 – “We evangelicals need to confess individually and collectively that we have betrayed the Great Commandment to love God with out minds. We need to confess that we have given ourselves up to countless forms of unutterable folly.”

135 – “First, thinking Christianly is not thinking by Christians. As a moment’s thought will show, it is perfectly possible to be a Christian and yet to think in a sub-Christian or even an anti-Chrisian way. Jesus said bluntly to his disciple Peter, ‘Away with you, Satan. You think as men think, not as God thinks. Second, thinking Christianly is not simply thinking about Christian topics….Third, thinking Christianly should not be confused with adopting a ‘Christian line’ on every issue….developing a Christian line is impossible without first developing a Christian mind…Expressed positively, thinking Christianly is thinking by Christians about anything and everything in a consistently Christian way—in a manner that is shaped, directed, and restrained by the truth of God’s Word and God’s Spirit.”

137 – “What matters above all–whatever term we use—is that the idea and practice be kept simple, practical, and biblical. When all is said and done, the points to love and obey God by loving him with our minds. For the Christian mind is a combination of intellectual light and spiritual ardor that, in Dorothy L. Sayers’s term, is simply the ‘mind in love’ with God.”

139 – “Other have made the equal but opposite mistake—of seeking to escape foolishness altogether, including the neccesary scandal of the ‘foolbearer.’ Thus a common but false motivation for evangelical engagement in higher education is an overwhelming desire for respectability–as if academic success were a milestone of social mobility on the long, painful climb out of the intellectual slums of fundamentalism. Yet our Lord himself was dismissed as ‘mad’ and ‘posessed,’ and the Apostle Paul was told by the Roman governor Festus that he was ‘out of his mind’ because of his Christian thinking. We can expect no less.

143 – “A fourth misconception concerns the idea that thinking Christianly is a form of uniformity–in other words, that if we all think Christianly we will all think the same way. When this happens, the goal of thinking Christianly collapses into a frantic search for the one particular correct way of thinking or acting. The result is the fallacy of ‘particuluarism,’ the uniformity of a particular ‘Christianly Correcty’ way of thinking…But particularism is equally extreme and equally fallacious because it denies two requirements of thinking Christianly that oppose all uniformity: the importance of diversity and the fact of human fallibility…By virtue of being created in the image of God, all of us as human beings naturally desire coherent meaning. But by virtue of the Fall, we also have an added drive to debase coherence into systems of meaning that are centered on ourselves and closed to God. Thus even as Christians we are prone toward turning faith in God into a system of thought about God. In so doing we remove all mystery, tie up all the loose ends with our human logic, and finally reduce even Christ to being a mere part of our system of ideas…For instead of Christ judging our human ideas, the name of Christ is made to justify our human ideas and countersign our human endeavors…”

146 – “Modern knowledge is characteristically noncommittal. Much is known, but all is consequence-free. What we know and what we do about it are two different things…Never has more been known; never has less been required of what is known…the common reaction to modern knowledge is, So what? Who cares? What do you expect me to do?…The Christian idea of the responsibility of knowledge is rooted in the notion that God is there and that he speaks. He is therefore the one with both the first decisive word on life—in creation–and the last decisive word–in judgment.  Thus human life is essentially responsible, answerable, and accountable…Sin, for example, is a deliberate violation of the responsibility of knowledge–human beings become responsible where they should not be (playing God) and resue to be responsible where they should be (denying guilt).”

The Hidden Jesus by Donald Spoto

The Hidden Jesus: A New Life by Donald Spoto

The book was a healthy read seeing that it helped me understand the views of Jesus from a different angle then myself (Catholic Theologian). One of the reasons I picked up this book is because Spoto is known for writing biographies and I was curious to see how a professional biographer would handle Christ. Although Spoto is a master with words, I don’t think he would argue that the whole canon of Scripture is inspired from Genesis to Revelation.  Spoto does try to highlight specific areas of Jesus life that we just don’t know that much about. I have included some paragraphs that I enjoyed in The Hidden Jesus.

108 – “But randomness does not necessarily imply purposelessness; what we call chaos may not be disorder at all, but rather a clear sign of the limitations of our comprehension. Our sense of what is proper pattern and order may, in other words, not be the only sense of pattern. A random moment—an exception in the expected order of things—then becomes the carrier of an even greater significance than the pattern itself. Ordinary human experience validates this approach. In our own individual histories, is not a moment of apparent accident or chance often later seen as the bearer of great significance and even as the beginning of a new stage of life? If I did not attend this school at such a time, for example, I would not have had this inspiring teacher, taken this important course of study or gained this lifelong friendship. If your parents had not met at such and such a moment, they would not have become your parents. If you had not attended this or that meeting, you would not have met the love of your life or begun an important career. It is no exaggeration to assert that the most important elements of human life and love are as dependent on what we might be called purposefull accident as on deliberation, intent and goal-directed action. The French novelist and playwright Georges Bernanos put it well: ‘Ce que nous appelons hasard, c’est peut-etre la logique de Dieu’–What we call chance may be the logic of God.”

143 – “Jesus is very much aware that those who ‘lust in the heart’ —who intend to translate desire into mere selfish gratification–will lose themselves in the bargain; they will have no higher frame of reference for their actions than the pursuit of pleasure. If alcohol or food, sex or influence become addictive, if they control us, we have to employ radical surgery, just as a gangrenous limb must be amputated, the body invaded with a scapel so that disease  may not destroy, or tons of infected hamburger recalled so that people will not become ill. Extreme measures are thus often called for in the world of the body: is the life of the spirit less important….There is a modern mania about purity in foods, an obsession with weight, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins, exercise—all of them legitimate issues, to be sure. But while there is high energy spent on what goes into our mouths, where is the concern for what goes into our eyes and ears, for what feeds the spirit? There is so much that is lovely to see, hear, read, behold: why are we so often indifferent to the violence and ugliness that assault and diminish us, often in the name of news or entertainment? In the name of freedom, perhaps something of our humanity is chipped away when we claim so proudly that nothing offends us. A very great deal ought to.

149 – “One of the most powerful examples of forgiveness emerged from an experience of such horror that it is difficult for us to imagine. During the Holocaust, countless children were exterminated at the Ravensbruck concentration camp. When the place was at last liberated, a piece of paper was found, placed with the body of a dead child; on the paper were words written by an uknown dead prisoner: ‘O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted on us—remember instead the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this. And when those who have inflicted suffering on us come to judgment, let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.’

245 – “The Jesus whom faith proclaims as the Lord of the universe is no longer defined and limited by time and space, as he was during his life in the flesh; he is, however, accessbile to human beings who are still defined by time and space. And if some reply that the only way for an ‘intelligent person’ (whatever that means) to accept the Resurrection is to reduce it to something only historical and verifiable, then we are in the realm of what the American Scripture scholar Luke Timothy Johnson has called ‘epistemological imperialism,’ a denial of any realm of reality outside one’s control—which is neither good history nor good science. Such objectors have made a prior judgment that material explanations are the only rational, sound justifications for everything in reality. The problem with this narrow perspective is that it has no room for artists, poets, composers, for those who give their lives to another in love and for those who give loving lives of service to many. The language of faith, like that of the poet, the lover and the mystic, does not simply relate secular facts about what occurred in history at a particular moment in time. Faith experiences and speaks of the divine initiative and intervention in the world, and that claim (as the distinguished Jewish Talmudic scholar Jacob Neusner has said  ‘does not come before the court of secular history, to be judged true or false by historians’ ways of validating or fasifying ordinary facts.'”

The French Revolution

twilight-of-atheismThe Twilight of Atheism The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World by Alister McGrath (homepage or biography)

French Revolution (Chpt 2)

McGrath argues 18th century France provides clues to the rise of atheism. How would atheism gain momentum and build excitement for a country inundated with the Catholic Church? France during the time of Louis XVI was led by three estates aristocracy, clergy, and middle-class bourgeoisie. McGrath suggests that the middle-class bourgeoisie were marginalized and muted by the aristocracy and the clergy / church. Pressure mounted from the voiceless as they froze through the winter, starved during the famine, and barely escaped starvation. While life was miserable for the middle class, royalty was basking in extravagance, cozily warm in the winter, and steadily enlarging their plump stomachs. The church and aristocracy’s flagrant abuse of power and privilege stirred up eloquent influential critics. Voltaire who insisted on the importance of a Divine Being, chastised the Catholic Church for its exploitation. The middle class linked the Church leadership to the Christian faith so it hastily sought to curb if not overthrow Christianity and its god.

McGrath introduces a historical analogy by comparing two of the eighteenth century revolutions, French and American. The American Revolution was due in part from an effort to purify religion from a “compromised state church”, while the French Revolution insisted on ridding one’s conscience from the idea of a god.

Although renowned thinkers like Rene Descartes and Marin Marsenne challenged atheism by philosophically arguing for the existence of God, their plans “backfired” through failed arguments. Descartes and Marsenne were not alone church theologians argued about how they should respond to atheism, unfortunately their arguing indirectly contributed to the spread of atheism.

Atheism gained momentum and popularity while religion grappled with its fall from stardom. The destruction of religion in France brought erotic experimentation. Sexual repression was due in part to religion, but if God did not exist sensuality and pleasure take the forefront which includes sexual promiscuity.  Obviously the promulgation of sexuality publically did not sit well with proponents of the church who lived in the shadows of Reason and Nature. Atheism, through the Revolutionary,  eventually showed its ugly head in attempting to silence its opponents in the Reign of Terror. The rise of atheism had come full cycle-they had once been ignored by the aristocracy and clergy, but now they chose to ignore voices. McGrath’s closing thoughts to this chapter are…

“Inspiring and ennobling, the project of the French Revolution was at the same time brutal and repressive. The same movement that made such a powerful appeal to nature and reason for its justification ended up using systematic violence to subdue those who were unpersuaded of its merits. The movement that gave the world such noble monuments as the Declaration of the Rights of Man also gave it the Reign of Terror. To those who suggest that religion is responsible for the ills of the world, the Revolution offers an awkward anomaly. As the historian Reynald Secher has shown, pressure from Paris to eliminate counter-revolution in the south of France led to the deployment of Turreau’s colonnes infernales of 1794, whose wholesale destruction of villages and their inhabitants came close to genocide. The new religion of humanity mimicked both the virtues and vices of the Catholicism it hoped to depose. It might well have a new god, a new savior, and new saints. But it also had its own inquisition and began its own particular war of religion. During the French Revolution, for the first time in modern history the possibility of an atheist state was explored. That exploration was incomplete, inconsistent, and not entirely encouraging. Within a decade, the fledgling French republic found itself overtaken by events, as Napoleon Bonaparte entered Paris and seized power.”