Archive for August, 2010

Strong But Not Beautiful

August 29, 2010

Perhaps the most serious charge that can be brought against modern Christians is that we are not sufficiently in love with Christ. The Christ of Fundamentalism is strong but hardly beautiful. It is rarely that we find anyone aglow with personal love for Christ. I trust it is not uncharitable to say that in my opinion a great deal of praise in conservative circles is perfunctory and forced, where it is not downright insincere.

Many of our popular songs and choruses in praise of Christ are hollow and unconvincing. Some are even shocking in their amorous endearments, and strike a reverent soul as being a kind of flattery offered to One with whom neither composer nor singer is acquainted. The whole thing is in the mood of the love ditty, the only difference being the substitution of the name of Christ for that of the earthly lover.

How different and how utterly wonderful are the emotions aroused by a true and Spirit-incited love for Christ. Such a love may rise to a degree of adoration almost beyond the power of the heart to endure, yet at the same time it will be serious, elevated, chaste and reverent.

Christ can never be known without a sense of awe and fear accompanying the knowledge. He is the fairest among ten thousand, but He is also the Lord high and mighty. He is a meek and lowly in heart, but He is also Lord and Christ who will surely come to be the Judge of all men. No one who knows Him intimately can ever be flippant in His presence.

The love of Christ both wounds and heals, it fascinates and frightens, it kills and makes alive, it draws and repulses, it sobers and enraptures. There can be nothing more terrible or more wonderful than to be stricken with love for Christ so deeply that the whole being goes out in a pained adoration of His person, an adoration that disturbs and disconcerts while it purges and satisfies and relaxes the deep inner heart.

A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, “The Art of True Worship”

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Ancient Hebrew Hymnody

August 12, 2010

An interesting post on the history of hymnody.

Premodern and Postmodern ‘Converse’

August 9, 2010

Pre: I find it really disturbing that homosexuals can legally marry.

Post: You can’t say that’s wrong.

Pre: What do you mean?

Post: Well, maybe it’s wrong for you and your beliefs, but it’s not wrong for everyone.

Pre: So you’re saying something can be wrong for one person and right for another?

Post: Exactly. It depends on the situation.

Pre: So when it comes to morals and values, how do you think we should live?

Post: I think every person must try to do his best in his heart, and not hurt other people. So long as he does what he believes is right, it’s good enough.

Pre: How do you know it’s good enough?

Post: Well, it’s obvious. If we try to be good people and find our way in the world in a way that works for each of us without harming others, that’s all anyone can ask.

Pre: I hear you, but you didn’t answer my question. You just said the same thing another way. How do you know that “doing our best”, or “finding a way that works for ourselves without harming others” is good enough? Good enough for who? Who decides what’s good enough?

Post: I suppose we all decide that within. If we’re true to our beliefs, and do what we think is right, who can say that it’s wrong?

Pre: Well, that’s what I’m asking. You’ve actually been talking about the value of some things.  You said that a particular way of life is “good enough”or “all anyone can ask” or “not wrong”. When you say things like that, aren’t you saying that such ways are right ways to live? Aren’t you making a statement that to live that way is the best way to live?

Post: Nono, not for everyone. It’s right for me. It works for me. I think it’s the best way to live my life, but I don’t force my beliefs onto anyone else.

Pre: Do you get upset with people who force their beliefs on others?

Post: Yes.

Pre: Why?

Post: Well, how would you like someone to do that to you?

Pre: I wouldn’t like it at all.

Post: So?

Pre: So you’re saying that such people should respect your belief system which doesn’t force itself on others.

Post: Right.

Pre: What if they don’t share that belief? What if they think it’s OK to force their beliefs on others?

Post: Well, it would be a sign of immaturity and narrow-mindedness.

Pre: But perhaps their personal belief is to be narrow-minded. Maybe narrow-mindedness is virtuous to them. Maybe that’s what it means to them to do their best in their hearts and find their way in the world.

Post: Well, then they need to leave me alone.

Pre: What if they don’t?  What if they won’t tolerate your tolerance? Shouldn’t you respect their moral views?

Post: If they can’t tolerate my tolerance, then I won’t tolerate their intolerance.

Pre: So, in fact, you’re actually very similar. You both have a sense of right and wrong. They just think they are right enough to insist upon it for all men everywhere. You think you are right enough that you won’t allow someone to interrupt your private moral world. They’re aggressive; you’re defensive. But you both believe there is a better or worse way to live.

Post: I suppose that’s true enough.

Pre: What I’m wondering is what you base your sense of right and wrong, better or worse on. Your Intolerant People  probably have some Holy Book that they base their sense of right and wrong off. Where do you get yours?

Post: I guess I haven’t thought that much about it. Maybe it’s the whole Golden Rule thing. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Live and let live. Seek happiness without hurting other people.

Pre: Why do you think all people sense the Golden Rule to be true? Why do all people feel outrage when they are victims of injustice? Why do all people hate being robbed or harmed, and know it is wrong to do so?

Post: Well, because we don’t like being harmed. Who does?

Pre: True, but if we’re all just making up the rules in our own minds, why do we get offended if others don’t obey our personalised rules?

Post: What do you mean?

Pre: Well, for example, if we all just decide our own moral paths, maybe in my universe I decide that stealing is OK. When my universe bumps into your universe, I steal your stuff. You get angry. Let’s say you get your stuff back. You’re still angry with me that I stole.

Post: Sure.

Pre: But how can you get angry at me? I’m just obeying the rules of my universe. In your universe, it’s bad to steal. In my universe, it’s good to steal.

Post: But your universe hurts others.

Pre: Ah! So there’s a third rule, a bigger rule, which must govern us both – that we must not hurt each other.

Post: Yes.

Pre: If my rule, which says that stealing is cool, and your rule, which says that it is not, must both submit to some Bigger Rule that we must not harm each other, where does that Bigger Rule come from? Because if I don’t have the Bigger Rule in my universe, I don’t have to respect it. I can rob you and feel no remorse. You must be robbed and be cool with it, because you know the Bigger Rule is not part of my universe.

Post: Well…that’s just weird. I’ve never thought of it that way.

Pre: You think tolerance and open mindedness are good things. And in fact, you think they are good enough for everyone to practise, because you get angry if others don’t practise it. You think everyone should include tolerance and open mindedness in their private moral universes.

Post: I suppose so.

Pre: So where does this Rule come from, which governs more than one private moral universe?

Post: I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.

There Must Needs Be Divisions

August 5, 2010

John Calvin on 1 Corinthians 11:19 (“For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.”):

“Heresies are when the evil proceeds to such a pitch that open hostility is discovered, and persons deliberately divide themselves into opposite parties. Hence, in order that believers might not feel discouraged on seeing the Corinthians torn with divisions, the Apostle turns round this occasion of offense in an opposite direction, intimating that the Lord does rather by such trials make proof of his people’s constancy. A lovely consolation! “So far, says he, should we be from being troubled, or cast down, when we do not see complete unity in the Church, but on the contrary some threatenings of separation from want of proper agreement, that even if sects should start up, we ought to remain firm and constant. For in this way hypocrites are detected — in this way, on the other hand, the sincerity of believers is tried. For as this gives occasion for discovering the fickleness of those who were not rooted in the Lord’s Word, and the wickedness of those who had assumed the appearance of good men, so the good afford a more signal manifestation of their constancy and sincerity.”