30 November 2011

Let Us Drink our Fill from this Fountain

If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [1 Cor. 1:30]. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Heb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb. 5:2].

If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13]; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood, if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of goods abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.
--John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19

HT: Robert Peterson

Confusion or Complexity?

Mike Hyatt:
In my experience, confusion sometimes masquerades as complexity. Listening to an explanation, you might be tempted to think that you’re just not smart enough to understand the issue. But in reality, the presenter doesn’t understand it well enough to make it simple.
In my experience, too.

HT: James Kinnard

28 November 2011


Bad pictures. Glorious words.

HT: Dan Orr

23 November 2011

A Pastoral Charge

A good and wise charge from Zack Eswine to a newly installed pastor.

22 November 2011

Bavinck on the Conversions of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin

Calvin came to the Reformation along similar paths as Luther and Zwingli—a deep religious-moral experience also characterized his conversion.

Yet, amidst the similarity there was also distinction. Luther experienced deep guilt and discovered the joy of God’s forgiving grace in Christ. Zwingli experienced the gospel as a liberation from legal bondage toward the glorious joy of adoption as God’s child. Calvin experienced a deliverance from error to truth, from doubt to certainty.

The German Reformer held on for dear life to the Scriptural word: “The just shall live by faith.” The Swiss Reformer’s favorite verse was the invitation from Jesus: “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” The Reformer who was born in France found his strength in Paul’s boast: “If God is for us, who can be against us.”
--Herman Bavinck, "John Calvin: A Lecture on the Occasion of His 400th Birthday," trans. John Bolt, The Bavinck Review 1 (2010): 62

21 November 2011

We do all for joy

Richard Sibbes:
We do all for joy. All that we do is that we may joy at length. It is the centre of the soul. As rest is to motion, so the desire of all is to joy, to rest in joy. So that heaven itself is termed by the name of joy, happiness itself. . . . What is our life without joy? Without joy we can do nothing. . . . A Christian, which way soever he look, hath matter of joy; the state of a Christian is a state of joy.
HT: Theoblog

14 November 2011

Off to San Francisco for ETS/IBR

Back in the blogging saddle next week!

The Consolation of Fairy Stories

The consolation of fairy stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to any fairytale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially "escapist," nor "fugitive." In its fairytale--or otherworld--setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.

It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence) universal and final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

The peculiar quality of the "joy" in successful fantasy can then be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is . . . a "consolation" for the sorrow of this world. . . . But in the "eucatastrophe" we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater--it may be a faroff gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world.
--J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy Stories" (evangelium = gospel)

HT: Jerram Barrs

Reflections on William Cowper's Poems

From my brother Gavin.

An excerpt:
Cowper’s life compels me to interpret life differently than I previously have. Two things emerge in my mind as I struggle with it. First, there are wounds, there are trials, there are agonies in this fallen world that cannot be described with words or contained within concepts. They stretch and bend and even break our ability to understand. They draw us into the realm of extremity, to the utter brink. But second, and without at all downplaying the reality of the first point, God can heal the deepest wounds and redeem the most broken life. I don’t believe that Cowper’s despair is the sum and total of his life. In his letters, and much more in his poetry and hymns, another strand of thought emerges, one of hope, patience, and faith.

12 November 2011

Rightly Directed Rage

What Jerry Sandusky did was a horror. If that was my boy who came home with wet hair, and had been brutalized in that way, I am not confident that I would be able to restrain myself from calmly killing Sandusky in the middle of the night. Slowly. I am not trying to be funny. If that were my son--God help him.

Now--brothers and sisters--that horror we feel is right. The thirst for personally executed revenge is not right. But the revulsion, and thirst for justice, is right. We would be wrong not to feel it.

But the horror we feel over this is not only appropriate, it is also a glimpse into the horror of our own sin. I am not leveling out all sins. Some are worse than others. But the revulsion, the rage, that we rightly feel toward that sick man is a picture of the repulsiveness of our own sick rebellion against an infinitely beautiful One, and the rage he would be right to direct toward us.

That desire for an hour, just one hour, with Sandusky in a sealed off room with nowhere for him to run, and the rage that I would like to pour out on him, is a glimmer of the rage that ought to be poured out on me by my Creator. And was poured out on his Son.

I am more like Sandusky than different from him.

God help me.

He did.

11 November 2011

Beware Lest Humility Become Sadness

C. S. Lewis, writing to his priest, December 1951--
So great is the difference between mere affirmation by the intellect and that faith, fixed in the very marrow and as it were palpable, which the Apostle wrote was substance (Hebrews 11:1).

This emboldens me to say to you something that a layman ought scarcely to say to a priest nor a junior to a senior. (On the other hand, out of the mouths of babes: indeed, as once to Balaam, out of the mouth of an ass!). It is this: you write much about your own sins. Beware (permit me, my dearest Father, to say beware) lest humility should pass over into anxiety or sadness. It is bidden us to "rejoice and always rejoice" (Phil 4:4). Jesus has cancelled the handwriting which was against us (Col. 2:14-15). Lift up our hearts!
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. 3 (Harper, 2007), 151-52

HT: Wade Urig

10 November 2011

Fires in Our Basements

Jack Miller writes in the 1990s to a church he had recently spoken at--
Jesus knocks at the front door of our heart (Rev. 3:20). In response we do not immediately open the door via our free will. Instead, we quickly put locks on the door and push furniture against it. The Lord then sends the Holy Spirit to slip in the back door. He goes down into the basement, where He turns up the heat and sets fires until the rising heat forces us to remove the barriers and open the front door and let Christ in. I believe that the Lord keeps right on using this backdoor approach in our growth in grace.
He sets fires in our basements by putting us in limiting and painful circumstances.
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 90

09 November 2011

Any Chance?

On the lighter side . . .

In the mid-1930s C. S. Lewis was given the great honor of being invited to contribute a volume to the massive multi-volume project undertaken by Oxford University Press, The Oxford History of English Literature, affectionately referred to by Lewis as O HELL. Lewis' volume was to cover the 16th century.

Lewis did eventually finish the book--700 pages of technical literary scholarship. Shortly after agreeing to do it, though, Lewis wrote the editor, Frank Wilson--
The O HELL lies like a nightmare on my chest. . . . I shan't try to desert . . . but I have a growing doubt if I ought to be doing this. . . . Do you think there's any chance of the world ending before the O HELL appears?

Yours, in deep depression,
C. S. Lewis
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol. 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 221-22

08 November 2011

Passing By

'I will make all my goodness pass before [LXX parerchomai] you. . . .' The Lord passed before [parerchomai] him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious. . . .' -Exodus 33:19; 34:6

'I will never again pass by [parerchomai] them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate. . . . The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by [parerchomai] them.' -Amos 7:8; 8:2

And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by [parerchomai] them. . . . -Mark 6:48

07 November 2011

Like a Greenhouse

The Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, chapter 5

Hallelujah! What a Savior

An Irony

Jack Miller, in a 1988 letter to another pastor who had been emphasizing that sanctification takes place as the gospel of grace softens and transforms hearts--
One irony that strikes me is that so often people who emphasize the third use of the law are really not great law-keepers themselves. For example, I have noted that sometimes church members given heavy doses of the third use of the law have little idea of the inner nature of the law as a delighting in God. I have also noted a tendency to exclude the tongue and a critical spirit from consideration as well, so that you can get the irony of believers defending the laws with a harshness that itself breaks the law! What sinners we can be!

But I do think that the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession have an excellent emphasis on faith and sanctification. . . .

I suspect that Reformed people, especially in the English Puritan tradition, have been especially prone to nomism.
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 59

06 November 2011

A Civil War

Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, chapter 2

05 November 2011

Bavinck on Calvin

Men sometimes speak as if Calvin knew of nothing else to preach but the decree of predestination with its two parts of election and reprobation. The truth is that no preacher of the gospel has ever surpassed Calvin in the free, generous proclamation of the grace and love of God. He was so far from putting predestination to the front, that in the Institutes the subject does not receive treatment until the third book, after the completion of the discussion of the life of faith. It is entirely lacking in the Confessio of 1536.
--Herman Bavinck, Calvin and Common Grace (New York: Westminster, 1909), 18

04 November 2011

God Must Do It

If for insignificant, guilty, and impure persons there is to be a possibility of true religion, that is, of genuine fellowship with God, of salvation and eternal life, then God on his part must reestablish the broken bond, again take them into fellowship with him and share his grace with them, regardless of their guilt and corruption.

He, then, must descend from the height of his majesty, seek us out and come to us, take away our guilt and again open the way to his fatherly heart. If God were to wait until we—by our faith, our virtues, and good works of congruity or condignity—had made ourselves worthy, in part or in whole, to receive his favor, the restoration of communion between him and ourselves would never happen, and salvation would forever be out of reach for us.
--Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4:204-5

03 November 2011

One Central Conviction

In August 1988 Jack Miller wrote to a pastor in Ireland. He said at one point:
One central conviction has come to me: it is that pride and self-centered ambition crowd the love of God out of my life. Therefore I constantly need to repent of pride and self-importance and to have the love of God as seen in the golden message of grace crowd out wicked stuff like self-importance. I pray; I believe; Lord, help me with my unbelief!
--The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters of Jack Miller (P&R, 2004), 62

How God Became King

Eager to read this next Spring.

Triumph, even in Weakness

Love this.

We have been cast down many times in this conflict, and still are; but we do not perish, for Christ has always triumphed and does triumph through us. Therefore, we firmly hope to obtain the victory against the devil through Jesus Christ.

This hope brings us sure consolation, so that in the midst of our temptations we take courage and say, 'Satan has tempted us before and by his deceit has provoked us to infidelity, contempt for God, despair, and so on; yet he has not prevailed, nor shall he prevail from now on (1 John 4:4). Christ is stronger and has overcome and continues to overcome that strong one in us, and he will overcome him forever.'

Still, the devil sometimes overcomes us in the flesh. But even then we may experience the power of a stronger person over that strong enemy and may say with Paul, 'When I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Cor 12:10).
--Martin Luther, Galatians (Crossway, 1998), 120

Does God Send Trouble?

It is because we cannot be robbed of God's providence that we know, amid whatever encircling gloom, that all things shall work together for good to those that love him. It is because we cannot be robbed of God's providence that we know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ--not tribulation, nor anguish, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword. . . . Were not God's providence over all, could trouble come without his sending, were Christians the possible prey of this or the other fiendish enemy, when perchance God was musing, or gone aside, or on a journey, or sleeping, what certainty of hope could be ours?

'Does God send trouble?' Surely, surely. He and he only. To the sinner in punishment, to his children in chastisement. To suggest that it does not always come from his hands is to take away all our comfort.
--B. B. Warfield, 'God's Providence Over All,' in Selected Shorter Writings of B. B. Warfield (2 vols; ed. J. E. Meeter; P&R, 2001), 1:110; quoted in Paul Helseth, 'Right Reason' and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal (P&R, 2010), v

02 November 2011

Defeat in Victory

My brother Eric--
I was talking with a brother struggling with sin once. He told me he had managed to resist temptation the night before. "Good!" I said. "But whether you gave in or not, are you still able, looking beyond yourself, to rejoice in Christ's perfect obedience on your behalf?" He hung his head. That was a more difficult question--even more difficult than resisting temptation.

If a Christian resists temptation and then focuses on their victory, is pleased with it, and the joy of it carries them onward--that may be a defeat at a deeper level.

Ultimate Meaninglessness Is Un-Discoverable

If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe . . . we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
--C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, chapter 1

One Reason We Love Nature

What indeed can we imagine heaven to be but unimpeded obedience?

I think this is one of the causes of our love of inanimate nature, that in it we see things which unswervingly carry out the will of their Creator, and are therefore wholly beautiful: and though their kind of obedience is infinitely lower than ours, yet the degree is so much more perfect that a Christian can see the reason that the Romantics had in feeling a certain holiness in the wood and water.

The Pantheistic conclusions they sometimes drew are false: but their feeling was just and we can safely allow it in ourselves now that we know the real reason.
--C. S. Lewis, in The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 177-78

The Tragedy of Spiritual Impotence

Tim Dalrymple, on the institution founded by Archibald Alexander--
Surely it says something that when I drove back to Princeton Theological Seminary from my chaplaincy work with the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, it felt as though I were leaving behind a place where God was real and urgent and present to a place where God was formally honored but rarely dynamically present. And surely it says something that, when I was suddenly struck with the fear of death before a surgery, I went around to my professors, essentially begging them for assurance that there was an eternity with God to be enjoyed, and the most affirmative answer I received was: “I think there’s an eternity with God; but if not, this life has been a wild ride.”
Sobering and sad.

Brothers considering seminary: I can't speak for other seminaries because I only went to one, and no place is perfect. But you will find the opposite of this at Covenant Seminary. And a dozen other schools that quickly come to mind.


01 November 2011

The Benefits of Sorrow

Wise, strengthening words from our brother Zack Eswine.

Lewis' Advice to Young Men

C. S. Lewis, in a letter to Arthur Greeves, Dec 29, 1935.
Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, 'sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.' I know I am very fortunate in that respect...
--Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol 2, ed. Walter Hooper (Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 174