Thursday, July 22, 2010

Plumer on the Christian life

Here's an excellent chapter by William S. Plumer on "The Christian Life" from his work, The Christian, published in 1878. The work in full is found here.

When we speak of the Christian life, we may refer either to the gracious principle implanted in the heart of the regenerate, or to the ordinary methods of its manifestation. Let us look at both.

The life of God in the soul of a believer is a great mystery. In any case life is somewhat unknown to us. But the life of a child of God is very far removed from the cognizance of the careless. Believers themselves are God's hidden ones. They are fed and nourished by the hidden manna. The secret of the Lord is with them. He shows them His covenant. Their life is hid with Christ in God. True, when Christ, who is their life, shall appear, then shall they also appear with Him in glory. But now they are unknown to the world, except as their light shines in the darkness.

The Christian life is supernatural. It is something far above the powers of the carnal man. That the blind should see, the deaf hear, the lame man leap as a deer, and the dead live—can be accounted for only on the ground that it is the work of God. We are all dead in trespasses and sins, until Divine grace makes us new creatures. Over our mind, dense clouds of smoke and thick darkness from the bottomless pit have settled. We have eyes, but we see not. Our imaginations are vain. Our memories are polluted.

Our ingenuity devises mischief and foolish evasions and excuses. Our wills are perverse and stubborn. Our daring in sin is frightful. To think of our state might well make one to shudder. Our enmity to God is mortal. If such are changed from hatred to love, from sin to holiness—it must be by God's power, His mighty power.

This Christian life is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and no man knows the way of the Spirit. "The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it comes nor where it goes; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit." It is but vanity and presumption for us poor worms to claim to comprehend the ways of God.

The Christian life is to the soul that experiences it, a new life. Old things have passed away. All things are become new. Like all new life, it is full of wonders. Everything pertaining to it is fresh and suited to rejoice the heart.

And so it is a happy life. The joy of the Lord has great strength in it. The buoyancy of the soul that is stayed on God is often amazing, and always mighty.

This life is also abiding. It is not always equally strong, but it is fed by new supplies of strength until the last.

Of course the Christian life is a great mercy. So says the apostle of the circumcision: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope," etc. So says the apostle of the Gentiles: "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ," etc. The Christian life manifests itself—

1. By healthful and regular pulsations. The child of God has a heart, and its throbbings are not spasmodic and occasional. Because Christ lives in them, the life of Christians is constant.

2. The Christian life manifests itself by cries—cries that enter the ears of the Lord Almighty. As soon as Paul was renewed, it was said of him, "Behold, he prays." No Christian lives without prayer.

3. The Christian life manifests itself by a relish for suitable food. Even the newborn babe desires the sincere milk of the Word that it may grow thereby. After a while, the strong meat of God's Word is required, and it is relished also.

4. Wondrously, too, does the child of grace enjoy the pure and heavenly atmosphere of the Church and ordinances of God's house, and the sweet moments of the communion of saints in prayer and praise, in supplication and thanksgiving.

5. Such Christians will grow—will grow up into more and more stability, heavenly-mindedness, constancy, courage, love, faith, and hope. Of some, Paul says their faith grew exceedingly.

6. The Christian life will show itself by activity. There will sooner or later be motion where there is life. In due time the renewed man will walk, and leap, and praise God. When one said to an ancient philosopher, "There is no such thing as motion," the sage said not a word, but arose and walked across the room. That was answer enough. So if any say there is no Christian life in the world, let us, by walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly, prove that they are mistaken.

There is a reality, there is a power in heartfelt piety. On this earth nothing is more powerful. But for true piety, the world would soon come to an end—the cries of its wickedness perpetually calling for vengeance. But as ten righteous men would have saved the cities of the plain, so for the elect's sakes the day of vengeance is shortened and the day of grace prolonged.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

on the tongue

Sunday's message was on James 3:1-12. What a great effect can come from such a small thing as the words of human speech.

From eternity God is a communicating God, and he speaks creation into existence. Cross-references mentioned are as follows:

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits." (Proverbs 18:21)

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught." (Isaiah 50:4)

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound..." (Isaiah 61:1)

"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:34b-37)

"Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person." (Matthew 15:10-11)

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:15)

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:3-5)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

pen rotation and some Parkers

Every few weeks I rotate the 4 to 7 fountain pens that are inked and ready to write.

Cleaning and filling fountain pens is a little ritual like, I suppose, a tea ceremony, only you end up with some ink on your fingers...

Today I took a picture of my best Parker pens, which represents a bit of Parker history from the 1920s to 1960s. All of the pens, with one exception, were made in the U.S. And they write exceptionally well.

From left to right:

1) Duofold senior, "Big Red", 1928.
2) Striped Duofold major, green and gold, 1943.
3) Vacumatic junior, amber, 1930s.
4) VS, button filler, rust, 1947.
5) Challenger, red marbled, 1934-37.
6) 51, vacumatic, cordovan brown, 1948.
7) 51, aerometric (made in UK), navy gray, 1957.
8) 51 Demi, navy blue, aerometric, 1948
9) 21 Super, black, 1956-60
10) 45, black, c. 1961+

Thursday, July 15, 2010

a brief critique of relativism

Here's an excellent and succinct critique of postmodernism's philosophy of relativism.

It is an update on Dostoevsky's, "If there is no God, then all things are permissible." But more: If there is no God, then we as humans are not even knowable. Some excerpts (actually, most of the article...)

Nietzsche was right. None of the existing philosophies explains anything. We are on our own. We are our own projects with no models that come from elsewhere to guide us.

Modern philosophical relativism is a perfect alternative to a world of meaning. It now usually goes under the name of post-modernity. It is presented under the idea of freedom. This freedom in turn is based on the idea that no stable nature can be found. No question of a cause of nature’s order thus arises. Human beings are not intended to be human beings, as if that were an intelligible idea. Indeed, the human condition is that there is no human condition. Since human beings are not any particular kind of being, they are free to make themselves into any sort of being they wish themselves to be, provided, I suppose, that it is not the kind of being described by Aristotle or Scripture...

The only kind of being he is not free to become is the one that used to be called the virtuous or complete human being. Everyone is free to make himself over into whatever kind of being he chooses. This making-over includes both his body insofar as science can reconstruct it and his soul insofar as he guides himself as he wills. The public order is really a freeway interchange to facilitate these constantly changing selves. No one can really criticize anyone else for being what he decides to be. Equality means that no standard of what is human exists...

The virtue that supports this world of nature-less freedom to be whatever we choose is generally defined as tolerance. This tolerance is really a skepticism. It is not based on freedom to do something, but on the lack of any knowledge of what ought to be done. Generally, we are also assured us that we are free to do what we want provided that we do not “harm” others. The logic of this restriction escapes me. Why cannot I be free to harm others if that is what I choose?

Piper on loving God

Here's a helpful video Q&A with John Piper where he offers some very important cautions about the “New Calvinism.”

These cautions are not only helpful for those in that theological tradition, but for all Christians who may love the things of God -- theology, worship, experience -- more than God himself. Well-said, John!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the atheist and the rabbi

"When Hitchens told the audience that night that religion is 'a wish to be loved more than you probably deserve,' I countered that such a theme is always adopted by those deriding religion: I am a nonbeliever because I am reasonable, they say, and you are a believer because you need a crutch. Beware, I told the group, of people who explain their own beliefs by reason and others' beliefs by psychology. Hitchens insisted he was being accurate, not comprehensive; there are many other reasons to distrust religion apart from its spurious comfort.

"When a person does something good in religion's name, Hitchens dismisses religion as the cause, but when people do evil, it is religion's fault. I reply that people don't need religion to make them do bad things. Rather, they need religion to lift them above the bad things they would otherwise instinctively do."

--David Wolpe in The Washington Post

Monday, July 5, 2010

two nations

Listening again to Tim Keller's message from the 2006 Desiring God conference, "The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World." He cites this interesting quote to summarize the changes that's taken place over the past 50 years:

"There is a fundamental schism in American cultural, political, and economic life. There’s the quicker-growing, economically vibrant…morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventuresome, sexually polymorphous, and ethnically diverse nation…and there’s the small town, nuclear-family, religiously-oriented, white-centric other America, [with]…its diminishing cultural and economic force…. Two nations…"

--Michael Wolff, New York magazine, Feb 26 2001, p. 19.