Posts Tagged ‘ God ’

N. T. Wright: After you believe

Just watching a sermon N. T. Wright gave at the Redeemer Faith & Work Forum. I love this quote:

„Love is not our duty, it is our destiny. Love is the language they speak in the new creation. And we get to learn it here.“

In the world – not of it

Fine quote from Archbishop Charles Chaput:

„For forty years, Catholics have heard a steady chorus of how we need to be open to the world, learn from the world, honor the good things in the world, and be more humble in our approach to the world. All of this is true. God created the world, and He loves it, and He sent His only Son to redeem it.
But at the same time, God wills that the world should be converted and sanctified, not worshiped. In his Gospel, Saint John describes the “world” as everything that is aligned against God. Jesus shed His blood on the cross because that was the price of redeeming the world—from its sins and our sins. The cross was real. Christ’s suffering was real. And if the world isn’t a holier place today than yesterday, it’s because we Catholics have chosen the unreality of the world and its distractions over the reality of the cross.
We’ve assimilated. We’ve been too comfortable and accommodating. We’ve listened to the world too politely when it lies about abortion, or contraception, or divorce, or the death penalty, or our obligations to the poor, or the rights of undocumented workers, or the real meaning of pluralism, or our international responsibilities—and we haven’t shouted out the truth.
The world is a powerful and attractive teacher, but while it can often give us what we want, it can’t give us what we need. We need God.“

(from ‚The Church as Mother and Teacher‘)

Protestant Catholic

A brilliant insight from Helmut Richard Niebuhr (American Christian Ethicist and Theologians; 1894-1962) concerning the interdependence of Catholicism and Protestantism:

„The Church is protestant and catholic. This is not only to say that there is much historic Protestantism in those institutions called Catholic churches, and much historic Catholicism in the institutions called Protestant. It is also to say that the principle of protest against every tendency to confuse the symbol with what it symbolizes and the subject with the object, is a constituent element in the being of the community, even apart from the institutional organizations. The Church as the people of God, whether under the Old or the New Covenants, is always the party of protest against religion in the religious human world. It protests against every effort to bring the Infinite into the finite, the transcendent into the immanent, the Eternal into the temporal. The only finite symbol of God it tolerates is the symbol of emptiness—the empty Holy of Holies, the empty tomb. But protest has no meaning apart from what is protested against. The Church cannot be protestant without being catholic. The principle of catholicity—as the principle of incarnation rather than the principle of universality—is as much an ingredient of churchliness as is the principle of protest. Unless the Infinite is represented in finite form, unless the Word becomes flesh over and over again, though only as oral preaching, unless the risen Christ manifests himself in the visible forms of individual saintliness and communal authority there is no human relation to the Infinite and Transcendent. Negative and positive movements—the one in rejection of all that is little because God is great, the other in affirmation of the apparently insignificant because God is its creator, redeemer and inspirer; the one away from the world that is not God, the other toward the world of which he is Lord— must both be represented where the Church exists.“

Tozer: Exposition must have application

„There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake. Truth divorced from life is not truth in its Biblical sense, but something else and something less. Theology is a set of facts concerning God, man and the world. These facts may be, and often are, set forth as values in themselves; and there lies the snare both for the teacher and for the hearer.

The Bible is among other things a book of revealed truth. That is, certain facts are revealed that could not be discovered by the most brilliant mind. These facts are of such a nature as to be past finding out. They were hidden behind a veil, and until certain men who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost took away that veil, no mortal man could know them. This lifting of the veil of unknowing from undiscoverable things we call divine revelation.

The Bible, however, is more than a volume of hitherto unknown facts about God, man and the universe. It is a book of exhortation based upon those facts. By far the greater portion of the book is devoted to an urgent effort to persuade people to alter their ways and bring their lives into harmony with the will of God as set forth in its pages.

No man is better for knowing that God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. The devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot. No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that he gave his only begotten Son to die for their redemption. In hell there are millions that know that. Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.

What is generally overlooked is that truth as set forth in the Christian Scriptures is a moral thing; it is not addressed to the intellect only, but to the will also. It addresses itself to the total man, and its obligations cannot be discharged by grasping it mentally. Truth engages the citadel of the human heart and is not satisfied until it has conquered everything there. The will must come forth and surrender its sword. It must stand at attention to receive orders, and those orders it must joyfully obey. Short of this any knowledge of Christian truth is inadequate and unavailing.

Bible exposition without moral application raises no opposition. It is only when the hearer is made to understand that truth is in conflict with his heart that resistance sets in. As long as people can hear orthodox truth divorced from life they will attend and support churches and institutions without objection. The truth is a lovely song, become sweet by long and tender association; and since it asks nothing but a few dollars, and offers good music, pleasant friendships and a comfortable sense of well-being, it meets with no resistance from the faithful. Much that passes for New Testament Christianity is little more than objective truth sweetened with song and made palatable by religious entertainment.

Probably no other portion of the Scriptures can compare with the Pauline Epistles when it comes to making artificial saints. Peter warned that the unlearned and unstable would wrest Paul’s writings to their own destruction, and we have only to visit the average Bible Conference and listen to a few lectures to know what he meant. The ominous thing is that the Pauline doctrines may be taught with complete faithfulness to the letter of the text without making the hearers one whit better. The teacher may, and often does, so teach the truth as to leave the hearers without a sense of moral obligation.

One reason for the divorce between truth and life maybe the lack of the Spirit’s illumination. Another surely is the teacher’s unwillingness to get himself into trouble. Any man with fair pulpit gifts can get on with the average congregation if he just “feeds” them and lets them alone. Give them plenty of objective truth and never hint that they are wrong and should be set right, and they will be content.

On the other hand, the man who preaches truth and applies it to the lives of his hearers will feel the nails and the thorns. He will lead a hard life, but a glorious one. May God raise up many such prophets. The church needs them badly.“

(A. W. Tozer; Of God and Men)

Charles Wesley: Depth of Mercy

Depth of mercy! Can there be
mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God his wrath forbear,
me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood his grace,
long provoked him to his face,
would not hearken to his calls,
grieved him by a thousand falls.

I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
oft profaned his hallowed name,
put him to an open shame.

There for me the Savior stands,
shows his wounds and spreads his hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Now incline me to repent,
let me now my sins lament,
now my foul revolt deplore,
weep, believe, and sin no more.

Tozer on God’s Sovereignty

„Here is my view: God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, „What doest thou?“ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.“ (The Knowledge of the Holy)

Literalism and apocalypticism

A (typical) quote from N. T. Wright that I forgot to publish:

„Yesterday’s literal statement may become today’s metaphor; tomorrow things may reverse again. Nobody takes all the Bible literally, and nobody takes it all metaphorically, whatever they may say; we are none of us as wooden as our slogans suggest. In order to interpret any passage, particularly any passage of apocalyptic, the way of wisdom is to go through it one step at a time, deciding what is literal and what is metaphorical on the way. When Daniel says “I saw four beasts come up out of the sea” (Daniel 7.2), the “beasts” and the “sea” are metaphorical (the “beasts” are human empires, and the “sea” is the source of evil), but “four” is literal. When he says that “the little horn was making war on the holy ones and prevailed against them” (7.21), the “little horn” is metaphorical (referring to an actual human ruler), but the “war” is literal. And so on. This, of course, requires caution in serious Bible study, something that is not always much in evidence.

Though I dislike technical terms in general, I find it helpful to use the word “apocalypticism” to denote the worldview in which certain people come to believe that their group is set apart from the rest of humanity, that it is righteous and all others are sinners, and, more particularly, that an event will soon occur which will sort things out once and for all. The sun and the moon will be darkened, literally not metaphorically; the Lord will descend from heaven and snatch the saints up in the air, literally not metaphorically; the Mount of Olives will be split in two, and rivers of fresh water will flow down to the Dead Sea, literally not metaphorically. And of course if you believe this sort of thing about yourself and your group, certain social practices follow: a tight drawing of boundaries within the group, a rigid exclusion of those outside, a carelessness or even downright rejection of most of the concerns of ongoing society, a focus on particular styles of worship and holiness. As history both ancient and modern will show, such groups are often internally fissiparous, fragmenting into smaller groups that then reserve for one another their bitterest anathemas.

My point is this: the duality between heaven and earth is very different from the dualisms of sectarian religion. The mindset that tends towards apocalypticism normally thinks of the heavenly realm, or the spiritual realm, or simply the non-physical realm, as always good, and the  earthly, material, physical world as always bad. Hence the readiness to imagine the present physical world being blown apart in some great Armageddon, and the sublime confidence that “we” – whichever group that might be – will be rescued from the ruin in a “heavenly” salvation that has left earth far behind.“