The God who makes His people “incapable of having any other object except Himself.” – B. Pascal

Mind-on-fire-pascalThe Christian’s God does not merely consist of a God who is the Author of mathematical truths and the order of the elements. That is the notion of the heathen and the Epicureans. He isn’t merely a God who extends his provident care over life and property so that men are granted a happy span of years if they worship him. That is the attitude of the Jews.

But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the Christians, is a God of love and consolation. He is a God who fills the soul and heart of those he possesses. He is a God who makes them aware inwardly of their wretchedness while revealing his infinite mercy. He is a God who unites himself with them in the depths of their being. He is One who fills them with humility, joy, confidence, and love. Indeed, he is One who makes them incapable of having any other object except himself.

All those who seek God apart from Christ, and who go no further than the observations of nature, either find no light to satisfy them or find no way of knowing and serving God without a mediator, unless they are seduced by either atheism or deism. Both are equally abhorrent to Christian faith.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) in his Pensees (Christian apology, that is, defense of the Christian faith) as found in the anthology of his writings The Mind on Fire, part of the “Classics of Faith and Devotion” series published by Multnomah Press (1989), edited by James M. Houston, with an introduction by Os Guinness.

This quotation is taken from section XIV titled “The Transition from Human Knowledge to Knowing God” (pp.149-150), picking up where we left off last time. I plan to post such portions of the Pensees throughout this year.

Theology for the Church (Those people in the pew are important!) – K. Kapic

little-book-theologians-kapic“In addition to bringing praise to God [the first and primary purpose of theology, according to the author], the purpose of theology is to support the proclamation of the Word and the life of the church. It is a great danger to neglect the corporate gathering of God’s people (Heb 10:23-25). Here we gather for baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for here are God’s self-identified people.

Theologians with advanced degrees must beware of a pompousness that would dismiss their brothers and sisters in the pew. More than others, we are required to listen to, learn from and incorporate their faithful reflections into our living theology. This does not mean uncritical acceptance, but it does mean genuinely treating those who walk with God as our fellow pilgrims. These saints often see what we missed or neglected. They can instinctively detect error missed by those who are sometimes isolated in their studies.

Right after the apostle Paul challenges his readers to ‘renew their minds,’ he calls for sober judgment and a valuing of all believers. This means not thinking too highly of oneself but recognizing that there is one body with many members, and consequently it takes the whole to function properly (Rom 12:1-8; cf. Phil 2:1-5).

Along similar lines, Charles Hodge encourages theologians to look to the flock of God for help discerning truth.

Go with your new opinions to the aged children of God who have spent years in close communion with the Father of lights. Propose to them your novel doctrines, should they shock their feelings, depend upon it, they are false and dangerous. The approbation of an experienced Christian of any purely religious opinion is worth more than that of any merely learned theologian upon earth.

We do ourselves and God no favor by neglecting the faithful, whether they are living or dead. Those in the pew should not lord their instincts over their pastors and theologians, but neither should such leaders neglect the wisdom in the pew.

Taken from chapter 9, “Tradition and Community” in Kelly Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (IVP Academic, 2012), pp.103-04.

Published in: on February 27, 2018 at 10:16 PM  Leave a Comment  

Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible – A New Title to Consider

Perhaps a newly published book contains an uncomfortable subject for us, but it is a significant title that is garnering attention and praise and ought to be paid attention to by us too, whether we praise it or not.

The book is Authorized: The Use & Misuse of the King James Bible, written by Mark Ward and published by Lexham Press (2018), a division of Logos Bible Software, for whom the author works as a Logos Pro.

The publisher gives this description of it and the author’s purpose in writing:

The KJV beautifully rendered the Scriptures into the language of turn-of-the-seventeenth-century England. Even today the King James is the most widely read Bible in the United States. The rich cadence of its Elizabethan English is recognized even by non-Christians. But English has changed a great deal over the last 400 years—and in subtle ways that very few modern readers will recognize. In Authorized Mark L. Ward, Jr. shows what exclusive readers of the KJV are missing as they read God’s word.

In their introduction to the King James Bible, the translators tell us that Christians must “heare CHRIST speaking unto them in their mother tongue.” In Authorized Mark Ward builds a case for the KJV translators’ view that English Bible translations should be readable by what they called “the very vulgar”—and what we would call “the man on the street.”

The contents show us what the author includes in this book:

  • Introduction
  • What We Lose as the Church Stops Using the KJV
  • The Man in the Hotel and the Emperor of English Bibles
  • Dead Words and “False Friends”
  • What is the Reading Level of the KJV?
  • The Value of the Vernacular
  • Ten Objections to Reading Vernacular Bible Translations
  • Which Bible Translation is Best?

In the book Ward both defends the use of the KJV (he grew up on it himself and praises it highly) and criticizes its misuse, arguing that while it is still a very important Bible translation, its language is too difficult and unintelligible for the modern reader. He posits that while there is never going to be a perfect English translation, the contemporary Christian ought to use a variety of translations available today so as to gain the best understanding of the text.

As I make my way through the book, I will give you his thoughts and interact with them. For tonight I give you some opening thoughts of his found in the “Introduction”:

People care about KJV English, and they care about Bible translation. The most popular blog posts I write are about English Bibles. These posts always get social shares and comments, because everybody has an opinion on whether translations should be formal (sometimes summarized as ‘word for word’) or functional (sometimes summarized as ‘thought for thought’) [We ought to be, without shame or compromise, in that first camp – we want a “word for word” translation because every word of God is inspired and counts, also in our translation of it.] Everybody has a passage in this or in that translation that they love or that they object to. Everybody has a favorite English Bible translation, or is on the hunt for one. ‘Which Bible translation is best?’ has a lot of search-engine value, I can tell you. People want to know, because they care.

And that’s why the transition away from the KJV has been the scene of some confusion and even conflict within the church. [And, by the way, that’s where the issue ought to be addressed – in the church, not in Bible societies and other translation organizations that are often driven by the market and not by faithfulness to what God has revealed and how He has spoken to us.] Christians collide over sometimes minute questions of English style, the gender of pronouns, Greek New Testament manuscripts, and even Bible topography. And I’m not necessarily saying they should stop. [I would add, by no means should they stop! These are all significant matters involved in translating God’s word properly.] This is the word of God we’re talking about, after all. People should care.

Amen to that last point! And because we too care, we will pay attention to what this author says about a good English translation, even if we may differ with his conclusions. But let’s at least listen to what he has to say.

Source: Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible – Logos Bible Software

Published in: on February 26, 2018 at 11:01 PM  Comments (1)  

Doing Theology to the Glory of God

TT-Feb-2018Today I did some final reading of the main articles in the February 2018 Tabletalk. The theme this month, as we pointed out earlier this month, is “Doing Theology,” a favorite subject and activity of Ligonier’s founder, Dr. R. C. Sproul, who passed away late last year.

Today I read the final article on this theme, “The Goal of Doing Theology” by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. It too is a fine contribution to the subject, as Ferguson shows us plainly from the Word of God that we are called to do theology with one main purpose in view: the glory of our God – soli Deo gloria!

I’ve pulled a few of his thoughts together from the online version, which you may reference above to read the entire article. It will be to your profit to do so, even if you think you are not a theologian. Because, remember, as “R.C” liked to remind us, “everyone’s a theologian.”

…Theology is a joyful and glorious activity because it is ultimately about the glory and joy of our God. Its goal is that of the angels, indeed, of God Himself: this combination of glorifying and enjoying God, which is to the unbeliever the ultimate contradiction but for Christians the discovery of our destiny.

From there, Ferguson takes us to the letters of the apostle Paul, in particular, to Romans. Here is part of what he says about Paul’s perspective in this letter:

Next to the Lord Jesus, no one has embodied what this means more fully than the Apostle Paul. His thirteen letters (totaling a mere seventy pages in the Bible on my desk) turn out to be heavier than a man can lift, so densely packed are they with theology in all its forms. And the style? Soli Deo gloria.

Sit down for an hour with a concordance and look up the verses in Paul’s letters that contain the words “glory” and “glorify.” It will leave you breathless, at least metaphorically. The glory of God is the magnetic pole of his thinking. He had seen it in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). And those who have seen this glory can never be satisfied unless they taste more of it, and think more clearly about it. Like a young man who has seen a “glory” in a young woman (1 Cor. 11:7), we long to know more, to meditate lovingly, and to describe eloquently. Theology is simply eloquence about God, called forth by His glory.

And, speaking about that marvelous section of Romans, chapters 9-11, he writes this:

These three chapters, then, are perhaps the headiest theology anywhere to be found in Paul’s letters. But what they reveal is that the doctrines of creation (from Him), providence (through Him), redemption (by Him), and final consummation (to Him) all are shaped by this one great end: the glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

From this Ferguson draws this fitting conclusion:

…There is a grandeur to this perspective because it makes sense of cosmic reality; it humbles and exalts us; it leads us to our true “end.” In Thomas Aquinas’ summary, theology teaches God, is taught by God, and leads to God. What more can we ask for if indeed the chief end of both men and angels is “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”?

Is that the controlling purpose and the driving principle of all our theologizing? If not, it is not worth anything – not for the here nor for the hereafter.

Christ’s Passion, “the mirror of dangerous grace.” – W. Wangerin, Jr.

Mirrors that hide nothing hurt me. But this is the hurt of purging and precious renewal – and these are mirrors of dangerous grace.

The passion of Christ, his sufferings and his death, is such a mirror. Are the tears of my dear wife hard to look at? [He means, after he has sinned against her, and she becomes a mirror to expose him – an experience every Christian husband can attest. -CJT] Well, the pain in the face of Jesus is harder. It is my self in my extremest truth. My sinful self. The death he died reflects a selfishness so extreme that by it I was divorced from God and life and light completely: I raised my self higher than God! But because the Lord God is the only true God, my pride did no more, in the end, than to condemn this false god of my self to death. For God will be God, and all false gods will fall before him.

So that’s what I see reflected in the mirror of Christ’s crucifixion: my death. My rightful punishment. My sin and its just consequence. Me. And precisely because it is so accurate, the sight is nearly intolerable.

Nevertheless, I will not avoid this mirror! No, I will carefully rehearse, again this year, the passion of my Jesus – with courage, with clarity and faith; for this is the mirror of dangerous grace, purging more purely than any other.

For this one is not made of glass and silver, nor of fallen flesh only. This mirror is made of righteous flesh and of divinity, both – and this one loves me absolutely. My wife did not choose to take my sins and so to reflect my truth to me. She was driven, poor woman. But Jesus did choose – not only to take the sin within himself, not only to reflect the squalid truth of my personal need, but also to reveal the tremendous truth of his grace and forgiveness. He took that sin away.

This mirror is not passive only, showing what is; it is active, creating new things to be. It shows me a new me behind the shadow of a sinner. For when I gaze at his crucifixion, I see my death indeed – but my death done! His death is the death of the selfish one, whom I called ugly and hated to look upon.

And resurrection is another me.

Reliving-passion-Wangerin-1992Quoted from Walter Wangerin, Jr.’s Reliving the Passion; Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark (Zondervan, 1992), pp.25-26

This Winter I found this new (to me) Wangerin title in a thrift store and decided to read it in this season of the year. While there are thoughts I disagree with, there are also powerful and rich insights into the passion of our Savior that deeply instruct and move me. This was one of them. I hope to share others, like the one I read today (on the woman who anointed Jesus).

Miscellaneous Winter-time Meanderings

On this Friday, we post a little fun in photos for our readers, which we will call miscellaneous meanderings, because I have a collection of miscellaneous pictures that I have taken this winter while meandering here and there. So, join me as we move about randomly, enjoying this, that, and the next thing. At least I did 🙂

 

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Of course, we have to show some pictures of our seminary animal friends! This was taken during our January thaw.

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And then we got hit some with some major snow again.

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With several grandsons involved in winter basketball, we took in a few of their games. Future CCHS Chargers are they.

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And we have seen the current CCHS Chargers play a few games too – including last week at Calvin  College against South Christian. A certain quartet was privileged to do the national anthem. 🙂

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Last night we took in Heritage CS’s “Fine Arts” night, which included this fine piece by our granddaughter, Laelle – a budding artist.

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And Mr. Dan Van Dyke’s room included awesome book summaries in poster form. Yes, I was pretty excited about these!

Speaking of books, here are a few miscellaneous items related to such real, printed-on-paper things:

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A book snowman made at Herrick Library in Holland, MI (thanks to Bob Drnek for the photo!)

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A few more bookplates from books in the Letis collection found in the Seminary library.

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And a few examples of title pages with wonderful publisher ensigns – a distinguishing mark of publishers in the past, and still today, though not as elaborate as these.

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And how could we forget on such days that we do still have our Friday grilled burger/brat lunches. Tim Bleyenberg at Sheldon Meats is our supplier. Once you’ve had his meats, you will not need to go elsewhere. The best!

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Have a wonderful weekend!

Published in: on February 23, 2018 at 8:19 PM  Leave a Comment  

Curating Rare Books for a 200-Year-Old Library – The Boston Athenaeum


The Boston Athenaeum in 1908 (Library of Congress)

In one of Atlas Obscura’s recent email listings, this hidden gem of a rare-book library right here in the U.S. was featured. Specifically, the curator of the Boston Athenaeum, (whose motto is literarum fructus dulces – “sweet are the fruit of letters”) Stanley E. Cushing, was featured, having spent 47 years in the library.

Below are the opening paragraphs of the story of his work in this special library. Find the rest at the link at the end.

When I visit Boston, this wonderful place will be on my itinerary. 🙂

The Boston Athenaeum—a 211-year-old independent library in the center of Beacon Hill—is home to about 150,000 rare books. Some are old, and some are brand new. Some are huge, and some are tiny. Some are made of lead, some are made of shredded army uniforms, and one is, famously, made of human skin. Until recently, Stanley Ellis Cushing was in charge of all of them.

Cushing began his career at the Athenaeum in 1970, right after he graduated from college. He ended up staying for 47 years—“longer than anybody else in the last hundred years or so,” he says—working as a bookbinder and conservator, then as the Chief of the Conservation Department, and finally as the first-ever Curator of Rare Books. While in this last position, he began the library’s artists’ books collection, and took the opportunity to scoop up everything from bark cloth catalogs to anti-war tracts.

Cushing retired in late 2017 (he is now the Rare Books Curator Emeritus) but his legacy remains on the Athenaeum’s shelves, in the form of the many additions he has made to them. He spoke with Atlas Obscura about his favorite books, his chain of accidentally strategic resignation attempts, and the various priceless treasures he has rescued from the open stacks.

Source: Exit Interview: I Curated Rare Books for a 200-Year-Old Library – Atlas Obscura

Published in: on February 22, 2018 at 10:56 PM  Leave a Comment  

Constructive Conjunctions: “As”, “since”, and”because”

grammar-I-and-meToday’s Wednesday email from GrammarBook.com contained a profitable lesson in the proper use of some familiar conjunctions – “as,” “since,” and “because” – showing the importance of stressing the reason for something and the result of something in our sentence structure.

Here’s today’s grammar lesson (our second this month!) – read and learn!

 

Tackling More Tricky Word Choices:
As, Because, and Since

American English is a rich, expressive language. At the same time, it includes words that sometimes appear to be alike but have slight distinctions. Without recognizing those subtleties, we might use one word when we mean another.

As, because, and since are three conjunctions that introduce subordinate clauses (those that cannot stand alone in sentences) connecting a result and a reason. A closer understanding of these words helps us write with greater clarity and emphasis in achieving this.

We use because when we want to focus more on the reason. We use as and since when we wish to center on the result.

Most commonly, the because clause emphasizing the reason ends the sentence; the as or since clause stressing the result starts the sentence. 

Examples 

Result: She got the promotion over four other candidates.
Reason: She knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the reason with because clause: She got the promotion over four other candidates because she knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the result with as clause: As she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

Sentence emphasizing the result with since clause: Since she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

The placement of the because, as, or since clause can be changed in the sentences above. Some writers might contend that only the shifted because clause maintains effective fluency while the repositioned as and since clauses sound more stilted. Moving the clauses will also change the emphasis by switching the order of the result and the reason.

Because she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, as she knew the system best.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, since she knew the system best.

Because is more common than as or since in both writing and speaking, suggesting we typically emphasize reasons more than results. As and since also are considered more formal in usage.

Looking at the details of these conjunctions polishes another tool in our quest to be writers of precision and eloquence.

Published in: on February 21, 2018 at 10:31 PM  Comments (1)  

The Christian Apologetic toward New Atheism and Its Attack on God

PassionateIntellectbookScientific atheists often challenge Christians to prove the existence of God, as if Christians understand God to be an object within the world – such as an additional moon orbiting the planet Mars, a new species of newt or an invisible unicorn. Perhaps they think Christians imagine God to be like an Olympian deity, sitting on the top of Mount Olympus, waiting patiently to be discovered. Of course, for the Christian, God is not an ‘entity’ alongside other entities in the world but rather the source, ground and explanation of all that exists. God is the creator of all things, not a member of this class of things.

…What a word means needs to be determined by the way it is used. Dawkins [Richard, the avowed “new” atheist and ardent opponent of the Christian faith] understands one thing by the word God, and I understand something quite different. The new atheism conducts its polemic against a notion of God that bears little resemblance to that of Christianity. Christians will not find their faith shaken by evidence or arguments that make assumptions they do not share and consider to be completely wrong. The atheist ‘critique’ of Christianity at this point amounts to little more than a circular argument concerning the internal consistence of atheism, rather than a considered engagement with what Christians believe about God.

Taken from Chapter 7, “The Natural Sciences” pp.110-11), in Alister McGrath’s book The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind (IVP, 2010), a book I picked for review a few years ago and have picked up again to continue reading.

God’s Work through the Means of Grace: It’s All So Ordinary

Means-of-Grace-3The following are theologian Michael Horton’s further thoughts on being content with God’s “ordinary” means of grace for the Christian’s faith and life:

‘Expect a miracle!’ That’s good counsel if there is a promise in Scripture to back it up. The problem today is that many Christians are not looking for God’s miraculous activity where he has promised it, namely, through his ordinary means of grace. Through these means, he has pledged to raise us from spiritual death, to forgive sins, to assure us of God’s favor, and to conform us to Christ’s image.

…Typically, we identify ‘acts of God’ with the big stuff: earthquakes, hurricanes, and parting seas. Or perhaps a better way of putting it: we identify the big stuff with what can be measured and recognized as an obvious miraculous intervention by God. Millions of people around the world will turn out for a prosperity evangelist’s promise of signs and wonders. But how many of us think that God’s greatest signs and wonders are being done every week through the ordinary means of preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper?

…If our God is so keen to work in and through the ordinary, maybe we should rethink the way we confine him to the theatrical spectacles, whether the pageantry of the Mass or the carefully staged crusade. It takes no honor away from God that he uses ordinary – even physical – means to bring about extraordinary results. On the contrary, it underscores the comprehensive breadth of his sovereignty over, in, and within creation as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

To be content with Christ’s kingdom is to be satisfied also with his ordinary means of grace.

…Just as we wouldn’t have expected to find the Creator of the universe in a feeding trough of a barn in some obscure village, much less hanging, bloody, on a Roman cross, we do not expect to find him delivering his extraordinary gifts in such human places and in such humble ways as human speech [preaching], a bath [baptism], and a meal [the Lord’s supper]. This can’t be right, we reason. We need signs and wonders to know that God is with us. Yet it is only because God has promised to meet us in the humble and ordinary places, to deliver his inheritance, that we are content to receive him in these ways.

CNN will not be showing up at a church that is simply trusting God to do extraordinary things through his ordinary means of grace delivered by ordinary servants. But God will. Week after week. These means of grace and the ordinary fellowship of the saints that nurtures and guides us throughout our life may seem frail, but they are jars that carry a rich treasure: Christ with all his saving benefits.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from chapter 7 of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014), which I am currently making my way through. The chapter is simply titled “Contentment.” The paragraphs I have quoted are found on pp.139-49.

Horton’s words leave us with some questions: Are we content with God’s ordinary means of grace? And if so, are we using them as He intends?