How to Read the Classics: #1, with Respect – L.Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenBack on Sept.6 we started to examine chap.6 of Leland Ryken’s recent book (A Christian Guide to the Classics; Crossway, 2015), “How to Read a Classic.” We listed the six ways he tells us to to this and gave his summary of the chapter.

For the sake of review, let’s put those six positive ways in front of us again:

  1. Good Practice #1: Read a classic with respect for the momentousness of what you are doing.
  2. Good Practice #2: Understand the nature of the reading situation.
  3. Good Practice #3: Apply what you know about literature generally.
  4. Good Practice #4: Maintain a keen eye for the obvious.
  5. Good Practice #5: Be aware that the classics did not escape the effects of the fall.
  6. Good Practice #6: Be yourself as a Christian reader.

For today, we listen to what Ryken has to say about good practice #1 read a classic with respect for the momentousness of what you are doing.

Throughout this book I stress the elite class to which a literary work belongs if it is a classic. The classics are the best of the best. …The classics represent literature on its best behavior, and as readers of them we should aspire to meet the same standard.

When we know that a piece of literature is a classic, we should begin with a vote of confidence for the work. This does not mean that we should be indiscriminate in our assessment of it. It means rather that we begin with an awareness that the world at large has regarded the work as a great work. Greatness deserves to be respected and honored.

The liberal establishment today attempts to instill an automatic bias against the classics. We need to reject that attempted coercion. Every work of literature is on trial, but at the end of the day we can virtually depend on it that a classic will give us more truth, wisdom, and beauty than lesser literature (and certainly more than the propagandistic literature of the “politically correct” movement), p.52.

Published in: on September 27, 2016 at 6:25 AM  Leave a Comment  

Note to Self: Live Long

Begin by reading and meditating on Philippians 1:20-26.

And recall last week Monday’s post on living short.

Dear Self,

…While you shouldn’t presume on the grace of God to give you tomorrow, it is not foolish to work today in anticipation of tomorrow. However, tomorrow can only be prepared for by making the most of today. So while you must make the most of the day God has given you, it is important to look ahead to where your day might lead you and others down the road. You are never just living for the moment. You are living for eternity, and your life has the potential to prove fruitful not only for yourself, but also for many others.

To live long means that you are thinking into the future for the well-being of yourself and others. It is good to ask if you have a plan in place to grow your family in the faith, preparing them for the potential hardships ahead that you are most likely to lead them through.

…Consider your calling, and then determine what it means for you, as a Christian, to fulfill your calling in such a way that will glorify God, serve his mission, and demonstrate grace to the world.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.27 “Live Long” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.91-92.

The Origin (and Security) of the Church – John Muether

TT-Sept-2016As we have noted here before, this month’s Tabletalk carries the theme of “The Church,” with eight-plus (brief) articles dedicated to explaining the Reformed doctrine of the church.

As we contemplate the Lord’s Day tomorrow and prepare to exercise our place in Christ’s body, part of which is worship, we may benefit from the thoughts of Dr. John R. Muether (professor of church history and dean of libraries at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL and an OPC ruling elder).

He wrote an article on “The Origin of the Church” and, strikingly (for our doctrinally weak age), roots the church in the eternal counsel of God, specifically, the covenant of redemption and sovereign election in and by the Triune God.

He has some excellent points by way of application of this truth, two of which I include here – his closing paragraphs. Deep thoughts, but rich thoughts. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty is supremely practical and comforting, as you will see again. And that, in turn, should lead us to deep praise to our Savior God.

The eternal counsel of peace highlights the Son as the “surety” of the covenant, and so we find in Christ alone the hope and security of the church. “All that the Father gives to me will come to me,” Christ assures us, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). The “peace” of this covenant is purchased for us according to Christ’s priestly office, maintained and defended by His kingly office, and revealed by His prophetic office. Because the God who decrees the church is the same God who sustains the church, the future of the church is in God’s hands. This encourages us to see the church with the eyes of faith. It is bigger and stronger than its frail and precarious human expression suggests. Though despised and disparaged by this world, the church is the apple of God’s eye (Zech. 2:8) that will prevail against all of her enemies.

Finally, the eternal origin of the church provides our assurance of faith. Commenting on God’s words in Jeremiah 31:3 (“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you”), Geerhardus Vos famously wrote, “The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.” That everlasting love finds expression in the covenant of redemption. As the Heidelberg Catechism beautifully puts it, the church is “a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member” (Q&A 54).

Source: The Origin of the Church by John Muether

Justin Martyr – Apology (4)

Twenty-first-century Christians can learn much from the lives and writings of the early believers and church fathers. Especially is this the case when it comes to facing opposition and persecution – and facing them biblically.

Justin-MartyrThe “Apology” (that is, defense of the faith and life of Christians) of Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) is a model of Christian witness to the unbelieving world and the persecuting state. In this installment we continue our posts from some sections from his first apology. For links to his writings, visit this site.

This post is taken from chapters seven and eight  of Justin’s first apology (and follow from my previous post where we quoted chapters five and six):

CHAPTER VII — EACH CHRISTIAN MUST BE TRIED BY HIS OWN LIFE.

But some one will say, Some have ere now been arrested and convicted as evil-doers. For you condemn many, many a time, after inquiring into the life of each of the accused severally, but not on account of those of whom we have been speaking. And this we acknowledge, that as among the Greeks those who teach such theories as please themselves are all called by the one name “Philosopher,” though their doctrines be diverse, so also among the Barbarians this name on which accusations are accumulated is the common property of those who are and those who seem wise. For all are called Christians.

Wherefore we demand that the deeds of all those who are accused to you be judged, in order that each one who is convicted may be punished as an evil-doer, and not as a Christian; and if it is clear that any one is blameless, that he may be acquitted, since by the mere fact of his being a Christian he does no wrong. For we will not require that you punish our accusers; they being sufficiently punished by their present wickedness and ignorance of what is right.

CHAPTER VIII — CHRISTIANS CONFESS THEIR FAITH IN GOD.

And reckon ye that it is for your sakes we have been saying these things; for it is in our power, when we are examined, to deny that we are Christians; but we would not live by telling a lie. For, impelled by the desire of the eternal and pure life, we seek the abode that is with God, the Father and Creator of all, and hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that they who have proved to God by their works that they followed Him, and loved to abide with Him where there is no sin to cause disturbance, can obtain these things. This, then, to speak shortly, is what we expect and have learned from Christ, and teach.

And Plato, in like manner, used to say that Rhadamanthus and Minos would punish the wicked who came before them; and we say that the same thing will be done, but at the hand of Christ, and upon the wicked in the same bodies united again to their spirits which are now to undergo everlasting punishment; and not only, as Plato said, for a period of a thousand years. And if any one say that this is incredible or impossible, this error of ours is one which concerns ourselves only, and no other person, so long as you cannot convict us of doing any harm.

The Christian Faith of Jane Austen

8-women-haykin-2016A few weeks back I did a post on some new books from Crossway publishers, one of which was Eight Women of Faith by Michael A. G. Haykin (2016). One of the woman written about in this book is Jane Austen, 1775-1817 (author of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and many more).

(As a partial aside, I might mention that I really want a woman (young or old!) to take this book that I offered for review, and to this date no one has. Would you reconsider, ladies?)

Recently Crossway did a feature on this title and included an excerpt, from which I also quote today. I include a couple of paragraphs, encouraging you to read the rest of Crossway’s post by following the link that follows.

Jane “displays an Anglican reticence about religious affections”[1] and is very interested in Christianity as a teacher of morals. Given this, it is not surprising that Jane was not an evangelical.[2] In fact, in 1809, Jane was forthright: referring to a novel by Hannah More, she told her sister Cassandra, “I do not like the Evangelicals.”[3] By 1814, however, her attitude had changed. As she told her niece Fanny Knight (1793–1882): “I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am persuaded that they who are so from reason & feeling, must be happiest & safest.”[4]

Haykin then points to Austen’s prayers as evidence of her Christian faith, prayers that show her familiarity with and use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

An excellent vantage point to see Jane’s faith is one of three written prayers that have been attributed to her and that probably date from Jane’s life after the death of her father in 1805,[9] though there are doubts about the authenticity of two of them.[10] The third runs as follows and does seem to have been written by Jane:

Give us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips. Thou art every where present, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.

Look with mercy on the sins we have this day committed, and in mercy make us feel them deeply, that our repentance may be sincere, & our resolutions steadfast of endeavouring against the commission of such in future. Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts, and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls. May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words, and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil. Have we thought irreverently of Thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our hearts these questions, Oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.

Source: The Christian Faith of Jane Austen

And, by the way, the eight women featured in this book are as follows:

Jane Grey: The courageous Protestant martyr who held fast to her conviction that salvation is by faith alone even to the point of death.

Anne Steele: The great hymn writer whose work continues to help the church worship in song today.

Margaret Baxter: The faithful wife to pastor Richard Baxter who met persecution with grace and joy.

Esther Edwards Burr: The daughter of Jonathan Edwards whose life modeled biblical friendship.

Anne Dutton: The innovative author whose theological works left a significant literary legacy.

Ann Judson: The wife of Adoniram Judson and pioneer missionary in the American evangelical missions movement.

Sarah Edwards: The wife of Jonathan Edwards and model of sincere delight in Christ.

Jane Austen: The prolific novelist with a deep and sincere Christian faith that she expressed in her stories.

Note to Self: Live Short

Begin by reading and reflecting on Philippians 1:20-26.

Dear Self,

…Consider that God has ordered your days. He has given you a certain number of days to use for his glory and the good of those around you. What are you doing with the time you have?

Remember, we are not talking about the time you think you have, but the time you actually have. If you knew for certain that this was in fact the last day of your life, what would you do? Would you hole up in your house, kneeling, repenting for all the sin you have neglected? Would you run to every friend and relative who does not know Christ and encourage them to repent and believe the gospel?

But while today could be your last, you do not know it, so the best course of action is simply to be faithful to the things God has called you to this day, for it could be your last. Will you love your spouse? Talk with your kids? Do your best at your place of employment? Pray and seek God with earnestness and sincerity?

You see, you have to make the most, not just of the day as a whole, but of all the parts that make up that day. That is your responsibility. Live short; live with urgency. This is the natural outworking of truly embracing our chief end of glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.26 “Live Short” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.89-90.

“Let us consider well this price.” M. Luther

Luther&LearningWherefore Paul saith here that Christ first began and not we. ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ As if he said, although He found in me no good will, or right understanding, this good Lord had mercy on me. He saw me to be nothing else but wicked, going astray, contemning God, and flying from Him more and more, carried away and led captive of the devil. Thus of His mere mercy… He loved me, and so loved me that He gave Himself for me, to the end that I might be freed from the law, sin, the devil and death.

Again, these words, ‘the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me,’ are mighty thunderings and lightnings from heaven against the righteousness of the law and all the works thereof. So great and horrible wickedness, error, darkness was in my will and understanding, that it was impossible for me to be ransomed by any other means than by such an inestimable price.

Let us consider well this price, and let us behold… the Son of God, …and we shall see Him, without all comparison, to exceed and excel for creatures.

…If thou couldst rightly consider this incomparable price, thou shouldst hold as accursed all other ceremonies, vows, works, and merits before grace and after, and throw them all down to hell. For it is a horrible blasphemy to imagine that there is any work whereby thou shouldst presume to pacify God, since thou seest that there is nothing which is able to pacify Him but this inestimable price, even the death and the blood of the Son of God, one drop whereof is more precious than the whole world.

Martin Luther on Galatians 2:20 in Commentary on Galatians (Kregel, 1979), 94-95.

Love God with All Your Mind – J.P. Moreland

Why have we lost, or neglected, the ability to disciple the mind for Christ?

In part, it may be that we have confused the need for a childlike faith (that is, an attitude of profound trust in God, and a faithful love for Him) with childish thinking. The apostle Paul, for one, had no confusion on this point. Reading any one of his epistles will show you that. And even Peter – the everyday workman, the fisherman – was no intellectual slouch, judging by his writings. What we have, everywhere in scripture, are profoundly intelligent teachings poured out from minds that are also inspired and centered in a love for God.

Step one generation away from the New Testament writers to meet the men who were discipled by the apostles and you will find treatises, apologies, and circular letters of stunning intelligence from those intensely devoted Church fathers.

Faith and a disciplined mental life were not natural enemies then. A well-informed mind held a place of honor. And it was believed that the Christian mind could be the best mind.

love-god-mind-morelandTaken from J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (NavPress, 1997), p.15.

Zion’s Blessedness in the Covenant of Grace – John Newton

IsaacNewtonOn Sunday, April 30, 1775, John Newton preached a sermon on 2 Samuel 23:5. on God’s covenant of grace with His people in Christ Jesus. In the evening he continued his sermon on this passage and also tied it to a hymn he had written on the glory of Zion, God’s church.

On this second Lord’s Day in September – also the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 (Sept.11, 2001 – Sept.11, 2016) – he has good words for us to consider, both in sermon and in hymn.

This is part of what he had to say in his sermon:

… we can promise or perform nothing. Therefore it is called a covenant of grace… This covenant of grace was established with and in our Lord Jesus Christ… making atonement for transgression with his own blood.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but they have a sure refuge and strong consolations provided in the covenant of grace. This secures them so that their enemies have no reason to rejoice over them. When they seem to fall they shall rise again. This is a balance to all their sufferings.
Believers – rejoice in this Covenant. Walk about this Sion, consider her foundations and all the towers thereof and mark well the bulwark. See how it is fixed upon an immoveable rock, guarded by almighty power, encompassed with infinite love, and enriched with all desirable blessings, and then with a holy indifference to all the trials of the present hour, rejoice and say, Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered and sure, etc.

During the evening service of that date, Newton tied his sermon to this hymn he had written based on Isaiah 33:20-21. We know it as “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” It is from Book 1 of the “Olney Hymns.”

Zion, or the city of God

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for his own abode:
On the rock of ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

See! the streams of living waters
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Round each habitation hovering,
See the cloud and fire appear!
For a glory and a covering,
Showing that the Lord is near:
Thus deriving from their banner
Light by night, and shade by day;
Safe they feed upon the manna
Which he gives them when they pray.

Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God:
‘Tis his love his people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests, his solemn praises
Each for a thank-offering brings.

Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am;
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name:
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure,
None but Zion’s children know.

 

Justin Martyr – Apology (3)

Twenty-first-century Christians can learn much from the lives and writings of the early believers and church fathers. Especially is this the case when it comes to facing persecution – and facing it biblically.

Justin-MartyrThe “Apology” (that is, defense of the faith and life of Christians) of Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165) is a model of Christian witness to the unbelieving world and the persecuting state. In this installment we continue our posts from some sections from his apologies (first and second). For links to his writings, visit this site.

This is taken from chapters five and six of Justin’s first apology (and follow from my previous post where we quoted chapter four):

CHAPTER V — CHRISTIANS CHARGED WITH ATHEISM.

Why, then, should this be? In our case, who pledge ourselves to do no wickedness, nor to hold these atheistic opinions, you do not examine the charges made against us; but, yielding to unreasoning passion, and to the instigation of evil demons, you punish us without consideration or judgment. For the truth shall be spoken; since of old these evil demons, effecting apparitions of themselves, both defiled women and corrupted boys, and showed such fearful sights to men, that those who did not use their reason in judging of the actions that were done, were struck with terror; and being carried away by fear, and not knowing that these were demons, they called them gods, and gave to each the name which each of the demons chose for himself. And when Socrates endeavoured, by true reason and examination, to bring these things to light, and deliver men from the demons, then the demons themselves, by means of men who rejoiced in iniquity, compassed his death, as an atheist and a profane person, on the charge that “he was introducing new divinities;” and in our case they display a similar activity. For not only among the Greeks did reason (Logos) prevail to condemn these things through Socrates, but also among the Barbarians were they condemned by Reason (or the Word, the Logos) Himself, who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ; and in obedience to Him, we not only deny that they who did such things as these are gods, but assert that they are wicked and impious demons, whose actions will not bear comparison with those even of men desirous of virtue.

CHAPTER VI — CHARGE OF ATHEISM REFUTED.

Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught.