Arthur Schopenhauer on happiness.1

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If we are to be happy, we must first know what happiness means, in what does consistence? Schopenhauer begins with Aristotle’s definition happiness consistency in the avoidance of pain rather than in some pleasure, “The first and foremost rule for the wise conduct of life seems to me to be contained in a view to which Aristotle …. not pleasure, but freedom from pain, is what the wise man will aim at.”

Aristotle works through a number of options concerning the nature of happiness becomes to his consideration of happiness as the avoidance of pain. Schopenhauer comes about the matter in a fundamentally different manner than Aristotle. Rather than reason to a conclusion, he begins with the conclusion and justifies that conclusion.

First, he takes over the observation of Aristotle, “It is clear, therefore, that Moral Goodness has to do with pleasures and pains.” Thus, the only axis upon which to measure happiness is a matter of relative pleasure or pain. Having laid out the axis, he then proceeds to make his justification: “Happiness is but a dream and sorrow is real, would be as false as it is, in fact, true.”

It is a curious argument concerning happiness to begin by rejecting even the potential for happiness, but this is where Schopenhauer begins:

A man who desires to make up the book of his life and determine where the balance of happiness lies, must put down in his accounts, not the pleasures which he has enjoyed, but the evils which he has escaped. That is the true method of eudaemonology [the study of happiness]; for all eudaemonology must begin by recognizing that its very name is a euphemism, and that to live happily only means to live less unhappily–to live a tolerable life. There is no doubt that life is given us, not to be enjoyed, but to be overcome–to be got over.…The happiest lot is not to have experienced the keenest delights or the greatest pleasures, but to have brought life to a close without any very great pain, bodily or mental.

He does not make an actual argument on this point, rather he makes the assertion as an axiom and rejects all other positions as “chimerical”:

To measure the happiness of a life by its delights or pleasures, is to apply a false standard. For pleasures are and remain something negative; that they produce happiness is a delusion, cherished by envy to its own punishment. Pain is felt to be something positive, and hence its absence is the true standard of happiness. And if, over and above freedom from pain, there is also an absence of boredom, the essential conditions of earthly happiness are attained; for all else is chimerical.

His argument is grounded in the understanding that the world is cursed and cannot be redeemed. There is and can be no escape from sorrow. I was told once that all the winners in Las Vegas have their names in lights: the casinos. The house has unbeatable odds; no matter how well you may bet in the short term, in the long term, probability will win. The downward curve is built into the nature of the world:

While it is a complete inversion of the natural order to try and turn this scene of misery into a garden of pleasure, to aim at joy and pleasure rather than at the greatest possible freedom from pain–and yet how many do it!–there is some wisdom in taking a gloomy view, in looking upon the world as a kind of Hell, and in confining one’s efforts to securing a little room that shall not be exposed to the fire. The fool rushes after the pleasures of life and finds himself their dupe; the wise man avoids its evils; and even if, notwithstanding his precautions, he falls into misfortunes, that is the fault of fate, not of his own folly. As far as he is successful in his endeavors, he cannot be said to have lived a life of illusion; for the evils which he shuns are very real. …The failure to recognize this truth–a failure promoted by optimistic ideas–is the source of much unhappiness. … To desire to get rid of an evil is a definite object, but to desire a better fortune than one has is blind folly.

If the greatest unhappiness comes from loss of expectation, then, “[T]he safest way of not being very miserable is not to expect to be very happy.”

“The Church of Christ is the greatest and finest product of human history”

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We believe in the Holy Catholic Church. My contention would be that, apart from such a position as I desire to bring to your notice–some real apostolic belief in the real work of Jesus Christ–apart from that no Church can continue to exist. That is the point of view which I take at the outset. The Church is precious, not in itself, but because of God’s purpose with it. It is there because of what God has done for it. It is there, more particularly, because of what Christ has done, and done in history. It is there solely to serve the Gospel.

It is impossible not to observe at the present day that the Church is under a cloud. You cannot take any division of it, in any country of the world, without feeling that that
is so. Therefore I will begin by making quite a bold statement; and I should be quite prepared, given time and opportunity, to devote a whole week to making it good. The statement is that the Church of Christ is the greatest and finest product of human history. It is the greatest thing in the universe. That is in complete defiance of the general view and tendency of society at the present moment. I say the Church is the greatest and finest product of human history; because it is not really a product of human history, but the product of the Holy Spirit within history. It stands for the new creation, the New Humanity, and it has that in trust.

P.T. Forsyth, The Work of Christ

Chapter one

A Brief Observation on Herod: Irrationality, Sin, Suppression and God

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Anonymous-Artist_The-Magi-Before-Herod-from-the-altar-frontal-of-The-Virgin-with-Roses-c.1350

Something which I had not sufficiently considered about Herod is that he believes. He is not merely responding to a political threat; he is a panic over God. At some point, I may wish to develop this idea: there are two interesting themes here: (1) the irrationality of sin and suppression; (2) the effect of God intruding into human conscious such knowledge has been previously suppressed.

A good parallel here would be Judas & Peter. Anyway, to Herod:

Matthew 2:1–2 (ESV)

 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

The Magi approach Herod and speak of the one born the King of Israel.  Herod knows about this child. He has heard about the Messiah & he believes this to be true:

Matthew 2:3–6 (ESV)

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

                      “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

                        for from you shall come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

Despite this knowledge, Herod has apparently put the thought out of his head. Herod is not a decedent of David. To the extent he has taken thought concerning the Messiah, he has realized that the Messiah will replace him.

He goes to the religious authorities and asks them for more information on this child: specifically where will this child be born.

Consider this for a moment: Herod has successfully kept God at a distance from his conscious thought. He knows these things are true, but they are not Herod’s concern.

When God does intrude into Herod’s thought, Herod becomes “troubled.” He has been successfully suppressing the knowledge of God. But when God forces his way into Herod’s conscious life, Herod can only be troubled.

He seeks to figure out how to manage God, by managing the situation. Thus, he needs some information upon which to act: Where is this Messiah. The religious leaders can give him a city, but not a house. For that information, he turns to the Magi:

Matthew 2:7–8 (ESV)

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

Before we go on, consider the irrationality of Herod. Yes, he was a famously dangerous and vicious man. But this even portrays a peculiar kind of irrationality. He knows God is doing something right here, right now. God has intruded into his world. God has so controlled history that a child is being born at a particular moment in history and this known even by Magi from the Parthian Empire.

But he thinks he has a play. If he gets to the right house, he will be to kill the child.

This is the bizarre calculation of sin: Paul begins his argument in Romans with the proposition that God in fact knows, and we humans know that God knows and yet delude ourselves into thinking that God won’t know this time.

More consciously this stunt is attempted, the more bizarre it becomes in practice. Herod knowingly wants to kill the promised Messiah. Why does he believe that he’ll be able to outsmart God? How does he think God will let him get away with this?

Notes, Shakespeare Sonnet 12

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1]         When I do count the clock that tells the time

[2]       And see the brave day sunk in hideous night,

[3]       When I behold the violet past prime

[4]       And sable curls  all silvered o’er with white;

[5]       When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,

[6]       Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,

[7]       And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves

[8]       Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard;

[9]       Then of thy beauty do I question make

[10]     That thou among the wastes of time must go,

[11]     Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake

[12]     And die as fast as they see others grow;

[13]     And nothing ’gainst Time’s scythe can make defense

[14]     Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

 

First Stanza

[1]       When I do count the clock that tells the time

[2]       And see the brave day sunk in hideous night,

[3]       When I behold the violet past prime

[4]       And sable curls all silvered o’er with white;

The matter of change, of mutability has been a theme of poets: although it is not a theme I see taken up much of late. The issue is one of change: how do we account for change? What does change mean? What can we do about change?

I don’t believe this theme has the same resonance of late, because we do not believe in any permanence. We are nominalist: there are no universals, no nature. Things are what they call them.

This has a cost: nothing can change, because nothing is something truly. This or that is only as much as I call it by name.

The matter of mutability is a question of why the particular fades from the essence, from the permanent form. That does not trouble us as it would have troubled a careful observer of Shakespeare’s time.

And so when he sees change: the clock face move, the night comes on, black hair turn white, he forces him to contemplate death (stanza three).

The phrase “hideous night” is a striking phrase: why hideous? It is only hideous as the best fades off to danger and death.

 

Second Stanza

[5]       When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,

[6]       Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,

[7]       And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves

[8]       Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard;

This is not quite a move to “nature”, but rather to living things. The first stanza concerns time, this concerns most particularly plants. It’s the end of Eden.

Trees become bare of leaves; and summer fields turn to a “white and bristly beard”.

It is an interesting image: summer is being borne out on a bier. This bearing summer out on a bier, no longer green by now with a “white and bristly beard” would have struck Shakespeare’s first readers more directly. The Golden Bough, by Frazer, provides numerous examples of folk festivals involving bringing in summer and taking out summer by means of some vegetation for the purpose of maintaining fertility.

These images become the basis for an encouragement of the object of the poem to himself be fertile.

Shakespeare takes the inherent purpose of the ancient rituals and uses them as a basis for encouraging the fertility of one.

 

Third Stanza

[9]       Then of thy beauty do I question make

[10]     That thou among the wastes of time must go,

[11]     Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake

[12]     And die as fast as they see others grow;

Death comes around constantly in this world. There is no manner of surviving return of winter but some new fertility.

I know that you will not last the winter: nothing does. There is only one answer to the winter, spring.

You, my friend will “among the wastes of time [] go”. Everything which is sweet and beautiful will be lost: that which is beautiful today will “die”. There is only one solution, new life (since the current life will not persist).

Couplet

 

[13]     And nothing ’gainst Time’s scythe can make defense

[14]     Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

 

The only thing which survives the winter is a new birth in Spring. There is nothing which survives the death of a man except a child.

 

Time comes like the “scythe” of harvest in autumn, to be followed by winter. Only the spring crop will survive the harvest and winter.

A Short Bible Study, 1 Cor. 6:9-20

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1 Corinthians 6:9–20 (ESV)

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Do not be deceived:

neither the sexually immoral,

nor idolaters,

nor adulterers,

nor men who practice homosexuality,

10 nor thieves,

nor the greedy,

nor drunkards,

nor revilers,

nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

11 And such were some of you.

But you were washed,

you were sanctified,

you were justified

in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

and by the Spirit of our God.

Flee Sexual Immorality

12 “All things are lawful for me,”

but not all things are helpful.

“All things are lawful for me,”

but I will not be dominated by anything.

13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”

—and God will destroy both one and the other.

The body is not meant for sexual immorality,

but for the Lord,

and the Lord for the body.

14 And God raised the Lord

and will also raise us up by his power.

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

Shall I then take the members of Christ

and make them members of a prostitute?

Never!

16 Or do you not know

that he who is joined to a prostitute

becomes one body with her?

For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

18 Flee from sexual immorality.

Every other sin a person commits is outside the body,

but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

19 Or do you not know

that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,

whom you have from God?

You are not your own,

20 for you were bought with a price.

So glorify God in your body.

Questions Verses 9-11

What is the general rule stated in the beginning of verse 9?

What is the danger which Paul addresses in the second clause of verse 9?

The explanation of the deceit (do not be deceived) is apparently discussed verses 12 – 13a. These verses will be discussed, below.

Who will be denied entrance into the Kingdom of God?

Why should the Corinthians not be discouraged by the warning of verses 9-10?

What makes a person worthy to enter the Kingdom of God (v. 11)?

 

 

Verses 12-20

1 Corinthians 6:12–20 is widely acknowledged to be one of the most difficult passages in Paul’s letters. Commentators have described the unit as “disjointed,” “obscure,” “unfinished,”1 “imprecise,” “extravagant,” and even “incoherent.”

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 245. In addition to what is immediately apparent in this passage, there are also questions about idolatry: food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality as part of pagan idol worship.

Since the phrase “food for the body” is hard to understand:

As Loader notes, the ancient world regularly linked sexual appetite and appetite for food.38 Further, if we ‘read between the lines’ it is not difficult to infer the logic of the Corinthian position. The stomach39 or belly, as “the organ of nourishment” (BDAG, 1), was associated, along with food, with that which is physical and therefore transient. The Corinthians probably also believed that just as food is meant for the stomach and vice versa, so also sexual activity is meant for the body and the body for sexual activity. The stomach and the body are useless unless we eat and have sex. Such natural bodily processes have no abiding significance and are thus of no moral consequence.

In a style typical of Greek dualistic thought, the Corinthians apparently reasoned that God is concerned only with those aspects of a person that survive death, that is, their soul or spirit.40 When Paul reports that some of the Corinthians believed that God will destroy both the stomach and food, the verb “to destroy”41 has eschatological connotations,42 as elsewhere in the letter (1:28; 2:6; 13:8, 10–11; 15:24, 26). However, he interrupts their reasoning and objects that the body is not like the belly and food in this regard: The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality (as you surmise) but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

[1] Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 254–255.

It was a saying of the Corinthians and it made sense in their world.

v 12

Paul gives two responses to the sayings that concerning the body and food? What are the two responses?

 

v 13:

What will God do to the body and food?

What is the body not meant for?

What is the body meant for?

 

v 14

What has God done already?

What is God going to do for the body?

Can you think of any connection between the resurrection of the Lord and our resurrection?

 

v 15

What connection does Paul draw between the body of a believer and the body of Christ?

 

v 16

What happens when a member of the body of Christ defiles himself in sexual immorality?

 

v 17

What happens to one who is joined to Christ? In what way is he joined?

 

v 18

What is the command?

What is reason for this command?

 

v 19

Why is the body of a believer so very important?

Reflect on the fact that the temple of God is the body of a believer and the body of all believers. Why then is sexual immorality such a grave sin?

 

v 19-20

Why does God have the right to make such commands about the use of our body?

Can a believer ever say, “it’s my life and I’ll do what I want?”

 

v

What is the final command issued by Paul?

Glorify God. From this conclusion, it appears that the Corinthians took a liberty to themselves in outward things, that it was necessary to restrain and bridle. The reproof therefore is this he allows that the body is subject to God no less than the soul, and that accordingly it is reasonable that both be devoted to his glory. “As it is befitting that the mind of a believer should be pure, so there must be a corresponding outward profession also before men, inasmuch as the power of both is in the hands of God, who has redeemed both.” With the same view he declared a little ago, that not only our souls but our bodies also are temples of the Holy Spirit, that we may not think that we discharge our duty to him aright, if we do not devote ourselves wholly and entirely to his service, that he may by his word regulate even the outward actions of our life.

John Calvin, 1 Corinthians, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), 1 Co 6:20.

 

Application:

Rather than just say, here’s the application, it is more useful to make concrete applications. This passage means that we should avoid sexual immorality and should glorify God. The problem with just saying that is that it is easy for these things to just be a ‘fact’ like Washington crossed the Delaware or Argon is a noble gas. It might be true but also meaningless to most of life. Good application turns the passage into practice.

What verse from this passage would be useful to memorize?

Write a prayer which

1) Praises God: What reason does a believer have to praise God? Vv. 11 & 19

2) Repentance: What sins are here to repent of?

3) Prayer for deliverance: What sins here should one pray to be protected from?

4) Prayer for future life: What should we seek to do?

 

What is the chief end of man?

To glorify God and enjoy him forever.

A Short Bible Study: 1 Cor. 1:1-9

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1 Corinthians 1:1–9 (ESV)

Greeting

1 Paul,

            called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus,

and our brother Sosthenes,

To

the church of God that is in Corinth,

to those sanctified in Christ Jesus,

called to be saints

together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you

and peace

from

God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The editors of the ESV added the section breaks. Use them to understand the passage. The first two verses are a greeting. This is sort of like the address on an envelope. From what I understand, this part would be written on the outside of a scroll. The other side would have the letter itself.

Who wrote the letter?

How does Paul describe his status as one writing to them?

Why is he an apostle?

To whom does he write the letter (two, not one)? Why does that matter? Think carefully about the second recipient of the letter, what does that have to do with you?

Verse three is a prayer. What does Paul pray God will give them? Compare that with 1 Cor. 16:23 (the closing).

How is God described? Jesus?

 

 

 

Thanksgiving

I give thanks to my God always

for you

        because

                    of the grace of God that was given you

                                in Christ Jesus,

that in every way you were enriched

        in him

                    in all speech and all knowledge—

even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

so that you are not lacking in any gift,

as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

        who will sustain you to the end,

                     guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God is faithful,

by whom you were called

         into the fellowship of his Son,

                    Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Paying attention to the structure of the sentence will help you see the points Paul is making.

What does Paul do (4)?

For whom?

Why?

Everything which follows “grace” given to them?

that in every way you were enriched

        in him

                    in all speech and all knowledge

even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

so that you are not lacking in any gift,

as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

        who will sustain you to the end,

                     guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Notice that the grace of God was given to them “in him”. This is a critical point of Paul’s argument to the Corinthians: God’s relationship to the Corinthians is in Christ (alone). Pay attention to this theme throughout the letter. In the next section, Paul will begin to discuss the divisions among the Corinthians. If each of the Corinthians are in Christ; and if all of the grace they receive from God is in Christ and through Christ, how does that help you understand the wrongness of division?

Paul says they were “enriched”? With what were they enriched?

In v. 6 he writes that the testimony of Christ was confirmed among them. Look at v. 5 & 7, how was it “confirmed”? What did God do to confirm it.

Why do they need this grace? Verse 7, second clause: what are they doing?

What will happen before the  revealing? Verse 8a.

What will happen at the revealing? Verse 8b.

How is God described? V. 9a

What has God done? V 9b

Think again: People at Corinth have many divisions. Paul wants to develop their unity in Christ alone. In verse 4 they learn that all of God’s grace is given to them in Christ. In verse 9 they learn their fellowship is with the Son. That means that no one comes to the Father except through the Son and that all good from the Father comes through the Son. What is the relationship between the sinful divisions between the people and Paul’s instruction on how God relates to his people through Jesus? How does that knowledge act to combat their divisions?

How many times is Jesus called “Lord”? In these first nine verses?

Paul is going to give some serious and often sharp correction in this letter. He is going to detail some serious and open sin in the Church. But before he begins his correction, he gives them a great deal of encouragement: What exactly is the encouragement here in the introduction?

Think about how this particular encouragement will help them listen to his correction and be willing to change (repentance)? Think particularly about his prayer for them: that they would receive “grace” and “peace”.

Application: This letter is written in part to you (second part of verse 2).  How do these words encourage us to repent?

We always move in the direction of our hope: Our hope is our goal. The strength of that hope will depend upon (1) the value of the thing hoped for, and (2) a conviction that the hope is realistic.  We would not have much hope in something we did not particularly like, because it would stir no desire in us. No one hopes that they will have financial or physical problems. Second, there are things we could desire because they are desirable, but they do not inspire hope because they are completely unrealistic and not to be attained by us: I wanted to be a baseball player when I was a boy, but that hope did not persist because I was never that good. The hope was unrealistic.  How does Paul give them good ground for hope in this introduction? What is the hope which Paul is seeking to develop?

Herodotus on Happiness

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Herodotus recounts a story of Croesus asking the Athenian lawgiver Solon about happiness. Croesus who was quite wealth and at ease appeared to be a “happy man.” So Croesus hoping to flatter himself asked Solon who was the happiest man in the world. When Solon did not say Croesus, Croesus asked for the second; again, not Croesus. This irritated Croesus: how can I not be the happiest man in the world. Solon explained that happiness cannot be known until we know the end of the story:

So, Croesus, man is entirely chance. [5] To me you seem to be very rich and to be king of many people, but I cannot answer your question before I learn that you ended your life well.

Solon then explains how the matter of chance interacts with the matter of wealth: wealth perhaps soften some blows of chance, but it cannot alone make one happy:

The very rich man is not more fortunate than the man who has only his daily needs, unless he chances to end his life with all well. Many very rich men are unfortunate, many of moderate means are lucky.

The man who is very rich but unfortunate surpasses the lucky man in only two ways, while the lucky surpasses the rich but unfortunate in many. The rich man is more capable of fulfilling his appetites and of bearing a great disaster that falls upon him, and it is in these ways that he surpasses the other. The lucky man is not so able to support disaster or appetite as is the rich man, but his luck keeps these things away from him, and he is free from deformity and disease, has no experience of evils, and has fine children and good looks.

And we cannot know how much wealth will matter, because even wealth cannot guarantee all things necessary.

If besides all this he ends his life well, then he is the one whom you seek, the one worthy to be called fortunate. But refrain from calling him fortunate before he dies; call him lucky. It is impossible for one who is only human to obtain all these things at the same time, just as no land is self-sufficient in what it produces. Each country has one thing but lacks another; whichever has the most is the best. Just so no human being is self-sufficient; each person has one thing but lacks another.

And so, it is only at death that we learn whether one is happy:

Whoever passes through life with the most and then dies agreeably is the one who, in my opinion, O King, deserves to bear this name. It is necessary to see how the end of every affair turns out, for the god promises fortune to many people and then utterly ruins them.

Then Croesus was to learn the tale himself:

By saying this, Solon did not at all please Croesus, who sent him away without regard for him, but thinking him a great fool, because he ignored the present good and told him to look to the end of every affair.  But after Solon’s departure divine retribution fell heavily on Croesus; as I guess, because he supposed himself to be blessed beyond all other men.

The Greek here is more explicit than Godley’s translation. It reads, “ μετὰ δὲ Σόλωνα οἰχόμενον ἔλαβέ ἐκ θεοῦ νέμεσις μεγάλη Κροῖσοv.” After Solon departed, Croesus received from God great Nemesis. Nemesis is the retribution due.  She is the goddess who brings downfall to the proud.

And so Croesus learned in his own life that Solon was corrected: wealth cannot guarantee happiness.

 

 

Edward Taylor, When Thy Bright Beams.2

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He then ends with a praise to God’s great glory which shall be revealed on Judgment Day.  To understand the shift from a general statement of responding to God’s glory and a specific discussion of God’s judgment, it is necessary to consider the note that this poem is a meditation upon Philippians 2:9. To best understand that passage, we must first consider the sentence in context:

Philippians 2:5–11 (AV 1873)

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Verse 9 looks to the exaltation of Christ upon the completion of his bearing sin; it is a verse which looks to the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and then forward to Judgment Day when Christ shall be publicly vindicated and all will acknowledge his position as “Lord”.

Therefore, the “bright beams” of the first line of the poem concern the glory of Christ to be exhibited on Judgment Day. This exaltation by God of Christ comes in response to contrary powers’ insult of Christ during his humiliation:

By proclaiming God’s gift of the name Lord to Jesus, the hymn gives assurance to the church that this ultimate vindication belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. In the midst of present suffering and persecution for her faith in Jesus Christ, the church sings this hymn about the vindication of her faith when every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. In fact, “the church is the earthly center from which the full Lordship of Christ becomes visible.”289 When the church worships Jesus by bowing before him and proclaiming that he is Lord, she embodies the vision of the future submission of all creation to the Lord Jesus. The proclamation that Jesus is Lord announces his destiny: because he has been given the name Lord, he will rule over all creation. Jesus, crucified on a Roman cross, not Caesar seated on a Roman throne, is destined to receive universal acknowledgment that he alone is the sovereign Lord. “In the hymn the Church is caught up from earth to heaven, from the scene of conflict and duress into the presence of the all-conquering Lord, from the harsh realities of what is to the glorious prospect of what will be, because it is so already in God’s sight.”290

Walter Hansen, The Letter to the Philippians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 167–168.

The passage notes that all creation will give praise to Christ. Taylor picks up this strand when he notes that even birds and bees give praise.

This passage is also relevant to the themes of this poem, in that Paul uses the example of Christ to encourage humility in people of Philippi.

 

This shining sky will fly away apace,

When thy bright glory splits the same to make

Thy majesty a pass, whose fairest face

Too foul a path is for thy feet to take.

What glory then, shall tend thee through the sky

Draining the heaven much of angels dry?

This stanza draws upon various biblical texts concerning the coming of Christ in Judgment.

The sky will “fly away” and the will be “split”:

Revelation 6:14, “The sky departed as a scroll.” Hebrews 1:11, God will “fold … up” the heavens.

This stanza draws generally from the description of Revelation 19 concerning the return of Christ:

Revelation 19:11–16 (AV 1873)

 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipt in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Heaven is drained dry of angels, because they accompany Christ in his return.

Taylor puts an emphasis on “draining” by beginning the line with this word and putting the accent on the first syllable.

What light then flame will in thy Judgment Seat,

‘Fore which all men and angels shall appear?

How shall thy glorious righteousness treat

Rend’ring to each after his works done here?

Then saints with angels thou wilt glorify:

And burn lewd men and devils gloriously.

This stanza follows in order the logical consequence (return then judgment) and the text of Revelation, in that the judgment follows the return:

Revelation 19:11–16 (AV 1873)

 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipt in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

The concept of fire with judgment is a natural combination. It is also used throughout the Scripture. In Leviticus 10:2, a fire judges the two dishonoring priests. In Revelation 1:15, the eyes of the risen Christ are said to “flame like a furnace.” Hebrews 10 refers to God’s judgment as “fiery indignation”

Hebrews 10:26–27 (AV 1873)

 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

The rendering each according to his works, whether blessing or judgment is rehearsed in Romans 2:

Romans 2:5–11 (AV 1873)

 5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8 but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 for there is no respect of persons with God.

 

One glimpse, my Lord, of thy bright Judgment Day

And glory piercing through, like fiery darts,

All devils, doth me make for grace to pray

For filling grace had I ten thousand hearts.

I’d through ten hells to see thy Judgment Day

Wouldst thou but guild my soul with thy bright ray.

Seeking to see Christ’s judgment day may seem to be a strange desire of the poet. But note that his concern does not fall on the judgment nor what happens to those who are judged (whether good or ill). His concern falls on the matter of Christ being glorified on the Judgment Day.

The picture is of a king being installed, having defeated his enemies and rewarded his friends.

The picture that Christ’s glory itself effectively renders judgment (glory piercing through, like fiery darts,/ All devils)comes from the scene of Philippians 2:9-11. Christ will be glorified such that even his enemies will become overcome with glory and acknowledge his lordship. It is not a devoted, willing confession but rather a confession which comes from sheer force of truth.

Edward Taylor, When Thy Bright Beams

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(2009 photo contest winner for the Nature / Landscapes category. Photo by Kurt Svendsgaard/USFWS)

When thy bright beams, my Lord, do strike mine eye,

Methinks I then could truly chide out-right

My hidebound soul that stands so niggardly

That scarce a thought gets glorified by’t.

My quaintest metaphors are ragged stuff,

Making the sun seem like a mullipuff.

 

When I am struck evidence of your glory, I see how little right effect that glory works into my soul. I chide myself that I show so little effect up me. The words which I produce are of so little value.

“chide out-right”: Scold, upbraid.

“My hidebound soul”: his soul is unresponsive.

“Niggardly”: selfish, tightfisted: It is as if his soul is a miser which will pay out no praise.

“scarce a thought get glorified”: The glory of God does not translate into transformed thinking.  In Romans 12:2 Paul calls up us to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind”

“quaintest metaphors”: my most clever metaphors. The style of writing exercised by Taylor gives great emphasis to the cleverness of metaphor. He here raises his most able talent and says that it means nothing: it is “ragged stuff”.

He ends the stanza with a comic comparison: rather than raise what I know in admiration by means of comparison, I turn the very sun into a fuzzball.

 

It’s my desire, thou shouldst be glorified:

But when thy glory shine before mine eye,

I pardon crave, lest my desire be pride,

Or bed thy glory in cloudy sky.

The sun grows wan; and angels palefac’d shrink

Before thy shine, which I besmear with ink.

 

It is my aim – my desire – that you, God, should be honored by my work. But I see your already existing glory, rather than thinking of some means of providing you greater honor; I feel myself ashamed. I ask that you should forgive me (I pardon crave).

 

Rather than my writing providing something honoring to, I fear that I will dishonor you with my words. Rather than adding a luster to God’s glory, Taylor’s words will have the effect of being a “cloudy sky” to the sun. His poem will merely “besmear with ink” the glory of God.

 

This realization that (1) his soul has not responded rightly to the realization of God’s glory and (2) his complete inability to glorify God, leads to a crisis: What will I do? That crisis is set forth in the third stanza:

 

But shall the bird sign forth thy praise and shall

The little bee present her thankful hum?

But I who see thy shining glory fall

Before mine eyes, stand blockish, dull, and dumb?

Whether I speak, or speechless stand, I spy,

I fail thy glory: therefor, pardon cry.

 

Even the most simple things give glory to God: birds singing, bees humming.  This matter that all nature praises God is a theme in Scripture. For instance, Psalm 149

 

Psalm 148:7–10 (AV 1873)

7          Praise the Lord from the earth,

Ye dragons, and all deeps:

8          Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour;

Stormy wind fulfilling his word:

9          Mountains, and all hills;

Fruitful trees, and all cedars:

10         Beasts, and all cattle;

Creeping things, and flying fowl:

 

I do like “dragons”, but the contemporary translations render as something like “great sea creatures”.  All of nature praises God, “All thy works shall praise thee”. Ps. 145.10.

 

So, if all of creation praises God, then certainly Taylor – who has better reason and better ability to praise God – must do something. It is particularly wrong for Taylor to stand agape and say nothing,

 

But I who see thy shining glory fall

Before mine eyes, stand blockish, dull, and dumb?

 

So Taylor has no escape: If he praises God or he fails to praise, both will be wrong:

 

Whether I speak, or speechless stand, I spy,

I fail thy glory: therefor, pardon cry.

 

What can he possibly do but seek mercy?

 

 

 

But this I find: my rhymes do better suit

Mine own dispraise than tune forth praise to thee.

Yet being chide, whether consonant, or mute,

I force my tongue to tattle, as you see.

That I thy glorious praise my trumpet right

Be thou my song, and make Lord, me thy pipe.

 

He acknowledges that his best ability in terms of poetry is to note his own deficiency rather than God’s glory:

But this I find: my rhymes do better suit

Mine own dispraise than tune forth praise to thee.

 

And God, you also see since I deserve no matter I do (“whether consonant or mute”), but you also see that I cannot help but speak and praise you.

 

So then, Taylor prays that God will work in Taylor’s praise to remedy his defect. In making this prayer, Taylor is seeming relying upon the promise of Romans 8:27 that when we pray the Holy Spirit will intercede for us – that He will effectively correct our defective prayers.

 

He then ends with a praise to God’s great glory which shall be revealed on Judgment Day.

The Purpose ofApologetics

From Os Guinness, Fools Talk:

First the problem caused by sin:

“Were Adam and Eve aware of what they were doing? The thrust of the biblical account of the fall is powerful. Their disobedience entailed two things that are now characteristic of all of us as humans. On the one hand, for each of us, sin is the claim to the right to myself, and so to my way of seeing things, which—far more than class, gender, race and generation—is the ultimate source of human relativity. On the other hand, sin is the deliberate repudiation of God and the truth of his way of seeing things. If my way of seeing things is decisive, anyone who differs from me is wrong by definition—including God. No, especially God, because his way of seeing things is more powerful and therefore more threatening than anyone else’s. His word, our interference. This last point means, in turn, that sin, and the mistrust of disbelief in which it issues, does not, will not and cannot see God as he truly is. Still knowing God, it must now always refuse to face the responsibility of its knowledge of God and of its own guilt. It must therefore pass the buck. So when God asks Adam what he has done, he ducks the question by blaming Eve, just as Eve in her turn deflects the question by blaming the serpent.”

This brings us to the purpose of apologetics:

“Here at this precise point lies the core reason for Christian advocacy, as well as its motivating passion. Apologetics (from apologia in Greek) is a “word back,” a reasoned defense mounted on behalf of the one we love who is innocent but has been falsely and unfairly accused. Faith desires to let God be God. Sin has framed God, whether by the ultimate insults that he, the creator of all things, does not exist, or that he, the white-hot holy One, is responsible for the evil and suffering that humans have introduced into his good creation. So God’s name must be cleared and his existence and character brought to the fore beyond question.”