History and Persuasion

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The act of persuasion requires the use of language intentionally and purposefully crafted to convey meaning and appeal. Contemporary historians increasingly recognize that language shapes and creates the past; the basic events of human experience do not in and of themselves possess the qualities of coherence, unity, integrity, connectivity, comprehensiveness, and closure (S. Matthews, 20–24). Human ingenuity and creativity impose these formal narrative qualities on events and experience. Consequently, all written histories, whether ancient or modem, cannot be viewed as objective and unbiased accounts of what “really happened in the past.” Ancient and modern historians out of necessity pick and choose what to recount and what to present as significant or noteworthy. In this selection process, it is certain that a historian narrates events, intentionally or not, in such a way that exposes his or her priorities, values, beliefs, and interpretation of those events (Ehrman, 155). In contemporary postmodern thought, it is recognized that this is the ideological work that ancient (and modern) narratives do (S. Matthews, 21). This important shift in perspective for understanding ancient historical writings

Fortress Commentary on the Bible

Richard Sibbes, Sermons on Canticles 7.3

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Knowing that we are beloved, Sibbes draws three “uses” of this doctrine:

First, to be “persuaded of his love”. The result of such persuasion is that it will draw us to him: love creates a reciprocal love in the beloved:

Now this should stir us up to be fully persuaded of his love, that loves us so much. Christ’s love in us, is as the loadstone to the iron. Our hearts are heavy and downwards of themselves. We may especially know his love by this, that it draws us upwards, and makes us heavenly minded. It makes us desire further and further communion with him. Still there is a magnetical attractive force in Christ’s love. Wheresoever it is, it draws the heart and affections after it.

This “use” forms the basis for sanctification. One aspect of sanctification is a fear of sin; a loathing of sin. As Thomas Brooks writes:

‘Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good.’ When we meet with anything extremely evil and contrary to us, nature abhors it, and retires as far as it can from it. The Greek word that is there rendered ‘abhor,’ is very significant; it signifies to hate it as hell itself, to hate it with horror.

Anselm used to say, ‘That if he should see the shame of sin on the one hand, and the pains of hell on the other, and must of necessity choose one, he would rather be thrust into hell without sin, than to go into heaven with sin,’ so great was his hatred and detestation of sin. It is our wisest and our safest course to stand at the farthest distance from sin; not to go near the house of the harlot, but to fly from all appearance of evil, Prov. 5:8, 1 Thes. 5:22.

Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 13. However, abhorrence is only one step. We must move away; but we also must move toward. Romans 12:9 is to abhor on one hand and cling on the other. The love of Christ toward us impels our love toward him.

Second, it is an argument for the perseveration of the Church. Since the ground of the Church lies in the love of Christ, and since Christ’s is not shaken by the Church’s fluctuations, the Church is secure:

Use 2. And we may know from hence one argument to prove the stability of the saints, and the immortality of the soul, because Christ calls the church his love.

Sibbes does something interesting here. He does not merely assert that Christ has unchangeable love; he grounds that stability in the nature of law:

The want of love again, where it is entire, and in any great measure, is a misery. Christ therefore should suffer, if those he hath planted his love upon, whom he loves truly, either should fall away for ever, or should not be immortal for ever. Christ will not lose his love.

Because Christ loves the Church, Christ will not lose his church. He then draws that argument out further: Christ will not only not lose his Church in time; he will not lose his Church in eternity:

And as it is an argument of persevering in grace, so is it of an everlasting being, that this soul of ours hath; because it is capable of the love of Christ, seeing there is a sweet union and communion between Christ and the soul. It should make Christ miserable, as it were, in heaven, the place of happiness, if there should not be a meeting of him and his spouse. There must therefore be a meeting; which marriage is for ever, that both may be for ever happy one in another.

Here he cites to Hosea 2:20,  “I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.”

Finally, when we consider the Incarnation, it should cause of “warm our hearts” with love toward him:

Use 3. Let us often warm our hearts with the consideration hereof, because all our love is from this love of his.

Sibbes lays out a series of elements in this love. First, it is a mixgure of love and majesty together:

Oh the wonderful love of God, that both such transcendent majesty, and such an infinite love should dwell together. We say majesty and love never dwell together, because love is an abasing of the soul to all services. But herein it is false, for here majesty and love dwell together in the heart of one Christ, which majesty hath stooped as low as his almighty power could give leave. Nay, it was an almighty power that he could stoop so low and yet be God, keeping his majesty still. For God to become man, to hide his majesty for a while, not to be known to be God, and to hide so far in this nature as to die for us: what an almighty power was this, that could go so low and yet preserve himself God still!

Christ is the great combination of opposites; the greatest and most abased, because he descended from such a height:

Yet this we see in this our blessed Saviour, the greatest majesty met with the greatest abasement that ever was, and all out of love to our poor souls. There was no stooping, no abasement that was ever so low as Christ was abased unto us, to want for a time even the comfort of the presence of his Father. There was an union of grace; but the union of solace and comfort that he had from him was suspended for a time, out of love to us. For he had a right in his own person to be in heaven presently.

This was driven by love:

Now for him to live so long out of heaven, and ofttimes, especially towards his suffering, to be without that solace (that he might be a sacrifice for our sins), to have it suspended for a time, what a condescending was this? It is said, Ps. 113:6, that God stoops ‘to behold the things done here below.’ It is indeed a wondrous condescending, that God will look upon things below; but that he would become man, and out of love to save us, suffer as he did here, this is wondrous humility to astonishment! We think humility is not a proper grace becoming the majesty of God. So it is not indeed, but there is some resemblance of that grace in God, especially in Christ, that he should, to reveal himself, veil himself with flesh, and all out of love to us.

And our response:

The consideration of these things are wondrous effectual, as to strengthen faith, so to kindle love. Let these be for a taste to direct our meditations herein.

 

 

Second Century A.D., Pleading letter from a son to his mother

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The letter is found in Loeb vol. 266, Select Papyri and is number 120, “From a Penitent Son.” The translation and notes below are my own.

Antonius Longus

To his mother

tê mêtri: The article functions as a possessive pronoun: literally, the mother

many/much greeting(s).

I’m really happy to write to you!

I am always praying that you will be healthy.

Kai dia pantos euchomai. The thought is parallel to Paul’s greeting: 1 Thessalonians 1:2 (ESV), “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.” The word for prayer in the letter emphasizes a pray for something. It has the connotation of wish: I want this for you.

I perform worship to Lord Serapis every single day.

Kat’ aikastên êmairan. I’m not quite sure what the word in modifying daily means, because it does not appear in the BDAG or the LSJ. From the context, I think it must be emphatic. Serapis was associated with healing.

I wish you to know that I did not hope to come to the metropolis

Hope: elipzô. A future anticipation. Again, some guess work here on how to translate this concept: it could be “expect”, as the Loeb has it.  But this young man sounds more pathetic and pleading than that. He could not even hope to be near his mother.

This is the reason that I did not come to the city.

Charein: reason, on this cause.

I felt shame to come to Karanis, because I walked around in an evil state.

He uses a verb which is not listed in the BDAG or the LSJ. It is built off of the word which mean “modesty” (he says he is naked, which would immodest); but the emphasis is worse here. His “evil state” could be “rotten” or disgusting. “I didn’t want to see you, because I’m disgusting.”

I wrote to you that I am naked.

The “I wrote” is spelled with an “ai” rather than an “ê”. The letter contains a number of such unusual spellings.

        I beg you mother, consider how I am.

Loeb has “be reconciled with me.” What verb he means here is unclear. There are two possible words based upon the spelling. One word me divide by lot, therefore (share) an inheritance. There is also the verb to consider.

It’s my fault. I have learned the right lesson from all this.

Literally, For the rest, I know that for myself I have caused [this]. I have learned that which is fit.

I know that I have done wrong.

Loeb has “I have sinned.” It is the verb translated in the NT as “sin”. But I am not certain that the theological connotation of the word is fitting here. The word means to err, miss the mark.

I heard about you from [name is missing]; that you were found in Arsinoite.  He [?] told me all about you.

He spoke of you accurately.

Don’t you know that I would rather be crippled than that I should someone else even a dollar?

The money is an “obol”. Crippled could be maimed, disfigured. This last bit rings true to life. Having spoke of himself pitifully throughout he ends with a final justification. I am guessing that acted foolishly, lost everything and is priding himself on not being debt — now.

The wilderness had been changed into green pastures

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You remember how Greatheart in the Pilgrim describes the Valley of Humiliation as the best and most fruitful land in all those parts, and how that Mercy protested that she was as well in that Valley as she had been anywhere else in all their journey. That is only the old Dreamer’s way of saying that bare and sterile places have often turned out to be “green pastures.” And that is why God “makes us to lie down” in places from which we shrink. That is why He allows loss and trouble and disappointment to befall us. He knows what graces these things and their like beget in the soul, how they breed sympathy and tenderness and humility and dependence on God. They are indeed amongst the richest and most succulent pastures. And so God makes us to lie down in them in spite of ourselves. And later we come to recognize His wisdom. We realize the gain that has come to us. “It was good for me that I was afflicted.” That was a man for whom the wilderness had been changed into the “green pastures.” It is only in retrospect we recognize all this. While we are in the midst of life’s hardnesses and difficulties and trials they may appear to us to be anything but “green pastures.” But when we look back, in the mellow light of life’s evening time, we shall realize we owe some of life’s richest blessings to its troubled times, and shall be ready with David to confess “Thou makest me to lie down in green pastures, thou leadest me beside the still waters.

The King of Love, J D Jones (1922)

More dangerous than anything you will ever meet

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The Two Towers, Chapter 5

Tolkien here draws together two ideas which Gimili naively thinks to be exclusive of one-another. This is similar to Lewis’ comment that the lion is good and dangerous. The lion is certainly not safe.

The source of this idea is God himself. God is good, perfectly good. God is love. Who has ever been more kind than Christ? And yet God is very dangerous; more dangerous than anything we could imagine: more dangerous than anything you will ever meet:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matt10.28

It is a simplistic concept to think that danger and good are separate.

This helps a bit understand the tension in Christianity that we are to love God, trust God, put our hope in God – fear God.

Richard Sibbes, Sermons on Canticles, 7.2

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In the next section of the sermon, Sibbes notes the nature of the Savior’s love to his people. He takes this doctrine from the clause which contains the words “my love”, “Open my unto me, my love.” The appellation “my love” demonstrates the fact of love. Sibbes makes two observations about this love. First,

his love was settled upon her. It was in his own breast, but it rested not there, but seated itself upon, and in the heart of his spouse, so that she became Christ’s love.

Her status as being the beloved comes about because of the action of the lover. It is Christ’s love which makes the Church is beloved. This may seem obvious in human relationships: you are loved because you are loved. But when this comes to God, it demonstrates that the Church’s position is solely a matter of grace. It is one thing for a man to love a woman; it is quite another thing for the Creator to love the rebellious creature.

And since there is love, there is a “going out”:

We know the heart of a lover is more where it loves than where it lives, as we use to speak; and indeed, there is a kind of a going out, as it were, to the thing beloved, with a heedlessness of all other things. Where the affection is in any excess, it carries the whole soul with it.

The next observation of Sibbes concern manner in which this love finds expression in act. First this love is uniquely upon the Church

But, besides this, when Christ saith my love, he shews, that as his love goes, and plants, and seats itself in the church, so it is united to that, and is not scattered to other objects. There are beams of God’s general love scattered in the whole world; but this love, this exceeding love, is only fastened upon the church.

Next, this love is a quality which exceeds all other loves:

And, indeed, there is no love comparable to this love of Christ, which is above the love of women, of father, or mother, if we consider what course he takes to shew it.

The most that any lover could give would be himself. And thus God gives the greatest gift of all, by giving God:

For there could be nothing in the world so great to discover his love, as this gift, and gift of himself. And therefore he gave himself, the best thing in heaven or in earth withal, to shew his love. The Father gave him, when he was God equal with his Father. He loved his church, and gave himself for it.

This act of self giving is manifested in the Incarnation:

How could he discover his love better, than to take our nature to shew how he loved us? How could he come nearer to us, than by being incarnate, so to be bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; and took our nature to shew how he loved it, Eph. 5:30.

Sibbes then details the chain of love in the Incarnation:

Love draws things nearer wheresoever it is.

It drew him out of heaven to the womb of the virgin, there to be incarnate;

and, after that, when he was born not only to be a man,

but a miserable man,

because we could not be his spouse unless he purchased us by his death.

We must be his spouse by a satisfaction made to divine justice.

God would not give us to him, but with salving [preserving] his justice.

Unlike other doctors, this doctor suffers the treatment and we are healed:

What sweet love is it to heal us not by searing, or lancing, but by making a plaster of his own blood, which he shed for those that shed his, in malice and hatred.

William Gurnall used a very similar image in The Christian in Complete Armor:

He lived and died for you; he will live and die with you; for mercy and tenderness to his soldiers, none like him. Trajan, it is said, rent his clothes to bind up his soldiers’ wounds; Christ poured out his blood as balm to heal his saints’ wounds; tears off his flesh to bind them up.

William Gurnall The Christian in Complete Armour

And this love ties the Church to Christ now with the promise of an eternity with him.

Richard Sibbes, Sermons on Canticle, Sermon 7.1

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My love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; and how shall I defile them?—Cant. 5:2, 3.

In this sermon, Sibbes addresses the marvel of the Christian life: the believer is inconstant. Even after coming to true faith, the believer is inconstant. If our place before God were dependent upon us, we would never stand. A touchstone of Sibbes’ preaching is the candor with which he addresses this issue. This is a point which needs to be underscored. There is a strain of preaching which hoping to encourage holiness strikes only the note of condemning sin. Without question sin is a horror. It is a shame when we believers do sin. And yet, by speaking only of the horror and shame of sin, such preachers fail to bring about holiness. By striking on the note of warning they become the voice of guilt and discouragement.

Sibbes candidly raises the weakness of the creature. He does not wink at sin. Rather, Sibbes uses the weakness of the creature to exalt the grace of the Saving Creator. In this sermon, Sibbes lays out the manner in which Christ sustains the church on the basis of love. And by demonstrating such love in Christ, draws out the love in the believer. That love draws us onto holiness.

He first begins the sermon, with looking at the quandary of this verse: the lover has come to the door and yet the beloved will not come:

That the life of a Christian is a perpetual conflicting, appears evidently in this book, the passages whereof, joined with our own experiences, sufficiently declare what combats, trials, and temptations the saints are subject unto, after their new birth and change of life; now up, now down, now full of good resolutions, now again sluggish and slow, not to be waked, nor brought forward by the voice of Christ, as it was with the church here. She will not out of her sleep to open unto Christ, though he call, and knock, and stand waiting for entrance.

The fault in believer lies with the flesh:

The flesh of itself is prone enough to draw back, and make excuses, to hinder the power of grace from its due operation in us. She is laid along, as it were, to rest her; yet is not she so asleep, but she discerns the voice of Christ. But up and rise she will not.

Thus we may see the truth of that speech of our Saviour verified, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,’ John 3:6. The flesh pulls her back: the Spirit would raise her up to open to Christ.

Yet, in the wisdom of God, the weakness of the flesh does not thwart the design of the Savior: sin will be exposed, the creature will redeemed and the Savior will be glorified in his love toward the beloved:

He in the meanwhile makes her inexcusable, and prepares her by his knocking, waiting, and departing; as for a state of further humiliation, so for an estate of further exaltation. But how lovingly doth he speak to her!

 

Shakespeare Sonnet 10, Notes

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[1]       For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,

[2]       Who for thyself art so unprovident.

[3]       Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,

[4]       But that thou none lov’st is most evident.

[5]       For thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate

[6]       That ’gainst thyself thou stick’st not to conspire,

[7]       Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate

[8]       Which to repair should be thy chief desire.

[9]       O, change thy thought, that I may change my mind.

[10]     Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?

[11]     Be as thy presence is, gracious and kind,

[12]     Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove.

[13]     Make thee another self for love of me,

[14]     That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

 

Introduction:

This sonnet continues with the theme of the prior sonnets: a direct encouragement to marry and have children. As Benedick will say at the end of Much Ado About Nothing, “Prince, thou art sad. Get thee a wife, get thee a wife.”

The effect of these many sonnets seems to be the sort of work done by a composer who produces many “variations on a theme”. While it could be that Shakespeare really had some profound personal concern which drove these poems, they are much too clever. A series of poems working over a similar theme with both variety and continuity would be a bit of showing off by a young poet. I know others have their elaborate theories, but this theory at least runs true to life: young man wants to make a name for himself. That does not mean that there was no an actual recipient of the poems, only this extended theme looks like artistry. Other sonnets seem far more personal and autobiographical. But that is a question which cannot be answered.

Here the sonnet makes the argument in terms of love: You are loved by many; but you love none in return. In fact, you are filled with hate, both toward yourself and to others – because you don’t care what happens to yourself.

This really is not as much of a stretch as it might seem. A man who commits suicide when faced with financial ruin who leaves behind his wife and children acts in a way that does not care for his family. His self-directed concerns overweigh his duty and love to family. The way the event is experienced by others is as a kind of hate toward them: you don’t care what happens to us.

And so, Shakespeare pleads with the object of the poem: put aside your hatred for yourself and others; rather show love – at least toward me: marry and have a child.

First Stanza

[1]       For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,

[2]       Who for thyself art so unprovident.

[3]       Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,

[4]       But that thou none lov’st is most evident.

“For shame”: Because of shame. Example. The Geneva Bible notes for Psalm 44:15 (“All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face”) read, “I dare not lift up mine head for shame.” Or Titus Adronicus, “Ah, now thou turn’st away thy face for shame.” But here it seems the tone seems more defiant, “I dare you to deny.” Shame, because you should love others.

The thought of lines 1-2, “You plainly don’t love others, because you are wasting yourself.” You are unprovident.

You are loved my many – you must admit that. But you don’t love anyone in return.

Most evident: beyond question. It’s obvious.

Second Stanza

[5]       For thou art so possessed with murd’rous hate

[6]       That ’gainst thyself thou stick’st not to conspire,

[7]       Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate

[8]       Which to repair should be thy chief desire.

This is an interesting image: Your refusal to have an heir is “murd’rous hate”. It hate so extraordinary that is directed against yourself.

Thou stick’st not: you don’t hestitate

To conspire: with yourself to kill yourself.

You should be desiring to repair – reproduce – but you are bent on destroying: because death will destroy you. It is a “roof” perhaps because a family line is a “house”.

 

Third Stanza

[9]       O, change thy thought, that I may change my mind.

[10]     Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?

[11]     Be as thy presence is, gracious and kind,

[12]     Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove.

Line 9 is a very Shakespearean dual use of a single word: change. It is a clever line, but it is perhaps out of place in this stanza. The rest of the stanza takes a related but different emphasis: Your conduct in this respect should be as loving and gracious as it is otherwise.

“Fairer lodged”: better cared for as guest. Why do you provide more care for hatred than love?

And if you don’t care for others, at least care for yourself.

Couplet

[13]     Make thee another self for love of me,

[14]     That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

The poem ends with a final plea: If you can’t be persuaded to action for others; and if you don’t care what happens to yourself; at least you should act for me.

The last line also contains a misstep: That beauty still may live in thine: That is, that your beauty will continue in your progeny: “thine”, thy children. This concludes the argument of the poem.

But the final phrase “or thee” – needed for the rhyme — is contradicted by the thrust of the poem.  It is precisely because beauty will not live “in thee” that Shakespeare is pleading with him to marry.

 

 

That’s also what made want to become an actor

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That’s also what made me want to become an actor, so that by taking on another’s role I could acquire a sort of surrogate for my own life and in this exchanging of externals find some form of diversion. That’s what I lacked for leading a completely human life and not just a life of knowledge, to avoid basing my mind’s development on–yes, on something that people call objective–something which at any rate isn’t my own, and base it instead on something which is bound up with the deepest roots of my existence,* through which I am as it were grown into the divine and cling fast to it even though the whole world falls apart. This, you see, is what I need, and this is what I strive for. So it is with joy and inner invigoration that I contemplate the great men who have found that precious stone for which they sell everything, even their lives,* whether I see them intervening forcefully in life, with firm step and following unwaveringly their chosen paths, or run into them off the beaten track, self-absorbed and working for their lofty goals. I even look with respect upon those false paths that also lie there so close by. It is this inward action of man, this God-side of man, that matters, not a mass of information.

Soren Kierkegaard

A Note on Christian Politics

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William Gurnall noting how Paul responded to being imprisoned:

But how doth this great apostle spend his time in prison? Not in publishing invectives against those, though the worst of men, who had laid him in; a piece of zeal which the holy sufferers of those times were little acquainted with: nor in politic councils, how he might wind himself out of his trouble, by sordid flattery of, or sinful compliance with, the great ones of the times. Some would have used any picklock to have opened a passage to their liberty, and not scrupled, so escape they might, whether they got out at the door or window: but this holy man was not so fond of liberty or life, as to purchase them at the least hazard to the gospel.

He knew too much of another world, to bid so high for the enjoying of this; and therefore he is fearless what his enemies can do with him, well knowing he was sure of going to heaven whether they would or not. No, the great care which lay upon him, was for the churches of Christ; as a faithful steward, he labours to set this house of God in order before his departure. We read of no despatches sent to court to procure his liberty; but many to the churches to help them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free.

There is no such way to be even with the devil and his instruments, for all their spite against us, as by doing what good we can wherever we are. The devil had as good have let Paul alone, for he no sooner comes into prison but he falls a preaching, at which the gates of Satan’s prison fly open, and poor sinners come forth. Happy for Onesimus that Paul was sent to gaol; God had an errand for Paul to do to him and others, which the devil never dreamed of.

 William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour (London: Thomas Tegg, 1845), 1.

Gurnall’s observations in The Christian in Complete Armour are echoed by Wang Yi’s statement released by his congregation, after his arrest by the Chinese Government:

My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience

On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China. For God deposes kings and raises up kings. This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China.

As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience. But changing social and political institutions is not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel.

For all hideous realities, unrighteous politics, and arbitrary laws manifest the cross of Jesus Christ, the only means by which every Chinese person must be saved. They also manifest the fact that true hope and a perfect society will never be found in the transformation of any earthly institution or culture but only in our sins being freely forgiven by Christ and in the hope of eternal life.

As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ’s command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King. Every man’s life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent. Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China—to testify to the world about our Christ, to testify to the Middle Kingdom about the Kingdom of Heaven, to testify to earthly, momentary lives about heavenly, eternal life. This is also the pastoral calling that I have received.

For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this Communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily. As the Lord’s servant John Calvin said, wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people, the goal being to urge God’s people to repent and turn again toward Him. For this reason, I am joyfully willing to submit myself to their enforcement of the law as though submitting to the discipline and training of the Lord.

At the same time, I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.

But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man’s sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ.

As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.

For the mission of the church is only to be the church and not to become a part of any secular institution. From a negative perspective, the church must separate itself from the world and keep itself from being institutionalized by the world. From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world. The Bible teaches us that, in all matters relating to the gospel and human conscience, we must obey God and not men. For this reason, spiritual disobedience and bodily suffering are both ways we testify to another eternal world and to another glorious King.

This is why I am not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China. I’m not even interested in the question of when the Communist regime’s policies persecuting the church will change. Regardless of which regime I live under now or in the future, as long as the secular government continues to persecute the church, violating human consciences that belong to God alone, I will continue my faithful disobedience. For the entire commission God has given me is to let more Chinese people know through my actions that the hope of humanity and society is only in the redemption of Christ, in the supernatural, gracious sovereignty of God.

If God decides to use the persecution of this Communist regime against the church to help more Chinese people to despair of their futures, to lead them through a wilderness of spiritual disillusionment and through this to make them know Jesus, if through this he continues disciplining and building up his church, then I am joyfully willing to submit to God’s plans, for his plans are always benevolent and good.

Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power. For the Bible teaches us that God establishes governmental authorities in order to terrorize evildoers, not to terrorize doers of good. If believers in Jesus do no wrong then they should not be afraid of dark powers. Even though I am often weak, I firmly believe this is the promise of the gospel. It is what I’ve devoted all of my energy to. It is the good news that I am spreading throughout Chinese society.

I also understand that this happens to be the very reason why the Communist regime is filled with fear at a church that is no longer afraid of it.

If I am imprisoned for a long or short period of time, if I can help reduce the authorities’ fear of my faith and of my Savior, I am very joyfully willing to help them in this way. But I know that only when I renounce all the wickedness of this persecution against the church and use peaceful means to disobey, will I truly be able to help the souls of the authorities and law enforcement. I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.

Moreover, I must point out that persecution against the Lord’s church and against all Chinese people who believe in Jesus Christ is the most wicked and the most horrendous evil of Chinese society. This is not only a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against all non-Christians. For the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus. There is no greater wickedness in the world than this.

If this regime is one day overthrown by God, it will be for no other reason than God’s righteous punishment and revenge for this evil. For on earth, there has only ever been a thousand-year church. There has never been a thousand-year government. There is only eternal faith. There is no eternal power.

Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ.  When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them.

Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.

And so, respectable officers, stop committing evil. This is not for my benefit but rather for yours and your children’s. I plead earnestly with you to stay your hands, for why should you be willing to pay the price of eternal damnation in hell for the sake of a lowly sinner such as I?

Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws.

The Lord’s servant,
Wang Yi