What is it to be God?

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I answer, To be a God, take it in the general, is to give being to the creature that had no being of itself, and to protect and preserve the creature in its being: in a word, to be a creator; for providence is the perpetuity and continuance of creation. This is to be a God. The office of God, as God, is a most glorious function. To be a king is a great matter, but to be a God, to give being to the creature, to support it when it hath a being, to do all that God should do, this is a most glorious work. But this is but creation. This is not intended especially here, for thus he is the God of all his works. Thus by creation and preservation he is the God of all the men in the world out of the church.

Richard Sibbes, “The Faithful Covenanter” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 6 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 7.

The Lamb Approaches his Murderers

The deepest significance of this act of our Lord will be understood only when it is brought into direct connection with the history of His Passion. Voluntarily does the Lamb approach His murderers now that the time of slaughter has arrived. By such a public step He guards on the one hand against an assassination, and on the other hand brings on more rapidly His suffering and dying, for by this very act the hate of His enemies increases; Judas sees himself again deceived, when the Lord suffers even this opportunity of mounting an earthly throne to pass by unused; and while Jesus does nothing more to keep the enthusiasm of the multitude alive by brilliant miracles, the whole enthusiasm of the multitude at the end is nothing more than the last upstreaming brilliancy of an evening sun, before it vanishes beneath the horizon.
Lange’s Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, The Triumphal Entry

O For a Thousand Tongues, Text & History

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O FOR a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of his grace!
2 My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honors of thy name.
3 Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.
4 He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.
5 He speaks, and, listening to his voice,
New life the dead receive;
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;
The humble poor believe.
6 Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

Charles Wesley.

This fine hymn has stood at the head of the Wesleyan Hymn Book since 1779, and has led the procession in the official book of the Methodist Episcopal Church from near its organization, in 1784. Its history is very interesting.
The author’s title was: “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion.” It was written in 1739 to celebrate the first anniversary of his spiritual birth, and was published in Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1740.
Charles Wesley gives an account of his conversion in his Journal. He says:
“Sunday, May 21, 1738. I waked in expectation of His coming. At nine my brother and some friends came and sang a hymn to the Holy Ghost. My comfort and hope were hereby increased. In about half an hour they went. I betook myself to prayer, the substance as follows: ‘O Jesus, thou hast said, “I will come unto you;” thou hast said, “I will send the Comforter unto you;” thou hast said, “My Father and I will come unto you, and make our abode with you.” Thou art God, who canst not lie. I wholly rely upon thy most true promise: accomplish it in thy time and manner.’ … Still I felt a violent opposition and reluctance to believe, yet still the Spirit of God strove with my own and the evil spirit till by degrees he chased away the darkness of my unbelief. I found myself convinced, I knew not how nor when, and immediately fell to intercession.”

The anniversary poem contained eighteen stanzas, beginning:

Glory to God, and praise, and love
Be ever, ever given.

The hymn is composed of verses 7 to 12, unaltered except for a single word. The author wrote the second line “My dear Redeemer’s praise.” This was changed by John Wesley to “My great Redeemer’s praise.”
The rapture and extravagance of the first verse are explained by the preceding stanzas, especially verses 2 and 5:

2 On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of Righteousness arose;
On my benighted soul he shone,
And filled it with repose.
5 I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me he loved—the Son of God;
For me, for me he died.

Charles S. Nutter and Wilbur F. Tillett, The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church: An Annotated Edition of the Methodist Hymnal, vol. 1 (New York; Cincinnati; Nashville: Eaton & Mains; Jennings & Graham; Smith & Lamar, 1911), 1.

Kierkegaard on the Impossibility of a Secular Morality

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His own own experience, rather than any theoretical requirements, convinced Kierkegaard that man’s real predicament is to be placed between a thoroughly esthetic way of living and a thoroughly religious one. No permanent footing can be maintained on a purely ethical basis, and in this respect Kierkegaard stands opposed to all efforts to make morality self-sufficient. Ethical principles are intrinsically ordained to the religious outlook, and a secular morality is either unaware of its religious significance our only esthetic discourse about being moral. The genuine alternatives are still the world and the cloister, the esthetic and the religious kinds of existing. Recollecting his own battle at playing the Romantic genius and also the tremendous upheaval involved in his return to Faith, Kierkegaard was inclined to state the contrast is being between “perdition and salvation”–between which there can be no compromise for reconciliation.

James Collins, The Mind of Kierkegaard (London: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., 1954) 46-47.

An easy illustration of this can be found when one tries to establish even the most “self-evident” forms of ethics: Why is murder wrong? If you say, Because killing is wrong? The next step is “Why?” Because you killed a person. “Why is it wrong to kill a person?” Where does one stop searching for an answer to the “why”? Wherever one stops implies a religious position (to use Kierkegaard’s term) or an ethical (I simply find this distasteful).

The implicit esthetic morality of many people is apparent in the tremendous transformation taking place in ethics (particularly sexual ethics) in the West — and the speed in which it has happened. It seems that a great deal of public ethics was merely a matter of taste. Indeed, the “religious” positions of many people seem to be little more than taste and convenience.

Heretica and Hysteria on Campus

 A wide range of psychological tests conducted by Wason and others cited by Haidt provide no evidence whatsoever that the professoriate is any more likely than a less educated cohort to think independently, that is, to process fresh ideas and to draw from them anything but the officially sanctioned conclusions.
As Haidt notes, academics tend to have higher than average IQs, and are predictably “able to generate more reasons” to account for what they believe. But high IQ people like academics “are no better than others at finding reasons on the other side.”

Here’s the rest

The value of information is relative to need

Walking through court downtown Los Angeles:
A group of lawyers. One jokes about the other being arrested (you could be arrested for contempt if you make the judge angry – a very rare circumstance).

“I don’t want to bail you out tomorrow”, says one lawyer to another. The group laughs.

A man dressed very differently (shall we say) and of a different background (shall we say) overhears them and says to me and the lawyers, “You can’t bail out on the weekend here. In Los Angeles you have to wait for Monday!” 

He looked sad that they did not thank him for this tip.

John Calvin: The World as a Theater

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Therefore, because God has put us in this world as in a theatre, to contemplate his glory, let us acknowledge him to be such as he declares himself to us, and because he gives us the second instruction which is even more familiar in his word, let us be more confident and stirred with a burning zeal to aspire unto him until we reach that goal, and let us be aware that this world was created for that purpose and that our Lord has placed us here and has favored us with living here and enjoying all the things he has created.

Now, the sun was not made for itself and is even a creature without feeling. The trees, the each, which produces food for us — all of that works for man. The animals, although they move and have some feeling, do not do for all that have this high capacity to understand what belongs to God, for they do not discriminate between good and evil. We also see that their life and death are for men’s use and service.

Jean Calvin, “The Triune God at Work (Gen. 1:1-2)” in Sermons On Genesis, Chapters 1:1-11:4: Forty-Nine Sermons Delivered in Geneva between 4 September 1559 and 23 January 1560, trans. Rob Roy McGregor (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, ©2009), 6.

However, we need note here that we are more than cursed and abominable if we, being masters and possessors of all the good things God has bestowed upon us, do not at least show gratitude as we worship him and confess that everything comes from.

Id., at p. 10. This is the great indictment of humanity:

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:21–25 (ESV)

 

Infallibility and Inerrancy in the 17th Century

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There is a contention that “inerrancy” is a bit of a new doctrine (something post-Hodge and Warfield) and is thus a bit of an invention:

The CSBI [Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy] goes on the defensive in article 16 when it affirms that inerrancy “has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history” and denies that it “is a doctrine invented by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.” There is a grain of truth here, but some palpable problems as well. First, Christian believers over the course of history have repeatedly affirmed that the Holy Scriptures come from God, they are to be read and studied in the churches, they are the inscripturated form of the rule of faith, they emit divine authority, they are without falsehood, and they are true and trustworthy. 8 However, to insist that the CSBI understanding of inerrancy is and always has been normative in church history is a bit of a stretch.

Michael Bird, “Inerrany is not Necessary for Evangelicalism Outside the USA” in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Zondervan (2013-12-10) Kindle Locations 2448-2449. In response, I would like to note the following use of “infallibility” and “unerringness” (inerrancy) from the 17th Century Puritan Thomas Goodwin:

There is a contention that “inerrancy” is a bit of a new doctrine (something post-Hodge and Warfield) and is thus a bit of an invention:

The CSBI [Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy] goes on the defensive in article 16 when it affirms that inerrancy “has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history” and denies that it “is a doctrine invented by Scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.” There is a grain of truth here, but some palpable problems as well. First, Christian believers over the course of history have repeatedly affirmed that the Holy Scriptures come from God, they are to be read and studied in the churches, they are the inscripturated form of the rule of faith, they emit divine authority, they are without falsehood, and they are true and trustworthy. 8 However, to insist that the CSBI understanding of inerrancy is and always has been normative in church history is a bit of a stretch.

Michael Bird, “Inerrany is not Necessary for Evangelicalism Outside the USA” in Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Zondervan (2013-12-10) Kindle Locations 2448-2449. In response, I would like to note the following use of “infallibility” and “unerringness” (inerrancy) from the 17th Century Puritan Thomas Goodwin:

Apostleship was an office extraordinary in the Church of God, appointed for a time for the first rearing and governing of the Church of the New Testament, and to deliver the faith which was about wants to be given to the Saints (as Jude speaks), and the apostles are therefore entitled the foundation the church is built on, Eph. ii. 20; which office, accordingly, had many extraordinary privileges annexed to it, suited (as all the callings by God and his institutions are) to attain that and which was so extraordinary–as, namely, unlimitedness of commission to teach all nations, Matt. xxvviii.19. They likewise had an infallibility and unerringness, this, whether in their preaching or writing (2 Cor. i. ver. 13 and 18 compared), which was absolutely necessary for them to have, seeing they were to lay the foundation for all ages, although in their personal walking’s they might her, as Peter did, Gal. ii. 10.

Thomas Goodwin, “Exposition of Ephesians 1”, in The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 1,(Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 5.

Thomas Goodwin, “Exposition of Ephesians 1”, in The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 1,(Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 5.

The Spiritual Chymist, Meditation XLIV

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Upon a Physician Feeling the Pulse

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How often and how exactly do physicians feel the pulse of their patients? Not a day passes without a strict observation of the motion that it makes, according to which they judge both of the greatness and danger of the distemper, and what issues are like to be both in respect of life and death. They do not as other visitors, ask the patient how he does, but rather inform him how he is, and from the report which they make of his malady, his fears and hopes are more or less.

And yet how rarely do they feel their own pulse, who are so seemingly anxious about another’s. Days, weeks, months do elapse and pass away without any such studious heeding of themselves, as they continually in their profession exercise towards others. And yet happily and so doing they are as the priest in the temple who (as our Savior says) profane the Sabbath and are blameless.

But they osscaion me to think of the practice of many, who cannot so easily be acquitted; such you are severe observers of other men’s ways and actions and yet as great the neglecters of their own; who are far more glad that they can espy a fault than others, than grieve but it is committed: who presume to two look into the breast and To discover how the affections, which are the pulse of the soul, do beat and work in every duty.

And someday mistake the heat of their zeal as resembling a high and vehement pulse who strength comes not from health but from fever. And others, they condemn lukewarmness, an indifferency, whose affections they judged to be as weak and slow pulse, or is the springs of a watch that is well nigh down; which clicks and moves very faintly. In some again, they observed an inequality in their profession, which is accompanied with frequent stands and pauses that they make; like the asthmatic and short breaths persons, they run a while and blow longer, before they can move again. And upon these they look with this sad accountants as a physician does upon his patient as a false and intermittent pulse.

Few or none can be found to escape their censure, who observe the feelings of others, as some ancient critics did the imperfect verses of Homer, which they learned by heart, not at all regarding the many good. But what can be more contrary to law and rule of Christianity in such practices? How many prohibitions are gone out of the court of heaven to stay such a regular proceedings? Are we not by Christ forbidden to judge that we be not judged? To judge nothing before the time the Lord come?

And yet what if any man could know the true temper of the affections of others, as as fully as a position can distinguish between a well in sick pulse, would this knowledge be any great advantage onto him while he it Is both ignorant and regardless of his own estate? Would there bye find such joy and comforting himself as he that by an impartial examination of himself can discover the truth and sincerity of his own heart to Christ, though he can say nothing of others? Surely this man, as the hungry, would be filled with good things; when the other, as the rich, should be sent away empty.

He as the humble publican would be justified, when the other is the proud Pharisee should be condemned. Let others then physician like Study the condition of others, I shall look upon it as my duty and make it my work not to find out what others are, but what I am in regard of my unfeigned love and affection under Christ who has transcendently merited my love, when I am wholly unworthy of his.