Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Theological Statement, Part 3 - The Bible

Theological Statement, Part 1 - The Nature of God
Theological Statement, Part 2 - Jesus & the Holy Spirit


(Painting: "Still Life with Bible," by Vincent van Gogh, 1885)

The Bible – The Bible (by which I mean the library of 66 books traditionally held in the Protestant canon as sacred) is the church’s authoritative rule of faith and practice. It is the foundational witness of God’s revelation to humankind, both in his relationship to ancient Israel and in the person of Jesus Christ (who alone is the full and final revelation of God). It was composed by a group of human authors who recorded and reflected on these revelations of God which they witnessed, and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration was present in the processes of writing, redacting, and canonizing. The Holy Spirit continues to use these books to speak to the people of God as the church reads and interprets them (2 Tim. 3:16). Since it is the authoritative witness to the revelation of God, it is our primary source of knowledge about God and about how to live in relationship with him. As such, the preaching, teaching, and study of the Bible must occupy central places in the worship of the church and the daily lives of Christians. However, even though the Bible is our authoritative rule of faith and practice, the fact that it was written thousands of years ago and in very different cultural and literary contexts than our own requires that we be discerning and humble in our attempts at interpretation. We who are church leaders must study not only the Bible itself but the history of its interpretation, as well as current hermeneutical debates, so that we can be in conversation with the whole Christian community, all of us interacting with this one text through which the Holy Spirit has been speaking to his people for millennia. I hold that the Bible will infallibly lead us to true doctrine about God and his plan of salvation; but our reception of its infallible message is only fully accessible when we read it humbly, diligently, prayerfully, as part of our intentional pursuit of holiness, and in spiritual communion and dialogue with the whole Body of Christ. I believe that our foundational hermeneutical principle ought to be to read all of Scripture, Old Testament and New, in the light of the person of Jesus Christ, since he is the full and final revelation of God.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Learning to Fly

I've heard it said
    That some birds, fleet and swift-feathered,
         Have wings of such unspeakable genius
             That, standing in a mistral wind,
         All they must do is spread their wings
    And up they rise, like dazzled pieces of the sky,
Without a flap, a cry, a slight exertion.

Lord, sometimes I feel
    That that was me, in the wild romance
        Of youthful faith, with all its breathless zeal--
            A prayer, a thought, a single moment,
        Could launch me whirling straight into joy,
    The region of Thy glory, ineffable, immense,
Without a doubt, a labor, a spark of heartache.

But there are other birds, too--
    Incarnations of earth and lake and tree,
        Who take to the sky with thunderous work,
            The torment of a hundred wingbeats
        Raking the wind with fierce assaults
    Until it lifts them up, grudging in submission,
To bear them to a better clime.

Today, sweet Lord, I am the second bird--
    Where prayer, contentment, mystic bliss,
        Seem like a strange and foreign element,
            Wherein I can gain a momentary access
        By herculean labors of ascetic toil alone;
    And even then, I know I'm destined down--
Back down to earth from which I toiled to rise.

But I know that earth, that lake, that tree,
    I know it better than I ever knew before:
        The exultations of youthful faith had wings,
            But knew not whence its flight made rise;
        The consolations of ungrounded bliss,
    While sweet, could not fly endlessly so high
Without the solid strength of a launching-place.

Now I stand, firm on the ancient, gracious rock,
    And know that I am a thing of earth,
        Of water, stone, and tree...but still:
            A thing designed to ride the lofty skies.
        I know that I must learn to fly,
    Upborne by grace, by toil, by discipline,
Until I ride the zephyr winds to Thee.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Photo of the Week

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

                 - Psalm 90:1-2

Monday, September 26, 2016

Quote of the Week

"Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.”
 
- C. S. Lewis, from his essay “Learning in War-Time"


(Painting: "Gothic Window," by Ramon Lopez Redondo, 19th cent.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday Synaxis



O Lord our God, grant us grace to desire you with a whole heart, that so desiring you we may seek and find you, and so finding you may love you, and loving you may hate those sins which separate us from you, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
              - Anselm 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Theological Statement, Part 2 - Jesus & the Holy Spirit

You can read Part 1 of this series by clicking on this link.

 (Painting: "The Baptism of Christ," by Tintoretto, c.1580)


        Jesus Christ – I believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the promised Messiah, and that he is the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son (Mk. 1:1). I hold, along with early church tradition, that God the Son is “eternally begotten of the Father,” an explanation of the Trinitarian relationship that emphasizes both the Son’s relational dependence on the Father and his eternal co-existence with the Father. In earliest Christianity, including in the Scriptures themselves, this idea was partly understood by describing God the Son in terms of the Logos of God (Jn. 1:1)—which (at least in part) suggests that God the Son is understood to be the eternal self-expression of the Father, his “Word,” which he is constantly speaking forth. In the super-personal reality of the Godhead, this self-expression is so full that it is, indeed, the fullness of God himself. Thus, there was no time when God the Son did not exist; he is “eternally begotten,” continually spoken forth. Thus also, God the Son is no less divine than the Father, since he is the perfect, complete, and visible image of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3)—he and the Father are one (Jn. 10:30). Christ was the active means of creation, as the New Testament indicates (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16), as well as the active means of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and he continues to be the sustaining force in which “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). God’s eternal plan was to draw his creation upward toward love, toward worship of himself, and to do this he deigned to unite himself with us, so that we might be like him (1 Jn. 3:2). In the Incarnation, God united himself intimately with his creation, “becoming flesh” in the person of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14). Jesus was born through a miraculous virginal conception to Mary (Is. 7:14; Mt. 1:18; Lk. 1:34-35), from whom he inherited a genuine human nature in both its corporeal and noncorporeal aspects (Heb. 2:17), while at the same time being the Second Person of the Trinity—a fully human and a fully divine nature, united in one person, without blending or division. In his earthly life, ministry, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ was the final fulfillment of the revelation of God—he fulfilled the Jewish law, the offices of prophet, priest, and king, and he fulfilled in himself the promises given to the people of God in the Old Testament. He ascended to reign in glory in the heavens (while extending his earthly reign through his church), and there he intercedes for us before the Father. (Christ’s purpose and mission as it relates to humanity will be dealt with more fully in the “Salvation” section below, and his return will be dealt with in the “Eschatology” section.)



The Holy Spirit – I believe that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, fully divine in nature. The Spirit is co-eternal with the Father and the Son from eternity past, and now represents God’s active power at work in creation. The Holy Spirit was integrally involved in the acts of creation and redemption (Gen. 1:2; Mt. 3:16). The Spirit’s most clearly-defined role comes in the New Testament, appearing as the vivifying, sustaining, dynamic presence of God in the midst of his people. The Spirit descended on the fledgling Church in tongues of flame at the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). It is the Spirit who inhabits the Church as a temple, dwelling in believers as “a seal…who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit, though already having been active in leading a person to Christ, indwells the new believer in a special way upon accepting Christ as Lord (Acts 2:38; Eph 1:13). The Holy Spirit is the source of all spiritual gifts, of which there are many kinds divided among the members of the Body, all intended for the purposes of building up the Church and reaching out to the lost (1 Cor. 12:4-11). The Holy Spirit is thus engaged in the work of building up the church as a whole, and is also the active power at work in the progressive sanctification of believers as we grow towards spiritual maturity.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Benediction


Here's a quick little poem-prayer I wrote back when I was in college:



Benediction

May the peace of Christ be with you,
      In your comings and in your goings.
May the True Spirit direct the journeying of your heart,
      And may His loving care enfold you.
May the Living God be your shield on the day of battle,
      And may He defend you with His strong right arm.
Now and always, wherever you go.
Now, and always, wherever He leads you.
                                    Amen.