Tuesday, December 23, 2008
--Virginia Bill of Rights, Article 16
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
--John Adams, letter to Mercy Warren, 16 April 1776
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
1For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. I Corinthians 10.
While I appreciate and even enjoy the debate on the “efficacy” of baptism, commonly referred to as Federal Vision, I have said before that I don’t think that this is the best way to cast the issue. It casts the issue in the same terms as we would discuss the efficacy of an aspirin to relieve a headache. Baptism is a sign of a relationship, much as a wedding ring would be. Shouldn’t we talk in terms of relationship?
Baptism establishes a new relationship, which begs the question a relationship unto what? This passage clearly ties the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to the sacrament of baptism. We have a relationship unto communion with Jesus Christ. The two cannot be separated. They should be considered together. Participation in the former flows out of the event of the latter. Meredith Kline points out in his short book By Oath Consigned that the Red Sea crossing had the characteristics of an ancient trial by water, much as what we would think of as a “trial by fire.” In such an event, the innocent are rescued and the guilty are destroyed. And this is exactly what happened in the Red Sea crossing. We, like they, show our relationship established in baptism in our communion with Christ. We show the lack of our relationship established in baptism in our lack of communion with Christ.
Yahweh takes his signs of covenantal relationship very seriously. In Exodus 3, Yahweh threatened to kill Moses for Moses’ failure to circumcise his son. I Corinthians 10 refers to Israel’s failure to observe the sacrament of the Sabbath in the Exodus. Ezekiel 20 refers to Yahweh’s use of the Sabbath as a covenant curse against the nation of Israel for their rebellion against Him. We should take those signs of covenantal relationship seriously too. God has given us a pattern of life of six days work and one day rest. He has called us to “remember” one day in seven as a memorial to him. He has also called us to commemorate his Supper in “remembrance” of him. If we look at the efficacy of our baptism through our communion with Christ, we see the efficacy in a living relationship not a mere sign. Our understanding of our baptism depends on a promise made by our covenant God that he will bless us through baptism. This is not an automatic thing; its better because it is based on relationship.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
In 1778, a Thanksgiving resolution drafted by Adams was approved by Congress on Nov. 3, setting aside Wednesday, Dec. 30, as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, "It having pleased Almighty God through the Course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold Mercies on the People of these United States."
The entire editorial can be seen at the following link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122765806822958269.html.
Let us remember that “thank” is a transitive verb. It always carries with it a direct object. We should always be thankful to someone or something. The founding fathers understood that our ultimate thanks belonged to Almighty God, our creator and sustainer. We should take this idea to heart. We may be thankful for blessings. We may be thankful to other people. But our ultimate thanks goes to the one who made our blessings and relationships possible, Almighty God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, and by his Holy Spirit.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
—Thomas Jefferson (Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 15 February 1791)
Monday, November 24, 2008
The book starts out like most of the other prophets with condemnation for Judah. It is more sever in its detail of the actual devastation brought upon the people and the atrocities inflicted by Babylon due to the closeness of Ezekiel to the actual events. Israel must die and so must the temple be destroyed. The initial portion of the book ends with the description the death of Ezekiel’s wife in which he is commanded not to morn.
The next portion of the book describes a judgment on the nations with a particular focus on Egypt. Much as in the first exodus, Pharaoh must die.
Then in chapter 33, the focus returns to Israel. While it continues its theme of death and destruction initially, the theme shifts at about chapter 36 to resurrection and the design of the new temple in chapter 40. The new design is given at Passover. Passover will be celebrated. 45:11. And water will flow out of the temple. Chapter 47.
God was faithful to his word given in Deuteronomy 28 and 30 to scatter the people and bring them back, to devastate and renew, to kill and make alive. Israel was “born again.” God would live with them once again.
The church is the same. With Christ, God lives with us. We, as individuals and as a community, are also subject to death and resurrection. We must be “born again.” The difference is that Christ promises never to leave us. He will be with us to the end of the age. As we go through individual and corporate trials, we can be sure that although there is a sense of death in what we suffer we will be brought resurrection through those sufferings. We can rejoice in our sufferings then. We can also be sure that God will be faithful to us because He has been faithful to us his people in the past. We can be faithful. This joy gives us motivation to worship and to serve.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
—John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"If an American is to amount to anything he must rely upon himself, and not upon the State; he must take pride in his own work, instead of sitting idle to envy the luck of others. He must face life with resolute courage, win victory if he can, and accept defeat if he must, without seeking to place on his fellow man a responsibility which is not theirs." --Theodore Roosevelt
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
—George Washington, letter to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, September 5, 1789
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This oracle provides me hope on two fronts. First, Yahweh will defend his church. As the church is maligned and persecuted, Yahweh will keep a record of the abuses against his church and judge the nations for those abuses. Matthew 5 makes clear that the church is blessed when it is persecuted. I look at events such as the hurricane relief after Katrina. The church responded. Government did not. The media completely ignores this fact, rather it maligns the church. Yahweh will not allow these events to go unnoticed.
Second, this message makes me hopeful for our nation. Judgment on a nation falls on the nation in proportion to its abuse of other nations. Edom had plundered and not helped Judah in its day of judgment. How does America fare on this front? The fifth verse of the Battle Hymn of the Republic reads as follows:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
[originally …let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.
What other nation has ever had a motto like this? What other nation has ever used its military to liberate rather than conquer another nation? America is not perfect by any means, but it is helpful to reflect on history. World War I and II were conflicts over seas to combat totalitarianism. When our military goes to the middle east, it builds schools and infrastructure. It sets up independent free governments for the people. No other nation can make such claims. I don’t know what Yahweh has in store for this nation, but we must remember our heritage and continue to communicate God’s desire to bless the nations.
We must remember that on of the church's primary purposes is to bless the nations. We must also remember our heritage. This message must be communicated in our church and in our nation.
Friday, November 7, 2008
In addition, in many respects, the issue of abortion embodies the broader issues of justice that I discussed in my prior post. Protecting the life of the unborn is the protection of the rights of someone other than me. By its very nature, being pro life is not being self interested. By its very nature, the position defends the most innocent person in the culture, the unborn. This is justice.
I am not sure what the so called younger generation is seeking to change to in its admonition to the older generation, but if it is at all reflected in the rhetoric of the recent Presidential campaign, it is self interest. All of the candidates declare what they will do for each interest group, as if the execution of justice was some benefit with which to buy the interest group’s vote. This is not justice; it is the opposite of justice. This may be unfair to the criticism, but the issues the candidates portray is telling.
Taking this discussion full circle, Yes, a voter can be driven by the one issue of abortion. However, abortion is a symptom of our me centered culture, our anti-justice culture. We are so self centered in this culture that we look past the question of is this just and focus only on what is good for me. If someone must focus on one issue, I prefer that they focus on an issue that is not one of self interest and one that embodies the principle of justice.
Monday, November 3, 2008
When I try to analyze first principles on any subject, I like to start with Scripture. For me, there is no passage that summarizes the concept of justice better than Romans 13: 3 and following:
3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.
As I have pointed out before in this blog, all of creation is covenantal. Typically, every obligation will have a reciprocal obligation. I will be their God and they will be my people. To parents: remember the Sabbath day before your children. To children: honor your parents. Here the obligations are no different. Citizens, be subject to the governing authority for conscience sake. Governing authorities, punish wrong conduct and do not punish wrong conduct. The obligation of the citizen is fairly strait forward: obey the law and pay taxes. The obligation of the governing authority is to execute justice, and this focuses on conduct.
The extent to which our corporate understanding is all screwed up is highlighted by the reaction to the counter position to the “spread the wealth around” philosophy. That reaction in this presidential debate has taken the form of a condemnation of greed. The McCain straw man has been summarily portrayed as a position protecting greed. I am willing to admit for the sake of argument that the characterization may be true, although I am not sure McCain's position actually protects greed, but would rather spread the wealth around just a little less. So assuming, just for the sake of argument that the characterization is true, I ask the next question: Is the characterization relevant? Is the correction of greed something that justice can remedy? And, if so, should it?
The answer to these questions is resolved by our reflection on Romans 13. Is the action of the government contemplated by the governing authority based on good conduct or bad conduct? If a man, out of selfish motives, works hard and saves, where is the wrong conduct? If such a man is punished in the form of confiscatory taxes, is this not punishment for good conduct? I think we would all have to agree that it is. If the man steals out of his greed, he is liable to punishment for wrong conduct. This is justice. However, to take from some just because they have is not based on justice, but is itself wrong conduct arising out of greed.
We must all be willing to admit that we all are tainted by some sense of self interest. Whether this takes on the character of greed in the form hard work to achieve or taking from someone else is the critical question. Taking by the usurpation of power makes the taking no less wrong than taking by physical force or deceit. What we also must be willing to admit is that justice can not remedy greed because it is a motivation and not a conduct. The governing authorities can not correct motivations, because they are internal. As long as these motivations work themselves out in proper conduct, the governing authorities have no place to act, because they can not change what is inside a man.
Does this cause us to conclude that there is not remedy for greed? No, but the answer is not in the governing authorities, it is in the church. It is the church that must teach compassion and generosity. It is only the church that can speak to the heart. Will the governing authorities allow that to happen or will they take on a task that they are incapable of completing?
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Historically speaking, conservatism is a movement organized and funded by society's most powerful members; politically speaking, it lusts for tax cuts and government rollbacks that will benefit those same fortunate folks at the top.
But what it really is, in its own mind, is a crusade on behalf of society's most abject members: the true Americans who are victimized, sneered at and persecuted for their faithfulness.
Here is a simple little example making its rounds on the internet that shows the lie of Mr. Frank's conclusion and his smugness. I think it is simple enough for even for even Mr. Franks to understand. But maybe not.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would gosomething like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do.
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you areall such good customers,' he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of yourdaily beer by $20.' Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free.
But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could theydivide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it wouldbe fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued todrink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixthman. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I got."
''That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when Igot only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
''Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all ofthem for even half of the bill!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the mostbenefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might startdrinking overseas.
David R. Kamerschen,
Ph.D.Professor of EconomicsUniversity of Georgia.
For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Alan Greenspan appears to be the front runner for scapegoat in the financial crisis. The article reports in part:
Returning to Capitol Hill amid a financial crisis rooted in mortgage lending, Mr. Greenspan said he had been wrong to think banks' ability to assess risk and their self-interest would protect them from excesses. But the former Fed chairman, who kept short-term interest rates at 1% for a year earlier this decade, said no one could have predicted the collapse of the housing boom and the financial disaster that followed.
Lawmakers weren't buying his explanations. "You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime-mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others. And now our whole economy is paying its price," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.).”
Two things are worthy of note. First, during the time when Greenspan was Federal Reserve Chairman, he was part of the federal government. Second, as the Federal Reserve Chairman, he implemented the policies of the federal government. These are the key take aways. Pushing Waxman to the logical conclusion, he is claiming that Greenspan had the authority to overrule Congress and to restrict their efforts to manipulate the free market with Freddie and Fannie and other socialist programs. We should take Greenspan's admission that he could not forsee the banks inability to assess risk and their own self-interest in light of government excesses to heart. The conclusion is to remove government influences from the running of the free market. Only then will banks have the ability to assess risk and their own self interest. Thank you Mr. Greenspan for your judgment, but I fear Washington will not be understood it. They are looking for a scapegoat and not the truth.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
-- James Madison (speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 16 June 1788)
Reference: Bartlett's Quotations (352)
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
-- John Adams (Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)
Friday, October 10, 2008
-- John Adams (An Essay on Man's Lust for Power, 29 August 1763)
Our founders hated democracy. They hated it because 51% of the population could impose their own self interest on 49% of the population. That is why they gave us a republic. Only by parceling out power to different factions in society could the founders protect the nation against the tyranny of the majority. See Federalist Paper No. 10. Only then would our lawmakers focus their efforts on executing justice. Over the past 245 years since this quote by Adams, we have increasingly become a democratic nation, where everyone seeks their own interests. The power has been concentrated in Washington, D.C. and our lawmakers continue to use that power for their own interests, financial gain through the taxes they can impose on us and the programs they can create for their self aggrandizement and profit. They no longer understand what justice is and focus instead on social engineering according to their own personal desires. What is particularly sad is that our people do not understand because our media has become likewise corrupt. This is no longer the country that was founded by such wise men as Mr. Adams. I grieve and pray for her.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
However, Yahweh interjects a new theme in chapter 2, verses 3, 7 and 9. “Seek the Lord, seek righteousness, seek humility,” and “perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of Yahweh.” Then “the seacoast shall become the possession of the remnant of the house of Judah.” And “the remnant of my people shall plunder [the nations].” These short promises are interspersed with continuing curses on the nations.
The oracle returns to a cursing of the oppressing city, Jerusalem, but in the end it declares a change. Yahweh proclaims that he has cut off nations for Jerusalem's benefit, but they were all the more eager to make their deeds corrupt. (3:7) Therefore, Yahweh will change things. He will change the speech of the priests and bring all of the nations to him.
This speaks to the church today. The church has become a bit weary today in seeking justice. Yes, it is now the king’s role to execute justice. We no longer have a theocracy. However, it is the priest’s role to advise the king on matters of morality and justice. The church, as an institution, has abandoned this role, seeking instead to gnosticize itself in seeking instead spiritual advancement. The king has taken up the task of mercy in all forms of socialized give-aways, medicare, welfare, food stamps, soon-to-be health care. This should not be. True spirituality consists in helping the poor and seeking justice. This is the church's job. Our king today seeks to oppress those who come to him for help by making them dependent on him. The church should fight against this ungodly oppression and free the oppressed. Yahweh will not allow this to continue. Whether the financial conditions now before the country are a curse imposed by Yahweh to make his church take up justice and mercy, I can not say. Whether the church will take up the call for justice and mercy, I can not say. Only God can, but he will be faithful to his word.
Monday, October 6, 2008
-- John Adams (Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law, 1765)
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Keller’s article is truly a gem of a presentation of the theology of worship. I was impressed with the development of his discussion of the historic distinction between Zwingli and Calvin and of the three results that occur from that distinction: doxological evangelism, community building, and a character for service leading to “all of life” worship. He concludes his analysis with a sequence of worship consisting of a praise cycle, a renewal cycle and a commitment cycle. This is an excellent discussion tying the concepts of Dalby’s “Gospel-Centered Worship” and Meyer’s “Covenant Renewal Worship.” Keller explicitly focuses on the grace of the gospel and the renewal of the people for Christ.
Keller handles the doxological evangelism role of worship well in the context of the community building aspect of worship. My question for him is the placement of his discussion of doxological evangelism. My reaction isn’t so much in what he says about doxological evangelism as it is his title and its placement in the first of priority. I think he overemphasizes Acts 2 and I Corinthians 14. I suggest that Acts 2 and I Corinthians 14 should be read in light of Deuteronomy 4:32-40. Worship of God’s people should cause the nations to ask what other people has God drawn out of the nations and separated unto himself. Obviously, worship must be comprehensible to an unbeliever. Otherwise it would be incomprehensible to a believer, such as a mass in Latin would be. So my question for him would be to assess how raising the community building principle in the priority would affect the watching world. His sequence of worship is yet a little too individualistic focused. If he stressed community building a little more and focused the culmination of worship on the communion fellowship (“the love feast”) with Christ and then sending the people out to the hurting world, worship would become more comprehensible and lovely to not only the believers, but also the unbelieving onlookers. Doxological evangelism would then become a very important footnote to community building.
This is an extremely practical article. It gives a well balanced discussion of the principles behind worship and applies them to a well thought out sequence and goal in worship. For me, it provides a good tie to Dalby and Meyers.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
In the last month, I have taken out a car loan. I have also been solicited by a bank to receive an equity line of credit on my home. I did take out that equity line of credit. I have not used it, but I have it to even out the cash flow in my business.
My point here is that we are supposedly in a financial crisis. I am no wealthy tycoon. How is it that I can enter into debt when we are in a financial crisis? Money is tight. It is so tight that the government thinks they have to take billions of dollars from us taxpayers to keep the financial markets liquid. I don't see it. What is really going on is that the government is trying to fix problems that they caused with their policies on Fannie and Freddie. Why is it we Americans look for answers from the people who caused the problem to begin with?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
-- James Madison (letter to Frederick Beasley, 20 November 1825)
Friday, September 19, 2008
-- Benjamin Franklin (Emblematical Representations, Circa 1774)
Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Sparks, ed. (457)
Saturday, September 13, 2008
by Erin Linton (Guest Writer)
Fairy tales are an invaluable resource for our children - even beyond the enjoyment, heritage, cultural literacy and examples of superb writing and story telling they provide. Without posing the difficulties of analyzing Tolstoy or Augustine, fairy tales like those written by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Margery Williams deal with literary technique and questions of life in a simple and instructive way. Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit is such a fairy tale.
Fairy tales are able to create categories that enable children to make moral judgments about people and situations, and then to assess where they themselves fit into the story. Margery Williams divides those who can become real and those who cannot. The arrogant, modern, plastic toys in The Velveteen Rabbit cannot become real even though they try their hardest to imitate reality with their gears, cranks, and beeps. The soft, forgiving toys, however, such as the rabbit and the Skin horse, can become real. The child is presented with the question, “Who are you more like?”
These fairy stories also raise and answer some of our deepest existential and theological questions. What does it mean to be real? The velveteen rabbit desperately wants to be real, but he does not know exactly what "real" is or how to “become real.” Williams resolves this by saying that it is a long and physically wearing process through the continuing love of and service to the master. The rabbit is loved by the little boy and is eventually called “real” after playing in the garden. He then later serves the boy amidst scarlet fever, bringing about a second “reality.” All of a sudden, the doctrines of justification and sanctification are not so difficult for a ten year old to understand.
While learning to judge the world around them, children also learn how to correctly judge and understand good literature by reading fairy tales. Literary techniques like symbolism, metaphor, allusion, the pathetic fallacy, etc., are vital to fairy tales. A reader of fairy tales must broaden his mind beyond the merely literal to grasp the depths of these stories, which prepares him to read every type of literature. The symbolism of names, for example, is evident in The Velveteen Rabbit; the only two creatures who understand reality are the rabbit, filled with “dust,” and the “Skin” horse, symbolizing that it is mankind who is meant to be real. There is also important symbolism wrapped in times and seasons. In this story, new life comes at Christmas, in the Spring, or in the morning; sickness and death come in autumn or at night.
Even more striking are the literary symbols of water, garden, and darkness. Water is almost always a literary metaphor for cleansing or baptism. It is no surprise then that the velveteen rabbit is left outside to be drenched with dew right before he is “christened” by the boy with the name “real.” It is also fitting that this baptism scene takes place in the garden, a common picture of the church, the new Eden. After the rabbit has received this first reality in his baptism, he lives by faith that he is real, but knows that he is not complete. There are bunnies still more real than he is. After faithfully serving his master, the rabbit symbolically dies. On an autumn night, the unclean rabbit is placed outside the camp/house among the rubbish. There the rabbit dies and is eventually raised and given his second reality by the magic of the nursery fairy. An understanding of these symbols is vital to the understanding of the deeper meaning in Margery Williams’ story, just as it is in all literature.
A last noted benefit of fairy tales is that, unlike “realistic” stories that strip all unnecessary fantasy from the mundane aspects of life, fairy tales strip away the mundane to show us the fantastical, which is usually the most simple and realistic view of the world. From man’s perspective, what else is history but the fantastical transformation of the harlot of Israel into a virgin church bride? What, other than magic, could raise the dead? It’s the same sort of magic that turns a puppet into a real boy, and turns a stuffed bunny with no hind legs into a real bunny that can jump with joy. Our children need to know this magic, need to look for it and realize that this life is not as mundane as the culture would have them believe. This world was created gloriously by the Master and it makes a good deal more sense when viewed through the lenses of fairy tales.
Erin Linton is a graduate of New St. Andrews College and teaches at New Covenant Schools in Lynchburg, VA.
Friday, September 12, 2008
What is interesting about this passage is the interplay between the 2nd, 5th and 7th commandments and the 4th to some extent. The people are unfaithful to their covenant God. They commit idolatry. There is a concurrent spirit of adultery. Adultery, as a consequence and as a punishment, also follows. But it doesn’t stop there. The spirit is transferred from one generation to the next and from prophet and priest to the people. Judgment and punishment flow in the same direction until the land mourns. Is the flow of the sin an honoring of the father and the mother? Certainly, the fifth commandment was not being kept in the sense that it was meant to be by the covenant law, but the principle of the fifth commandment is fulfilled in that the younger generation follows after or “honors” the older generation in its faithfulness or unfaithfulness. The faithfulness of the prior generation in keeping the fourth commandment, the cult of the faith, was transmitted to the next generation one way or the other.In the rest of the book, Yahweh continues to pile up accusations and judgments on the people. But they refuse to turn. Yet there are repeated and beautiful expressions of the faithfulness of Yahweh that if they will but turn to Him, He will restore them.
We can learn from these precepts today. The Church is called to be covenantally faithful. We are called to remember the Sabbath, to remember Christ’s body and blood before our children. We are called to baptize our children into the name of Christ. We are called to be holy as He is holy. We are called to make disciples of all nations. And Yahweh, i.e. Jesus, is there expressing his faithfulness, if we will but turn to him, he will give us what we need.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
"Taxes should be continued by annual or biennial reeactments, because a constant hold, by the nation, of the strings of the public purse is a salutary restraint from which an honest government ought not wish, nor a corrupt one to be permitted, to be free."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Wayles Eppes, 24 June 1813)
Friday, August 8, 2008
a point to ponder despite your political affiliation:
'We, in Ireland, can't figure out why you people are even bothering to hold an election in the United States. On one side, you had a pants wearing female lawyer, married to another lawyer who can't seem to keep his pants on, who just lost a long and heated primary against a lawyer, who goes to the wrong church, who is married to yet another lawyer, who doesn't even like the country her husband wants to run! Now...On the other side, you have a nice old war hero whose name starts with the appropriate 'Mc', married to a good looking younger woman who owns a beer distributorship!! What in God's name are ya lads thinkin over in the colonies???
The views expressed in this e-mail do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the management or staff of this blog, but he does think it is funny.
Monday, August 4, 2008
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
"Blessings arrive in unexpected packages, - in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases - and there are millions in America today - find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence "What It All Means," Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.
The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the "why" questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.
I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is, a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.
But despite this, - or because of it, - God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.
Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere. To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life,- and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many non believing hearts - an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live fully, richly, exuberantly - no matter how their days may be numbered.
Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise. We want lives of simple, predictable ease,- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, - but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance; and comprehension - and yet don't. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise.
'You Have Been Called'. Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet, a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces.
The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called." Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter,- and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time."
There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions.
The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of th ings not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul , traipsing through the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment.
There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue, for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.
Finally, we can let love change everything. When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf.
We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us, that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us part way there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two peoples' worries and fears.
'Learning How to Live'. Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms, not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love.
I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was an humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat [this cancer]," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side."
His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity, - filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms.
Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?
When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up, to speak of us!
This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.
What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God's hand."
- Tony Snow
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Instructions of Malden, Massachusetts for a Declaration of Independence, 27 May 1776
Reference: Documents of American Histroy, Commager, vol. 1 (97)
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
1For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
I Corinthians 10 is an amazing passage for many reasons. This is just one small one that I have been thinking about for some time. As this passage reflects, the Jews, as they left Egypt in the Exodus, drank water from the rock. This was their spiritual drink. They ate manna from heaven. This was their spiritual food. Jesus, in the gospels, clearly took these symbols to himself, saying that he was the bread of life coming down from heaven. The book of John highlights this symbolism repeatedly. John also reports Jesus claimed in John 4 that whoever drinks the water he gives them will never thirst again. Likewise, John makes this symbolism clear in telling of Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine. But in changing water into wine, he is preparing for a greater symbol. He is preparing for his sign of the “new covenant” where he commands, “Drink of it all of you.” He does not command the drinking of water or of grape juice, but of wine.
Why is it that some of us use wine in the Lord’s Supper? It is because we don’t want to cause our brother to stumble, of course. Yet, how is it that our Lord made and distributed “good wine” to those who had already been imbibing for some time? Did he cause the least one of them to stumble? I dare say not. So if our Lord did not cause someone to stumble by serving wine, how is it we can cause someone to stumble if we obey his command to serve wine as part of his covenantal sign?
If we must make a substitute for wine in our covenantal meals, let us make the correct substitute. Let us substitute water once again for the spiritual drink. But wait a minute. Bread and water, what does this remind us of except hard labor in prison? Didn’t Paul speak of this in Galatians?1I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,
though he is the owner of everything, 2but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4.
Do we really want to return to a symbol of slavery? Isn’t it better to follow the lead of our Lord and take to ourselves a symbol of joy, rejoicing, weddings and celebration?
Monday, June 30, 2008
But Rayburn effectively spoke of the efficacy of baptism in the relationship. By comparison, the following is a short snippet of Lig Duncan’s presentation:
The administrations of the covenant of grace in the Bible, and their signs, are all about our assurance of God’s promise. This is what every sacrament fundamentally sets forth. They do not effect or inaugurate God’s promise to us or our reception of it, but rather confirm and assure us of our interest in God’s promise.Two things strike me about this snippet. First, these “things” are generally sterile, self-implementing effects. Second, even the subjective “things” are very self-centered. I don’t want to be overly critical of Reverend Duncan, but I wish he would shift his perspective a little to incorporate the personality of Yahweh. For example, consider his statement, “They do not effect or inaugurate God’s promise to us or our reception of it, but rather confirm and assure us of our interest in God’s promise.” I would agree with this statement, but I would probably agree in a way that he would not expect. It is actually Yahweh who “effects or inaugurates God’s promise.” But He does it through these “things.” Therefore, they do more than simply impact the believer. They elicit a response from God, a response to which he has bound himself..
Objectively, covenant signs do at least four things: (1) they display God’s promise; (2) they are, by the Holy Spirit, God’s means of confirming that promise to and in those who receive it by faith; (3) they openly manifest the church-world distinction; and (4) the (sic) visibly obligate us to respond, by grace, in faith to the promises, and in obedience to the obligations of the covenant of grace.
Subjectively, covenant signs do at least four things: (1) they enable the believer to apprehend God’s promise tangibly; (2) they assure the elect of God’s promise, and of its products for and in those who receive it by faith; (3) they impress upon the believer the particularity of the covenant of grace; and (4) they impel the disciple to a grace-based discipleship.
Two examples should suffice. First, there is a interesting interaction between Yahweh, Moses and his wife, Zipporah. At Exodus 4, verse 21 and following read as follows:
21And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23and I say to you, "Let my son go that he may serve me." If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'"This is an interesting transition between Yahweh’s introduction of himself to Moses as the great I AM to the actual events of the plagues and the exodus. Yahweh begins by claiming Israel as his first borne son so that that son will serve or worship Him. Yahweh promises to kill Egypt’s first born son if His son is not released.
24At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!" 26So he let him alone. It was then that she said, "A bridegroom of blood,"because of the circumcision.
However, at the lodging place, it becomes apparent that Moses has not followed the covenant that Yahweh made with Abraham. In Genesis 17, verse 10 and following, Yahweh says:
10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.There is a bit of irony going on here. Yahweh promised to be faithful to his covenant, but Moses had not. Since Moses broke the covenant by failing to circumcise his son, Yahweh sought to execute his judgment for the failure, to cut off the covenant breaker from his people. It was only upon Zipporah’s quick action that Moses was returned to a right relationship with Yahweh. “So he let him alone.” Circumcision did indeed do more than impact the believer. It appeased Yahweh, who sought faithfulness to His covenant.
Exodus 24 tells a similar story involving the covenant renewal worship service at Mount Sinai. Exodus 19 tells of Yahweh warning the people not to go up the mountain.
When Moses told the words of the people to the LORD, 10the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.' When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain."
That warning is repeated again later. “24And the LORD said to him, "Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest he break out against them." 25So Moses went down to the people and told them.” But in chapter 24, Yahweh commanded Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.” There is a change. The priests and the elders were commanded to “come up to Yahweh.” What happens next is important, for they did not immediately go up, and the delay is significant. In response, Moses built an alter and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings on it. He took half of the blood and threw it against the alter. He read the book of the covenant. Then he threw the rest of the blood on the people and declared, “Behold the blood of the covenant.” Then the people went up and saw the God of Israel and ate and drank with him. And the people were not destroyed.
Two things are worthy of note beyond the fact that the people were not destroyed. First, Moses declared the blood to be the blood of the covenant, the same phrase that Jesus took on his lips in initiating his memorial meal. Second, the peace offering was to be eaten. One can only conclude that it was the peace offering that the people ate in the presence of God. The conclusion is clear that the appointed sacrifices brought the people to a place of peace with God. They did more than simply communicate the truth of the covenant to the people. They were the means by which Yahweh accepted his people.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
As the campaign unfolds, I will be writing more about all of this, but let this serve as a basic orientation.
This November, we are facing a choice between disaster A or disaster B. We are piloting a plane that is going to crash, and we have the choice of crashing in the sea or on the land. As I have mentioned before, I understand fully why many of my fellow conservatives would opt for crashing in the sea. Fine. We are going to do one or the other, and if you want to help decide, I certainly don't blame you. And maybe chances of survival are increased with one of the choices. But what I don't get is how my fellow conservatives can confuse "crashing in the sea" with "flying home safely."
Let me give just one "fer instance." In the most recent edition of Chronicles, Srdja Trifkovic rightly calls George Soros one of the "most evil men in the world," and the "Philanthropist From Hell." Conservatives who know this man's name likely know it from the common denunciations in our circles of the moonbat group MoveOn.org, one cause among many for which Soros serves as Sugar Daddy. Sean Hannity and his like are ruthless in their denunciations of anyone who comes within fifty yards of Soros.
Except for John McCain. One of McCain's many grotestqueries was his co-sponsorship of McCain/Feingold, a bill that virtually annihilates free speech in the one area -- political campaigns -- where the Founders would have been most concerned to preserve it. Now conservatives are famously unhappy with McCain over that, thinking it an unfortunate lapse among a number of other unfortunate lapses.
But as Trifkovic reports, that whole business was tangled up with . . . George Soros. The Reform Institute was founded in 2001, and was pushing for "campaign-finance reform." That atrocity was chaired by John McCain until 2005. The initial funding for the Institute came from George Soros, and from the Teresa Heinz-Kerry Tides Foundation. You remember Teresa, don't you? And when it opened its doors in 2001, Arianna Huffington, a close associate of Soros, was on the board. And together they all conspired to outlaw individual citizens from telling the truth to the public during the course of a political campaign.
During the course of this coming campaign, you will probably hear the name of Soros a lot. But almost all of it will be connected to Obama -- and rightly so. "Vote Obama! Crash on the rocks!" Sure, Soros would want Obama. But he would be happy with McCain, and why conservatives would be happy with McCain is beyond me.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
by Steven Ertelt
May 2, 2008
Jefferson City, MO (LifeNews.com) -- After a long and successful legal battle, Missouri residents are now able to support adoption efforts with the purchase of a Choose Life license plate. Plate supporters unveiled the artwork for the plate in a capital reception surrounding by leaders of pro-life groups and state legislators.
In January, a federal district court judge ruled Missouri officials must let a proposal for Choose Life license plates move forward despite a rejection from a committee of lawmakers.
Choose Life of Missouri has been working on securing this life-affirming license play since 2005.
Using a 2004 law that allows lawmakers to block nonprofit groups seeking specialty license plates, two Missouri state senators halted the plates in February 2006.
The group filed suit in June 2006 and won legal victories at each key juncture. The Alliance Defense Fund represented the group and said Missouri officials never should have prevented its free speech rights and those of motorists.
"Pro-life organizations shouldn't be penalized for expressing their beliefs," ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster said. "Unfortunately, that’s how Missouri officials unfairly discriminated when they denied Choose Life the right to exercise their free speech rights."
The "Choose Life" license plate will help support pro-life pro-adoption efforts, pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes and adoption agencies in Missouri.
The group has set up a web site Missouri residents can use to purchase the plates.
Looking back on the battle, the law allowed any member of the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight or any two state senators or five House members to stop a plate. Democratic Sens. Joan Bray and Rita Heard Days, both St. Louis abortion advocates, objected to the plates.
Senior U.S. District Judge Scott Wright eventually declared the law allowing the lawmakers to stop them unconstitutional saying there are no safeguards from the state discriminating against some groups of people, such as pro-life advocates.
Ultimately, the Choose Life plates across the nation have raised over $8.7 million and over 400,000 plates have been sold or renewed in the 17 state that currently have the plate available.
Related web sites: Choose Life Missouri - http://www.chooselifemissouri.org/
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
-- James Madison (speech in the House of Representatives, 10 January 1794)
Madison had it right. Charity is not a part of the duty of the government. The duty of the government is to execute justice. It is never in furtherance of the ends of justice to take from some simply because they have more to give it to those who have less. In the words of Romans 13, the king exists to reward those that do good and to punish those who do evil. By confiscating property from those who have, government is decreeing that productivity is evil. This should not be. This does not mean, of course, that we should not be a people that have an attitude of charity. Deuteronomy makes that clear. There are three forms of charity that God expects: private giving, the tithe and gleaning.
28 "At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. 29And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.
9Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, 'The seventh year, the year of release is near,' and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'
19 "When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.
The reader should also note that there is a promise of blessing for each of these to the extent they are practiced by the people. Therefore, as the government increases the burden of taxation on those who can provide for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, it prevents them from seeking the blessing of the Lord. Therefore, Madison is right: Charity is not a legislative duty of government. It is a duty of the people.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
But if this is all we know, we run the risk of systematizing God. God is a person, more precisely, he is three persons, in perfect relation one to the other. He has feelings. He is grieved. He has great joy. Certainly he saves his people through a process of effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification. However, he does it in time and in history. He does it in relationship.
What we must hang on the systematic theology is the passion that the Scripture speaks of when it speaks of Yahweh saving his people. When Scripture speaks of Yahweh saving his people, it speaks of “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and “believe and be baptized.” There is a command to believe. Obviously, the command anticipates a subjective response, actual belief. But it also commands a specific response, “be baptized.” So it requires a subjective state of mind coupled with an action.
An example might be in order. As I raise my children, my discipline is based on a relationship between them and me. I love my children deeply and want their good. Even though there is a typical method to my discipline, it is not a barren methodology. If one of my children offends another of my children, my discipline typically includes the command, “Say you are sorry to your sister.” In response to this command, I suppose there are several responses my offending child could take. She could refuse and walk away. Obviously, in this case the discipline has not resulted in the reconciliation desired. She could cry with tears of repentance and kiss her sister but say nothing. This is better, she has not completed the act necessary to restore the relationship set forth in my command. She could grit her teeth and with anger declare, “I am sorry.” This response, although completing the act required, does not contain the genuine response expected. Only when she, with an understanding of the offense and the proper response, says with love and repentance, “I am sorry,” does the discipline accomplish the desired result, a restoration of the relationship.
God is our father. We have damaged our relationship with him in our sin. With love, he says, if you want to be forgiven, repent, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptized and you will be saved, you and your household. He has made a promise and his promise is good. Therefore, if I baptize my child in loving dependence upon his promise, in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as far as I know anything else, my child is saved. Is this conclusion based on a proven methodology? Is it automatic? No. It is based on a relationship and a promise.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
In the second giving of the Ten Commandment, there is a change in the fourth commandment. What in Exodus had been “remember” (זָכוֹר) is now “observe” (שָׁמוֹר). This is understandable in that the first generation in Exodus would have been called to look to the past; the next generation entering into the promised land would be expected to not only remember but to be faithful to continue in the remembrance. Deuteronomy 5:2, 3 makes an intriguing claim: “The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.” The covenant had literally been made with the prior generation. But Moses, declares here that the covenant had been made with the second generation. They must now observe it.
What is most intriguing is a comparison of the prologues of the commandments themselves and the explication of the fourth commandment in both settings.
In Deuteronomy 5:6, Moses gives a verbatim recounting of the introduction of the Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20. "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” But in Deuteronomy 5:15, in describing why Yahweh commanded them to keep the Sabbath, he said it was because “you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Yahweh your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” Well, no He didn’t. He had said that it was because He had made heaven and earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. What He had said is that because He, Yahweh, had brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery, they were to keep the Ten Commandments.
I suggest that what Moses did was to focus all of the commandments into the keeping of the Sabbath. Just as Moses had done with the consecration of the firstborn, building it upon the foundation of the Passover, Moses was here building the foundation of the commandments on the foundation of the Sabbath. (See Exodus 13) The Sabbath is the pinnacle of the ten. The Sabbath is the covenant sign and seal. The Sabbath is the memorial. Violation of the Sabbath brings on covenant curses. In relationship to the covenant keeping Yahweh, His people are to keep his covenant sign. This does not discount the rest of the commandments. But it does recognize that they were to be kept in the context of a weekly cycle of six days labor and one day rest and worship. The commandments are not given in isolation from life. They are given in the context of a life in a community. Without the cycle of life that the Sabbath provides, the rest of the commandments become meaningless.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Beautifully crafted and painstakingly constructed, poetry is one of the grandest forms of art and communication available to the human race. Delving deep into the intricacies of both form and content, we often speak of the meter of the poem, the figurative language held within it, the structure and the meaning of the poem. Except for rhyme, however, we rarely speak of the “sound” of the poem. What words, what letters does the author use and how does the sound of those words communicate his point? The syllables of Tennyson’s “Ulysses” were not haphazardly slapped together, nor were the rumble bumble of words merely a side effect in Dr. Seuss’ work. To illustrate the point, let us walk through Edgar Allen Poe’s well-loved poem, “The Bells.” In each stanza of this poem, Poe highlights and describes a different type of bell and, to fully communicate the sound and use of these bells, Poe uses and repeats specific vowel sounds.
In the first stanza of “The Bells,” Poe depicts the chiming of Christmas bells. To describe the sound of a Christmas bell, Poe continually uses the letter, and the sound of the letter, “i”. If you pronounce the short sound of this letter to yourself, what you will notice is that it produces a small, light sound that doesn’t travel far. Even the duration of the sound is short-lived. Thus words like “silver”, “merriment”, and “tintinnabulation”, actually reflect the bells themselves and the sound they make: small, light and short lived. Employing the long sound of the letter “i” gives Poe the ability to reflect the sound of the bells as well as the cold and icy environment in which these Christmas bells are used. Words like “icy”, “crystalline”, “delight”, and “rhyme” pierce the ear as would both the high pitch of the bells and the winter weather. Then, coupled with an “ng” or “nk”, the “i” can produce a rather joyous tone. Thus, words like “tinkle”, “twinkle”, “jingle” and “sprinkle” audibly create a mood of carefree innocence and delight.
As Poe moves on to the second stanza, he moves from the light sound of Christmas bells to a deeper more solemn sound of wedding bells. Compared to Christmas bells, a wedding bell will create a larger, deeper, rounder and more lasting sound; and to achieve this in poetry, Poe uses the sound of the letter “o” throughout this stanza. The “note” of the “molten-golden” “mellow” bells that “floats” through the air is indeed a more mellow and golden sound. The “o” sound has a deep pitch as your voice gives it more resonance, as would the larger wedding bells. Furthermore, this sound is heavier and thicker than the light sound of the “i”s in the first stanza, communicating well the more solemn occasion of a wedding.
The sounds brought to the fore in the third stanza are the long “a” and “e” sounds. After the light and mellow sounds of the “i” and “o” in stanzas one and two, enunciating these two long vowels is quite literally more pronounced. The sounds these vowels induce are sharper than the soft melodic sounds of “o” and “i.” What more perfect sounds could Poe use to communicate alarm bells in this next stanza? He describes the “clangor” of the “brazen” bell with its “scream” and “shriek” as it “twangs” and “clangs”, with its “jangling” and its “wrangling” through the “palpitating” air. Some of the words used here would qualify as “onomatopoeia”, but Poe can communicate alarming terrors simply by repeating noises that sound alarming to our ears.
From silver bells to golden bells to shrieking bells, Poe brings us finally to the haunting bells of the night. For these bells, we hear the sounds “oo”, “oa” and a few more “o”s. Interestingly enough, these are the sounds that we naturally use to describe many haunting things. The groaning of the wind through the trees, the hooting of an owl, the howling of dogs and jackals, the spooking of the ghosts; we continually use these hollowing sounds to describe our nocturnal dread. Poe also uses them to describe the bells that toll and knell through the dark reaches of the night. The “moaning” and the “groaning” from these rusty “throats” keep a “Runic” rhyme declaring the presence of “ghouls.” A still darker sound than any that Poe has used yet, a sound that must literally rise from the hidden recesses of your mouth, is one of the perfect tools he uses to depict the hollow and unnerving sound of these bells that knell in the night.
Every word we use is more than just an identification for a person, place or thing; it is a description with multi-layered and subtle connotations. Beyond their basic meanings, the sounds of words are their poetic intimations, evoking selected shades of objective reality. Good poetry always uses these shades to paint a picture that may sometimes exceed the beauty of visual perception. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but one well-chosen word can paint a masterpiece.