“Luther wrote, “It is by living, no — more — by dying and being damned to hell that one becomes a theologian, not by knowing, reading, or speculating.” We learn on the road, as pilgrims making our way to the City of God through the trails, burdens, questions, and fears of our own hearts as well as the world around us. We learn truly of God’s providence as we suffer, of God’s forgiveness in our sins, of the resurrection of the dead as we lie dying. Luther’s poignant but hyperbolic statement does not mean that we do not read or study, but that even as we do this, it is more like looking for urgently needed rescue than contemplating eternal truths. We do theology on our knees, calling on the name of our Redeemer.”
From The Confessions, by Augustine:
Who shall give me the gift of resting in you? Who will grant me this, that you come into my heart and make it drunk, so that I forget my evil deeds (Jer. 44.9) and embrace you, my only Good? What are you to me? Have mercy on me, and let me speak. What, for that matter, am I to you? Why do you command me to love you? And if I do not, why are you moved to anger and threaten me with utter misery? But is my misery any the less, if I fail to love you? Have pity, O Lord! For your own mercies’ sake, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me! Tell my soul: I am your salvation (Ps. 35.3 [Ps. 34.3]). Speak, and let me hear your voice. Bend down to my soul’s ear, O Lord; open it, and tell my soul: I am your salvation. I shall run after your voice, and catch you (Phil. 3.12). Do not hide your face from me. Let me die to see it; for if I do not see it, I shall die.
(Book One, 1.5.5)
Thomas Chalmers wrote this:
The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one…It is only when, as in the Gospel, acceptance is bestowed as a present, without money and without price, that the security which man feels in God is placed beyond the reach of disturbance. Only then can he repose in Him as one friend reposes in another…The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.
My friend, you and I will face temptation today. You and I will have wrong desires, wrong affections. And the only way to dispossess our hearts of those affections is to set our desires on the most powerful affection available, namely, love for Jesus Christ.
Please, as Jonathan Edwards reflects, don’t treat Jesus as merely useful. Find Jesus beautiful today for who he is in himself.
This one of my all-time favourite Lewis quotes. It re-orients us in the way we look at and interact with those around us. Or, at least, it should. For, we should be “taking each other seriously.”
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is imortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn: We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat – the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
– from “The Weight of Glory” (paragraphing mine)
What should it look like?
Well it is “Lewis Thursday” at Growing in Grace, so I want you to hear what he thinks. Read this through slowly a couple of times, and his insights into human behavior inside of the institutional church will astound you if you’ve been around it for any length of time.
The New Testament, without going into details, gives us a pretty clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it gives us more than we can take. It tells us that there are to be no passengers or parasites: if man does not work, he ought not to eat. Every one is to work with his own hands, and what is more, every one’s work is to produce something good: there will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier advertisements to persuade us to buy them. And there is to be no ‘swank’ or ‘side’, no putting on airs. To that extent a Christian society would be what we now call Leftist.
On the other hand, it is always insisting on obedience – obedience (and outward marks of respect) from all of us to properly appointed magistrates, from children to parents, and (I am afraid this is going to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly, it is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what it calls ‘busybodies.’
If there were such a society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, ‘advanced’, but that its family life and code of manners were rather old fashioned – perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest.
May we all be provoked to seek the whole of Christian society.
[Christianity] is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong.
– C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity
It’s Thursday, which means time for some more C.S. Lewis:
In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.
How is this to be done? Now, please remember how we acquired the old, ordinary kind of life. We derived it from others, from our father and mother and all our ancestors, without our consent – and by a very curious process, involving pleasure, pain, and danger. A process you would never have guessed. Most of us spend a good many years in childhood trying to guess it: and some children, when they are first told, do not believe it – and I am not sure that I blame them, for it is very odd. Now the God who arranged that process is the same God who arranges how the new kind of life – the Christ-life – is to be spread. We must be prepared for it being odd too. He did not consult us when He invented sex: He has not consulted us either when He invented this.
There are three things that spread the Christ-life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names – Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper. At least, those are the three ordinary methods…
I cannot myself see why these things should be the conductors of the new kind of life. But then, if one did not happen to know, I should never have seen any connection between a particular physical pleasure and the appearance of a new human being in the world. We have to take reality as it comes to us: there is no good jabbering about what it ought to be like or what we would have expected it to be like.