Monthly Archives: September 2009

Proverbs 29:11, 29: Speech – Sanctification

“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise [man] keepeth it in till afterwards (11).”

“Seest thou a man [that is] hasty in his words? [there is] more hope of a fool than of him (20).”

A very important part of our sanctification is learning how to speak with wisdom, both in content and form (God cares what, how, and when we speak). Our speech is part of us, and it will be transformed through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Speaking is an art, but speaking wise counsel at the appropriate time is an even greater art. The Lord, however, is gracious, and readily provides instruction; the Lord teaches us what, how, and when to speak through Scripture, prayer, worship, and the Holy Spirit.

Books: Introductions – Clarification

Previously I stated that some introductions curse a reader with a plethora of paragraphs, and I still believe that to be true. I thought, however, it would be prudent to add a point of clarification.

Words and paragraphs are good. Lots of words and paragraphs are good (lots of good). My attitude is not, “Man, come on, get to the point now!” It is the opposite. In fact, I rather enjoy the hours upon hours I spend with words and paragraphs (they are great companions) – I enjoy the fact that reading takes time – it is a temporal activity. But what I do not enjoy is excess verbiage. Some authors will say anything and everything, and as a result they reveal that they lack passion and love for anything or anyone (except for their passion for nihilism—that is—nothingness).

As I said earlier, my attitude is not “Man, come on, get to the point now!” Rather, my attitude is, “Man, I really wish you had a point (passion, love, etc) to get to.”

Wilson: Blunt Question

N.D. Wilson, in the welcoming comments of Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, bluntly asks, “What the hell is this place?” His book is fun, poetic, reads well, and asks (and answers) lots of good questions. He uses the Tilt-A-Whirl as a metaphor for the world, structuring his book upon the four seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer). It really is a great book with loads of humor.

My only warning: at times the book feels forced, but push through it. It is well worth it.

Hart: Christian Revolution

From the introduction to David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies: “In what follows, my prejudices are transparent and unreserved, and my argument is in some respects willfully extreme (or so it might seem).”

Atheists Delusions is significant, masterfully written, and as page-turning as a Robert Ludlum novel, with ideas that are insightful and compelling. The subject matter is “chiefly about the early church” and the “triumph of Christianity”, which Hart argues is the only shift in Western civilization “that can be called in the fullest sense a ‘revolution’.” This shift resulted in a “revision of humanity’s prevailing vision of reality” and “created a new conception of the world, of history, of human nature, of time, and of the moral good.”

Not only does Hart discuss each of these conceptual categories as he argues his chief claim, but he confidently rejects and frequently critiques the secular rewriting of the Christian past. Hart challenges, prods, and tramples ideas recently put forth by the proselytes of the “Gospel of Unbelief”, refusing to surrender our Christian past to the sensibilities of men like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Philip Pullman, and Dan Brown. For instance, he argues that “Many of today’s most obstreperous critics of Christianity know nothing more of Christendom’s two millennia than a few childish images of bloodthirsty crusaders and sadistic inquisitors, a few damning facts, and a great number of even more damning legends.” Hart suggest that rather than Christians listening to the histories of the New Atheists, they ought to “deepen their own collective memory of what the gospel has been in human history.”

Books: Introductions

A thought on book introductions: Reading an introduction to a book is like Russian roulette; it can be an exercise of anticipation and dread. In order to fully examine a literary work, the reader’s critical eye must at some point be cast down the gun-barrel of the author’s introductory comments, of which there are two varieties: 1) the editors from the temples of the publishing gods smile upon the reader, publishing introductory comments that are succinct – derringer-like and informative, or 2) the reviewer is a figure of Egypt from the Exodus narrative, except in this case rather than plagues they are cursed with a plethora of paragraphs. I am a fan of paragraphs, but it is painful to engorge the mind with excess verbiage from belaboring authors and generous editors. Books, therefore, can be either “sweet” or “sour”. If I had a dollar for every bad book introduction I’ve read…

James K. A. Smith: Praise

Initial praise for Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith, who teaches at Calvin College:

This philosophical theology of culture is the first of a three volume Cultural Liturgies series, and its chief aim was birthed out of a “desire to communicate to students (and faculty) a vision of what authentic, integral Christian learning looks like, emphasizing how learning is connected to worship and how, together, these constitute practices of formation and discipleship.”

I believe this book is going to be received with a hearty “Amen” and that Christians enrolled and employed at universities and colleges will find Smith’s chief aim both consonant and challenging.

Smith, philosopher that he is, wants the reader to slow down and consider the central role of formative/liturgical practices. With much insight he states that, “Because our hearts are oriented primarily by desire, by what we love, and because those desires are shaped and molded by the habit-forming practices in which we participate, it is the rituals and practices of the mall—the liturgies of mall and market—that shape our imaginations and how we orient ourselves to the world.” This is a very compelling and very well phrased statement, no doubt about that. It reminds me of what the historian Eugen Rosenstock-Huessey said over six decades ago in Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man: “Our passions give life to the world. Our collective passions constitute the history of mankind. . . . The heart of man either falls in love with somebody or something, or it falls ill. It can never go unoccupied.”

Love is at core of this book. Smith acknowledges, “human creatures are lovers before and above all else, and that the people of God is a community marked by a love and desire for the kingdom of God.” To be human is to love and to give oneself entirely to the desire for the object of one’s love, and that is why Smith believes when Christians desire the kingdom of God it “might look more like the passionate world of the Moulin Rouge than the staid, buttoned-down, talking-head world of the 700 Club.” Which is why Smith so eloquently says: “The end of learning is love; the path of discipleship is romantic.” And so Smith delves into Romantic Theology, and he asks us to come along.

Mounds of praise for Smith’s new book

Church of Christ: Accept Word of Jesus

“Those who accept salvation on the terms on which it is offered them constitute the church, those who reject it constitute the world; good men and angels belong to the one, wicked men and angels to the other; the head of the first is Christ, and the head of the last, Satan (A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines edited by William Smith and Henry Wace).”

The nobleman in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of John is a figure of the Church of Christ – “And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him”. The Church of Christ, by accepting salvation, believes the word that Jesus speaks to them.

Wicked men and angels are not a figure of the Church of Christ; they are the antitype – they do not believe the word that Jesus speaks to them.

The Church of Christ accepts the Word of Jesus and give him glory; in doing this they are glorified and blessed by the word of Jesus. The wicked men and angels, seeking their own glory, are disobedient; they do not receive glory (Pro. 25:27), only judgment.