Too often the peace of God is thought of as if it were essentially a feeling of inner tranquility, happy and carefree, springing from knowledge that God will shield one from life’s hardest knocks. But this is a misrepresentation….
The peace of God is first and foremost peace with God; it is the state of affairs in which God, instead of being against us, is for us. No account of God’s peace which does not start here can do other than mislead. One of the miserable ironies of our time is that whereas liberal and radical theologians believe themselves to be restating the gospel for today, they have for the most part rejected the categories of wrath, guilt, condemnation and the enmity of God, and so have made it impossible for themselves ever to present the gospel at all, for they cannot now state the basic problem which the gospel of peace solves.
The peace of God, then, primarily and fundamentally, is a new relationship of forgiveness and acceptance, and the source from which it flows is propitiation.
Patrick Kurp says he reads Vladimir Nabokov “for the sense of wonder he brings to the world and to human consciousness.” As evidence he shares this from Nabokov:
“I remember a cartoon depicting a chimney sweep falling from the roof of a tall building and noticing on the way that a sign-board had one word spelled wrong, and wondering in his headlong flight why nobody had thought of correcting it. In a sense, we are all crashing to our death from the top story of our birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an immortal Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at trifles — no matter the imminent peril — these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness, and it is in this childishly speculative state of mind, so different from commonsense and its logic, that we know the world to be good.”
[The excerpt is from “The Creative Writer” (Think, Write, Speak: Uncollected Essays, Reviews, Interviews, and Letters to the Editor, 2019). It was originally written in 1941 as a lecture delivered at Wellesley College. An incomplete version, retitled “The Art of Literature and Commonsense,” was published in Lectures on Literature, 1980.]
Intentional memorizing has always been difficult for me. But sometimes when I lie awake during the night I remember the words to hymns, quite often all of the words. Last night it was this one that came to mind. It must have been a favorite of my father because we frequently sang it in church. Like many hymns it is best when sung in its entirety.
The phrase I first remembered last night was “Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be; End of faith as its beginning; set our hearts at liberty.” Newer hymn books have substituted “Take away our love of sinning” for “take away our bent to sinning”. I don’t like it. It does not mean the same thing. “Bent” reminds me that I am by nature twisted away from purity and truth, and I need help getting straight before I understand sin at all. Important also, when I remember I lean toward sin I can be proactive and preventative. Not all sin I commit is directly caused by my “love of sinning”.
“…true worship is biblical worship, that is to say, it is a response to the biblical revelation…the reading and preaching of God’s word in public worship, far from being alien intrusions into it, are rather indispensible aspects of it. It is the word of God which evokes the worship of God.”
“The Living Church” by John Stott, IVP 2007, pp.35-36
I have been thinking a lot about divisions among Christians, and how to think about them in a way that honors God. I think Lewis is spot on.
I found this quote in a wonderful book I admired and was then given, The Quotable Lewis, Martindale and Root, 1989, included in the section titled “Church: Divisions.”
Tomorrow I am crossing over (if God so have pleased) to Ireland: my birthplace and dearest refuge so far as charm of landscape goes, and temperate climate, although most dreadful because of the strife, hatred and often civil war between dissenting faiths.
There indeed both your and ours [Catholic and Protestant] “know not by what Spirit they are led.” They take lack of charity for zeal and mutual ignorance for orthodoxy.
I think almost all the crimes which Christians have perpetrated against each other arise from this, that religion is confused with politics. For, above all other spheres of human life, the Devil claims politics for his own, as almost the citadel of his power. Let us, however, with mutual prayers pray with all our power for that charity which “covers a multitude of sins.”
I’ve not seen this statue of my favorite United States president, but I enjoyed reading about how it came about. French’s dedication comments from that day, only three years after Lincoln’s death, share not only some of Lincoln’s accomplishments but also provide a glimpse into his character and humanity. The article is linked below and well worth reading. Here is the introduction to French’s remarks:
“Of all the Lincoln likenesses in Washington, D.C., this statue probably ranks among the least known. On April 15, 1868, the third anniversary of the president’s death, it became the city’s first statue dedicated in his honor. It was erected outside City Hall, now the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Designed by Lot Flannery and hailed as an accurate depiction, it eventually fell out of favor and was removed in 1919; only after a public outcry was it restored in 1923.
On dedication day a crowd estimated at 15,000 to 20,000 pressed near the statue, filling the streets, gazing from roofs and windows, even clinging to treetops. Flags hung at half-staff, guns boomed on the half hour, and public buildings and schools stood closed. Prominent guests gathered on a wooden platform but members of Congress were conspicuously absent; they were preoccupied with impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson, who unveiled the statue.
The ceremonies included prayer, music, a Masonic dedication, a formal address, poetry, and the sculptor’s introduction. The speaker, Benjamin B. French, knew the president well because he served as his Commissioner of Public Buildings. Before delivering his speech he stood in the mud and drizzling rain for half an hour while the Masonic ceremonies proceeded.
French’s remarks retain their interest today mainly because of his striking first-hand impressions of Lincoln. He drew upon his now-famous journal when recalling events such as Lincoln’s first inauguration and the Gettysburg Address. He also quoted from a newspaper article he wrote describing the president’s death and funeral services. A Washington printer, McGill A. Witherow, published the statue dedication speech in booklet form during 1868. The text below appeared in the April 15, 1868, Washington Evening Star.”
Toward the end of French’s speech:
And now, my fellow citizens, we have erected, as I believe the first public statue to the memory of that President, who, more than any other since Washington lived and ever will live in the hearts of the loyal people. Here, where he won from all who knew him — and who is there who did not know him — golden opinions; here, where in the midst of his friends, while enjoying a brief respite from the cares and perplexities of his exalted but laborious station, he was struck down in death, by the hand of the foul and cowardly assassin, have we this day placed upon its pedestal the plain unassuming, but almost speaking semblance, of that plain unassuming, but noble and godlike specimen of human nature. [Applause.]
We have erected it where the earliest kiss of rosy day, as she approaches from the East, may fall upon it, and where the last gleam of evening’s mellow light may salute it as the twilight darkens into night. Here it stands, as it were, in the plaza of the city; and here it will stand, we hope, to be seen by generations long hence to come. [Cries of “It will.”]
Let the fathers of the city, in times of trouble, gather around it, and acquire inspiration by calling to mind the firmness, patience, fidelity, zeal, and nobleness of character of him whom it represents. Let the generations of young men gather around it, and recall, as their example and their guide, the virtue, sobriety, modesty, and uprightness of life and purpose of that great man. And let us all bear in mind and ever profit by the remembrance how Abraham Lincoln placed all his trust in God, and implored His blessing upon every act of his exemplary life!
Quoting Paul Tillich’s “The Shaking of the Foundations”:
[T]he 90th Psalm…starts with a song of praise: “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place age after age.” In order to describe human transitoriness, the poet glorifies the Divine Eternity. Before looking downward he looks upward. Before considering man’s misery he points to God’s majesty. Only because we look at something infinite can we realize that we are finite. Only because we are able to see the eternal can we see the limited time that is given us. Only because we can elevate ourselves above the animals can we see that we are like animals. Our melancholy about our transitoriness is rooted in our power to look beyond it. Modern pessimists do not start their writings by praising the Eternal God. They think that they can approach man directly and speak about his finiteness, misery and tragedy. But they do not succeed. Hidden–often to themselves– is a criterion by which they measure and condemn human existence. It is something beyond man. When the Greek poets called men the “mortals”, they had in mind the immortal gods by which they measured human mortality. The measure of man’s transitoriness is God’s eternity; the measure of man’s misery and tragedy is the Divine Perfection. That is what the psalmist means when he calls God our dwelling place, the only permanence in the change of all the ages and generations. That is why he starts his song of profoundest melancholy with the praise of the Lord.
The church I regularly attend has recently adopted several changes, including a name change (formerly Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church, now Skidaway Community Church). We were told the church is still Presbyterian, but the hope is that the new name will attract more worshipers. I still am not sure what I should think about this.
We also are in the early stages of searching for a new minister, and like most everyone else, feeling the disruption caused by COVID, social distancing and abbreviated services.
We still include corporate confession and assurance of pardon every week (although sometimes the assurance is applied narrative rather than scripture), but we are no longer reciting the Apostle’s Creed, or another statement of faith. I think it is a mistake to omit it. We need to bear witness exactly to what we believe.
C. S. Lewis, who coined the term “mere Christianity” also warned against its misapplication and abuse:
I hope no reader will suppose that “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions–as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. (Mere Christianity, 1980).
What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light Called through the night to find my distant soul And from His scars poured mercy that would plead for me That I might live and in His name be known
So I will go wherever He is calling me I lose my life to find my life in Him I give my all to gain the hope that never dies I bow my heart take up my cross and follow Him
What grace is mine to know His breath alive in me Beneath His wings my wakened soul may soar All fear can flee for death’s dark night is overcome My Savior lives and reigns for evermore
So I will go wherever He is calling me I lose my life to find my life in Him I give my all to gain the hope that never dies I bow my my heart take up my cross and follow Him I bow my heart take up my cross and follow Him
I continue reading Thomas Howard’s book, The Achievement of C.S. Lewis. And now I am reading a chapter, “That Hideous Strength: The Miserific Vision”, dedicated to the book from which I took the title for my blog. There is a bear in this story, Mr. Bultitude….
The figure of Mr. Bultitude introduces us to a theme that is most vividly to be seen in the matter of Merlin. It is the theme of “no going back.” Various other themes feed into it, such as the idea of things thickening and hardening and coming to a point, and the idea of Aslan’s refusal ever to tell what might have been, and the warning in Narnia against trusting a beast who was once a man, and Ransom not eating the fruit twice in Perelandra, not listening to a symphony again, and so forth. It all derives from the notion that there is a Story going on, and that to retrace your steps or thumb back through the pages is to refuse somehow the movement of the Story, or worse, the wisdom of the author. The author has a denouement in mind and you must move through the action at his pace. Otherwise you will find yourself striving against the author himself, and to be in that position is to refuse both him and the thing he has made. It is what Lucifer did.