Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Thrust back into the world

 From Mike Mason's The Gospel According to Job, chapter 34.

‘All of us share in the maddening paradox of knowing in our hearts we are loved and redeemed children of God, and freer than the wind, and yet still being compelled to experience firsthand the cruelty and injustice of a world in which the righteous are unwelcome intruders, and in which all too often the strength of evildoers goes unchecked.’

‘The moment we are born again we are sent right back into the world of sin and death. In fact, we are sent back down into exactly the same circumstances in which we found ourselves before we were saved, and there we are told to take up the work of the Son of God in that situation, however painful it might be. And this is the lot we are to accept with increasing graciousness.’

This is something those bringing people to faith often forget to mention! 

Job and his comforters by William Blake

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Up to date in every way

When people say the Bible isn't relevant, for the most part it shows they haven't read it. Here's the apostle Paul in full bore from Galatians 5 - he could be writing about the world we live in right now. 

Look at the first of the two lists: it shows awful behaviour, most of it not dissimilar to what's in the news every day about how people are behaving. 

Paul writes:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time:

Repetitive, loveless, cheap sex;
A stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage;
Frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness;
Trinket gods;
Magic-show religion;
Paranoid loneliness;
Cutthroat competition;
A brutal temper;
An impotence to love or be loved;
Divided homes and divided lives;
Small-minded and lopsided pursuits;
The vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival;
Uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions;
Ugly parodies of community.

This isn’t the first that I’ve warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like:
Affection for others;
Exuberance about life;
We develop a willingness to stick with things;
A sense of compassion in the heart,
And a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.
We find ourselves involved in loyal commandments,
Not needing to force our way in life,
Able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.*

When I wrote out this list in a journal, back in 2009, I added the following note, which I still need to take note of. 'Dad' of course, is God our Father. 

Dad, a lot of the first list are still visible in me, perhaps not in the extreme, but certainly there. As for the second list, the growth of these fruits is fairly slow. Dad, help me lay aside the first list while growing the second in me. Only You can do it. 

This wonderfully up-to-date excerpt is from Eugene Peterson's translation, The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. 

Photo by Muhammed Ma'ruf, Pixabay

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Answers to Prayer

Back in 2004 I read Greg Boyd’s book, God at War, much of which I found worth reflecting on. (I later stopped reading his books because he leaned more and more to Open Theism, which didn't seem to me to line up with Scripture, but at this point he wasn't so focused on it.)

At the time I made a list of nine factors he says we should keep in mind when praying. These are not things to become discouraged about but rather to be encouraged about. They are things we should take into consideration when praying, especially when we get frustrated by seeming to pray over and over for people and situations and still see no apparent results. 

  1. Sometimes it’s God’s will for a prayer not to get answered.
  2. Sometimes it’s a lack of faith on the part of those involved.
  3. Sometimes it’s a lack of faith on the part of those praying.
  4. Sometimes we lack persistence.
  5. Sometimes it’s an advantage to have others praying with us.
  6. Sometimes it’s the problem of free will getting in the way. God will not act against someone’s free will.
  7. Sometimes it’s angelic free will, in that principalities and powers are acting ‘against’ God’s answering.
  8. Sometimes it’s a matter of strength and numbers in the spiritual battle going on in the spiritual realm.
  9. Sometimes it’s the presence of sin.
I'm not entirely sure about number six. I believe God can still work in spite of someone's free will, not necessarily going against it, but by coming in at an oblique angle, as it were!

All these things show that prayer is answered, but not necessarily answered quickly, or in the way we've asked, or without complexity. And of course, 'No' is an answer.

We may never know in this life why prayers are or are not answered. In some cases we will find out –but it’s not always a matter of working in the dark, even though often this will be the case.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Lenten Prayer

I found the following poem on a slip of paper in a book, after my mother died. It was in her handwriting, but she wasn't the author. It has no title, either. I haven't been able to trace its origin anywhere as yet. The punctuation is partly mine, since several lines ended in the handwritten version without any. 

Lord, there is so much in me
That other people cannot see,
My weakness and my secret pride,
The sins that fester deep inside,
The idleness that seeks to shirk
The drudgery of dreary work.
The thoughts that wander when I pray
Like witless sheep that go astray.
The self-indulgence of a mind
To dreamy reverie inclined.
The part that hurries overmuch
And tarries not to feel Thy touch.
The part that speaks of me and mine
And not enough of Thee and Thine.
Every Lent I say this prayer
Lord bless and help me to prepare
A soul more fit to sing Thy praise
When come the holy Easter Days.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

August Francke on faith

George Müller, the famous 19th century saint who founded orphanages in Bristol, and who lived by faith, praying that God would give him everything he and his many orphans and their staff needed each day, mentions another man in his biography who had worked in the same way. This was August Hermann Francke (1663-1727). He wrote prolifically, and the following is an extract from his writing on faith. 

“But, while faith,” he says, “is the ground of our justification, it is also the means of happiness; for righteousness and peace cannot be separated from one another. But when we say that our happiness is secured, it must be remembered that something more is intended, than that we shall hereafter be admitted into heaven. 

This happiness begins from the moment of our justification. For we are then delivered from the wrath and curse of God, from the power of sin and death. We are brought out of darkness into light, from death unto life. God the Father brings us into the kingdom of his Son, and gives us the pledge of an inheritance, even the spirit of Jesus Christ; renews us in his image, day by day; awakens a holy fear, and love in our hearts, so that we run with alacrity in the way of his commandments, and think it our meat and drink to do his will. 

Thus does the believer’s happiness commence. He now knows that this heavenly Father loves him, and that he will help him to overcome every adversary to his peace. He is now united to Christ and knows that He is his riches, his glory, his all. He knows that his prayers will be heard through the merits of Christ; and that all needful things will be given him. He has the spirit of God dwelling in his heart, filling him with all knowledge, and enabling him to grow daily in faith and love. He finds happiness, too, in the service of God, is doing good to all men as he has opportunity and in the exercise of true benevolence and compassion. 

He is, by his union with the Redeemer, changed into the heavenly image, and although he dwells on earth, and mingles in the affairs of men, his conversation is in heaven; and he joins in spirit with its blessed inhabitants in prayer and praise to God. His heart is in heaven, for there he has laid up his treasure; and through the Spirit he holds perpetual intercourse with God. Oh! what blessedness is this thus to be united, in the closest ties, with the adorable Trinity; to have the Great God dwelling in our hearts, and holding his court there; to have angels for our ministers, and to know that as Christ overcame, and is seated on his throne, so shall we triumph over our foes, and sit down with him in the kingdom of Heaven. This blessedness is begun below; but it is completed in that other world, where sin and sorrow can never enter to mar his peace; and where the ransomed sinner shall be conformed to the image of his God, and see his face, and praise him for ever and ever.”

Monday, October 22, 2018

Praying and believing

Let us now take a few instances in order to see the practical working of this experimental fellowship, or partnership, with the Father and with the Son.

Suppose there are two believing parents who were not brought to the knowledge of the truth until some years after the Lord had given them several children. Their children were brought up in sinful, evil ways, whilst the parents did not know the Lord. Now the parents reap as they sowed. They suffer from having set an evil example before their children, for their children are unruly and behave most improperly. What is now to be done? Need such parents despair? No.

The first thing they have to do is, to make confession of their sins to God, with regard to neglecting their children whilst they were themselves living in sin, and then to remember that they are in partnership with God, and therefore to be of good courage, though they are in themselves still utterly insufficient for the task of managing their children. They have in themselves neither the wisdom, nor the patience, nor the long-suffering, nor the gentleness, nor the meekness, nor the love, nor the decision and firmness, nor anything else that may be needful in dealing with their children aright.

But their heavenly Father has all this. The Lord Jesus possesses all this. And they are in partnership with the Father, and with the Son, and therefore they can obtain by prayer and faith all they need out of the fullness of God. I say by prayer and faith, for we have to make known our need to God in prayer, ask his help, and then we have to believe he will give us what we need. Prayer alone is not enough. We may pray never so much, yet, if we do not believe that God will give us what we need, we have no reason to expect that we shall receive what we have asked for.

So then these parents would need to ask God to give them the needful wisdom, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love, decision; and firmness, and whatever else they may judge they need. They may in humble boldness remind their heavenly Father that his word assures them that they are in partnership with him, and, as they themselves are lacking in these particulars, ask him to be pleased to supply their need; and then they have to believe that God will do it, and they shall receive according to their need.

George Müller: The Autobiography of George Müller (p. 203).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

George Muller on the life of prayer

May 10. To-day, in closing the accounts, we have left, at the end of this period of seventeen months, in which we have been so often penniless, the sum of sixteen pounds eighteen shillings tenpence halfpenny for the orphans, and forty-eight pounds twelve shillings five and one fourth pence for the other objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. The time now seemed to us to have come, when, for the profit of the church at large, the Lord’s dealings with us, with reference to the various objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, should be made known by publishing another Report. For, whilst we, on purpose, had delayed it at this time five months longer than during the previous years, and that during a period when we were in deeper poverty than during any previous time; yet, as from the commencement it had appeared to me important from time to time to make known the Lord’s dealings with us, so I judged it profitable still to seek to comfort, to encourage, to exhort, to instruct, and to warn the dear children of God by the printed accounts of the Lord’s goodness to us.

Though our trials of faith during these seventeen months lasted longer and were sharper than during any previous period, yet during all this time the orphans had everything that was needful in the way of nourishing food, the necessary articles of clothing, etc. Indeed, I should rather at once send the children back to their relations than keep them without sufficient maintenance.

I desire that all the children of God who may read these details may thereby be led to increased and more simple confidence in God for everything which they may need under any circumstances, and that these many answers to prayer may encourage them to pray, particularly as it regards the conversion of their friends and relations, their own progress in grace and knowledge, the state of the saints whom they may know personally, the state of the church of Christ at large, and the success of the preaching of the gospel. Especially, I affectionately warn them against being led away by the device of Satan, to think that these things are peculiar to me, and cannot be enjoyed by all the children of God; for though, as has been stated before, every believer is not called upon to establish orphan houses, charity schools, etc., and trust in the Lord for means, yet all believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon him, to trust in him for everything, and not only to make everything a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to his will and in the name of the Lord Jesus. Think not, dear reader, that I have the gift of faith, that is, that gift of which we read in 1 Cor. xii. 9, and which is mentioned along with “the gifts of healing,” “the working of miracles,” “prophecy,” and that on that account I am able to trust in the Lord. It is true that the faith which I am enabled to exercise is altogether God’s own gift; it is true that he alone supports it, and that he alone can increase it; it is true that moment by moment, I depend on him for it, and that if I were only one moment left to myself my faith would utterly fail; but it is not true that my faith is that gift of faith which is spoken of in 1 Cor. xii. 9. It is the self-same faith which is found in every believer, and the growth of which I am most sensible of to myself; for by little and little it has been increasing for the last six and twenty years.

This faith which is exercised respecting the Orphan Houses, and my own temporal necessities shows itself in the same measure, for instance, concerning the following points: I have never been permitted to doubt during the last twenty-seven years that my sins are forgiven, that I am a child of God, that I am beloved of God, and that I shall be finally saved; because I am enabled by the grace of God to exercise faith upon the word of God, and believe what God says in those passages which settle these matters (1 John v. 1; Gal. iii. 26; Acts x. 43; Romans x. 9, 10; John iii. 16, etc.). Further, at the time when I thought I should be insane, though there was not the least ground for thinking so, I was in peace; because my soul believed the truth of that word, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” Rom. viii. 28. Further:

When my brother in the flesh and my dear aged father died, and when concerning both of them I had no evidence whatever that they were saved (though I dare not say that they are lost, for I know it not), yet my soul was at peace, perfectly at peace, under this great trial, this exceedingly great trial, this trial which is one of the greatest perhaps which can befall a believer. And what was it that gave me peace? My soul laid hold on that word, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” This word, together with the whole character of God, as he has revealed himself in his holy word, settled all questionings. I believed what he has said concerning himself, and I was at peace, and have been at peace ever since, concerning this matter.

Further: When the Lord took from me a beloved infant, my soul was at peace, perfectly at peace; I could only weep tears of joy when I did weep. And why? Because my soul laid hold in faith on that word, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew xix. 14. Further: When sometimes all has been dark, exceedingly dark, with reference to my service among the saints, judging from natural appearances; yea, when I should have been overwhelmed indeed in grief and despair had I looked at things after the outward appearance: at such times I have sought to encourage myself in God, by laying hold in faith on his almighty power, his unchangeable love, and his infinite wisdom, and I have said to myself, God is able and willing to deliver me, if it be good for me; for it is written, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Rom. viii. 32. This it was which, being believed by me through grace, kept my soul in peace.

Further: When in connection with the Orphan Houses, day schools, etc., trials have come upon me which were far heavier than the want of means, when lying reports were spread that the orphans had not enough to eat, or that they were cruelly treated in other respects, and the like; or when other trials, still greater, but which I cannot mention, have befallen me in connection with this work, and that at a time when I was nearly a thousand miles absent from Bristol, and had to remain absent week after week; at such times my soul was stayed upon God; I believed his word of promise which was applicable to such cases; I poured out my soul before God, and arose from my knees in peace, because the trouble that was in the soul was in believing prayer cast upon God, and thus I was kept in peace, though I saw it to be the will of God to remain far away from the work.

Further: When I needed houses, fellow-laborers, masters and mistresses for the orphans or for the day schools, I have been enabled to look for all to the Lord, and trust in him for help.

Dear reader, I may seem to boast; but, by the grace of God, I do not boast in thus speaking. From my inmost soul I do ascribe it to God alone that he has enabled me to trust in him, and that hitherto he has not suffered my confidence in him to fail.

But I thought it needful to make these remarks, lest any one should think that my depending upon God was a particular gift given to me which other saints have no right to look for; or lest it should be thought that this my depending upon him had only to do with the obtaining of money by prayer and faith. By the grace of God I desire that my faith in God should extend towards everything, the smallest of my own temporal and spiritual concerns, and the smallest of the temporal and spiritual concerns of my family, towards the saints among whom I labor, the church at large, everything that has to do with the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, etc.

Dear reader, do not think that I have attained in faith (and how much less in other respects!) to that degree to which I might and ought to attain; but thank God for the faith which he has given me, and ask him to uphold and increase it. And lastly, once more, let not Satan deceive you in making you think that you could not have the same faith, but that it is only for persons who are situated as I am. When I lose such a thing as a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have made an appointment does not come, according to the fixed time, and I begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me, and I look for an answer; when I do not understand a passage of the word of God, I lift up my heart to the Lord, that he would be pleased, by his Holy Spirit, to instruct me, and I expect to be taught, though I do not fix the time when, and the manner how it should be; when I am going to minister in the word, I seek help from the Lord, and while I, in the consciousness of natural inability as well as utter unworthiness, begin this his service, I am not cast down, but of good cheer, because I look for his assistance, and believe that he, for his dear Son’s sake, will help me.

And thus in other of my temporal and spiritual concerns I pray to the Lord, and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader? Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God’s dear children, which they cannot have; nor look on my way of acting as something that would not do for other believers. Make but trial! Do but stand still in the hour of trial, and you will see the help of God, if you trust in him. But there is so often a forsaking the ways of the Lord in the hour of trial, and thus the food for faith, the means whereby our faith may be increased, is lost. This leads me to the following important point. You ask, How may I, a true believer, have my faith strengthened? The answer is this:— I. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James i. 17. As the increase of faith is a good gift, it must come from God, and therefore he ought to be asked for this blessing.

From George Muller's Autobiography, chapter 14

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Comfort my people

Yahweh, then, not only blasts Assyria’s pride (vv. 20-29) but is careful to quiet his people’s fears (vv. 29-31, 32-34). The latter is as essential as the former and Yahweh does not forget to do so. I occasionally have heard from friends who attend staunchly evangelistic churches. Every service, apparently for worship, is pitched to call the lost to repentance. Most every sermon targets the unsaved (at least at the end). The never-missed ‘invitation’ calls unbelievers to faith. No need to debate the merits or demerits of this – except to say that such ministries are neglecting a whole ‘audience.’ They seek the lost but fail to feed the sheep. They want to bring conviction to sinners but never bring encouragement to believers. They try to disturb the unrepentant but seldom comfort the saints. Yahweh is not like that. He deals with Sennacherib but never forges the fears and tremblings of his people. he has a word for the reprobate but is always eager to console his church.

Dale Ralph Davis, pages 283-4 in 2 Kings: the Power and the Fury

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Jeroboams' bulls

Dale Ralph Davis on Jeroboam (in 1 Kings) making two bulls to substitute for Yahweh worship. Davis' concern is that some Bible commentators excuse Jeroboam, by claiming that later 'editors' have altered the original text. This is something Davis will not have - here, nor anywhere else. In a strongly-worded footnote (not the first one in this book) he writes:

'The problem with my view is that I have taken the testimony of the text at face value. Obviously, this is not good, furrow-browed scholarship. Many would hold that i fail to understand that the viewpoint in the text comes from later Judean editors who held an extremely anti-Jeroboam bias - hence one cannot depend on such texts. I don't mind if they think such. If they do, they should be faithful agnostics, i.e., they should deny that they can know anything accurate about Jeroboam's cult since the evidence is tainted. This they do not do; they deny the reliability of the texts yet proceed to do plastic surgery on Jeroboam. If the texts are unreliable, they should shut up. Instead they proceed to reconstruction based upon (essentially) re-written texts. This yields both bad history and perverse theology.' (page 139)

Davis isn't consistently opposed to certain commentators: Ian Provan, who is criticized in an earlier footnote or two, gets a thumbs up in a footnote just prior to the one quoted; Brueggemann, however, seldom comes off with commendations. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Solomon's folly

I'm re-reading Dale Ralph Davis' book, The Wisdom and the Folly: it's a commentary/exposition of the Book of First Kings. Here are a few extracts...

He's been talking about Solomon and the way in which all his wealth is spoken of:

'In light of what we have just said in the preceding section, we can say that I Kings 10 speaks a word of testimony, namely, that the prosperity of the people of God is always a gift of Yahweh's goodness, which (I would think) demands of us both gratitude (lest we idolize the gifts in place of God) and joy (lest we despise God's gifts as though they were sinful). Some have difficulty with the latter response in I Kings 10. In spite of the positive tone of the writer commentators seem convinced that all that gold can't be good and so feel impelled to emphasize the clouds on the horizon for Solomon's kingdom...we feel obligated to moan over 'materialism' and all that could possibly go wrong with such bounty rather than acknowledging that it is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich (cg Proverbs 10:22) and being content to enjoy that should he give it.' [page 107]

The next section refers to chapter 11, where Solomon's heart is gradually turned to other gods.

'This infidelity is also subtle because it is gradual. Verse 4 has a scary line: "When Solomon was old, his wives had turned away his heart after other gods." It was not some sudden attack or irresistible assault that explains Solomon's plunge into pagan ecumenism. No, it took years - the result of the creeping pace of accumulated compromises, the fruit of a conscience de-sensitized by repeated permissiveness....We must take a moment to be frightened. "When Solomon was old..." How that text ought to goad older believers to pray the last petition of the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6: 13a). Is there not a warning to churches as well, who have a fixation on youth ministry and a love affair with young marrieds and/or young families? Need we not exercise far more vigilance over our over-sixties crowd, many of whom will doubtless meet the major troubles of their lives in their final years? (page 115)

And in a long footnote on page 117 he writes:

'It is interesting to note the assumptions 1 King 11:1-10 overthrows (by implication). One sometimes reads Christian writers who bemoan the current lack of 'heroes'. There is such a dearth, they claim, of suitable models for youth. But the text says Solomon had a fine model - David his father (vv 4, 6). (The idea is not that David was Simon-pure, but that he was first-commandment faithful.) Yet that did not keep Solomon from folly. This exposes the example fallacy. Yahweh's anger in verse 9 is "because his heart had turned away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him two times" (see 3:4-15 and 9:1-9). Note the inference: even the most privileged, intimate experiences with God do not guarantee immunity from infidelity - undermining the experiential fallacy. Verse 10 affirms that Yahweh had clearly warned Solomon about this other-gods seduction, yet Solomon "did not keep what Yahweh had commanded." How often sociopolitical groups assume that if people are only informed about some danger they will then avoid it. If only youth know that drugs will fry their brains like an egg in a skillet, well, then, they will "just say no" to drugs. Or even Christians can assume that if only they indoctrinate their children in biblical doctrine and with a biblical world view, then they will not fall away. But Solomon did - with Yahweh as his teacher; and that exposes the educational fallacy

Friday, May 25, 2018

Capon on writing

If writing wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it. Not for one years out of my twenty-five as a money-earning writer did I ever make a living out of it. If I were in it for the money, I would have gotten out of it long ago. But I didn’t. And not because writing is such unadulterated fun that every day I find myself chafing at the bit to head for my desk and romp my way through page after page of deathless prose. As I said, every vocation-avocation has its share of drudgery, and writing is no exception. There are, of course, days and even weeks when it goes well. But there are more that don’t: blank pages or blank computer screens are very blank indeed. Beginning a book can be hell; and writing a proposal for a book (writing about what you are going to write – which is not writing at all, but pure hot air) is the bottomless pit.

I have been in and out of the business of writing food pieces for magazines and newspapers; in, because editors like my work; and out, because those same editors moved on to other things. (You learn one thing as a professional writer: you may think you have a dependable relationship with, say the Times or Redbook; but when your editor leaves, the relationship disappears.

Pages 146/7 of Robert Farrar Capon's book, Health, Money, and Love and why we don’t enjoy them.

Friday, March 16, 2018


Affection, as I have said, is the humblest love. It gives itself no airs. People can be proud of being ‘in love’, or of friendship. Affection is modest—even furtive and shame-faced. Once when I had remarked on the affection quite often found between my cat and my dog, my friend replied, ‘Yes. But I bet no dog would even confess it to the other dogs.’

That is at least a good caricature of much human Affection. ‘Let homely faces stay at home’, says Comus. Now Affection has a very homely face. So have many of those for whom we feel it. It is no proof of our refinement or perceptiveness that we love them; nor that they love us.

What I have called Appreciative Love is no basic element in Affection. It usually needs absence or bereavement to set us praising those to whom only Affection binds us. We take them for granted; and this taking for granted, which is an outrage in erotic love, is here right and proper to a point. It fits the comfortable, quiet nature of the feeling. Affection would not be affection if it was loudly and frequently expressed; to produce it in public is like getting your household furniture out for a move. It did very well in its place, but it looks shabby or tawdry or grotesque in the sunshine.

Affection almost sinks or slips through our lives. It lives with humble, un-dress, private things; soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor, the sound of a sewing-machine, a gollywog left on the lawn.

C S Lewis, in The Four Loves

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A fighting religion

If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will.

Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’ For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world—that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God ‘made up out of His head’ as a man makes up a story.

But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.

From Mere Christianity by C S Lewis

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

This is my Father's cosmos

From Writers to Read. In the final chapter Douglas Wilson discusses the work of his son, N D Wilson. 

In Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl the fatherhood of God lies behind everything. This apparent chaotic world is not chaotic at all; if we step back and take it all in with the right perspective, we see that it is an intricately designed carnival ride. There is a fatherly purpose in it: it turns out that we thought we were being born into a world full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, but what was happening is that our Father was taking us to a particularly spectacular fair with some really gnarly rides.

In Death by Living Nate spends a great deal of time honouring his two grandfathers, in turn, my wife's father, Larry Greensides, now with the Lord, and my own father, Jim Wilson. And, as Paul mentions in Ephesians (3: 14-15), behind all such admirable fathers is the Father. All fatherhood derives its name from the Father of all things. The heart of wisdom is to learn to see the Father in earthly fathers and not be distracted by their sins and failings. The Father is much more like they are than they are themselves (Heb. 12:11). The window might be dirty because of sin, but we all still need to see through it.

Behind and through all of this is a robust understanding of fatherhood at the source of everything. If we lived in a fatherless cosmos, then little outbreaks of fatherhood here and there would simply be small insanities. In a random universe, everything is random. Fatherhood here and/or there would be just another random event. Fatherhood would be just as random as fatherlessness. But if we live in a world where the Father is behind and beneath everything, then every true adventure has to consist of finding our way back to the place, overcoming the obstacles that came about as a result of estrangement from the Father. Those obstacles are placed by sin and rebellion, and so finding the Father is the archetypal adventure. This is the central reason why Nate's books work as effectively as they do.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Proving prayer

The question then arises, “What sort of evidence would prove the efficacy of prayer?” The thing we pray for may happen, but how can you ever know it was not going to happen anyway? Even if the thing were indisputably miraculous it would not follow that the miracle had occurred because of your prayers. The answer surely is that a compulsive empirical proof such as we have in the sciences can never be attained.

Some things are proved by the unbroken uniformity of our experienced. The law of gravitation is established by the fact that, in our experience, all bodies without exception obey it. Now even if all the things that people prayed for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is a request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable “success” in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at all. It would prove something much more like magic—a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, the course of nature.

C S Lewis, in The World's Last Night