Friday, December 28, 2012


The root meaning of the term evangelion [gospel] would today best be translated "revolution." Originally it is not a religious or a personal term at all, but a secular one: "good news." But evangelion is not just any welcome piece of information, it is news which impinges upon the fate of the community. "Good news" is the report brought by a runner to a Greek city, that a distant battle has been won, preserving their freedom; or that a son has been born to the king, assuring a generation of political stability. "Gospel" is good news having seriously to do with the people's welfare.... whatever it is that God is about to do, it will be good news for the poor, bad news for the proud and the rich; it will be change, including changed economic and social relations.
John Howard Yoder

Thursday, December 27, 2012


From the additional notes to Charkes Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, Psalm 112:

Verse 5. Discretion. There is a story, concerning divers ancient Fathers, that they came to St. Anthony, enquiring of him, what virtue did by a direct line lead to perfection, that so a man might shun the snares of Satan. He bade every one of them speak his opinion; one said, watching and sobriety; another said, fasting and discipline; a third said, humble prayer; a fourth said, poverty and obedience; and another, piety and works of mercy; but when every one had spoken his mind, his answer was, That all these were excellent graces indeed, but discretion was the chief of them all. And so beyond doubt it is; being the very Auriga virtutum, the guide of all virtuous and religious actions, the moderator and orderer of all the affections; for whatsoever is done with it is virtue, and what without it is vice. An ounce of discretion is said to be worth a pound of learning. As zeal without knowledge is blind, so knowledge without discretion is lame, like a sword in a madman's hand, able to do much, apt to do nothing. Tolle hanc et virtus vitium erit. He that will fast must fast with discretion, he must so mortify that he does not kill his flesh; he that gives alms to the poor, must do it with discretion, Omnipetenti non omnia petenti—to every one that doth ask, but not everything that he doth ask; so likewise pray with discretion, observing place and time; place, lest he be reputed a hypocrite; time, lest he be accounted a heretic. Thus it is that discretion is to be made the guide of all religious performances.—Quoted by John Spencer, 1658

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Delighting in his service

From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David: psalm 112

Verse 1. In his commandments. When we cheerfully practice all that the Lord requireth of us, love sweetens all things, and it becomes our meat and drink to do his will. The thing commanded is excellent, but it is sweeter because commanded by him—"his commandments." A man is never thoroughly converted till he delighteth in God and his service, and his heart is overpowered by the sweetness of divine love. A slavish kind of religiousness, when we had rather not do than do our work, is no fruit of grace, and cannot evidence a sincere love.—Thomas Manton.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The true fear of God is filial love

From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David on Psalm 112

Verse 1. Praise ye the LORD. This exhortation is never given too often; the Lord always deserves praise, we ought always to render it, we are frequently forgetful of it, and it is always well to be stirred up to it. The exhortation is addressed to all thoughtful persons who observe the way and manner of life of men that fear the Lord. If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, the Lord should have all the glory of it, for we are his workmanship. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord. According to the last verse of Psalm 111, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; this man, therefore, has begun to be wise, and wisdom has brought him present happiness, and secured him eternal felicity. Jehovah is so great that he is to be feared and had in reverence of all them that are round about him, and he is at the same time so infinitely good that the fear is sweetened into filial love, and becomes a delightful emotion, by no means engendering bondage. There is a slavish fear which is accursed; but that godly fear which leads to delight in the service of God is infinitely blessed. Jehovah is to be praised both for inspiring men with godly fear and for the blessedness which they enjoy in consequence thereof. We ought to bless God for blessing any man, and especially for setting the seal of his approbation upon the godly. His favour towards the God fearing displays his character and encourages gracious feelings in others, therefore let him be praised. That delighteth greatly in his commandments. The man not only studies the divine precepts and endeavours to observe them, but rejoices to do so: holiness is his happiness, devotion is his delight, truth is his treasure. He rejoices in the precepts of godliness, yea, and delights greatly in them. We have known hypocrites rejoice in the doctrines, but never in the commandments. Ungodly men may in some measure obey the commandments out of fear, but only a gracious man will observe them with delight. Cheerful obedience is the only acceptable obedience; he who obeys reluctantly is disobedient at heart, but he who takes pleasure in the command is truly loyal. If through divine grace we find ourselves described in these two sentences, let us give all the praise to God, for he hath wrought all our works in us, and the dispositions out of which they spring. Let self righteous men praise themselves, but he who has been made righteous by grace renders all the praise to the Lord.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Transforming violence

Given the levels of violence in the world today, it is hard to imagine a world in which the energies fueling militarism have been transformed into peace-building energies. Yet it is also true that it is impossible to work for something one can't even imagine. That is why the prophetic voice proclaiming the earthly peaceable kingdom is so important in each religious tradition, even though the details of the prophecy may vary. The religious imagination has suffered in the secular atmosphere of the twentieth century. Even the basic hope for a better future is jeered at as being "unrealistic." Yet that prophecy and that hope are the most precious resource of humankind, and the very capacity to imagine the other and better is ... our most completely human capacity.

Elise Boulding"Cultures of Peace and Communities of Faith" in Transforming Violence

The whole heart

From Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, additional notes on Psalm 111:

Verse 1. With my whole heart. We see the stress here laid upon a whole heart, and the want of which is the great canker of all vital godliness. Men are ever attempting to unite what the word of God has declared to be incapable of union—the love of the world and of God—to give half their heart to the world, and the other half to God. Just see the energy, the entireness of every thought and feeling and effort which a man throws into a work in which he is deeply interested; the very phrase we use to describe such an one is, that "he gives his whole mind to it." Attempt to persuade him to divert his energies and divide his time with some other pursuit, and he would wonder at the folly and the ignorance that could suggest such a method of success. "Just take a hint from Satan, "says some one; "see how he plies his powers on the individual, as if there were but that one, and as if he had nothing else to do but to ruin that one soul." It was a holy resolution of the Psalmist that he would praise God; and a wise one to add, "with thy whole heart."And we have the result of this determination in the following verses of the psalm.—Barton Bouchier.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Violence is immoral

Violence as a way of achieving ... justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. A voice echoes through time saying to every potential Peter, "Put up your sword." History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that failed to follow this command.

Martin Luther King, Jr.Stride Toward Freedom

Saturday, December 15, 2012


From Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, on Psalm 110. 

Verse 3. Thy people shall be willing. Willing to do what? They shall be willing while others are unwilling. The simple term "willing, "is very expressive. It denotes the beautiful condition of creatures who suffer themselves to be wrought upon, and moved, according to the will of God. They suffer God to work in them to will and to do. They are willing to die unto all sin, they are willing to crucify the old man, or self, in order that the new man, or Christ, may be formed in them. They are willing to be weaned from their own thoughts and purposes, that the thoughts and purposes of God may be fulfilled in them. They are willing to be transferred from nature's steps of human descent to God's steps of human ascent. Or, to abide by the simplicity of our text, God is Will, and they are "willing." God will beautify them with salvation, because there is nothing in them to hinder his working. They will be wise, they will be good, they will be lovely, they will be like God, for they are "willing"; and there proceeds from God a mighty spirit, the whole tendency of which is to make his creatures like himself. John Pulsford, in"Quiet Hours," 1857.

Pulsford was a prolific 19th century devotional writer; many of his books are available free online

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


For those who stubbornly seek freedom around the world, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the propaganda system to which we are subjected and in which all too often we serve as unwilling or unwitting instruments.

Noam Chomsky"The Responsibility of Intellectuals" in The Chomsky Reader

Putting His enemies under His footstool

From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, Psalm 110:

Verse 1. Make thine enemies thy footstool! This expression, that the conquest of Christ's enemies shall be but as the removing of a stool into its place, notes unto us two things: first, the easiness of God's victory over the enemies of Christ. They are before him as nothing, less than nothing, the drop of a bucket, the dust of the balance, a very little thing...Secondly, as this putting of Christ's enemies like a stool under the feet notes easiness, so also it notes order or beauty too. When Christ's enemies shall be under his foot, then there shall be a right order in things; then it shall indeed appear that God is a God of order, and therefore the day wherein that shall be done, is called "the times of the restitution of all things, "Ac 3:21. 

The putting of Christ's enemies under his feet is an act of justice; and of all others, justice is the most orderly virtue, that which keepeth beauty upon the face of a people, as consisting itself in symmetry and proportion. This putting of Christ's enemies as a stool under his feet, also denotes unto us two things in reference to Christ: first, his rest, and secondly, his triumph. To stand, in the Scripture phrase, denotes ministry, and to sit, rest; and there is no posture so easy as to sit with a stool under one's feet. Till Christ's enemies then be all under his feet, he is not fully in his rest. 

Furthermore, this "footstool" under Christ's feet, in reference to his enemies, denotes unto us four things. First, the extreme shame and confusion which they shall everlastingly suffer, the utter abasing and bringing down of all that exalteth itself against Christ. Secondly, hereby is noted the burden which wicked men must bear: the footstool beareth the weight of the body, so must the enemies of Christ bear the weight of his heavy and everlasting wrath upon their souls. Thirdly, herein is noted the relation which the just recompense of God bears unto the sins of ungodly men. Thus will Christ deal with his enemies at the last day. Here they trample upon Christ in his word, in his ways, in his members; they make the saints bow down for them to go over, and make them as the pavements on the ground; they tread under foot the blood of the covenant, and the sanctuary of the Lord, and put Christ to shame; but there their own measure shall be returned into their bosoms, they shall be constrained to confess as Adonibezek, "As I have done, so God hath requited me." 

Lastly, herein we may note the great power and wisdom of Christ in turning the malice and mischief of his enemies unto his own use and advantage; and so ordering wicked men that though they intend nothing but extirpation and ruin to his kingdom, yet they shall be useful unto him, and, against their own wills, serviceable to those glorious ends, in the accomplishing whereof he shall be admired by all those that believe. As in a great house there is necessary use of vessels of dishonour, destined unto sordid and mean, but yet daily, services: so in the great house of God, wicked men are his utensils and household instruments, as footstools and staves, and vessels wherein there is no pleasure, though of them there may be good use. 

Condensed from Edward Reynolds.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The world of 'I'

We might now say: Newspapers will be lost because technology will force us to acquire information in new ways. In that case, who will tell us what it means to live as citizens of Seattle or Denver or Ann Arbor? The truth is we no longer want to live in Seattle or Denver or Ann Arbor. Our inclination has led us to invent a digital cosmopolitanism that begins and ends with “I.” Careening down Geary Boulevard on the 38 bus, I can talk to my my dear Auntie in Delhi or I can view snapshots of my cousin’s wedding in Recife or I can listen to girl punk from Glasgow. The cost of my cyber-urban experience is disconnection from body, from presence, from city.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The News

Nine tenths of the news, as printed in the papers, is pseudo-news, manufactured events. Some days ten tenths. The ritual morning trance, in which one scans columns of newsprint, creates a peculiar form of generalized pseudo-attention to a pseudo-reality. This experience is taken seriously. It is one's daily immersion in "reality." One's orientation to the rest of the world. One's way of reassuring himself that he has not fallen behind. That he is still there. That he still counts! My own experience has been that renunciation of this self-hypnosis, of this participation in the unquiet universal trance, is no sacrifice of reality at all. To "fall behind" in this sense is to get out of the big cloud of dust that everybody is kicking up, to breathe and to see a little more clearly.

Thomas MertonFaith and Violence (1984)

At the right hand of the poor

From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, Psalm 109.  

Verse 31. He shall stand at the right hand of the poor. This expression implies, first, that he appears there as a friend. How cheering, how comforting it is to have a friend to stand by us when we are in trouble! Such a friend is Jesus. In the hour of necessity he comes as a friend to stand by the right hand of the poor creature whose soul is condemned by guilt and accusation. But he stands in a far higher relation than that of a friend; he stands, too, as surety and a deliverer. He goes, as it were, into the court; and when the prisoner stands at the bar, he comes forward and stands at his right hand as his surety and bondsman; he brings out of his bosom the acquittance of the debt, signed and sealed with his own blood, he produces it to the eyes of the court, and claims and demands the acquittal and absolution of the prisoner at whose right hand he stands. He stands there, then, that the prisoner may be freely pardoned, and completely justified from those accusations that condemn his soul. O sweet standing! O blessed appearance!—Joseph C. Philpot (1802-1869).*

Verse 31. He shall stand at the right hand of the poor. One of the oldest Rabbinical commentaries has a very beautiful gloss on this passage. "Whenever a poor man stands at thy door, the Holy One, blessed be His Name, stands at his right hand. If thou givest him alms, know that thou shalt receive a reward from Him who standeth at his right hand."—Alfred Edersheim, in "Sketches of the Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ," 1876.

* The link to Philpot is in Italian, but Google will happily translate it into a reasonable English for you. 

God's name

From the additional notes to Charles Spurgeon's The Treasury of David, Psalm 109.  

Verse 21. For thy name's sake. It does not say, For my name, that it may be vindicated from, reproach and shame: but for Thy name; as if he would say, whatever I may be, O Lord, and whatever may befall me, have respect to Thy name, have regard to it only. I am not worthy, that I should seek Thy help, but Thy name is worthy which thou mayest vindicate from contempt. We learn here with what passion for the glory of the divine name they ought to be animated, who are peculiarly consecrated to the name of God. He does not say, "Because my case is good", but because thy mercy is good. Note this also, he does not simply say, Because thou art good, or because thou art merciful; but because thy mercy is good. He had experienced a certain special goodness in the Divine mercy; i.e., such timeliness, kind readiness in all afflictions, and help for every kind of affliction prepared and provided. On this he rests hope and confidence, in this takes refuge. All those are truly happy who have had experience of this mercy, and can depend on it with firm hope and confidence.—Wolfgang Musculus.