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Saturday, November 26th, 2005
I just finished John Winthrop's sermon "A Modell of Christian Charity." As I stated in an earlier post, I was cautiously optimistic that it would be better than Cushman's sermon. I quickly found that the sermon was focused on the same general topic of generosity as Cushman's. Like Cushman's, Winthrop's sermon was moralistic, though I found it a better sermon, overall. As a sermon, it left this Lutheran feeling he had not been preached to. Yet I also felt like I had been given some excellent food for thought.
There were some gospel elements in the sermon. Jesus is offered as an example of generosity. But the language, though drawn from Scripture, has an odd focus: "[O]ur Saviour, whoe out of his good will in obedience to his father, becomeing a parte of this body, and being knitt with it in the bonde of love, found such a native sensiblenes of our infirmities and sorrowes as hee willingly yeilded himselfe to deathe to ease the infirmities of the rest of his body and soe heale theire sorrowes: from the like Sympathy of partes did the Apostles and many thousands of the Saintes lay down theire lives for Christ againe, the like wee may see in the members of this body among themselves." I recognize the language from Isaiah, "Surely he took up our infirmities, and carried our sorrows." But I expect "stricken, smitten, and afflicted" language to follow. The language of what Jesus did is shaded to fit our everyday experience of bearing each other's burdens. While Scripture speak of our acting in conformity to Christ's example, the passages which ask this of us (e.g. Philippians 2:4-11) clearly lay out the nature of the cross, which tends to swallow the moral point being made. Jesus is the best moral example in the world. Yet when St. Paul starts to speak of him, he naturally loses his point and begins talking about Jesus. I wish Winthrop had followed St. Paul's example here.
The most beautiful passage for me in Winthrop's sermon contained some plausible metaphysical speculation and some good theology. Jonathan's love for David is said to be an example of the philosophical maxim Simile simili gaudet or "like will to like." (Likes, not opposites, attract.) "Now when the soule which is of a sociable nature fines any thing like to it selfe it is like Adam when Eve was brought to him, shee [the soul] must have it one with herselfe..." Jonathan's attraction to David was a matter of the soul. But it doesn't stop there. "Jonathan a valiant man endued with the spirit of Christ, soe soone as hee Discovers the same spirit in David had presently his hearte knitt to him by this linemen to flove, soe that it is said he loved him as his own soule..." Winthrop sees Christ in the Old Testament. The Old Testament saints were filled with Christ. This is solid theology, and quite superior to dispensational schemes that have the Old Testament saints saved by Law. Yet given the overall lack of Christ in Winthrop's sermon, it appears that to him, Christ, while present in both Testaments, remains mostly hidden. And he seems willing to allow him to remain mostly hidden.
The sermon ends with the famous words so often quoted of the plantation being a "Citty upon a Hill" and how the eyes of all people were upon them. While my eyes do see a success in New England's errand into the wilderness, I fear that New England ears were Gospel-starved. Though ever the optimist, I see John Cotton and Thomas Hooker ahead. John Cotton, from the little I've read, seemed to be the most orthodox of the parties in the Antinomian controversy. (I reserve the right to change that opinion upon deeper study, which I plan to do very soon.) And Thomas Hooker's The Poor Doubting Christian Drawn to Christ was one of very few books that held out any hope to me in one of my early struggles with assurance.
1:22 pm Pacific Standard Time
Ron Paul is a member of the Republican Party, but he subscribes to a libertarian philosophy. He is a member of the Liberty Caucus of the Republican Party, where you have to subscribe to libertarianism to join. Here is a
link you can click to hear Congressman Paul speak. (The section I heard when I clicked concerened an amendment to a bill related to the International Space Station. The amendment was to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, and applied provisions to Syria.)
This covers an area where old conservatives and staunch libertarians differ from neoconservatives. I myself am somewhat undecided on such points (e.g. the status of sovereignty of nations). But I do find it helpful to hear the arguments clearly stated, and arguments such as those that Ron Paul makes are not heard often. Even when we hear people promoting the same policies, it is for different reasons.
11:54 am Pacific Standard Time
Thursday, November 24th, 2005
I began reading a book put out by the Library of America titled American Sermons. This book has an endowment to keep in permanently in print. It is a collection of sermons from the colonial era to the present. The first sermon was given at Plimmoth by Robert Cushman in 1621. ('Plimmoth' is Cushman's spelling.)
This sermon had as its text 1 Corinthians 10:24 "Let no man seek his owne, But every man anothers wealth." The verse was not set in the context of 1 Corinthians 10, where the broader context was on the Lord's Supper and idolatry. Cushman instead proceeded to ransack the rest of Scripture for proofs for his own point about pursuing wealth. To my Lutheran ears (Yes, I was reading, but my 'spirit man' was listening.), the sermon topic was moralistic. This was not a matter so much of drawing the lines too severely, but of focusing on human behavior. Generally moralism draws the line at some very strenuous but attainable level, but offers no good news to those who fail. It is man-centered, even when God is mentioned a lot.
What was particularly interesting about this sermon, however, was its civil side. Cushman railed against those who wanted the property at Plimmoth divided so that each man could work his own share for his own good. This would be giving in to selfishness, according to the Cushman.
In the midst of reading this, in Huntington Beach's Central Park, outside the library, and next to a pond full of ducks, I remembered Vince Suprynowicz's classic Thanksgiving column which outlined how the early colonists starved to death until communism was rescinded and every man could work for his own good.
I am cautiously optimistic that William Bradford will prove a better preacher in the next sermon in the collection. In the meantime, I leave you with Psalm 112. (Hint: It's about Jesus. He is the righteous Man. You are His offspring by faith.)
3:40 pm Pacific Standard Time
Wednesday, November 16th, 2005
I've already posted the following at the Theologica blog at WorldMag. But I want to see what Lutheran response might be. Or responses from any other readers who read this blog.
* * *
I once considered myself to be charismatic. When I ceased to be charismatic, I did not do so by becoming a cessationist. There was a different series of decisions at work that led to this.
In my late high school and early college years, I went to Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, which had a mild emphasis on the charismatic gifts. I once asked why if they believed in the gifts they didn't practice them more. I got an answer that had to do with maturity. This struck me as odd, as it almost seemed to suggest that the gifts were like toys you were supposed to outgrow. I didn't think God was in the habit of giving superfluous gifts like this.
I later visited and then fairly regularly attended the Anaheim Vineyard's Sunday night services. The first time I went, I shook. This was different from my earlier attempts to speak in tongues. It was not self-generated. My best friend visited that same first visit and also shook. Neither of us felt comforted by the experience. We were both a bit unclear as to the nature of assurance of salvation, and an experience like this just made the questions more pressing.
I did, however, enjoy the worship style. I was investigating Lutheranism and studying at Christ College Irvine (now Concordia University) during the week, attending St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach on Sunday mornings, and the Vineyard on Sunday nights. It was an eclectic mix.
One thing that turned the whole question for me was Rod Rosenbladt's teaching at Christ College. He was not a cessationist, but he had tough questions to put to the idea of extra Biblical revelations. These questions were not anti-supernatural in nature. (I was always suspicious when people seemed to shy away from the charismata because they were dynamic or powerful.) They had to do with what such revelations would do to our understanding of Scriptural revelation.
Now, the charismatic churches were usually clear that if an alleged prophecy went directly against a Biblical teaching, the prophecy was false. But some went so far to say that any alleged prophecy that did not contradict the Bible was to be accepted. I don't know how common this teaching was. But as clear as it seemed to sound, it quickly showed itself to be a bad teaching. What about when the prophecy was not directly contradictory to Scripture, but didn't seem to mesh in character? Or if the prophecy had some Sciptural content to it, but sounded silly? (Trust me, this happened!) At some point, I had finally decided this question was just too disturbing to allow it to hang.
The night I remember was one where the alleged prophecy was given in a strange voice. "There was a family, sitting around a table. And they were working on a puzzle." (Okay, he pronounced it puddthle.) "And the puzzle fell on the floor. And a big hand came and put the puzzle back together." I thought this was so strange I didn't know how they were going to handle it. The pastor, however, accepted this as divine revelation and said, "God is taking his church apart and putting it back together his way. And here at the Vineyard we are in the center of that." Uh oh.
Now in one sense, I think there is some nice overlap in character with the Scriptures. There are surely grave problems in the church. I would like to see churches mended by God. But this part on the end where the pastor gets to do an advertising plug did not sound like a Scriptural way of speaking to me. It sounded like marketing.
When I stopped attending the Vineyard, I hadn't decided that the cessationist arguments were correct. I had decided, in line with one of Rod Rosenbladt's suggestions, that perhaps we didn't know in every case what a given gift really was. And Rosenbladt also cautioned us against the argument, "What? You don't know what that gift is? Well come to my church on Friday night and we'll show it to you in action." Human experience is mysterious. Many unexplained things can happen. We need firmer grounds for believing a mysterious thing is a supernatural gift. Especially when the Word of God is involved.
In the years since, I have wrestled with an idea from Luther. He suggested that new and independent revelation should probably not be assumed to happen more often than necessary even in the composition of the Scriptures. I now go into my reading with the assumption that the Biblical author had probably meditated on previous revelation. The author was saturated in Scripture. Was there inspiration? Yes. The Holy Spirit moved the author, and kept the author from error. But I see the Spirit and the Word more intertwined. My main image fo the Holy Spirit enterning someone is now through the ear (Galatians 3:2).
Anyway, I wanted to offer this, as I think many readers may think that they must choose between being charismatic or cessationist. Perhaps not. Maybe we just need to wrestle more with teaching on each gift and on a one-by-one basis evaluate the claims.
1:46 pm Pacific Standard Time
Tuesday, November 8th, 2005
On Boars Head Tavern I found a link to a blog called Atlas Shrugs. There I found a link to the following video. The coverage is a bit different from that of the major networks. You can hear the youth yelling "Allah akbar".
Mainstream media coverage emphasizes the fact that most of the perpetrators are unemployed. French society gives them equal rights, but nobody hires them, even when they are qualified. Atlas Shrugs asks if what we are seeing is a Jihad in Europe. I can imagine these approaches being complimentary rather than contradictory. But it is interesting how the video coverage by the different sources offers a different picture of what is going on in France.
11:57 pm Pacific Standard Time
Sunday, November 6th, 2005
I discovered LibraryThing through Jeremy Abel's blog "Living Among Mysteries." There was a little section that showed several random books from his library. That was one of the coolest blog features I had yet seen, and it said it was powered by LibraryThing.
LibraryThing is an online book cataloguing program. It allows you to create a list of the books in your library, and to see who owns books in common with you. Now, in some cases, people own many of the books you do because they own 8,000 books. But in others, you can see more of an affinity of interests.
A couple days ago, I put in about 1,200 books in a 24 hour period. LibraryThing allows books to be searched for through Amazon.com, both in the US, and in the UK and other countries. The Library of Congress is also availabe. With book or title information, you can often find the exact version you own. What makes it work even better is the ability to locate the book by its ISBN number, that ten digit number that is on the back of most books printed in the past 20 years or so. (The numbers are universal now, and have been for a while, but you can find them on books from the nineteen-sixties in some cases.)
I would love to see more people use this because I'm curious as to what books people own.
The service is free for the first 200 books. Then it's $10 per year or $25 for a lifetime membership. I decided to go with the lifetime membership. I'll chance it.
My LibraryThing link can be found on the sidebar of this blog.
9:08 pm Pacific Standard Time
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005
I checked all but eleven movies as finished, so posting would be boring. Instead I'll comment on a few.
#14 Rear Window was re-released a few years back. The big screen makes a difference. Grace Kelly literally took my breath away. I'm glad this made it above other Hitchcock movies. Great suspense if you've never seen it.
#16 Raiders of the Lost Ark is an all-time-favorite. I was 15 when it came out.
#24 "Lawrence of Arabia" is one of my favorite movies ever. But I could leave at Intermission and feel like I missed nothing.
#58 Roshamon I saw in a Japanese class. Very good. I highly recommend it. Give it a while, though. The first ten to fifteen minutes, I thought it was going to be a long class session. It was not.
#60 The Sting. The first time I remember hearing the word Shit.
#80 Braveheart. How is this only #80? How?
#82 The Apartment. Shirley MacLaine a hottie. Who woulda thunk it? (Especially when my introduction to her was the ghastly Terms of Endearment, a movie that has no close second in my hatred.)
#88 Blade Runner. I prefer the original theatrical release to the now ubiquitous director's cut. When the director's cut came out, I saw it with a woman who hadn't seen it in the theater before. She kept asking questions and I kept answering. "But how do you know that?" she would ask. "It was in the narration of the version I saw." "Well why didn't they include that in this one?" Why indeed. I have come to appreciate the ending of the director's cut. Not better. I'm glad both endings exist.
#100 Run Lola Run. As my friend Pat Kyle said of Lola, "She really loves him."
Where's Gone with the Wind? Yes, if I had only seen it on TV, I would leave it off, too. But on the big screen, it is another thing altogether. There is a pan shot of the dying on the streets of Atlanta that is just another TV shot on TV. On the big screen it is a major deal.
I generally love any epic, which is why I really hated the English Patient. It was the right kind of movie, but I absolutely hated the main character. Don't do that to me!
Many of my friends will decide whether they like a movie solely on the ending. I will often adore a movie for a few minutes of brilliant vision it offers, satisfying ending or not.
12:48 pm Pacific Standard Time
Tuesday, November 1st, 2005
I just received my order of A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada by Mark Noll in the mail from Amazon. Each section of the book begins with a representative hymn from the period and group studied. The first one really struck me.
Within a lodge or broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp'd his beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria
* * * * *
O children of the forest free
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and Heav'n
is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy,
Who brings you beauty, peace, and joy
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.
[Mark Noll, page 9.]
This has some interesting elements to it. Elements from the Gospels have been translated into their indian equivalents. Swaddling clothes become "a ragged robe of rabbit skin." Shepherds become "hunter braves." On the other hand, historic church latin, "In excelsis gloria", is also used, introducing the Hurons to some of the universal words of Christendom. Quite a Christmas hymn. I would love to know the melody.
Some time has passed since I wrote the above. Now I've seen some other translations of the hymn and know that I may have been in error. The Latin does not appear in the original, but does appear in early French translations. The hymn title is "Jesous Ahatonhia" and can be found easily, as it is considered the oldest Canadian Christmas carol. The author Jean de Brébeuf was a Jesuit missionary who had a successful mission among the Hurons, but was later captured, tortured and killed by the Iroquois. Noll says that even the Iroquois admired his courage, for they ate his heart in order to receive a share in that courage.
I found a couple of helpful links on this carol. The first is to a more complete text for the carol. When I clicked the link on that page to the mp3 to hear the tune, it did not immediately work for me, so I typed in the URL from the status bar. You may find it easier to click here for the mp3 file where you can hear the carol tune in harp and drum. Enjoy!
9:51 am Pacific Standard Time
[ posted by Rick Ritchie | 5 comments ]