Unique by Design

The following note was found penciled in the flyleaf of C.S. Lewis’ copy of Eternal Life: A Study of Its Implications and Applications by Baron Friedrich von Hugel:

It is not an abstraction called Humanity that is to be saved. It is you, . . . your soul, and, in some sense yet to be understood, even your body, that was made for the high and holy place. All that you are . . . every fold and crease of your individuality was devised from all eternity to fit God as a glove fits a hand. All that intimate particularity which you can hardly grasp yourself, much less communicate to your fellow creatures, is no mystery to Him. He made those ins and outs that He might fill them. Then He gave your soul so curious a life because it is the key designed to unlock that door, of all the myriad doors in Him.

This intrigues me for a couple reasons. First, it is fascinating to read something scribbled by Lewis for his own reflection. Second, I’m convinced that we need to spend a lot more time on what Lewis said was “yet to be understood,” the uniqueness of our individual bodies and the role they play in our spiritual formation. Third, I’m fascinated by the concept we are uniquely designed both to uniquely relate to God, and to relay particular facets of God’s character to the rest of His children.

This note was quoted in Corbin Scott Carnell’s book, Bright Shadow of Reality: C.S. Lewis and the Feeling Intellect, but I ran across the quote in Eugene Peterson’s book, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work.

Something to Ponder

All Torah is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Of course, the text actually says “Scripture” (or graphe in Greek), but I believe we forget that the Torah was the primary document Paul had in mind when he penned those words.

Could most believers today unreservedly affirm that the entire Torah is profitable for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, i.e. equipped for every good work that God prepared beforehand for us to do? I think most of us would hem and haw, cough and sputter, provide caveats and addendums to Paul’s declarative statement.

A Strange Question

I get some of the strangest questions, but I think they are often questions that many people think, even if only a few verbalize them.

Q: So, if keeping God’s law means as much as not keeping God’s law, why keep it?

A:  That is like asking, now that I’m married why do I attempt to please my wife? If I displease my wife does that mean that I am unmarried? No, the state of marriage is not made nor unmade by my keeping of the “honey-do list”. Similarly, our relationship with God is forged by our acceptance of His work on our behalf. It is not made by our keeping of His commandments, nor is it unmade by our failure to keep His commandments, and yet it is still true that “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

I think this is precisely the type of thinking St. Paul had in mind when he penned:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
(Romans 6:1-2 ESV)

Devotional or Scholarly?

I read the following quote on a Mike Higton’s blog recently. Mike is a Lecturer in Theology at Exeter University. I identified so strongly with what he wrote that I thought I should post it here. It reminded me also of a post I wrote some time back titled Personal Devotions.

On the other hand, I realised that a dividing wall in my mind had, over time, softly and silently vanished away, and that there was in principle no longer any gap for me between devotional and academic exploration of biblical texts. I found that, without having deliberately set off towards it, I had reached a point where it seemed obvious that a careful reading of a biblical text which was as academically rigorous as I could make it could and should also be deeply ‘self-involving’, personally and communally challenging – and that these two aspects were not in conflict, were not even independent, but could and should feed each other. In other words, I was no longer in a position of thinking that I needed to forge connections between the results of acedmic biblical study and a devotional and ecclesial use of the Bible: I no longer saw a gap that might need connections to be built across it.

What I’m Talking About

I pasted the text of my blog posts from 2006 through today into the generator at wordle.net in order to see visually what the content of my posting tends to be about. No revolutionary surprises, but it is interesting.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of tag clouds, the larger the word the more often it is used. All in all, I think those are the concepts I would have hoped I was focusing on the most.

Brueggeman Quote

As I mentioned just recently, it is sort of a hobby of mine to collect quotes from mainstream Christian authors that reflect what I consider to be a proper perspective on the First Testament and/or the Torah.  Joel sent me a great one this evening from Walter Brueggeman.

When Israel arrives at Mt. Sinai, a new extended, complex tradition begins, featuring [a] the making of covenant between YHWH and Israel and [b] the issuance of the commands of YHWH that become the condition and substance of the covenant…In all its complexity, the Sinai tradition extends through the book of Leviticus and through Numbers 10:10, when Israel departs the mountain.  The reason the material is so complex is that over time the tradition of commands sought to extend the rule and will of YHWH to every aspect of life, personal and public, civic and cultic…This tradition is at the core of Judaism that is constituted by obedience to YHWH’s Torah.  Conversely, in Christian tradition this material has been largely downplayed, precisely because it has been erroneously understood as “law” that provides a way to “earn” God’s grace.  A reconsideration of the role and function of the commandments in their rich interpretive complexity is now of immense importance for Christians, precisely to be delivered from wrongly informed and distorting caricatures of the tradition of commandment.

[Brueggeman, Walter. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003. pg. 61]

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Brueggeman’s writings. Sometimes he leaves me cheering, and sometimes he absolutely drives me nuts.

Crossway & the ESV

Do you remember my posts about the forthcoming ESV Study Bible, here and here? My first post mentioned that I’m decidely not a fan of the artwork for the hard cover edition of the ESV Study Bible (they put that orange triangle on the cover of the TruTone editions as well–I just don’t get it), and my second post mentioned in passing that I’m planning to buy the Hardcover edition anyway and just take the dustjacket off.

Today I received an email from a Customer Service Rep at Crossway who took the time to read my post(s) and then was kind enough to give me the heads up that the artwork is printed on the hardback itself, not just on the dustjacket.

That information itself is very disappointing, but I’m so impressed that they took the time to contact me (he had to figure out how to do that, by the way, as I don’t have my email anywhere on my blog) that it’s quite taken the sting out of the ugly, juvenile artwork.

So, here’s one more reason to use the ESV: it’s backed by an impressive organization of people who legitimately care about their customer.

I would dearly love to see an alternative with a sense of respectability. However, as I mentioned to the gentleman from Crossway, I’ve all ready placed a pre-order with evangelicalbible.com and I’m not going to cancel it. After all, what you really care about in a study bible is the interior content–and that promises to be top-notch.

Learn more about the ESV Study Bible

Graduation from the Law?

When you learn to shoot a jump shot, you don’t abandon the lay-up. When you learn to parallel park, you don’t stop parking in parking lots. If you are smart, when you graduate from High School, you don’t abandon all that you learned there. 

When one understands the “higher consciousness” of love that the Law of God describes, this does not mean that one then abandons the building blocks!

If you are in Messiah, then you have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel and their Scriptures are now yours, whether you like it or not. You are blessed to participate in their inheritance.

Note that it is a “commonwealth.” If you were born a Gentile, you are not now a Jew; you maintain your own ethnicity, but you have become part of the spiritual administration of Israel/God’s people. God doesn’t have multiple brides. He welcomes all into His one people – Israel. There are those who are Israel after the flesh and those who are Israel by way of naturalization–your citizenship has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

You once were a stranger to the covenants of promise and far from God, but now you have been brought near to God, and are a participant in the promise(s) of God.