Archive for December 2014
Ted Tripp writes of repentance and faith as a way of life rather than an event:
Repentance and faith are not rites of initiation to Christianity. Repentance and faith are the way to relate to God. Repentance and faith are not acts performed one time to become a Christian. They are attitudes of the heart toward ourselves and our sin. Faith is not just the way to get saved; it is the life-line of Christian living.
Your children . . . need to know the cleansing and refreshing forgiveness of God, not just once to get saved, but daily. They must understand the Christian life not simply as living according to a biblical code, but as life in faith, commitment and fellowship with the living God. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, 55)
Awhile back, I wrote about seventy sevens and suggested that the figure of an evaluation period of 490 years might also have a connection with 430 years (as in the case of the sin of the Amorites), if you count as Sabbath not only Sabbath years but also jubilee years.
There is another evaluation period of 430 years in Ezekiel, broken into a 390 + 40:
“Then lie on your left side, and place the punishment of the house of Israel upon it. For the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their punishment. For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment. So long shall you bear the punishment of the house of Israel. And when you have completed these, you shall lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the punishment of the house of Judah. Forty days I assign you, a day for each year. And you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem, with your arm bared, and you shall prophesy against the city. And behold, I will place cords upon you, so that you cannot turn from one side to the other, till you have completed the days of your siege. (Ezekiel 4:4-8)
430 years of evaluation plus 70 years of judgment makes for a nice round 500 years.
I think we still must take Daniel’s seventy sevens symbolically. There are more, not less, than 490 years to be made up between Cyrus and Jesus.
Goodreads sent a note congratulating me for reading three books in 2014, which didn’t seem quite right even though it has been a very busy year! It turns out that I’d not marked a “date read” for many of the books, bringing the tally to 15, including some read-alouds with the kids.
My top three books for 2014 are:
- Poetry: Beowulf
- Fiction: Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger
- Non-fiction: The Supper of the Lamb, by Robert Capon
The Lord of the Rings earns an honorable mention; while it was not a new book for 2014, we really enjoyed listening to the Rob Inglis narration together as a family. Right now we are partway through reading The Yearling aloud, and plan to read N. D. Wilson’s Boys of Blur next.
For fun, I looked up some of my Goodreads stats. The date read vs. date published chart is fascinating. Augustine and Beowulf are my outliers. Some huge gaps to fill in there!
Peter Leithart writes about one of the symbolic undertones of the ritual of circumcision:
This also highlights the fact that circumcision is the beginning of a pedagogy of weakness, of renunciation of fleshly achievement, of renunciation of the future. If circumcision is a symbolic sacrifice of a newborn son, it is a symbolic offering of the future of your name and family to Yahweh. If Yahweh chooses to raise your son from the dead, then you have a future. But the act entrusts the future into Yahweh hands, which is of course where the future always lies anyway.
The ritual of baptism is the reverse of this in some ways; it is actually our induction into a future that has already begun:
[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5)
In baptism we are joined to Jesus, who has completed the exodus into the new creation (Luke 9:31) and reigns seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Even now we reign with him (Ephesians 2:6). We must still suffer and sacrifice as we look towards the full arrival of this future, and we must still entrust it to God (Ephesians 2:7), but in baptism there is a much greater emphasis on the future’s present arrival in Jesus, and on the church’s participation with him in not just announcing, but actually living out, the kingdom of the new creation.
See also: In the regeneration
Calvin Seerveld writes movingly on how to read the Bible:
The true story of God’s great deeds has been written down (John 20:31) so that we may believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and so believing have life in his name. The Holy Scriptures have been given us historically so that we might come to know the covenanting God and his way of doing things in creation and so that we might be able to obey him more maturely as adopted sons and daughters, who had lost their way in the world. That is crucial, I believe, for rightly understanding the Bible, this God-speaking literature. It must always be pulled back to its primary level of true story for believing children.
That’s a test I have always used when challenged in my confession: I recall the way I responded as a wide-eyed child to Mother reading me Bible stories before I was trundled off to bed. Adam and Eve were real people then . . . and now, quite unlike Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming. Balaam’s ass saw the angel and talked, and God had a whale swallow Jonah—it said so—because God loved the Israelites so much and all the people and cows around Ninevah; but Hansel and Gretel and the witch in the forest were not people in a true story. Somehow my believing parents gave me a lasting sense of how Genesis 3 and Romans 5, Exodus 20 and Matthew 5–7, Psalm 90, Isaiah 40 and Romans 8—all richly, literarily variegated—integrally told the true story of God’s saving presence on the earth, especially for those who took him at his Word, as my Dad would say (cf. I Timothy 4:10). I learned to use the Bible not so much as a book of special, extra, inside information (the way Thomas Aquinas conceived it, cf. Summe contra gentiles, 4, i) but as a source of knowledge-to-grow-on, the kind of vision (nouthesia) your father would give you as an inexperienced lad who was walking around in the world (Bible as “spectacles,” to use John Calvin’s phrase). And it is that kind of humbled, childlike, expectant hearing and fiducial reception (to use an early English Puritan expression) that I believe must be the first and last way one meets the God-speaking literature called the Bible.
So what am I after? Just this: (1) It is an insight of christian aesthetic theory that bona fide art presents reliable, specific knowledge for others to grasp; and that knowledge is of its own imaginative, suggestion-rich sort. (2) Literature is thoughtful writing that is characterized by such an artistic norming. (3) The Bible is God-speaking literature telling us a true story; that is its nature. Therefore, when faithful, childlike people read the Bible, they should read it literarily. One should not read the Bible literalistically (=”literally”?) and then figuratively when one gets stuck. One should always read it literarily, literaturely, the way it is written, to mine its special wisdom-making, true-storied knowledge for children.
The Bible is not a collection of atomic, bullet like proof-texts to be shot at people. It will take a trained person who subsumes verses within paragraphs, within chapter wholes, within total books, within the perspicuous true story connection I mentioned to interpret Scripture word for word. The Bible is not an anthology of lessons in piety which can be distributed, so to speak, like candy to whoever holds out his hand. The Bible does not give recipes, which when followed to the letter, make wonderful devotional soup. Only when the mighty, true story of civitas Dei vs. civitates mundi dominates the reading of the quiet pilgrim psalm 131 or jumps out at you from Genesis 32 when Jabbok becomes Peniel or overwhelms you seeking comfort in the letter to the Philippians: only then does one learn the God-fearing, quiet intensity (eusebeia) that is becoming to a child of God. The Bible is not like a telephone book where you can find God’s special number for emergency use, and all the heavenly office numbers to call for marriage, births and funerals, lonely hearts, potential suicides, earthquake-like disasters. People use the Bible that way, and God stoops to their weakness, but human weakness does not define the Holy Scriptures.
I am continually bowled over by the fact that this is the book where we hear God talking about what He is actually doing in the world; and its true story is so powerful, with cosmic, historic sweep and a tenderly passionate, apocalyptic temper that one says spontaneously with Paul (Romans 15:4), “All the things written earlier were put in writing for us to understand so that through the firming up and comforting power of the Scriptures we might have hope!” Part of what I am after, as a christian aesthetician, is greater recognition of the Bible as God-speaking literature that is telling a true story, so that the Bible not be so easily trivialized into a private, short-order, spiritual cookbook. That denatures the Holy Scriptures, no matter how infallible you claim the book to be. (Rainbows for the Fallen World, 90-92)
And [Jesus’s disciples] cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. (Mark 6:13)
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing Psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (James 5:13-15)
In the old covenants, priests and kings were ordained through anointing with oil. In the new covenant, all God’s people are priests (1 Pet. 2:5) and are seated with Jesus as kings (Eph. 2:6). You might expect that anointing would be used for all believers as a sign of our union with Jesus the anointed one through his Holy Spirit. So it is a little startling that God appoints anointing, not for our baptism, but for those who are sick or in pain.
Of course there is no magic in either the oil or in the act of anointing. Instead, what this is showing us is that Christians who suffer sickness or pain have a unique privilege of closer fellowship with Jesus as they suffer under the curse. You could say that this anointing establishes a sort of office of suffering, in which Christians who endure sickness and pain are recognized and honored as having a special position in the service of our anointed king.
When the elders of the church anoint and pray for those who are sick, the church is, through her elders, honoring those whom Jesus has called to suffer, and praying that Jesus will by his Holy Spirit sanctify their suffering for his glory and praise. The church is also identifying sick believers with Jesus, the anointed one who heals us (Matt. 11:1-16), and with the Holy Spirit, the one who brings life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). Finally, through this we pray earnestly that Jesus will bring their suffering to an end, just as Jesus’s own suffering was finally crowned with his glorification and reign.