What it Means to Fall in Love

With­in this Chris­t­ian vision of mar­riage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at anoth­er per­son and get a glimpse of what God is cre­at­ing, and to say, “I see who God is mak­ing you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to part­ner with you and God in the jour­ney you are tak­ing to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your mag­nif­i­cence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”

— Tim­o­thy Keller, The Mean­ing of Mar­riage, Ch 4, pg 121

Bound to Fulfillment

With­out being for­giv­en, released from the con­se­quences of what we have done, our capac­i­ty to act would, as it were, be con­fined to one sin­gle deed from which we could nev­er recov­er; we would remain the vic­tims of its con­se­quences for­ev­er, not unlike the sorcerer’s appren­tice who lacked the mag­ic for­mu­la to break the spell. With­out being bound to the ful­fill­ment of promis­es, we would nev­er be able to keep our iden­ti­ties; we would be con­demned to wan­der help­less­ly and with­out direc­tion in the dark­ness of each man’s lone­ly heart, caught in its con­tra­dic­tions and equiv­o­cal­i­ties, a dark­ness which only the light shed over the pub­lic realm through the pres­ence of oth­ers, who con­firm the iden­ti­ty between the one who promis­es and the one who ful­fills, can dis­pel. Both fac­ul­ties, there­fore, depend on plu­ral­i­ty, on the pres­ence and act­ing of oth­ers, for no one can for­give him­self and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to him­self; for­giv­ing and promis­ing enact­ed in soli­tude or iso­la­tion remain with­out real­i­ty and can sig­ni­fy no more than a role played before one’s self. [empha­sis mine]

— Han­nah Arendt, The Human Con­di­tion, 2nd ed., pg 237

The Wounds We Carry

Many peo­ple come to mar­riage hav­ing been seri­ous­ly hurt by par­ents, lovers, or for­mer spous­es. I am not talk­ing about par­ents who phys­i­cal­ly or sex­u­al­ly abuse their chil­dren. I’m talk­ing of the more wide­spread expe­ri­ences of cold and indif­fer­ent par­ents or of ver­bal­ly abu­sive par­ents who know how to pun­ish chil­dren emo­tion­al­ly. Then there are the dat­ing rela­tion­ships or for­mer mar­riages in with the oth­er par­ty wrong and betrayed you. All of these expe­ri­ences can make it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to trust the oth­er sex, while at the same time fill­ing you with deep doubts about your judg­ment and char­ac­ter. “Wound­ed­ness” is com­pound­ed self-doubt and guilt, resent­ment and dis­il­lu­sion­ment.

— Tim­o­thy Keller, The Mean­ing of Mar­riage, Ch 3, pgs 60–61

I let myself be crip­pled by this for about sev­en years… my own voice com­pound­ed with the schiz­o­phrenic lies and dis­tor­tions of she who sought, with great suc­cess for a time, to under­mine every decent thing I’ve ever been or done.

…extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to trust the oth­er sex, while at the same time fill­ing you with deep doubts about your judg­ment and character…self-doubt and guilt, resent­ment and dis­il­lu­sion­ment.
Even know­ing the voice was one of psy­chosis and hatred, didn’t stop it from wound­ing me more deeply than I could have imag­ined, wound­ing ever deep­er time and time again. I would be filled with those deep doubts about my judg­ment and char­ac­ter. I would despair of ever hav­ing a future, and I would allow axes of utter non­sense to fell my tree-of-self-aware­ness.

I am so very grate­ful, not just for the heal­ing God has giv­en me, but espe­cial­ly for the pro­tec­tion and reas­sur­ance against such attacks. I had thought to nev­er again be sub­ject­ed to such attacks until a let­ter arrived a cou­ple of months ago. This new pack­et of hatred sought to go back to the utter begin­ning of our love affair, well before mat­ri­mo­ny, and paint over great beau­ty with foul and rot­ted pig­ments of self­ish­ness and wicked­ness. Instead of felling me for a time, it became one more rein­forc­ing arti­fact to add to a pile of cor­re­spon­dence which my spir­i­tu­al and psy­cho­log­i­cal advis­ers agree show a descent into mad­ness.

It pro­duced deep sor­row, but sor­row is not at all the same bun­ny of which Tim speaks. You can­not des­per­ate­ly and deeply love some­one, what­ev­er the cir­cum­stances, and not ache for them and the pain, unhap­pi­ness, and poi­son of hatred they con­tin­ue to imbibe.

I won’t say that I’ve grown com­plete­ly immune, and to be hon­est I do not want to become so. Satan does find those very occa­sion­al low­est points to charge one of his tempters with whis­per­ing into my ears tired old lies and doubts. I am glad I am not entire­ly immune sim­ply because the hubris of immu­ni­ty would be an utter lack of hum­ble­ness and fail­ure to see myself rela­tion­al­ly as fall­en man in need of Christ. If I became that, I might tru­ly begin to be the mon­ster she describes. I think Spur­geon said it best when he said, “Broth­er, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” All the more rea­son to sur­round myself with friends and spir­i­tu­al lead­ers who know me well and hold me ever account­able. Instead, I think it leaves me clear to see those issues with my char­ac­ter and judg­ment that still mer­it large allo­ca­tions of prayer and effort.

God brings joy in the morn­ing.

Psalm 30, HCSB 1 I will exalt You, Lord, because You have lift­ed me up and have not allowed my ene­mies to tri­umph over me. 2 Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. 3 Lord, You brought me up from She­ol; You spared me from among those going down to the Pit. 4 Sing to the Lord, you His faith­ful ones, and praise His holy name. 5 For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a life­time. Weep­ing may spend the night, but there is joy in the morn­ing. 6 When I was secure, I said, “I will nev­er be shak­en.” 7 Lord, when You showed Your favor, You made me stand like a strong moun­tain; when You hid Your face, I was ter­ri­fied. 8 Lord, I called to You; I sought favor from my Lord: 9 “What gain is there in my death, in my descend­ing to the Pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it pro­claim Your truth? 10 Lord, lis­ten and be gra­cious to me; Lord, be my helper.” 11 You turned my lament into danc­ing; You removed my sack­cloth and clothed me with glad­ness, 12 so that I can sing to You and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise You for­ev­er.

I’ve explored only of the wound­ing caused by adult rela­tion­ships. So long since has God healed me from the first type of wound­ing Tim dis­cuss­es, that I near­ly for­got to touch on the sub­ject. Learn­ing some cru­cial truths resolved my fear of being mar­ried and of being a father to chil­dren such that they no longer seem jus­ti­fi­able con­cerns. I remain vig­i­lant but no longer par­a­lyzed.

I have learned to tru­ly love, to affirm, to serve, to sac­ri­fice, to place the pre­rog­a­tive of anoth­er above my own and to take joy in doing so. I am not my father. I will nev­er vis­it upon a beloved wife or child the ter­rors vis­it­ed upon me; the fear of which kept me from believ­ing I had any right to love and be loved. I will have my own unique blind­ness­es and short­com­ings, but nev­er those and nev­er lack­ing the love and humil­i­ty that keeps me from real­iz­ing (yes, after prompt­ing and time per­haps) that these blind­ness­es and short­com­ings exist.

I like­wise real­ized is that even were there some ‘demon’ hold­ing license to lurk with­in me, a fear I once very much held [knowl­edge of which was used by anoth­er as impo­tent firey dart which fail to wound], I do not exist in a vac­u­um. I will nev­er be sep­a­rat­ed from peo­ple who know me and who have been giv­en leave to look deeply into my life and sift and seek and con­front.

Most impor­tant of all con­sid­er­a­tions is that my deal-break­er-if-lack­ing cri­te­ria for a future beloved is a deep, abid­ing love of Jesus Christ com­bined with a sharp intel­lect, a heart of love and wis­dom, and the courage to be bold. A mar­riage is not one per­son per­form­ing solo, but two per­sons act­ing in sweet and sacred con­cert with one anoth­er.

2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
For God has not giv­en us a spir­it of fear and timid­i­ty, but of pow­er, love, and self-dis­ci­pline.
If one mem­ber begins to play off-piste and ignores the direc­tion of the Con­duc­tor Almighty, the music quick­ly sours and the part­ner in error must cor­rect if sweet­ness is to again be achieved.

I am no longer slave to a heart of fear on this, or this, or this account.

The Proper Study of God’s Elect is God

It has been said by some­one that “the prop­er study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equal­ly true that the prop­er study of God’s elect is God; the prop­er study of a Chris­t­ian is the God­head. The high­est sci­ence, the lofti­est spec­u­la­tion, the might­i­est phi­los­o­phy, which can ever engage the atten­tion of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the per­son, the work, the doings, and the exis­tence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is some­thing exceed­ing­ly improv­ing to the mind in a con­tem­pla­tion of the Divin­i­ty. It is a sub­ject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immen­si­ty; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infin­i­ty. Oth­er sub­jects we can com­pass and grap­ple with; in them we feel a kind of self-con­tent, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this mas­ter sci­ence, find­ing that our plumbline can­not sound its depth, and that our eagle eye can­not see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn excla­ma­tion, “I am but of yes­ter­day, and know noth­ing.” No sub­ject of con­tem­pla­tion will tend more to hum­ble the mind, than thoughts of God…

But while the sub­ject hum­bles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larg­er mind than the man who sim­ply plods around this nar­row globe… The most excel­lent study for expand­ing the soul, is the sci­ence of Christ, and Him cru­ci­fied, and the knowl­edge of the God­head in the glo­ri­ous Trin­i­ty. Noth­ing will so enlarge the intel­lect, noth­ing so mag­ni­fy the whale soul of man, as a devout, earnest, con­tin­ued inves­ti­ga­tion of the great sub­ject of the Deity.

And, whilst hum­bling and expand­ing, this sub­ject is emi­nent­ly con­so­la­to­ry. Oh, there is, in con­tem­plat­ing Christ, a balm for every wound; in mus­ing on the Father, there is a qui­etus for every grief; and in the influ­ence of the Holy Ghost, there is a bal­sam for every sore. Would you lose your sor­row? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge your­self in the Godhead’s deep­est sea; be lost in his immen­si­ty; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invig­o­rat­ed. I know noth­ing which can so com­fort the soul; so calm the swelling bil­lows of sor­row and grief; so speak peace to the winds of tri­al, as a devout mus­ing upon the sub­ject of the God­head. It is to that sub­ject that I invite you this morn­ing.

— Charles Had­don Spur­geon, Jan­u­ary 7th, 1855

The only way to overcome the unpredictability of your future is the power of promising

When we make a promise we take it on our fee­ble wills to keep a future ren­dezvous with some­one in cir­cum­stances we can­not pos­si­bly pre­dict. We take it on our­selves to cre­ate our future with some­one else no mat­ter what fate or des­tiny may have in store. This is almost ulti­mate free­dom.

When I make a promise, I bear wit­ness that my future with you is not locked into a bion­ic beam by which I was stuck with the fate­ful com­bi­na­tions of X’s and Y’s in the hand I was dealt out of my par­ents’ genet­ic deck.

When I make a promise, I tes­ti­fy that I was not rout­ed along some unal­ter­able itin­er­ary by the psy­chic con­di­tion­ing vis­it­ed on me by my slight­ly wacky par­ents.

When I make a promise I declare that my future with peo­ple who depend on me is not pre­de­ter­mined by the mixed-up cul­ture of my ten­der years.

I am not fat­ed, I am not deter­mined, I am not a lump of human dough whipped into shape by the con­tin­gent rein­force­ment and aver­sive con­di­tion­ing of my past. I know as well as the next per­son that I can­not cre­ate my life de novo; I am well aware that much of what I am and what I do is a gift or a curse from my past. But when I make a promise to any­one I rise above all the con­di­tion­ing that lim­its me.

— Lewis Bene­dic­tus Smedes (1921 — 2002)
“Con­trol­ling the Unpre­dictable – The Pow­er of Promis­ing“
Chris­tian­i­ty Today Jan. 1983

I’m an Absolute Clod.

by Thomas Phillips, oil on can­vas, 1807
The Clod and the Peb­ble
“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for anoth­er gives its ease,
And builds a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.“So sung a lit­tle Clod of Clay
Trod­den with the cattle’s feet,
But a Peb­ble of the brook
War­bled out these metres meet:

Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind anoth­er to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

William Blake (1757 — 1827)
I announced at a meal with friends last evening that I was a dirt clod. They love me, so as expect­ed they object­ed. I asked them, “Well, would it be bet­ter to be a peb­ble in a brook? Which would you rather be?” The expect­ed answer. I asked, “Why a peb­ble?” I was answered, “Well, a peb­ble in a beau­ti­ful brook with the clean water flow­ing over me would be much bet­ter than a hunk of dirt.“This was the lead-in I hoped for because I want­ed to read for them a poem I’d nev­er come across before, one that sang out my own feel­ings and beliefs on love. I’d nev­er come across it before because I always assumed Blake, Shelly, Keats, Wordsworth, and all the oth­er Eng­lish Roman­tic poets to be a bit inac­ces­si­ble, and I find forced Roman­ti­cism to be rather off­putting. Even works of the great Rab­bie Burns, the Bard of Ayr­shire, which I desired to read, while beau­ti­ful and the fod­der for many a love­ly heart-cap­tur­ing tune, was still, beyond the dialect strug­gles, dif­fi­cult and a bit unre­lat­able. Assump­tions make for bad out­comes for you and for some fel­low by the fam­i­ly name of Ump­tion. I’m not going to run out and buy a tome; I real­ly have to much to read on my list for the next three life­times, but I will be more open to the expe­ri­ence by hap­pen­stance and serendip­i­ty.

Blake’s “And builds a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.” mea­sures well against my top stan­dard as it seems a phrase I would expect from C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, or the lyric gift­ings of Andrew Peter­son.

This par­tic­u­lar serendip­i­ty occurred as I trav­eled to that love­ly meal shared with friends. I was again lis­ten­ing to what I am cer­tain is the absolute best book on under­stand­ing true covenan­tal and joy­ful mar­riage I’ve ever found, and I doubt the like of my ever find­ing one bet­ter. A recent dis­cov­ery, I’m on my fourth lis­ten and still find­ing lit­tle pre­cious gems. My phys­i­cal copy of “The Mean­ing of Mar­riage” by pas­tor Tim­o­thy Keller will join books by Lewis, Eggerichs, and Kreeft in a place of hon­or upon my book­shelf once I’m done fill­ing it’s mar­gins with anno­ta­tions from the heart.

Keller through­out illus­trates that the covenant of Mar­riage as pre­scribed by God; love through com­pan­ion­ship, ser­vice, and self-sac­ri­fice, bears pre­cious lit­tle resem­blance to the post­mod­ern social-human­ist me-cen­tred mar­riage that is so per­va­sive today. One would expect that God need not check the box labeled, “Sub­sti­tu­tions not per­mit­ted.” or “Dis­pense as pre­scribed.”

Tru­ly, it seems that through­out his­to­ry, mankind, even the Israelites, God’s Cho­sen Peo­ple, have cho­sen designs that devi­ate great­ly in crit­i­cal respects and suf­fer great­ly for the devi­a­tion. When Christ clar­i­fies that the adul­tery of the Ten Com­mand­ments takes place in the heart, mind, and eyes as much as in the bed­room; when He rebukes the reli­gious lead­ers argu­ing over divorce telling them that God grant­ed divorce to them only due to the hard­ness of their hearts we doubt not that the curse on rela­tion­ship that fell upon us through Adam and Eve was doing its painful work then amongst the Isre­alites as ter­ri­bly as it does for all of us today.

A fall­en world pro­duces only high­ly imper­fect repli­cas of the arche­type. Under­stand­ing the arche­type helps to shore up weak­ness­es, cor­rect tran­scrip­tion errors, and repair imper­fec­tions one pair of hearts at a time, and I think that is what Keller has done here in pro­vid­ing such under­stand­ing. He dis­cuss­es and then sweeps away the world’s rub­bish and then expounds upon and makes acces­si­ble and under­stand­able… and most impor­tant­ly, desir­able God’s great­est gift and bless­ing to His chil­dren avail­able, to us this side of heav­en. He shines ray of bright light daz­zling The Shad­ow­lands. He teach­es the only method capa­ble of build­ing a Heav­en in Hell’s despair.

I am a clod. A joy­ful clod of clay in full aware­ness of God’s bless­ings, not a peb­ble lulled by the end­less mind­less tune­less music of the rill pass­ing over me, bom­bard­ed by beau­ty, less­en­ing appre­ci­a­tion until I val­ue it not.

This view of mar­riage and our­selves is some­what alle­gor­i­cal of God’s love for us. We clods of clay don’t mer­it a sec­ond glance.

  • I am The Stone the Builders Reject­ed – Psalm 118:22
  • I am the Lost Sheep that would have been far eas­i­er to aban­don. – Luke 15:1–7
  • I am the Prodi­gal Son rebel­lious yet beat­en, all con­ceiv­able worth removed before being redeemed. – Luke 15:11–32
  • I am the clay in the Potter’s hands – Jere­mi­ah 18:1–6
  • I am the Wid­ow of no sta­tion, ostra­cized as a woman of for­eign descent made valu­able by my Kins­man Redeemer. – Ruth 1–4
  • I am the Lost Coin. – Luke 15:8–10

I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.

“One word, Ma’am,” he said, com­ing back from the fire; limp­ing, because of the pain. “One word. All you’ve been say­ing is quite right, I shouldn’t won­der. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one more thing to be said, even so. Sup­pose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan him­self. Sup­pose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more impor­tant than the real ones.

Sup­pose this black pit of a king­dom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pret­ty poor one. And that’s a fun­ny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies mak­ing up a game, if you’re right. But four babies play­ing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hol­low. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narn­ian as I can even if there isn’t any Nar­nia. So, thank­ing you kind­ly for our sup­per, if these two gen­tle­men and the young lady are ready, we’re leav­ing your court at once and set­ting out in the dark to spend our lives look­ing for Over­land. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Sil­ver Chair
If it is dis­agree­able in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for your­selves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the Riv­er, or the gods of the Amor­ites in whose land you are liv­ing; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
— Joshua 24:15 NASB

God ain’t got no taste

RichMullinsHeadshot

“One of the rea­sons I love the bible is because the humans in the bible are not very refined. They’re pret­ty goofy if you want to know the whole truth about it. And I remem­ber when I was a kid and peo­ple would always say, you know… ’cause I was always one of those typ­i­cal depressed ado­les­cent types, I wrote poet­ry and stuff. It’s how morose I was as a kid and peo­ple would go around say­ing, “Cheer up man, because God loves you.” And I would always say, “Big deal. God loves every­body. That don’t make me spe­cial. That just proves that God ain’t got no taste.” And I don’t think He does. Thank God! Cause God takes the junk of our lives and He makes the great­est art out of it and if He was cul­tured; if He was as civ­i­lized as most Chris­t­ian peo­ple wish He was, He would be use­less to Chris­tian­i­ty… but God is a wild man. And I hope that in the course of your life you encounter him. But let me warn you, you got­ta ‘hang on for dear life’… or ‘let go for dear life’, maybe is bet­ter.”
— Rich Mullins, in a live per­for­mance of Some­times by Step

And he lifts up his arms in a blessing; For being born again

I walked out the door this morn­ing and was checked hard by a moist cold wind that smelled so fresh and clean that I had lit­tle choice but to stand still, feel, smell, and then praise God for His bless­ings. Praise Him for sea­sons that turn and turn again and days so in-your-face awe­some that even should you be con­sumed with inter­nal­ized dol­drums or busy think­ing those work-a-day thoughts, they will gob­s­mack you with beau­ty and plea­sure.
RichMullinsHeadshot
And the wrens have returned, and are nest­ing;
In the hol­low of that oak, where his heart once had been.
And he lifts up his arms in a bless­ing, for being born again.

— Rich Mullins, The Col­or Green, A Litur­gy
a Lega­cy, & a Raga­muf­fin Band

If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.

andrewpeterson
“So it’s a good ques­tion, and I’m not sure I know how to answer it, but today I think He did it that way in the are­na of his­to­ry and time and place because our hearts can only grasp His love if we’re told it in a sto­ry. Some­one said, ‘If you want some­one to know the truth, you tell them. If you want some­one to love the truth, tell them a sto­ry.’ Since God is after our hearts… since He knows the only way for those hearts to work prop­er­ly is to exist in the knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence of His love. He laid down his life to tell us a sto­ry.”
— Andrew Peter­son in answer his wife’s won­der­ing
why the hor­ror of the Cru­ci­fix­ion had to hap­pen.
“He Gave Us Sto­ries”, Ref­or­ma­tion Bible Col­lege,
2013 Fall Con­fer­ence, Cre­ation & Re-Cre­ation.


Go back to time­code 34:45 to hear his guid­ing idea behind writ­ing The Wingfeath­er Saga. He had a vision of who the main char­ac­ter Jan­ner Igi­by was and who he was to become and that it could only be accom­plished through con­flict. “The only way for Jan­ner Igi­by to become that per­son was for me to ruin his life. To send him on an adven­ture that would cause him pain. To strip him of every­thing that was famil­iar. To bring him to a point where he could not see the light at the end of the tun­nel. And now, at the end of my sto­ry I keep think­ing about how my whole point, my whole goal at the end of this epic tale I’m try­ing to tell is to make the dark­ness seem so great that it’s insur­mount­able. To make it so that the main char­ac­ters in my sto­ry are on the brink of giv­ing up hope, so that at the very last moment, I can lift the veil, and blow their minds and they can see that there was some­thing stronger than all the dark­ness.”

Reading Narnia to Your Children

Andrew Peterson - On reading the Chronicles of Narnia to his boys
“I read the Nar­nia books to my sons when they were lit­tle boys and I cried the whole way through. I don’t know how many of you guys have read those books to your kids. It’s one thing to read the Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia as a boy. It’s anoth­er thing to read them as a man to your chil­dren and I just wept my way through those books.”
I too tear up through­out read­ing the Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia. I strug­gle not to weep upon lis­ten­ing to him say these things as he describes my own dream for father­hood. I rejoice that there are oth­er men out there doing exact­ly that and ful­fill­ing that self­same dream. This only serves to revive all the same feel­ings I had upon first becom­ing acquaint­ed with Andrew Peter­son through the below video, Fam­i­ly Man. Not every­one has their dreams ful­filled. I am glad that some do. I am grate­ful that God gives com­fort and con­tent­ment even to those who do not.

Dragons Can Be Beaten

GKChesterton
“Fairy­tales don’t tell chil­dren that drag­ons exist. Chil­dren already know that drag­ons exist. Fairy­tales tell chil­dren that drag­ons can be killed.”
— Para­phrased of G. K. Chester­ton.
“Fairy tales, then, are not respon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing in chil­dren fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the pos­si­ble defeat of bogey. The baby has known the drag­on inti­mate­ly ever since he had an imag­i­na­tion. What the fairy tale pro­vides for him is a St. George to kill the drag­on. Exact­ly what the fairy tale does is this: it accus­toms him for a series of clear pic­tures to the idea that these lim­it­less ter­rors had a lim­it, that these shape­less ene­mies have ene­mies in the knights of God, that there is some­thing in the uni­verse more mys­ti­cal than dark­ness, and stronger than strong fear.”
— G. K. Chester­ton, Tremen­dous Tri­fles (1909), XVII: “The Red Angel”


Quote dis­cov­ered in lis­ten­ing to an inter­view with artist, author, and musi­cian Andrew Peter­son.

Paralyzed with Awe at the Power of Prayer

Peter Kreeft

“I strong­ly sus­pect that if we saw all the dif­fer­ence even the tini­est of our prayers make, and all the peo­ple those lit­tle prayers were des­tined to affect, and all the con­se­quences of those prayers down through the cen­turies, we would be so par­a­lyzed with awe at the pow­er of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.”
— Peter Kreeft, Pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy, Boston Col­lege

Ugly Moral Portrait

Charles Spurgeon
Broth­er, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you false­ly on some point, yet be sat­is­fied, for if he knew you bet­ter he might change the accu­sa­tion, and you would be no gain­er by the cor­rec­tion. If you have your moral por­trait paint­ed, and it is ugly, be sat­is­fied; for it only needs a few black­er touch­es, and it would be still near­er the truth.
— Charles Had­don Spur­geon, ser­mon, “David Danc­ing before the Ark because of His Elec­tion” in The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Taber­na­cle Pul­pit Ser­mons, vol. 35.

Christianity Cannot be Moderately Important

Clive Staples Lewis“Only thus will you be able to under­mine their belief that a cer­tain amount of ‘reli­gion’ is desir­able but one mustn’t car­ry it too far. One must point out that Chris­tian­i­ty is a state­ment which, if false, is of -no- impor­tance, and, if true, of infi­nite impor­tance. The one thing it can­not be is mod­er­ate­ly impor­tant.”

— C. S. Lewis, Chris­t­ian Apolo­get­ics, God in the Dock and oth­er Essays, page 102, Wm. B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing, Sep 15, 2014

All Good Proclaims God

There is not a flower that opens, not a seed that falls into the ground, and not an ear of wheat that nods on the end of its stalk in the wind that does not preach and pro­claim the great­ness and the mer­cy of God to the whole world. There is not an act of kind­ness or gen­eros­i­ty, not an act of sac­ri­fice done, or a word of peace and gen­tle­ness spo­ken, not a child’s prayer uttered, that does not sing hymns to God before his throne, and in the eyes of men, and before their faces.” — Thomas Mer­ton (1915 — 1968), Sev­en Sto­ry Moun­tain (1948)

Titus 1:15–16

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbe­liev­ing, noth­ing is pure, but both their mind and their con­science are defiled. They pro­fess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and dis­obe­di­ent and worth­less for any good deed.

I won­der if Lewis was not con­sid­er­ing this pas­sage when he wrote Book 3: Chap­ter 8 of A Pilgrim’s Regress, “Par­rot Dis­ease”. ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no dif­fer­ence between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

Every day a jailor brought the pris­on­ers their food, and as he laid down the dish­es he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eat­ing corpses, or give them some account of the slaugh­ter­ing: or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lec­ture in anato­my and show the like­ness of the mess to the same parts in themselves—which was the more eas­i­ly done because the giant’s eyes were always star­ing into the dun­geon at din­ner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall to them that they were eat­ing the enstru­um of a ver­minous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female pris­on­ers. So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was noth­ing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pip­kin:

Our rela­tions with the cow are not delicate—as you can eas­i­ly see if you imag­ine eat­ing any of her oth­er secre­tions.’ Now John had been in the pit a short­er time than any of the oth­ers: and at these words some­thing seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and sud­den­ly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:

Thank heav­en! Now at last I know that you are talk­ing non­sense.’

What do you mean?’ said the jailor, wheel­ing round upon him.

You are try­ing to pre­tend that unlike things are like. You are try­ing to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’

And pray, what dif­fer­ence is there except by cus­tom?’

Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no dif­fer­ence between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’

So Nature is a per­son, then, with pur­pos­es and con­scious­ness,’ said the jailor with a sneer. ‘In fact, a Land­la­dy. No doubt it com­forts you to imag­ine you can believe that sort of thing;’ and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.

I know noth­ing about that,’ shout­ed John after him. ‘I am talk­ing of what hap­pens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.’

Look here,’ cried the jailor, com­ing back, ‘we have had enough of this. It is high trea­son and I shall bring you before the Mas­ter.’ Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the oth­ers, ‘Can’t you see it’s all a cheat?’ Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak: and while he was silent the jailor addressed the pris­on­ers and said:

You see he is try­ing to argue. Now tell me, some­one, what is argu­ment?’

There was a con­fused mur­mur.

Come, come,’ said the jailor. ‘You must know your cat­e­chisms by now. You, there’ (and he point­ed to a pris­on­er lit­tle old­er than a boy whose name was Mas­ter Par­rot), ‘what is argu­ment?’

Argu­ment,’ said Mas­ter Par­rot, ‘is the attempt­ed ratio­nal­iza­tion of the arguer’s desires.’

Very good,’ replied the jailor, ‘but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is bet­ter. Now: what is the prop­er answer to an argu­ment prov­ing the exis­tence of the Land­lord?’

The prop­er answer is, “You say that because you are a Stew­ard.”’

Good boy. But hold your head up. That’s right. And what is the answer to an argu­ment prov­ing that Mr. Phally’s songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfways’?’

There are two only gen­er­al­ly nec­es­sary to damna­tion,’ said Mas­ter Par­rot. ‘The first is, “You say that because you are a Puri­tan­ian,” and the sec­ond is, “You say that because you are a
sen­su­al­ist.”’

Good. Now just one more. What is the answer to an argu­ment turn­ing on the belief that two and two make four?’

The answer is, “You say that because you are a math­e­mati­cian.”’

You are a very good boy,’ said the jailor. ‘And when I come back I shall bring you some­thing nice. And now for you,’ he added, giv­ing John a kick and open­ing the grat­ing.

The Grace & Truth Paradox — Randy Alcorn

The Grace & Truth Paradox
This mar­velous lit­tle book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphor­ic hands just at the right time when I and my room­mate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the top­ic asked for was “How to debate with love.”

Below are quotes that I found espe­cial­ly mean­ing­ful. (More to fol­low as I con­tin­ue my explo­ration.)

What Gives Us Away?

A friend sat down in a small Lon­don restau­rant and picked up a menu.

What will it be?” the wait­er asked.

Study­ing the puz­zling selec­tions, my friend said, “Uhh…”

The wait­er smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”

He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already giv­en him­self away.

In the first cen­tu­ry, Christ’s fol­low­ers were also rec­og­nized imme­di­ate­ly. What gave them away?

It wasn’t their build­ings. They had none.

It wasn’t their pro­grams. They had none.

It wasn’t their polit­i­cal pow­er. They had none.

It wasn’t their slick pub­li­ca­tions, TV net­works, bumper­stick­ers, or celebri­ties. They had none. What was it?

With great pow­er the apos­tles con­tin­ued to tes­ti­fy to the res­ur­rec­tion of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33

They tes­ti­fied to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the mes­sage they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.

The world around them had nev­er seen any­thing like it. It still hasn’t.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Para­dox, Ch 1

“We should nev­er approach truth except in a spir­it of grace, or grace except in the spir­it of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50 per­cent grace, 50 per­cent truth, but 100 per­cent grace and 100 per­cent truth.

Truth-ori­ent­ed Chris­tians love study­ing Scrip­ture and the­ol­o­gy. But some­times they’re quick to judge and slow to for­give. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.

Grace-ori­ent­ed Chris­tians love for­give­ness and free­dom. But some­times they neglect Bible study and see moral stan­dards as “legal­ism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.

Count­less mis­takes in mar­riage, par­ent­ing, min­istry, and oth­er rela­tion­ships are fail­ures to bal­ance grace and truth. Some­times we neglect both. Often we choose one over the oth­er.”

“A para­dox is an appar­ent con­tra­dic­tion. Grace and truth aren’t real­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are per­ma­nent­ly switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”

“Some church ser­vices are per­me­at­ed with Chris­t­ian clichés that mys­ti­fy unbe­liev­ers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Grace com­pels us to put the cook­ies on the low­er shelf where the unini­ti­at­ed can reach them. Jesus warm­ly wel­comed the non­re­li­gious and spoke words they under­stood. So should we.

Oth­er church­es try to make sin­ners feel com­fort­able. How? They nev­er talk about sin. Nev­er offend any­one. They replace truth with tol­er­ance, low­er­ing the bar so every­one can jump over it and we can all feel good about our­selves.

But Jesus said, ’ ‘No ser­vant is greater than his mas­ter.’ If they per­se­cut­ed me, they will per­se­cute you also’ (John 15:20).

Something’s wrong if all unbe­liev­ers hate us.

Something’s wrong if all unbe­liev­ers like us.

If we accu­rate­ly demon­strate grace -and- truth, some will be drawn to us and oth­er will be offend­ed by us—just as they were by Jesus.

When we offend every­body, it’s because we’ve tak­en on the truth man­tle with­out the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 2.

“Grace nev­er ignores the awful truth of our deprav­i­ty. In fact, it empha­sizes it. The worse we real­ize we are, the greater we real­ize God’s grace is.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 3.

“God has writ­ten His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of con­science come from rec­og­niz­ing that truth has been vio­lat­ed. When peo­ple hear truth spo­ken gra­cious­ly, many are drawn to it because of the moral vac­u­um they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4.

This next one is very sim­i­lar to Ray Comfort’s anal­o­gy in his talk Hell’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as sal­va­tion from the trans­gres­sions of the law, but as “Life Enhance­ment”. Peo­ple are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promis­es that their dif­fi­cul­ties in life will be resolved (using a para­chute as metaphor for Christ), but with­out any true under­stand­ing of the jump out of the air­plane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncom­fort­able and bulky and gives no ben­e­fit and so they tear it off, are angry at the para­chute (and the stew­ardess who gave it to them), and resolves nev­er to be fooled by that non­sense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the out­set that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wear­ing the para­chute. Then when the dif­fi­cul­ties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stew­ardess who trips and spills boil­ing hot cof­fee on him, he doesn’t cast off the para­chute and say “You stu­pid para­chute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look For­ward to the jump to come.

If a teacher is guilty of preach­ing life enhance­ment instead of the truth, then there is noth­ing at all redemp­tive in his min­istry. Indeed, it is less than redemp­tive. It is damn­ing.

The oppo­site is near­ly as bad. That is, preach­ing truth in absence of all grace. Ray Com­fort clar­i­fies, “I’m not talk­ing about Hell­fire Preach­ing. Hell­fire Preach­ing will pro­duce Fear-Filled con­verts. Using God’s law will pro­duce Tear-Filled con­verts.”

The world’s low stan­dards, its dis­re­gard for truth, are not grace. The illu­so­ry free­dom, how­ev­er, -feels- like grace to some­one who’s been pound­ed by grace­less truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, peo­ple who grow up in joy­less reli­gion learn that there’s no hope of liv­ing up to such daunt­ing stan­dards. “Why even try? It’s -impos­si­ble!-.”

But prop­er­ly under­stood, bib­li­cal truths are guardrails that pro­tect us from plung­ing off the cliff. A smart trav­el­er doesn’t curse the guardrails. He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dent­ed my fend­er!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demol­ished autos below, and is -grate­ful- for guardrails.

The guardrails of truth are there not to pun­ish, but to pro­tect us.

— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4.

God­ly liv­ing cen­ters not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Any­time we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, something’s wrong.

—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Para­dox, Chap­ter 4

Disappearance of Theology from the Church

David F. Wells

“The dis­ap­pear­ance of the­ol­o­gy from the life of the Church, and the orches­tra­tion of that dis­ap­pear­ance by some of its lead­ers, is hard to miss today, but odd­ly enough, not easy to prove. It is hard to miss in the evan­gel­i­cal world–in the vac­u­ous wor­ship that is so preva­lent, for exam­ple, in the shift form God to the self as the cen­tral focus of faith, in the psy­chol­o­gized preach­ing that fol­lows this shift, in the ero­sion of its con­vic­tion, in its stri­dent prag­ma­tism, in its inabil­i­ty to think inci­sive­ly about the cul­ture, in its rev­el­ing in the irra­tional.”
― David F. Wells, No Place for Truth: Or, What­ev­er Hap­pened to Evan­gel­i­cal The­ol­o­gy