"men are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from adversity, for when matters go smoothly, they flatter themselves, and are intoxicated by their success."John Calvin (via notyourgramma)
"The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that id does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."Flannery O’Conner, The Fiction Writer & His Country
How Luther went viral: five centuries before Facebook and the Arab spring, social media helped bring about the Reformation.
The debt Western civilization owes to the Reformation is vastly underestimated by almost everyone these days.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 ESV)
"Those with knowledge of the etymology of English words are aware that ‘priest’ is simply a contraction of ‘presbyter’, meaning ‘elder’. But it is also used to translate the Greek word hiereus, a sacrificing priest, which is never used of Christian ministers in the New Testament."John Stott, Between Two Worlds, p. 117
I loved Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson. His premise is that the entire created order is a story, a spoken word. We all have roles to play. In this video he hits at that in a concrete way. What is stuff made of? In the end, when we’ve zoomed in far enough, basically nothing. That’s because it is spoken by God. But it is real and tangible because God isn’t a liar.
This is why God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
Lord, I want to be free. I want my desires so changed into accord with reality so that I can do what I want to do and never regret it. That’s what I want. And so I’m going hard after Jesus to change me, because many of my desires are stupid. - John Piper, prayer after preaching on John 8:30-36.
Many of my desires are stupid and I don’t even know it. I’m counting on the Lord to change them or make me aware of how stupid they are.
There is a lot that is weird about the West these days. We have a Nobel Peace Prize winning president who is fighting wars on three fronts and Donald Trump looks like his most viable opponent. Pia Toscano was the contestant with the best voice and Casey Abrams was the best entertainer and yet both are voted off American Idol. Certain bird eggs are protected by law but babies in mother’s wombs are not.
But today I saw and heard what I think is the cream of Western culture. Yes, I am speaking of the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Start with the architecture. Westminster Abby is stunning. None of the stark utilitarianism of Modernism or the goofy pointlessness of Post-Modern architecture, the abbey represents some of the best of what the West has built. Not that there haven’t been stunning buildings since then but the abbey has that soaring, reaching for heaven look. It isn’t so much focused on us as it draws us to look elsewhere.
What of the ceremony itself? Other cultures have marriage ceremonies but more and more they are including elements of the Western ceremony. The white dress, the bouquet, the kiss. The beauty of our ceremony is being recognized and adopted around the world. Again, not that other cultures’ ceremonies are inferior, but some of the beauty our “fairy tale” weddings is being adopted.
The music in the ceremony was almost other-worldly it was so beautiful. The choral piece written by John Rutter made me remember why God gave humanity voices and why he calls us to use them. The Motet ‘Ubi caritas’ by Paul Mealor was almost as peaceful and wonderful as a summer sunrise over a mountain valley. Western culture produced this and I think this is an example of some of the finest music in the world.
Milton and Chaucer were quoted and sung. They are samples of some of the best of Western literature. Sure, Shakespeare was missing but we’re just getting samples of the finest at the wedding, not a complete index.
The Judeo-Christian tradition has formed us in the West; we are bound to it by ties which may often be invisible, but which are there nevertheless. It has formed the shape of our secularism; it has formed even the shape of modern atheism. - Flannery O’Connor
And above all of this was the Christianity the West shaped and was shaped by. I was impressed at how Christian the royal wedding remained. There were prayers offered in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord, blessings invoked in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and scripture was read and sung. No matter what the New Atheists say, no matter what modern detractors claim, Christianity brought the West to its pinnacle. It liberated man so that nature could be studied and questioned rather than worshiped and feared. God created the world but he is not part of it. Creation is his handiwork and to study and understand it is to learn more about God. As I said above, God has commanded man to sing and make music. Western music was influenced the belief that God is reasonable and rational and his creation is reasonable and rational and humanity, as the greatest created thing, should create what we may in that same fashion. Likewise, God created humanity as male and female and Jesus said that this arrangement was a marriage. Therefore, since marriage was instituted by God we should honor it and it should reflect the dignity and honor which God intended it to display. As was said in the royal wedding, marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and His Church. It is therefore insoluble. God wrote and God spoke and so these things should be done in a way that honors and reflects him.
But this is a monarchy, isn’t Democracy one of the greatest things Western culture has produced? Had the English monarch not been so heavy handed and greedy there would have been no need for democracy. Democracy is itself a response to abuse of power; it seeks to give authority to many instead of one. Christianity itself is a benevolent monarchy and had the West stuck to that model things might be very different today.
I just hope that this isn’t sort of the West’s swan song. I’m not sure that many of those in attendance or presiding over the service believed any of what was said and sung. They may have just viewed all of this as traditional and meaningless words and songs. I hope not. It would tragic to see the West come so far only to abandon it all and head back into barbarism in the name of “progress.” It was, at least, a wonderful glimpse into what is wonderful about Western Culture.