Saturday, March 17, 2007
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Caddyshack Weekend Links
How to have the poop scared out of you decently and in order.
Crime at its most heinous.
Finally, if you are going to smear crap on something, be sure and do so "ethically."
Simply because a theme seems to have developed here, and it can be confusing.
Local politics suck.
Interesting story inspiring this video of one of may faovrite all time movie musical numbers:
It's not the mentality, it's the big read "S" on the chest.
Winnie the terrorist strikes.
The "You don't say?" story of the decade.
Related Tags: joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm, funny stories, odd stories
Consider the official Marvel website listing for the character name - you get three choices! Old school - alternate earth -- new school.
A lot of this confusion stems from bad copyrights and multiple acquisitions by Marvel through the decades. The name kept popping up with other publishers and Marvel kept trying to protect it. That mess is even worse if you consider the character name "Captain Marvel," but that is for another time.
One of the cooler things though is all that diverse characterization has led to a lot of diverse looks for the character. I've tried to give you a good assortment here, but it's tough to do in a short space.
The character appears to have reached its zenith as a part of the Squadron Supreme, but being an old guy, I kind of like the old school versions of him from back in the Golden Age. Top right being the best example.
The real problem with a character that has gone through so many changes like this is that you never really get to know him. They become prop rather than person. It seems like in the Marvel Universe when they need a speedster, up pops the Whizzer, redesigned and reinvented to fit whatever circumstances have arisen. I know he is a fictional character and all, but is that really fair to the guy?
Related Tags: comics, comic books, comic art, speedsters, Whizzer, Speed Demon
Friday, March 16, 2007
Imagine a fish who one day decides that the real source of his problems in life is not his family, not his “school,” not his friends…but water. “Water,” he assumes, “is so restrictive, so limiting. It’s time to start to think outside of the box.” What he wants is a new life, free from the mundane and the usual. So to that end, he decides one day that he’ll leave the confines of the water for the happier shores (literally) of dry land where there is warm sun and beautiful beaches, but most exciting of all…air! Forthwith, he throws himself out of the water and onto the ground. But it doesn’t take long before he realizes that the “warm sun” is hot and burning. The beautiful beach is scratchy and rakes across his scales. And the first big gulp of air he tries to take chokes him. Freedom from water is not so freeing after all.The freedom available by living inside God's boundaries is a common meme among Christians, but Les' illustrations here rasie the question to a level I had not previously considered. That "huddling together in a tiny clump" response is, I think, extremely instructive where politics and religion intersect.
...a Pennsylvania public school system that had a large playground on one end of its property. Over the years, the neighborhood grew up around the school and the streets bordering the playground became busy and full of traffic. Fearing an accident, school administrators put up a large fence all the way around the playground.
Well, parents were deeply offended. It looked like their children were in a prison. The fight became so heated that the conflict went all the way to the city school board where it was decided that the fence would be torn down. What do you think happened the very next day? If you are thinking that a car struck a child, you’d be wrong. The children huddled together in a tiny clump in the middle of the playground, dreadfully afraid of the expanse of the playground all around them.
Do you see the point? The fence actually GAVE them the playground. What if God desperately wants to give this culture the playground? But we are so offended at fences (and screaming “Legalism!” at any sniff of them) that we either race out into dangerous traffic OR we huddle together in tiny clumps, never seeing just how much joy might actually be “out there.”
Given my fascination with the presidential candidacy of a Mormon, I am constantly contemplating why some of my Christian brethren would be so adamant about not voting for someone of a different faith. I have considered it from a practical standpoint, that we thrive because of the relgious pluralism in which we live and if we restrict that for another we restrict it for ourselves, so it always seemed to be counterintuitive.
But if Les' "huddling" response is accurate, and I think it is, the problem is that we may thrive, but we do not really practice. Let me put it this way. we call ourselves Christians, but we are the kinds of Christians that fight the fences and so we end up huddling behind the label instead of experiencing the freedom to go out there and really live.
We worry about society, but then we worry that if the changes we desire come from someone not in our huddle they will be somehow suspect. If we were true to our claimed faith, we could break the huddle.
What's more, how much easier would it be to bring people onto the playground than into the huddle? We claim to want to bring Jesus to the world, but if we huddle tightly, He is not going to have much reach.
The consequences of the freedom provided by deep, transforming, and obedient faith are much farther reachng that the purely personal.
Related Tags: freedom, faith, huddle, fences, voting, evangelism
Keep It Fair, Keep It Fair Links
Much of what passes for journalism these days illustrated.
As someone who teaches chemical safety classes every day - this is a contract opportunity. This would have helped.
Kewl! But can it explain this?
I don't get it.
Didn't Larry the Cable Guy write jokes about this?
Childhood returns - "Great big gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts, mutiliated monkey meat...."
Given the previous link, is this any wonder?
I think rescue was worse than the trap.
Crime and punishment.
Honey, add this joint to the "got to visit" list.
Related Tags: basketball, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Friday Humor - Mixed Metaphors
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The Elevation of Programming
Bully for them! Confession is always a good start. But here's a dirty little secret - they didn't have much choice. "Why not?" you ask. Simple - they have to raise money and people donate to things they can see, not intangibles like hanging around with kids. You want to raise money, you have to "build it."
This is one of the reasons I am increasingly unhappy with the "professionalization" of ministry. The more people we pay, the more money we have to raise, and the more programs we have to build, often at the expense of genuine person-to-person minstry.
I believe the church in general is headed towards a crisis point on this and the cycle needs to be broken somehow. Don't get me wrong, we can keep programming and building and keep the money flowing, but at some point, the reason for all that is just going to get lost. Worse yet, we are going to divide the church into "real" Christians that get paid to do ministry and the lightweights that foot the bill.
How do we break the cycle? That's a tough call - at the heart of it lies tax law. Finanacially supporting a person instead of a ministry has enormous and detrimental tax consequences for both the giver and the recepient. I don't see there being any political support for changing that particular part of the tax code anyway.
But as with all good things, we can act better than the law allows. We need to teach and act like we mean what we say - all Christians are ministers. We can organize around that. We need to sacrifice our dreams to our call. We need to rely on God's favor, not man's. We need to measure success in quality, not quantity.
The great commission calls us not to fill pews, build programs, or property. No, it calls us to make disciples. That's what we need to do.
Related Tags: ministry, tax code, professionalism, attractional, metrics
Illuminated Scripture - Artist's Choice
Gopher War Links
Logic when it comes to gloabl warming? Never happen, it's all about the hysteria.
Speaking of which, wisdom.
If only most churches were as gracious to that weird guy that smells and talks to himself.
Why does this sound remarkably like something Dovestoevsky would write?
Yeah, but they had a bad attitude to begin with.
When life takes your pet, make bacon. Although a ternderloin with mustard and ginger crust would be good too.
Make one of these that looks like a superhero and I am in.
Worst website name in history. Think about it....
My wife will simply refuse to believe this story.
This guy has REAL brass....
Call me when the license images from Marvel.
Related Tags: environment, logic, regulation, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
There is a growing sense to me that the church's worship has tilted so heavily toward performance music so as to be driven by it. This seems especially true as churches try to navigate their way through the choppy seas of contemporary worship. Worship is driven by the concerns of music, rather than being driven by scripture, sacrament, sermon, prayer ; it's these things that drive worship and are augmented by musical expression (not the other way around).In the second post he asserts that worship that isn't detectably different than the world misses the mark.
Worship isn't entertainment. It is neither merely for this age nor of this age. It is eternal and involves us in the eternal. And it's therefore not about being "good" but being infused with a sense of the holy. And if the Incarnation teaches us anything about this, the holy just might not be all that interesting or obvious or glorious to those looking on (Isaiah 53.2-3). Worship is about culture, but it doesn't stop there, it transcends culture even while being expressive of culture. So it must always be at least a little strange, a tad unworldly, pressing us to a new edge.The retort to these ideas are usually along the lines of the need to "attract." To this I respond that if our worship is not attractive, it is not because it is too "strange" or different, but because we are not doing it right.
I know how incredibly important music is to so many Christians out there, and it is not music per se to which I often object. Rather, it is how the music is presented, and what it takes to accomplish the music. Let me give you but one example - singing a praise chorus during the service of the Elements. I work hard to prepare myself for taking Communion. I enter into deep prayer and try to focus on God as I take the symbols of His sacrifice. Music intrudes and pulls me back into this world, Now I have to remember the words, or read them, or work to shut out the extraneous noise. Or, heaven forbid, it's a performance piece, now instead of focusing on God, I must focus on the performer.
Consider the presentation of performed music, lights, sound systems, etc. Do these put me in mind of God, or do these keep me firmly planted in the here and now focusing as they aim and wish? Oh how I long for the organist, hidden behind the rail and but the soft music of the instrument setting a mood and a tone instead of saying "LOOK AND LISTEN TO ME!"
Worhsip shojld be about an encounter with the supernatural, and yet we work so hard to insert the natural in it. The supernatural is not alien or unattractive, but rather it is the answer to the longing of our hearts.
I won't even bring up allocation of resources....
Related Tags: music, worship, attraction, supernatural
Be The Link Danny.
I agree, we need to broaden the scope of our ministry here.
See the post above, I'm in good company.
The most joke ripe headline story in history, but I don't want the hate mail. Speaking of which, here is another opportunity for hate mail I shall resist.
Yeah, but were they in shape?
I wonder if doing a good job would help?
NO, science is not politicized. Immediately on the heels of that story, we discover the real problem. The New Mexico legislature is EXTREMELY bored.
Pride comes in the strangest places.
Turn up the heat, bread some catfish, and you have a party!
At last, Bill Clinton has found something to do after the White House.
Related Tags: Captain America, comics, abortion, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Nothing "Mere" About It
Because of my affection for all things Lewis, I feel compelled to comment here, even though there is very little in either Bonnie's post or the Christianity Today piece she addresses with which I disagree.
Lewis is, alas, a lost voice in today's evangelicalism, even though for myself, and I suspect Bonnie, and others he was incredibly formative - we are simply outnumbered. Last year, I taught a 15 week Sunday School class, "A Survey of C.S. Lewis." we were trying to capitalize on the Narnia movie to build more attendance for adult Sunday School. The attendance pattern was astonishing.
The Narnia weeks drew huge crowds. The 3 weeks in the science fiction books drew less huge, but nontheless substantial crowds. The time spent in essays both short form and book length, including "Mere Christianity," well, let's just say they stayed away in droves. Clearly, there is little interest in such writing these days. Thus sadly, the kind of intellectual rigor that Bonnie defends in her post just isn't gonna be there in significant numbers.
So, I wonder, what is the correct response? Is it to reassert and defend Lewis, in essence demanding intellectual activity people appear unwilling to give, or is it to go with the flow in terms of redefining the term to gain credibility to at some future date to reassert the ideas in a new guise?
I have no answers for this dilemma, for I fear it is entirely cyclical. We seem never to move forward for we are always redefining and reasserting. I have rarely worked as hard or as passionately as I did when I taught that Lewis class. I loved the material - it had been so formative for me, and remains so important to me, and yet - I seemed to be standing in a field alone. I yelled and promoted, begged all passers-by to join me in the field with this wonderful stuff. And yet, with the exception of the other teacher on my team and those few hearty souls that could have joined us in teaching the class we remained in the field alone. Even when doing the science fiction books, if I pointed out how they tied into the themes of his essays, I could watch people start doodling and turning off.
I fear the age of the ideological has passed. We are, I think in the age of the image. Is this what technology has wrought?
Related Tags: Mere Christianity, CS Lewis, teaching, definitions, ideology, image
Hey, Why Don't You Two Get A Link
This is fascinating because its China. This kind of property disputes are not supposed to happen in communist countries.
The colors are bickering.
They ate it all.
If only the lines were shorter.
What happens when you watch Caddyshack one to many times. Creating the perfect opportuniyt for this video clip:
Well, pick it up, put it on the floor, and decide what to have for dinner.
You mean its not cause they are lazy god-for-nothing bums? I bet this study was done by a 22-yr-old somewhere.
Ah divorce, so civil.
Why you should chrome you house. Then it will look shiny, even with the dust.
Not far from where I grew up...that's all I gonna say.
Related Tags: climate change, property rights, Caddyshack, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Monday, March 12, 2007
The Source Of Hope
If you look closely at many of the stories associated with Christ's earthly ministry, it becomes clear that deliverance occurred in individuals only when the they were so desperate that they came to an end of themselves and were reduced to begging, if you will.Meanwhile, any decent 12-step recovery group starts this way:
We admitted we were powerless over....It's become a cliche hasn't it? Therefore it is easily dismissed, ignoring the fact that cliches become cliches because they contain so much truth.
This particular cliche forces upon us a very real, very serious question. If we endeavor to bring people to a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ, what role is played by helping them recognize their desparation? Also, precisely what desparation is it we seek to convince them of? After all, I am pretty desparate to get another superhero statue, but in the grand scheme of things, so what?
Reflecting, I think it is more than desparate, I think the word we really need is "hopeless." Genuine evangelism occurs not when someone comes to church because of some self-help motivation. No, genuine evangelism occurs when someone is so hopeless that the only hope left is Christ. Anything less is form without substance.
But why, if Christ is the only hope, is He also the last hope? "Well, gee John, such is the nature of sin." TOO EASY! Christ is the the last hope because we do such an awful job of demonstrating the hope He provides.
See here's the thing, if we do not want to do evangelism by telling people how hopeless they really are, then we better present them with a hope that outshines all other possible sources of hope. It's a dilemma isn't it? Either we drive them away in droves by telling them what jerks they are, or we have to take this whole gospel thing very seriously ourselves.
Otherwise we are left hopeless, and lukewarm.
Related Tags: sin, hope, gospel, Christ, desparation, 12 steps
The Pond Would Be Good For You Links
The socialists say, "We're all gonna die." But then, is that really news?
UGH! Just ugh. Apparently, "good" Chirstians are now concerned about global warming, Jesus it appears is secondary. Maybe even life itself.
When it comes to global warming, even the adaptionists have a problem. We are not as smart as we think we are. (HT: Greenie Watch)
Every time you think the government ought to control things, you might remember these two stories. The "Brighton and Hove Council" should be put into bottles and thrown into the sea. Whilst the Fylde Borough Council are a bunch of cheap jerks.
Quote of the day.
You know, when Al Mohler goes deep, he's pretty good.
So now we're going to try and cure growing up?
Live here, this isn't news.
Nerd convention. But for the record, I prefer cherry.
You have to admit, it's kinda funny.
Related Tags: Butler Bulldogs, global warming, quotes, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Just Because Congress Likes Daylight Savings Time...Links
Meanwhile, in the rest of the UK, a large naked robot was seen searching for a young man. (Reference for the movie impaired.)
Do something compeltely innane. Make the papers.
Somehow I think Lucy Van Pelt would be horrified.
Maybe so, but who wants to retrieve it? Besides, talk about unstable - one spray of Clorox and there goes the data.
Related Tags: CONGRATULATIONS, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sermons and Lessons
Alexander Rodolphe Vinet, eminent Swiss divine and author, born at Ouchy, nr. Lausanne, in 1797. He was professor of theology at Lausanne (1837-45), where he gained reputation as a preacher, a philosopher and a writer. He was tolerant though critical, and many of his utterances are marked by rare brilliancy. His supreme and intense faith led him to say: “The gospel is believed when it has ceased to be to us an external and has become an internal truth, when it has become a fact in our consciousness. Christianity is conscience raised to its highest exercise.” He died in 1847.
Things which have not entered into the heart of man. – 1 Cor. 2:9.
“I not comprehend, therefore I do not believe.” “ The gospel is full of mysteries, therefore I do not receive
the gospel :“ - such is one of the favorite arguments of infidelity. To see how much is made of this, and what confidence it inspires, we might believe it solid, or, at least, specious; but it is neither the one nor the other; it will not bear the slightest attention, the most superficial examination of reason; and if it still enjoys some favor in the world, this is but a proof of the lightness of our judgments upon things worthy of our most serious attention.
Upon what, in fact, does this argument rest? Upon the claim of comprehending every thing in the religion which God has offered or could offer us—a claim equally unjust, unreasonable, useless. This we proceed to develop.
1. In the first place, it is an unjust claim. It is to demand of God what He does not owe us. To prove this, let us suppose that God has given a religion to man, and let us further suppose that religion to be the gospel: for this absolutely changes nothing to the argument. We may believe that God was free, at least, with reference to us, to give us or not to give us a religion; but it must be admitted that in granting it He contracts engagements to us, and that the first favor lays him under a necessity of conferring other favors. For this is merely to say that God must be consistent, and that He finishes what He has begun. Since it is by a written revelation He manifests His designs respecting us, it is necessary He should fortify that revelation by all the authority which would at least determine us to receive it; it is necessary. He should give us the means of judging whether the men who speak to us in His name are really sent by Him; in a word, it is necessary we should be assured that the Bible is truly the Word of God.
It would not indeed be necessary that the conviction of each of us should be gained by the same kind of evidence. Some shall be fed to Christianity by the historical or external arguments; they shall prove to themselves the truth of the Bible as the truth of all history is proved; they shall satisfy themselves that the books of which it is composed are certainly those of the times and of the authors to which they are ascribed. This settled, they shall compare the prophecies contained in these ancient documents with the events that have happened in subsequent ages; they shall assure themselves of the reality of the miraculous facts related in these books, and shall thence infer the necessary intervention of divine power, which alone disposes the forces of nature, and can alone interrupt or modify their action. Others, less fitted for such investigations, shall be struck with the internal evidence of the Holy Scriptures. Finding there the state of their souls perfectly described, their wants fully expressed, and the true remedies for their maladies completely indicated; struck with a character of truth and candor which nothing can imitate; in fine, feeling themselves in their inner nature moved, changed, renovated, by the mysterious influence of these holy writings, they shall acquire, by such means, a conviction of which they can not always give an account to others, but which is not the less legitimate, irresistible, and immovable. Such is the double road by which an entrance is gained into the asylum of faith. But it was due from the wisdom of God, from His justice, and, we venture to say it, from the honor of His government, that He should open to man this double road; for, if He desired man to be saved by knowledge, on the same principle He engaged Himself to furnish him the means of knowledge.
Behold, whence come the obligations of the Deity with reference to us, which obligations He has fulfilled. Enter on this double method of proof. Interrogate history, time and places, respecting the authenticity of the Scriptures; grasp all the difficulties, sound all the objections; do not permit yourselves to be too easily convinced; be the more severe upon that book, as it professes to contain the sovereign rule of your life, and the disposal of your destiny; you are permitted to do this, nay, you are encouraged to do it, provided you proceed to the investigation with the requisite capacities and with pure intentions. Or, if you prefer another method, examine, with an honest heart, the contents of the Scriptures; inquire, while you run over the words of Jesus, if ever man spake like this Man; inquire if the wants of your soul, long deceived, and the anxieties of your spirit, long cherished in vain, do not, in the teaching and work of Christ, find that satisfaction and repose which no wisdom was ever able to procure you; breathe, if I may thus express myself, that perfume of truth, of candor and purity, which exhales from every page of the gospel; see, if, in all these respects, it does not bear the undeniable seal of inspiration and divinity. Finally, test it, and if the gospel produces upon you a contrary effect, return to the books and the wisdom of men, and ask of them what Christ has not been able to give you.
But if, neglecting these two ways, made accessible to you, and trodden by the feet of ages, you desire, before all, that the Christian religion should, in every point, render itself comprehensible to your mind, and complacently strip itself of all mysteries; if you wish to penetrate beyond the veil, to find there, not the aliment which gives life to the soul, but that which would gratify your restless curiosity, I maintain that you raise against God a claim the most indiscreet, the most rash and unjust; for He has never, engaged, either tacitly or expressly, to discover to you the secret which your eye craves; and such audacious importunity is fit to excite His indignation. He has given you what He owed you, more indeed than He owed you; the rest is with Himself.
If a claim so unjust could be admitted, where, I ask you, would be the limit of your demands? Already you require more from God than He has accorded to angels; for these eternal mysteries which trouble you, the harmony of the divine prescience with human freedom, the origin of evil and its ineffable remedy, the incarnation of the eternal Word - the relations of the God-man with His Father - the atoning virtue of His sacrifice, the regenerating efficacy of the Spirit-comforter, all these things are secrets, the knowledge of which is hidden from angels themselves, who, according to the word of the Apostle, stoop to explore their depths, and can not.
If you reproach the Eternal for having kept the knowledge of these divine mysteries to Himself, why do you not reproach Him for the thousand other limits He has prescribed for you? Why not reproach Him for not having given you wings like a bird, to visit the regions, which, till now, have been scanned only by your eyes? Why not reproach Him for not giving you, besides the five senses with which you are provided, ten other senses which He has perhaps granted to other creatures, and which procure for them perceptions of which you have no idea? Why not, in fine, reproach Him for having caused the darkness of night to succeed the brightness of day invariably on the earth? Ah! you do not reproach Him for that. You love that night which brings rest to so many fatigued bodies and weary spirits; which suspends in so many wretches, the feeling of grief; that night, during which orphans, slaves, and criminals cease to be, because over all their misfortunes and sufferings it spreads, with the opiate of sleep, the thick veil of oblivion; you love that night which, peopling the deserts of the heavens with ten thousand stars, not known to the day, reveals the infinite to our ravished imagination.
Well, then, why do you not, for a similar reason, love the night of divine mysteries, night, gracious and salutary, in which reason humbles itself, and finds refreshment and repose; where the darkness even is a revelation; where one of the principal attributes of God, immensity, discovers itself much more fully to our mind; where, in fine, the tender relations He has permitted us to form with Himself, are guarded from all admixture of familiarity by. the thought that the Being who has humbled Himself to us, is, at the same time, the inconceivable God who reigns before all time, who includes in Himself all existences and all conditions of existence, the center of all thought, the law of ‘all law, the supreme and final reason of every thing! So that, if you are just, instead of reproaching Him for the secrets of religion, you will bless Him that He has enveloped you in mysteries.
2. But this claim is not only unjust toward God; it is also in itself exceedingly un¬reasonable.
What is religion? It is God putting Himself in communication with man; the Creator with the creature, the infinite with the finite. There already, without going further, is a mystery; a mystery common to all religions, impenetrable in all religions. If, then, every thing which is a mystery offends you, you are arrested on the threshold, I will not say of Christianity, but of every religion; I say, even of that religion which is called natural, because it rejects revelation and miracles; for it necessarily implies, at the very least, a connection, a communication of some sort between God and man—the contrary being equivalent to atheism. Your claim prevents you from having any belief; and because you have not been willing to be Christians, it will not allow you to be deists.
“It is of no consequence,” you say, “we pass over that difficulty; we suppose between God and us connections we can not conceive; we admit them because they are necessary to us. But this is the only step we are willing to take: we have already yielded too much to yield more.” Say more, say you have granted too much not to grant much more, not to grant all! You have consented to admit, without comprehending it, that there may be communications from God to you, and from you to God. But consider well what is implied in such a supposition. It implies that you are dependent, and yet free: this you do not com¬prehend; it implies that the Spirit of God can make itself understood by your spirit: this you do not comprehend; it implies that your prayers may exert an influence on the will of God: this you do not comprehend. it is necessary you should receive all these mysteries, in order to establish with God connections the most vague and superficial, and by the very side of which atheism is placed. And when, by a powerful effort with yourselves you have done so much as to admit these mysteries, you recoil from those of Christianity! You have accepte4 the foundation, and refuse the superstructure! You have accepted the principle and refuse the details! You are right, no doubt, so soon as it is proved to you, that the religion which contains these mysteries does not come from God; or rather, that these mysteries contain contradictory ideas. But you are not justified in denying them, for the sole reason that you do not understand them; and the reception you have given to the first kind of mysteries compels you, by the same rule, to receive the others.
This is not all. Not only are mysteries an inseparable part, nay, the very substance of all religion, but it is absolutely impossible that a true religion should not present a great number of mysteries. If it is true, it ought to teach more truths respecting God and divine things than any other, than all others together; but each of these truths has a relation to the infinite, and by consequence borders on a mystery. How should it be otherwise in religion, when it is thus in nature itself? Behold God in nature! The more He gives us to contemplate, the more He gives to astonish us. To each creature is attached some mystery. A grain of sand is an abyss! Now, if the manifestations which God has made of Himself in nature suggest to the observer a thousand questions which can not be answered, how will it be, when to that first revelation, another is added; when God the Creator and Preserver reveals Himself under new aspects as God the Reconciler and Savior? Shall not mysteries multiply with discoveries? With each new day shall we not see associated a new night? And shall we not purchase each increase of knowledge with an increase of ignorance? Has not the doctrine of grace, so necessary, so consoling, alone opened a profound abyss, into which, for eighteen centuries, rash and restless spirits have been constantly plunging?
It is, then, clearly necessary that Christianity should, more than any other religion, be mysterious, simply because it is true. Like mountains, which, the higher they are, cast the larger shadows, the gospel is the more obscure and mysterious on account of its sublimity. After this, will you be indignant that you do not comprehend every thing in the gospel? It would, forsooth, be a truly surprising thing if the ocean could not be held in the hollow of your hand, or uncreated wisdom within the limits of your intelligence! It would be truly unfortunate if a finite being could not embrace the infinite, and that, in the vast assemblage of things there should be some idea beyond its grasp! In other words, it would be truly unfortunate if God Himself should know something which man does not know!
Let us acknowledge, then, how insensate is such a claim when it is made with reference to religion.
But let us also recollect how much, in making such a claim; we shall be in opposition to ourselves; for the submission we dislike in religion, we cherish in a thousand’ other things. It happens’ to us’ every day to admit things we do not understand, and to do so without the least repugnance. The things, the knowl¬edge of which is refused us, are much more. numerous than we perhaps think. Few diamonds are perfectly pure; still fewer truths are perfectly clear. The union of our soul with our body is a mystery - our most familiar emotions and affections are a mystery - the action of thought and of will is a mystery— our very existence is a mystery. Why ‘do we admit these various facts? Is it because we understand them? No, certainly, but because they are self-evident, and because they are truths by which we live. In religion we have no other course to take. We ought to know whether it is true and necessary; and once convinced of these two points, we ought, like the angels, to submit to the necessity of being ignorant of some things. And why do we not submit cheerfully to a privation which, after all, is not one?
3. To desire the knowledge of mysteries is to desire what is utterly useless; it is to raise, as I have said before, a claim the most vain and idle. What in reference to us is the object of the gospel? Evidently to regenerate and save us. But it attains this end wholly by the things it reveals. Of what use would it be to know those it conceals from us? We possess the knowledge which can enlighten our consciences, rectify our inclinations, renew our hearts; what should we gain if we pos¬sessed other knowledge? It infinitely concerns us to know that the Bible is the Word of God; does it equally concern us to know in what way the holy men that wrote it were moved by the Holy Ghost? It is of infinite moment to us to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; need we know precisely in what way the divine and human natures are united in His adorable person? It is of infinite importance for us to know that unless we are born again we can not enter the kingdom of God, and that the Holy Spirit is the author of the new birth; shall we be further advanced if we know the divine process by which that wonder is performed? Is it not enough for us to know the truths that save? Of what use, then, would it be to know those which have not the slightest bearing on our salvation? “Though I know all mysteries,” says St. Paul, “and have not charity, I am nothing.” St. Paul was content not to know, provided he had charity; shall not we, following his example, be content also without knowledge, provided that, like him, we have charity, that is to say, life?
But some one will say “If the knowledge of mysteries is really without influence on our salvation, why have they been indicated to us at all?” What if it should be to teach us not to be too prodigal of our “wherefores!” if it should be to serve as an exercise of our faith, a test of our submission! But we will not stop with such a reply.
Observe, I pray you, in what manner the mysteries of which you complain have taken their part in religion. You readily perceive they are not by themselves, but associated with truths which have a direct bearing on your salvation. They contain them, they serve to develop them; but they are not themselves the truths that save. It is with these mysteries as it is with the vessel that contains a medicinal draft - it is not the vessel that cures, but the draft; yet the draft could not be presented without the vessel. Thus each truth that saves is contained in a mystery, which, in itself, has no power to save. So the great work of expiation is necessarily attached to the incarnation of the Son of God, which is a mystery; so the sanctifying graces of the new covenant are necessarily connected with the effluence of the Holy Spirit, which is a mystery; so, too, the divinity of religion finds a seal and an attestation in the miracles, which are mysteries. Everywhere the light is born from darkness, and darkness accompanies the light. These two orders of truths are so united, so interlinked, that you can not remove the one without the other, and each of the mysteries you attempt to tear from religion would carry with it one of the truths which bear directly on your regeneration and salvation. Accept the mysteries, then, not as truths that can save you, but as the necessary conditions of the merciful work of the Lord in your behalf.
The true point at issue in reference to religion is this: - Does the religion which is proposed to us change the heart, unite to God, prepare for heaven? If Christianity produces these effects, we will leave the enemies of the cross free to revolt against its mysteries, and tax them ‘with absurdity. The gospel, we will say to them, is then an absurdity; you have discovered it. But behold what a new species of absurdity that certainly is which attaches man to all his duties, regulates human life better than’ all the doctrines of sages, plants in his bosom harmony, order, and peace, causes him joyfully to fulfill all the offices of civil life, renders him better fitted to live, better fitted to die, and which, were it generally received, would be the support and safeguard of society! Cite to us, among all human absurdities, a single one which produces ‘such effects. If that “foolishness” we preach produces effects like these, is it not natural to conclude that it is truth itself? And if these things have not entered the heart of man, it is not because they are absurd, but because they are divine.
Make but a single reflection. You are obliged to confess that none of the religions which man may invent can satisfy his wants, or save his soul. Thereupon you have a choice to make. You will either reject them all as insufficient and false, and seek for nothing better, since man Can not invent better, and then you will abandon to chance, to caprice of temperament or of opinion, your moral life and future destiny; or you will adopt that other religion which some treat as folly, and it will render you holy and pure, blameless in the midst of a perverse generation, united to God by love, and to your brethren by charity, indefatigable in doing good, happy in life, happy in death. Suppose, after all this, you shall be told that this religion is false; but meanwhile, it has restored in you the image of God, reestablished your primitive connections with that great Being, and put you in a condition to enjoy life and the happiness of heaven. By means of it you have become such that at the last day, it is impossible that God should not receive you as His children and make you partakers of His glory. You are made fit for paradise, nay, paradise has commenced for you even here, because you love. This religion has done for you what all religions propose, and, what no other has realized. Nevertheless, by the supposition, it is false! And what more could it do, were it true? Rather do you not see that this is a splendid proof of its truth? Do you not see that it is impossible that a religion which leads to God should not come from God, and that the absurdity is precisely that of supposing that you can be regenerated by a falsehood?
Suppose that afterward, as at the first, you do not comprehend. It seems necessary, then, you should be saved by the things you do not comprehend. Is that a misfortune? Are you the less saved? Does it become you to demand from God an explanation of an obscurity which does not injure you, when, with refer¬ence to every thing essential, He has been prodigal of light? The first disciples of Jesus, men without culture and learning, received truths which they did not comprehend, and spread them through the world. A crowd of sages and men of genius have received, from the hands of these poor people, truths which they comprehended no more than they. The ignorance of the one, and the science of the other, have been equally docile. Do, then, as the ignorant and the wise have done. Embrace with affection those truths which have never entered into your heart, and which will save you. Do not lose, in vain discussions, the time which is gliding away, and which is bearing you into the cheering or appalling light of eternity. Hasten to be saved. Love now; one day you will know. May the Lord Jesus prepare you for that period of light, of repose, and of happiness!
Related Tags: sermon, lesson, Alexander R. Vinet, Alexander Rodolphe Vinet