Saturday, August 30, 2008
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Friday, August 29, 2008
Christians and Global Warming
If we go down the route of cutting carbon emissions to less than 20% of current levels, irrespective of cost, we should be clear on some fundamental truths about God's created world. There is not now, and never has been, a `stable environment'. Climate has changed, often far more dramatically than it is changing now, in very short periods of time - and quite unrelated to any human activity. These changes are very little understood, and we have no means of knowing where we are in the cycle of changing climates.That is very good stuff people! God is indeed "orderly," and in some fundamental sense HE is unchanging, but His creation is a dynamic thing indeed.
We have to ask: is there anything inherently Christian in a goal of "stopping climate change", as if that represented a return to a God-given stability and security? Cheap energy has been absolutely central to the massive improvements in health and well-being which have so enormously lengthened and improved the quality of life for millions across the world during the last century. Are these changes truly sinful and a sign of greed? It is not surprising that governments in the developing world, and their people, rate such improvements so highly that, come what may, they will continue to increase their energy consumption to achieve them. China is already the world's largest single emitter of carbon dioxide, and India is not far behind. Is it our Christian responsibility to tell them to stop?
One day - perhaps soon - that energy will have to come from sources other than fossil fuels. But let's not pretend that when that day comes, whatever other benefits it may bring with it, we will have been freed from the shocks of dramatic and often unpredictable climate change. For, along with earthquakes and tsunami, the scientific record demonstrates that climate change - dramatic, sudden, unpredictable, and sometimes potentially catastrophic - is an integral part of God's created world.
Does the non-use of the world's resources get us off any hooks, whether environmental, economic, or theological? Or should we be seeking to use the earth's resources as responsibly and productively as we can, while struggling to achieve fairness and justice in the opportunities that such development can bring?
In fact, if you think about it, "change" is the very heart of the gospel message. We are changed from sinner to saint - that is the Good News. So why would we be surprised that God's creation would be subject to change as well.
More importantly, not being God, we do not always see the ramification of change. So as this piece points out, shifting to biofuels has increased the price of grain and therefore increased food shortages in desperate and hungry parts of the world. The story of the banning of DDT and the subsequent rise in deaths from malaria in the poor tropical regions is now well known.
Now, if we buy that change is part of creation, but continue to argue the problem is "man-made" change, we still have a theological problem because such a statement sets us apart from creation. We are created, we are not creator, and more we are created precisely as one of God's agents of change in His whole creation. We, uniquely, are created in His image, and one of the things that means is we are ourselves creative. In our limited creativity we generate the change in God's whole creation.
Change is not bad - change is part of the dynamism God created in the universe. (here is a reason EVERYONE should learn calculus, it is the language of changing systems, but I digress.) And even the evaluation of a specific change as "good" or "bad" requires, in many cases, a perspective that as created, not creator, we simply cannot attain.
We are to be stewards of God's creation, but that does not mean unchanged preservation, and it means we have to be very, very smart about how that creation works. Just remember, we are still learning.
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"Yes," the golfer responded.
"Did you happen to hook your ball so that it went over the trees and off the course?"
"Yes, I did. How did you know?" he asked.
"Well," said the policeman very seriously, "Your ball flew out onto the highway and crashed through a driver's windshield. The car went out of control, crashing into five other cars and a fire truck. The fire truck couldn't make it to the fire, and the building burned down. So, what are you going to do about it?"
The golfer thought it over carefully and responded... "I think I'll close my stance a little bit, tighten my grip and lower my right thumb."
Bonus Joke ('cause neither one of them is THAT funny)
Dr. Cutter is the local Veterinarian, known for his wry humor. He surpassed himself one summer day when a city dog was brought to him after an encounter with a porcupine.
After almost an hour of prying, pulling, cutting and stitching, he returned the dog to its owner, who asked what she owed.
"Thirty dollars, Ma'am," he answered.
"Why that's simply outrageous!" she stormed. "That's what's wrong with you Maine people, you're always trying to over charge summer visitors. Whatever do you do in the winter, when we're not being gypped here?"
"Raise porcupines, Ma'am."
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Thursday, August 28, 2008
There Ya Go!
This occupied a day of my life. It took an entire day away from my family. I feel empty. There was no point to this. We are an 18th century revival movement that has become institutionalized. We are a bureaucracy that seeks first to protect its existence. There are large questions of eternal life, Biblical truth, how the fallenness of creation and the atonement of Christ impact our daily lives. I would love to discuss these things. Unfortunately there are maybe only a half dozen people in that room that are interested in engaging these topics and engaging them with the congregations. It has been my experience that people are truly interested in exploring the larger questions of God working in the world. I am wondering if the modern Protestant church has lost the ability to discuss that.I agree with all of that but the last premise that "people are truly interested..." They aren't or the church would be doing it. People in the church may bring those things up more, but they bring them up as objections, not questions. They are reasons not to go to church. Does that mean the church is wrong? Sort of.
The church clearly has to call people to more than just a "believe or go away" thing. But those of us that are intellectually bent need to remember that the vast majority of people are not. Most people don't want to think that hard.
Secondly, when people throw up such objections, they are not the REAL objections. Good evangelism would try to reach beyond them into the soul of the person. And in that we are genuinely miserable failures.
But to me, the most interesting part of that pullquote is the crack about being an "18th century institution." I have berated institutionalization enough on this blog, but I should point out some significance to the 18th century part. That is about Evangelicalism, not protestantism, which dates to the 16th century.
It raises a fascinating question in my mind - "How does one reform Evangelicalism?" There is no central institution to reform , or to break away form for that matter. Evangelicalism is essentially defined in part by schism - can one break away from that which breaks away all the time?
I have no answers here, only questions.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Plans and Goals
Well, Milt Stanley links to Larry Chouinard who extensively quotes John Goldingay:
“The First Testament story never talks about God having a plan for the world or a plan of salvation or a plan for people’s individual lives, and the story it tells does not look like one that resulted from a plan. God certainly had an aim, a vision, some goals, and sometimes formulates a plan for a particular context, but works out a purpose in the world in interaction with the human beings who are designed to be key to the fulfilling of those goals. God is not a micromanager who seeks to make every decision for the company, but the wiser kind of executive who formulates clear goals but involves the work force in determining how to implement them, and also recognizes that the failure of members of the work force will require an ongoing flexibility in pursuing these goals. The story does not give the impression that from the beginning God had planned the flood, or the summons of Abraham, or the exodus, or the introduction of the monarchy, or the building of the temple, or the exile, or the sending of a messiah. It portrays these as responses to concrete situations, while all are outworkings of God’s purpose and character.Interesting isn't it? Inserts all sorts of questions related to the Trinity and for those of us that hold our Calvinism dearly, all sorts of questions about election arise, and yet, there is a ring of truth to the impression. So why battle the theology and not just look for the "takeaway."
And the takeaway from my perspective is that we have an active role to play in God accomplishing His goals. While indeed, our New Testament theology teaches us it is all about God, we are still the instruments of His desire. Our "job" under such circumstances is not to discover "God's plan for our lives," but rather to discover God's goals for us and for humanity and then work with Him to align ourselves with and work towards those goals. We are to become part of the team.
A paraphrase of Kennedy's famous quote seems apropos, "Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God."
But what is amazing is that we will in the course of so asking, discover what we are meant to be, and in so discovering we will find blessing and peace beyond all comprehension. In a very real sense, the precise key to finding what God intends for us individuals, is to stop trying to find it. Sounds rather Zen, doesn't it?
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008
No Surprise Here
Evidence of serious flaws in the multi-billion dollar global market for carbon credits has been uncovered by a BBC World Service investigation.Amazing isn't it? People actually trying to make a lot of money with little effort. Who would have thought?
The credits are generated by a United Nations-run scheme called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
The mechanism gives firms in developing countries financial incentives to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
But in some cases, carbon credits are paid to projects that would have been realised without external funding.
The BBC World Service investigation found examples of projects in India where this appeared to be the case.
Arguably, this defeats the whole point of the CDM scheme, set up under the Kyoto climate change protocol, as these projects are getting money for nothing.
The findings reinforce doubts that the CDM is leading to real emission cuts, which is not good news for the effort to combat climate change.
And in one case a company is earning truly staggering sums of money from the carbon credits it is receiving - perhaps as much as $500m (£250m) over a period of 10 years - for a project it says it would have carried out without the incentive of the CDM.
All this "carbon credit" stuff is just nonsense, little more than the selling of indulgences, for a "sin" that we are not even sure is sinful. Whether it be this grand Kyoto based international scheme, or the "carbon offsets" I was offered when I rented a car the other day, we are watching naked capitalism at work in the guise of protecting Mother Earth.
I don't blame anybody for trying to turn a buck, but I do so hate it when they do so under false or misleading pretenses, particularly when those pretenses threaten to undermine pretty much the entire way of life we have come to appreciate. Especially when that way of life is intended to flex with changing circumstances, once they make themselves apparent.
The climate is changing - has throughout history and will continue to. What continually amazes me is the enormous hubris involved in thinking it is our fault or that schemes like this can possibly change it. That is, of course, presuming that people's motives are that pure - there is always the possibility of a wealth-transfer scam, but of course, we have never seen anything like that out of the U.N.
If you are concerned about your "carbon footprint" and it makes you feel better to pay an extra three dollars when you rent a car to assuage your conscience, then by all means spend your money how you see fit. But can we do it without the preaching and the holier-than-thou attitude. Oh and don't be surprised when you find out that all you did was spend more money. Your car is still emitting you know.
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Monday, August 25, 2008
Naturalism and Science and Socrates
Why is the current generation of scientists so hostile to religious thinking? Why do even some Christian scientists allow for only naturalistic explanations and methods in science? (All depends on how you define "science." I would argue that the "behavioral sciences," for example psychology, are not science at all - they are other fields of study, at best, employing the methods of science. But more on this in a minute.)The bottom line is this, while science has indeed tried to claim everything as its domain, It is just wrong in doing so. And the fact of the matter is God did indeed create a physically, if not behaviorally predictable universe. God has much to say about human behavior, but other than His creative expression, and His sustaining power, He really chooses to say very little about the functioning of gravity. If He does, as He has on occasion, we call it a miracle.
The answer is quite simple. For a long time, the philosophical foundations for science were taken for granted. Eventually they were forgotten or deemed unimportant. Christianity was often recognized as being necessary to birth modern science, but now could be discarded. Purpose and the action of any rational beings other than humans could safely be ignored. Scientists and philosophers now knew enough about the world to assume that such a decision was a safe one. (I think that could be a good definition of sin.)
This mistake was due to the success of chemistry and physics in explaining so many things in a naturalistic manner. Of course, this success was simply a continuation of the prediction that non-living things would be best explained in this manner. It is interesting to note that psychology, sociology, and some areas of biology have not had comparative success. (Therefore those fields, while worthy, are something other than "science.")
Some things may be the products of intelligence or intelligences (the mind) are not reducible to purely material or physical explanations. (AGREED!)
Eventually, scientists themselves would come to forget their own heritage in this area. A rejection of certain mistaken forms of “teleological” thinking developed in the Middle Ages, then turned into a wholesale denial of purpose, design, and intelligent agency in the cosmos. Scientists and many philosophers refused on principal to allow for a God who did things that were part of the picture. These thinkers saw the growth of naturalistic explanations as without any end. Science would eventually have a naturalistic explanation, with matter and energy in mindless motion, for everything in the cosmos. God was left with nothing to do. The attempt to squeeze him into the shrinking gaps in human scientific knowledge was futile. Better to get it over with and declare God dead. Most of the academic mainstream has gone slowly in this direction.
Certain religious thinkers, attempting to rescue cherished childhood beliefs from the “march of science,” agreed with this naturalistic methodology. It was hoped that accepting naturalism in science would allow for supernatural activity in other areas. (It indeed should) Such people forgot that science was claiming every area of the cosmos as its domain. (Such "scientists" are free to claim whatever they want, that does not make it reality. Besides, we have switched here from productive counter examples of the behavioral to examples of the almost purely physical like the operations of the cosmos.) These theistic naturalists relegated God’s actions to areas like salvation history, ethics, and life after death. God was thereby kept far distant from their day to day work in the lab. Jesus could live in their heart and help them be good, but He had nothing to say about biology. (Indeed true for some, but certainly not all Christian scientists that hold to naturalistic methodology.)
Science does not need to be battled, it needs to be fenced in - there is a difference, and I think scientists are the bottom line. I commented above about a good definition of "sin." Bring salvation to the scientist and you will find this argument goes away. There is no reason to change the basic operations of science - it has succeeded too well for that. What we need to do is change scientists. At that point the driving force to declare God dead, which is nothing more than an expression of our sinful nature, will disappear and science will be properly bounded and function as it should.
The bottom line is this - there really is no room for God in a theory of gravitation, not because of any restraints on God, but because that is how God created the universe. But there is much room for God in a theory of human behavior because He created us in His image.
The "war" between religion and science should be a cold one. Fought based on containment, not destruction. Science is too useful to destroy, when it operates in its proper place.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008
Sermons and Lessons
Phillips Brooks was born at Boston, Mass., in 1835, graduated at Harvard in 1855 and studied theology at the P. E. Seminary, Alexandria, Va. He was elected rector of the Church of the Advent, Philadelphia, in 1859, and three years later to that of Holy Trinity in the same city. In 1869 he became rector of Trinity Church, Boston, and was consecrated Bishop of Massachusetts in 1891. He died in 1893. He was in every sense a large man, large in simplicity and sympathy, large in spiritual culture. In his lectures to the students at Yale he spoke of the preparation for the ministry as being nothing less than the making of a man. Said he:
“It cannot be the mere training to certain tricks. It cannot be even the furnishing with abundant knowledge. It must be nothing less than the kneading and tempering of a man’s whole nature till it becomes of such a consistency and quality as to be capable of transmission. This is the largeness of the preacher’s culture.” Doctor Brastow describes him thus: “The physical equipment was symbol of his soul; and the rush of his speech was typical of those mental, moral, and spiritual energies that were fused into unity and came forth in a stream of fiery intensity.”
The pride of life. - 1 John 2:16.
John is giving his disciples the old warning not to love the world, that world which then and always is pressing on men‘s eyes and ears and hearts with all its loveliness and claiming to be loved. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
What is the pride of life? Pride is one of those words which hover in the middle region between virtue and vice. The materials which under one set of circumstances and in one kind of character make up an honorable self-respect, seem so often to be precisely the same as those which under another set of circumstances and in another kind of character make up arrogance and self-conceit. This last is the tone evidently in which John speaks. So it is with most moral minglings. All character is personal, determined by some force that blends the qualities into a special personality. The same apparent qualities unite into the most various results. It is like the delicate manufacture of mosaics. The skillful workers of Rome or Venice put in the same ingredients in nature and amount, and the composition comes out at one time dull and muddy and at another time perfectly clear and lustrous. Some subtle difference in the mixture of the constituents or in the condi¬tion of the atmosphere or in the heat of the furnace alters the whole result. So out of life we may say in its various minglings there come various products in character, either humility or thankfulness or contentment or self-respect, from some failure of the qualities to meet in perfect union, from some fault in the shape or misregulation of the temperature of the human furnace in which they are fused, this degenerate and confused result of pride which yet is often so near to, that we can see how it was only some slightest cause, some stray and unguarded draft across the surface that hindered it from being, one of the clear and lustrous combinations of the same material. But that fact makes it no better. The muddy glass is no more useful because it is made of the same components as the clear glass. There is nothing still to be done with it but to throw it away.
What then is the pride of life which is had, which “is not of the Father, but is of the world”? Life itself we know is of the Father. In whatever sense we take that much-meaning word, life is God’s gift. The mere physical being, if that be life, is the creation of His mighty word. The continuance, the prolongation of the vital function, if that be life, that too is the result of His never-sleeping care. The surrounding circumstances, the scenery of our experience, if that be life, is also of His arranging. The spiritual vitality, all the higher powers as we call them, of thought and feeling and conscience, if they be life, no hand but His strung and tuned their manifold and subtle cords. Everywhere there is no life but what He gives. It is not of the world. In no sense does any creative power of being issue either from the material earth, or from the social system, or from the mass of conventional laws and standards, each of which is sometimes, in different uses of the word, characterized as “the world.” They may all influence and change and give character to life, but none of them can create it.
And perhaps this brings us to what we want. The world may give a certain character or shape to life, even although it cannot create it. Now pride is a certain character or shape of life. It is a term of description not of the material of life hut of a particular result of that material fused into a particular furnace. In general the shape of life which pride describes may be otherwise characterized as arrogant self-reliance or self-sufficiency. We may reach more minute definitions of it before we are done, but this seems to make the meaning plain when it is said that the pride of life is not of the Father, but of the world. Life comes from God. It is the world’s influence that shapes that life, which has no moral character in itself, into arrogance and self-sufficiency, makes it up into pride instead of into humility, and so leaves as the result the pride of life. The pride of life, then, is God’s gift which means dependence changed and distorted into independence, revolt and disobedience.
Most necessary is it that in all we say we should keep clear in mind that the first gift is God’s. The substance of life is His. All evil is misuse, otherwise repentance must be cursed with misanthropy and hopelessness instead of being as it always ought to be, the very birthplace of hope, the spring of a new life from the worn-out failure of an old, back into the possibility of life that is older still, as old as man’s first creation.
Let us see where the pride of life shows itself. First of all doubtless in the mere exuberance of animal strength. To be well and strong, full of spirit and physical vitality, this is beyond all doubt one of the most precious gifts of God. We never can forget the large strong physical strain with which our Bible opens, the torrent of health and full life that seems to pour down to us out of those early days when the world was young, when the giants made the earth shake under their mighty tread and the patriarchs outlived the forests with their green old years. The fullness of physical vitality is of God, to be accepted as His benefaction, to be cultivated and cared for with the reverence that His gifts demand. And round the mere physical life group a whole circle of tastes and enjoyments and exercises which belong with the sensuous more than with the intellectual or moral part of us, and whose full life seems to be dependent upon the fullness of physical being, the mere perception of beauty, the love of comfort, the delight in enterprise and adventure and prowess. The sum of all these is what we call full physical life. It is what gives youth its most generous charm and makes it always poetic with its suggested powers and unaccomplished possibilities.
But yet this mere fullness of life as we all know has its dangers. Mere health is overbearing by its very nature. There is a lack of sympathy in it. Not knowing suffering itself, it is not respectful of suffering in others. It is not careful of inflicting suffering. The full blood sings of nothing but itself. It is careless of others. It is careless of God, not malignantly cruel, nor deliberately atheistic, but selfish with a sort of self-absorption which is often very gracious in its forms and infidel with a mere forgetfulness of God. Who of us does not know, and who of us, wavering between his standards and his feelings, has not very often found it hard to tell just how he ought to value the enthusiastic and arrogant self-sufficiency of healthy youth?
It is this, I take it, that is described here as “the pride of life.” Wherever there is eager and full-blooded youth there it appears. It breaks out in the wild and purposeless mob of lower city life, in the impatience and in-subordination of the country boy who longs to be free from his father’s farm, in the crude skepticism of college students’ first discussions of religion. It is jealous of slight, of insult, of the least suspicion of restraint or leading. It belongs to strong young nations as well as to strong young men. By it they flaunt defiance in the face of the world and are afraid of the imputation of prudence. It is what you can see in the faces of any group of eager young men as you pass them on the street. Sometimes it makes them attractive and sometimes it makes them detestable. It turns the noble youth into a hero and the mean youth into a bully. A fine nature it leads into the most exquisite tastes and encircles it with art and music. A coarse nature it plunges into the vilest debauchery and vice. In good fortune it makes the temper carelessly benignant. In bad fortune it makes the temper recklessly defiant. It works these very different effects but is always the one same spirit still, - the pride of life. The gift of life which came from God, taken possession of by the world and tamed into self-sufficiency, a thing not of the Father, but of the world, who does not know in himself, or see in somebody he watches, something of this pure pride in life? Just to live is so attractive that the higher ends and responsibilities of living drift away out of sight. This instinctive almost physical selfishness is the philosophy of more than we think both of the good and of the bad that is in young people.
I have seen too much of it to undervalue the sweet and sober piety of old age. There is a beauty in it that is all its own. A soft¬ness and tenderness and patience and repose in the western sky that the bolder glories of the east where the morning breaks never can attain. Many and many of the best men we have known have been old men, but no one looks at men‘s progress without feeling that a great deal of what passes for growth in goodness as men grow old is in reality only the deadening of the pride of life from the dying-down of the life itself. Many and many a man who passes for a sober, conscientious, religious sort of man at fifty, if you put back into his cooled blood the hot life he bad at twenty-five would be the same reckless, profligate, arrogant sinner that he was then. It is the life, not the pride, that he has lost. Many and many a man thinks that he has saved his house from conflagration because he sees no flame, when really the flame is hidden only because the house is burnt down and the fire is still lurking among the ashes, hunting out any little prey that is left and hungrily waiting for more fuel to light up the darkness again. One thing at least is true, that the goodness of old age in what we may call its passive forms, humility, submission, patience, faith, is necessarily far more hard to recognize and be sure of than the same good¬ness in a younger man. What you call piety may be only deadness.
And young men are often pointed just to this old age as the golden time when they will be religious as they cannot be now. They look to it themselves. “You are full of the pride of life,” men say to them; “Ah, wait! By and by the life will flag. The senses will grow dull, the tastes will stupefy, the enterprise will flicker out, and the days come in which your soul will say ‘I have no pleasure in them.’ Just wait for that! Then your pride will go too, and then you will need and seek your God.” It is a poor taunt and a poorer warning. If you have nothing better to say to make men use their powers rightly than to tell them that they will lose their powers some day, the answer will always be, “Well, I will wait until that losing day comes before I worry.” If you tell a young man that his life is short, the old bacchanalian answer is the first one, “Live while we live.” You must somehow get hold of that, you must persuade him that the true life now is the holy life, that life, this same life that he prizes, ought to breed humility and faith, not arrogance and pride, or else you must expect to talk to the winds. It surely is important that the conversion of the pride of life must come not by the putting-out of life but by making it a source of humility instead of pride. The humbleness of life. How can it come l By clearer and deeper truthfulness to let us see what the real facts of the case are, that is all; but that is very hard, so hard that it can be brought about by no other than the Almighty Holy Ghost. Let me see that this physical life of mine, having no true character of its own, is made to be a great machinery for simply conducting the knowledge and the love of God into my life; let all my study of the exquisite adaptations of the physical organs for their work be sanctified with this idea, this ever-pervading consciousness that eye and ear and hand are doors for the knowledge and the love of Him to enter by, and that all their marvelous mechanism is only the perfecting of hinges and bolt that He may enter more impressively and lovingly and entirely; let me learn that every bright taste or fine instinct or noble appetite is a ray of sunlight, not the sun, is the projection into my life of some force above, outside of me, which I can find only by climbing back along the ray that is projected, up to it; let me see all animal life a study and preparation for this final life of man, sensations and perceptions, growing clearer and clearer as we rise in the scale until in man they are fit to convey this knowledge which man alone can have, the knowledge of God; let me see this, and I must be ashamed to make that life a thing of pride which might be the seat of such an exalted and exalting dependence and humility. I am unwilling that those well-built cisterns which ought to be so full of God should hold nothing but myself, as if one crept into his aqueduct and closed it up where the water came into it from the fountain and lived in it for a house and found it very dry.
We see clearly enough what .the change is that is needed. It is to substitute for self-consciousness as the result of life the ever-abiding consciousness of God. Do you ask how it shall be done? Ah, my dear friends, that is the very miracle of the gospel. I can tell you only this about it, which the Lord has told us all before: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God, that region of life in which God is the life’s King. And again: “If any man love me he will keep my words and my Father will love him and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.” “We will come to him!” That is what we want, for that is the source of all humility, the coming of God into us, and the condition is love and obedience, the spiritual and the active forms of faith. That is all we can say. And that is enough, for in that this at least is clear, that such a conversion is a work that God has undertaken to do fof us, that He asks of us nothing but submission to His willing helpfulness, and that being a transformation of life, it may, nay it must, be done while life is in possession, it can be done best when life is in its fullest. We have not to wait till move¬ment is slow and color is dull. We are not tempted to make a vacancy and call it piety; but when man’s life is so full that it tempts him daily to self-consciousness and pride, then let him open it wide to the consciousness of God and ennoble it with the full dignity of that humility whose first condition is the presence of God in the soul that He built for His own inhabiting.
There is a condition possible where the life shall flow with God as fully and freely as it ordinarily flows with self, where the greater volume it acquires, it only bears the more of Him; where every joy delights in Him, and every power depends on Him, and the whole man lives in Him and knows it. It is not a constant effort. It is the spontaneous direction of the whole nature. it is the new condition of the Christian who has been exalted from the human pride into the divine humility of life, out of self to God.
But I suggested at the outset that the word life was used in various meanings, and in connection with one or two of them I should like to develop a little what is meant by this phrase the “pride of life.” Life sometimes familiarly signifies what we otherwise call circumstances. A man is said to “get on in life,” not with reference to his growing older or growing healthier, but as be grows more rich, more prosperous. The pride of life in this sense would be the pride of success, which we see wherever men are struggling in this world of competition. Look at the young merchant who is making a living. Things go well with him. He rises from stratum to stratum of that commercial system whose geology is the ever-eluding study of the toilers of the street. He grows rich. His store begins to spread with the pressure of new enterprises. His house begins to blossom into the rich bloom of luxury. He is greeted with a new respect. He is courted with an eagerness he never knew before. Friends gather about him. His word has weight. His name means money. He is successful. What is the result? Those facts in themselves signify nothing, let us remember, but material capable of being made into one thing or another wholly its opposite. These are the gift of the Father, every one of them, all that profusion of life. But there is a possible effect of them all in character, a pride, which is not of the Father, but of the world. With a morbid sympathy the man assimilates all that is poor and mean and worldly out of his prosperity, and rejects, because be has no affinity for it, all that is good and sweet and heavenly. He is chilled and narrowed and embittered. All the old sweetness and humility fade out of his nature. Need I tell you of it? Our streets are full of the pride of life. Its types only, its other types flash in the splendid carriages and blaze in the fronts of gaudy houses and sweep the floors of drawing-rooms and the aisles of churches. Those types, the mere outward trappings of success, are not wherein the badness lies. The reality is in the hard hearts and selfish tempers and undocile minds which, in the splendor or the squalidness of wealth, show the sad ruin of self-sufficient success, the pride of life.
The pride of life kills out the life itself. Is there a sadder picture than you have in the life of a man, old or young, to whom God has sent prosperity, who by his own act then turns that prosperity into a failure by being proud of it? Christ Himself has told us how it is. The life is more than meat. He has no tolerance for this little meaning of a word that He made so large. The life is more than meat. Yes, life is meat and man, and to lose the best manhood to get the meat, to lose the soul to save the body, to fail of heaven above you and before you that you may own the ground under your feet, that is not success but fail¬ure. “In all time of our prosperity, Good Lord deliver us!” May God help you who are prosperous.
I would speak again of what is called intellectual life, the life of thought. It is “of the Father,” indeed. We picture to ourselves the pure joy of God in thought. Free from so many of our cumbrous processes, free from the limitations of slow-moving time, free from all imperfection, with an instantaneous thought as is His being, the intellect that is the center of all reason revolves in its unfathomed majesty. And man thinks too. God makes him think. God gives him powers to think with, and then, as when you pour for your child a stream of water out of your cisterns upon the wheels of the machinery that you have first built for him, God gives man thoughts to exercise his~ power of thinking upon. Can anything be more humbles The power was from God, the thoughts by which the power moves were God’s thoughts first. “Oh, God, I think Thy thoughts after Thee,” cried John Kepler, when he caught sight of the great law of planetary motion. But mere thought, self-satisfied, seeking no unity in God, owning no dependence, boasting of itself, counting it hardship that it cannot know all where it knows so much, this is the pride of thought, and this is not of the Father, but is of the world. How arrogant it is! How it is jealous of dictation, how it chafes under a hand that presses it down and a voice that says to it, “Wait! what thou knowest not now thou shalt know hereafter.” How carefully it limits its kind of evidence, shutting out everything that sounds like personal communication, revelation, in its impatient independence; how studiously it orphans itself. And then bow, in some moods, orphaned by its arrogance, it suddenly becomes intensely cognizant of its orphanage, and the child’s hunger for a Father takes possession of its heart and it is dreary and miserable!
I always know, when I speak thus of types of men, that you will think that I am talking of those types in their extreme specimens. I am not speaking today of the miracles of physical vitality, nor of the over-successful men with their colossal fortunes, nor of the mighty thinkers only. We all have our certain share in these various kinds of life, and each of us may make his little share a seed of pride. We are strangely ingenious here. We have an easy faculty of persuading ourselves that ours is best of everything and growing arrogant, unfilial and worldly over it. I speak to the men confident in their youth and health, to the merchants strong in their business credit, to the thoughtful brains at work over their problems of settling the universe for themselves. I warn them all against the pride of life. I would try to show them all that the same material which is capable of being made into pride is capable also of being made into humility. I would tell them therefore that they have not to be made old or sick or poor or stupid before they caii be made humble, that the best humility, as well as the hardest, is that which can come to them here, right in the midst of their strength and wealth and study!
Do you ask how that can be? It is time that I tried to tell you, tried to tell how one may be full of life and yet be free from the pride of life. That question must somehow be answered, or else the world will be condemned to choose forever between an arrogant prosperity and a salvation by misery, distress and disaster, by death. What do we need for the salvation of a prosperous life? The answer in one word is consecration. Consecration, that is what we need. There have been men in whom life seemed complete who have yet walked very humbly. They had no pride of life. And why? Because always before them and above them there stood some great principle, some idea, some duty to which their life belonged, not to themselves. All work is modest, all idle self-contemplation is vain. And what the young man needs with his vague aspirations and conceits is to make himself the servant of some worthy purpose. And what the merchant needs with his growing business is to count himself the steward of some worthy Master. And what the student needs with his active mind is to trace the foot¬steps of the God of wisdom in the path he walks and to count the reaching nearer to Him the true prize and object of all thinking. Consecration! We are proud of life because we do so little with it. It is as if the bearer of dispatches sat down calmly and boasted of the well-made box in which they had been given to him, and never bore them to their destination. Life is force, to be transmitted and delivered to a purpose and an end. It loses its true nature and sweetness, it corrupts into pride, when it is robbed of its true purpose and cherished only for itself.
We can find our example of the consecrated man wherever we see true lives lived in history or about us now, in the Bible or in common life. Moses, David, Paul! But why look at the poor, imperfect copies when in our Lord Himself we have the consummate human life clothed in the wondrous humility of His appointed work. The life of lives! and yet was ever any life so utterly free from the tawdry pride that makes our poor achievements so wretched and unsatisfying. You say He cut Himself off from all that men are proud of. Not so. He gave up house and home, but he carried about with Him always the devotion of the people, the mystery of unknown power and the consciousness of great work and influence, the very things that have always seduced the best men most and in their highest labors made them proud. You say He was divine and so could not be humble. Yes, but He was profoundly human also, and humility is not subserviency or meanness. It is a grace not unworthy of, nay, necessary to, even the perfect humanity. But one thing stands out always: His was the consecrated life. It was all given to its purpose. “He was called Jesus because he should save his people from their sins.” “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father ‘s business I” “Behold we go up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man shall be betrayed.” “To this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” Everywhere the consecration, a life appointed to an end, the face set to Jerusalem, the hands and feet waiting for the cross! Meanwhile it was the fullest life, but lived so high that the “pride of life” lay all below under His feet and out of sight.
And our life must be consecrated even as His was. What shall the consecration be? Far be it from me to undervalue the exaltation into humility that comes to a man when he consecrates himself to any great and noble cause. I believe that it helps to save any man from pride when he gives himself to his family or his country or his fellow men, to truth, to liberty, to purity, to anything out¬side of and above himself, but there is a consecration higher and fuller and more saving than any such can be. We go back to the Cross. Jesus is dying there for us. He dies and we are saved. What then? When a soul “knows its full salvation” and sees it all bought by, all wrapt up in, that Redeemer, then in the outburst of a grateful love, be gives himself to the Redeemer Christ. There is no hesitation, no keeping back of anything. He is all offered up to Christ; and then to serve that Christ, to follow Him, to do His will, to enter into Him, that is the one great object of the whole consecrated life, and in that consecration, the straining of the life toward that One Object, the “pride of life” is swept down and drowned. Not merely the life then, but the use of the life, comes from the Father. It is not of the world. The soul is saved!
The salvation of the Cross! Its center is the forgiveness of sins which the cross alone made possible; but is not its issue here, in the lifting of the soul above the pride of life and consecrating it in the profoundest gratitude to “Him who redeemed us and washed us from sins in His own blood”? What humility! What self-forgetfulness! What unworldliness! What utter childhood to the Father!
My friends, my people, would you be saved, saved from your sins, saved from yourselves, saved from the pride of life? You must be His that you may not be your own! He died for you that you might not henceforth live to yourself but unto Him. You must be consecrated to your Savior. If there is one soul in my church to-day who is weary and dis¬satisfied with his self-slavery, I offer him Jesus for Savior, for Master! If any man thirst let him come unto Him and drink. Turn unto Him and be ye saved! You can, you must! His service is life, life in its fullest because life in humility. Outside of His gospel and His service there is the pride of life, and the pride of life is death.
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