Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Martin Luther's Holy Matrimony

In honor of Reformation Day, I am posting this little piece I wrote a few years ago on Martin Luther's marriage. I will link this with Tim Challies' blog, who is hosting a Reformation Day Symposium.


As the sun declined on April 4, 1523, Leonhard Koppe glanced nervously over his shoulder while he loaded twelve barrels into his merchant’s wagon and headed down the road for Torgau. He began to breathe a little easier as he got farther away from the Marienthron Convent, for his load that evening was not the usual herring, but nuns. These nuns had been influenced by the ideas of a reformer from Wittenberg, one Martin Luther, and now, with his advice and aid, they had acted on their newfound convictions and were escaping from the convent. (Such at least is one of the stories that have come down to our time.) Nine of the twelve nuns proceeded on from Torgau to Wittenberg to find help from the great reformer, and Luther welcomed them into his care, although he wrote in a letter to his friend Spalatin that when they arrived they were a “wretched crowd.” One of these ex-nuns was a young lady, 24 years old, of noble descent, named Katharina von Bora. It was she who would later become Luther’s wife, although at the time neither of them would have thought it.

Luther’s pilgrimage toward marriage actually began several years earlier, and it was closely intertwined with his theological pilgrimage that led to the open schism with Rome. He became an Augustinian monk in 1505, which involved taking a vow of celibacy, and at that point he fully believed the Roman Catholic thought that the celibate state was the way to be more holy. Yet as controversy grew over his attacks on aspects of the Roman Catholic system (1517-1521), he began to question the Catholic view of marriage. In 1519 he published “A Sermon on the Estate of Marriage”[1] in which he extolled marriage as a gracious gift of God. However, at this point he clearly still considered marriage to be a sacrament, as the Roman Catholic Church taught.

But by the next year, Luther discarded the sacramental view of marriage. In June through October of 1520 he launched three cruise missiles at the Roman Catholic religio-political edifice: “Address to the German Nobility” (attacking RC political ideas), “Babylonian Captivity of the Church” (attacking the RC sacramental system), and “On the Freedom of the Christian Man” (attacking RC legalism). It was the second of these treatises that specifically dealt with the issue of marriage.[2] Here Luther says, “Not only is marriage regarded as a sacrament without the least warrant of Scripture, but the very ordinances which extol it as a sacrament have turned it into a farce.”[3] In his “Address to the German Nobility” Luther stated that he wanted to “leave every man free to marry or not to marry.”[4] He recognized what a radical step this was, for he goes on to say, “There would have to be a very different kind of government and administration of church property; the whole canon law would have to be demolished.”[5] Thus we can see that reforming marriage had definite social and political ramifications. But as we shall see, on a personal level, Luther’s program of reform, without his knowing or intending it, was moving him constantly closer to committing matrimony.

Marriage continued to be on Luther’s mind, even after the Diet of Worms where he was declared an outlaw. In 1522 he published his first full treatise on the subject, “The Estate of Marriage,”[6] dealing with who can marry, who can divorce and for what reasons, and how to live a godly life in the state of marriage. Here we see that Luther had come to the point in his thinking where he believed that it is commanded by God that people should marry and have children, unless God has specifically made one unfit for marriage or given the gift of celibacy.[7] Thus we might think that Martin would take more than passing interest in the eligible former nuns that he took charge of in 1523.

But wedding bells were not ringing in Luther’s head at this time. The pressures and turmoil of his very public life were too great. On November 30, 1524 he wrote to his friend Spalatin:

The way I feel now, and have felt thus far, I will not marry. It is not that I do not feel my flesh or sex, since I am neither wood nor stone, but my mind is far removed from marriage, since I daily expect death and the punishment due to a heretic. Therefore I shall not limit God’s work in me, nor shall I rely on my own heart. Yet I hope God does not let me live long.[8]

Nevertheless, as we read on in his letters we detect a noticeable change of tone in next few months. Luther often encouraged his friends to marry, and he had worked hard to see to it that all the former nuns under his care were married. Yet one still remained. Spalatin apparently returned Martin’s urging toward matrimony, and on April 16, 1525, Luther replied:

I do not want you to wonder that a famous lover like me does not marry. It is rather strange that I, who so often write about matrimony and get mixed up with women, have not yet turned into a woman, to say nothing of not having married one. Yet if you want me to set an example, look, here you have the most powerful one, for I have had three wives simultaneously, and loved them so much that I have lost two who are taking other husbands; the third I can hardly keep with my left arm, and she, too, will probably soon be snatched away from me. But you are a sluggish lover who does not dare to become the husband of even one woman. Watch out that I, who have no thought of marriage at all, do not some day over-take you too eager suitors – just as God usually does those things which are least expected.[9]

God was doing unexpected things in Katharina’s life as well. After coming to Wittenberg, Katie actually fell in love with Hieronymus Baumgartner, an aristocratic student of Melanchthon. However, when he left for his home town of Nuremberg, Katie did not hear from him. Luther, as her guardian, wrote to Baumgartner in October of 1524 stating that he would gladly see them married. No reply came until January of 1525, when it was announced that Baumgartner was engaged to another woman. Katie rejected another potential suitor, but her social situation was beginning to become perilous if she ever hoped to marry. Apparently she conveyed to Luther’s friend Nicholas von Amsdorf that she would accept a proposal from either Amsdorf himself or the famous Doctor.[10]

By May of that year, the wedding bells in Luther’s mind were loud and clear – he had determined to marry Katie.[11] And in characteristic fashion, he wasted no time in doing so. On June 13 Martin and Katie were wed in a small private ceremony, followed by a public celebration on the 27th. This was not a union of romantic infatuation. In a letter to von Amsdorf inviting him to the celebration, Luther spelled out clearly his thinking behind the marriage.

Indeed, the rumor is true that I was suddenly married to Catherine; [I did this] to silence the evil mouths which are so used to complaining about me. For I still hope to live for a little while. In addition, I also did not want to reject this unique [opportunity] to obey my father’s wish for progeny, which he so often expressed. At the same time, I also wanted to confirm what I have taught by practicing it; for I find so many timid people in spite of such great light from the gospel. God has willed and brought about this step. For I feel neither passionate love nor burning for my spouse, but I cherish her.[12]

Thus we can see that for Luther, marriage was much more than a merely personal issue. For one thing, it was a political statement. From his letters we can read that he viewed his marriage as a statement of opposition to the peasants, who were then in revolt, and as a statement of support to the nobility.[13] It was also a theological statement. It was the ultimate defiance of the Roman Catholic elevation of celibacy and a celebration of the Reformation agenda. Furthermore, Luther’s marriage was a social statement, for he intended to set an example of what godly citizens should do. For him, marriage was a part of fulfilling God’s mandate to mankind, not merely a sentimentally gratifying arrangement.

We should not conclude, however, that Martin and Katie had a loveless marriage. Quite the opposite is true. For nearly 21 years Martin enjoyed life with the woman he affectionately called “my rib.” The Luthers took up residence in the Black Cloister (the former Augustinian monastery), where they led a rather poor, hardworking, yet social life. Marriage brought many changes to Luther, who mused that “there is a lot to get used to in the first year of marriage.” Luther’s frank transparency in his “table talk” and his letters gives us the picture of a home that had all the usual joys, blessings, frustrations, and irritations of family life. For example, he once complained of how Katie would interrupt his studies with small talk.[14] On one occasion he is said to have locked himself in his study until Katie took the door off its hinges.[15] On the other side of the coin, Katie had the burden of managing the large household for a husband who was not careful about financial matters.

Katie bore six children, who were dear to Luther’s heart. We have one very tender and fanciful letter that he wrote to his son Hans to encourage him to be good, study hard, and pray.[16] We also hear from his own mouth the soul-anguish he experienced when his daughter Magdalena died in his arms at age 13.[17] But his affection for Katie seems to have gone beyond even what he felt for his children. He once said, “I would not give up my Katy for France or for Venice . . . because God gave her to me and gave me to her.”[18] One testimony to how much he prized her was the fact that he called his favorite book of the Bible – Galatians – “my Katie von Bora.”[19] Katie also felt the same way toward Martin. One of her few surviving letters is one she wrote to her sister-in-law after Martin’s death. She chronicles there how her husband’s death left her unable to eat, drink, or sleep. “I cannot express my great heartache to any person,” she wrote. “If I had owned a principality or empire I would not have felt as bad had I lost it, as I did when our dear Lord God took from me - and not from me but from the whole world - this dear and worthy man.”[20]

Luther has been accused of being patriarchal in his views of women, marriage, and child rearing. And indeed he was. He firmly believed that the woman’s place was in the home. As usual, he was bluntly eloquent in stating his points. “Men have broad shoulders and narrow hips, and accordingly they possess intelligence. Women have narrow shoulders and broad hips. Women ought to stay at home; the way they were created indicates this, for they have broad hips and a wide fundament to sit upon.”[21] Modern sensibilities are highly offended at such speech. Yet it must be remembered that Luther became violently angry at those who degraded women.[22] He also held that men only should rule the home. Yet in everyday life he allowed that Katie had tremendous influence over him.[23] In addition, he believed that the bearing and rearing of children was a fundamental duty of marriage. Regarding childbearing he said, “The purpose of marriage is not pleasure and ease but the procreation and education of children and the support of a family. . . . People who do not like children are swine, dunces, and blockheads, not worthy to be called men and women, because they despise the blessings of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.”[24] While Luther may offend modern sensibilities, it may be that he was more honest about the biblical picture of marriage than moderns would want to admit.

Luther’s beliefs and practices regarding marriage and family give us perhaps the most personal look into a great man who was just that – a man. With all his faults, he loved his wife, and she loved him. Together they sought to put into practice what Reformation theology taught – that marriage is a good gift of God, a holy estate, to be used for his service. In this, Martin and Katie were eminently successful. Marriage was no peripheral issue to Martin, who believed that God had effected a threefold reformation of the ministry of the Word, the magistracy, and marriage.[25] Historian Steven Ozment writes that there was no other “point in the Protestant program where theology and practice corresponded more successfully.”[26] Luther’s stouthearted resolve for marriage accomplished everything he hoped it would, and gave him many years of loving companionship with his equally stouthearted Katie.




[1] Luther’s Works, American Edition, 55 vols., ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann (St. Louis/Philadelphia: Concordia/Fortress, 1958ff), 44: 5-14 (Hereafter cited as LW).

[2] LW 36: 92-106.

[3] Ibid.: 92.

[4] LW 44:176

[5] Ibid.

[6] LW 45: 11-49.

[7] Ibid.: 18.

[8] LW 49: 93.

[9] LW 49:104-5.

[10] Smith, “Katharina von Bora through Five Centuries,” Sixteenth Century Journal XXX/3 (1999): 748.

[11] LW 49: 111. See Roland Bainton, Here I Stand (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950), 288. [This edition incorrectly states that Luther was 33. Later editions read 42.]

[12] LW 49: 117. See Bainton, 288. Hendrix, “Luther on Marriage,” Lutheran Quarterly XIV (2000): 343.

[13] Bainton, 288.

[14] LW 54: 191.

[15] Steven Ozment, “Re-inventing Family Life,” Christian History 39: 24.

[16] LW 49: 321-4.

[17] LW 54: 432.

[18] LW 54: 7-8.

[19] LW 54:20.

[20] Smith, “Katharina von Bora,” 771.

[21] LW 54: 8. A textual variant here reads “keep house and bear and raise children” in place of “sit upon.”

[22] LW 54:171, 221.

[23] LW 54:174-5.

[24] Ozment, “Re-inventing Family Life,” Christian History 39: 24. Cf. LW 1:118.

[25] LW 54: 177.

[26] Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform 1250-1550 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), 381.

What About Halloween?

Once again, Al Mohler has a good post dealing with Halloween. I would encourage you to read it. Personally, I am not so much concerned with Halloween's pagan roots as I am with current practices. The current symbols of Halloween are the antithesis of goodness and beauty - hardly the stuff of edification. The Corinthians claimed that "all things were lawful" for them; the apostle Paul replied that not all things were helpful (1 Cor 6:12). This is good advice for this day.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Command to Worship the Lord Exclusively

All of my friends who have traveled to India comment when they return on the ubiquitous shrines to the millions of "gods" of Hinduism. Surely in such a context the first commandment makes sense - "You shall have no other gods before me." But does it really apply in 21st century America? We rarely if ever see anyone bowing down in front of a statue. We of all people are freed from such superstition.
Or are we? Idolatry is alive and well in America today. It is just a different kind of idolatry than is practiced in some other places in the world. But before we point the finger at our society at large, we had better examine our own hearts. This is the point of the first commandment. Because God is the Lord, and because he is our Lord, and because of what our Lord has done for us to bring us into a special relationship with himself, we of all people must be sure to worship the Lord exclusively. We will consider this together this Sunday. Please join us!

Songs
Come Thou Almighty King (#63)
Give to Our God Immortal Praise (#53)
Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
How Great Thou Art (#28)
Psalm 90b
Have Thine Own Way, Lord (#528)

Scripture Reading
Psalm 119:33-48

Sermon
Deuteronomy 5:7

Vocation

In our discussions of building a culture of faithfulness, I stated that Christians needed to recover the concept of vocation or calling. So I was delighted to see that on his blog this morning, Albert Mohler has a good post dealing with this very topic.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Masculine Preaching

Douglas Wilson, who regularly provides stimulating commentary on all things cultural (despite his postmillenialism), has a good article on "Masculinity in the Pulpit" in the latest issue of Credenda/Agenda. Here is an excerpt.

Masculine preachers are not those who demand submission from others; masculine preachers are those who submit themselves.

True masculinity is submissive. Right, submissive. Effeminacy in the pulpit is disobedient and rebellious. God tells the preacher to go and speak as the very oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). He might not feel like it. He worries that people will think he is getting above himself. He wonders if he is really called to the ministry. When tackling any lofty scriptural subject, far above him, he is frequently as disappointed with his performance as the farmer’s wife was when she asked the sow to fold the linen. But how he feels does not matter. He is told what to do, and he is under authority. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” We are frequently told that feminists don’t like masculinist bravado and bluster in the pulpit. It is fine if they don’t like it; no one should. But the real cause of the genuine conflict is this: masculine preachers (not maschismo preachers) are models of respectful submission. Men who preach with masculine authority are modeling obedience, and this is the one thing that rebels cannot abide.

The Look, Feel, and Smell of Christianity

Just in case you were wondering why we are dealing with "building a culture of faithfulness," here is the answer. This is simply a hot button subject in Christianity today, and I am afraid that many of the answers being given are incomplete or inadequate. I would hasten to add that this is not an easy subject to circumscribe, and doubtless my own treatment needs much more work. Nevertheless, we must start working somewhere.

I would like to highlight one important aspect of our approach that is often lacking in treatments of "Christianity and culture." We are working on this in the context of a local body of believers. "Culture" is too much of an abstraction to be manageable until it touches down in the lives of real people in a real place. (As an aside, this is one of the criticisms I have of a standard work in this field, H. Niebuhr's Christ and Culture. No real person or group that I know actually fits in the categories he describes. Ok, rabbit trail is done.) We are building up, tearing down, correcting, refining, teaching, questioning, probing, encouraging, rebuking, doing, producing, and dreaming together, and through these countless daily activities we are trying to put into practice what it means to love the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves. As we do this over the course of generations, we will by God's grace build a culture of faithfulness in the midst of a society that has no idea which way it is going.

Because Christians have not done this very successfully in the past (and we include ourselves here), we have a very hard time "engaging the culture" (a rather nebulous buzzword) without capitulating to it. We really have very little developed idea of the alternative we are offering to the world. And because our hearts have not inhabited an alternative to the world, we do not have the spiritual sense or taste to develop something truly different than the current standard fare. Taste is something that must be developed by practicing. It is in a sense something that is prior to cognitive reflection; nevertheless, it is a value judgment. The best way to develop and transmit good taste to new believers and to the next generation is to develop a corporate culture of biblically, spiritually refined patterns of judgment and thinking and living.

One of the reasons this is so hard is that it requires time and work - lots of time and lots of work. Lots of saturation in the scriptures. Lots of practice trying to apply the scriptures. Lots of evaluation of where our efforts failed. Lots of rethinking and retrying. All in the context of the body of Christ. But time and work are precisely the opposite of the prevailing pop culture which values immediate gratification and immediate accomplishment and immediate popularity.

So to close these rambling thoughts by reiterating my main point. We cannot effectively "engage the culture" around us unless we have some idea of what lived Christianity looks and feels and smells like. This can only be developed in our local churches, in our case, in High Country Baptist Church. When we have the look and feel and smell of Christ about our lives, we will be able to identify with sinners without losing our identity.

Building a Culture of Faithfulness (Part 7)

Enlightenment and the Tension of the American Founding

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,

The proper study of mankind is Man.

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,

A being darkly wise and rudely great:

With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,

With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,

He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest;

In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast;

In doubt his mind or body to prefer;

Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;

Alike in ignorance, his reason such,

Whether he thinks too little or too much;

Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;

Still by himself abused or disabused;

Created half to rise, and half to fall:

Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;

Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;

The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

(Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, Epistle 2)

Pope’s words capture the worldview tension of the era of the American founding. The cutting edge thinkers of the day were working their way more and more toward pagan ways of thinking (or perhaps I should say that they were working out more and more consistently the pagan impulses of their hearts), yet Christianity remained an enormous influence. This unstable mixture was reflected in the social framework incorporated into the new United States of America.

In Reason We Trust

The American founding occurred at the high tide of the Enlightenment, which was a movement to enthrone human reason as the sole and independent arbiter of truth. Thomas Paine wrote, “My own mind is my own church.” But Paine was more extreme than most American founding fathers. Some were genuinely orthodox believers, such as John Witherspoon and Patrick Henry. Many were basically pagan in their thinking with generous dashes of Christian seasoning, most notably men such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. These men did not throw God out altogether, for they could not make sense of a world without him. But they did remake him into a god more suitable to human reason, and thus they stripped him of any real authority in the public realm of the new nation. They accomplished this largely by thinking in the same kinds of dualistic categories that Kant had.

This thinking is enshrined in the most important statement of the philosophy of the founders, the Declaration of Independence. Edwin Meese says that “the Declaration provided the philosophical basis”[i] for the new government. The Declaration pronounces these famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” After listing the colonists grievances against the crown, the Declaration concludes, “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States…. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Upon reading the Declaration of Independence, you will notice immediately the mention of the Creator who gives rights to men. He is appealed to for morality and for providential protection. These concepts certainly fit with the Christian worldview. But we must also notice that this god is not sovereign in two important areas – knowledge and authority. Revelation was not considered necessary to establish the rightness of the colonists’ cause. It was “self-evident” to any rational mind. Furthermore, the people were given ultimate authority for the government. It was not considered necessary to appeal to God for authorization. This is a direct challenge to the Christian worldview, and a definite departure from earlier European practice.

Yet this approach fit perfectly with the temper of the age. Most men did not try to jettison a divine power. After all, how could they explain the existence of the world and of morality without him or it? But this divine being was put into a box separated from the empirical realm of real facts and knowledge. The supreme law of the land could be forged and enforced without him or his revelation. All that was necessary was properly functioning reason.[ii]

This faith in reason also tied in with commitment to the idea of Progress. According to this idea, mankind is getting better and better. Faith in Progress, in all its varied forms, is as American as apple pie, although it is as old as the Tower of Babel. Are we not always building bigger and better things, enjoying more and more wealth and comfort, and accomplishing greater and greater feats of technological prowess? But we should also ask, Are we happier today than we have ever been? Are we wiser or more peaceful? Has all of our progress satisfied our souls, or has it made them more ravenous than ever before?

The American founding also included the seeds of individualism. If all truth is determined by human reason, then the individual eventually becomes the sole arbiter of truth. Social relationships must be determined by contracts freely chosen.

Our American commitment to autonomous reason and progress still drives us today, even though the failures of the Enlightenment version of paganism are becoming increasingly evident. For example, appealing to the Bible as revealed fact and relevant truth in public discourse is a sure-fire way to be dismissed as a superstitious crank. Another example – if you have listened to the discourse justifying Operation Iraqi Freedom, you will have heard a great deal about making a better world through democracy. A third example – education is considered the savior from all kinds of ills. A fourth example – the current congressional drive for tax money to support research on embryonic stem cells reveals an unbridled trust in technology to provide the good life, totally divorced from moral concerns. The list of examples goes on and on. We will return to these thoughts in Section 3.

Separation of Church and State

The separation of church and state has been one area of continuous battleground between pagan and Christian ideas in America. The Constitution itself actually says nothing about “separation of church and state.” The first amendment to the Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” The precise application of this amendment has been debated ever since it was adopted. In the early years of our nation it was primarily aimed at the claims of rival Protestant sects. But as our nation grew more and more diverse, starting with the influx of Roman Catholics, the debates grew more intense. The Supreme Court itself has not been consistent in the way it interprets the Free Exercise of Religion clause. Nevertheless, we can see both positive and negative effects of this amendment on American thinking.

Positively, America became the first modern Western nation to effectively separate institutionally what had been welded together beginning with the Roman emperor Constantine in A.D. 313. This union of church and state throughout European history was contrary to the NT teaching on the nature, purpose, and function of the church, and it resulted in much corruption of the church. Freeing the church from its yoke with state governments provided an opportunity to reestablish a more biblical conception and practice of the church.

But there were some unintended negative effects as well. Religion became something relegated to the private sphere of faith, not the public world of “facts.” This is admittedly a fluid generalization. At times throughout our history Christianity was more prominent in Americans’ thinking, and at times it was less prominent. Nevertheless, I believe the generalization still holds. This separation of religion from public policy was something more than the separation of the institutions of churches and government. It was the old dualism surfacing again. Religion became a private matter and men were free to hold whatever opinions they wished in this realm. However, they were not allowed to let that religious belief dictate public policy. Thus, Americans today tend to believe that we are free to invoke God’s blessing on our nation, but they also do not believe that God’s revelation has any tangible bearing on how we conduct the affairs of our nation. We are more likely to identify God’s will with Americanism than with biblical religion.

Thus, America is not now nor has it ever been a Christian nation except in the most general sense.[iii] America has been influenced greatly from its founding onward by the Christian worldview because many of its citizens have been Christians. Nevertheless, pagan thinking has always had a place at the head of the table in the discussions that formed our country. Therefore, Christians should not believe that America is the last, best hope of the world. Our hopes for the present and the future do not hinge upon the rise or fall of America. America is not the kingdom of God incarnated.

Where then do we place our hopes? We trust in the living God who is actively accomplishing his purposes in the world today. The focal point of his activity, as we have already seen in Section 1, is the church.

As Christians who live in American society, we need to be wary of letting the common American ideals supplant truly biblical thinking in our lives. The following posts will deal with that topic in the context of our American history.



[i] The Heritage Guide to the Constitution (Washington, D. C.: Regnery Publishing, 2005), 1.

[ii] Later, there was a Romantic reaction to rationalism in American life. However, for our purposes we need to note that this romanticism still grew from the soil of a pagan worldview. The romantics, like the rationalists, looked to man and nature for their justification, not to God.

[iii] T. S. Eliot gives a thoughtful consideration to what might be called a “Christian Society” in his work Christianity and Culture. I am not opposed to such usage of this terminology as long as we remember the fundamental distinction between the biblical idea of a Christian and the use of the term “Christian” to describe nations and civilizations. In Scripture, a Christian is a person who is publicly identified and labeled as a follower of Jesus Christ. That is to say, he is one who has confessed faith in Christ through baptism and is now living according to Christ’s teachings with other disciples (the church). In the biblical sense, the term “Christian” cannot technically be applied to nations.

In American history, it is common to call 19th century America a Christian nation, even from such erudite and diverse sources as Alexis de Tocqueville, A. A. Hodge, and the U.S. Supreme Court. This is an extension of the meaning of “Christian” to cover the underlying ethos of the people which informed public discourse. It is true that Protestant Christianity influenced the mode of thought, mores, laws, etc. of America at this time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 16 - Good Works

16.1 ONLY the works that God has commanded in His holy Word are to be accounted good works. Such works, as men have invented out of blind zeal or upon the mere pretense of good intentions, are not good, for they lack the sanction of Holy Scripture. Isa. 29:13; Mic. 6:8; Matt. 15:9; Heb. 13:21.

16.2 Works that are truly good, and which are done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and living faith. By means of them believers make known their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance of salvation, edify their brethren, adorn their Christian witness, and deprive their opponents of arguments against the gospel. In sum, they glorify God who has made them what they are, namely, new creatures in Christ; and as such they yield fruit that evidences holiness, eternal life being the outcome of all. Ps. 116:12,13; Matt. 5:16; Rom. 6:22; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:11; 1 Tim. 6:1; Jas. 2:18,22; 1 Pet. 2:15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; 1 John 2:3,5.

16.3 The ability of believers to do good works does not spring in any way from themselves, but is derived from the Spirit of Christ alone. But besides the graces which they receive from Him in the first instance, they need His further actual influence to give them the will and ability to perform the works that please Him. Yet this does not mean that, without that special influence, they are at liberty to grow careless of duty, for they must be diligent in stirring into activity the grace of God that is in them. Isa. 64:7; John 15:4,5; 2 Cor. 3:5; Phil. 2:12,13; Heb. 6:11,12.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ethical Insurance

In our series, Building a Culture of Faithfulness, I mentioned that I believe it is going to become increasingly important for ethical reasons for families to be the primary caretakers for their members. Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, recently published an article which discusses the issue of ethical insurance, "Freedom to Choose Clear-Conscience Health Reform."

Here is an insightful excerpt:

Part of the problem is that Americans don't have direct control over issues of either cost or conscience. Third-party decision-makers do. They are at the fulcrum of the current health-care system, setting the rules for coverage. The kinds of benefits financed through health insurance are determined largely by employers, insurance executives, managed-care network, officials or government officials. Patients' personal choice is very limited.

As biomedical advances push us into increasingly murky ethical depths about everything from prenatal to end-of-life decisions, the moral map should not be left to the third-party decision-makers. Even worse is the prospect of handing the moral compass to anonymous bureaucrats in a single-payer government system. There's more to be feared about a national health system than poor quality care and rationing.

She is precisely correct. As Christians, let's not be caught with our heads in the sand when it comes to making moral choices about health care.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Keeping the Covenant Relationship

The Constitution of the United States begins, "We the people of the United States...." How completely different is the "constitution" that God gave to Israel, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." The stipulations and guidelines of our relationship with the Lord, like that of Israel's of old, are not something devised by men. We the people do not decide these matters. In fact, we the people did not even initiate this relationship. "The Lord our God made a covenant with us." Our relationship with God is entirely a matter of his grace. He graciously initiated a relationship with us, and he graciously gives us the "statutes and rules" which direct this relationship. Our relationship with him is rooted in redemption and so are the rules of the relationship. And so, as we begin our study of the "Ten Words" or Ten Commandments, let them always drive you to worship our great Lord!

Songs
I Sing the Mighty Power of God (#19)
Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee (#27)
Trust and Obey (#525)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)
Let Us Love (#483)
Thou Sweet Beloved Will of God (#528)

Scripture Reading
Psalm 119:17-32

Sermon
Keeping the Covenant Relationship - Deuteronomy 5:1-6

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Building a Culture of Faithfulness (Part 6)

Section 2 - Our Historical Setting

Western Religious and Intellectual Heritage

The preceding material has, in a very basic way, explained our Christian view of the world. We have learned who God is and what he is doing, who we are and what we are doing, and the purpose for all of this being and doing. But in order to live faithfully in this world, we also need to have some idea of how to apply this to the time and place in which we live today. What exactly is the nature of our times? A look at our history will help us see the ideas and actions which have shaped our times.

Here we will examine the two worldviews which have had the greatest influence in shaping the mind and heart of the society in which we live in early 21st century America. The two worldviews with the greatest impact upon America are paganism and Christianity. Do not be thrown by the label “paganism.” I am not using it in a pejorative sense, but only in the sense of any belief rooted in the idea that ultimate reality is part of this world and is open to our experience.[i] Let’s briefly examine the pagan worldview through what it holds the story of the world to be – its story of creation, fall, and redemption.[ii]

· Creation: How did it all begin? Where did we come from?

o This will tell us what paganism believes about prime reality and its nature, about the nature of mankind, and about how we can know things.

· Fall: What went wrong? What is the source of evil and suffering?

o This will tell us what paganism believes about right and wrong.

· Redemption: What can we do about it? How can the world be set right again?

o This will tell us what paganism believes about how a person can be rightly related to reality and about the meaning of human history.

Paganism – Plato and Aristotle through Kant to today

  • Creation – Paganism holds that ultimate reality is part of this world. This world has always existed in one form or another, and the “gods” which inhabit it are part and parcel of it. Aristotle believed in a Prime Mover that started everything we see and know. Mankind is the product of these “gods” or forces. Man knows what he knows only through the resources within himself (in Western history, this is usually reason). Plato has been particularly influential through his dualism. He said all of reality consisted of two realms: the realm of the Forms and the material realm. This applied to human nature as well. According to Plato, we are made up of form (mind) and material (body).
  • Fall – Paganism generally holds that morality (good and evil, right and wrong) originates in man, through his reason or desires. Paganism has real difficulty determining right and wrong. Common attempts have been to determine right by what achieves the highest good, by doing one’s duty, or by acting from proper motivation. Aristotle produced a sophisticated synthesis of these ideas known as “virtue ethics.” Kant produced his “categorical imperative.” The problems in the world are due to a lack of harmony of the appetites or desires within a man, or to a lack of the use of reason, or to a lack of willing the good. In practice, man becomes the measure of all things.
  • Redemption – Paganism commonly holds that a man can achieve the highest good through following the proper course of study or action and thus having “virtue.” In practice, man is the one who “saves” himself.

Christianity – Paul through the Reformation to today

We have already laid out the basics of the Christian worldview. But it is still helpful for us to have an understanding of how that worldview has been put into practice throughout history, both in good ways and in bad ways.

· Ancient Church History (A.D. 30 – A.D. 590)

o The apostolic era (to 100).

o The post-apostolic era (100-313), or the age of martyrs. This was the age of the recognition of the NT canon and of development of early statements of belief. However, it was also the time when a monarchical bishop developed in the church at Rome who claimed to be the successor to the apostle Peter. In the year 313, the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire.

o The old catholic imperial era (313-590), or the age of Christian emperors and patriarchs. This era is known for its councils which combated heresies and for its missionary work. However, there was also the development of monasticism, an elevation of materialistic, symbolic liturgy, and the development of the full primacy of the Roman bishop. The church became thoroughly integrated with the state.

Christianity in this era was sometimes influenced by Platonic ideas. For example, the most well-known thinker of this period, the brilliant Bishop of Hippo, Augustine, expressed some Neo-Platonist ideas.

· Medieval Church History (A.D. 590– A.D.1517)

o The rise of Latin-Teutonic Christianity (590-800).

o The Holy Roman Empire and the Great Schism (800-1054). Growing disputes between the eastern (Constantinople) and western (Rome) branches of the church culminated in 1054 with a split. On July 16, the Roman legates put a decree of excommunication on the patriarch of Constantinople. The patriarch responded by anathematizing the pope of Rome. (These decrees were finally removed on December 7, 1965.) There were now two “churches” claiming to be the true church. We will follow the story line of the Roman Catholic Church, for this is the major part of our heritage.

o The age of papal supremacy (1054-1294). The popes became particularly powerful at this time. There was also the development of the worship of Mary (including her immaculate conception), the worship of relics, and the dogma of transubstantiation.

o Corruption and controversy (1294-1517).

Toward the end of this era, Christianity was strongly influenced by Aristotle’s ideas, brought in particularly through Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-74). Aquinas maintained that a man may know truth apart from special revelation in areas of natural knowledge but that he needed additional light for that which transcended natural knowledge. He believed that humans were capable of doing good in their natural state, just not of doing the whole good natural to them. The natural ability of man was not grace, although it did come from God as the prime mover. Thus it in his system it was possible to develop law and ethics through reason alone.

· Modern Church History (A.D. 1517 to the present)

o Reformation and Counter-Reformation (1517-1648). The explosion that rocked the Roman Catholic Church and the Western world of that day is known as the Reformation, led by men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. It is known for its doctrines which contradicted Roman Catholic teaching:

1. The Bible is the ultimate authority for faith and practice. It is a complete and sufficient revelation from God for faith and life.

2. Justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

The Roman Catholic Church responded with a vigorous effort known as the Counter-Reformation. A key part of the counter-reformation was the Council of Trent. There were now three major groups which claimed the name “Christian:” Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Protestants.

o The Reformed Christianity came to America with the Pilgrims and Puritans. It held sway through the colonial era in New England. Nevertheless, by the time of the War for Independence, noticeable changes had taken place as the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment began to affect common thinking.

Immanuel Kant had a decided effect upon all European (and hence American) thinkers. His version of Platonic dualism is what he called the noumenal realm and the phenomenal realm. He believed that we can only know the phenomenal realm, but we have to postulate or suppose that there is a noumenal realm in order to explain certain features of our world, such as our idea of justice.

Christianity and paganism have interacted throughout our history as Americans. Christians have always been the poorer when they have embraced pagan (non-biblical) elements into their thinking. At times the pagan elements have effectively overshadowed truly Christian thinking.

Today one of the most pervasive impacts of pagan thinking upon Christian thinking is dualism. We tend strongly to think of life in split categories.



Sacred – revelation, faith

______________________________

Secular – reason, empiricism


We tend to think of our everyday lives in rationalistic categories – medicine, engineering, law, politics, economics, etc. These are all things that we figure out on our own, things that God is supposed to be involved in only in a secondary sense. But our “spiritual” lives – going to church, understanding the Bible, etc. – these are all things we have to go by what God says. But this is pagan thinking that has terrible effects on our ability to glorify and enjoy God.



[i] The definition of religion is a vexed issue without much consensus, but I have found Roy A. Clouser’s work The Myth of Religious Neutrality (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005) to be helpful in this regard. For his definition of paganism, see p. 44. Paganism, in this conception, is the inverse of pantheism, which holds that everything we experience is part of ultimate reality.

[ii] Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 25.

Bring Them Up in the Discipline and Instruction of the Lord

As if the evidence were not clear enough already, Christian parents must take note of what is going on with the public education establishment in our country. The NEA and the DoE are at war with parents. They want to train up your children in the discipline and instruction of paganism, plain and simple, and they will stop at nothing to achieve their objective. But as Christian parents, we have a plain command to train up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The contrast could not be clearer. We cannot be unequally yoked in the training of our children (2 Cor 6:14-7:1).

Please take a moment to read these important analyses.

1. "Parental Rights in Education" - timely and eye-opening words from Al Mohler.

2. Statement on the California gender indoctrination law by the World Congress of Families.

3. For some time now, Michael Farris and HSLDA have been working to promote a Constitutional amendment protecting parental rights. You can read an explanation of it here or here. On this point, I might add that a constitutional amendment may be a necessary but not sufficient protection for parental rights. Enacting a law, even at the level of the Constitution, can never substitute for transforming the core beliefs or worldviews of the populace and its leaders. It is precisely at this point that the church has a role. The church is not a political special interest group. It is the family of God bearing witness to Christ. As we proclaim the gospel, men are truly transformed. The church's ultimate ambition is not to preserve parental rights, per se. It is to see men and women repent of their sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord. Under the lordship of Christ, people will see the importance of parental rights.

If you have more than a few moments, read this book, Excused Absence: Should Christian Kids Leave Public Schools? by Douglas Wilson.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Second London Baptist Confession

Chapter 15 - Repentence unto Life and Salvation

15.4 Because we carry about with us (as Scripture tells us) a 'body of death' biased towards evil, repentance is to continue through the whole course of our lives. Hence it is every man's duty to repent of each particular sin of which he is conscious, and to do so with particular care. Luke 19:8; 1 Tim 1:13,15.

15.5 In the [plan of salvation] God has made full provision for the preservation of believers in a state of salvation, so that, although even the smallest of sins deserves damnation, there is no sin so great that it will bring damnation to them that repent. This renders the constant preaching of repentance essential. Isa. 1:16-18; Rom. 6:23.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ESV Literary Study Bible

In our class on interpreting the Bible, we have talked a little bit about study helps, among which are study Bibles. As I mentioned on Sunday, Crossway has just released the ESV Literary Study Bible. I do not have one, so I have not been able to evaluate it personally. The response I have seen, however, has been fairly positive.

My former Hebrew professor, Dr. Bob McCabe, has now posted some of his initial thoughts about the ESVLSB at his blog Fearing God in a Hebel World. He has examined the notes on the books of Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes, and has given them a positive review. I consider this high praise for the work, given that these books are one area of Dr. McCabe's expertise. (By the way, you may want to check out Dr. McCabe's website, Old Testament Studies, for studies particularly on recent creationism and Wisdom literature.)

So for those looking for a study Bible, check out the ESV Literary Study Bible. Here is a link to the website. It looks to be a good investment, and any investment in understanding the Word of God is eternally worthwhile.

Faith and Obedience

I recently purchased a work on biblical theology entitled Central Themes in Biblical Theology, edited by Scott Hafemann and Paul House. Right now I am working on the first essay by Scott Hafemann on the covenant relationship between God and his people. At this point I am not persuaded by the precise paradigm that Dr. Hafemann proposes, but I have found a great deal of constructive engagement with the Scripture which I am sure I will benefit from. I want to pass on one quote which will benefit you, as well.

...The covenant structure destroys all attempts to define 'faith' as a passive, mental assent to data from the past, or as an emotional attachment centred in private, religious 'experience.' The inextricable link between the provisions, stipulations and promises of the covenant reveals that to live in relationship with God is to respond with Spirit-determined obedience to God as the expression of one's ongoing trust in God. In Jesus' words, 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments' (John 14:15). Thus, 'Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him' (1 John 2:4; cf. 4:20). This obedience, therefore, is not something added to faith; it is the organic expression of faith itself. In other words, the commands of God simply make clear what trusting in God looks like in concrete circumstances. Hence, every command is an implicit call to trust God's provisions and promises (p. 39, emphasis added).

If you can remember our Sunday morning sermon from two weeks ago, this should immediately ring a bell for you. This is a theme that we will come back to time and again in our study of Deuteronomy. Loving the Lord our God alone means that we will obey his word.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Christ Fulfilled the Law

Jesus Christ fulfilled God's law. This is good news indeed. Our lives and eternal destinies depend upon it. So, if this is the case, how do we relate to the OT law as NT believers? Join us this Sunday to find out as we worship Jesus Christ as the fulfiller of God's law.

Songs
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (#90)
Join All the Glorious Names (#82)
The Solid Rock (#392)
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness (#400)
Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy (#300)
Not What These Hands Have Done (#347)

Scripture Reading
Walking in the Law of the Lord - Psalm 119:1-16

Sermon
Christ Fulfilled the Law - Matthew 5:17

Offensive Truth?

Ann Coulter and controversy go together well, so you may have heard about this latest episode. The Biblical Foundations blog posts a very biblical response.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Building a Culture of Faithfulness (Part 5)

Salvation and the Church

Now that we have seen the overview of God’s plan for all of history, we need to understand how we fit into the picture. We are living in the church phase of the outworking of God’s kingdom purposes. Jesus Christ himself has come, the ultimate revelation of God to man, and accomplished our redemption through his obedience. He is now in glory at the right hand of the Father, and he has sent his Spirit to apply redemption to men. Thus all who are reconciled to God through Christ have fellowship with God. The rule of God is mediated through Christ, who works through his body, which is the church.


Salvation

“Salvation” is a massive and beautiful concept in the Bible. The triune God’s work of saving men glorifies him supremely as Lord. If we are to understand the times we live in, we must understand what salvation is and what it is not, as well as how men are saved and how they are not.

  • Redemption Accomplished – Christ’s Atonement. Christ’s obedience in living a holy life, dying as a substitute for sinners, and rising again from the dead accomplished God’s plan of redemption.
    • Sacrifice – Because we are guilty sinners, a perfect blood sacrifice is necessary to bring final and permanent removal of guilt (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22, 26; 10:12).
    • Propitiation – Because we are under God’s wrath for our sin, we need a satisfaction of God’s wrath (Rom 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).
    • Reconciliation – Because we are alienated from and at war with God, we need a restoration of peace, harmony, and favor (2 Cor 5:18-19; Eph 2:16).
    • Redemption – Because we are enslaved to sin, we need a powerful ransom to free us (Matt 20:28; Eph 1:7).
    • Destruction – This is an aspect of Christ’s work that is related not primarily to our individual salvation but to accomplishing God’s kingdom plan for all of creation. Christ’s obedience destroys the power of the god of this world (Matt 12:29; John 12:31; Col 2:15; 1 John 3:8) and will bring all of creation back into harmony with God (Rom 8:18-22; Col 1:20).
  • Redemption Applied – The Spirit’s Application.
    • Union with Christ – This describes our identification with the atoning work of Christ, which is the source of all spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3). This relationship was decreed in eternity past and actually comes about at the point of repentance and faith.

o Election - Before the foundation of the world, God freely chose us to salvation in Christ, with all of its concomitant blessings and obligations (Eph 1:4-6; 2 Pet 1:2-3; 2 Thess 2:13).

o God’s call working through regeneration - God invites elect sinners to salvation and secures their willing response (Rom 8:29-30; 2 Thess 2:14; 2 Tim 1:9). The divine power inherent in the effectual call secures a willing response from the spiritually dead sinner by instantaneously and supernaturally imparting spiritual life and implanting gracious principles of action (John 3:3-8; Tit 3:5; 1 John 3:9).

o Repentance and faith - Repentance is a change of mind (including the intellect, emotion, and volition) away from sin (2 Cor 7:9-10; 1 Thess 1:9; Heb 6:1) and to God (Acts 20:21; 26:20; cf. Ps 51). It is the gift of God (2 Tim 2:25). Faith is a knowledge of, agreement with, and whole-hearted trust in the person and work of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures (John 20:31; Acts 16:31). It too is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9; Phil 1:29).

o Justification and definitive sanctification - Justification is the judicial act of God by which he declares the sinner to be righteous and treats him on that basis (Rom 3:21-28; 4:3; 5:1, 9). It involves the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to the believer (Rom 5: 18-19). At the moment of justification the believer experiences a definite deliverance from the reigning power of sin in his life (Rom 6:1-14).

    • Adoption - Adoption is a judicial act of God whereby he installs the believer into his family as an adult son, with all the attendant privileges (Gal 3:26; Eph 1:5).
    • Progressive sanctification - Sanctification fundamentally means to be separated from sin and set apart unto God. By the power of the Holy Spirit using the Word, the believer is progressively cleansed from sin and conformed to the image of Christ (John 17:17; 2 Cor 3:18; Phil 2:12-13; 1 Peter 1:14-16).

o Perseverance in the faith and eternal security - God guarantees the final salvation of all believers (John 6:39; 10:27-30). He does this by ensuring that believers will neither totally nor finally fall from a state of grace, but will persevere in faith and good works (Phil 1:6; 1 Pet 1:5; 1 John 5:1-5, 13, 18-20).

o Glorification - Glorification is the completion of God’s redemptive work in which the presence of sin is completely eliminated in the believer (1 Thess 3:13; 1 John 3:2) and immortality replaces mortality (1 Cor 15:35-57).


Church

What does God do with people that he saves? He places them into the body of Christ, which is the church.


The Importance of the Church

The church is important dispensationally for God’s program. During this administration of his kingdom, God is using the church as his primary instrument. His instrument is not Israel at this time. God has appointed his church to be the “pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). Missionary and discipleship endeavors are the prerogative and responsibility of functioning churches.

The church is important personally for our relationship with God. There is no way to walk in obedience to the Lord and in fellowship with him apart from the church. The Bible enjoins participation with fellow believers on us by precept (e.g. Heb 10:25) and example (e.g. Acts 2:42, 46). Baptism, which is a non-negotiable command and also a public confession of faith in Christ (Matt 28:19; Luke 9:26), is the initiation rite into membership in the local church (Acts 2:41). All of the one another commands of the New Testament are to be carried out in the context of the local church. The gifts of the Spirit are for the purpose of being exercised in the local church (1 Cor 12:7). The New Testament knows nothing of an unbaptized believer who is not affiliated with a local church.

The church is important for God’s glory. God designed the church to manifest his great wisdom to all, including the rulers and authorities in heavenly places (Eph 3:10). God also designed the church to be an everlasting trophy of his grace on display for all to see and admire (Eph 2:7).


The Nature of the Church


The church is the body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18, 24), composed of all believers baptized into the realm of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13) from the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5 with Acts 2) to the rapture (1 Thess 4:13-18), whether in heaven or on earth. The NT church is distinct from Israel (1 Cor 10:32; Gal 6:15-16).

The body of Christ is visibly manifested in any particular time and place through local assemblies of baptized believers (Matt 28:19; Acts 2:41-47; 1 Cor 1:2). These local churches

· hold to a common faith (Acts 2:42; 2 Thess 3:6; Jude 3)

· organize with regenerated membership and the biblical offices of pastor and deacon (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:1-13)

· observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper (Matt 28:19; 1 Cor 11:23-32)

· meet at regular and stated times for worship, preaching and teaching, fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2:42, 47; 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; Heb 10:25)

· carry out the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20; Luke 24:46-48; Acts 1:8) by making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ

· maintain their purity, identity, testimony, and effectiveness through church discipline (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5; 2 Thess 3:6-15; 2 Tim 3:5).


The Purpose of the Church


The church exists to bring glory to God by making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both fellowship with God and the rule of God are expressed in and through the church during this time.


What are some of the implications of this? First and foremost, if you want to understand what God is doing in the world today to advance his ultimate purpose, then you need to look for how Christ is building his church (Matt 16:18). You need to observe how the Spirit is at work convicting men of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11) and glorifying Christ (John 16:14). God’s work of saving men and placing them into his church is the center-stage event going on in the world today. You won’t find this reported in the newspapers or on TV networks. You won’t find the blogs buzzing about the latest developments. You won’t hear Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity talking about it. The world does not now understand, nor has it ever understood, what God is doing in the world (e.g. 1 Cor 2:6-10). Christians must make sure that we do understand!

Amazing Grace

John Newton (1725-1807)

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found;

Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord

Timothy Dwight (1752-1817), alt.

I love Thy church, O Lord,

The house of Thine abode,

The church our blest Redeemer saved

With His own precious blood.

For her my tears shall fall;

For her my prayers ascend;

To her my cares and toils be giv’n,

Till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy

I prize her heav’nly ways,

Her sweet communion, solemn vows,

Her hymns of love and praise.