Sic semper tyrannis (“thus always to tyrants”) was the cry of Brutus when he assassinated Julius Caesar. It is a cry for freedom in the face of tyrannical use of power, destroying an Empire for the free Republic. But behind every tyrant is the Dragon; deceiving Eve in the Garden, and deceiving tyrants – Pharaoh, Nero, Hitler – to make war on the children of promise. When a daughter of Eve gave birth to the Dragon Slayer, followers of Jesus know that we overcome the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb. Since Jesus has “overcome the world” (John 16:33) of tyrants, we trust that by His Spirit we ourselves are born of God and have overcome the world in Him (I John 5:4). In Christ we are more than conquerors over the Dragon, and “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20).
Not many years ago, we were told we needed a new reformation, this time of deeds, not creeds. That was Rick Warren in 2005, some 17 years ago using church growth methods. The emergent movement took postmodern thought and said we need a new trajectory, a reformation not from a new (biblical/theological) center, but with a new direction.
Now we are a long way from those naïve decades, and so a new call arises:
Now comes the call for yet another reformation, this time employing the most up-to-date methods of the zeitgeist: trauma, structural/systemic measurements, and intersectionality.Continue reading
Fides et ratio, faith and reason. Christians adopt the position of fides quaerens intellectum – “faith seeking understanding.” Or, showing their hand a bit more, credo ut intelligam – “I believe that I may understand” (Anselm). While reason may distinguish humanity from the animal kingdom, Christians have distinguished ourselves by remembering the importance of faith. Rather than allowing our reason to dominate our decisions and days, or even trying to hold the two in an uneasy tension, divine revelation requires us to shape our understanding and experience of the world, and we aim for a reason that submits to revelation as received in faith.Continue reading
“[The Advent story in Luke’s Gospel] also introduces the reader to some of the most powerful political powers of the time–and indeed, of all time.
Only then to ignore them.”
That’s how Rev. Bruce Clark begins his article at Mere Orthodoxy entitled “Advent and the Near Irrelevance of Political Power.” He points out that Luke – under the Holy Spirit – spends a great deal of time on shepherds, old fuddy-duddies like Simeon and Anna, but when Luke gets to Caesar:Continue reading
Everything I’ve written about intelligence starting with The Bell Curve has said explicitly: do not confuse IQ with moral worth. It just, you know… One of the problems here is the decline of religiosity, and I’m thinking specifically of Christian theology, which has as its central tenant that God does not judge people by their good works nor by their IQ scores, that this is irrelevant to human worth. And, it also teaches you to be very humble about your own frailities, your own mistakes, your own sins and the rest of it. There was built into Christians, serious Christians, an understanding, a gut level understanding of that truth, about moral worth and IQ just being separate planets.
“May God’s Son Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the mouths of those who lay false accusations against sound teaching, and equip faithful ministers of his Word with a spirit of wisdom and discretion, that all they say may be to the glory of God and the building up of their hearers. Amen.”
Today is a grim day. Reformed Christians have no true “holy-day” except the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10), nevertheless there are seasons and days that are important. Today is one of those important days to me, and it is a grim day.
St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, 1572
On August 24th, 1572, the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre was in full effect. Begun the night before with the attempted assassination of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, many of the wealthiest French Reformed Christians were in town for the wedding of Henry of Navarre. After a few days, as many as ten thousand were dead.
In Roman Catholic France, the Reformed faith was viewed as wicked and with suspicion, a foreign infection from Frenchman Jean Caulvin (John Calvin) inserting itself from Geneva. But despite the distrust of Protestant theology in Popish France, the Reformed faith was flourishing. In 1555, there were ten churches in all of France that held to Calvin’s Reformed theology. Just seven years later, there were 2,000 churches that were Reformed Protestant strongholds. These Reformed believers went forth boldly under that name “Huguenots.”Continue reading
Here is the recording of my presentation for the Regional Convivium Irenicum, 2021, at The Davenant House. It was a joy to be with those brothers and sisters!
During a research project on a different topic, I was so encouraged by Calvin’s words here:
…we have not perfect faith, and we have not given ourselves to serve God with such zeal as we are bound to do, but have daily to battle with the lusts of our flesh; yet, since the Lord hath graciously been pleased to print His Gospel upon our hearts, in order that we may withstand all unbelief; and hath given us this earnest desire to renounce our own thoughts and follow His righteousness and His holy commandments: therefore we rest assured, that our remaining sins and imperfections do not prevent us from being received of God and made worthy partakers of this spiritual food. For we come not to the Supper to testify hereby that we are perfect and righteous in ourselves; but on the contrary, seeking our life in Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that we lie in the midst of death.
The Christian life is a long war, a constant struggle, and I need reminders like the above in zealous battle against sin, and encouragement when we stumble. It reminds me of the importance of godliness, and the need for Holy Communion.
Some Christians seem to get through daily faith in an almost light, easy way. That has never been my experience. But I cannot begin to describe how hopeful and thrilling it is to be reminded that God has a plan for my unbelief; for my failings… for my sins. And His plan is to print His Gospel on my heart. As Philippians 2:12 – 13 reminds us, our Redeemer is even concerned for our desires and wants, to train our wills and ways in His holy obedience. So often, my best efforts to live the Christian life remind me that “I lie in the midst of death.” I see failure and destruction all around me. But when I lift my eyes off my own efforts, but His sovereign grace Christ enables me to see the shocking ways He is continually transforming me from within to conform to His holy law.
I was reading out loud to my son on Thanksgiving holiday. We were snuggled into sleeping bags and blankets by the fire. Two sentences into his 1915 legend White Fang, Jack London writes:
A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness—a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild…
On the sled, in the box, lay a third man whose toil was over,—a man whom the Wild had conquered and beaten down until he would never move nor struggle again. It is not the way of the Wild to like movement. Life is an offence to it, for life is movement; and the Wild aims always to destroy movement. It freezes the water to prevent it running to the sea; it drives the sap out of the trees till they are frozen to their mighty hearts; and most ferociously and terribly of all does the Wild harry and crush into submission man—man who is the most restless of life, ever in revolt against the dictum that all movement must in the end come to the cessation of movement…
On every side was the silence, pressing upon them with a tangible presence. It affected their minds as the many atmospheres of deep water affect the body of the diver. It crushed them with the weight of unending vastness and unalterable decree. It crushed them into the remotest recesses of their own minds, pressing out of them, like juices from the grape, all the false ardours and exaltations and undue self-values of the human soul, until they perceived themselves finite and small, specks and motes, moving with weak cunning and little wisdom amidst the play and inter-play of the great blind elements and forces.
Striking in its language, London employs the words of a systematic theology to describe the Incomprehensible Other of the frozen Wild: “silence,” “incommunicable wisdom of eternity,” “crushed weight,” and vast stillness. London writes of the Yukon and the Klondike as the scholastics wrote of the mysterium tremendum. The majestic immanence of the Wild reveals a horrifying transcendence.
At the end of chapter three, at a key narrative turn that could spell disaster for the protagonist before even coming into existence, London introduces a holy tautology: “But the Wild is the Wild…” Evoking the tetragrammaton of the Hebrew scriptures (“I Am is that I Am”), White Fang introduces readers to that which was, which is, and which is to come. The Wild is. The Wild is the Wild.
London is laying out his theology. The functional atheism of the Gold Rush cannot restrain the divine attributes of the frozen Wild. London’s characters are sinners in the hands of an angry Wilderness, at the mercy of its harshest elements. Where Captain Ahab faced an omnisciently cunning white whale, or Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley faced the Wholly Other of alien space, in London’s cosmos John Thornton (Call of the Wild), Weedon Scott (White Fang), and the chechaquo (“To Build A Fire”) face the most dangerous and omnipotent antagonist in the Wild. The divine presence is everywhere communicated in nature, and London writes of the eternal stillness of the frozen Wild for this purpose.
Salvation Among the Wolves
Riding the line of this boundary between divine nature and mortal tragedy are the protagonists, Buck (in Call of the Wild) and the eponymous White Fang. Early on, we discover that White Fang is actually a wolfdog, sired by a wolf father and wolfdog mother. This hypostatic union of feral wolf and domesticated dog is the main plot arc for White Fang, as the union of these two natures war for supremacy in the protagonist. Buck, who does not incarnate the two natures, tells the story of when a dog is predestined to remember its instinctual life in a wolf’s world.