MORNING BREATH TIMES TEN THOUSAND

I know that my breathe is not always so sweet-smelling. I get that.

But now my breath is in the ballpark of Smaug the Magnificent from The Hobbit. My breath is now deadly!

So deadly, in fact, that the government is mandating that I must wear an inhibitor whenever I go out in public.

And, by the way, your breath is not much better.


Thanks a lot, COVID19!

The Uncivilized City

Sometimes the city is brutal.

The other week, unbeknownst to me, the parking signs were switched. They were taken down from one side of the street and put on the other. This is a one-way street we’re talking about.

We received no notice - other than that some cars were oddly parked on (what I thought was) the wrong side of the street. Yet, there were other cars parked on what I thought (apparently wrongly) was still the correct side of the street.

The very next day, when I went out to use my car, there was a ticket on my windowshield, tucked nicely under my wiper. Not a notice. Not a warning. No. A ticket. For $50.

That is not kind. That is not civilized treatment. That is the brutal treatment of a meatgrinder which cares not what happens as long as it can keep churning up something. That is the machine at work.

That is not what a city is meant for. A city is meant for civilization. It is not meant to bring about inhumanity, but instead, it is meant to raise up citizens that would never do such a thing on purpose.

There is a phrase of Jesus’s that keeps coming to mind these days, which might apply here:

“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

It is hard to not lose heart when such ridiculous, wretched things happen. It is a kind of lawlessness disguised as lawfulness. And the confusion of these things - when up is down and hot is cold and bad is good - that easily brings darkness into the heart. The beautiful, vibrant red heart begins to be drained of its colour when such things happen.

But Jesus gave a further word that speaks to my heart as well, reviving it, enlivening it:

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:14).

(Caption: Not the ticket I received. Actually, whoever made this ticket seems quite civil!)

Build Back Better ... Citizens

I’m thinking of how often citizens deal with difficult situations in the subway or on the streetcars in the big city. There are some seasons when difficult or deranged people cause a stir on public transit. And it seems like people often just try to ignore it, or don’t know what to do about it, or lack bravery. And there is sure a sense that if you had to man-handle someone in order to save others that you would be the one to get in trouble.

So when I hear about defunding the police and about letting others - social workers, etc - step into difficult situations, I wonder if we actually have the kind of citizenry who can actually act justly and do mercy - without having to wear a uniform or have some kind of official government role where your actions will be backed up.

Maybe the problem is not so much the institutions, but depending on institutions to take care of every difficult situation.

Maybe one of the bigger problems we have is a weak citizenship, which has, for whatever reason, given too much power over to institutions. Are we a people that can reach out and help our troubled neighbours? In much of my experience in the city, neighbours are to be neither seen, nor heard.

And if we had communities building up better neighbours, and cities building up better citizens, then maybe we would have a better base for our communities and a stronger pool of individuals that would choose to don a uniform.

And I wonder … does anyone care about being a citizen? Or a neighbour? And what has gone wrong if a majority (or even a large minority) of people do not care about being a good neighbour or citizen?

Liberation to the Oppressor

In todays climate when some in society fatalistically circumscribe both oppressor and oppressed in their own clearly delineated tribes, here is the difference that God can make:

We believe that God “promises liberation to the oppressor and the oppressed”

It was refreshing to run across this very hopeful line in a creed-of-sorts. (Note: I would not myself assent to this particular ‘creed’ or statement of faith or whatever it may be. It’s focus is very this-worldly and liberationist. It came into my inbox from this source).

The Most Real Might Be The Least Obvious

I was recently wondering how it is that life perpetuates and continues, though there is continual decay and death. My initial thought was: how can a living creature spring from two dying creatures; and how does this go on generation after generation in perpetuity.

For some reason, a distant memory came to me. It was an echo from years goneby and I thought I might as well google what was echoing around in my thoughts: “thermodynamics.”

It turns out that I learned of the three laws of thermodynamics in school, and that these laws really speak into the first question I had about dying humans being able to create living ones and how this goes on generation after generation.

So, it is intereseting that my mind was able to drudge that up, since my memory generally is really terrible.

But the reason I’m blogging right now is to note another point of interest entirely.

I discovered that there are no longer only three laws of thermodynamics. No! There is now a fourth. Here is how I found out about it:

“The Zeroth law is so named as it came after the other 3. Laws 1, 2, and 3 had been around for a while before the importance of this law had been fully understood. It turned out that this law was so important and fundamental that it had to go before the other 3, and instead of renaming the already well known 3 laws they called the new one the Zeroth law and stuck it at the front of the list.” (From here.)

What I love about this (other than that it reminds me of what John the Baptist says about Jesus) is that it was the more basic law that was more difficult to unearth. They had these three laws figured out. But then there came a eureka moment for someone where they thought: hmmm … these three laws actually rely on something else we hadn’t really thought of, but which was unknowingly assumed all along.

I like that.

Why did it take longer to unearth this 4th, or zeroth law? Could it be that more basic truths are harder to see; or is it that they are more difficult to articulate? Could it be that what is most simple is actually least obvious to us; yet it is assumed in all that we do?

BEST OF - September 3, 2020

(Here are some articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. which I’ve either looked at or think I might want to look at. In other words, here is my “best of” or “most intriguing” list from today. Though, these are not necessarily from today; I might have just discovered them today. I may or may not agree with what is found in each of these, but they do stike me as at least interesting. They come in no particular order. And, though I’d like to summarize, analyse, and comment on each one - I can’t. In a way, this is my attempt to bring my inbox to zero.)



CHURCH - ECCLESIOOGY

The Central Place Of Common Prayer by Jonathan Stephen in Evangelical Magazine online (July/August 2020).

CANADIAN POLITICS

A Statue of Canada’s First Prime Minister Is Toppled, but Politicians Want It Restored : John A. Macdonald was a divisive figure who tried to wipe out Indigenous Canadian culture. Some leading politicians — including Trudeau — criticized the vandalism of his statue. by Dan Bilefsky in The New York Times (September 1, 2020).

CANADIAN SOCIETY

Exploiting a Woman’s Deadly Fall to Smear Toronto’s Police by Jonathan Kay in Quillette (August 30, 2020).

John Ivison: Trudeau’s ‘literally frightening’ spending plan has some Liberals, bureaucrats very worried : With three weeks until the government unveils its new agenda, the cracks are already beginning to show by John Ivison at the National Post (September 3, 2020).

POLITICS

Individual and National Freedom: Toward a New Conservative Fusion by Bradford Littlejohn in American Affairs Journal (August 20, 2020).

The Temptations of Power by Theodore Dalrymple at Law & Liberty (September 3, 2020).

The Morning Dispatch: Good News on Covid. No, Really. at The Dispatch (September 3, 2020).

PASTORAL MINISTRY

MacArthur: 4 ways to recognize a man of God by Jesse Johnson at Cripplegate (September 3, 2020).

CHURCH HISTORY

Luther and Africa By Gene Veith at Patheos (September 3, 2020).

CHRISTIAN LIVING

Love Believes All Things (Part 1) Pastor Dave Online (August 12, 2020). [Part 2] See also: (https://pastordaveonline.org/2020/08/17/love-believes-all-things-part-2/) Part 3.

A Philly Diner and the New Jerusalem (September 3, 2020).

  • I am really really appreciating this blog these days.

I Need Endurance By Cindy Matson at her blog (September 1, 2020).

CHRISTIANITY & CULTURE

A funny thing happened to Adele on the way to the Notting Hill Carnival by Stephen McAlpine (September 4, 2020).

  • This is really good to read. Also really good to be reminded how not every country is the USA. Hard for us in Canada to realize that our own country is quite different. Though, I do find myself worrying about increased pressure from protestors.

Wednesday “When is it right for a Christian to disobey the government?” from Ligon Duncan at Reformed Seminary - YouTube video (September 1, 2020). See also an indepth view on this from Bradford Littlejohn: Christ and Caesar: A Response to John MacArthur at Davenant Institute (August, 5 2020).

Critical Theory and the Cynical Transformation of Society: A Conversation with James Lindsay Albert Mohler interviewing James Lindsay (September 2, 2020).

Metaxas, Profanity, and Dignity by Samuel James at Cripplegate (September 3, 2020).

Love What’s Near by Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition (September 1, 2020)

CULTURE

Academics Are Really, Really Worried About Their Freedom : Some fear for their career because they don’t believe progressive orthodoxies. by John McWhorter at The Atlantic (September 1, 2020).

SOME VERY BROAD STROKES OF A VERY ROUGH SKETCH OF A THEORY OF CULTURE AND POLITICS

Where Christianity goes it tends to take over the culture because it is so appealing.

Where cultures are baptized (but of course only a mix of wheat and tares), there will tend to be an oscillating between two poles: 1) freedom and 2) restraint.

(I wonder if this holds true in non- western cultures.)

The balance seems to best be seen (and thus where peace and stability last longer) in a culture where both of the following are highly prized: 1) natural social constraint (family, community) and 2) freedom of conscience.

These are held together by a certain view of human nature.

Here there is individuality, but also community. There is restraint and freedom.

Not only is there oscillating between freedom and restraint, but the biblical model of how this works out is really amazing: turning away from God leads to this downward spiral of events wherein people forget God and then cry out for him when in trouble; God raises human leaders to help the people and stabilize them and shepherd them; but add the spiral proceeds, the leaders become increasingly bad. This is the deteronomistic history of blessing, forgetting, and spiralling into exile. This is the story of Judges. This is Paul’s theory of culture where people turn from God bit by bit and God hands them over to their fleshly desires bit by bit.

I wonder if with a “Christian” society if things change a bit from this more OT model? Is it much more of a pendulum, and less of a downward spiral? That is, maybe it takes longer for the degrading of society (the downward progress of the spiral) because there is much more of a check on it due to Christian folks? That is, because the people are different because the law is written on the heart?

It is also true that the reaction against Christianity can and will be very strong. I do think that the Bible paints a picture that before the coming of Christ again in the flesh (albeit this time a spiritualized, immortalized flesh) there will be great trial in the world for the faithful and that the main power(s) of the world will be controlled by satan.

It is only Christ’s coming and directly ruling on the earth that will bring in heaven on earth.

Carl Trueman and Bo Grimes' thoughts on Church Attendance, COVID19, Ecclesiology, and More.

Here are some snippets from a few recent articles on similar themes:

CARL TRUEMAN

Carl Trueman’s thoughts on church attendance, COVID, and ecclesiology: A PROTESTANT APOCALYPSE?.

“In conversation with many ministers, I have noticed one key concern again and again: How many Christians will return to church once COVID has stabilized? It is anecdotal at best at this point, but the figure often cited in my presence is 30 percent: Three out of every ten pre-COVID worshipers might stay away for good. “

”… the issue of how the physically absent Christ can be present is determinative of how we understand worship and its constituent elements. And it therefore has an obvious bearing on how we think of online worship in relation to a physical congregational assembly.”

“For Protestants, Christ is present via the proclamation of his word and (for good Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed types at least) through the sacraments, but only when they are set within the larger context of the word preached. And that makes the difference between a physical gathering of the church and one that is online somewhat harder to articulate at a theological level. Hearing a sermon online is still possible in a way that eating the sacramental elements is not.”

“Of more significance are the elements of worship: the reading and the proclamation of the Word, prayer, singing and, yes, the sacraments. And all of these require present, communal action. Even preaching is in a sense a dialogue between the God who confronts his people with his presence through his Word and the people’s response in faith and repentance. Does that require the immediate, physical proximity of preacher and people? Not in an absolute sense…. But immediate physical proximity is best. It may be hard to articulate why this is so, in the same way that it can be hard to articulate why a live concert or theater performance is superior to watching the same on the television, but it is true nonetheless. A personal word is best delivered in the context of the messenger meeting with the recipient.”

So what if only 30% return to church?

“So what will be revealed if vast swathes of Protestants do not return to physical church when COVID finally settles down? Surely that the theology of preaching as God’s confrontational presence in and through proclamation has at some point been supplanted in the minds of many by a notion that it is merely a transmission of information or a pep talk. And that listening as active, faithful response has correspondingly been reduced to a passive reception, of the kind that televisions and countless other screens have made the default position. To put it another way, it will reveal that preachers have become confused with life coaches or entertainers, and congregations have been replaced by audiences and autonomous consumers.”

BO GRIMES

See On Covid19, the Nature of Church, and Reopening by Bo Grimes at Theopolis (August 18, 2020).

“I wonder how many will feel the churches failed their witness and responsibilities, to each other and the world, and won’t return because it seems hollow now in light of that, true or perceived.”

“The thing that distresses me the most is the fear that the delay in fully reopening will generate a new concept and acceptance of normal, and that it will also accelerate an already growing tendency many have lamented for years; that is, disembodiment.”

“I know that God is with us in reality even when we worship virtually, but the very word ‘virtual,’ if people paused over it long enough, would highlight its insufficiency. Imagine sustaining your body on virtual food! …. We can sing and pray at the same time, but does that make it “together” when we can’t hear or see one another?”

“One reason I have resisted text and web tithing until now is I think the Offertory is an important part of worship, and the physical act of placing it before God during worship with my body is an ordinary means of grace that helps make me a better steward.”

”‘Where our ancestors enjoyed music by doing [emphasis original] it, we enjoy music by listening to others do it.‘”

“One of the biggest problem with ecclesiology today is defining the Church merely functionally and not considering it ontologically. The Church is not just an instrument to accomplish God’s purposes. It is foundationally an actual incarnational expression of God’s ultimate purpose. The ‘profound mystery’ Paul writes of in Ephesians is the Incarnational nature of the Church. “If the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, which we believe, and if the Spirit indwells believers, which we believe, then in a very real, but mysterious, way the Church is the on-going Incarnation of Christ. No individual believer, no gathered congregation, no branch, denomination, or sect is in any sense divine, is in any sense Christ; nonetheless, the Church is not just metaphorically the hands and feet of Jesus any more than the bread and wine is mere bread and wine. The idea demands both caution and deep humility, but such is the nature of mysteries.”

“When we lose sight of the ontological we risk creating a sociological definition of the Church as service provider catering to the needs of individuals.”

“Jesus said ‘if you love me you will keep my commands.’ One of those commands is the Great Commission with three strong action verbs: go, make, teach. “Go into the world” now faces the exact same barriers as ‘come unto me.’ …. How about churches in poor areas of cities where most of their members walk or take public transportation?”

“Just like those who are privileged to be able to telework and order grocery deliveries and shop on-line (and are like “What’s the big deal?”) many churches with mostly educated, middle-class members seem to have no sense of solidarity with those who can’t. It’s simply not true that everyone can do everything on-line, no matter how much those who can think it is. Is this love? How do we love our neighbor who needs to walk into a church in order to worship?”

“I don’t see how the Church can “go, make, and teach” well if we don’t “come” well”

“We should worship more, not less. If church leaders and staff are at risk, too far away, or can’t do it all, lay leaders could do vespers or an even shorter compline almost every night of the week. We could do some at midday, or even mornings. They could be without a homily or we could use a condensed version from the prior Sunday, or one of the “classics” of the Reformation or early church (say, Chrysostom), or the lay leaders could write a short meditation.”

“What we rank-and-file ‘grunts’ with gifts aplenty except for the gift of leadership need and yearn for is commanders who will be in the lead boat, the first wave ashore, gesturing back at us yelling ‘Come on, you sons of [God], do you want to live forever!’ ”Leaders need to stop just diagnosing the disease and start being Joseph showing how to fight by leaving their garments in Potiphar’s wife’s hands and going to jail. They need to actually lead us to:

”’[T]ake the mystery and the joy of the feast into the streets. Our enemies will not use the phrase ‘freedom of religion,’ but only ‘freedom of worship.’ They fear that freedom of religion will be too public a thing. Then let freedom of worship be a public thing. Bring it forth, bring it outdoors. It will make people uncomfortable. Well, let them be made uncomfortable; all truly great things make us uncomfortable.

“Eugene Peterson wrote: ‘It is the task of the Christian community to give witness and guidance in the living of life in a culture that is relentless in reducing, constricting, and enervating life.’ Covid19 has done all three, and it just seems to me that we could bear witness to and guide the world in living life under a pandemic better by having more, smaller services, enacting our story and not theirs.”

BEST OF - September 2, 2020

Here are some articles, blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. which I’ve either looked at or think I might want to look at. In other words, here is my “best of” list from today. Though, these are not necessarily from today; I might have just discovered them today. I may or may not agree with what is found in each of these, but they do stike me as at least interesting. They come in no particular order. And, though I’d like to summarize, analyse, and comment on each one - I can’t. In a way, this is my attempt to bring my inbox to zero.


Quote for Fredrik deBoer’s new book. Looks like an interesting book.

What Liberals Get Wrong About Work: Unfettered markets and a rampant culture of meritocracy have eroded the rewards and dignity of work for most Americans. It’s time for a new ethic of “contributive justice.” by Michael J. Sandel in The Atlantic (September 2, 2020). I really really like Sandel.

No Justice, No Peace? by E. J. Hutchinson in Breaking Ground (September 1, 2020).

A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory by Tim Keller (Summer 2020).

Tim Keller, David Fitch, and Justice David Fitch pushes back on Tim Keller’s recent statement about justice by David Fitch (August 24, 2020).

S6: E1 Foundations: Tim Keller & Justice: Part 1 podcast from MissioAlliance.

Top Canadian sex researcher quits scientific group after being blasted for views on transgender issues Cantor says such attitudes are a form of ‘emotional blackmail’ that disqualify people whose views lie between the extremes of anti-trans hatred and militant trans activism by Tom Blackwell in the National Post (August 25, 2020).

A Politics of Nietzschean Righteousness A review of Mark Mitchell’s new book, Power and Purity by Bradley Watson at Law & Liberty (September 2, 2020). I quite like Mitchell.

A Shortcut to Happiness: Why Accomplishing Your Goals Won’t Satisfy by Reagan Rose (September 2, 2020).

THE BOOKS BEHIND THE RAGE by Sohrab Ahmari at First Things (September 1, 2020).

Airlines around the world are bleeding cash Jets are flying half empty with passenger traffic down almost 80% in July Financial Post (Spetember 1, 2020).

INEQUALITY AND AGENCY: MORAL AND CULTURAL INEQUALITY, NOT INCOME INEQUALITY, ARE THE REAL PROBLEMS FACING SOCIETY by R. R. Reno at First Things (March 2014).

New Conservative leader Erin O’Toole names MP Candice Bergen as his deputy O’Toole is also naming Quebec MP Gerard Deltell as the Tories’ House leader and Richard Martel as his Quebec lieutenant in the National Post (September 2, 2020).

Canada won’t back down in softwood dispute with U.S., Trudeau vows at CTV News (September 2, 2020).

WORK AND PLAY Michael Oakshott at First Things (June 1995).

White Privilege: Where Do We Go From Here? by Paul Louis Metzger on Patheos (August 9, 2020). I believe this is a video.

Two Very Good Options by a missionary (September 1, 2020). I really like this blog.

Human Interests and Technological Systems by Michael Sacasas in his regular update (September 2, 2020).

3 WAYS TO TEACH BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS THROUGH YOUR SERMONS by Andy McLean in LifeWay Voices (Septe3mber 2, 2020).

Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like… : It’s about the spike by Ari Schulman, Brendan Foht, Samuel Matlack in The New Atlantis (2020).

When Unanimity is the Enemy of Unity by Tim Challies on his blog (September 2020).

Prudence in a Storm: Restrained action in a crisis is no wiser than panic in normal times. by Yuval Levin in The New Atlantis (April 8, 2020).

Shining light in a dark and drowsy world by Barbara on her blog (August 30, 2020).

When Change and Tears Are Past by Madelyn Canada on her blog (August 31, 2020).

The Woke Creation Myth by James Lindsay on New Discourses (September 1, 2020).

How Activists Of Colour Prioritize Joy In Organizing: Black women are at the forefront of “pleasure activism.” by Al Donato on Huffington Post (September 1, 2020).

The Big Tech Extortion Racket by Micah Mattix at The American Conservative (September 1, 2020).

White Privilege, Class, and Racism - according to Malik

Interesting article from Kenan Malik. Has been a while since I’ve read his blog - though it is sent to me regularly. I think I got a bit scared of him since he is a left-winger and intelligent and I don’t always know what to do with these intelligent lefties. :)

Anyways, here is the article: race, class and white privilege: a response

In the article Kenan says a few interesting things about white privilege, racism, and clasism.

First, on white privilege:

“Underlying the “white privilege” thesis are two basic claims. [1] First, that being “white” is a useful category in which to put everyone from the CEOs of multinational corporations to the cleaners in an Amazon warehouse. [2] And, second, that being in such a category imbues people with privileges denied to those not in that category. Are either of these claims true?”

In response to #1, the answer is ‘no’ - there is no “essence” of “whiteness”:

“We recognize that all whites do not have a common identity, that the interests of white factory workers or shelf-stackers are not the same as those of white bankers or business owners, but are far more similar to those of black factory workers or Asian shelf-stackers.”

In response to #2, Kenan has a twopart answer:

[a] “First, it is not a “privilege” not to have to face discrimination or bigotry; it should be the norm. … Framing the absence of oppression or discrimination or bigotry as a “privilege” is to turn the struggle for justice on its head.”

[b] “Second, the concept of white privilege fails to distinguish between “not being discriminated against or facing bigotry because of one’s skin colour” and “having immunity from discrimination or bigotry because one is white”. The distinction is important. Many whites, because of privileges afforded by wealth and class, do have immunity against discrimination. But many others, who are poor or working class, do not. Their experiences of state authority or of policing is often similar to that of non-whites.”

Second, on Classism:

The major issue in terms of being underprivileged, it seems, is class

”… But it makes littles sense to view police killings and mass imprisonment in terms of “white privilege” when poor and working class whites do not enjoy such privilege.”

Third: Racism

Malik does say that racism is a problem, and that racism tends to keep black people in the lower classes of society:

” It is certainly the case that African Americans are disproportionately poor and working class. It is also the case that racism plays a major part in ensuring they are so.”

“I have not at any point denied the existence of racism, nor do I know of any leftwing critic of the white privilege thesis who does so. It is precisely because I am concerned with challenging racism that I am critical of the claims about white privilege. Yes, African Americans (and other minority groups) are disproportionately working class and poor, and, yes, racism plays a significant part in explaining why this is so. But that, as I have already pointed out, is not the same as demonstrating the existence of “white privilege”.”

My OWN HIGHLY INCOMPLETE, YET IMPORTANT REFLECTIONS:

I’m not stating my agreement with what Malik writes. I really do appreciate the nuance; and I find his work throught-provoking.

I suppose one question I have is what bond is stronger or should be stronger - the shared traditions, lineage, or upringing of people of the same race, or between people of the same location, city, country, etc. ? This will effect the way one looks at classism.

(Or, are we all “citizens of the world” without any real distinct connections to the people around us?)

For instance, who is a caucasion poor man more obliged to? A rich caucasion of the same upbringing, or family, or tradition? Or is that poor caucasion man more obliged to another poor person - someone of the same class?

As far as I can see, Malik, a modern man, does not take this view of natural obligation or natural law/oath into consideration.

And then, of course, Christians have to consider how loyalty to and worship of Jesus as well as subjection to authorities, churchgovernance, and natural family order fit into all of this as well.

Disappearing Remnants of Loveability

I recently came across one of the most chilling lines I have ever read.

First, a little background.

In his 1969 Massey Lectures, George Grant describes the will-driven, manipulative thinking that is so central to late modernism.

In fairly recent history, this will-driven, manipulative thinking was employed by the likes of Marx and others to try to create and force upon humanity a utopian society. (Grant says that this same type of will-governed objective-thinking is endemic of modern science, as well as American liberalism and national socialism.)

Grant says that at least such a will-to-create had an end. It had a goal - utopia. Revolution is justified if the end result is utopia, so the thinking went. The same was true in regards to technology, since it would result in better living and eventually perfect leisure.

But Grant sees a further development with this kind of will-to-manipulate: The next step will be for there to be no real end goal to all of this manipulative knowledge. Clever people will change, manipulate, and create simply for the sake of willing itself. It would matter not what they would create. They will consider themselves artists.

And in this context comes this very chilling line:

“This movement inevitably grows among the resolute as the remnants of any belief in a lovable actuality disappear” (Time As History p. 19).

What is chilling is the horror of anyone saying that there is nothing good, nothing lovely, nothing beautiful and noble in God’s creation. How could a person live like that?!?! Without gratitude; without repose; without awe; without guilt at transgressing; and on and on. What a terribly cold and aweful universe!!

And what is more chilling is my next thought: I worry that many are already at this point where there are few or no “remnants of any belief in a lovable actuality.” This is real tragedy. How many live without having real joy in reality, without finding God’s creation beautiful and lovely and good?

But maybe we can’t see out of the box of late modernity that we’ve been squeezed into. What does it look like to treat reality as good, where we shouldn’t be manipulating it? Here is a lengthy and helpful quote from Grant, where he contrasts the current view (of the reality we must manipulate) with the classic view (of the reality that we are to conform to).

First, on the modern view:

“On Marx’s tomb at Highgate in London is inscribed his most famous aphorism: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.’ Here we are called to master the world through our doing and to make it as we want it” (p. 16).

And then Grant continues with the contrasting and more ancient (classical) view of reality:

“Greek heroes were summoned to be resolute for noble doing, but their deeds were not thought of as changing the very structure of what is, but as done rather for the sake of bringing into immediacy the beauty of a trusted order, always there to be appropriated through whatever perils” (p. 16).

CANADIAN HISTORY & IMPERIALISM - Of Which Sort?

I’ve been trying to become acquainted with Canadian history. Unfortunately, I cannot remember much from my grade school studies. As well, good discussion on Canadian history doesn’t seem to come up clearly in general discourse, the media, etc.

I’ve come to a conviction that I should know my country. And that I should be able to comment on it with at least some amount of intelligence. I think that will lead me to be able to be a better citizen and lover of the people of my nation.

So I’ve been readinging Peter H Russell’s Canada’s Odyssey: A Country Based On Incomplete Conquests. The book spans the course of Canadian history from pre-Confederation to post World War II. And it looks at this history with a fascinating thesis in view: that French-speaking as well as First Nations Candians

“… do not accept that the tide of history has somehow washed away these nations of their first allegiance or diluted their constitutional significance. Their enduring presence as ‘nations within’ Canada is fundamental to understanding Canada, as is the often troubled, uncomfortable accommodation of these ‘nations within’ by the country’s English-sepaking majority” (Russell, page 1).

Russell builds the case that to understand Canada in a fundamental way is to realize that there are somehow three nations within one and the English-speaking hold the most power due to their being the majority.

I don’t yet know if his case is compelling, as I need to research more thoroughly and ponder more deeply. I do think I’m more sympathetic than I was before - not to his thesis (at least, not yet), but especially to the peoples of the First Nations.

I am beginning to clue into the fact that Russell is reading history within a certain framework of thought. And this drives is hopes for what Canada should. This rationality also impacts his religious and moral vision.

FIRST, about Russell’s hope for Canada’s political makeup:

Russell believes that Canada should be more like the European Union, or like the United Nations, where there are different sovereign nations that come to the table under a certain system of equity, discussion, regulations, etc.

My proof for this is his approval of some thoughts of Lord Acton:

“He contended: ‘The coexistence of several nations under the same state is a test, as well as the best security of freedom.’ In the middle of the nineteenth century, and for a long time afterwards, Acton’s was a liberal voice crying in the wilderness. But in the long run it is Acton’s ideal of the peoples of a multinational state sharing a liberal democratic civic culture that charts the path along which Canada would develop and flourish” (page 112).

SECOND, Russell’s religious and moral vision is also driven by a particular view:

I believe Russell to be an advocate for religious pluralism. That is, he not only believes that a nation should be open to a variety of religions, but that no religion is true. I’m sure that those who were founding Canada did not believe the same to be true.

This pluralistic thinking necessarily affects the way Russell thinks about Christianity - which is a monotheistic religion, claiming that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

Here is example #1:

“Also, an assimilationist purpose underlay Christian efforts to help native peoples. Christians of this era assumed they had a lock on religious truth, and consequently lacked respect for Amerindians’ spiritual traditions and were intolerant of their spiritual pluralism” (page 88).

And here is #2:

“Fervent belief in Christianity’s lock on spiritual truth imbued imperial rule over native peoples with moral passion” (page 181).

Russell might very well be right on the hopes, purposes, and tactics of these Christians. Yet his use of words reveals an underlying disdain.

From the first example, the words “assumed” and “lock” provide the keys to the kingdom of his heart. Russell could have easily written: “Christians of this era were under the conviction or believed that they had a lock on religious truth.” (It must be added that this is a properly Christian belief.) To write “assumed” implies that they most certainly didn’t have such a “lock” on truth.

And what does it mean that the Christians should “respect” the “Amerindians’ spiritual traditions”?

Of course, Christian beliefs must be faithfully and lovingly worked out in particular circumstances in different ways. But if by “respect” Russell means “accept” or “affirm,” then that would be quite wrong. Yet if Russell means that Christians should not be deceitful or something like that, then Russell is quite right. Or if he means that Christians should understand the earnestness and deep-rooted nature of the spiritual traditions of the Amerindians, then he is quite correct as well.

Yes, Christians have the firm conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord of all creation and is to be worshipped. And, of course, there would be an accompanying passion and a desire for all peoples to worship the one true God. These are necessities. What is not a necessity is exactly how this truth is to be lived out in the context of others who do not hold the same beliefs. That is, one can hold these properly Christian beliefs and feelings and yet act on them in different ways.

I hope I am not being over-sensitive. But I think I correctly detect Russell’s scorn of exclusivist religion in the second example as well. Why else use the words “fervent” and “lock” and possibly “moral passion”? He seems to be trying to gather people to his opinion by emphasizing the folly of exclusivist religion by clothing it with these words.

Maybe Russell is doing his best to simply state a fact. But then he could have written something more like: “They believed that their monotheistice faith necessitated imperial rule over the native peoples.”

Russell very much seems to be charging this kind of belief - that Jesus is Lord - with being simply wrong. And that is interesting in itself, for that means he is not being genuine in his pluralism. Or, perhaps, this is just a case which shows up pluralism’s assimilationist and imperial purposes.

In fact, I wonder if the two example quotes highlighted above might be rewritten for our own age:

“Also, an assimilationist purpose underlay pluralist’s efforts to help Christians. Pluralists of this era believed they had a lock on religious truth, and consequently lacked respect for Christians’ spiritual traditions and were intolerant of their spiritual exclusivism.”

And, the other:

“Fervent belief in pluralism’s lock on spiritual truth imbued imperial rule over Christian peoples with moral passion.”

NOVELS IN NUTSHELLS - HOW TO READ AND ENJOY THE PROVERBS

Plant an acorn in good soil and it should grow. It will sprout above ground. It will eventually be a large oak tree, if all things go well.

I’ve begun from little to large. But now let me go in the other direction.

A Jane Austen novel can be a lengthy, daunting, but rewarding read. Mansfield Park gives one the picture of family interactions, history, and, probably most dear to Austen: a picture of how morality is lived out (or not) over time.

Taking the volume of pages down from Mansfield Park, we can look at short stories.

Then down from there we might read a fairy tale or perhaps a fable. Hans Christian Anderson wrote short stories to communicate moral truths to children (The Ugly Ducky, for instance). The Grimm brothers did the same (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood). Aesop fits in this category as well (The Boy Who Cried Wolf).

As we reduce in size, we also reduce in complexity. Jane Austen gives us some complex scenarios and characters. Hans Christian Anderson, the brothers Grimm, and Aesop give us less complicated stories and characters that act less like real people and more like symbols. The characters are symbols of bravery or wisdom, or wickedness, etc. Matters get more black and white the shorter these go.

Now, If Jane Austen gives us the Oak tree fully grown, and Andersen, the Grimm’s, and Aesop give us a three foot oak, then the Biblical proverbs are like the acorn, or perhaps something slightly bigger.

The biblical proverbs are generally quite short (especially after you get past chapter 9). And they are quite black and white: Do evil and evil will follow; be righteous and good will come.

But packed within these short sayings is a whole world. Packed in these are stories of contrasting lives, families, whole peoples.

To my mind, this is part of what makes the book of Proverbs so fascinating. And valuable. Jane Austen novels are well-written, and the characters get into your imagination and you live with them for quite a while. Andersen’s fairy tales are enchanting and help us see how magical and interesting is this world that God has given us. But _I think these short proverbs in the Bible are interesting just because they don’t give us much detail_.

With the lack of detail, God summons our imaginations to interact and meditate on these somewhat strange black and white nuggets of wisdom. We might read the first half of Proverbs 10:24 - “What the wicked dreads will come upon him” - and we have to draw forth and supply a lot of imagery and context on our own. We have to ask ourselves if we have any experience of this being true and who it is in our memory. Perhaps we think of a story, or a Disney movie. In this case a friend thought of a mafia-like character, who lives in constant dread, having to watch their back; and eventually their corrupt ways come back on them and they are double-crossed, etc.

All the while we are doing this, our imaginations are being shaped and challenged by the proverb we have just read. And, as well, our minds are being pried open to be shaped around reality as God has given it. He shapes our imaginations and minds not so that we can escape, but so that we can see and enter into reality - into life!

At the beginning of Proverbs we read: > 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—

5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,

6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.

Now, it is my belief that the first 9 chapters of Proverbs are given especially for youth in mentoring relationships; so, this fulfills the goal put forward in 1:4, quoted above.. But after the first 9 chapters in Proverbs, things change. No longer is a Father-Mentor speaking to a Son-disciple. Instead, I belive that Proverbs 1:5 and 6 the become the prominent goal of Proverbs: “to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.”. In verse 6 the Proverbs are spoken of as “riddles.” Riddles are mental games. They are to be played with. And that is what we are invited to do in Proverbs. We are invited to play with them, so that they can shape our thoughts, our heart, our imagination - and therefore to change our lives.

The back and white sayings are more limited in terms of nuance. But they surprisingly give us space to play, to imagine, to know reality for ourselves.

God wants the book of Proverbs to shape our imaginations, to set aright our confused desires, to call us to repentance, to renew our hope, and to lead us into transformed hearts and minds. And we enter into that process by trusting God’s words, being open to them, and by engaging with these “riddles,” these universes-in-a-nutshell, these novels in a nutshell.

Walking in Wisdom #13 - Proverbs 6:12-19

STRUCTURE / OVERVIEW

6:1-5 - Caught in a pledge

6:6-11 - Laziness

6:12-15 - Perverseness

6:16-19 - What the LORD hates.

Proverbs 6:1-19 seem to go together as four vignettes on some practical issues. But I’m breaking that up into two groups of two.

Here is how I see the connection of these two groups: If the opposite of Proverbs 6:1-11 is Hebrews 12:1-2 (which emphasizes hard work and following Christ), then the opposite of Proverbs 6:12-19 is Philippians 2:1-11 (which speaks to unity and humility).


UNITY/DISCORD IN PROVERBS 6:12-19

The theme of these verses is discord and the person who destroys good community through the evil plans which hatch from the heart like vile serpents. God loves unity; the devil loves discord. God fights for unity through His justice; the devil and all who follow him make plans for division. This theme of discord is found in both sections of Proverbs 6:12-19:

In the first section:

“with perverted heart devises evil,

continually sowing discord;” (v. 14)

And then again in the second section, in vv. 18 and 19:

a heart that devises wicked plans, (18a)

and one who sows discord among brothers. (19b)

How different is this person from the one who follows Wisdom, and from the one who has Christ’s Spirit within:

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:1-5).

“ANATOMY OF DISCORD”

These verses are the exact opposite of what has been called the “anatomy of discipleship” found in 4:20-27 (which I wrote about here). Both “anatomy” sections use a lot of body imagery. And one can hear Paul saying similar things in Romans 6, especially in verses 12-13:

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (Romans 6:!2-13).

Here is what commentator David Hubbard says on this theme:

“… the focus on parts of the body demonstrates the total involvement of the wicked people in their scheme - ‘eyes’ (vv. 13, 17), ‘mouth’ or ‘tongue’ (vv. 12, 17), ‘feet’ (v. 13, 18), ‘finger’ or ‘hand’ (vv. 13, 17), ‘heart’ (vv. 14, 18). They epitomize, with this consuming engagement of their whole selves in plotting harm to others, the kind of life against which the teacher sharply warned in 4:20-27, which also abounds with body talk” (Hubbard, 104).

The heart plays a central role in this “anatomy” lesson, as it did in Proverbs 4:20-27. Perversion and discord come from hearts that have not cherished and guarded words of Wisdom, but are seeking for short-term and for individual gain.

The “input” that the man of discord cherishes comes from his own senses and is due to the fact that he cannot lift his eyes above the patterns of the world. He has trained himself to desire what can only be acquired in this life. He has an agonistic view of life, thinking that the best things in life come in limited quantitees and that the only way to get these desireable things is at the expense of others.

Therefore, this man’s “output is discord and the tearing apart of people and communitees. We must be very wary of such a person!

EMPTINESS

What a repulsive picture is painted of the man in these verses! the “worthless person” of vv. 12-15 is best understood as the “empty” person. The Hebrew word being translated is “belial,” which occurs in a few other places in both the Old and New Testaments. Ultimately, it comes to be a term for the devil (2 Corinthians 6:15).

”… his life is a zero, emptied of all truth, goodness, righteousness, and justice…” (Hubbard 102).

This sounds like what C. S. Lewis called “men without chests” in his book, The Abolition of Man. This is the incomplete man. This is the man of no moral worth. This is a man who is not really a man, but rather a shrivelled up gollum.

QUESTIONS

~ What are the whispers in your heart saying these days? Are you hatching divisive plans?

~ What do you need to repent of?

~ What difficulties will you endure so as not to sow discord?

Walking in Wisdom #12b - Proverbs 6:6-11

STRUCTURE / OVERVIEW of PROVERBS 6:1-19

6:1-5 - Caught in a pledge

6:6-11 - Laziness

6:12-15 - Perverseness

6:16-19 - What the LORD hates.

Proverbs 6:1-19 does seem to be a single unit - four vignettes on some practical issues. But I will be breaking these up for the purpose of slowing down the teaching.


Caricature and Mockery Break the Illusion

Caricature plays an important role in Proverbs. And here such caricature of the lazy man is present as a mockery, as the opposite of flattery.

Of course, mockery is not right in every situation. And perhaps sometimes it does more harm than good. But there is a place for mockery. God tries to get through to the lazy man, the sluggard, through this mockery. He is also trying to prevent us from falling down into this particular trap.

Like most of the vices in Proverbs, sluggardliness rests in an illusion about reality. When laziness is displayed for what it is, it breaks the prideful illusion that the sluggard rests in. The sluggard believes that he can be at leisure almost indefinitely, because he is secure, because, of course, he is important.

The mockery here comes when the sluggard is told to get his face right down to the ground and to look at the lowly ant.

“This sarcastic bit of artistry is one of the choice pieces of biblical poetry. Dramatically it addresses the pupil not as who he is but as who he may become - a ‘sluggard’ (vv. 6, 9). …. The bite of sarcasm is felt in the contrast between the diligence of the ant and the indolence of the sluggard” (Hubbard, 100).

Of course, we appreciate leisure. And rest is important. The problem with the sluggard is that they feel entitled to it, and that they have no real sense of timing and season.

“In a way, it’s quite natural. We all enjoy leisure. There is nothing wrong with that. But like anything else, we may not be able to have as much as we want as soon as we want. We can mess up our lives if we can’t resist the desire for leisure in order to get what we need. “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor” (Prov. 21:25)” (Horne, loc. 841).

“Unlike the sluggard of 20:4 [the ant] does take action at the right time to prepare for the future. … The time during which appropriate action must be taken is limited…” (Lucas, 228).

This inability of the lazy man to be able to distinguish between times of work and times of rest is seen here not as naivety, but as foolishness. It is the result of buying in to illusions.

Not Quite a Villain

The sluggard is not quite a villian, but an object of scorn. However, he might be heading in the direction of villainy, for he might soon resort to stealing in order to get what he needs to survive.

And yet, the lazy man does all kinds of harm not only to himself, but maybe more particularly to his family and neighbours. But this is not active evil-doing, but passive neglect. For “failure to prepare for personal security results more broadly in failure to provide for the needs of others in the family or community” (Treier, loc, 1393).

Called to Kingly Living

We are not being called to workaholism. Workaholism is when one buys into another form of avoidance and into another kind of illusion.

Instead, we are called to life! And a life that is kingly, not sluggardly. This kingly life is one of inner-motivated, diligence, and wisdom.

“The ant is self-motivated and diligent. It doesn’t need to have someone standing over it making it get on with its work” (Lucas, 228).

This diligence seems to be a joyful partaking in life. Yes, life is not always easy. Work may be hard. But may we find satisfaction in a job well done. The sluggard does not know how to enjoy hard work. The sluggard cannot see how small his soul is becoming - or perhaps simply refuses to admit it.

We are not here merely admonished to hard work, but to wise work - work that is done in the right rhythms of life. This was already mentioned above. But perhaps an additional note is that this involves wise planning, not just for the foreseen seasons, but for those the evil day that will seemingly come at random.

“The ant works today for tomorrow. She is not hoping life will go her way. She gets out ahead of the next season of life. Here is why that matters to you. There is a winter blast coming your way. I do not know when, I do not know how. And you do not need to go looking for it; it will come find you. But the winter of your discontent is coming. Are you getting ready, right now in this day of harvest? Are you stocking up on God’s Word? Are you exploiting today as an opportunity from God to become wisely prepared for tomorrow? One year from today, are you going to be a more fruitful man of God? Well, how is that going to happen? What is your growth plan?” (Ortlund, locs. 1942-1946).

Little By Little

In Scripture, there are indeed things that come upon us in a flash, which we need to be ready for. Yet, there is much that is gained through incremental work, or decision-making. The sluggard is unaware of how important these little decisions are.

“He is lazy, constantly making the soft choice, losing one opportunity after another after another after another, day by day, moment by moment, until he lies there helpless in his wasted life” (Ortlund, locs. 1912-1916).

All [the sluggard] knows is his delicious drowsiness; all he asks is a little respite: ‘a little … a little … a little ….’ He does not commit himself to a refusal, but deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away” (Kidner, 42).

Questions and Prayers

~ Oh, may the Lord break the spells that cover our minds and hearts! The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1). What spell is it that has overcome you? What caricature of yourself would sting you into action?

~ What one aspect of your life needs more attention than you have been giving it? What weeds need to be constantly rooted up, and you’ve grown tired of it? Ask the Lord for help, for focus, for energy, for enjoyment of kingly life in and through Him. May we find, as the Apostle Paul did, that, as we toil for Christ, we are “… struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29).

Walking in Wisdom #12a - Proverbs 6:1-5

STRUCTURE / OVERVIEW of PROVERBS 6:1-19

6:1-5 - Caught in a pledge

6:6-11 - Laziness

6:12-15 - Perverseness

6:16-19 - What the LORD hates.

Proverbs 6:1-19 does seem to be a single unit - four vignettes on some practical issues. But I will be breaking these up for the purpose of slowing down the teaching.


The Picture: Caught By One’s Own Imprudent Pledge

The picture is this: The son is in danger of becoming enslaved. How so? It has to do with promising money or, more likely, property as a guarantee for someone else. For example: Say your friend is buying a new car and the bank wants assurance that the person will pay. So, they want a second signature on the papers. Your friend comes to you and asks: “Can you please sign here? The bank just wants a name there; but I will have no problem paying for the car.”

“It is cosigning a loan. It is putting yourself up as collateral. It is underwriting someone else’s speculative risk. It is getting into a partnership when your partner’s default can bring you down” (Ortlund, locs. 1862-1864).

This kind of thing does happen. It is not an event unique to ancient times. There are some crooks who intentionally do this - like a “confidence man” or a “scammer.” These people take advantage of the naive, be they youth, elderly, or uninitiated.

But this can also happen in friendships, etc. So one must beware and remain vigilant!

The Non-Family Member:

The trouble comes when pledging an oath like this for someone who is outside the family. Of course, we know that trouble can happen even if we cosign our own sibling’s loans. Yet, the note here is about non-blood members, where there is not a deep bond of trust. Here, there seems to be a picture of deep kinship relationships.

“It warns, in strong terms, against standing surety for a non-family member, a theme that recurs in Proverbs” (Lucas, 71).

Handing Over One’s Authority.

The hard truth here in Proverbs 6 is that those who get stuck in these ways will be trapping themselves. They will have only themselves to blame. Why? Primarily because the father is here warning the son: “If …., then ….

This is what so often happens to us. God gives us authority and control of our lives, but we tend to give away our very lives to those things which trap us. It is different with giving our lives to God - for when we give our life to Him, we will get everything back in return.

This aspect of maintaining authority over oneself is central to the whole teaching of Proverbs, as Mark Horne argues:

“While we in the modern world tend to juxtapose freedom and slavery, Proverbs more often contrasts authority with slavery. Solomon believes that wisdom involves managing what authority you have and gaining more while folly leads to slavery. Thus, ‘the fool will be servant to the wise of heart’ (11:29b)” (Horne, loc. 214).

“This explains why Proverbs is mostly about character development and avoiding bad habits. Fools become slaves to others because they allow themselves to become slaves to emotions, behaviors, and false stories that justify them” (Horne, loc. 233).

Coming back to Proverbs 6:1-5: One must be prudent with one’s words and obligations - do not get yourself stuck where you are not free. Be wise and don’t get yourself into a situation where your life is depending on someone - especially someone you neither know nor trust.

Don’t give someone else authority over your money, possessions, life.

And if you do get yourself in this mess, do everything you can to get authority back over your own life. We are encouraged to break free many times in the Scriptures. Here are a few examples (the second quote especially gets at the same radical approach that is central in Proverbs 6:3-5):

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1).

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29).

Humble Yourself

The only avenue mentioned in these verses of Proverbs for getting free is this: humble yourself, humiliate yourself. Having control over yourself and your property is better than being humiliated.

It is hard to admit when we’ve been wrong, when we’ve been duped. But this is one of the major lessons to be learned here. And this is: Get yourself free by humbling yourself and begging.

Here are three quotes that get at this theme:

“The verb translated “plead urgently” [v. 3] means to pester, to badger. It means leaving a string of messages on the answering machine. But just hoping things will work out is foolish” (Ortlund, locs. 1885-1887).

“… putting up security for a loan is seen as getting into a self-imposed trap out of which one should get as soon as possible, sparing no effort in the process. … It is better to lose your dignity than lose your property” (Lucas, 72).

“In a society where pride and self-esteem governed public conduct and made apology rare and groveling before a creditor even more rare, this lesson would have cut to the quick. It called for admitting a faux pas, reneging on a promise, and badgering a powerful neighbor for relief from it. Distasteful but necessary. And a wholesome reminder that prudence would have avoided the predicament in the first place” (Hubbard, 99).

A Better Option if Wanting to Help Another:

Here is a good piece of advice from theologian and commentator, Daniel Treier:

“In fact, another option besides surety exists for taking care of neighbors. One could leave them to their own devices regarding debts for which they are genuinely responsible (since the Bible distinguishes poverty due to laziness, folly, and the like from poverty imposed by injustice or uncontrollable circumstances), while providing the direct charity they need in order to eat. In this way one is generous without being foolishly entangled. Surety always makes a person vulnerable, since the neighbor’s guarantee may lack good will or just the means to pay back the debt” (Treier, loc. 1415).

The difference here is that one has not given over the rule of self to another. There can be no entrapment.

Gospel Connection

Let us be thankful for Jesus, who givus us freedom from sin, death, etc. into which we as a human race have fallen into because we pledge ourselves to evil things. Thanks be to Jesus that he became a slave in order to free us, and that he exerted himself so strenuously so that we could be set free and have new lives in Him.

”… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2).

Questions

~ What are you needing to break free from? Consider things we can get stuck in: Netflix binging; agreeing to be involved in too many things; starting a new job that is not right for us; etc. How will you exert and humble yourself in order to break free?

~ What situations and people are you needing to be wary of these days? Are there ways you can help them without getting wrapped up in what they are doing?

~ Before you stand before the judgment seat, what do you desperately need to be free of? We can only really serve one master.

Walking in Wisdom #11 - Proverbs 5:1-23

Vv. 1-6 - Lips

From the father’s lips comes wisdom. It does not seem alluring; and yet, the son must be drawn to it. Yes, the path might seem narrow, but it leads to life (see Matthew 7:13-14).

The son is to learn to keep his lips unavailable to what is not wisdom. Or, perhaps, as Hubbard offers: “Refusal to answer her or responding with a forthright ‘no’ is the way that ‘lips keep [or guard] knowledge’ (v. 2)” (Hubbard, 91).

The adulteress’s lips are sweet and smooth, plump and red. There is real allure here; but the deception is deep. The result of indulging is bitter and utterly wretched. The allure is over-the-top, inciting lust rather than inspiring stability and faithfulness. Though she promises life to the very full, in both her past and future there is only chaos and death.

The father teaches the son so that the son is able to prepare himself for such times of deceptive temptation: “Say no to the deceptive, false good, so that you might really live and not die.” Yet, we wonder, is there any real hope for the son? For how can the teaching that proceeds from the lips of the father compete with the smooth, wet kisses of the seductress?!?

Vv. 7-14 - Sapped, Squandered Vitality

The adulteress’s lips, which initially seemed so overly delightful turn bitter. What looked like a good deal turned out to be a lemon. And the father’s wise instruction and reproof which seemed to be wrong-headed and a bitter pill to swallow now, in hindsight, appear to have been the way to true delight. The doctor of the heart had it right after all.

“Biblical exemplars abound regarding the frequent need to reject instant gratification. Moses, preeminent as a faithful son in God’s house until the revelation of the Messiah (Heb. 3:1–6), chose “rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (11:25). Joseph too stands in the Old Testament background with his self-sacrificing refusal of Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39)” (Treier, loc. 1296).

Vv. 15-20 - Wells

Keep your own life and vitality. Deeply enjoy your very own wife. Love and cherish your own home. You are one with your spouse, and to betray her is to betray yourself.

Though the Father’s lips at first seemed like gravel, these verses do indeed excite the imagination! The idea in these verses is the we must fight deathly pleasure with the even greater pleasure that comes from marital fidelity. There is enjoyment to be had in the marital relationship and on the marital bed. “The wicked person who disregards this, as John Chrysostom states, ‘perished through folly, not through desire…’” (Treier, loc. 1327).

“The metaphor of intoxication—so disastrous if it occurs at the hands of the adulteress (Prov. 5:20)—portrays positively giving oneself over to a spouse without inhibition (5:19). Whatever one concludes about other biblical teaching, here sexual pleasure is integral to the moral calculus by which fidelity is enjoined upon the youth. And 1 Cor. 7:9 faithfully echoes the theme with its aphorism that “it is better to marry than to burn” (KJV), whether in passion or self-destruction” (Treier, loc. 1351).

“ [Verses 18 and 19] portray marital loyalty as an experience of fondness as well as fertility and fidelity. The young man, with the rest of our male species through the centuries, is exhorted not just to a steely willed commitment or to a paternal pride but also to a single-hearted, impassioned affection for his bride” (Hubbard, 94).

Vv. 21-23 - Eyes

What a man does will capture him and pull him and lead him to a final destination.

“Fools become slaves to others because they allow themselves to become slaves to emotions, behaviors, and false stories that justify them … If you don’t govern yourself, you will be governed by others, and your own impulses will be the reins they use to lead you” (Horne, locs. 214, 233)

Following folly leads to stumbling into sin. Union with sin means chaos; union with sin means you will be drawn into the place of the dead even before your death.

And this is because God has created people in a certain way. Though it is a hard struggle, we are created for fidelity. This is part of the moral and spiritual grain of the universe. And to go against the grain will likely lead to suffering.

“The ultimate motivation for not embarking on the wrong path is that God is watching and upholds the moral order. Verses 22-23 indicate that this generally happens through people reaping the consequences of their own decision and actions” (Lucas, 70).

Let it be noted, however, that “reaping the consequences” comes by God’s doing, by His command and in His timing.

So, it is the fear of the Lord that frightens us off the wrong path. And, looking back, we can be grateful for that.

QUESTIONS

~ How is your marriage doing? What steps can you take to enjoy your marriage, your spouse, your home, and the life that God has given you? Prayerfully chart a course. Take the first step.

~ From a slightly different angle from the above question: How can you cherish and build up your wife, your home, your friends these days?

~ Have you ever talked with your kids about sex? Now might be the time to do that. Where can you find guidance on how to appropriately talk about these things to the specific age of your child?

Walking in Wisdom #10 - Proverbs 4:20-27

STRUCTURE / OVERVIEW

Image: Breathing in and Breathing out. Inhaling, and Exhaling. Input and Output.

VV. 20-22 - IN

VV. 23-27 - OUT


V. 20a.

What does it mean to “be attentive to [the father’s] words”, as is again commanded in v. 20? It involves the whole of the self.

“The constant repetition of such a call (introducing nearly every paragraph of this section of the book) is deliberate, for a major part of godliness lies in dogged attentiveness of familiar truths. So a kind of medical inspection follows, in which one’s state of readiness in the various realms symbolized by heart, mouth, eyes and feet, comes under review” (Kidner, 68).

VV. 20b-22.

The words and teachings of the father/teacher/instructor are to be taken in. The spoken teachings are to be greeted by the ear (v. 20) and written guidance by the eyes (v. 21). The ears and the eyes are the gateway to internalizing these truths and principles into the heart (v. 21). And from the heart, the father’s words have their effect on the whole of one’s body and life (v. 22).

V. 23.

So central is the heart, that the whole of the body is affected by what is in there. This is seen in vv. 24-27, which display how the heart affects the whole of bodily conduct.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

“Perhaps ‘inner self’ would be a good way to translate ‘heart’ here. The inner source of life (the way one lives) which is expressed through the bodily members mentioned in the following verses. It must therefore be guarded against any evil inclinations and intentions. One aspect of this is the memorising of the father’s teaching (v. 21), but the memorising must lead to a genuine ‘internalising’ so that the teaching affects thought and behaviour” (Lucas, 68-69).

VV. 24-27.

The overarching idea in these verses is straightforwardness of life. Straightforward speech (v. 24), eyes focused aright which guide the feet in good and right action (vv. 25-27) all spring out of a heart that has deeply imbibed the truth (v.23).


PASS IT ON

It is important to note that our internalization of words will effect others. Words poured into us, kindness given to us will (or should) be naturally passed on to bless others and give them new life. Part of the picture in Proverbs 4 is how the blessings of wisdom and action are passed on down the generations, from a father to a son (4:1-3) and then when that son becomes a father, he passes it on to his son (4:10, 20).

Of course, this happens on a broader, more societal level as well. Yes, these verses are about your health, but they are also about maturing in your kingly service. Jesus’ disciples clamoured for first place. But Jesus told them that godly rulers aim to serve, not to be served. Godly rulers walk the path of the cross, and look to God for their glory to come when He comes. The godly leader sets their eyes on loving God and loving and serving people.


THE PROPER ORDER OF THINGS - TEACHING

The student needs to listen to the teacher. Where else do “words” or “leaven” come from?

“When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, ‘We brought no bread.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? … How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:5-8, 11-12).


THE PROPER ORDER OF THINGS - THE SELF

The self has an order. Again, it is the “teacher” in us which is to be first.

It is the intellect/will which governs the body. In Hebrew thought, the heart is not mere intellect, but mind + will. later, in Paul and due to the Greek line of thinking, the heart is split in two parts: the Mind (intellect) and the heart/spirit (will).


QUESTIONS

~ It is common knowledge that we need to feed on good things. This is true of our all our “diets” - food, rest, friends, books, influences, etc. Where do you need to change up the source that you are “feeding” on?

~ How will you guard your heart today?

COMICAL MEANDERINGS ON THE PHRASE "SOCIAL DISTANCING"

The combination of words strikes me as slightly comical, and quite unweildy. Let me explain.


Am I not always at some distance from everyone? I’m closer or farther, nearer or … or something.

I suppose it is similar to “stand back - keep your distance!”

But to “keep my distance” is to maintain the distance (assumed to be significant) from someone, thing, or event.

“Social distancing” on the other hand seems so amorphous, so indistinct, so unclear.

But of course we know what it means. It means “two meters apart.”

So why not something more specific, like “the two meter rule”? Or, perhaps, “pandemic separation”? And what about “safe distance”?

And, for that matter, why turn the noun “distance” into the verb “distancing”?? Does anyone ever ask you what you’re doing and you say, “Oh, I’m just distancing right now.” ?? And how would we describe what Seinfeld termed a “close talker”? That must be someone who is “distancing-challenged,” of course!

Finally, are we employing the word “distancing” not because it is correct, but because it is “socially correct” as in, it helps us to feel better. “Distancing” does sound nicer and, in fact, hurts my feelings less than “separation.”


And, can I ask why it is social distancing?

When my wife is upset at me (obviously without reason!), or vice versa (obviously I’m in the right … until, perhaps, I speak with her), we both seem to employ “social distancing.”

What if I don’t know a person on the street, but they are coming close? Can I say, “excuse me … social distancing,” thus implying that they need to step back?

Or am I only supposed to use the term for what used to be social situations. Like, say there is a line dance happening and I the person to my left (now front, now right, …) is too close. That seems more appropriate. “Excuse me sir, social distancing.”

Or do we mean “social” to mean “societal”? As in, every single possible interaction between me and another in society? But that seems like a sloppy use of the word “social.” The jam is spread way over the edge with that one … a glob even ended up on the table.


Am I being weird, or are we becoming more proficient at slopping wording? Of course I’m being weird. But perhaps softeness has increasingly replaced precision.

Do I have a better alternative? No, not really. But may I suggest a few amendments?

From “social distancing.” To “keep a healthy distance.” And if that doesn’t work, how about: “stay back 2 meters.”

And after all this is done - when in two or three generations the kids have been relieved of the societal bruise that remains after COVID-19’s bunch - I suggest that, when someone is not wanting to get near, people use the phrase “Don’t covoid me, man.” But that might be too harsh and too clear for the future.

In all seriousness, give this a look: This 3-D Simulation Shows Why Social Distancing Is So Important

Walking in Wisdom #9 - Proverbs 4:10-19


STRUCTURE / OVERVIEW

V. 10 - BEGINNING: Introduction

VV. 11-17 - MIDDLE: Two Paths

 VV. 11-13 - Hold to the path the father set.

 VV. 14-17 - Shun the path of the wicked.

VV. 18-19 - END/CONCLUSION: - The Two Paths in a Nutshell.


“PATH” AS “LIFE TRAJECTORY”

There is much discussion of two “paths” or “ways” in these verses. They two paths are prominent in Proverbs. Life is boiled down to chasing after heaven or running into hell.

“[The teacher’s topic] was not so much individual, day-by-day issues but the whole course of life - how to survive it with joy and success. Given this purpose, no language was more appropriate than the language of the journey” (Hubbard, 85). Path is a metaphor for “… habitual, consistent conduct…” (Hubbard, 85).

In verses 18 and 19 we see that there is increase along whichever path we take. This is how discipleship works.

18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,

which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;

they do not know over what they stumble.

Each path starts with about the same amount of light.

The path of wisdom and righteousness begins with the dim light of dawn, but increases untill there is fulness of light. (v. 18)

The path of foolishness and wickedness begins with the dim light of dusk, and only gets blacker from there as it moves on into the night. (v. 19)

“Dawn and dusk may each offer the same level of light to the prospective journeyers. But their pilgrimage ends poles apart: one, secure in the ability to scan from horizon to horizon and know precisely how the land lies; the other, ambling aimlessly with every familiar landmark obliterated by the impenetrable pall and every step an exercise in fear and futility” (Hubbard, 86-87).

Being wicked is like stumbling around in the dark. They bump into trouble, but don’t have a clue as how to solve the issues.

Their blindness is perhaps what is sustaining their addiction to evil. They would rather stumble into trouble unknowingly, so they don’t have to be humble and admit their sins. They don’t have to look at what they stumble over. They are addicted to some evil, somehow sustained by it, so that they cannot get through the day without it. They must “scratch that itch” in order to feel like the day is complete.


FATHER’S TASK

The task of the father, of the trusted authority, is to train the son so that he might live his own life well. The father helps the son through the sitting and crawling stages of the moral and intellectual life so that the son might walk and run on the good path. Take the image of a father teaching a son to ride a bike - at first training wheels and instruction, even a hand on the back, are all necessary. But once the son figures things out, the various guides are removed. First, the hand on the back. Next the training wheels. But through it all the basic principles or motion and balance stay the same.

”… the father has strongly shaped the son’s path. Now the time has come, though, at which the son must decide to maintain the same direction” (Trier, loc. 1209).


SON’S TASK

The son is to cling to the father’s instruction (v. 13), to wisdom. To continue with the metaphor of learning to ride a bike: the training wheels are off, but the principles of motion remain the same. And it is the son’s task to hold close to those principles.

Determination, grit, and deliberate effort are required for the son to stay upon the right way. (v. 13). One must hold fast to the good way as well as steadfastly reject and turn aside from the foolish way (vv. 13-15).

“The repeated admonitions and verbs used in vv. 14-15 imply that the choice to be made is not a once-for-all one. It is as if the path of the wicked is, at least sometimes, close enough to the right path to be a tempting alternative to it. It requires determined, active choice to avoid it” (Lucas, 67).

This importance of maturation is also evident in the New Testment:

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

And again…

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)


QUESTIONS

~ Where is your life at in terms of the path of righteousness? What kind of trajectory are you on?

~ What do you use to evaluate that? Can you talk to and pray with a Christian brother about this, or your spouse?

~ Do you find that you are consistently holding to God’s ways? Or do you find yourself frequently straying from the good to the evil path and then back again?

~ What steps to take to keep pressing on in your journey?

WALKING IN WISDOM #8 - PROVERBS 4:1-9

Handed Down

We cannot live a good life on our own. Much of who we are is due to our heritage - to a “tradition which has been lived out and tested down the years” (Lucas, 66). What does this mean for those who have come from evil, wicked, daft parents? It means that what we receive and pass on is important; and it is important that we receive and pass on is important, too.

As Brown writes, “… a path can only be formed by the passage of many feet” (46). However, I would add, with Lucas, that this also takes place “down the years.”

Betrothed to Wisdom

In these verses, it is as if each generation is to arrange their son’s marriage to Wisdom. Each generation helps the next to find who to be attracted to, to commit to, to marry. That is, it is likely that Wisdom is here portrayed as a bride, as this lines up with “the benefits which the ideal wife brings to her husband (31:11-12, 23) and the practice of crowning a bridegroom (Son 3:1)” (Lucas, 66).

If this is an arranged marriage of sorts, the son is called to enter into it fully and unreservedly: Cherish her; treat her well; be united with Her from the heart and you will walk the path of abundant life because of what she bestows.

Here we get the picture that being wise is about union with something - someone - much greater than ourselves. Lady wisdom is greater than any person, but is willing to be a helper to all who are attached to her.

Here, the husband cherishes the bride and all of his benefits are from her; she does not seem to get anything from him, except companionship. This is reminiscent of our relationship to Christ who bent down to us, made Himself available and became poor so as to make us rich (see 2 Corinthians 8:9).

As Christians we know that we are to be united to Christ and to cherish Him who is the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).

QUESTIONS

How will you cherish wisdom today?

How might you pursue wisdom today?

How do you plan to pass wisdom down?

A GLIMPSE BEHIND THE CURTAIN - REFLECTIONS ON PROVERBS 1-3

For those following along, the reading for today (April 9) is Proverbs 3:21-35. And there is no reading for tommorow (Good Friday).

But I haven’t even read today’s reading yet. I’ve been busy. And I slept in. So I’ve got no reflections on Proverbs 3:21-35 to post right now.

However, I did want to post something up here that might be helpful.

As I thought about the first three chapters of Proverbs, I wanted to take not of some of the underlying assumptions and structures - those things that are assumed by Solomon, but not stated overtly. Perhaps he took these things for granted. Or perhaps we are meant to come to these underlying realities as we ponder the text. In any case, here’s what I came up with:

TRUST and TRUSTWORTHINESS. Trust is central. Trust in parents. And trustworthy parents.

DESIRES. Our desires are reality. Cannot avoid desire. Our desires can lead in bad directions (especially when short-sighted or misguided). However, our desires are good when they are trained and directed by understanding (whether our own or that of the one guiding us).

DEVELOPMENT and MATURITY. One begins life as a child, and becomes a youth. The youth is naive, knows not much, and can follow their passions in every which direction. A boy only becomes a man if he moves on from naivety. To become mature, to become a man means that one starts off and accepts the fact that they are starting off as under the tutelage and leadership of a wise, understanding authority.

SHELTER. Additionally to being nurtured, the youth are to be sheltered and guarded from evil, deceitful people.

SUITABILITY. Style is important in leading the youth into maturity. Repetition is utilized. So are examples, exhortations, logic, etc. Wisdom fits a situation; it is suitable.

LIFE-STAGES. There are different stages of life. They are different in character. As we lead other people, we will have to meet them where they are at, though calling them higher.

DEVOTIONAL. To grow in wisdom is to enter into devotion. One must meditate on God’s words and wisdom, must converse with God, must really enter into relationship with God. The one who reads these repetitive words in Proverbs is one who is meditating on them. Reflection, meditation, and thoughtful prayer, and consecration of the self to God are important.

CONSEQUENCES or FRUIT. Our thoughts, actions, words lead to real life results. We bear fruit, one way or another. And the consequences of our thoughts, words, actions, emotions are real and serious. There is a time-frame in which wisdom is accessible, or we will have to eat the fruit of our own ways.

ACCESSIBLE. Wisdom is accessible to all, in some sense. Accessible in the home setting as well as in the public marketplace. Life itself generally points us to wisdom, if we are open to hear from her and if we are open to reality and the ways of reality. The FEAR OF THE LORD is something like this “being open to reality.” It is a not trying to control things, but an honouring of God’s creation.

GIFT. Ultimately, wisdom is a gift from God for those who open the heart, who trust God, parents, reality. Wisdom is independent of us, in some real way. There is something about it - it does not belong to us. It is like when I borrow a tool from a friend over an extended amount of time. I borrow it. Then I use it in order to craft some object. But if my friend asks for it back, then I need to give it back. Wisdom is not to be taken for granted, but held as a gift, and used accordingly.

STRENUOUS and LONG-TERM. Acquiring wisdom and growing in maturity are strenuous activities. There is a passive aspect to them - of listening, of obeying - but wisdom must also be sought after and gripped on to. We are meant to dig deeper, to think more clearly, to live and serve more effectively. In studying Proverbs, we should be asking the God what He means by these things, and spending time prayerfully pondering his Word.

PAIN. Growing in wisdom involves discipline, pain, being challenged and stretched. We are to say “no” to our desire for fleshly pleasure, and to say yes to something deeper, more eternal, more beneficial and, ultimately, more desirable.

FULLNESS OF LIFE and AVOIDING THE THINGS OF DEATH. Wisdom leads one to fullness of life - a life that finds value in the truly valuable things - those things that are beyond material wealth. Though, of course material wealth and bodily health may very well be (and often are) the fruit of wisdom. Fullness of life is full-orbed in Proverbs: individual uprightness/goodness, as well as health, peace, protection from danger, wealth, good reputation, favour with God, etc. Foolishness is the flip side of the coin. To be a fool or a mocker is to live with one foot in the grave; it is a type of living death.

GOD’S GOODNESS. God is good. To trust Him leads to life.

CREATION. Creation reflects God. It was made by Him, and it speaks of Him - almost as a painting speaks of the painter. Wisdom is at the core of created reality.

LEADERSHIP and AUTHORITY. Leaders and authority figures are meant to serve. This is their essence. They are to grow in their ability to serve others. Growing in wisdom and maturity means that one is giving oneself for others in wise and good ways.

"Walking In Wisdom" - Accessible Page

I’ve created this page to makes all the material from “Walking In Wisdom” easier to access.

Walking in Wisdom #6 - Proverbs 3:13-20


OVERVIEW OF PROVERB 3:13-20

Often blessing and woe are paired in the Scriptures. But here the focus is almost fully on the blessed outcome more on the conduct. As Ernest Lucas puts it: “Ths poem encourages the pursuit of wisdom by extolling the value of wisdom” (Lucas, 63).

The current veres are:

“… a double argument in favor of wisdom’s excellence: [1] a practical argument in the form of a beatitude and [2] a theological argument expressed as an affirmation” (Hubbard, 74-75).

We see this in the outline below….

OUTLINE

VV. 13-18 - Blessedness of the one who holds Wisdom.

V. 13 - Blessedness in finding and getting Wisdom.

----> VV. 14-15 - Nothing else profits like Wisdom.

---->  VV. 16-17 - Wisdom profits: (1) gain (2) honour and (3) peace.

V. 18 - Blessedness in holding Wisdom fast.

VV. 19-20 - The reason why there is such blessing in Wisdom - She is the Lord’s pattern and power in Creation

V. 19 - (1) Earth and (2) Heaven

V. 20 - (3) Water of (a) the seas and (b) from the sky

ANALYSIS

The picture I get of Prov 3:18-20 is this:

Wisdom is the very pattern of creation (verses 19-20). Creation is made after the likeness of Wisdom. Creation has the stamp of Wisdom upon it.

But Wisdom also makes herself available, searchable, graspable to people - and this is where the image of the tree of life comes in (verse 18). With the tree, fruit is there for those who go after it, and ingest the fruit.

So, pursue Wisdom! Verse 13 speaks of blessedness for the one who “finds wisdom” and who “gets understanding.” Further, in verse 18 we see that blessedness is for those who “hold her fast.” That is, it is a long distance journey, and one that requires some effort.

But how worth the effort…

“Wisdom’s antiquity, usefulness, and intimate connection with Yahweh are what the argument points to. … Wisdom is pictured here not so much as companion to Yahweh (see 8:22-31) as a tool used by Him to do what only He could do. The argument is clear: If Yahweh with wisdom as His tool could accomplish the wonders of the various phases of creation … think what wisdom will do, better, what Yahweh will do through wisdom in the lives of those who find it” (David Hubbard, 76).

QUESTIONS

First, how have you seen that wisdom’s gain is better than the profit from material gain? What have you gained from wisdom? Or, what have you seen others gain through wisdom?

Second, how do you see the interaction between “common grace” wisdom and “special grace” wisdom?

On common grace and wisdom:

“There is such a thing as common grace, and there is such a thing as special grace. Common grace is the goodness of God that he showers universally on the human race. Jesus said, ‘[God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (Matthew 5:45). God generously throws out onto this world many gifts on many people. All that is required for anyone to benefit from the wisdom of common grace is to get up and find it: “Blessed is the one, the anyone, who gets up and goes searching for wisdom until he finds it.” But common grace, though common, is still God’s grace. Wherever you see skill and expertise, you see a gift of God” (Ortlund, locs. 1338-1347).

On special grace and wisdom:

“9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13)

“20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25).

Further Thoughts on Proverbs 3:1-12.

I had a bunch of further reflections springing from Proverbs 3:1-12. Here the thoughts tie in to some philosophical history. and why Proverbs sometimes sounds so different from much that people believe today. One culprit, I believe, is the Enlightenment and its “modern” beliefs regarding happiness and reason.

I note two (or three) disonnant notes:

  1. First, the good life used to be conceived of in more full-bodied ways; including health, relationships, finances, godliness, and both this life and the afterlife. But with Enlightenment thinking, “happiness” came to be reduced to pleasure, and it was presupposed that everyone is governed (should continue to be governed) by base desires.

  2. Second, for the inspired biblical writers, doing good, following God’s will, and receiving happiness and a good, full life all go hand-in-hand. This might be delayed until the next life, but, regardless, to follow the Lord is to find fullness of delight. But these came to be separated in the Enlightenment. One Enlightenment thinker,Kant, differed from those who said the human pursuit of good is based on base desires. Instead, Kant proposed that what matters most is that we follow rational duties, and that we supress selfishness. We need to merely do our duty, no matter the cost.

  3. Here is a third dissonance between modern thinking and biblical thinking: As I’ve noted before, the Enlightenment was an attempt to see how we could live in a “detached” sense - detached from God, detached also from neighbour (as much as possible). The biblical view is the exact opposite. It assumes a deep, full context where our relationship both to God, our families, our nighebours, our churches are really an essential part of life.

Here is the audio: