Monday, November 30, 2009

Charity and Its Fruits - an intermezzo

Today is the day I would usually post an overview of our latest reading in Charity and Its Fruits, but illness in our Chico study group (keep Rachel in your prayers as she's been in bed for days now) has led to the cancellation our study for this week.  But rather than leave this page blank, I'd like to take this opportunity to elaborate on a discussion we had during our last meeting.

In the doctrine portion of Lecture Two, one of Edwards' points is that though the "extraordinary gifts" (what we would call spiritual gifts or charismata, particularly prophecy, tongues, miracles and the like) are great privileges, the ordinary influence of the Spirit (the fruit of the spirit, which are summed up in love) is far more excellent.  In explaining the reasons for this superiority, he made a point which some of us found difficult to wrap our minds around and which led to a fairly lengthy discussion: 

Unlike extraordinary gifts, the "This blessing of the saving grace of God is a quality inherent in the nature of him that is the subject of it."  Rather, he says, "They are like a beautiful garment, which does not alter the nature of the man that wears it.  They are like precious jewels, with which the body may be adorned; but true grace is that whereby the very soul itself becomes as it were a precious jewel."

I think our discussion ended with good comprehension, but since that evening I've had occasion to revisit Edwards' later work, Religious Affections where he addresses this very subject in much more depth.  So I will let him speak for himself and see if he can't clear up any remaining confusion anyone may have.
"The Spirit of God is given to the true saints to dwell in them, as his proper and lasting abode; and to influence their hearts, as a principle of new nature, or as a divine supernatural spring of life and action.  The scriptures represent the Holy Spirit,not only as moving, and occasionally influencing the saints, but as dwelling in them as his temple, his proper abode, and everlasting dwelling place. (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; John 14; 16-17). And he is represented as being there so united to the faculties of the soul that he becomes there a principle or spring of new nature and life.....
On the other hand, though the Spirit of God may many ways influence natural men; yet because it is not thus communicated to them, as an indwelling principle, they don't derive any denomination or character from it; for there being no union it is not their own. The light may shine upon a body [ie. the moon] that is very dark or black; and though that body be the subject of the light, yet, because the light becomes no principle of light in it, so as to cause the body to shine, hence that body don't properly receive its denomination from it, so as to be called a lightsome body [ie. the sun]....
The Spirit of God so dwells in the hearts of the saint, that he there, as a seed or spring of life, exerts and communicates himself, in this his sweet and divine nature, making the soul a partaker of God's beauty and Christ's joy, so that the saint has truly fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, in thus having the communion or participation of the Holy Ghost.

On the contrary, as regards extraordinary gifts, of which Christ tells us in Mt. 7:21-23, many will exhibit without being known of God or having experienced His saving grace, Edwards has this to say:
"But the Spirit of God never influences the minds of natural men after this manner.  Though he may influence them many ways, yet he never, in any of his influences, communicates himself to them in his own proper nature.  Indeed he never acts disagreeably to his nature, either on the minds of saints or sinners; but the Spirit of God may act upon men agreeably to his own nature, and not exert his proper nature in the acts and exercises of their minds [think of the prophecy of Caiphas in John 11: 49-53]: the Spirit of God may act so, that his actions may be agreeable to his nature, and yet may not at all communicate himself in his proper nature, in the effect of that action.  Thus, for instance, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and there was nothing disagreeable to his nature in that action; but yet he did not at all communicate himself in that action, there was nothing of the proper nature of the Holy Spirit in that motion of the waters.  And so he may act upon the minds of men many ways, and not communicate himself anymore than when he acts on inanimate things....Ungodly men, not only han't so much of the divine nature as the saints, but they are not partakers of it; which implies that they have nothing of it; for a being partaker of the divine nature is spoken of as the peculiar privilege of the true saints. (2 Pe. 1:4). Ungodly men are not partakers of God's holiness (Heb. 12:10)." [all emphasis mine]

In short, the Spirit of God does not conform any into the image of Christ who are not His.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What was that all about? and other impossible questions

In the five years since my conversion, I've listened to countless lectures and read many articles and books rehearsing the lives of "heroes" of the faith, some of whom died martyrs, others who lived for Christ and died natural deaths. Lectures and shorter writings in particular tended to highlight great accomplishments, moments of agonized bravery, and unmistakable turns of divine providence - inspiring and motivational fare. Early on in my Christian life I would listen to such lectures one after another, amazed by great works accomplished and great influence achieved, wondering all along if such godliness and success could come out of my life, if there was anything in the lives of these notable figures that I could hope to emulate.

Eventually I moved on to reading full biographies and was faced with something I seemed by-and-large to have missed before - these men were really sinners.  These great ones of the faith sometimes made horrible decisions based upon sinful attitudes or faulty premises.  Almost without exception each one held dear some belief or practice I find abominable. Sometimes, or should I say frequently, the very thing which led to their notoriety occurred amidst, or even as a result of, their own bumbling and uncertainty. These men were flesh and blood sinners.

I could argue that this is probably the best reason to read thorough and objective biographies of those we regard highly in the faith. Although little sermon anecdotes and lectures focusing on the high-water marks in the lives of the saints are inspirational and often edifying, if we limit ourselves to these we run the risk of losing sight of something more important: God.  We begin to view the successes in the lives of Christians as a result of their good qualities and their exceptional piety. We look for a neat and tidy correlation between obedience and favorable results, between sin and failure. We begin to think that perhaps, if we mimic them, adding their pious habits to our lives, subtracting or avoiding their errors, doing it all just right, we can expect similar results.   We begin to view successes as the result of our spirituality and obedience, becoming inwardly (and sometimes openly) haughty.  Or, for those of us less naturally capable, and I'm speaking for myself here, we fall short and despair of ever being used by God.

Scripture, however, does not portray its heroes in the way we like to display the heroes of church history - not at all.  It portrays them, often embarrassingly, in their sinfulness, while at the same time declaring them righteous.  Think for a moment of the "great cloud of witnesses" in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews: Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses. Think of "righteous Lot" (2 Pet. 2:7).  Each lived lives littered with shameful moments (which God saw fit to record for posterity), and yet God characterizes them by their faith.  I fear we miss the point when we treat their lives as morality tales, lessons on how to gain and keep God's favor, vowing not to make the same mistakes (arrogant in the notion that we will be holier than Abraham if we just set our mind to it) and to emulate their greatest moments (as though we could muster up a heart like Moses' on our own).  What then are we to do with them? The writer to the Hebrews tells us.  We are to look to them as people like us - people who persisted in faith in spite of their sins, and in spite of the fact that they never in their lives saw the promises they trusted in fulfilled.  They lived their painful and messy lives trusting in God and died having never witnessed the cleaning up of the mess. Each one of them died with that nagging question, "What was that all about?" yet unanswered.
"And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.  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, 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." (Heb. 11:39-12:2)

Don't you find it strange that we like to look to them while Scripture tells us that they are looking to us?  Their unfulfilled promises were to be fulfilled in us.  What then are we to look to? We are to look to Jesus. Our unfulfilled promises are to be fulfilled in Him.  We are to emulate Him, the only one whose life was untainted, the one who aimed so perfectly at the joy which was placed before Him that He achieved it, not only for Himself, but for us as well, acquiring for us the righteousness of God. It is He who initiated our walk of faith, and He who will bring it to completion. It is our task, our great gift, to look into His face and be transformed. "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:18)

And so, what of our heroes, the saints of old, the legendary figures of church history?  What are we to make of their glorious yet sullied lives? What would God have us learn from them? I believe He would have us look through and beyond them and their messy lives to the God they looked to. He would have us looking to the Author and Finisher of their faith and ours, willing to go forth when, like Job, we are given no answers, and when neither Scripture nor providence give us any clue as to the "why" of our circumstances.  "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the it is, they desire a better country that is a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." (Heb. 11:13,16)

I know, O LORD, that a man's way is not in himself;
Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps." (Jeremiah 10:23)

In truth, our lives our not our stories to understand or to tell, they are God's; and from our perspective at least, they are not complete.  Each of our lives, like those of the great ones past, do not begin and end with us.  Each of us play but supporting roles in the cast of God's grand production.  We are not meant to interpret the whole story by our part in it, nor can we. Our own parts will only find their meaning in the context of the grand design.  And so, it is not wise to interpret prematurely the turns of Providence, the seeming failures, the conquests, the sinful and the sacred moments which can only be understood from the perspective of eternity.  Like those who went before us, we must be prepared to go to our graves without answers, trusting in the God "who works all things according to the counsel of his will," (Eph. 1: 11) trusting in His purpose "which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." (Eph. 1:9-10)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Charity, a More Excellent Way - Part One

(This week we continue our reading together of the Jonathan Edwards' classic, Charity and Its Fruits. We have just concluded the reading of the "Doctrine" portion of Lecture Two. We will continue with the "Application" portion of Lecture Two in next week's reading. This is the pattern we will be using for the entirety of the reading. The notes below will follow Edwards' own outline directly, with all direct quotes from the text in italics. My goal is to make each post edifying on its own, even for those who are not reading along with us. I will welcome your questions or comments in the form below.) 

Charity and Its Fruits
Lecture II. Part One
Charity More Excellent Than the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” - 1 Cor. 13: 1,2
In the previous lecture our focus was on the fact that Christian love is the distinguishing virtue of a true Christian, and looked briefly at how that love manifests itself in action.  We found much opportunity for self-examination, and, I trust, plenty of room for growth.  In this lecture we move on in our exposition of 1 Corinthians 13: 1-2  to focus on the things which charity is compared against in the text - the very great things which it is said to be far greater than.


In our reading we found that Edwards is what is referred to in theological circles as a “cessationist.” This means he is, by Wayne Grudem's definition: “Someone who thinks that certain miraculous spiritual gifts (such as healing, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues) ceased when the apostles died and Scripture was complete.” Though it is not Edwards' purpose in these lectures to prove a case for cessationism (that was hardly necessary in his day, as his position was commonly held), his explanation for that position is as good as any I've heard. But, whether one agrees with him in this matter or not is not at all essential to the point he is making about Christian love, so try not to let any disagreement you may have on that matter cloud the main point.

I. “I would briefly explain what is meant by the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit”

1) “The gifts of the Spirit of God are distinguished into those that are common, and those that are saving. By common gifts of the Spirit are meant such as are common both to the godly and the ungodly.  There are certain ways in which the Spirit of God influences the minds of natural men, as well as the minds of the godly....So there are common religious affections - common gratitude - common sorrow, and the like."

He means “common” in the sense of something that all mankind has “in common”. If you are anything like me, some of these concepts may be new to you, and may take some time to absorb. 
By "common gifts" he means gifts that may be experienced by any or all of mankind - not only Christians.  By "saving" or "special" gifts, he refers to those only experienced by Christians - mainly saving faith, Christian love, and other fruits which are evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

In case you have difficulty, as I once did, with the notion of God influencing the minds of unbelievers, I'll leave you with a few Scripture references to take into consideration: Isaiah 10:5-11 and God's use of Assyria; Isaiah 44: 28 and 45: 1-7, where God uses Cyrus, a heathen ruler, as His own instrument; 1 Samuel 10:9 and Saul; Exodus 3:21-22; 9:16; 14:4, Romans 9:17 regarding Pharaoh. John 11: 49-53 and the unwitting prophecy of Caiaphas. See also Proverbs 16:9; 16:1; 19:21. Jeremiah 10:23; Daniel 4 (the story of Nebuchadnezzar's madness); and John 12:39-40 where explanation is given as to why unbelievers will not believe.

2) “Ordinary and extraordinary”
"The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, such as the gift of tongues, of miracles, of prophecy, etc., are called extraordinary, because they are such as are not given in the ordinary course of God's providence...But the ordinary gifts of the Spirit are such as are continued to the Church of God throughout all ages; such gifts as are granted in conviction and conversion, and such as appertain to the building up of the saints in holiness and comfort."

Here is where Edwards' terminology can get a bit confusing.  "Common gifts" are not the same as "ordinary gifts".  Keep in mind that when Edwards says "common" he means common to all mankind - not just believers.  When he says "ordinary", he means ordinary to believers.  Ordinary gifts are those given to all believers upon conversion.  They are the "ordinary" course of things for Christians.  Extraordinary gifts, on the other hand, according to Edwards are "common" gifts, in the sense that they are at times experienced even by unbelievers: "And the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are common gifts.  The gifts of tongues, of miracles, of prophecy, etc., although they are not ordinarily bestowed on the Christian Church, but only on extraordinary occasions, yet are not peculiar to the godly, for many ungodly men have had these gifts. (Matt. 7:22-23)."

II.“That the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit of God are indeed great privileges.”

Here Edwards endeavors to show just how great a privilege the extraordinary gifts are - prophecy in particular: "...yea, this is one of the highest kind of privileges that God ever bestows on men, next to saving grace. It is a great privilege to live in the enjoyment of the outward means of grace, and to belong to the visible Church; but to be a prophet and a worker of miracles in the Church is a much greater privilege still...."  He goes on to speak of Moses, Daniel, and the apostles and the privilege it was for them to speak forth the words of God.

These are regarded as great privileges for at least two reasons:
  • "That there is in them a conformity to Christ in his prophetical office"
  • "These gifts have commonly been bestowed as tokens of God's extraordinary favor and love, as it was with Daniel."
III. “To shew, that though these are great privileges, yet that the ordinary influence of the Spirit of God, working the grace of charity in the heart, is a far more excellent privilege than any of them...This will appear if we consider":

1) “This blessing of the saving grace of God is a quality inherent in the nature of him that is the subject of it.”

Unlike extraordinary gifts, the grace of charity in the heart becomes part of the nature of the individual. Tongues are not a part of one's character. Miracles are not part of one's character - and can even be operated at times by those with no saving faith whatever. The ability to preach does not change the heart of the preacher. Saving grace, on the other hand, is a complete change of heart. It is a permanent change of the nature of the Christian, a quality that develops their character, from the inside, and ever increasingly into the holy character of Christ. Or, as Edwards so beautifully puts it:
"These extraordinary gifts are nothing properly inherent in the man. They are something adventitious. They are excellent things, but not the excellencies in the nature of the subject. They are like a beautiful garment, which does not alter the nature of the man that wears it. They are like precious jewels, with which the body may be adorned; but true grace is that whereby the very soul itself becomes as it were a precious jewel." (Emphasis in bold is mine.)

Monday Meanderings

It Is Well With My Soul

You likely know this well-beloved hymn, but here's the story behind it.


Look Who's a Believer Now

Whatever you do, don't give up on your atheist friends.  Love them. Talk about your faith, if they are willing.  Pray for them.  My husband was once an atheist.  Many other Christians were too:
 "They came to realize that they could only tear down and thus were left intellectually with no habitable place to live. John Henry Gordon, who held the only full-time, salaried secularist lecturer position in England, came to believe that secularism was a creed of "mere negations."
Read more of atheists who go on to believe in God here.


Archaeological Evidence Found that Luther Was Indeed A Mere Mortal

Here's a strange little archeological find. On the historic site of the home of Martin Luther, renovations were being made.  You'll never guess what they unearthed: his toilet. You can read about it here.  It's an interesting little story, though it's highly unlikely that, as suggested, his 95 Theses were actually written there, since he was a monk at the time and would not have been living in his own home.


Thankfully the tradition has come to an end. The practice of foot-binding in China has passed out of vogue and into disgrace.  Here's a sad but sweet story of the end of the "lotus shoe" and the last living feet-bound women.
(ht to Noel Piper)


 Sorry Rules 
Don’t say “I’m sorry” if you don’t believe you’ve done anything wrong.
Don’t say “I’m sorry” if you think you can justify what you have done.
Don’t say “I’m sorry” if you regret the consequences, but not the action.
Don’t say “I’m sorry” unless you fully intend never to do it again.
imgI now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
by David
TrackBack URL:
 (ht to Betsy)

Nearer My God to Thee

Just a little something I can't get out of my head
I'll share it with you before I go to bed.  
Nearer My God to Thee
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me;
Still all my song shall be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
Yet in my dreams I'd be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
There let the way appear steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv'n;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Then with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,
Out of my stony griefs Bethel I'll raise;
So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,
Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!
You can read a brief background of this song here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Science Saturday - challenging the things we fear

 Whatever Happened to Smallpox?
Image via Wikipedia
 "Smallpox is an acute contagious disease caused by Variola virus, a member of the orthopoxvirus family. It was one of the world's most feared diseases until it was eradicated by a collaborative global vaccination programme led by the World Health Organization. The last known natural case was in Somalia in 1977. Since then, the only known cases were caused by a laboratory accident in 1978 in Birmingham, England, which killed one person and caused a limited outbreak. Smallpox was officially declared eradicated in 1979." WHO 
 Listen here to an interview with DA Henderson, author, "Smallpox: The Death of a Disease" (Prometheus Books, 2009);  Director, World Health Organization's Global Smallpox Eradication Campaign (1966-1977).  The eradication of smallpox was both an amazing feat of medicine, and a great mercy from God.
Even with smallpox out of the way, there is plenty left to contend with.  Here is Listverse's list of the Top Ten Incurable Diseases.  Some of them might surprise you.
Now, What's all this I'm Hearing About Mammograms?...
And pap smears...and prostate cancer screening?

Here is an article and interview discussing "evidence-based medicine" - the field of study driving the latest health care screening guidelines.

Listen here to an interesting (and very civil) discussion between and advocate and an opponent of the new mammography screening guidelines.

And here is a brief discussion of the politics of health care screening guidelines.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Through Gates of Splendor - a sensible Saint

Perhaps you'll recall from a previous post that I'm currently reading Elisabeth Elliot's book, Through Gates of Splendor, the story of the mission and martyrdom of her husband Jim and his co-workers in Ecuador in 1956.  In that entry I shared a quote from Jim Elliot.  Today I'd like to share some thoughts from his fellow missionary, pilot Nate Saint.

At the age of thirteen, during the forced inactivity of a bout of osteomyelitis, the young Christian first wondered if perhaps God was calling him to be a missionary. Upon recovery and renewed vitality, however, it appears that notion fell by the wayside as he pursued his other passion -  flight, eventually becoming an Air Force cadet.  Nate was on course to be an Air Force pilot until, on the eve of his first day of flight instruction, once again his osteomyelitis grounded him. His dream of becoming a military pilot would never be realized.  His new position was that of maintenance crew chief.  In his deep disappointment he immersed himself in Scripture, rekindling the love for the Christ he had known from his youth and once again feeling the call to missions.  He would become a missionary pilot.  He acquired an old airplane, fixed it up and practiced, practiced, practiced until the opportunity finally presented itself to head into the mission field.

He quickly became known for his intense caution, rehearsing every potential mishap - in the air or on the ground - in his mind and preparing for it.  He apparently took some ribbing for his "constant concern for safety....After all, a missionary is supposed to trust the Lord!"  His response to such attitudes is the bit of his philosophy I wanted to share today:
"Perhaps my reasoning is pagan, as I've been told.  I do believe in miracles.  They are nothing to God, surely.  But the question is one of finding the pattern that the Lord has chosen us to conform to.  I wouldn't be here if I weren't trusting the Lord.  Chances are that those who shrug it off by saying, 'The Lord will take care of you,' are the same ones who would hardly expose themselves to the bacteriological risks of working in a downtown rescue mission.  Forgive me if I feel a little strongly at this point.  I'm concerned about safety, but I don't let it keep me from getting on with God's business.  Every time I take off, I am ready to deliver up the life I owe to God.  I feel we should be quick to take advantage of every possible improvement  in carrying out the job before us."
He took the work God had given him seriously and did not presume upon God to do his maintenance or preparation for him.  He proved his love for God, his fellow missionaries, and those to whom they ministered by his utmost care for their safety. He used the gifts and abilities, natural and spiritual, that God had given him and expected God to work through them. He did not expect God to keep his equipment in good repair any more than he trusted God to fly his plane for him.  If any mishap were to occur, it would not have been attributable to neglect, lack of diligence, laziness, or presumption on the part of Nate Saint. When and if he and his fellow servants did die on the mission field, if he had any say in it, it would not be a result of neglect on his part, but for the sake of the gospel, pure and simple. And so it was.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Charity, the Sum of All Virtues - Part Two

Charity and Its Fruits
(This week we continue our reading together of the Jonathan Edwards' classic, Charity and Its Fruits. We have just concluded the reading of the "Application" portion of Lecture 1. We will continue with the "Doctrine" portion of Lecture Two in next week's reading. This is the pattern we will be using for the entirety of the reading. The notes below will follow Edwards' own outline directly, with my commentary inserted in green. My goal is to make each post edifying on its own, even to those who are not reading along with us. I will welcome your questions or comments in the form below.)


In the application of this subject, we may use it in the way of self-examination, instruction, and exhortation. And,

1. In view of it, let us examine ourselves, and see if we have the spirit which it enjoins....

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him." 1 John. 5:1
"Have we this love to all who are the children of God?"
"And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
"Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed."
Rev. 15:2-4
"Do we thus delight in God, and rejoice in his worship, and in magnifying his holy name?"
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him..." 1 John 3:16-19
"Is this the spirit, which dwelt in Jesus Christ, the spirit that reigns in our hearts, and is seen in our daily life?"

2. In the way of instruction.
  • First,"This doctrine shews us what is the right Christian spirit.
" is plain that this spirit, even a spirit of love, is the spirit that the gospel revelation does especially hold forth motives and inducements to; and this is especially and eminently the Christian spirit - the right spirit of the gospel."
"...the spirit of divine and Christian much more insisted on in the New Testament, than anything that concerns either our duty or our moral state....This spirit, even a spirit of love, is the spirit that God holds forth greater motives in the gospel to induce us to, than to any other thing whatever. The work of redemption which the gospel makes known, above all things affords motives to love; for that work was the most glorious and wonderful exhibition of love that ever was seen or heard of. Love is the principal thing that the gospel dwells on when speaking of God, and of Christ. It brings to light the love eternally existing between the Father and the Son, and declares how that same love has bee manifested in many things....There it is revealed how the Father and Son are one in love, that we might be induced, in the like spirit, to be one with them, and with one another, agreeable to Christ's prayer in John 17:21-23....The gospel also declares to us that the love of God was from everlasting, and reminds us that he loved those that are redeemed by Christ, before the foundation of the world; and that he gave them to the Son; and that the Son loved them as his own....And all this love is spoken of as bestowed on us while we were wanderers, outcasts, worthless, guilty, and even enemies...."
[See also John 15:13 and Romans 5:7-10]
  • Second, "If it is indeed so, that all that is saving and distinguishing in a true Christian, is summarily comprehended in love, then professors of Christianity may in this be taught as to their experiences, whether they are real Christian experiences or not. If they are so, then love is the sum and substance of them."
In other words, we can evaluate our experience as Christians both on the large scale, judging whether we have reason to believe we are truly Christians at all, and on the small scale, evaluating particular behaviors and relationships to discover whether they are the product of Christian love, some lesser motive.

"If persons have the true light of heaven let into their souls, it is not a light without heat. Divine knowledge and divine love go together. A spiritual view of divine things always excites love in the soul, and draws forth the heart in love to every proper object. True discoveries of the divine character dispose us to love God as the supreme good; they unite the heart in love to Christ; they incline the soul to flow out in love to God's people, and to all mankind. When persons have a true discovery of the excellency and sufficiency of Christ, this is the effect....When persons experience a true trust and reliance on Christ, they rely on him with love, and so do it with delight and sweet acquiescence of soul....When persons experience true comfort and spiritual joy, their joy is the joy of faith and love. They do not rejoice in themselves, but it is God who is their exceeding joy."
  • Third, "This doctrine shews the amiableness of a Christian spirit. A spirit of love is an amiable spirit.  It is the spirit of Jesus Christ - it is the spirit of heaven."
Is your behavior amiable? Would your attitude and behavior seem out of place in heaven?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Through Gates of Splendor - shaking the dust off your feet

I've recently begun reading Elisabeth Elliot's book, Through Gates of Splendor, the story of the mission and martyrdom of her husband Jim and his co-workers in Ecuador in 1956.  Less than 50 pages in, I can already say that I'm finding myself impressed and inspired.  I may find more to share here in the future, but for now I'd like to leave you with just one quote.

In 1950 Jim came to the conclusion that God was calling him to Ecuador, to bring the Gospel to the Aucas, a tribe dreaded by all who knew of them, and who had murdered the last missionary who had dared approach them - 200 years prior.  Upon learning of his decision, concerned family and friends hoped to convince him that he might be of better use here in the United States, "where so many know so little of the Bible's real message." To these objections he replied:
"I dare not stay home while Quichuas perish.  What if the well-filled church in the homeland need stirring?  They have the Scriptures, Moses, and the prophets, and a whole lot more.  Their condemnation is written on their bank books and in the dust on their Bible covers."
(See Mt. 10:14-15.)

The Infallible Word of God

Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then, looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
“How many anvils have you had,” said I,
“To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
“Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
“The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

Author Unknown
(Thanks for sharing this, Andy.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Science Saturday - some fresh perspectives

Take a look at the world through fresh eyes...

If you enjoyed that - and how could you not?! - there's more hidden camera animal footage here.


Now get some perspective on the actual size of cells - amazing!  (ht Lisa)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meditations "on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam" - God's Glorious Plan

In my previous meditation in this series I began examining the reasons, from the perspective of Scripture, that "the testimony of creation, as overwhelming and magnificent as it is, has not proven sufficient to bring people to God," asking, "Why has creation not proven a testimony sufficient to elicit praise for God from all mankind?"  I chose to focus on what I consider to be the two over-arching reasons - the glory of God, and the sin of mankind - and began with the more obvious of the two - the sin of man.

Within a day or two of publishing those thoughts this question was posed by a friend of mine on Facebook: "How would you answer a seeker's question: Why didn't God make humans perfect to start with?"  My first thought, of course, was "He did".  But it seemed fairly obvious that was not really what he was getting at. Rather what he seemed to be asking was the bigger question, "Why did God make man capable of sin?"  Hoping to avoid trying to answer an age old question in the space of a Facebook comment, I waited for others to respond, hoping someone else would take on the task.  There were several other answers, but none were, at least in my opinion, even remotely satisfactory.  I'm not impressed with the "free will" argument, variations of which being the most common explanation he received.  

Let me explain briefly why I find this explanation insufficient. Though I agree that man has volition, and is free to do whatever He wants and is capable of, I do not believe that this is the driving force behind God's decision to make man as He did.  Scripture never attributes God's motives for creation to His interest in the free will of man. Rather, the testimony of Scripture is that God does whatever He does for His name's sake and His glory, and that it is His purposes which concern Him, and His purposes which stand.  Yes, God created us volitional beings (He is a volitional being - though He is not free to sin - nor is He capable of it.  That's what it is to be holy), beings able to base their actions upon what their minds and hearts value. But beyond that, He made us beings with minds and hearts capable of valuing Him: seeing  and savoring His beauty, marveling at His wisdom and infinitude, glorying in the depth of His love. In short, He made us beings to witness and experience His glory, and be recipients of His love.  He made us to enjoy Him.  The opportunity for sin did not make man freer to enjoy God (if that were the case, we must be "free" to sin in Heaven as well), quite the contrary. Would Adam have loved God less or been less happy if the Garden had no forbidden fruit and no serpent?  So why then, did God take the sinless man and place Him in such a situation?  This is, I think more to the point of my friend's question. It is also exactly to the point of what I had planned for today's meditation.

I answered my friend, again hoping to avoid a lengthy response, this way: "I'll give you the short version of a much longer answer: So He could die for us." It wasn't long before I received his response, which was, in so many words: "What's the long answer?" And so he received the preview of today's thoughts. God had a lot more of His divine character to display when He created this world than his divine power and eternal nature...

Certainly God, the Alpha and the Omega, knew the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10), and what He meant to accomplish in this creation. He had a special plan, to display Himself in a way never seen before - as a self-sacrificing redeemer - by redeeming His enemies. He'd created other beings who'd rebelled (angels who became demons), yet, for reasons that are not clear, He did not redeem them, and they await the Day of Judgment. Clearly why God would do such things and create a world in which to suffer agony and die is difficult to understand. God's thoughts are much higher than ours. Scripture does, however, make it plain that what God does here on earth is done to display His glory, both to us and to the heavenly host – angels, demons, principalities, powers...:
“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him' – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit...”1 Cor. 2:6-10
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord...Eph. 3:8-11
(And if you continue reading through the remainder of the third chapter of Ephesians, you will be filled with awe at the plan God had from eternity to fill a people with His fullness, to show them the height and depth of His great love which is in Christ Jesus!)

And my point in all this, is that God's plan is older than time and intended to reveal an aspect of His character which He had previously never revealed to His created beings. They've seen Him as holy, holy, holy, and omnipotent, and any number of other beautiful things, but they'd never seen His perfect justice meted out on His enemies, nor had they ever dreamed of, let alone witnessed, the depth of His love. Who could have known that God would be willing to die to justify undeserving enemies? Who could have understood His long-suffering toward those who hate him? Who could have known that He could be both just, and the justifier of the ungodly? Who could have known the lengths to which He was willing to go to draw a people into His love:
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn. 17:24-25)?'
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29-30).
So, you see, God has a great plan to further reveal His glory, but it is also a great plan to draw a people for Himself into that glory. The love He and the Son have for each other is so great that the Father has chosen to bring more creatures into it. He wants many more sons, self-sacrificing sons, in the image of His only begotten One. Adam was created good, but He was not Christ-like. Redeemed mankind will obtain a glory of which Adam would never have dreamed. The state of Redeemed man is far more glorious than that of Adam, and so truly it is only in Christ that he is perfect (complete). It is only in Christ that mankind's purpose is fulfilled. It is only in the Cross of Christ that God's perfect love and perfect justice are exhibited for all creation to witness.  What a mighty and glorious God we serve!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let's have a talk about inerrancy.

A few days ago I happened upon a statement about biblical inerrancy in Bob Godfrey's little book, An Unexpected Journey, Discovering Reformed Theology, which has left me somewhat puzzled.  I've read it over several times and yet find myself with more questions than answers:
"Today that attack on the full trustworthiness of the Bible comes in many forms.  Some see the Bible as simply a record of human religious experience from which one may or may not learn something useful.  Others believe that the Bible contains the Word of God in the midst of other human thoughts that are not true.  Still others believe that the Bible is the Word of God, although flawed with a few errors.  All of these approaches to the Bible require that we as students become the judges of Scripture, separating truth from error.  But God has revealed his Word to be the judge of our thinking and living.  His Word is completely true and shows us the errors in our lives.  For sinners to stand in judgment of the trustworthiness of any part of the Scriptures is to let the prisoners run the prison.
 "In response to these various attacks on the Scriptures, Bible-believing Christians...have come to refer to the Bible as inerrant - that is, without error....I learned that the Bible was inspired by God, breathed out by him (2 Tim. 3:16), so it is as free from error as God himself is." (emphasis mine)
Let me preface my questions with the statement that I am not an expert on Biblical inerrancy, nor have I read extensively on the subject. I have a basic understanding of textual criticism, along with a some understanding of the challenges of the translation process. I don't approach the Scriptures with the intent of finding falsehood in them. In fact, I approach them with a heart full of confidence.  I consider the Scriptures to be God's words to man and the authoritative guide of my life, thought, and faith. Yet will all that said, I find Godfrey's statement confusing rather than helpful.  I understand his point, which is that we view the Bible as the Word of God, accepting its authority over our lives rather than trying to discount it or explain it away.  With that point I am in full agreement.  It is the unqualified statement he ends with which leaves me with a host of questions.

Let me illustrate the first of my questions, if you will, with a hypothetical one.  Early in my Christian life, I used to like to write out entire books of the Bible by hand.  Somewhere around here is a copy of Romans in a pretty spiral notebook.  In another is all the writings of the Apostle John in my own cursive. I don't remember if I have any others or not, but suppose I did.  Suppose I had copied the whole Bible in this manner and then tucked it away somewhere.  Suppose also that I was not the only nut on the planet writing out entire books of Scripture for personal devotion, that in fact there were quite a few.  Then suppose there was a sudden and cataclysmic persecution of Christianity, which led to Scriptures all over the world being destroyed, except these handwritten texts, overlooked simply because they looked like ordinary notebooks or journals and nothing at all like Bibles.

In such circumstances Christians, in desperate hunger for the Scriptures would furtively seek out gather, copy, and redistribute whatever they could get their hands on.  But here is a problem, I know that when I hand-copied books of the Bible, I made a few errors - missed words/phrases, duplicated words/phrases, possibly some misspellings, you get the idea.  I think I was able to catch and correct most of them, but it's likely some errors remained. I'm not even certain all my copies were from the same version of the Bible.  I did not use any paraphrases, to be sure, but some of the other copies floating around, handwritten by others may have come from these sources, or may not have been so carefully copied.

The scenario I've just painted is hypothetical (except for my handwritten books of the Bible - those exist), yet it really is the story of the Bible.  It is through similar circumstances over the course of thousands of years that the Bible has endured.  So, my question is this: at what point is a Bible a Bible, or not a Bible? Does the hand-copied compilation of books, even though it contains some errors, count?  What if no "genuine" or "original" Bible can be found for comparison and correction - does what has been copied cease to be the Word of God? If we manage to compile a purportedly complete collection of all the books of the Bible, is it wrong to check its accuracy?  Would Godfrey call this "sinners standing in judgment" or "prisoners running the prison"?  I don't think he would; but what does he mean?

Can you understand my quandary here?  I grew up with the RSV Bible, and still do a lot of my reading from it.  I know, however, that it had a couple of problematic word translations which other versions, like the ESV, have since sought to improve upon. My ESV and NIV both bracket off the last bit of the Gospel of Mark (16:9-19) and note it as a likely later addition.  They do the same with a favorite of many - the story of the woman caught in adultery.  These are the kinds of discrepancies, that can cause even well-meaning people to question the trustworthiness of Scripture.  These are the kinds of things scholars, whose life calling over the ages has been to preserve the integrity of the Bible, have worked all that time to clear up.  They are trying to get us as close to the actual original text as possible, but they would likely be the first to admit that what we have now is not "perfect".  It is extremely close, closer than likely any other historic document to its original, and all key doctrines are preserved throughout; yet there is clear evidence that it has passed through the hands of thousands of imperfect men.  That is one of the great wonders of Scripture - that it is so clearly handled by filthy men, and yet so clearly preserved the Holy and pure word of God. 

And so, what am I to do with a statement as simplistic as this: "it is as free from error as God himself is"?

I welcome your thoughts.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday Science

Hot! Hot! Hot! How Much Heat Can You Take?

If you're reading this now, it means you've survived another summer. Here in Chico, that's always something to feel grateful for, even though at times we seem to take a perverse pride in our hot summers and our ability to weather them. Paul and I managed this last one without air conditioning in our car. How did we stand it?'s how.

The science of Fall.

Why do the leaves fall off the trees?

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God...

Cone Nebula (NGC 2264): Star-Forming Pillar of Gas and Dust

To see more beautiful images from the Hubble spacecraft, you may view the entire gallery  here.

And now, Mars!

View more martian landscapes here.  The variety is astonishing.
(HT to Noelle Piper)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Meditations "on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam" - Why the world doesn't gasp

"Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing." Isaiah 40: 21-26
At some point in a future meditation I intend to explore the philosophical notion that God's infinitude may in some way render His immensity in relation to our smallness rather irrelevant - in the sense that size bears little relevance to a being who is infinite as to time and space (as if anyone can have any truly adequate understanding of the perspective of such a being). For now, however, I would like to linger for some time longer, with the immensity of God, partly because that is the most overwhelming impression left by the image above, but especially because God repeatedly dwells on it in Scripture. God has, ever since the days of creation, intended us to be awed and humbled by this very thing. Scripture never does instruct us to philosophize on the nature of infinity, per se; and we should not, as finite beings, limited in every direction, fool ourselves into thinking that we can have anything but the faintest comprehension of infinity. Big and small, on the other hand, are concepts we can understand full well. By describing Himself in terms of magnitude, God, using expressions with clear meaning for us, has given us a framework for understanding Him and our relationship to Him. By displaying a creation of seemingly infinite space, He gives us the barest glimpse of His own eternal nature. And, more eloquently than words ever could, the creation, pours forth the majesty of God.

"The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, 
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat." Psalm 19:1-6

Creation is the testimony of God, proclaimed to all mankind, loud enough for all to hear. It is a vision given to man of the invisible God's eternal power and divine nature, bright and clear enough for all to see. If only we would look and listen, we would have at least the beginning of wisdom - we would have the fear the LORD in our hearts. But before I go exploring further, with open eyes, into the glory of God in the heavens, I feel the need to go slowly, to take time to consider one of the other great wonders of the world: why it is that all humanity is not at this very moment sighing a collective gasp of awe at the majesty of God stretching out over us everywhere we look and as far as the eye can see, and reaching down, permeating every cell of our being. From the seeming limitless expanse of the heavens, to the invisible universes of atoms that make up everything that is visible, everywhere we look we see the fingerprints of the Creator and the evidence of unimaginable wisdom, majesty and power.

The second great wonder of the world is that it does not ring forth with deafening praises to this almighty God. Why has creation not proven a testimony sufficient to elicit praise for God from all mankind? There are several answers I could give to this question but I'd like to focus on two which over-arch the rest; the glory of God, and the sin of man. Primarily, and strangely enough, the current lack of honor given to God is a temporary state which will ultimately serve to bring Him even greater glory throughout eternity. God has a plan to glorify Himself in ways which this created order alone will not suffice. But rather than begin there, I'll first address the secondary cause, the immediate hindrance to the proper worship of God in the world of men, sin.

God testifies in Scripture that creation should be sufficient to bring men to the worship of God and thanksgiving, that creation is a reliable revelation from God to man, which if regarded properly will lead us to honor Him and give Him thanks. There are many things about God which creation does not teach (more on that in a moment); but Scripture does reveal enough to leave us in awe of God's evident power and authority as Creator, to honor Him - and to be thankful to Him - which indeed we would be were it not for the sinful rebelliousness of our hearts.
"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." (Rom. 1:19-23)
This is God's commentary upon what happened in Eden. It is also His commentary on what has continued on throughout the ages in the hearts of all Adam's offspring. We all know and clearly perceive God through the revelation of creation, and we all react in the same way, by natural instinct, if you will, rejecting what we clearly see and trading away the truth of God for falsehood, the glory of God for lesser things. The testimony of God is that, "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen. 8:21) And,
"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God,'
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one." Ps. 14:1-3
And again,

"...For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

'None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.'
'Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.'
'The venom of asps is under their lips.'
'Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.'
'Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.'
'There is no fear of God before their eyes.'  Rom. 3:9-18
Rather than fearing God, honoring Him, and seeking the wisdom He provides, we have chosen to look to ourselves and our own "wisdom". Instead of looking at His creation to learn of Him, we look at His works and by them seek to disprove His existence. In doing so, we've made ourselves fools. We've closed our eyes, squeezed them tight, to the truth and wisdom of the God of all creation, and now wander the earth stubbornly blind, yet haughty in our rejection of the light of God. We don't want this God. His power is too dreadful to think of, to contemplate. We don't want to think of Him, but even more so, we don't want to answer to Him. We want to be our own gods, and answer only to ourselves. We don't want His light, His wisdom to shine into our dark hearts. "And this is the judgment, that light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed." (Jn. 3:19-20)

So, because of our sin, the blessing and beauty of creation, instead of inspiring awe and lifting our hearts in adoration of God, has become a testimony which serves to condemn us. "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, no knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." (Rom. 2: 4-5) And this is the fate of all whose eyes remain tightly shut against the light of God, where ever He may be seen.

In my next post in this series, I intend to explore the ultimate reason that the testimony of creation, as overwhelming and magnificent as it is, has not proven sufficient to bring people to God.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Charity and Its Fruits - Light and Heat

Due to circumstances beyond my control, our study of Charity and Its Fruits was canceled this evening. Lord willing, we will continue where we left off next Monday evening. If you're behind, this is a great chance to catch up. If you're caught up, I hope you will use this time to process and practice what we've learned so far. As no doubt you've already noticed, our progress will be slow but (mostly) steady.

That said, I'd love to use this little interval as an opportunity to expand a bit on a concept Edwards touched on briefly in this chapter, but which is a rather dominant theme in his theology and thought - light and heat. In our reading this past week we came across this passage:
"If persons have the true light of heaven let into their souls, it is not a light without heat. Divine knowledge and divine love go together. A spiritual view of divine things always excites love in the soul, and draws forth the heart in love to every proper object. True discoveries of the divine character dispose us to love God as the supreme good; they unite the heart in love to Christ; the incline the soul to flow out in love to God's people, and to all mankind When persons have a true discovery of the excellency and sufficiency of Christ, this is the effect. When they experience a right belief of the truth of the gospel, such a belief is accompanied by love..."
As George Marsden said in his biography, Jonathan Edwards, a Life, Edwards became fascinated with the biblical imagery of light from very early in his ministry : "The sermon Jesus Christ the Light of the World is a gem of his early writing, sustaining his favorite metaphor of light throughout. Light is a primary biblical image to describe God's love. Light was also familiar theme in both the preaching and philosophizing of an era so concerned with enlightenment. No one looked more intensely at the biblical meaning of light for his day than did Edwards. For him, light was the most powerful image of how God communicated his love to his creation. Regeneration meant to be given eyes to see the light of Christ in hearts that had been hopelessly darkened by sin." (See 2 Cor. 4:6.)

According to Marsden:
"The key to Edwards' thought is that everything is related because everything is related to God. Truth, a dimension of God's love and beauty, is a part of that quintessentially bright light that pours forth from the throne of God. Every other pretended light, or source of truth, is as darkness if it keeps God's creatures from seeing the great sun of God's light. The created universe itself is a dynamic expression of that light, yet sin blinds humans from acknowledging the source of the light that surrounds them. Having turned away from the true light of God's love, they now grope in darkness, inordinately loving themselves and their immediate surroundings, or chasing after false lights of their own imaginings. Only the undeserved gift of redemption, bought with Christ's blood, can open their eyes and change their hearts so that they see and love the triune God and the created universe as wholly an expression of God's creative and redemptive will. Only through the prism of the revelation recorded in Scripture can they discover the nature of God's creative and redemptive purposes. Once sinners experience God's love, they begin to love what he loves."
In a later sermon, A Divine and Supernatural Light, Edwards, in Marsden's words,
"related his most profound theological reflections on his understanding of true Christian experience. God communicates to humans, he explained, in an immediate way that goes beyond anything that natural reason by itself can attain. What distinguishes saints from the unconverted is that the Holy Spirit dwells with converted persons and so gives them the power to apprehend the things of God. They have in effect, a new spiritual sense. This new sense is not an ability to have visions, or to gain new information that goes beyond Scripture, or to experience intense religious emotions. Rather, it is the power necessary to appreciate the spiritual light that radiates from God, the power to hear the communication of God's love that pervades the universe. It is a power to appreciate beauty or excellency, specifically the beauty and excellency of Christ."
And this leads us to a passage from Edwards famous work Religious Affections, which I feel sheds much light on the subject of our current study - the light and heat of God as evidence of a true work of God in the life of a professing Christian:
"He who has no religious affection, is in a state of spiritual death, and is wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the Spirit of God upon his heart. As there is no true religion, where there is nothing else but affection; so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection. As on the one hand, there must be light in the understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart, where there is heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart; so on the other hand, where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculation, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things. If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart...."
And so Edwards would have us understand that in the Christian sense, as light without heat, is no true light, so supposed knowledge and understanding of God, without love, is no true knowledge at all. Faith without works is death...and faith works through love. (James 2:20; Gal. 5:6)