f The Wittenberg Door: June 2012

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Notable Quote: C. S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963) on the problem of forgiveness:

. . . you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.

As regards my own sin it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought.

But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.

The Weight of Glory, 181-183

HT: Desiring God

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Today in History: Ben Franklin Calls for Prayer

In the summer of 1787, the Constitutional Convention met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to decide how to set up a new government. At times the arguments grew bitter, and tempers flared in the summer heat. Some delegates verged on quitting when they reached an impasse over whether representation was to be based on the population of each state or if each state should be given one vote. Historians have called this period the “critical juncture” in the Convention. The country was brand-new, and already it looked as though it might fall apart.

On June 28, 1787, eighty-one-year old Benjamin Franklin, the oldest delegate, rose from his seat and made a simple but profound suggestion: they should pray for guidance. He reminded the others that the Continental Congress had asked for divine aid at the start of the Revolutionary War.

“Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered,” he said. “And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, sire, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”

The delegates did not follow Franklin’s suggestion to begin each session with prayer—-for one thing, they had no funds to hire a clergyman. But his words helped calm the Convention, which soon began to make progress, and that answered Franklin’s fervent prayer.

American History Parade

1776 - In Charleston, South Carolina, Patriot troops manning a fort of sand and palmetto logs repulse a British sea attack.

1778 - In the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey, George Washington’s Continental Army battles the British to a draw.

1914 - A Serb nationalist assassinates Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, sophie, an event that triggers World War I.

1919 - The Treaty of Versailles is signed in France, formally ending World War I.

1939 - Regular transatlantic passenger air service begins when Pan Am’s Dixie Clipper leaves Port Washington, New York, for Lisbon, Portugal, with 22 passengers.

The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America


Notable Quote: Edmund Clowney

The Puritan John Owen wrote: “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing and realizing of the gospel in our souls.” What Christ seeks in his church is what the gospel promises and provides. The quest for gospel holiness cannot mean acquiring confident expertise in the practice of the virtues. When Benjamin Franklin proposed to reform his life by shedding once vice at a time, he prepared an unintentional caricature of a Puritan spiritual journal.

The life of holiness is the life of faith in which the believer, with a deepening knowledge of his own sin and helplessness apart from Christ, increasingly casts himself upon the Lord, and seeks the power of he Spirit and the wisdom and comfort of the Bible to battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is not a lonely or cheerless struggle, for Christ gives the Spirit to the members of his body to help one another. . . . Maturing in holiness means maturing in love, love that knows God’s love poured out in our hearts, and answers with love that tastes the goodness of the Lord

Edmund P. Clowney (1917 – 2005), The Church


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Notable Quote: T.S. Eliot

Opening Stanza of T. S. Eliot's Choruses from the Rock:

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.

O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Notable Quote: R.C. Sproul

From Essential Truths of the Christian Faith . . .

The new covenant, the covenant of grace, was ratified by the shed blood of Christ upon the cross. At the heart of this covenant is God’s promise of redemption. God has not only promised to redeem all who put their trust in Christ, but has sealed and confirmed that promise with a most holy vow. We serve and worship a God who has pledged Himself to our full redemption.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Notable Quote: Herman Bavinck

Herman Bavinck (1854 – 1921) on so-called “natural theology”:

There is no such thing as a separate natural theology that could be obtained apart from any revelation solely on the basis of reflective considerations of the universe. The knowledge of God that is gathered up in so-called natural theology is not the product of human reason.

Rather, natural theology presupposes, first of all, that God reveals himself in his handiwork. It is not humans who seek God but God who seeks humans, also by means of his works in nature. That being the case, it further presupposes that it is not humans who, by the natural light of reason, understand and know this revelation of God. Although all pagan religions are positive [concrete], what is needed on the human side is a mind that has been sanctified and eyes that have been opened in order to be able to see God, the true and living God, in his creatures. And even this is not enough. Even Christian believers would not be able to understand God’s revelation in nature and reproduce it accurately had not God himself described in his Word how he revealed himself and what he revealed of himself in the universe as a whole. The natural knowledge of God is incorporated and set forth at length in Scripture itself. Accordingly, Christians follow a completely mistaken method when, in treating natural theology, they, as it were, divest themselves of God’s special revelation in Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, discuss it apart from any Christian presuppositions, and then move on to special revelation.

Even when Christians do theology, from the very beginning they stand with both feed on the foundation of special revelation. They are Christ-believers not only in the doctrine of Christ but equally in the doctrine of God. Standing on this foundation, they look around themselves, and armed with the spectacles of Holy Scripture, they see in all the world a revelation of the same God they know and confess in Christ as their Father in heaven.

Reformed Dogmatics, vol 2, Doctrine of God, 74-75

HT: Alpha and Omega Ministries


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Notable Quote: J. Gresham Machen

J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937) on the Christian mind . . .

. . . the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is . . .

Christianity & Liberalism, pg. 177

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Sober Assessment of Reformational Drinking

A number of years ago I had the privilege of introducing the Charlton-Heston-looking Rev. Jim West at a conference on Pentecostalism shortly after he published his book, The Glorious Foundation of Christ: The Missing Clincher argument in the Tongues’ Debate. (Speaking as an ex-Pentecostal, I highly recommend this book.)

Before his “tongues” book, Rev. West published a fine treatise titled Drinking With Calvin and Luther! In the book, Rev. West, Professor of Pastoral Theology at City Seminary in Sacramento California, provides not only the theological underpinnings of alcohol’s use, but he also traces its use from the Reformation, to the founding of America, through Spurgeon’s time and beyond. (He also provides a nifty, and funny, beer review.)

In an article penned for Modern Reformation magazine, Rev. West discusses the Reformers' view of alcohol, which includes their condemnation of the un-Biblical practice of churches replacing the wine with some other drink. Here’s how the article begins . . .

Protestant reflection on the consumption of alcohol has undergone a dramatic transformation since the Reformation. Whether this change stems from the rise of pietism or the triumph of middle-class morality, contemporary evangelical ideas about alcohol are at odds with the views of the Protestant reformers. Attending to the reformers' ideas, then, is important not only for those who would claim to be their heirs but also for a good understanding of what the Bible teaches about alcohol.

You can read the entire article here. You can also purchase Rev. West’s books here.


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Notable Quote: John Calvin

John Calvin (1509–1564) on true piety . . .

I call “piety” that reverence joined with love of God which t he knowledge of his benefits induces. For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him—they will never yield him willing service. Nay,, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Notable Quote: Martin Luther

Martin Luther on professing Christ when it matters:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I am professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved . . .