Saturday, January 30, 2010

Link--reach out and rebuke someone

Not just preachers have this problem, and not just bloggers. Some people can't make it through the week without considering themselves better than at least one other person or group. Sometimes it seems as though there are people who can't go more than a couple of days without speaking of, forwarding spam about, or writing about the things that other people do wrong. Why I'm demonstrating this habit myself merely in blogging about it? See? See how paradoxical the impulse is?

If you agree with this pass it on to everyone you know and if you don't then you're part of the problem!! SHAME ON YOU FOR BEING PART OF THE PROBLEM! HOW DARE YOU!? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!?

Coming up later I might have to blog a little more about Richard Sibbes.

Link to Bill Kinnon: For I was naked ... and you preached to me about penal substitutionary atonement

...and you preached to me about penal substitutionary atonement. I was sick and you said a Biblical understanding of leadership would bring me comfort. I was in prison and you sent me a book on the Biblical understanding of membership.

It is this section that I find most amusing. I'm all for discussions of penal substitutionary atonement ... and christus victor, and ransom, and so on and so forth. There are many ways in which a person can decide that comfort and solace are to be found in the right kind of church and the right kind of doctrine. It's not as though any one branch of Christian practice doesn't fail at times to clothe the naked, comfort the sick, and visit the prisoners. Still, bloggers worried about the loss of purity seem like they DO lean more that way.

Link: In the Shadow of Woodstock

The young people who came in droves to that farm in Woodstock, NY for several magical days in August of 1969 left as quickly and as miraculously as they’d arrived. Coming empty handed, they left empty handed. And the fields were covered in trash and mud and clothes and shoes and excrement and waste. The once working farm was in ruins, never to be worked again

I grew up in the 1980s, having been born in the mid-1970s. I grew up with a deep aversion to the glorification of the 1960s and of things hippie. I was taught by people who came of age in that era and, honestly, the only ones I trusted from that generation were the ones who didn't trust their own generation, who looked with a jaundiced but not altogether hopeless eye at the achievements and failures of their time and place. To distill this set of observations into a few statements:

Never trust a generation that praises itself for having changed the world (or lets itself be so praised).
Never trust a generation that thinks it has nothing to repent of.

It's easy for Americans to imagine they have changed the world forever but changing the world forever may not be a good thing, either from a "liberal" standpoint or a "conservative" standpoint.

It's easy for Americans to praise their achievements or to praise themselves in reverse, by denouncing their cultural legacy as though that were proof that they represent the brightest and best aspects of that legacy. In other words I'm a great American and represent the greatest things about America because I rip on other Americans who don't think the way I do because they are traitors to all that is "real" and "true" about America. It was ever thus and I have for much of my life been unhappy with that.

It is easy for Americans in each age to see themselves as righting the wrongs of the earlier generation without seeing the wrongs they do themselves. Hippies wanted to shake off the shackles they felt were put upon them by their parents who are now being styled as "the greatest generation" and yet both generations having given us legacies that are decidedly mixed. The Greatest Generation was not necessarily the one that did anything to end racism at home while ostensibly fighting tyranny abroad. The generation that did contend with racism and was part of that social revolution did so benefitting from the largesse of post-war prosperity and did other things to bring down a general valuation of life and human dignity. We can't be winners all the time.

Every generation has something to repent of. For years I have wondered if the things the Woodstock generation are most proud of are the things they should be most ashamed of. Certainly many from an earlier generation thought so ... and yet what did that generation need to repent of that they never repented of that the Woodstock generation rightly saw as being a problem?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Richard Sibbes' The Bruised Reed

Jared Wilson mentioned this book over on his blog which reminded me that I have yet to finish the book. Given that I blitzed through N. T. Wright's Jesus & the Victory of God in twenty-six days you would think that reading Richard Sibbes' The Bruised Reed would be finished in a weekend. Well, not hardly. I'm still not done with it and am thinking of rereading the stuff I already have read.

I got the book as a birthday gift a year ago and it is one of those small books that calls for a lot of thought. Now I happen to have read Steve Hay's observation over at Triablogue that in place of nouethetic counseling quite a few Christians might be better off simply reading this little book by one of the better-known Puritan authors. Given the stories I have heard about the results of nouthetic or "biblical counseling" I can't help but wonder if that surmise is correct, sometimes troublingly so. If nouthetic counselors wish to develop a counseling method that goes beyond or around psychology and psychiatry in dealing with hurt Christians it would seem that Richard Sibbes took care of that four centuries before nouthetic counseling got invented. Of course there must be any number of things written in various Christian traditions to deal with those things.

One of the great advantages of Sibbes compared to some other Puritans (like Gurnall, I'm afraid) is that Sibbes gets very much to the point. Even short statements make useful observations.

"Ye have heard of the patience of Job" the apostle James writes. We have heard of his impatience, too, but it pleased the Lord to overlook that.

If this statement by itself does not give you ample opportunity to reflect upon the mercies of Christ when dealing with our character flaws then you're just not interested in thinking about the mercies of Christ at all. It is a simple observation but a profoundly important one. There are quite a few figures in the Old Testament whose character flaws are nothing short of spectacular and yet in Hebrews and elsewhere in the New Testament we are told of what God found favorable in them, sometimes in such lavish ways it becomes nearly impossible to imagine how or when on earth they displayed these qualities while still alive!