“Wer Singt Mit Mir”

Posted by Dr. Jeff Hutchinson

Church historian Mark Noll writes in his recent article for Christianity Today, “Praise the Lord” (found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/006/9.14.html):

An old German proverb runs: “Wer spricht mit mir ist mein Mitmensch; wer singt mit mir ist mein Bruder” (the one who speaks with me is my fellow human; the one who sings with me is my brother)….Believers who together sang the same hymns in the same way came to experience very strong ties with each other and even stronger rooting in Christianity….(But) as much as hymn singing has always been one of the most effective builders of Christian community, it has also always been one of the strongest dividers of Christian communities.

The one who sings with me is my brother.  Now, this is just a German proverb (not to be confused with the divinely inspired sort), but it does speak to a deep truth.  The one who is troubled by the hymns that sing of the gospel is, well, troubled.

One of Bob’s recent posts here at Green Bagginses reminded me of these unfortunate words from the Anglican scholar N. T. Wright, part of his lecture at the August 2003 Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference.  Wright says that Paul “looks ahead to the coming day of judgment and sees God’s favourable verdict not on the basis of the merits and death of Christ, not because like Lord Hailsham he simply casts himself on the mercy of the judge, but on the basis of his apostolic work.  ‘What is our hope and joy and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus Christ as his royal appearing?  Is it not you?  For you are our glory and our joy.’ (1 Thess. 3.19f [sic]; cp. Phil. 2.15f)  I suspect that if you or I were to say such a thing, we could expect a quick rebuke of ‘nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.’ “

Well, I’m not sure that if N. T. Wright were to “say such a thing” in conversation with me that I would bring a “quick rebuke,” but I might see if he’d let me encourage him in the gospel.  Then maybe he would want to sing “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling” with me, in praise and thanksgiving to the Triune God.  My great-grandfather (the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the 1920’s) would be thrilled to see such brotherly unity across the Anglican-Presbyterian divide.

Posted by Jeff Hutchinson

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5 Comments

  1. Ben D. said,

    November 20, 2007 at 9:19 am

    My question is what do we do with the verses Wright is dealing with? What exactly does it mean for Paul’s converts to be his hope and joy before Jesus at his coming? It seems to be an odd interpretation on Wright’s part, quite possibly being naively literalistic, in a way that Wright would castigate others for doing, a sort of “look it says it right here!” mentality similar to the most literalistic dispensationalist. Still, what does Paul mean?

  2. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 20, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Paul is often paradoxical in his expressions; I take that to be a feature of his Jewish mindset. So for instance, he “boasts” of his sincerity to the Corinthians in 2 Cor 1. But he also plans on boasting *of* them. But then again, he affirms that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” so that he might not boast because of his surpassing revelations in 2 Cor 12.

    But then, most significantly, he declares that he will not boast of anything save what reveals his weaknesses, so that Christ will be glorified (2 Cor 11.30), and he despises boasting according to the flesh (2 Cor 11).

    And again, he declares that salvation is through faith and not works, so that no one can boast (in Eph).

    I put all of this together to say this:

    (1) Paul boasts of things that show his weakness.
    (2) The successes of his ministry (Corinthians, Thess., Philippians) are clearly something that he attributes to God, not himself (cf 1 Cor 3.5-15).
    (3) Hence, Paul “boasts” only in this: that God is at work in and through him.

    Jeff Cagle

  3. jeffhutchinson said,

    November 20, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Thanks, Jeff (Cagle). And thanks for your good comment and question, Ben.

    In its barest skeletal form (and most certainly the glories of Christ’s royal appearing are worth fleshing out for page upon page and with song upon song and laughter upon laughter for all eternity) Paul is referring to the glorious Judgment that occurs AFTER we believers have been resurrected and glorified, not before (there is no confusion on this point, despite, say, Peter Leithart’s honest confession of confusion to his Presbytery).

    Judgment Day will be nothing but glorious for the believer, because the righteousness of Christ imputed to our account will also render our good works (especially the good work Paul is referring to in 1 Thess 2:19 of having loved and discipled others) pleasing and acceptable and rewardable (WCF 16.6).

    The Larger Catechism, Questions 86-90 are so beautiful I cannot believe how good the gospel is. (Plus, they leave no confusion whatsoever as to which comes first, the Judgment or the Resurrection. It is so deeply troubling to me that our Presbyteries have allowed men to be ordained who are yet confused about their order.)

  4. November 20, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Thanks, Jeff, for bringing the contrast between NT Wright’s errors and Christ’s gospel out so clearly.

    I remember a sermon from Dr. D. James Kennedy that wasn’t aimed at Wright’s errors but applies none the less. Paraphrasing what he preached:

    1) If I do all the work to get into heaven, (e.g., Pelagianism), then “Glory be to me.”
    2) If I am saved by a combination of Christ’s work and my own works, then “Glory be to us.”
    3) If I am saved solely by God’s work in me and for me, then “Glory be to God.”
    The last one is the gospel.

    What a comfort in life and in death! (Heidelberg Catechism #1)

  5. its.reed said,

    November 22, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Ref. # all:

    Good words and encouragment that will never fail.

    If I might ask hopefully a related and fair question, prefaced by an observation.

    Bishop Wright is consistent in his maintaining that statements such as these, and his personal affirmation of them, neither contradict the gospel, nor necessarily mean he is preaching a different gospel.

    Assuming the integrity of such professions, how do we jive such fundamentally contradictory statements? Meaning, other than the direct approach, “you may not believe so, but you are indeed contradicting the gospel,” how do we demonstrate this to such as Wright, or more realistic for us, Christians influenced by such teaching.

    Taking it to another level, it is clearly nigh impossible for even the least of the issues in the FV (and no, I’m not conflating the FV and NPP – just observing that the same dynamic is present).

    What are we to do? Do we stop offering to interact and merely go about our business?


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