The Devil’s Tennis Ball

If any of my readers have not seen this quotation by Thomas Watson, it is a real gem, and sounds shockingly modern (from The Godly Man’s Picture):

An idle person is the devil’s tennis ball, which he bandies up and down with temptation till at last the ball goes out of play.

With apologies to any tennis players out there (and maybe an apology to Shakespeare’s Henry V, which features tennis balls so prominently), this quotation blew me away when I first read it yesterday, quoted in the Reformation Heritage Study Bible on 2 Samuel 11 and the temptation of David. Of course, in the history of David, the author subtlely castigates David for staying at home when kings were supposed to go to war. Being idle was his first mistake.

Of course, Americans oftentimes have the opposite problem of being too busy that they have no time for meditation on God’s Word or prayer. Mere busyness is not a virtue, any more than mere idleness. If you are busy, be busy about the kingdom work. If you are resting, rest in order to sharpen your axe.

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Quote of the Week

This month’s quote of the week (!) is from Geerhardus Vos, my favorite theologian of all time. It is located in volume 4 of his Reformed Dogmatics, which just became available. Volume 4 covers soteriology, and this quotation comes from the chapter on justification (p. 173):

33. What should we answer when someone says that in justification, declaring us to be righteous, God does not act according to truth, since in ourselves we are still full of sin and unrighteousness?

a) God’s judgment pronounced in justification does not mean that we possess a perfect inherent righteousness. If God said that, he would be making an untrue declaration. But He does not do that.

b) God’s judgment would likewise be untrue if He imputed to us an imperfect righteousness of the Mediator as if it were perfect. This would be ex injuira (by injustice). But this, too, is not the case. Nothing at all is lacking from the righteousness of Christ.

c) God’s judgment would be precisely untrue if He declared us righteous on the basis of our persistently imperfect subjective righteousness. On Rome’s position, a justification according to truth during this life is impossible.

d) The truthfulness of God’s judgment rests on the truthfulness of imputation. This is no fiction. In reality, God ascribes the merits of Christ to our account. To deny that this is a reality is also to deny the reality of the atonement, in which, conversely, our sins are imputed to Christ. If the mediator can occupy our legal position without that detracting from the truthfulness of God, so also we can occupy the legal position of the Mediator, and God’s judgment concerning that can be fully according to truth.

Quote of the Week (Month?)

I have always thought of “Contemporary Christian Music” in much the same way that Voltaire said of the Holy Roman Empire that it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. As usual, T. David Gordon nails it on the head. The longer article (well worth reading) is here.

“Contemporary worship” to me is an oxymoron. Biblically, worship is what angels and morning stars did before creation; what Abraham, Moses and the Levites, and the many-tongued Jewish diaspora at Pentecost did. It is what the martyrs, now ascended, do, and what all believers since the apostles have done. More importantly, it is what we will do eternally; worship is essentially (not accidentally) eschatological. And nothing could celebrate the eschatological forever less than something that celebrates the contemporary now. So ultimately, I think the Apostles’ Creed will stick its camel’s nose into the liturgical tent, and assert again our celebration of the “holy catholic church, the communion of the saints.” The sooner the better.

Quote of the Week

Today we hear from Doug Kelly, from his commentary on Revelation, p. 292:

I have never understood how, when the gospel is explained, and the great love of God to us in Jesus is held forth, some people are angered and will not accept it. After a fairly long preaching and teaching ministry, I have gained the impression that preaching the sheer grace of God is far more likely to anger sinners than preaching the requirements of the law. In my early years, I had assumed that it would be the opposite, but the years taught me better.

I will never forget one Sunday night, many years ago, at an evening service at the First Presbyterian Church, Dillon. I preached a rather long sermon on Psalm 22, setting forth the wonderful grace of God in Christ, who was forsaken that we need never be forsaken, whose blood is the only thing that can get any sinner into heaven. One man at that service became extremely angry. he was not angry over the length of the sermon, but over what was said. At times, I have made people angry, but I have never seen a person more infuriated than on that night. That older gentleman said something like this: “What do you mean by saying we cannot do something to please God to help us get into heaven, and that if we do good works, they are not sufficient? I have never heard such things! You are excluding people here who are trying to do good.” I quietly and calmly replied, “Well, do not argue with me; argue with the Lord.”

It worked out well. Time went by, and he was getting into the Word of God, attending every service and reading Holy Scripture daily. God saved his soul! Then he was very glad that grace would be preached. Sinners do not like the law, but there is something they like even less: the mercy of God in the cleansing blood of Christ, that requires them humbly to bow at the foot of the cross. But keep preaching it, for it is the only way lost men and women can get in touch with that tabernacle and the God whom it represents.

Quote of the Week

This week, we hear from Meredith Kline, on a subject that is not one of the normal controversial subjects surrounding Kline’s work, but which nonetheless might very well prove to be controversial. I have not seen anyone address this question before now (which doesn’t mean that no one has, just that I haven’t read it). The quotation is from God, Heaven, and Har Magedon, p. 16:

It is by the Holy Spirit that Jesus was conceived, the Glory-Spirit, the Power of the Most High, coming upon Mary and overshadowing her (Luke 1:35). The Father begets the Son through the Spirit. In this process the Spirit is the second person and the Son the third. And as in the spiration of the Spirit so in the begetting of the Son the economic relations of the divine persons are to be seen as analogues of their eternal immanent relations. The fathering of the incarnate Son by the endoxate (this is a term Kline coined to refer to the manifestation of the Spirit’s glory in visible form, LK) Spirit warrants inclusion of the Spirit along with the Father as a subject in the eternal divine begetting, the generating process of which the Son is the object. It is a desideratum, therefore, that a reference to the Holy Spirit corresponding to the filioque phrase in the creedal account of the spiration of the Spirit find a place in our confessional formulation of the eternal filiation of the Son.

What say you? Yes or no? The part that appeals to me about this formulation is that the eternal filiation of the Son has usually left out the Holy Spirit’s role in most theologians’ way of putting things. Kline puts the Holy Spirit back in where He belongs. The question I have revolves around the analogue: is it proper to reason back from the Incarnation to the eternal relations? And can that principle be extended to how the Holy Spirit is involved in the eternal filiation vis-a-vis the Holy Spirit’s participation in the Incarnation?

Quote of the Week

Some of my readers might be wondering whether I dropped off the face of the earth. Our family was sick for a month and a half. It was the single worst respiratory disease I have ever had, and my poor wife Sarah was in constant pain during all that time. We believe there is a mold issue in our house. Fortunately, we also believe that it can be fixed relatively quickly. Our church has been marvelous about fixing the manse quickly and efficiently, and we feel very loved.

The quote of the week (month?) comes from Joseph Caryl, his commentary on Job, volume 3, p. 445, commenting on Job 10:3:

Many are troubled at small defects in the outward man: Few are troubled at the greatest deformities of their inner man; they call for no repairs, for no fresh colours to be laid on there; many buy artificiall beauty to supply the defects of naturall, who never had a thought of buying (without money) spirituall beauty to supply the defects of supernaturall. The crookednesse and distortions, the blacknesse and uncomelinesse of the soul are most deplorable, yet are they little deplored; we are called every day to mend and cure them, we are told where and how we may have all set right, and made fair again, and yet the most stirre not, or not to purpose. God will not know any body at the last day, unlesse his souls be mended by grace, and some do so mend their bodies by art, that God will not know their souls at that day. Depart from me, I know you not (will be all their entertainment) ye have mended your bodies till ye have mar’d your souls (spelling and punctuation original).

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of many more Puritan quotes so directly applicable to modern culture.

Quote of the Week

It may sound ridiculous to blog a post about a quote of the week, when I haven’t blogged much in the last month at all. I have hopefully emerged from the doldrums of the last month. Anyway, here is a great quotation from the Anchor Bible commentary on Jonah, written by Jack Sasson (p. 13):

I hold that commentators serve best when clarifying what lies before them instead of explaining what they imagine to have existed.

I would only add to this: if only some of the other Anchor Bible commentaries had listened or had this same perspective!

Quote of the Week

Today, we hear from C.J. Wright, who wrote a treatise in 1950 entitled Jesus the Revelation of God. He writes:

[T]here are types of so-called religious apologetic, which, distrusting the intrinsic claims of religion itself, seek to put in its place ‘external evidences’ and ‘institutional safeguards.’ How can light convince us that it is light except by what it does for us? We do not demonstrate that light is light by treatises, or by analyses of its constituent rays. It is only light to us when it illumines and quickens us…Anyone can, to his own satisfaction, confute the claim which Beauty makes, by saying, I do not see it; or the claim inherent in Goodness, by saying, I do not hear it; or the self-evidencing nature of Truth, by saying, I do not know it. But man does not create Goodness, or Truth, or Beauty; and to say that he cannot see them is to condemn himself, not them (quoted from Morris’s commentary on John, p. 390, fn. 13).

I would be very much interested in hearing whether you think Wright has overstated the case or not.

Quotation of the Week

This week we hear from Douglas Kelly, who is commenting on Revelation 6:9-11, the fifth seal wherein the martyred saints under the altar cry out to God, “How long, O Lord?” Kelly says,

Once the saints have been martyred, they do not lose their effectiveness in changing the course of world history…To rid themselves of the testimony of these believers, who were showing up the darkness of the evil works of sinners by their humble and holy lives, the world system said, ‘Let’s dispatch them. Then we shall be rid of their annoying influence, and our lives will no longer be disturbed by their Christian testimony.’ But look at what actually has happened: they have only dispatched them to a place of tremendous authority that they can now exercise near their heavenly father’s heart in heaven, as they are praying. (commentary on Revelation, p. 125-6).

This is a very interesting idea, and one that I have not really thought of before. One is reminded a little bit of what Obi Wan Kenobi tells Darth Vader during their battle near the end of Star Wars that if Darth strikes him down, he will only become more powerful than he was before. If the world powers were smart about this, they would not martyr Christians for their faith, since they only help the Christian cause in the world through doing so. However, world powers have never been smart about this. In fact, they seem intent on killing as many Christians as they can. It is no coincidence that the greatest and fastest growth of the Christian church is happening hand in hand with the greatest number of martyrdoms the world has ever seen. Instead, if the powers that be want Christianity to die out, they should lure Christianity into the regions of comfort and sensuality, like what is happening in the West.

Quotation of the Week

Here, our quotation is from good ol’ brother Martin Luther. This sounds eerily familiar…

[The devil’s] doctrine is easily swallowed, for it is comprehensible to reason. But here, where I am peaceful and do not seek war but strive to bring salvation to all the world and preach the Gospel, war is already at hand. The devil senses that the people are being snatched from his toils and trap and are being led into the kingdom of the Lord Christ. Therefore he agitates whomever he can, and he himself wakes up and becomes mad and furious. Thus the peaceful must have a reputation as disturbers of the peace; they must bear the blame for creating discord. But those who break the peace and start the controversy boast that they are lovers of peace. Let it go! The devil rages this way to intimidate people, lest they adhere to the Gospel. Thus he slanders Christ, His followers, and the apostles as instigators of strife and discord (Luther’s Works, volume 23, pp. 291-292).

Can anyone say “the state of the PCA today?”

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