Showing posts from July, 2017

Book in Review: "Moby Dick"

After reading Herman Melville's renown classic "Moby Dick" for the first time, this book has become one of my favorites. Melville writes with incredible skill as sentences are saturated with adverbs and adjectives; colorful metaphors are laden throughout. And while many today might find such meandrous writing painstakingly laborious (Just get to the point, Melville), I found it rather refreshing. In an instant gratification age where media looks to provide entertainment at the expense of meaning, there is nothing like a book that requires some thinking to accompany it.

It is with such writing that Melville makes whaling seem a most desirable career path (never mind it is currently illegal by international law!). The serenity of standing aloft the mainmast, is so brilliantly described that I, someone who has no real desire for sea-crafting, found myself longing to quit my day job for the escape of the infinite space of the sea. The work required in the industry gives the r…

Unlikeness in Sufferers

Several weeks ago, I ran across this quote in the beginning portion of the City of God:

"For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. And thus it is the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So a material difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them." St Augustine, The City of God.
Suffering does not discriminate. The rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked (Matthew 5:45). That is not to say that there …

Can you go too far?

I have been confronted by a couple of literary dialogues that have forced me to answer the question, "can you go too far?" Can someone fall too deep in the mire of sin and self that they are no longer salvageable?
Evangelicalism tell us no. The gospel tells us no, does it not? The classical story of the prodigal son follows many of our own journeys from darkness to light. The younger son demands his inheritance while his father is alive (which is the equivalent of wishing him dead). He goes off into the world and squanders the inheritance in profligate living: partying, drunkenness, and prostitutes. But the sensual lifestyle is short lived; a famine enters the land and the Prodigal is forced into poverty status. He is starving, and is employed as pig feeder--desiring even the "pods the pigs were eating" to fill his empty stomach.
The Prodigal is gone. Pretty far gone I might add--but he is not too far gone. It is in this lowly, impoverished state that the text says…

Book in Review: Conversion

A friend of mine is a pretty big proponent of the 9marks model of church. While I am somewhat unfamiliar, he gave me this little book entitled “Conversion” for me to wrestle with both the issues and solutions raised within.
Author Michael Lawrence immediately hooked me with the introduction of this book as he writes of an all too familiar occurrence. He tells of a Christian family who had raised Christian children, each growing up in the church and each making individual confessions of faith. The children however, now that they are fully grown, have continued to live a moral lifestyle. They continue to be upstanding citizens and model individuals, and they continue to call themselves Christians. But what they lack speaks volumes: they don't go to church, they don't proclaim the gospel, and they aren't devoted to Christ. It seems that although they have acquired a very utilitarian moralism, they have missed Christ entirely.

I have seen examples like this occur ad nauseam. Ch…

Resting and Restless

"Simul justus et peccator"
These words were spoken by Martin Luther to explain one of the strongest tensions in Christianity. "Simul" is the Latin word that we get our English word "simultaneous". "Justus" is the word that we get our word "just" or "righteous". And "Peccator" is the word that we get peccadillo from--or sin. The total translation is: "At the same time righteous and sinner." For Luther this accurately described the paradox that we experience as Christians. We are at the same time clothed in the righteousness of Christ, blameless before God--not of works that we have done, but according to His great mercies; and we are at the same time sinners. Paul explains this tension personally when he says in Romans 7:21-23: "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging wa…

Loving Humanity

Herman Melville writes in Moby Dick of the lack of courage one of his characters (First Mate Starbuck) may display later on in the novel. Read the following excerpt slowly and enjoy the writing:
"But were the coming narrative to reveal in any instance, the complete abasement of poor Starbuck's fortitude, scarce might I have the heart to write it; for it is a thing most sorrowful, nay shocking, to expose the fall of valor in the soul. Men may seem detestable as joint stock-companies and nations; knaves, fools, and murderers there may be; men may have mean and meager faces; but, man, in the ideal, is so noble and so sparkling, such a grand and glowing creature, that over any ignominious blemish in him all his fellows should run to throw their costliest robes. That immaculate manliness we feel within ourselves, so far within us, that it remains intact though all the outer character seem gone; bleeds with keenest anguish at the undraped spectacle of a valor ruined man. Nor can pie…

Becoming Greedy Christians

If I had to pick a favorite character of the Old Testament, I might just have to pick Elijah. Perhaps my favorite Old Testament story is of his confrontation of the prophets of Baal, and the challenge that ensued on Mount Carmel. "Let's build two alters, each with one ox on them. You pray to your god and I to mine, and we are going to see once and for all which god is the True god." It is an awesome story, and I love Elijah's confidence throughout: His mocking tone towards the powerless antics of the pagans; his complete disrespect of their falsehood. And when push comes to shove, Elijah prays and God answers. I would love to have been there, but not too close.
Elijah does a lot of similarly amazing things throughout his life. He prays to God, and a drought comes into the land for 3 years. He prays to God, and the rains return. He outruns Ahab's chariot; and he brings a child back from the dead. Even at the end of his life, Elijah does not even die, but is rather …