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Self-love and love for God

February 26, 2010

Jonathan Edwards’s thought on the relationship of self-love and the believer’s love for God can be best summarized, I think, in this paragraph from Religious Affections*:

…the exercises of true and holy love in the saints arise in another way. They don’t first see that God loves them, and then see that he is lovely; but they first see that God is lovely, and that Christ is excellent and glorious, and their hearts are first captivated with this view, and the exercises of their love are wont from time to begin here, and to arise primarily from these views; and then, consequentially, they see God’s love; and great favor to them. The saint’s affections begin with God; and self-love has a hand in these affections consequentially, and secondarily only. On the contrary, those false affections begin with self, and an acknowledgement of an excellency in God, and an affectedness with it, is only consequential and dependent. In the love of the true saint God is the lowest foundation; the love of the excellency of his nature is the foundation of all affections which come afterwards, wherein self-love is concerned as an handmaid: on the contrary, the hypocrite lays himself at the bottom of all, as the first foundation, and lays on God as the superstructure; and even his acknowledgement of God’s glory itself, depends on his regard to his private interest (in Yale-Works 2:246).

For more on this topic, you could also read this post over at the Luther’s Stein blog.


*Admittedly, for this paragraph to be the best summation it should have included a word about the work of the Spirit in generating man’s love for God.

Hark, the Herald Angels "Say"?

December 24, 2009

I’ve heard it said before that the first line of Wesley’s glorious carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” is technically wrong since Luke’s Gospel records that the regiment of angels were “saying” (λέγω).

For instance, Luke 2:13-14 reads in the ESV:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The Greek reads for this passage reads:

13και εξαιφνης εγενετο συν τω αγγελω πληθος στρατιας ουρανιου αινουντων τον θεον και λεγοντων 14δοξα εν υψιστοις θεω και επι γης ειρηνη εν ανθρωποις ευδοκια.

Rod Decker notes (on the authority of Danker’s new lexicon) that this is a spurious objection. I agree wholeheartedly. It is true that λέγω can refer to speaking, but a similar word in Ephesians 5:19 (λαλουντες εαυτοις ψαλμοις και υμνοις και ωδαις πνευματικαις αδοντες και ψαλλοντες εν τη καρδια υμων τω κυριω) also quite evidently refers either to singing (specifically) or to communication that includes singing (generally). The idea of these words, both of which English translations often render “saying” or “speaking,” carries a broader referent than non-singing discourse.*

For more on the carol itself, you could read Dave Doran’s post on it.

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing by the King’s College Choir, directed by Sir David Willcocks

*The original post read, “It is true that λέγω can refer to speaking*, but in Ephesians 5:19 (λαλουντες εαυτοις ψαλμοις και υμνοις και ωδαις πνευματικαις αδοντες και ψαλλοντες εν τη καρδια υμων τω κυριω) it quite evidently refers either to singing (specifically) or to communication that includes singing (generally).” See the helpful correction posted by Dr Decker below in the comments.

Adam of Saint Victor on the Trinity

December 21, 2009

Adam of Saint Victor wrote this in the twelfth century:

Of the Trinity to reason
Leads to license or to treason
Punishment deserving.
What is birth [gigni] or what procession,
Is not mine to make profession,
Save with faith unswerving.

Thus professing, thus believing,
Never insolently leaving
The highway of our faith,
Duty weighing, law obeying,
Never shall we wander straying
Where heresy is death.*

*Cited in John Randall, The Making of the Modern Mind, who is citing Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, 315.

Michael Haykin on the Trinity

December 18, 2009

HT: Historia ecclesiastica

The Medieval and their meaning

December 18, 2009

While there was plenty of strangeness to Medieval thought, a confessor in Christianity must admire some of its hallmarks, among which was the ardent desire to understand the meaning of the world and its divine purpose, described here by John Randall in The Making of the Modern Mind:

The world was a great allegory, whose essential secret was its meaning, not its operations or its causes; it was a hierarchical order, extending from lowest to highest, from stones and trees through man to the choirs upon choirs of angels, just as society ranged from serf through lord and king to pope; and it was inspired throughout by the desire to fulfill its divine purpose. The power that moved all things was Love; that love of God which kept all things eternally aspiring to be themselves, the love of the flame for fire that caused it to strain upward, the love of the stone that is its hardness, of the grass that is its greenness, of the beasts that is their bestiality, of the bad man for evil that is his nature, and of the good man for God that is his home. From the highest heaven to the lowest clod, aspiration to fulfill the will of God, to blend with the divine purpose, was the cosmic force that made the world go round. And highest and lowest could truly say, “In his will is our peace.”*


*(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940), 36.

A Not-so-Modest Proposition

December 15, 2009

For those of you familiar with the recent turmoil in the ELCA over homosexual clergy and practice, you need to read this piece republished by Rev. Paul McCain on First Things‘ Evangel blog: a reprint of Pastor Peter Speckhard’s Temple Prostitution: A Modest Proposal. Splendid.

Jonathan Edwards (and Josh Moody) on reason and revelation

November 10, 2009

Is Christianity reasonable? How many of the “truths of Christianity” should we be able to find “in nature” or to be “reasonable”? Is Christianity verified through reason or in nature? These were questions pressed upon the Christian faith especially during the Enlightenment. Josh Moody, in his Jonathan Edwards and the Enlightenment: Knowing the Presence of God, summarizes how Jonathan Edwards, one whose ministry existed in the midst of the Enlightenment’s heyday, addressed these questions (pp 121-22):

Can . . . a high view of Revelation be reconciled with reason? For Edwards, it all depended on the beginning. The dominant picture of Edwards’ understanding of the relationship of reason and revelation is not the . . . one of separate location, but of appropriate order. Revelation comes first. Primary place in Edwards’ mental authority structure was always given to revelation.

On this matter Edwards makes his most vigorous departure from [John] Locke. He disagrees with him that reason can teach us true religion, which he feels is but a “wild fancy,” because history shows true religion began with revelation not reason; reason before revelation went “very wrong.”* The reason which concerns Edwards is “thinking God’s thoughts after him,” reasoning after revelation. Truth “now demonstrable by reason” could never be “found out before” revelation.** Once things have been revealed it seems “as if we could easily arrive at a certainty of them if we never had had a revelation of them.” But to see a truth is reasonable “after we have been told of it” is one thing; it is “another to find out . . . by mere reason.”*** Thus, “The light of nature teaches that Religion, that is necessary to continue in the Favour of the God that made us; But it cannot teach us that Religion, that is necessary to our being restored to the Favour of God, after we have forfeited it.”****


*Misc. 986

**Misc. 140

***Misc. 350

****Misc. 1304