Jesus Of The Scars

A poem by Edward Shillito, written during World War I:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.


Here is some unique footage of Niagara Falls courtesy of a quadcopter and a GoPro video camera:

(Via Huffpost)

James Burns Inferno

Clive James reviews Dan Brown’s Inferno at Prospect Magazine. Or should I say razes it to the ground? Man alive this review is funny. It almost makes me want to read the book—but my mother always told me to look away from car accidents on the side of the road. I’ll adopt the same principle here.

I liked this quote from near the beginning of the review: “Once again, that is, he makes you want to turn the pages even though every page you turn demonstrates abundantly his complete lack of talent as a writer.” And this one: “On top of the shaky language are piled the solecisms. ‘Pandora is out of her box.’” (Dan, she was never in it.)” Poor Dan Brown.

Calvinism Is As Calvinism Does

Calvin Statue

There is an argument making the rounds (though not necessarily a new one) that Calvinism shouldn’t really be considered an “ism” since all that Jean Cauvin did was teach historically orthodox Christianity. Of course the first thing to consider in this regard is that it is suddenly and painfully obvious that those who make this claim are typically, err, Calvinists, and therefore the most immediate response is to suggest a mere blindness to their own frame of reference. Nonetheless, here are some of the key points of the argument as made by Donald Macleod:

“Calvin never saw himself as the founder of an -ism.  In his own lifetime, there is only one single instance of the word ‘Calvinism’ being used, and that was as an insult, as if we today were to call someone a Nazi.  In this respect things aren’t much better in 2013.”

This is true of pretty much everyone who isn’t a completely delusional megolomaniac. I mean did Thomas Aquinas ever respond to any queries about the content of his writings by saying “oh I’m writing about this thing called Thomism, yeah, I called it that. After me. Thomas. Get it?” The very term “Christian” was considered something of an insult in the first century, so Macleod’s assertions here strike me as particularly weak.

“The result is that it is hard to find in Calvin a single idea that had not been part of Christian tradition from time immemorial.  He shunned originality, and if his -ism has any one distinctive it is that it has no distinctives at all.  It is simply, as one great 19th century scholar put it, ‘Christianity come into its own.’”

Really? Usury. Done. Next:

“Nor did Calvin ever demand personal loyalty.  It never occurred to him, for example, that his ‘Institutes’ should become the creed of a church in the way that Wesley’s Sermons became the creed of Methodism, or a papal encyclical commands the loyalty of all the Catholic faithful.”

This is an awful lot of modesty being attributed to the man. I have to ask then, why go to the trouble of writing the Institutes and publishing if not to set up a way of organizing the church?

“But what bugs me even more is that whatever ‘Calvinism’ was, it wasn’t narrow.  The lazy modern mind, of course, reduces it to one thing: predestination, and I’m certainly  not going to disown that doctrine.  It affords gives us a magnificent view of a world which was carefully and lovingly planned, and which runs on schedule despite the fact that every sub-atomic particle behaves randomly and every human being makes her own free decisions; and it helps us understand why some people accept the Christian message even though it cuts across every prejudice with which they were born.

But in Calvin’s own teaching, predestination is but one subject among many, the sixty-seven pages he devotes to it in his ‘Institutes’ dwarfed by the five-hundred devoted to the doctrine of the church and by the many others devoted to the foundations of knowledge, the value of pagan writings, the humanity of Christ, self-denial, and the freedom of the individual Christian conscience.”

In this respect those who claim the name “Calvinist” or “Reformed” have been their own worst enemies. In addition to your garden-variety Presbyterians, there can be Anglican Calvinists, Baptist Calvinists, even Charismatic Calvinists. There can be episcopal government, eldership, congregational government, none of it seems to matter except one common theme: People claim Calvin’s name almost solely on their view of soteriology.



It’s time again methinks, to have a helping of links:

Is bigger better when it comes to churches?

Uh oh: Does coffee curb creativity?

The phone booth graveyard. (Not quite as impressive as this graveyard, but nonetheless, a sign of the times.)

On the lost art of fixing things.

Is craft beer killing productivity?

The Resurrection Of Dick Whitman?

Don Draper Season 6

From time to time I have talked about Mad Men in this space. This is going to be the most pixels that I’ve dedicated to the show thus far. If you haven’t watched right up to last night’s season finale, skip this post. (Likewise, if you find Mad Men dull or slow or otherwise uninteresting, you may not like it in here, or you might, just saying.) (more…)

Musical Religious Experience

My old friend Tim hosts a bbq every year during NXNE; 159 Manning is becoming something of a famed event. I’ve missed everyone so far.

At this year’s party they did some shape-note singing, a kind of southern-Protestant influenced communal sing-along. On Facebook, Tim linked to the blog of a girl who actually got to sit in the midst of the group as they sang; I love how she shares her experience of what it was like. As non-religious as she claims to be, she can’t help but use religious language to explain her experience. I find that telling.

I’ll leave it to C. S. Lewis to better explain what I think her words reflect: “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory).

Call for Papers

I mentioned in an earlier post that ETS has re-started its Ontario/Quebec regional meeting. A call for papers has now been issued for the September 2013 meeting. Here it is:

Inaugural Meeting of the ETS Ontario/Quebec Region
Theme: “The Authority of the Bible for Today”
Heritage Theological Seminary, Cambridge, ON
14 September 2013
Speakers for the inaugural meeting are Dr. Stanley Porter (President and Dean, Professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity College) and Dr. David Robinson (Associate Pastor, Westminster Chapel)
All full members of ETS and student members enrolled in Ph.D. programs are invited to submit paper proposals on this year’s theme. Quality papers on topics not directly related to the theme are also welcome.
All paper proposals should include a title and abstract (300 words), and the presenter’s name and institutional affiliation. Please submit paper proposals to Dr. David Robinson: An acceptable paper should be delivered in 25-30 minutes, with 5-10 minutes for discussion.
The submission deadline for proposals is 31 July 2013.
Dr. David Robinson
ETS Ontario/Quebec Program Chairman

Or check this flyer out: Call for Papers

Handling Abuse Allegations: A Study In Contrasts

Zach Hoag posted this video from the Australian army chief addressing allegations and contrasted it with the mealy-mouthed words of those rushing to defend C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries from allegations of abuse. The video:

Note here that the general states that these matters are under investigation, but unlike the TGC leadership, he does not use that as an excuse to stay silent. The presumption of innocence does not mean that we need to be deaf, blind, and stupid. His warning is clear and direct and it extends to not only to the perpetrators to those who stood by idly and did nothing about it. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, indeed.

Now some might be tempted to say that the army is rather a different organization from the church. (This may be news to Mark Driscoll.) Where is the grace, the forgiveness? The obvious response to this is that if the case against C.J. Mahaney was that he was a universalist or he affirmed gay marriage, then the response would take a tone much more like that of the Australian general. Tolerating spiritual and sexual abuse however is something that is not a matter for the church to handle, rather it is matter for secular legal authorities to hash out around technicalities like the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases while casting aspersions on the victims.

One hopes that TGC never sinks to the level of the Roman Catholic church which is now furiously lobbying to keep a short statute of limitations on sex crimes in various jurisdictions so as to avoid more shame and more legal costs.

C.S. Lewis On Where The Real Conflict Lies …

As always, Jack is gold:

It is your senses and your imagination that are going to attack belief. Here, as in the New Testament, the conflict is not between faith and reason but between faith and sight … Our faith in Christ wavers not so much when real arguments come against it as when it looks improbable – when the whole world takes on the desolate look which really tells us more about the state of our passions and even our digestion than about reality.

C.S. Lewis, “Religion: Reality or Substitute”