The joy of children

April 27, 2010

Last week, David Crowder Band came through town, and, of course, I attended. One of my favorite moments from the night was watching three little girls, in the row in front of us, dancing and singing along with the songs — especially during Crowder’s awesome hoedown versions of “I Saw the Light” and “I’ll Fly Away”! You’ll never see girls more free, more joyful, more beautiful than what I saw that night. Naturally, I make the connection between this joy and the joy given to us by our Father in heaven, as we are born anew as his children. It wasn’t just the music that made these girls happy; their moms were, as far as I could tell, strong women of faith with a fervent piety. Such parents provide a context of freedom for their children. Their love and care allows the children to trust without fear, to live without worry. The concert was just one moment of exuberance in an already joyful life.  Eventually these girls will become “independent” and turn their attention toward their own resources (or ability to acquire resources) for their health and happiness. They no longer need their parents, and the worries of adulthood are accepted as the cost of attaining a freedom that is in our control. For the Christian, the temptation is to no longer need our Father in heaven. Yet, the sonship that we inherit with our Savior is the grace we need to live again as children. That is what children teach us. Just as a child can fully repose in the love of a parent, so can the sons and daughters of our Father who numbers the hairs on our head. We are children of a King who lacks nothing and gives us everything that belongs to the Son, Jesus Christ!

For your pleasure, here is DC*B performing Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light”:

Here is some great insight into Emil Brunner’s free church spirit, which finds its greatest expression in the third volume of his dogmatics. This is from a sermon on Col. 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.”

We have our own hymn books and anthem-books. But again we must ask why this singing should be confined to Sunday morning. That was certainly not the apostle’s view. Perhaps some of you have been members of a good church choir and have experienced how the singing of inspired Reformation hymns has filled you with new life and power. There is some mysterious quality about these hymns and psalms which welled up from the heart, and are informed with the power of the Spirit of God. Something of this divine creative spirituality passes into us without our perceiving it when we sing with all our hearts and not merely with our lips. And since we are now on the eve of holiday time, let me say from my own experience what a tonic it is to heart and faith to sing such psalms and spiritual songs of the right sort, whether alone or in company with others. Truly, one can sing oneself thus into spiritual and mental health, one can sing oneself into communion with God. The apostle is thinking specifically not only of formal worship but also of individuals in their spontaneity: Sing to God in your hearts. We ought to practice this a little. Perhaps at first it will be necessary to overcome certain inhibitions, since the idea will strike us as somewhat singular. I can only say: conquer your inhibitions. Take with you on your holidays the new hymn-book with all those grand hymns which it has restored to us. Take it with you in your lonely walks and sing joyfully to the Lord in your hearts. You will see how the soul is enlivened and faith strengthened, indeed, what a heavenly blessing lightens the whole day by means of such singing.

“The Notes of Christian Living,” in The Great Invitation and Other Sermons, trans. Harold Knight (Westminster Press, 1955), pp. 101-102.


I’m not getting paid by CBD to promote this, but I should get paid!

CBD has a couple excellent resources on Karl Barth for ridiculous prices:

Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences by Sung Wook Chung, editor (Baker, 2006), $3.99 (retail $32)

Karl Barth & the Pietists: The Young Karl Barth’s Critique of Pietism & Its Response by Eberhard Busch (IVP, 2004), $6.99 (retail $27)

While you are at it, you should get The Best of A. W. Tozer (2 volumes). Also, Ruth Graham’s nice little book, A Legacy of Faith: Things I Learned from My Father, is only $3.99.

So, Jason has posted the link for a video of Alan Torrance on the Incarnation, grace, and godly living. The video is done by a denomination that I’ve never heard of: Grace Communion International, formerly known as The Worldwide Church of God, which I had also never heard of. It turns out that they were a fairly wacky denomination but then became orthodox by studying and affirming the doctrine of the Trinity and the evangelical doctrine of Atonement. They are now a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. Pretty awesome.

Just as awesome: they have several videos of top-notch theologians talking about a wide variety of topics, but almost all the discussions are related to the Trinity and the Incarnation and how this affects everything. I highly enjoyed this interview with Dr. Elmer Colyer, expert on T. F. Torrance, talking about predestination. Colyer is a very articulate defender of the Barth-Torrance line on the doctrine of Election.

Yesterday, I was very happy to discover that Stephen Williams’ Kantzer Lectures, given last September at TEDS, are posted for streaming or download (scroll down to the bottom of the page). The topic is the doctrine of Election, namely whether it is possible to move beyond the Calvinist-Arminian impasse. I’ve listened to the first two lectures, and they are extremely fascinating. The second lecture deals with Karl Barth. Williams gives an excellent summation of Barth’s doctrine of Election, engaging with contemporary debates (including some criticism of McCormack). In the first half of the lecture, Williams offers a highly positive appraisal of Barth’s approach, but, in the second half of the lecture, he departs from Barth with some incisive criticism of his exegesis. He then offers some cautious psycho-analytical musings on Barth’s fear of natural theology and dislike of tragedy, in contrast with Brunner’s less worried approach to natural theology but (contra Barth) fear of universalism.

Stephen Williams is Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological College, Belfast. He is the author of Revelation and Reconciliation (Cambridge U. P., 1996) and The Shadow of the Antichrist: Nietzsche’s Critique of Christianity (Baker Academic, 2006).

‘Lost’ and theodicy

April 5, 2010

I’m catching-up on the last couple episodes of Lost. This last season has completely exceeded my expectations. It is amazing that a major network drama, with some of the highest ratings of all time, is built completely around the big themes of theodicy. The question of free will, the problem of evil, the hiddenness of God — all of this has converged in this last season and is given explicit expression through, more or less, biblical motifs.

So, I am curious why, among the dozens of theology blogs on my Google Reader, nobody is giving due attention to Lost, with the exception of some Catholic podcasts. Theology students are ignoring the most explicitly theological television show ever produced.

If you haven’t already seen it, Matthew (from NT Perspectives) has posted the audio links to four lectures by Markus Barth on baptism. I’ve listened through them twice now. Lots of food for thought, especially the second and third lectures. As many of you already know, Markus follows his father, Karl, in rejecting any sort of “high” sacramental view of baptism. As such, Oscar Cullmann comes under some criticism, as does the Scottish Commission (influenced by T. F. Torrance) that re-asserted, contra Karl Barth, the traditional Reformed view of baptism. Especially interesting was his criticism, in the third lecture, of the Lutheran higher critics who used a syncretist hermeneutic, vis-à-vis the surrounding mystery cults, to affirm a supposedly Pauline high sacramentalism (i.e., baptism as a means of salvation).

The Talentless Church

April 3, 2010

From a recent interview with Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington, adjunct professor of cinema at Pepperdine:

Sad though it is, you would never call the Church the patron of the arts today.  Never.  You would be laughed down.  I know that to be true.  I used the phrase with a class of undergrads.  A young woman raised her hand and said, “Who is the ‘patron of the arts’?”  I asked the students who they thought the patron of the arts is.  They looked at me for a while, and finally one kid raised his hand and said, “The Bravo Channel?”

…Hollywood has a value of excellent production value, of talent, and the pagan world absolutely believes in talent, this mysterious gift that comes from they-know-not-where.  We know where it comes from; they don’t know where it comes from, but they believe in it. The Church does not believe in talent anymore.  We think the most important thing is that everyone feels welcome.  So we sit at church and suffer through Doris and Stan, who can’t sing, because we don’t want to be mean.  They would never get a job in Hollywood, because Hollywood has integrity about the beautiful.  Or if it’s not “the Beautiful” in the classical sense, at least, they value the non-lame.