Posted on: July 31st, 2010 The Power of a New Affection

Thomas Chalmers, the great 19th century Scottish Presbyterian minister said,

There is not one personal transformation in which the heart is left without an object of ultimate beauty and joy. The heart’s desire for one particular object can be conquered, but its desire to have some object is unconquerable. The only way to disposses the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.

This is from his sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.”

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Posted on: July 30th, 2010 The Inevitability of Conversion

From a Tim Keller sermon (“Christ our Life”), a quotation is from former Chaplain at Duke University, William Willimon:

The dominant culture in which we live is that of expressive individualism since the Enlightenment. People like to say, “Well, what the church says may be alright for some, but I think you have to determine right or wrong for yourself.” But they are not thinking for themselves. They are doing exactly what the culture tells them to do. In reality they are espousing the very way of knowing which has been imposed on them by their culture, and a very white, western, individualistic one it is.

The question, “Do you think we ought to convert people to Christ” assumes that there are already unformed, untouched people out there, and there are these pushy Christians trying to convert them to their way of thinking.

No. Everyone has been deeply formed into some point of view that is not innate. The real question you must face is “Which externally imposed formation will have its way with me?”

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Posted on: July 15th, 2010 Enlightenment

From Joan Chittister’s The Rule of St. Benedict:

The ancients say that once upon a time a disciple asked the elder, “Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?”

And the Holy One answered, “As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”

“Then of what use,” the surprised disciple asked, “are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?”

“To make sure,” the elder said, “that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”

There is so much in this little story to notice:

1. the importance of awareness in the spiritual life.

2. the miraculous nature of the rising of the sun.

3. the ways of grace: how all we can do is to “stack the deck” in favor of some kind of inner gift of the experience of God.

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Posted on: July 10th, 2010 “Belief Systems”

Yesterday, in my first week “on the ground” here in Tyler (see here), I went on an 8-mile run with some amazing members of the community here, ranging from age 55 to 28.

At one point during the run, the 28 year old man mentioned that he has been impressed by the teaching ministry of Ravi Zacharias (who also greatly influenced Bouquet and me in our college years at UT).

Of course, I said nothing disparaging about Ravi on that run, and I do have tremendous respect for him.

And yet, one of the interesting things about being here in Tyler is that I find myself in a new community, who have no idea what motivates me in ministry, or, for example, why I chose to become an Episcopal priest, thus having to leave the more “conservative” Presbyterian Church, the PCA.

So this afternoon I was re-reading Peter Leithart’s Against Christianity, and it hit me in fresh way: this is the real difficuIty I have with folks like Ravi: the church plays a very little role in their teaching, certainly not a central role, as it did for the Apostle Paul. Here’s the quotation:

“The Bible gives no hint that a Christian “belief system” might be isolated from the life of the Church, subjected to scientific analysis, and have its truth compared with competing “belief systems.”- Peter Leithart, Against Christianity, page 14.

The point is not at all that what we believe does not matter (2 Pet 3:15). Rather the point is that the enemies of the faith (colluding with gnosticism) have succeeded in disembodying what the book of Acts describes as “the Way.” Being a Christian is not simply about believing the right set of propositions, but rather about living a life in solidarity with the community of faith: confessing the faith with them, serving and being served by them, sharpening them, etc.

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