Jonathan Edwards on Assurance

I've blogged before about what it means for a Christian to fear God, especially in conjunction with my thoughts on 1 Peter 1:17, "And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile." Christians differ on what it means to fear the Lord, and non-Christians generally question both the need and propriety of such a doctrine in respect to a loving God.

I found some unexpected wisdom to this point in a letter by Jonathan Edwards. The quote below comes from a discussion on Christian assurance in relation to the shortcomings of the first Great Awakening:

"And I am persuaded we shall generally be sensible, before long, that we run too fast when we endeavor by our positive determinations to banish all fears of damnation from the minds of men, though they may be true saints, if they are not such as are eminently humble and mortified, and (what the Apostle calls) "rooted and grounded in love" [Ephesians 3:17]. It seems to be running before the Spirit of God. God by his Spirit does not give assurance any other way, than by advancing these things in the soul. He does not wholly cast out fear, the legal principle, but by advancing and filling the soul full of love, the evangelical principle. When love is low in the true saints, they need the fear of hell to deter them from sin, and engage them to exactness in their walk, and stir them up to seek heaven. But when love is high, and the soul full of it, we don't need fear. And therefore a wise God has so ordered it that love and fear should rise and fall like the scales of a balance."

In other words, such fear isn't meant to last. It's a condescension, a means of preservation for the believer until he attains such a maturity in his love for God that he needs no other impetus to persevere in the faith to the end of his days.

John Piper recently posted another link to an Edwards quote that was foundational for him in the formulation of what he calls "Christian hedonism." He pulls a lot from Edwards, Lewis, and a myriad of other respected, historical theologians. This particular link is to a paragraph explaining the way that our delight in God is the climax of our glorifying God. Check it out and check out C.S. Lewis' sermon "The Weight of Glory" (attached) for more.

Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart by Chuck Black

Having recently participated in the blog tour for Andrew Peterson's North! Or Be Eaten, I was excited to get a chance to review another book with a similar target audience, Chuck Black's Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart. The author and approach are completely different, but I still found the book to be an enjoyable read that I would recommend to my friends with boys in the 8 - 12 age range. I'm sure they'd dig it.

First, the good. Smile Chuck Black does pull together a fine story in a world beset by evil with a gradually growing force of fighters for the truth known as Knights of the Prince. Young men and women both spend time training as knights to practice good works toward others in the kingdom and defense against the dark knights and their cronies roaming the land.

This particular story follows the training of a young knight named Dalton who is done a disservice by an inadequate trainer. His trainer really serves to weaken the faith of the knights in the universal goodness of their cause to fight for the King, and as a result the knights he sends out run into trouble almost immediately upon confronting the dark knights.

The main antagonist is a fellow named Lord Drox who plays on the knights' doubts and insecurities, not just about the goodness of their cause but even the entire existence of their King and his resurrected Prince. Dalton must face down these doubts in order to flee Drox and eventually return to rescue his brothers in arms who are held captive in a prison with no doors by their fears.

What I found a little disappointing was what one reviewer called his "heavy handed allegory." I don't have any way to judge its effectiveness with his target audience, so maybe a 12 year old boy wouldn't mind it. However, I found in particular his propensity to simply rearrange the letters in names and places to be contrived. You'll quickly recognize Sejus as Jesus, the Tisgri as the Tigris, Nedehaven as Eden, and possibly Arrethtrae as Earth / Terra. A little more subtle use of allegory might have better served the story so it could stand on its own as a fantasy tale and not just a means to the end of passing on a Bible lesson. The study guide in the back is a great tool, and it could easily have drawn attention to a more subtle allegory in the story itself.

That said, the lessons taught are timeless and have been enshrined in allegories at least since The Pilgrim's Progress. A mature Christian must have a faith that responds appropriately to doubts, fears, and the uneasiness of those who balk at Christian zeal. The examples of Koen, Carliss, and the reformed Dalton are worthy of imitation, and the swordplay makes that lesson more than a little palatable to young readers.

God's concern for His good name

My last post was long. It was a compilation of an hour's worth of teaching, illustration, and discussion. This one will be shorter. It is essentially a reflection on a statement in my last post. Toward the end, in response to the priority of God's rescuing work in 2 Peter 2:9, I wrote,

Just as much as God cares about preserving His good name, God cares about rescuing you from the deadly influence of false teachers.

Today I resolved this statement in my head by realizing that by rescuing us not just from the deadly influence of false teaching, but in ultimately rescuing us from Satan, sin, and death, God is in fact preserving His good name.

In other words, simply silencing the ignorant talk of foolish men (His words, not mine) is not how God preserves His reputation. He doesn't merely combat misinformation and silence the false witness of those whose words and deeds cause the way of truth to be blasphemed. Rather, because God presents Himself as a deliverer of people oppressed by sin and sinful men, His deliverance of us from evil is what upholds the integrity of His name. By continuing to rescue His people, God is proving Himself faithful. His actions speak louder than false words against Him.

There's a lesson here for us as well, and I alluded to it in my earlier reference to 1 Peter 2:15,

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

When false teachers downplay the reality or heinousness of sin or disparage the Lord's saving work, God responds by saving and proving them wrong. When people revile you, persecute you, and utter evil against you falsely on account of Jesus (cf. Mt. 5:11), you can respond by doing good in return while entrusting yourself to God and His deliverance (cf. 1 Pt. 2:23). Let your actions speak louder than false words against you.

These thoughts are unrefined but the truths are glorious. Feel free to help me refine my understanding and presentation of these ideas in a comment. Wink

Andrew Peterson in Concert

My wife and I saw Andrew Peterson in concert at Springdale Community Church tonight here in Louisville, KY. It was an awesome, small show in a pretty nice facility. It turns out a sizable portion of our church decided to show up, too... it was like an impromptu evening service. Smile

We got to hear some good stories about several songs that (to me at least) really made them come alive. It was great to hear the Scripture and Gandalf / Elijah comparisons that went on in Andrew's mind as he wrote All You'll Ever Need, and being a space nut I loved hearing his story of meeting an astronaut and writing Rocket in honor of seeing a shuttle launch.

Naturally, Andrew gave a quick plug for his Wingfeather Saga toward the end of the concert, and I enthusiastically cheered for them. (It's my moral duty as the owner of a fan site for the series. Wink )

So, we had a great time, and I got to pick Andrew's brain about writing after the concert. His advice? For him, he used three things to make it to the end of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness:

  • Discipline
  • Audacity
  • Friendly competition (with his brother, author of The Fiddlers Gun)

He said that after you get your first book published, it starts to look more like a 9 - 5 job (assuming the publisher wants more). I'm not there yet, and I'm not sure I ever will be. In the meantime... anyone up for some friendly writing competition? Lol

I hear Michael Card a lot in Andrew... esp. regarding interacting with the Bible at the level of the imagination. Michael's quote that has stuck with me is also an inspiration to pursuing something like writing - "Always perform at the level of your own inadequacy." I think that falls under Audacity!