Author Archive

Moving Day

January 2, 2008

It’s been a good few months here at After Darkness Light blog. And the good days roll on, just not here. I hope you’ll bookmark our new blog at After the Handbasket. The world has gone to the bad place in a you-know-what, but we’re asking, with defiant and hopeful faith in the Living God, “What comes after the handbasket?”

Al and I have teamed up with our good friend Rob Hadding in a funky new blog fusion, where we will post on all things theological, cultural, political, personal, and epidemiological. OK, I doubt we’ll post on anything to do with epidemiology, but the other stuff is true.

Tell your friends and come on over to the new place.

Chesterton at His Quotable Best

January 1, 2008

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.

G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles

Chesterton at His Quirkiest Best

January 1, 2008

It is a thousand to one that the reader is looking at something that he has never seen: that is, never realised.  He could not write an essay on such a post or wall:  he does not know what the post or wall mean. He could not even write the synopsis of an essay; as “The Bed-Post; Its Significance–Security Essential to Idea of Sleep–Night Felt as Infinite–Need of Monumental Architecture,” and so on.  He could not sketch in outline his theoretic attitude towards window-blinds, even in the form of a summary. “The Window-Blind–Its Analogy to the Curtain and Veil–Is Modesty Natural?–Worship of and Avoidance of the Sun, etc., etc.”  None of us think enough of these things on which the eye rests.  But don’t let us let the eye rest. Why should the eye be so lazy?  Let us exercise the eye until it learns to see startling facts that run across the landscape as plain as a painted fence.  Let us be ocular athletes.

G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles

Simplicity and Godly Sincerity

December 31, 2007

The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:12 mentions two traits that I would urge you to consider today as you enter into worship. He wrote, “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God.”

Simplicity and godly sincerity.

Simplicity doesn’t mean being a simpleton. It has to do with singleness. It’s the difference between 100% cotton and a poly blend. The all-cotton blouse has the trait of simplicity because it is singular in composition. And thus we too are to be not poly blends of many competing loyalties toward many competing lords. We are to be composed of simple love and devotion for the Lord Jesus Christ. He is to occupy the chief place in our minds and loyalties and affections.

And then I also exhort you to pursue godly sincerity in your worship today. When you are part of a formal worship liturgy each week, it is easy to fall into repetition with no heart. But godly sincerity is the heart behind the repetition. It is you doing what you do as unto Jesus Christ, in a living and real relationship with Him.

Finally, I offer you this caveat: Paul knew that these traits of simplicity and sincerity were by grace and not by human devising. They were gifts of the Spirit and not ways to manipulate something out of someone. In the entanglements of our hearts, we have to guard against seeing simplicity and sincerity as things we gin up to get God to accept us.

Simplicity and godly sincerity are the right environment for worship, but they are gifts of grace. They are not something you put on to get something out of God. You are here today at His bidding, as His new creations, called by His irresistible grace to come and worship Him and receive from Him. You can’t manipulate anything out of Him, and it is the height of fleshly wisdom to try to put on simplicity and sincerity in order to manipulate something out of someone else.

So I invite you all: come, in singleness and in holy authenticity that seeks Christ alone, come and worship God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Words of the Year

December 30, 2007

End-of-the-year lists are a staple this time of the year. Top news events from 2007. Celebrity breakups. Poignant sports moments. The year in pictures, ad infinitum. But I found a better list. Dictionary.com features the top words of 2007 here. There is a word or phrase for each month of the year that was prominent or new. I particularly liked the prominence of the word “nappy” in April 2007 . . . like a stroll back to my youth (where I was around people who used the word “nappy” a lot. I do not now nor have I ever had a nappy head.)

Sacramental Living at Christmastide

December 28, 2007

This Christmas season has been a time for simple pleasures: quiet conversations over cake with family, a glass of wine, sitting on the front porch watching the children play, getting tape tangled in my fingers as I try to wrap a gift, the smell of evergreen as I walk into the house. It’s made me remember that good living is sacramental living.

Sacramental living is seeing life as the Sovereign God intends that we see it – with everything (literally everything!) shot through with His goodness and grace. It means that all of creation with its variety and beauty and complexity is a gift of grace to us. And it means that the universe and the earth and its bounty and its creatures, and food and home and sex and labor and domestic joys and struggles and sitting and standing and kneeling in worship – all of it is a signal of the presence of God to us. It is all God’s good created order meant to bless us with life and meant for us to take and transform into life in God. That is sacramental living. It is a basic disposition toward daily life that sees God’s bounty in everything He has made and receives it as a wonderful gift from Him and a signal of His favor and love for us as His redeemed children, His new creation, His new humanity in whom he delights. God made all things good, and He is redeeming all things for our sake. We can live with the joy of knowing this is true.

Modernism and postmodernism are telling a different story about the world. Modernism, which is the worldview of the Enlightenment, and postmodernism, which is the monster made in its image, are the controlling thought patterns of our Western world. Modernism can be described as the loss of the sacramental character of creation. With man’s reason enthroned over all, modernism sees the physical world as merely the effect of a prior cause in the material processes that began with the Big Bang and continues with celestial expansion and survival of the fittest and chemical chain reactions, of which you and I are a small but meaningless part. So we are just another part of the physical world; we are a bunch of colliding atoms living in the middle of a bunch of other colliding atoms, with nothing really special about those atoms. They are just the random collocation of physical processes fizzing and bubbling on a blue marble in an empty void. However we moderns see ourselves in relation to the physical world, we have to make it up for ourselves. We are just blobs of protoplasm on the evolutionary scale at the whim of big natural forces, so make life whatcha can.

C.S. Lewis described modernity as “the triumph of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism over the old world of ethical law.” That “ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism” is the result of the secularism that arises from the godless world out of which Enlightened man kicked God with his almighty reason. If there is no Creator, then the universe is all there is, and the universe is a pretty bleak place. We are up against scientific processes a lot bigger than us, as we have to try to make the most of it and maximize what we have. That’s pragmatism: ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism, or what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death.” In a world of ruthless, non-moral utilitarianism, if a pregnancy keeps a woman from fulfilling her dreams, kill the baby. If the people demand cheaper products, rape the countryside to give it to them. If the world craves more and more power and more and more stuff, light the fires of industry to give the stuff to them as efficiently as possible with no regard for beauty or the good life. Whatever works best for making life as efficient and technologically advanced for man as possible is what we should do. In the modern world what matters is the free market economy creating material wealth; what matters is efficiency that makes way for consumerism and renders everything as cheap as possible; what matters is having it all. And the Christian church has been complicit in creating this world gone mad.

But Christians should be telling a different story, the story of Christ and the good life in Him. The good life of the Christian vision sees the whole world as having a sacramental character. Nature, food, fishing, lovemaking, wine, sunsets, shopping, art, laboring, cleaning, building, dirty bathtubs after bathing four dirty children, melted ice cream dribbling down the chin, a sweaty brow with the smell of freshly cut grass, the crisp smell and stiff spine of a new book – it all has the sacramental character of a gracious gift and a means for knowing the blessing of God and fellowship with God. Architecture, economy, government, performing art, agriculture, education, publishing – all of it is a gift from God for the beautifying of His world, for the transforming of the world into a place of communion with the Lord of life, in which everything is received as a gift from Him and everything is a means of offering worship to the Living God.

Genesis 1 tells us that God originally made all things very good and that God in His providence has never stopped caring for and lovingly tending His creation. You can read a psalm like Psalm 104 and hear how God provides for the animals and for humans alike. Now with the entry of sin into the world, the creation changed and became corruptible, but the creation is still good. God intends to redeem His creation. God will complete what He first set out to do – which was to make the whole world a place of fellowship and worship between God and His image bearer, man. The ultimate evidence of God’s intention to redeem His entire creation is the incarnation, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. The work of Christ is God’s great restoration project for all creation.

A biologist from Calvin College named Stephen Matheson, by virtue of his training, puts it vividly. He wrote,

The ascension [of Christ to heaven in a human body] carries the following startling implication, as articulated by theologian Gerrit Dawson: “The meaning of a continuing incarnation is revealed in all its splendour: in the person of the eternal Son, the Triune God has taken up humanity into his being for ever” (Jesus Ascended, P&R Publishing, 2004, 53). There is human flesh in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.

Human flesh, with protein and carbohydrate, bone and muscle, DNA and mitochondria, is in heaven, already, waiting to greet other embodied beings who will be raised with him. . . . It does not imply that the whole shebang is good, for surely there was a transformation (glorification) of Jesus’ body, and there were some things that he didn’t take with him. But it does imply that flesh, biological stuff, cells and DNA and blood and guts, are things that do not merely and universally pass away. They can last, somehow, forever.

I’m living in the new creation and loving it this Christmastide. Hope you are too.

Look What I Did

December 24, 2007

Well, so far this Christmas season I have done the following: decorated a Christmas tree, gone Christmas caroling, bought (and drank) Starbucks Christmas frappuccino, sang in a Christmas choir, read Advent readings, bought Christmas gifts, wrapped Christmas gifts, opened Christmas gifts, hung a Christmas wreath and scads of little twinkling lights on the outside of my house, drank eggnog, ate pecan pie, bought a turkey and dressing for Christmas dinner, watched claymation “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” gone home for Christmas (a bit early), read a Christmas sermon by Gregory of Nazianzus, gone on a Christmas lights spotting tour of the city, said “Merry Christmas” about four thousand times, delivered an Advent homily, answered my daughter’s question “How much longer till Christmas?” a few dozen times, and gone to a couple of Christmas parties. No, I have not yet watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but I will soon.

I warmed up to Christmas a bit late, in spite of all this activity. But now that the Big Day is almost here, I finally feel it.

Merry Christmas, everyone in the blogosphere.  The Nativity of our Lord is come: rejoice!

God Crowns None But Well-Tried Wrestlers

December 16, 2007

There is, indeed no ambiguity in the words here used by Moses; but I do not agree with others respecting their meaning; for other interpreters take the seed for Christ, without controversy; as if it were said, that some one would arise from the seed of the woman who should wound the serpent’s head. Gladly would I give my suffrage in support of their opinion, but that I regard the word seed as too violently distorted by them; for who will concede that a collective noun is to be understood of one man only? Further, as the perpetuity of the contest is noted, so victory is promised to the human race through a continual succession of ages. I explain, therefore, the seed to mean the posterity of the woman generally. But since experience teaches that not all the sons of Adam by far, arise as conquerors of the devil, we must necessarily come to one head, that we may find to whom the victory belongs. So Paul, from the seed of Abraham, leads us to Christ; because many were degenerate sons, and a considerable part adulterous, through infidelity; whence it follows that the unity of the body flows from the head. Wherefore, the sense will be (in my judgment) that the human race, which Satan was endeavoring to oppress, would at length be victorious. In the meantime, we must keep in mind that method of conquering which the Scripture describes. Satan has, in all ages, led the sons of men “captive at his will”, and, to this day, retains his lamentable triumph over them, and for that reason is called the prince of the world, (John 12:31.) But because one stronger than he has descended from heaven, who will subdue him, hence it comes to pass that, in the same manner, the whole Church of God, under its Head, will gloriously exult over him. To this the declaration of Paul refers,

“The Lord shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly,” (Romans 16:20.)

By which words he signifies that the power of bruising Satan is imparted to faithful men, and thus the blessing is the common property of the whole Church; but he, at the same time, admonishes us, that it only has its commencement in this world; because God crowns none but well-tried wrestlers.

John Calvin, from his commentary on Genesis 3:15

But does He recycle junk?

December 9, 2007

A church sign that genuinely requires no commentary:

I was going to waste, but Jesus recycled me.

(Thanks, Ed.)

The Rapture happened during craft time? Did I miss it?

December 4, 2007

Ever wondered what it would be like if the Left Behind franchise created a VBS curriculum? Wonder no more!

LarkNews has done us the marvelous favor of showing us this lil’ bit o’ lunacy: Left Behind VBS fiasco lingers.

So funny it must be true.