Monday, March 31, 2014

Sorrow and Joy Poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sorrow and Joy
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sorrow and Joy:
startled senses striking suddenly on our
seem, at the first approach, all but impossible
of just distinction one from the other:
even as frost and heat at the first keen contact
burn us alike

Joy and Sorrow,
hurled from the height of heaven in meteor fashion,
flash in an arc of shining menace o’er us.
Those they touch are left
stricken amid the fragments
of their colorless, usual lives.
Imperturbable mighty,
ruinous and compelling,

James K.A. Smith on Scholarship as a Way of Life

Blog post from James K.A. Smith a while back....

James K.A Smith

[On April 14 I was asked to give a brief opening address to the West Michigan Honors Conference hosted by our own Honors Program here at Calvin College.  The conference was an opportunity for students from several colleges and universities to share the fruits of undergraduate research. These are my notes for the talk which might be of interest to others. (The talk was more conversational, so these points were more developed in the oral version.) I hope this might also address the misguided but persistent impression that somehow my recent work is "anti-intellectual."]

It's a Saturday morning, late in the semester, and you're here for a scholarly conference?  I love you guys!   Welcome to the club of freaks and geeks who pursue scholarship as a way of life.  

I hope that's a club you want to join (granted, there are Woody Allenish worries in the ballpark here).  I hope you're here contributing to the conversation because curiosity gives you an adrenalin rush, because generating new knowledge makes your heart sing.  Because the life of scholarship is not something that should be instrumentalized for other ends; nor should it be reduced to a particular profession; scholarship is a way of life--one I hope you'll pursue in your years ahead even if you never go to grad school or entertain becoming a professor or professional "scholar." 

The scholarly life is its own reward: it is a good life--it is the sort of reflective pursuit that has been valorized by the ancients.  It is also the sort of life that is increasingly difficult to sustain in a sound-bite culture of perpetual distraction.  In the age of the Kardashians and iPhone Twitter feeds, finding joy in the slow-food of scholarly reflection is a counter-cultural pursuit.  

Let me highlight three joys of scholarship as a way of life.

Augustine on the Two Different Loves

Augustine in his book “On Nature and Grace” (415AD) talks about the two different cultures in this world: secular and celestial: 

“That which animates secular society is the love of self to the point of contempt for God. That which animates divine society is the love of God to the point of contempt for self. The one prides itself on itself, the pride of the other is in the Lord. The one seeks for glory from men, the other counts its consciousness of God as its greatest glory...These desires may therefore be described respectively as greed and love. The one is holy, the other foul; the one social, the other selfish; the one thinks of the common advantage for the sake of the higher association, the other reduces even the common good to a possession of its own for the sake of the selfish ascendancy. The one is subject to, the other a rival to God; the one is peaceful, the other turbulent; the one pacific, the other factious; the one prefers truth to the praises of the foolish, the other is greedy of praise on any terms; the one is friendly, the other envious, the one desires the same for his neighbor as himself, the other to subject his neighbor to himself, the one governs his neighbor in his neighbor’s interest, the other in his own.” 

Weekly Talk- Willard on knowledge and spiritual formation

Sunday, March 23, 2014

C.S. Lewis on personality and denying ones self (book excerpt)

Thoughts from C.S. Lewis on denying ourselves from his last pages in Mere Christianity: 

“In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to be myself without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call ‘Myself’ becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop. What I call ‘My wishes’ becomes merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by other men’s thoughts or even suggested to me by devils. Eggs and alcohol and a good nights sleep will be the real origins of what I flatter myself by regarding as my own highly personal and discriminating decision to make love to the girl opposite to me in the railway carriage. Propaganda will be the real origin of what I regard as my own personal political ideas. I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own. At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God. I will go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most natural men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints. 

The principle runs through all of life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with him everything else thrown in.”

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Barth on the centrality of Christ in the Christian message (book excerpt)

“We must realize that the Christian message does not at its heart express a concept or an idea, nor does it recount an anonymous history to be taken as truth and reality only in concepts and ideas. Certainly the history is inclusive, i.e., it is one which includes in itself the whole event of the ‘God with us’ and to that extent the history of all those to whom the ‘God with us’ applies. But it recounts the history and speaks of its inclusive power and significance in such a way that it declares a name, binding the history strictly and indissolubly to this name and presenting it as the story of the bearer of this name. This means that all the concepts and ideas used in this report (God, man, world, eternity, time, even salvation, grace, transgression, atonement and any others) can derive their significance only from the bearer of this name and from His history, and not the reverse. They cannot have any independent importance or role based on quite different prior interpretation. They cannot say what has to be said with some meaning of their own or in some context of their own abstracted from this name. They can serve only to describe this name- the name of Jesus Christ....The christian message lives as such by and to the One who at its heart bears the name of Jesus Christ. It becomes weak and obscure to the extent that it thinks ought to live on other resources. And it becomes strong and clear when it is established solely in confidence in His controlling work exercised by His Spirit; to the extent that it abandons every other conceivable support or impulse, and is content to rest on His command and commission as its strength and pledge.”

The Christian message (in all its content) means Jesus Christ. In the declaration and development of its whole content it always has reference to him...It is not trying to say something in general, a mere this or that, but it is trying to speak of Him, to show him, to proclaim him, to teach him. To do this it can and must say many things. But these many things are all His things. They can be rightly said only as they look back or look away to Him. As they are said they can only be referred to Him. The Christian message is service, and the one whom it serves is at all points Jesus Christ Himself. What it says at its heart as the doctrine of the atonement is that He himself is and lives and rules and acts, very God and very man, and that He is peace and salvation. He himself is the whole. And in every individual part He is the One of whom it speaks, the truth of all that it attests and proclaims as true, the actuality of all that it attests and proclaims as actual.”

 From Church Dogmatics: the Doctrine of Reconciliation (pg.18; 22-23)

Weekly Talk- Hays on the Gospels teaching us how to read the OT

This is a great talk by Richard Hays, dean of duke divinity, on how the gospels teach us to read the OT. This is one of the last talks at the end of a conference, so if you like it there are more on youtube.

My favorite thing about this talk is how he clearly summarizes the unique and distinct aspects of each gospel. It is worth listening just to hear his summary and thoughts about each gospel.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Weekly Talk- Francis Chan at Ihop

I have quite a few weekly talks backed up from the last few months, but I figured I would start with this one. Francis Chan at the most recent "ihop one thing" gathering. I like it because his message was good, but also I like it just to observe the event at play of a well known evengelical figure going to the charismatic prayer group questioned and squinted at by many. I like to see people step out of there circle and fellowship with people who don't do everything exactly like they do. IHOP is a growing ministry in both the evengelical world as well as the ministry I am a part of (ywam), so I was interested to see what Francis would say and I liked it!