26.11.18

Men Without Chests

“…But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

-Isaiah 66:2b

“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
- Colossians 3:12-13

Dear Friends,

In 1943 C.S. Lewis wrote a small book called, The Abolition of Man. It was meant to be a commentary on the educational climate in England in Lewis’s day, but it was far more a philosophical treatise on the nature of man. In a scant few pages Lewis zeroes in on the lack of charitableness or generosity in 1940’s English educational culture. He was concerned for an educational system that was perpetuating the inculcation of masses with information totally devoid of a ‘fertile and generous emotion’[1]. Lewis called them, ‘men without chests’. They would become men and women with intellectual capacity and drive, but no capacity for civility or magnanimity. In other words, they would become heads bereft of hearts. The thrust of Lewis’s concerns are not limited to early 20th century England. The danger of the Reformed faith is the creation of our own men without chests. These would be men of incredible intellectual prowess, biblical and theological understanding, the ability to wax eloquent about the minutest theological point, but wholly deficient of a ‘fertile and generous emotion’. This is religious phariseeism at its most offensive apex. The knowledge of the gospel and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, by their very nature, are meant to cultivate love, humility, grace, longsuffering, and a magnanimous spirit. Knowledge, by itself, puffs up and inflates, but a right understanding of gospel truth brings us low. God’s intention is that the Christian is to be known by a largeness of spirit, thereby reflecting the character of God Himself. The work of the Spirit in the truth of the gospel is intended to bring much fruit by making us become men with large minds and large chests and not one without the other.

May God enlarge us with both knowledge and love for Him and for one another.

DJM

[1] Dorsett, Lyle, ed., The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 437

(This blog was originally posted in January 2009)

14.11.18

Hope for Change When Hope Seems Lost

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
- John 10:27

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
- Philippians 2:12,13

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
- Colossians 3:1-3

“All my hope is naught save in Thy great mercy. Grant what Thou dost command and command what Thou wilt.”
- Augustine, Confessions, Book 10:XXIX

“Therefore, just as Adam did not die for himself alone, but for us all, so it follows that Christ, who is the antitype, did not rise merely for Himself. For He came to restore everything which had been brought to ruin in Adam…. The cause of death is Adam, and we die in him; therefore Christ, whose function it is to restore what we have lost in Adam, is the cause for life in us.”
- John Calvin, quoted in Calvin and the Atonement by Robert Peterson, pp. 61, 62

Dear Friends,
If you’ve ever experienced the gnawing low-grade discouragement of besetting sin you may have asked the question, ‘Will I ever change?’ Or you may have wondered if there is any hope for the nagging patterns of sin in your spouse, friends or children. The power for real and lasting change is resident in the objective reality of the person and work of Christ. Let me say it a different way - real and lasting victory over sin is achieved only through trust in Christ’s objective victory over sin. Christ achieved real victory over real sin. The frequent encouragement in Scripture is towards certain behavior, but that behavioral change is always rooted in the person and work of Christ in His real, historical, objective, and effective victory over sin. Theologians have called this the indicative (that which is objectively true) and the imperative (that moral action which God requires). The imperative of gospel behavior is rooted in the indicative of gospel truth. God declares something so based upon His righteous action, and right behavior is a moral action based upon this declaration and action of God. In other words, what God has accomplished in an historical event and has declared to be so is the impetus of my obedience. I work out my salvation because God has already worked and not vice versa. This gives true hope for gospel change.

Join me in thanking God today for His indicative that enables His imperative.

11.11.18

Remembering

George Vernon Amundson
I've written this in consideration of Memorial Day 2018. In 2008 American country singer Jamie Johnson released a song entitled, In Color. The song went on to win the CMA Song of the Year in 2009. The song is a ballad about an old man remniscing to his grandson as they look at old black and white pictures in a photo album. The second verse of the song says this,

Oh and this one here was taken over seas
In the middle of 1943
In the winter time, you can almost see my breath
That was my tail gunner ole Johnny Magee
He was a high school teacher from New Orleans
And he had my back right through the day we left
If it looks like we were scared to death 
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should have seen it in color [1]

I have a story to tell about a young second-generation Norwegian-American. He was born in Minnesota in 1924. The son of hardy Nordic stock, and being raised in a tight Norwegian community, he never spoke English until he started grade school. In fact, until the day he died his strong Norwegian accent never abated, this despite being born in the US. At age 17 he left home to join the military. In 1941 World War II was in full force and because he was 17 he needed special permission to join the Navy. For whatever reason his parents would not grant permission, but he was able to convince an aunt and uncle to sign the waiver. Though he joined the Navy he was never able to swim very well. This was a bit problematic since he was twice in open ocean combat zones in the theater of war, and twice he had naval vessels sunk from under him, having had to spend time in the ocean awaiting rescue. One of those times he was picked up and sent to France. The second time he was picked up by Russian allies and taken to Russia. During his time in Russia he tried to join the Norwegian Resistance, which was an underground resistance group organized against Hitler and the Third Reich, but he was refused since he was an American citizen. For his bravery he was awarded several medals and awards. When he returned from the war, and after he married, he was so stricken by the sights and sounds and memories of battle that one day he walked into the forest, away from their Minnesota farm, and threw the medals as far away as possible. He was loath to talk about his experience. In fact, we don’t know much more about his war-time experience. George Vernon Amundson died in 1989 at 65 years old, suffering for years the effects of war in his body. George Vernon Amundson was my father-in-law, Judy’s dad, and a dear Christian man.

Who will remember? Who will remember George Amundson? Who will remember the names of the soon-forgotten heroes, and who will remember the reason men and women make sacrifice, some of them the ultimate sacrifice? This is why Veteran's Day is important. This is why remembering is important. We mustn’t forget them or their stories.




[1]Johnson, Jamie, That Lonesome Song, In Color, Mercury Records, 2008