Tuesday, May 31

God's Sovereignty

In a post from last week discussing paradoxes, I mentioned that some people see God's sovereignty in all things and people being held accountable by God for their choices as a contradiction. No one who commented on the post seemed to find the two ideas contradictory (and I don't either), although in the past I've had someone--a few someones, really--argue that God purposefully restricts his sovereignty in order to give human beings genuinely free choices, because if God was ruling over a human choice, then it simply wouldn't be right for the person to be held accountable for it.

I thought it'd be fun to look at the two things separately--God's sovereignty and human responsibility--to see what scripture has to say about them. This post will look at the first part of the equation--the sovereignty of God.

When we talk about God's sovereignty, we're just talking about his rule or authority. Scripture defines God's rule or sovereignty for us, so we're not left to wonder how to define it. According to scripture, that God is sovereign means that he has a plan for history (or for his creation)--a "counsel of his will" that includes "all things"--and he is working throughout history to bring about all those things according to his plan:
....[God] who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will....

In case we might misunderstand the exact nature of "all things", Paul defines it for us in verse 10 as "things in heaven and things on earth". John Murray says it's "the whole of that reality that exists distinct from Himself". There isn't anything that exists or happens that is left out of those things that God rules over sovereignly--those things he is working in to accomplish his plan.
...all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:35)
God has his hand in everything, and his hand always accomplishes what he sets out for it to do.*

We can see from these verses that there is nothing excluded from the list of things God's rule applies to. Scripture also names many of the things that are included on the list for us. Let's work together to compile a list of things specifically named for us in scripture as things God is sovereign over. I'll start the list, and you help me out by adding to it. The only requirement is that you have scriptural support in a specific text for the thing you name. You can also contribute by adding more scriptural support for the two things I'm starting out with, or for anything anyone else adds to the list. Put your additions in the comments, and I'll add them to the list.
  • Creation in general. It all came about by his word (Psalm 33:6), and it continues in existence only because he continues to direct it by his word (Hebrews 1:3). We tend to think of God creating things and then instituting certain properties by which things work, and this is not wrong, but it's not the whole picture, either. Creation doesn't run on autopilot now; it's not simply operating automatically on previously instituted laws. Even the laws created things operate under are sustained by him. Things behave in predictable ways because God continually directs the predictability of creation by upholding the laws he gave it.

    Martin LaBar adds Colossians 1:17:
    He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.

  • Weather. The various sorts of weather are brought to us by God.
    O fire and hail, snow and clouds,
    O stormy wind that carries out his orders....(Psalm 148:8)

    “I also withheld the rain from you
    when there were yet three months to the harvest;
    I would send rain on one city,
    and send no rain on another city;
    one field would have rain,
    and the field on which it did not rain would wither;
    so two or three cities would wander to another city
    to drink water, and would not be satisfied;
    yet you did not return to me,”
    declares the Lord. (Amos 4:7-8)

    [Tim adds a verse I'd forgotten:
    He has sent His rain to fall on the just and unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45) ]

    The weather is simply carrying out what God has commanded.

  • Suffering. This one is added by David, who gives us the examples of Job and Joseph. After Job loses everything, he says
    The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. (Job 1:21)
    When he is afflicted with some sort of horrible skin condition, he says:
    Should we receive what it good from God, and not also receive what it evil? (Job 2:10)

    And in case we might think Job is mistakenly attributing these things to God's hand, we are told that
    In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with moral impropriety. (Job 1:22)

    Then there's Joseph, who includes his being sold by his brothers into slavery within God's intention or plan:
    As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. (Genesis 50:20)

  • Pharoah's stubborness. This one is suggested by David as well. God says to Moses that he will harden Pharoah's heart so that he won't let the Israelites go (Exodus 4:21), and that Pharoah's continued stubborness suited God's purpose.
    But for this purpose I have caused you to stand: to show you my strength, and so that my name may be declared in all the earth. (Exodus 9:16)
    [Update: Read God's Sovereignty over Pharoah at Dead Man Blogging for more.]

  • Seemingly insignificant things. When a sparrow dies, for instance:
    Aren't two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. (Matthew 10:29)
    How much hair we have on our heads, too:
    Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. (Matthew 10:30)

  • Seemingly random things, like the casting of lots.
    The lot is cast into the lap,
    but its every decision is from the Lord. (Proverbs 16:33 ESV)

  • The daily plans of individual people. We can carry out the plans we make as long as they are God's will.
    Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.' You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes. You ought to say instead, 'If the Lord is willing, then we will live and do this or that.'

  • The crucifixion. Those who crucified Christ were working according to God's predetermined plan.
    ...for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4: 27-28 ESV)

    Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know - this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22-23 ESV)

  • Choices and actions of people**. A few of these have already been mentioned above, but I'm putting them in this list as well, so we can see them all together.
    1. Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery. See scripture above.
    2. Pharoah. See scripture above. You'll find a link to a more detailed examination of God's determination of Pharoah's actions above as well
    3. The Egyptian people (or the Egyptian army) in their pursuit of Israel (Exodus 14:17).
    4. The people in the cities in the Land of Canaan in their attacks on the Israelites (Joshua 11:19-20).
    5. King Eglon of Moab so that he would defeat and enslave Israel (Judges 3:12-14).
    6. The leaders of Shechem so that they would be disloyal to Abimelech (Judges 9:23-24).
    7. Samson's choice of a wife from among the Philistines (Judges 14:1-4).
    8. Eli's sons' refusal to listen to their father (1 Samuel 2:25).
    9. Saul's mental illness, torment, or whatever you want to call it (1 Samuel 16:14)
    10. Absolom's adultry with his father's wives (2 Samuel 12:11-12)
    11. Shimei cursing David and his men (2 Samuel 16: 5-14, especially v. 11)
    12. David taking a census (2 Samuel 24:1, compare with 1 Chronicles 21:1).
    13. Hadad the Edomite causing trouble for Israel during Solomon's reign (1 Kings 11:14).
    14. Rezon son of Eliada causing trouble for Solomon, too (1 Kings 11:23).
    15. Raiding bands that took Job's livestock and killed his servants (Job 1) Also see commentary above under suffering.
    16. The Assyrians and the Assyrian king attacking and pillaging Israel (Isaiah 10). I've posted more on this one here.
    17. The Babylonians going up against Israel (Jeremiah 25:29).
    18. Prophets who are decieved (Exekiel 14:9).
    19. The men casting Jonah overboard (Jonah 1:15, 2:3
    20. Herod's actions in the crucifixion (Acts 4:27, see also Acts 2:23). (Use these verses are proofs for the three items following as well).
    21. Pilate's actions in the crucifixion.
    22. The men of Israel's actions in the crucifixion
    23. People's rejection of the Messiah (1 Peter 1:8).
    24. Those who don't love the truth believing what is false (1 Thessalonians 1:11,12)
    25. Specific Gentiles believing (Acts 13:48)

Got more? You know the drill by now. Have your say in the comments.

*David also adds Romans 8:28 as a text that puts "all things" under God's rule:
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God...
"I would argue that God is sovereign over all things, otherwise he would not be able to fulfill [this] promise," he writes.

**Most of the items on this list are taken from Sytematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, pages 324-327.

All scripture quoted from the NET Bible unless otherwise noted.

NET Translation Notes

It's been a while since I've plugged one of my favorite Bible study resources, so I'm going to do it this morning. If you're not using the translation notes of the NET Bible when you study, you're not using one of the best simple resources available to you. And it's all free on the internet for easy referral. Downloadable, too.

Look at Philippians 2: 6, for instance:
who though he existed in the form of God

did not regard equality with God

as something to be grasped,

The first note on this verse is a style note on the whole passage:
This passage has been typeset as poetry because many scholars regard this passage as poetic or hymnic. These terms are used broadly to refer to the genre of writing, not to the content. There are two broad criteria for determining if a passage is poetic or hymnic: “(a) stylistic: a certain rhythmical lilt when the passages are read aloud, the presence of parallelismus membrorum (i.e., an arrangement into couplets), the semblance of some metre, and the presence of rhetorical devices such as alliteration, chiasmus, and antithesis; and (b) linguistic: an unusual vocabulary, particularly the presence of theological terms, which is different from the surrounding context” (P. T. O’Brien, Philippians [NIGTC], 188-89). Classifying a passage as hymnic or poetic is important because understanding this genre can provide keys to interpretation. However, not all scholars agree that the above criteria are present in this passage, so the decision to typeset it as poetry should be viewed as a tentative decision about its genre.

On the word form in verse 6:
The Greek term translated form indicates a correspondence with reality. Thus the meaning of this phrase is that Christ was truly God.

Use the notes the next time you study a passage and see if you don't find them useful.

Saturday, May 28

Christina Rossetti: Judge Not According to the Appearance

Lord, purge our eyes to see
Within the seed a tree,
Within the glowing egg a bird,
Within the shroud a butterfly:

Till taught by such, we see
Beyond all creatures, Thee,
And hearken for Thy tender word,
And hear it, 'Fear not: it is I.'

Sunday's Hymn: Reader's Choice

This hymn is Kim's favorite. The words come from way, way back in the eighth century and were originally in ancient Irish attributed to Dallan Forgaill. We didn't have this hymn written in the form we're all familiar with until the 20th century: Mary Byrne translated the words in 1905 and Eleanor H. Hull put them in verse form a few years later.

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul's Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Listen to a choir and soloist sing this hymn here, courtesy of Songs of Praise.

Get your favorite hymn on the list to be featured by adding it here.

Come for Morning Coffee

Make it quick. We're off to garage sales in a few minutes.

[Update: As requested, a list of our garage sale loot:
  • Oldest son got something for his winch that he's excited about. Don't ask me what it is. It's green, if that helps.
  • I got a chenille bedspread--used to be red, but it's faded quite nicely to a mellow pinky red. It has a small rip or two, but I'm going to cover some cushions with pieces of it.
  • A book on herbs. One of those coffee table, big photo types.
  • A Laura Ashley decorating book. Lots of photos, very little text.
  • A book of classic fairy tales. I know, you've seen my basement, and you know how old my kids are, and you're wondering if I've gone nuts. Maybe, but this book has beautiful illustrations, and a wonderfully illustrated jacket. It's a decorating item, okay?
  • A cute little cushion made from fabric with various biplanes on it.
  • One of those quilted pillow covers--you know, the ones like mattress pads. Every item can't be interesting.

That's it for today. It wasn't the greatest haul, but if I had great hauls every Saturday, we'd have no place to sit.]

Friday, May 27

The Whole Tail Tale

I take questions about my posts seriously, and try to answer them whenever I can, even if it means I have to tackle controversial subjects. So when Kim asked a question about the length of bears' tails ("....don't bears have little stubby tails?") on this post, I felt obligated to look into it and post the answer for her. I had no idea that this would be the most controversial subject I've ever researched, one with more disagreement among the experts than even the Calvinism/Arminianism debate.

Well, the experts all agree on one thing: the official description of a bear's tail is stumpy, not stubby. They can't agree, however, on how long the bear's stumpy tail is. The bear's tail is "a small, furry flap of skin measuring only about 4.8 inches in length," says the American Bear Association, while other sites give measurements from two inches to eight. I suppose it depends on the type and size of the individual bear.

I really ought to be able to answer this question from personal experience, but I can't. I accidently saw the back end of a bear up close once, and it wasn't the tail I noticed, but the overpowering smell. Take my compost pile on a hot July day, put it in a dank basement, turn the smell control knob up 5 whole turns, and you should have something pretty close to the smell of that bear. Bears, it seems, are not all that big on personal hygiene. It works quite well for them, at least if they're looking to keep the precise length of their tails hidden from the casual observer.

One site gave this handy fact: A bear's tail is shorter than the length of its hind feet. I guess that settles it. Curious about the length of a particular bear's tail? Simply measure one back foot and then subtract something and you've got a good estimate of the measurement of its tail.

Despite all this disagreement and uncertaintly over the exact length of bears' tails, we can probably conclude with some degree of accuracy that the bear pictured in the post that started this inquiry is not anatomically correct. Although it's a little hard to tell with no back end view to judge.

The controversy continues when you look for the answer to the question, "Why is the bear's tail as small as it is?" There are scientific answers, but the scientists don't agree on which particular answer is the corrrect one. Bears' tails are small, some say, because the longer ones they used to have in the olden days were useless. A bear's display behaviour involves facing forward, either on all fours or back twos, and a tail just doesn't show from that postition; so over time, realizing how worthless those long tails were if they weren't going to be showing them off, bears grew shorter ones. Either that or they found out--the polar bears especially--that big ears and long tails are inefficient to heat at forty below zero and so they ditched them. Other scientists, however, point to one very important function for which bears' tails are aptly suited.

And while, as you read above, there are some who argue bears' tails are small because bears face trouble head on, there are those of the other camp who maintain that bears face trouble head on because they have small tails.
Because of their very short tails and long hair, bears cannot use tail or torso to send signals through body language as some other creatures do. This may explain why the head, neck and mouth are used so much to communicate.
See! It's more like a certain theological debate than you thought, isn't it?

But why look for scientific answers when there are folk tales and myths that answer the question with so much more pizzazz, if not more clarity? There's the famous Norwegian or Ojibway or Iroquois one* (Yep, there's even disagreement on the origin of the ancient tail tales!) about the fox or trickster or otter or lynx (There are different version of the Ojibway tale with different antagonists, and yes, more controversy.) who fools the bear into ice fishing with his beautiful long tail and the tail freezes in the ice and snaps off. "From that day to this, all bears have had very short tails."

Other groups disagree (You saw this coming, didn't you?) with the Ojibway/Iroquois/Norwegians. The Australian Aborigines say the bear's tail is short because a very angry kangaroo cut it off with a boomerang. There's a Malay myth that says that the bear and the tiger tied their tails together and then both panicked and ran off in opposite directions. The bear ended up with the short end of the stick--or the shorter end of the tail, anyway.

That's pretty much all there is to know for sure about bears' short tails. It does leave one burning question, though: If bears' tails are short, how come the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor--otherwise known as Big Bear and Little Bear--have long tails? Blame Zeus for that. He's the one who flung those two bears into the sky by their tails and stretched them in the process.

There you go, Kim. Does that help?

*Hmmph....it seems the Navajo lay claim to this legend as well. The confusion never ends.

Thursday, May 26

Alaska Declares War

....on my bloomin' tree.

Biologists in Alaska are sounding a warning about a popular ornamental tree found in many northern gardens.

The Alaska state government has added the Mayday tree, prunus padus, to its list of invasive species.
I haven't seen them invading anything around here, although in some places in the bush around Anchorage
Mayday trees are winning the war in the woods against local trees like willows and birch.

"In some areas the under-storey is completely Mayday seedlings, and so the only green you see in the early spring is prunus padus or the Mayday tree," said Michael Rasy, who has been mapping the spread of the tree to wildlands around Anchorage for the University of Alaska.
It sounds quite lovely to me, but then I'm a fan of dandelions as well.
Rasy said Yukon should be on the alert for Maydays that aren't content to stay where they're planted.

"The latitude is similar, we have similar climates," he said. "It was pretty shocking to see how this tree has misbehaved in this area."
So far, mine has been really well-behaved. One might even say contented. I wonder if it might feel a little differently if I pruned the prunus.

Christina Rossetti: What Do the Stars Do?

What do the stars do
Up in the sky,
Higher than the wind can blow,
Or the clouds can fly?

Each star in its own glory
Circles, circles still;
As it was lit to shine and set,
And do its Maker's will.

Another one from Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhymne Book.

Kenyan Medical Crisis

There's an update at the very bottom of yesterday's Round the Sphere post.

Wednesday, May 25

Aprons Are the Latest Thing


Here's one my grandma (the one married to this grandpa) made for my oldest daughter.

More apron photos and commentary via Liquid Paper:I've got several more aprons with interesting histories. Maybe sometime I'll post photos of them, too.

[Update 2: A whole apron category from angry chicken.]

First I have to remember to dig them out of storage.

[Update: Laurie can't figure out if the little animals on the apron are "mice or cats or bears maybe". I'll post a photo of the jaunty one and let you be the judge.

I always considered them bears, but there is that tail issue, isn't there?]

In response, Judy tells the story of the mother who sent her newly married son a package. "In it were the ties, new snipped, from her favourite apron." Smart mom, wouldn't you say?

Do you have an apron photo or story to share? Post it, send me the link and I'll link to you. We'll have a little apron party.

Round the Sphere Again

  • This week's Christian Carnival is now up at Technogypsy.

  • The boxing of God: From Challies.com:
    1. Putting God In A Box - Introduction
      In this article series I would like to examine some of the ways we have put God in a box and suggest ways we can free ourselves from this box. Notice that while I suggest we put God in a box, we are the ones who need to be freed. That is simply because we may put God in a box in our minds, but this in no way affects His character or His ability to act
    2. Putting God In A Box - Doctrine
      When we study the Bible we must understand that God's Word is not given to us so that it might restrain or contain God. On the contrary, the Word is given to restrain and contain us! We need to be subject to God, not as He is found in a single verse of Scripture or as He is found in our imaginations, but as He has revealed Himself through the entirety of His revelation.
    3. Putting God In A Box - Piety
      We put God in a box when we separate our piety from our every day lives. We live in a society which makes it easy to claim to be a Christian, but also makes it too easy to separate our faith from our everyday lives.
    4. Putting God In A Box - Transformationalism
      When we have been justified and are beginning to be sanctified, conforming ever more to the image of Christ, we can become smug, forgetting that it was only the grace of God that saved us and made us new.

  • More in the Lord's Supper series: From Real Clear Theology (He sure likes long titles, doesn't he?):
    1. Where Did We Ever Get the Notion that the Lord's Supper Would Become "Too Common" if Celebrated More Often than Once a Month? (Part 1).
      It is a common practice in evangelical churches today to hold the Lord's Supper once per quarter, or at the very most, once per month. The rationale for this frequency (truly, infrequency according to New Testament standards) goes something like this: "If we partake of the Lord's Supper too often, then it will become too common....." As noble as this rationale at first sounds, it stands in contradiction to the mindset of the early church in its practice of the Supper.
    2. Where Did We Ever Get the Notion that the Lord's Supper Would Become "Too Common" if Celebrated More Often than Once a Month? (Part 2)
      The Lord's Day is so called because it is the day that the Lord's Supper - the precursor to the Messianic Banquet - is enjoyed. Conversely, the Lord's Supper is so called because it is celebrated on the Lord's Day. The Lord's Day commemorates the resurrection of Christ, whose resurrection guarantees the promise of the eschatological resurrection. The Lord;s Supper likewise anticipates the second coming and offers a plea toward that end. The Lord's Day is the day the church comes together to petition Christ to return; the Lord;s Supper is the means to that petition.
    3. Some Theological Ramifications to Our Lord's Supper Series (Part 1)
      This eschatological element of the Lord's Supper has been wholly excluded from the practice of the supper in modern evangelical churches, who instead have nearly institutionalized solemnity as the proper mood for the Supper. This current focus has acted to minimize the church's anticipation of the messianic banquet at the second coming of the Lord. This is detrimental to both the church and the theology of the Lord's Supper.
    4. Added May 26: Some Theological Ramifications to Our Lord's Supper Series (Part 2)
      One final ramification that needs to be addressed here is just who is allowed at the Supper. Believers only? Believers and their immediate family? Anyone who wants to partake?
    5. Added May 27: Concluding Thoughts to the Lord's Supper Series
      Because this table setting is absent in most evangelical churches today, some of the intended theology of the Supper is lost as well. What is needed is not more adaptation of the Supper to accommodate our modern setting; what is needed is more of a willingness to conform our setting to accommodate the Lord’s Supper as revealed in the New Testament. Until we do, much of the theology of the Supper will remain lost to us—and with it, its benefits to the church.

  • A Theology and Biblical Studies blog has now been added to the World of Sven.
    This blog is a place for me to present my thoughts on theology and the Bible. All views, comments and questions welcome.

    Theology is of course always a work in progress and I've modified a lot of the ideas I've put forward on here and ditched others altogether, but it's all here, more or less.

  • In the comment section of Contradiction or Paradox? I linked to a discussion between a proponent of open theism and a proponent of the orthodox view of God that was printed a few years ago in Christianity Today, and I thought I'd give it a plug here, too: Does God Know Your Next Move?

  • Doug of CoffeeSwirls, who chose the reader's choice hymn last Sunday, posts the words to another of his favorite hymns: Father Let Me Dedicate. It's an old hymn, but one I am unfamiliar with. Hop on over and read the lovely words.

  • Important late addition to the links: Mission Safari posts information on the nurses strike in Kenya. (Tim is a missionary physician there.):
    1. Crisis: Nurses on Strike
      As if there weren't enough problems with health care delivery in Kenya, nurses and staff at Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest referral hospital in Kenya AND East Africa, have gone on strike. They walked out on the patients and hospital yesterday. It is a disaster already. Patients have died, left in the beds they died in because there are no workers to take them to the morgue.
    2. More on the Crisis
      Although the strike was called by the workers union, even doctors failed to show up in the wards and only medical students were checking on patients.

    May I suggest that you add this situation in Kenya to the list of things you pray about?

    Update, May 26: Tim writes that the immediate crisis is over:
    The immediate crisis that I mentioned in yesterday's post is over. The nurses and workers returned to work last evening after some threats by the Minister of Health. This return to work is good news for many patients. However, only the immediate crisis is over....

    The health care crisis will continue to fester. The health care system is in jeopardy of collapsing. I am not sure that the leadership is in a position to pursue the positive change that is so desperately needed by the Kenyan citizens. Let's hope that this nurse's strike will lead to a good evaluation of the current situation and a better approach to delivering the care that is needed.
  • |

    Tuesday, May 24

    Christina Rossetti: In the Bleak Midwinter

    This is another of Christina's hymns. I intended to post it around Christmas, but then got too busy and forgot, so you're getting it now in Christina Rossetti month.
    In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
    Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
    Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
    In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

    Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
    Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
    In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
    The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

    Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
    Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
    Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
    The ox and ass and camel which adore.

    Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
    Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
    But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
    Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

    What can I give Him, poor as I am?
    If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
    If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
    Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
    You can listen here to the music by Gustav Holst. Another of Christina Rossetti's Christmas carols is Love Came Down at Christmas.

    It's Tuesday

    ....so tonight (May 24) at midnight EST is the deadline for this week's Christian Carnival entries. Send your submission to the Christian Carnival email addy: ChristianCarnival [ATT] gmail [DOTT] com. In your email include

  • the name of your blog
  • the URL of your blog
  • the title of your post
  • the URL of your post
  • a short description of your post

    Then expect to see your submission posted in tomorrow's (May 25) Christian Carnival at Technogypsy.

    You can find more detailed participation instructions here.
  • |

    Monday, May 23

    Victoria Day

    Last year on this day we were doing this.

    So far this year we can't get the tiller to run. Or the weed whacker, either, for that matter.

    Son #1 is wearing the very same shorts, though. Perhaps they're his Victoria Day shorts.

    Contradiction or Paradox?

    ....or even mystery?

    One of the most common objections made against Calvinism is that it contains contradictions. Just a couple of weeks ago so, I read someone who said that whenever he finds a contradiction in Calvinism, the Calvinists just claim it's mystery. Not that he'd really found any contradictions, but he'd found some things that seemed like contradictions to him.

    Over the past few years, I've challenged several people to prove that what they claim are contradictions in Calvinism are really contraditions. No one has done it--no one has even made much of an attempt to do it--and I'm not surprised by that. Proving a contradiction is difficult unless you're speaking of very simple things, and even then it can be trickier than one might think.

    In order to prove a contradiction, you have to prove that two statements are incompatible with each other--that they can't both be true at the same time. For instance, the statements "he is brave" and "he is not brave" are contradictions. Well, they are contradictions--and here's where you see how tricky this can get when you are analyzing ordinary speech or writing rather than logic problems--as long as "he" refers to the same person in each statement, and you are using exactly the same definition for "brave" in each statement. That seems like it would simple enough to determine, but differences in the definitions of a word can sometimes be subtle, and that subtle difference can make something that looks like a certain contradiction not a true contradiction.

    The Bible has some statements that would be contradictions if certain words were defined the same way in each of the two statements. 1 Samuel 15:29 tells us that God "will not...have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret." This statement comes right after a statement in verse 11 of the same chapter where God tells Samuel, "I regret that I have made Saul king." Boil these two statements right down and you've got God doesn't regret and God does regret. If the word regret is defined in exactly the same way in both statements, these statements are contradictions. But since we believe that God doesn't contradict himself, we say that the word regret means something different in each of the two statements. In verse 29, we might say that Samuel is speaking of the sort of regret that would be reneging on a promise or changing the way one has determined to do something, while in verse 11, God is speaking of the kind of regret that is a change in attitude toward someone or something.

    Usually, however, things that seem to be contradictions to us are much more difficult to set up in "he is brave" and "he is not brave" form, and when we do it, we can only do it because we make certain assumptions that may or may not be true. One supposed contradiction that critics of Calvinism like to point to is that it is contradictory to say that there is a genuine univeral call of the gospel if the saving benefits of the atonement are particular to God's people. I've dealt with this supposed contradiction here, where I attempt to show that the criticism can only be made if a certain assumption is also made about how the atonement works--an assumption that is not in accord with what scripture suggests to us about how the atonement works.

    Another supposed contradiction within Calvinism is that Calvinism holds that God is sovereign in all things--he is working all things exactly according to his plan for history--and yet human beings are held rightly responsible for their choices. This would be a contradiction given certain assumptions as to what it takes for a person to be held rightly responsible for a choice. If we assume that in order to be held responsible for our decisions, God has to have a hands-off policy in regards to them (and an open theist would say that God must have a mind-off policy, as well), then yes, God's sovereignty over all things and human responsibility are contradictory ideas. The Calvinist, however, will say that a hands-off policy on God's part toward human decisions is not necessary in order for human beings to be held responsible for their decisions, for as long as the motives and reasons involved in making decisions are their own, human beings can be held responsible for decisions.

    This is why most Calvinists call themselves compatibilists. They believe that certain things that seem on the surface to be incompatible--like God's sovereignty in all things and human responsibility--are in reality perfectly compatible with each other. In other words, they are paradoxical, but not contradictory. In the common way we use the word paradox, we don't mean something that is necessarily contradictory, but rather something that at first glance seems counterintuitive. It appears contradictory, yet at some deeper level actually expresses truth. In the example of human responsibility and God's sovereignty, a Calvinist might claim that since the Bible affirms both things, then the two things are compatible, even if their compatibilitly can only be fully understood at a depth of understanding that human beings don't possess. The two things may be counterintuitive, but they are not contradictory.

    Some like to call these things mysteries instead of paradoxes. I prefer the term paradox because while these might be mysteries in the sense that they are things we can't completely figure out with our finite rational minds, they are not necessarily mysteries in the biblical definition of the word. Biblically, something that is mystery may be something that has not yet been fully revealed to us, or at some point was not fully revealed, but it doesn't have to be something we have difficulty wrapping our minds around once things are laid out for us. In Ephesians 3, for instance, Paul calls the reconciling of the Gentiles and Jews into one body a "mystery" because it "was not disclosed to people in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." I don't hear anyone complaining that the reconciliation of Jew with Gentile seems contradictory or incompatible, although I'm sure many first century Jews had difficulty reconciling it, not so much with what God had genuinely said, but with what they had assumed to be true. Paradoxes are different than mysteries if we use the term mystery in the way Paul does here in Ephesians 3. Paradoxes are not necessarily things hidden from us; but rather, they may be things taught clearly in scripture that remain difficult for us to completely reconcile in our finite minds.

    We ought to expect that as creatures with finite minds (and fallen minds, too), there will be things about God and the way he works that will seem counterintuitive to us. The finite tools of our creaturely minds are inadequate to give us a full grasp of the infinite God or his ways. We can expect to find paradoxes when we consider God and his workings.

    We should not, however, expect to find contradictions. God is rational--infinitely rational, but rational, nonetheless. If God says "I have regret" on one occasion and "I never have regret" on another, then we have to conclude that the word regret must be defined differently in each of the two statements. If God says, "It is impossible for me to lie" and "Nothing is impossible for me", then we have to understand that there must be certain limits on the group of things that "nothing" refers to. It must mean "not anything" in the sense of "not any action within the group of all actions that do not go against God's character." When we see what we judge to be contradictory statements from a God who has revealed himself as non-contradictory, then we ought to assume that we are misunderstanding something.

    I embrace paradox, but I eschew contradiction. Mystery? I wait for it to be revealed.

    More on this subject:
  • From J. Mark Bertrand: Mystery: The Vital Element.
  • From Allthings2all: Calvinism: Paradoxes in Practice.
  • |

    Sunday, May 22

    Sunday's Hymn: Reader's Choice

    This week's choice is suggested by Doug, who listed three hymns, but I've made an autocratic executive decision to go with number three on his list because it is my very favorite hymn. It seems that Doug and I have good taste, too: Yesterday I read in a couple of places that many hymnologists consider this one to be the finest hymn in the English language, and that Charles Wesley once said he would give up all of the thousands of hymns he wrote to have written this one.
    When I Survey The Wondrous Cross
    When I survey the wondrous cross
    On which the Prince of glory died,
    My richest gain I count but loss,
    And pour contempt on all my pride.

    Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the death of Christ my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to His blood.

    See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

    His dying crimson, like a robe,
    Spreads o'er His body on the tree;
    Then I am dead to all the globe,
    And all the globe is dead to me.

    Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

    Isaac Watts was from a non-conformist heritage and he continued in that tradition. Watts was a man of many talents and interests. Besides working as a pastor and writing hymns, he wrote at least 52 books on varied subjects--grammar, pedagogy, ethics, psychology, astronomy, geography, collections of sermons, theology, and a book on logic that was widely used in the universities.

    Doug (Mr. CoffeeSwirls) says, "Oh how I long for the church to return these God-focused songs to the prominance they deserve!" You won't find me disagreeing.

    Want to listen to this hymn? This is a piano version in the tune that I know best (Hamburg) from Joyful Noise Music, and here is a choir version from Songs of Praise of another common tune for this song (Rockingham).

    You, too, can choose a hymn to be featured here on Sunday.

    Saturday, May 21

    My May Day Tree

    It usually doesn't bloom until June, but everything's a little early this year. I know a reduced digital photo doesn't let you really see the flowers, so here's a closeup of the white blooms that cover the entire tree in abundance.

    Yes, they look rather lilac-like. If only they smelled rather lilac-like....

    Easily Amused


    Christina Rossetti: What Are Heavy?

    What are heavy? sea-sand and sorrow:
    What are brief? today and tomorrow:
    What are frail? spring blossoms and youth:
    What are deep? the ocean and truth.

    Another one from Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book by Christina Rossetti.

    Playing Tim's Game

    Books currently on my desk:
    • Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
    • Greek-English New Testament
    • Prayer: Letters to Malcolm by C. S. Lewis
    • Asimov on Numbers by Isaac Asimov
    • Hebrews by Leon Morris
    • Poems and Prose by Christina Rossetti
    • Family Word Finder
    • Worship and Service Hymnal
    • Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

    What about you? Got books?

    Friday, May 20

    Email Question on God's Mercy

    I received an interesting email comment (or question) this week from someone reading the posts here on God's attributes. I spent some time this morning responding to it because it was an good question, and an interesting one. However, I don't consider myself any sort of expert who should be taken all that seriously in matters such as these, even though I can't resist thinking about these things and discussing them and commenting on them. Therefore, I'm posting parts of the email along with my comments, and inviting you to give your two cents on the subject as well.

    The quotes from the email are in block quotes, and my responses in italics below.
    I'm not sure where you stand, but I believe that God must be fully self-contained or "internally defined."
    That is, there is nothing *essential* to the nature of God which is necessarily dependent upon creation. God is a truly autonomous being Who is not in "need" of us (Acts 17:24ff). He does not need our help in order to be totally God.
    I agree with this as well. However, I do think that there are essential characteristics of God that only find their expression in relation to creation. God freely made the choice to express them, and also freely made the choice to express them within creation in the particular way we see him express them.
    Because of this point, I've been studying justice and mercy in relation to the idea of what was God like prior to creation. I think, fundamentally, we have to say that He was the same in essence prior to Gen 1:1 as He was following Gen 1:1 (for reasons stated above).
    Now, I have been able to understand "justice" as an internally defined quality (thanks mostly to the work of Jack Cottrell in Faith Once For All). As for mercy though, I believe it is only definable in terms of relation to sinful creatures.
    I believe that the characteristic that God has that causes him to help those who need help existed within him even when nothing existed that needed his help. I think this characteristic is only EXPRESSIBLE (I wouldn't use the word "definable"*) in terms of relationship to creatures.
    Because of this, I have been reading several systematic theologies to see what they say regarding whether we should regard "mercy" as a sort of "stand alone" property of God's essence even in eternity (prior to creation). I have, in fact, as I suspected, come across a couple writers who say that God's relational attributes should not be viewed as essential to His being, but are functional terms.
    I think what you call "relational attributes" are indeed essential to his being, but it is not essential for him to express them in order for whatever characteristic it is within him that causes him to relate in the way he does to exist. In other words, those attributes do not exist only because they are expressed, rather they are expressed because they exist and God freely chose to express who he is within creation.
    That is, they describe how the essential attributes are expressed, or manifested, or applied to circumstances regarding creation.
    Well, I do believe that mercy and grace are expressions of certain aspects of God's love and that God's love could be expressed in some way within the trinity. However, God's love is not expressed within the trinity in the same fulness with which it is expressed within creation.
    From this view, it wouldn't be accurate to say God is "all-merciful" in the same sense that He is triune, self-existent, omniscient, omnipotent, etc. But even the writers I've read don't deal with this point to any great depth.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "all-merciful", but I would point out to you that while God is omnipotent, the full extent of his power is only expressed in creation--and even then "full extent" is probably the wrong term to use for an infinite attribute. That power, as an essential attribute of God, however, exists outside of creation. Creating and sustaining that creation is a way God has freely chosen to express his power.

    I think I would consider his mercy to be not all that different from that. Saving sinners is a way God has freely chosen to express his mercy, and once God made the choice to express it that way, then creation (and sinful creatures) became necessary as a way to bring about God's choice to express his mercy toward sinners.

    Okay, have at it. What say ye all?

    [*The reason I wouldn't use the word definable here is this: It is true that WE can only know (or define) God's mercy in terms of his relationship to us, wouldn't God have known it, and so have been able to define it, outside of creation?]

    Thursday, May 19

    Baby Picture

    What could possibly be cuter than this?

    He's a little muskox named Chance. Chance is only a couple of weeks old, and he was found abandoned along an ice road outside Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. He'll be coming here to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, where he'll join four other baby muskox (or is it muskoxen?) and fifteen adults.

    From CBC News:
    The muskox was weak when they found him and his herd was nowhere to be found, said Joann Laserich, who gave Chance his name.

    "When he's following you up a little hill and he's crying and he's hungry and he wants to be fed, we couldn't turn our back," she said.

    "He wants the chance to live, otherwise he wouldn't have followed us, he wouldn't have cried."
    Sounds sweet, doesn't he? You can see another picture of Chance and read more about him here.

    And while we're on the subject, just what is a muskox? Where in tarnation do they live? And is that shaggy coat good for anything? Find answers to all your pressing muskox questions here.

    [Update, Sunday, May 22: Chance has arrived.]

    Round the Sphere Again

  • This week's Christian Carnival is up at A Penitent Blogger.

  • The Out of the Wilderness new blog showcase is back at NickQueen.com.

  • Aaron Shavaloff has John Piper mp3s not usually available elsewhere.

  • Eric Svendsen adds one more to his Lord's supper series this week: Where Did We Ever Get the Notion That the Lord's Supper is a Funeral Procession? (Part 6).
    As we saw in our previous installment of this series, one of the main reasons evangelical churches treat the Lord's Supper as a solemn event is its supposed focus as a memorial of Christ's death. We looked at the evidence against that view from the Scriptures themselves as well as from the testimony of the early church. The other reason for the solemn mood at the Lord's Supper comes from an idiosyncratic reading of 1 Cor 11:27-32...
    I've linked the the previous posts in this series here.

  • [Updated to add these links on HIV in Africa (recieved via email from Kevin): Aah...it was so much more comfortable to think it was all unsafe sex.]

  • [Update 2: Jollyblogger on a subject dear to my heart: The Centrality of Learning to the Christian Faith.]

  • Feeling stupid because you can't figure out what in tarnation's going on in the Canadian parliament? Or maybe you didn't even know anything is going on in parliament. Let Brandon help you out: A Brief Guide to Current Canadian Politics.

  • Or maybe it's the crusades that confuse you: The Real History of the Crusades. [Update 3: Scott G. point us to another article on the crusades, an "especially perceptive" one by Jonathan Riley-Smith: Rethinking the Crusades.]

  • Oofda! Via Brandywine Books.

  • And while we're on the subject of all good thing Norwegian, how did I miss Syttende Mai?
  • |

    Christina Rossetti: None Other Lamb

    None other Lamb, none other Name,
    None other hope in Heav'n or earth or sea,
    None other hiding place from guilt and shame,
    None beside Thee!

    My faith burns low, my hope burns low;
    Only my heart's desire cries out in me
    By the deep thunder of its want and woe,
    Cries out to Thee.

    Lord, Thou art Life, though I be dead;
    Love's fire Thou art, however cold I be:
    Nor Heav'n have I, nor place to lay my head,
    Nor home, but Thee.

    This is one of Christina Rossetti's hymns. You can listen here.

    Wednesday, May 18

    His Workmanship, Part 5

    Commentary on verse 10 of Ephesians 2.

    This is the conclusion to a series of posts on the first ten verses of Ephesians 2. This post examines the last verse and concluding idea of the passage.

    So far in this passage we've seen a description of our condition prior to God's work in us, a explanation of God's work within us, a statement of the overarching purpose of this work of God, and the reason why the praise for this work goes to God's grace alone. Then we come to verse 10:
    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

  • For we are his workmanship. The word for connects this statement to something previous in the passage. This statement is giving us a reason that what comes before it is true. The commentators I read connect the for back to either one of two places: to the statement of purpose found in verse 7, or to the statement in verses 8 and 9 that tell us that our salvation comes not from our own work, but as a gift from God. If it connects back to verse 7, then verse 10 is giving us an additional reason that God's grace is magnified. It would be saying, in this case, that the God-worked good works that those being saved do come as a result of God's grace, so this is another reason that God's grace gets the praise in our salvation. I believe that it is certainly true that the good works done by a person who is being saved have their source entirely in God's grace, and as such they "demonstrate....the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus"; and moreover, this is one of the intended points of the whole passage; yet I see the for in this verse connecting more directly back to the verses immediately preceding it. The whole salvation process is a gift from God, not arising out of our works, and not so that we can boast, because "we are [God's] workmanship". The reason that no one can boast that they are being saved is that those who are being saved are not their own workmanship, but God's.

    The word workmanship carries with it the idea of making a finished product. Those who are being saved are God's production, or God's masterpieces. You'll find the same idea in Jeremiah where it says we are clay in the hands of the Potter. God is like an artist who takes something of no real value--like unformed clay--and through his own skill crafts something beautiful and useful from it. And just as a good piece of pottery points back to the skill of the potter, those being saved, as God's own productions, point back to the depth of God's grace--to his graciousness in making something good out of nothing.

  • Created in Christ Jesus. This is another reminder that this reworking by God--our recreation into God's good product--comes only through the work of Christ, and because we are united with him in his death and resurrection.

    It may be the life of Riley, but it's
    not the life for God's masterpieces.
  • For good works. If you were thinking that "not out of [our] works", but out of "[God's] workmanship" means a life of reclining on the couch for those being saved, this little phrase is your wake-up call. Here is where our works come in. They don't bring us salvation--that is God's gift, his work--but they are a necessary result of our being recreated by God. They are what we are recreated for.

  • Which God prepared beforehand. Not only are we chosen beforehand for salvation in Christ (Ephesians 1:4,5,11), but the good works God intends for us to do as a result of our recreation in Christ Jesus have also been prepared beforehand for us. Of course, God expects those who are renewed/regenerated/recreated to live out their new character in their actions; we are expected to show that we are the workmanship of God in the way we act in the world. However, the phrase prepared beforehand seems to suggest something more specific in the prepared good works than the general sort of righteous behavior becoming to regenerated people; but rather, that there is work especially designed by God for each one of us--work that fulfills part of God's good purposes in the world. God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, and recreating those he is saving so that they will do the good works he prepared beforehand for them to do is one of the ways he accomplishes this will.

    When my husband was ill and dying, knowing that caring for him and helping him make his journey on to the next life was a specific job that God had "before ordained" for me to do--that it was a special good work that God had planned in ages past for me--helped me not shrink back from what I needed to do, because from this one truth I knew these two things: That this specific work was important, for it had been decreed for me in eternity past; and that I would never be left alone to accomplish it on my own, for the God who had prepared this work for me would also accomplish this work in me.

  • That we should walk in them. The purpose of preparing the good works beforehand is so that we walk in them; that we will do the good works is the reason God preordains them for us. This ought to give us confidence and fortitude. As we walk in this world as recreated products of God's work, we will do the good works preprepared for us to do, for they have been set down as part of the counsel of the will of the God who works all things according to the counsel of his will. We don't have to stew about what we are here for, because as our life unfolds, the prepared jobs will be given to us to do and we will be given the strength to do them.

    And all of it will demonstrate God's grace, since it all comes as a result of God's work. From start to finish, taking sons of disobedience and working them into masterpieces who do good works, it is all a work of God out of of his love for us, in order to demonstrate the richness of his grace.
  • |

    Tuesday, May 17

    Christina Rossetti: How Many?

    How many seconds in a minute?
    Sixty, and no more in it.

    How many minutes in an hour?
    Sixty for sun and shower.

    How many hours in a day?
    Twenty-four for work and play.

    How many days in a week?
    Seven both to hear and speak.

    How many weeks in a month?
    Four, as the swift moon runn'th.

    How many months in a year?
    Twelve the almanack makes clear.

    How many years in an age?
    One hundred says the sage.

    How many ages in time?
    No one knows the rhyme.

    From Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book by Christina Rossetti. Other little poems from Sing-Song are posted here and here.

    Rodent Obsession: Gettin' Gophers

    I know he was here a second ago....

    More information on what is properly named the Artic Ground Squirrel.

    The Deadline for Christian Carnival Entries

    is tonight (May 17) at midnight EST. Send your submission to the Christian Carnival email addy: ChristianCarnival [ATT] gmail [DOTT] com. In your email include

  • the name of your blog
  • the URL of your blog
  • the title of your post
  • the URL of your post
  • a short description of your post

    Then expect to see your submission posted in the tomorrow's (May 18) Christian Carnival at A Penitent Blogger.

    You can find more detailed participation instructions here.
  • |

    Monday, May 16

    Partway Round the Sphere


    Book Review: The Feminist Mistake

    by Mary A. Kassian, reviewed as part of a program at The Diet of Bookworms.

    Can I start this review by telling you that this book is not one that I would normally choose to read? I'm just not very "issues" oriented, and the issue of feminism is right down at the bottom of the list next to tiddlywinks in its ability to grab my attention.

    Given my lack of interest in the subject matter of this book, probably one of the best things I can say about it is that while I expected to find it boring and tedious to read, instead I found it quite engaging. Kassian has written The Feminist Mistake so that someone who knows almost nothing on the subject--like me--can understand it easily, and yet it is not a "fluff" book, but a book of real substance.

    This book follows the trail of the development of feminism throughout modern history in both the secular world and the church, and shows us that in both arenas, the pathway and the present destination are similar. Both lines of feminism progressed more or less concurrently through three steps: naming self; naming the world; and naming God. Naming self involved redefining the role women from what was percieved to be an oppressive role--a role defined by men in order to control women's lives. Redefining the role of women led inevitably to naming the world: recreating a society that gave women power. And in the end, this redefining of role and recreating of society led to the naming of God: the redefining of God in order rid him of his maleness.

    The journey both strains of feminism take is the same, and the end result is exactly the same--the redefining of everything in order to advance feminist goals. Even for feminists who come from within the church, in the end there is no objective standard of truth. What determines whether or not something is right, even in scripture, is whether it advances the feminist cause or not.

    One of the points Kassian makes that I find most interesting is that the ideas of feminism have become so pervasive in the mainstream of the Christian church that the default position within the church is no longer complementarianism, but rather egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is now assumed and someone becomes a complementarian by rejecting the egalitarian position, while not many years ago, it was complementarianism that was assumed and people who became egalitarians did it by rejecting the complementarian tradition. I suppose the reason I find this point to be of particular interest is that I'm one of those eccentric holdouts standing firmly within complementarianism.

    The one criticism that I am going to make of this book is that it ends too soon. There is a chapter at the end titled Against the Tide, which examines biblically whether human beings have the right to rename themselves, the world, or God; and also touches briefly on the proper biblical understanding of ourselves as men and women. I wish there had been more of this. I found what was outlined in this chapter to be very useful, but it seemed to be less developed than the rest of the book, and the book would have been better if this portion had been expanded.

    If feminism in the church is one of your areas of interest, then The Feminist Mistake is a book you'll want to have in your library, particularly for it's thoroughness in tracing the development of feminist Christianity. If you're more like me, and you know very little on this subject, but think you ought to learn more, then this book will be valuable to you for giving a good overview of the history of feminism, yet being quite accessible for the novice.

    You can find other reviews of this book at the Diet of Bookworms.

    Sunday, May 15

    Christina Rossetti: Another Spring

    If I might see another Spring
    I'd not plant summer flowers and wait:
    I'd have my crocuses at once
    My leafless pink mezereons,
    My chill-veined snow-drops, choicer yet
    My white or azure violet,
    Leaf-nested primrose; anything
    To blow at once, not late.

    If I might see another Spring
    I'd listen to the daylight birds
    That build their nests and pair and sing,
    Nor wait for mateless nightingale;
    I'd listen to the lusty herds,
    The ewes with lambs as white as snow,
    I'd find out music in the hail
    And all the winds that blow.

    If I might see another Spring --
    Oh stinging comment on my past
    That all my past results in "if" --
    If I might see another Spring
    I'd laugh to-day, to-day is brief
    I would not wait for anything:
    I'd use to-day that cannot last,
    Be glad to-day and sing.

    Here's another Christina Rossetti poem posted last Septemper: Who Shall Deliver Me?

    Sunday's Hymn: Reader's Choice

    Today's hymn is a favorite of Res Ipsa. This one's a favorite of mine, too. It was written by Kate B. Wilkinson, who was an Anglican active in the Keswick movement.

    May the Mind of Christ My Savior
    May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
    Live in me from day to day,
    By His love and power controlling
    All I do and say.

    May the Word of God dwell richly
    In my heart from hour to hour,
    So that all may see I triumph
    Only through His power.

    May the peace of God my Father
    Rule my life in everything,
    That I may be calm to comfort
    Sick and sorrowing.

    May the love of Jesus fill me
    As the waters fill the sea;
    Him exalting, self abasing,
    This is victory.

    May I run the race before me,
    Strong and brave to face the foe,
    Looking only unto Jesus
    As I onward go.

    May His beauty rest upon me,
    As I seek the lost to win,
    And may they forget the channel,
    Seeing only Him.

    Res Ipsa loves this hymn for it's simplicity.
    I have found it a helpful text and tune to carry in my mind and heart, reminding me to look, at all times, to and for the mind of Christ, the Word of God, the peace of God, and the love and beauty of Jesus.

    It reminds me to comfort sick and sorrowing persons, something that is a really good idea to set out intentionally to do. And it offers the right frame of mind for this effort: the reign of God's peace in my own life, a peace not to be enjoyed like a long hot bath, but to be poured out like rinse water over the dirty dishes.

    I particularly like the last verse, asking that Christ's beauty rest upon me as I share the gospel with others, that they may "forget the channel, seeing only him." This is a very good prayer, particularly if you have ever looked at my blog. It is far, far better that the channel itself be overlooked.

    Do you have a favorite hymn you'd like to see featured here some Sunday? Add it to the list, and when your turn comes, it'll be here.

    Saturday, May 14

    Whoopdidoo! It's That Time of the Year Again!

    The time for garage sales, of course. I had my first garage sale outing of the spring this morning.

    Some other day I'll post about how I never buy anything new unless I'm forced at gunpoint. Right now I'm still too busy basking in the glow of my bargains to take time to compose any such post. I came home with
    • two vintage pillow cases. I have a thing for vintage linens, so I'm always happy when I can add to my collection.
    • a nice fluffy comforter. One can never have too many comforters, especially when the kids are growing up and leaving home and happy to take a few with them when they go.
    • two vintage cookbooks. My love for vintage cookbooks that don't smell musty is second only to my love for vintage linens.
    • two more new condition books: The Guns of Normandy by George G. Blackburn, and James Herriot's Dog Stories. I got both of these for youngest son, who is interested in anything about WW2, and likes dogs, too, and has been complaining non-stop that we've nothing more for him to read. In a little bit of serendipity, Kim posted on James Herriot yesterday, and I thought then that I ought to pick up a James Herriot book or two for Daniel, so when I saw that nice big volume today, I had to buy it.
    • a duvet cover with matching curtain. One can never have too many duvet covers, either, although I'm considering cutting this one up to make pillowcases. One can never have too many pillow cases.

    All this for the grand total of $10.00.

    Friday, May 13

    Christina Rossetti: In an Artist's Studio

    One face looks out from all his canvasses,
    One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans;
    We found her hidden just behind those screens,
    That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
    A queen in opal or in ruby dress,            
    A nameless girl in freshest summer greens,
    A saint, an angel; -- every canvass means
    The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
    He feeds upon her face by day and night,
    And she with true kind eyes looks back on him  
    Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
    Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
    Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
    Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

    Thursday, May 12

    Rodent Obsession: Vole Control

    Yesterday morning as I was raking the front yard, I pointed out to my neighbor the little network of crooked pathways of bare dirt we have in our lawns along the fence that separates our yards. "That's from voles," he said. "I saw them last fall. I thought they were just mice, but those little pathways are too uniform to not be the work of voles."

    I'd heard people complain of vole damage in their yards before, but I'd never seen it, nor ever seen a vole as far as I knew. "They're like mice," Neighbor said, "but they have a stubbier snout."

    Since the the length of mice snouts isn't one of my areas of expertise, I wasn't sure I'd recognize the tell-tale stubby vole snout if I saw it. I looked up pictures of the little creatures on the internet, but they weren't much help. Internet mice and internet voles looked pretty much the same to me.

    I did learn that the Yukon and Alaska are the vole capital of North America. We have more types of voles than anywhere else. Seven species can be found here in the Yukon, one species intriguingly named the "singing vole" because of the loud trilling these voles make from the entrances to their burrows.

    On my way out to go to town yesterday afternoon, I accidently let the indoor cat out. He's getting trickier and trickier to catch once he escapes, so I just left him out while I ran a few errands. When I returned home, the cat wasn't around, but there on my front stoop was a dead vole. It was bigger than I'd expected, but the stubby snout was unmistakeable.

    I may have to accidently let the indoor cat out more often.

    Trashing Roman Numerals

    Have you noticed that when I write the name of the current Christian Carnival, I always convert the Roman numerals to Arabic numerals? There's a reason for this. Roman numerals are the one time honored tradition that this guardian of time honored traditions would love to get rid of forever. I might even make an exception to my vow never to carry a placard with a slogan in the case of a placard with a slogan that said "STAMP OUT ROMAN NUMERALS!"

    The reason I don't like them is that I can't read them. Sure, I can figure them out in the same way a beginning reader uses phonics to sound out words, but I can't look at MCMXVIII and just see "one thousand, nine hundred eighteen." I have to think, "Let's see...1000 and 900 and 10 and 5 and 3 more...okay, must be one thousand, nine hundred eighteen." It's all very awkward and slow and rather humiliating, especially for someone whose "in her head" math skills are above average otherwise.

    If there's a movie on TV, there's no way I'll be able to read the date of the year it was filmed in the credits before that silly string of letters rolls from the screen. Of course, there are people who can just glance at the long parade of letters in a Roman numeral date and immediately know the year was 1947. I was married to one of them and I have a couple of kids like that, too.

    But what's the point? Sure, Roman numerals are fun to study as math history, just like heiroglyphics are fun to study as written language history. But we don't expect the ordinary Joe to read heiroglyphics at the drop of a hat, do we? Why, then, do we expect people (me, in particular) to be able to read Roman numerals centuries after they were obsolete?

    A typical grade IV math
    test for a little Roman child
    There's good reason they become obsolete. They just don't work all that well. There's no easy way, for instance, to subtract MMCLXVI from MMMMCMXCIX. And to spare you the thought, I won't even put the words long division and roman numerals in the same sentence.

    While I'm thinking about it, was there ever a letter for anything beyond MMMM? I don't think so. That means that after MMMMCMXCIX (4999, for my fellow Roman numeral illiterate folk) there just isn't a Roman numeral to express a number. In other words, they'd be useless for paying taxes.

    Not to mention that you have to use the cap key to type them.

    So why does a system of numerals that is so ill-suited to do the sorts of jobs numerals really ought to be doing live on? Why do we continue to date our cornerstones and movies and count our carnivals in Roman numerals when a much better system for recording dates and ordinal numbers exists? Isaac Asimov thought it was because Roman numerals appeal to the ego--that the ability to read Roman numerals in a sort of casual way gave someone a sensation of power.

    If he's right, then I guess I'll just have to learn to live with them. If I'm sure of one thing, it's that ego inflating systems have uncanny staying power.

    Wednesday, May 11

    Round the Sphere Again

  • This week's Christian Carnival is up at Semicolon. Her chosen theme is Ephesians 6. You'll be busy over there for a while because there are lots of entries this week.

  • Catez of Allthing2all is putting together a collection of posts on the situation in Darfur.
    The mainstream media have shown little interest in the Darfur situation even though it is the worst humanitarian crisis currently taking place in the world. One object of collecting posts together is to help bring information to people who will not hear of this through the media. Another object is to possibly get the media to realise that people do in fact want to hear about this....

    I am inviting submissions for The Darfur Collection, which is open to ALL bloggers, and which may be on any aspect of the Darfur situation. For example, the posts may be on the genocide, the refugee camps, the current food situation, the UN's role, the minimal international response, ways to help, your opinion, and so on. You may find eye-witness accounts which you wish to post and/or comment on.
    The deadline for submissions is midnight EST, Sunday 15 May. Click on the link above for more detailed information on how and what to enter.

  • Dead Man Blogging has two posts on Calvinism:
    1. Why Bother with Calvinism?
    2. God is Sovereign Over Creation
    I think he has more post planned on this subject, so if this interests you, you'll want to check back in the upcoming weeks for more.

  • There are more post in the series on the Lord's Supper at Real Clear Theology Eric is supporting the idea that the primary purpose of celebrating the Lord's Supper is to sound a plea for the second coming. I think you'll find it to be a very interesting series of posts.
    1. Where Did We Ever Get the Notion That the Lord's Supper is a Funeral Procession? (Part 1)
    2. Where Did We Ever Get the Notion That the Lord's Supper is a Funeral Procession? (Part 2)
    3. Where Did We Ever Get the Notion That the Lord's Supper is a Funeral Procession? (Part 3)
    4. Updated May 12: Where Did We Ever Get the Notion That the Lord's Supper is a Funeral Procession? (Part 4)
    5. Updated May 13: Where Did We Ever Get the Notion That the Lord's Supper is a Funeral Procession? (Part 5)

  • Tim Challies reviews a books by one of my favorite living authors: Book Review - The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.
    It is rare to find so much depth in such a short book. At the same time it is also nice to be able to learn so much without having to wade through hundreds of pages of text - this book could as easily have been hundreds or thousands of pages long. Carson does a wonderful job of highlighting the most important issues while confining himself to a limited word count. I highly recommend this book.

    Sounds like I might have to order me one.

  • All you crazy word lovers will like this: A list of phobias, A-Z. Hat tip: The Thinklings.

  • And in more news for crazy word lovers: There are recent additions to our Words We Love List, and I'll be adding even more new words to the list later today (I hope). I love these interactive posts!
  • |

    Christina Rossetti: No, Thank You John

    I never said I loved you, John:
    Why will you tease me day by day,
    And wax a weariness to think upon
    With always "do" and "pray"?

    You know I never loved you, John;
    No fault of mine made me your toast:
    Why will you haunt me with a face as wan
    As shows an hour-old ghost?

    I dare say Meg or Moll would take
    Pity upon you, if you'd ask:
    And pray don't remain single for my sake
    Who can't perform the task.

    I have no heart?-Perhaps I have not;
    But then you're mad to take offence
    That I don't give you what I have not got:
    Use your common sense.

    Let bygones be bygones:
    Don't call me false, who owed not to be true:
    I'd rather answer "No" to fifty Johns
    Than answer "Yes" to you.

    Let's mar our pleasant days no more,
    Song-birds of passage, days of youth:
    Catch at today, forget the days before:
    I'll wink at your untruth.

    Let us strike hands as hearty friends;
    No more, no less; and friendship's good:
    Only don't keep in view ulterior ends,
    And points not understood

    In open treaty. Rise above
    Quibbles and shuffling off and on:
    Here's friendship for you if you like; but love,-
    No, thank you, John.

    Tuesday, May 10

    His Workmanship, Part 4

    Commentary on verses 8-9 of Ephesians 2, in which we answer the question: "To whom do the bragging rights belong?"

    This is the fourth post in a series of posts on the first ten verses of Ephesians 2. In verses 1-3 we find a description of the sort of people we were before God began his work upon us. Then in verses 4-5 and 6-7, we have a description of God's work within us and a statement of the overarching purpose for this work of God: To show the unfathomable depth of God's graciousness toward us. Next up, we come to verses 8 and 9, the ones we'll be looking at in this post: 
    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV)

  • For by grace you have been saved through faith. This verse starts off with the word for, which tells us that these verses are going to give us a little more information on the "why" of the preceding statement. These two verses, then, are supporting evidence for the statement that God has saved us in order to demonstrate of the riches of His grace. God can show the unfathomable depth of his grace toward us when he saved us because it is by grace we are saved. God's grace is what works our salvation, so it is God's grace that is being shown in all it's glory in the salvation process.

    And God's gracious work of salvation comes to us through faith. All through the preceding verses, we can see that the work is all God's. It is God who made us alive, raised us, and seated us. The sinner's faith is the means through which this grace comes--like cupped hands taking in what is given us. The disposition of the believing sinner is one of rest (or trust) in God's promise of salvation.

  • And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. This phrase is more explanation of what Paul means when he says that we have been saved by grace. There are two possibilities for what the "and this" might refer back to: faith or being saved. Grammatically, either one is a possibility, and there are good people on either side of this issue. This is another one of those places where I waffle a bit. Right now I think it is most likely that "and this" refers back to the whole of the salvation process, but if you asked me tomorrow, I might have a different answer. The preceding context supports the idea that our salvation is the result of God's action, not our own doing; and the immediately following context says that whatever this gift of God is, it is "not a result of works", which makes more sense to me if the gift referred to is the salvation process rather than just the faith through which salvation is received.

    (This doesn't mean that I don't think our faith is a gift to us. I do. I think our faith is part of the whole salvation process worked in us by God, and it--along with every other piece of our salvation--comes to us through God's grace. You'll find out why I think our faith, too, must have it's source in God if you keep on reading.)

    Our salvation, then, is something God does for us--a gift from him. It is not something we do, or something "out of" our own selves, but a gift "out of" God. As 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us, it is "by God's doing" we are in Christ Jesus.

  • Not a result of works. This is a parallel statement to "not of your own doing". The only way salvation could be "of our own doing" is if it came about because we produced the works of righteousness that merited salvation. But our situation when God intervenes to save us precludes salvation being a result of works, for the works we were doing at the time of God's intervention were works that carried "out the desires of the body  and the mind..." Rather than salvation being as a result of works, it is a gift (not merited by works) of God (not out of ourselves).

  • So that no one may boast. Since the purpose of our salvation is to "show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus", our salvation must be by a means that eliminates any other cause but God's grace for our salvation. The boasting is all to be "to the praise of his glorious grace", so it is necessary that there be absolutely no grounds for any boasting within any saved creature. To this end, none of our salvation (and I would include even the faith we have that God will save us) comes "out of us"; but rather, all of it comes to us as a gift of God.

    It is by God's "doing you are in Christ Jesus... so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." (1 Corinthians 1:30-31 NASB) The bragging rights for our salvation are God's and God's alone. When we understand how we are saved, we understand that all of the praise goes to "his glorious grace", because--from start to finish--our salvation is God's work done because of his great love with which he loved us.

    Stay tuned for more in part 5.
  • |

    How to Enter This Week's Christian Carnival

    This week's Christian Carnival will be held at Semicolon. To enter, send an email with

  • the name of your blog
  • the URL of your blog
  • the title of your post
  • the URL of your post
  • a short description of your post

    to ChristianCarnival [ATT] gmail [DOTT] com. The deadline is tonight (Tuesday, May 3) at 12:00 Midnight EST.

    You can find more detailed participation instructions here.
  • |