Sunday, August 29, 2010

Calvin on Who Our Neighbor is

I just finished reading an essay of Marilynne Robinson's called "Puritans and Prigs;" it is really fantastic. Do your self a favor and read it. Towards the end of the essay she quoted Cavin, in an effort to provide a way beyond secular priggishness. Calvin describes the neighbor as follows:

It is a common habit of mankind that the more closely men are bound together by the ties of kinship, of acquaintanceship, or of neighborhood, the more responsibilities for one another they share. This does not offend God; for his providence, as it were leads us to it. But I say: we ought to embrace the whole of human race without exception in a single feeling of love; here there is not distinction between barbarian and Greek, worthy and unworthy, friend and enemy, since all should be contemplated in God, not in themselves. When we turn aside from such contemplation, it is no wonder we become entangled in many errors. Therefore, if we rightly direct our love, we must first turn our eyes not to man, the sight of who would more often engender hate than love, but to God, who bids us extend to all men the love we bear to him, that this may be an unchanging principle: Whatever the character of the man, we must yet love him because we love God.

Like Jesus, Calvin describes the neighbor as not merely near in proximity but near in the ontological sense.

Lord, help us to love others in light of you, not to love others in light of their merits or issues.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Theology Pointed at Doxology

Dietrich Bonehoeffer once wrote: "The child poses a problem to theology." What he meant, or what I think he meant, is that 'if one enters the Kingdom by becoming like a child, what about systematic theology and the rigorous intellect that is required?' As Bonehoeffer rightly asserts, this is a problem for theology, not a devastating blow. But a problem nevertheless, too often our elegant theological structures exist only ideas. The child knows nothing of the idea's elegance, but instead of trust, experience, and love.

J.I. Packer talks about how theology must lead to doxology. That the knowledge of God should lead to the praise of God; child-like enamored soft-hearted and wild-eyed praise.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Phenonemon of the Kingdom

Mark 10:15 “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

We have to re-learn how to see things. Our hearts our often hard (Mark 10:5). Our hands are often doing things they ought not (Mark 10:43). We have trained ourselves according to the patterns of this world. We need the Spirit to be our pedagogue to train us in all holiness so that we might grasp the Kingdom with new eyes. Or, we always enter into a posture of disection--critical analysis--thus keeping our eyes from witnessing the glory of in-breaking Kingdom. We need eyes that for the first time grasp the beauty of color, the phenomenon of the Kingdom.

All this, it would seem, is what Jesus is referring to--and certainly more.

This reference to receiving the Kingdom like a child is another way of explaining the new birth and the conversation Jesus has with Nicodemus. We must have our minds renewed so that we can grasp the Kingdom anew—the world has been, too much, our teacher.