Archive for August, 2009

a cool and unexpected article from the L.A. Times. Notice how Professor Creasy recognizes scripture as one, uninterrupted whole rather than separate books. He recognizes how important it is that we grasp the narrative of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Very good, passionate stuff

June 17, 2000

Before UCLA professor Bill Creasy started working on his doctorate in medieval literature, a friend warned him, “Don’t waste your career being the world’s leading expert on a third-rate Victorian poet. Choose a major author or a major work.”

“So I chose God and the Bible,” Creasy says. “God’s a world-class poet.”

By day, Creasy, 52, is a popular English professor at UCLA. By night–and early mornings and weekends–he’s a tireless Bible scholar and teacher with a vision: to teach the Good Book cover to cover, verse by verse to as many people as he can.

“The curtain goes up in Genesis and goes down in Revelation. It’s a very linear story,” Creasy says. “You can’t possibly understand Revelation without reading the 65 books before it.”

Ten years ago, he launched his first Bible study in the basement of St. Paul the Apostle church in Westwood. Today he logs more than 2,500 miles a month driving across Southern California (plus flying to Arizona on Fridays) and teaching nine weekly Bible classes to more than 3,000 people.

In Orange County, he lectures Monday nights at a packed Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Tustin. In September at Mission Parish Church in San Juan Capistrano, Creasy will be starting a class that also will be broadcast over the Internet (

Creasy uses rich storytelling, encyclopedic knowledge and a good dose of humor to teach the Bible as literature. His goal is to get his students “inside the narrative,” just as they would with any book, instead of “standing outside the text.”

“The people in the Bible are as real to me as you are,” Creasy says. “And I think I make them come alive in class.”

The problem that most people have studying the Bible, Creasy contends, is that they read it in bits and pieces.

“It’s like listening to a Beethoven symphony a few bars at a time in random order,” Creasy says. “It’s pretty, but . . . ”

read the whole thing here

preached by Iain Boyd on Aug 30, 2009

Another fine Puritan theologian. Below Clarkson discusses the issue of “soul idolatry” (his term) by which he means the internal acts of the soul “when the mind is most taken up with an object and the heartand the affectiosn set upon it.” His diagnosis is insightful and convicting and teaches us a wealth about the substance of true worship of God.

There is a twofold worship due only to God–

1. External, which consists in acts and gestures of the body. When a man bows to or prostrates himself before a thing, this is the worship of the body. And when these gestures of bowing, prostration are used, not out of a civil, but a religious respect, with an intention to testify divine honor, then it is worship due only to God.

2. Internal, which consists in the acts of the soul and actions answerable thereto. When the mind is most taken up with an object and the heart and affections most set upon it, this is ‘soul worship’—and this is due only to God. For He being the chief good and the chief end of intelligent creatures, it is His due, proper to Him alone, to be most minded and most loved. It is the honor due only to the Lord to have the first, the highest place, both in our minds and hearts and endeavors.

Now according to this distinction of worship, there are two sorts of idolatry–

1. Open, outward idolatry, when men, out of a religious respect, bow to, or prostrate themselves before anything besides the true God. This is the idolatry of the heathen, and in part, the idolatry of papists.

2. Secret and soul idolatry, when the mind is set on anything more than God; when anything is more valued than God, more desired than God, more sought than God, more loved than God. Then is that soul worship, which is due only to God.

Hence, “secret idolaters” shall have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. Soul idolatry will exclude men out of heaven as well as open idolatry. He who serves his lusts is as incapable of entering heaven, as he who worships idols of wood or stone!

Before we come to confirm and apply this truth, it will be requisite to make a more clear discovery of this secret idolatry. In order thereunto, observe, there are thirteen acts of soul worship–

1. ESTEEM. That which we most highly value, we make our God. For esteem is an act of soul worship. Worship is the mind’s esteem of a thing as most excellent. Now the Lord demands the highest esteem, as an act of honor and worship due only to Himself. Therefore, to have an high esteem of other things, when we have low thoughts of God, is idolatry. To have an high opinion—of ourselves—of our abilities and accomplishments—of our relations and enjoyments—of our riches and honors—or those that are rich and honorable—or anything of like nature, when we have low opinions of God, is to advance these things into the place of God—to make them idols and give them that honor and worship which is due only to the divine Majesty. What we most esteem—we make our god. If you hold other things in higher esteem than the true God, you are idolaters (Job 21:14).

2. MINDFULNESS. That which we are most mindful of—we make our God. For to be most remembered, to be most minded, is an act of worship which is proper to God, and which He requires as due to Himself alone (Ecc. 12:1). Other things may be minded; but if they be more minded than God, it is idolatry—the worship of God is given to the creature. When you mind yourselves, mind your estates and worldly interests, mind your profits or pleasures more than God—you set these up as idols in the place of God.

When that time, which should be taken up with thoughts of God, is spent in thoughts of other things—when God is not in all your thoughts—or if He sometimes is there, yet if other things take a higher place in your thoughts—if when you are called to think of God—as sometimes every day we should do with all seriousness—if ordinarily and willingly you make these thoughts of God give place to other things, it is idolatry.

If either you do not think of God or think otherwise of Him than He is—think Him all mercy, disregarding His justice—think Him all pity and compassion, disregarding His purity and holiness—think of His faithfulness in performing promises, not at all regarding His truth in execution of threatenings—think Him all love, not regarding His sovereignty—this is to set up an idol instead of God. Thinking otherwise of God than He has revealed Himself—or minding other things as much or more than God—is idolatry.

3. INTENTION. That which we most aim at, we make our God. For to be most intended is an act of worship due only to the true God. For He being the chief good—He must be the chief end. Now the chief end must be our chief aim—it must be intended and aimed at for itself; and all other things must be aimed at for its sake in a subserviency to it.

Now, when we make other things our chief aim or main design, we set them up in the stead of God and make them idols. When our chief design is to be rich, or great, or safe, or famous, or powerful—when our great aim is our own ease, or pleasure, or credit, or profit and advantage—when we aim at, or intend anything more, or anything as much, as the glorifying and enjoying of God—this is soul idolatry. (more…)

For all you guys who jumped on the “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” bandwagon but never read him, here’s your chance.  You’ll find him enormously difficult in diction and thought, nevertheless terribly rewarding.  I remember when I finally fought my way through “The End for Which God Created the World,” which was nothing short of mind blowing.  These few paragraphs below are intellectually and spiritually enriching, where Edwards takes such opposing thoughts as “highness” and “condescension” or “justice” and “grace” and shows how they meet in perfect union in Christ Jesus.

There is a conjunction of such excellencies in Christ as, in our manner of conceiving, are very diverse one from another. Such are the various divine perfections and excellencies that Christ is possessed of. Christ is a divine person, and therefore has all the attributes of God. The difference between these is chiefly relative, and in our manner of conceiving them. And those which, in this sense, are most diverse, meet in the person of Christ. I shall mention two instances.

There do meet in Jesus Christ infinite highness and infinite condescension.
Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him; and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. Prov. 30:4 “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, cannot reach up to his divine glory. Job 11:8 “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?” Christ is the Creator and great Possessor of heaven and earth. He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist Him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.

And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world,” James 2:5. Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ does not despise. I Cor. 1:28 “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars Luke 16:22 and people of the most despised nations. In Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free” (Col. 3:11). He that is thus high condescends to take a gracious notice of little children Matt. 19:14. “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.

Yea, so great is his condescension, that it is not only sufficient to take some gracious notice of such as these, but sufficient for every thing that is an act of condescension. His condescension is great enough to become their friend, to become their companion, to unite their souls to him in spiritual marriage. It is enough to take their nature upon him, to become one of them, that he may be one with them. Yea, it is great enough to abase himself yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yea, to yield up himself to an ignominious death for them. And what act of condescension can be conceived of greater? Yet such an act as this, has his condescension yielded to, for those that are so low and mean, despicable and unworthy!

Such a conjunction of infinite highness and low condescension, in the same person, is admirable. We see, by manifold instances, what a tendency a high station has in men, to make them to be of a quite contrary disposition. If one worm be a little exalted above another, by having more dust, or a bigger dunghill, how much does he make of himself! What a distance does he keep from those that are below him! And a little condescension is what he expects should be made much of, and greatly acknowledged. Christ condescends to wash our feet; but how would great men, (or rather the bigger worms,) account themselves debased by acts of far less condescension!

There meet in Jesus Christ, infinite justice and infinite grace.
As Christ is a divine person, he is infinitely holy and just, hating sin, and disposed to execute condign punishment for sin. He is the Judge of the world, and the infinitely just Judge of it, and will not at all acquit the wicked, or by any means clear the guilty.

And yet he is infinitely gracious and merciful. Though his justice be so strict with respect to all sin, and every breach of the law, yet he has grace sufficient for every sinner, and even the chief of sinners. And it is not only sufficient for the most unworthy to show them mercy, and bestow some good upon them, but to bestow the greatest good; yea, it is sufficient to bestow all good upon them, and to do all things for them. There is no benefit or blessing that they can receive, so great but the grace of Christ is sufficient to bestow it on the greatest sinner that ever lived. And not only so, but so great is his grace, that nothing is too much as the means of this good. It is sufficient not only to do great things, but also to suffer in order to do it, and not only to suffer, but to suffer most extremely even unto death, the most terrible of natural evils; and not only death, but the most ignominious and tormenting, and every way the most terrible that men could inflict; yea, and greater sufferings than men could inflict, who could only torment the body. He had sufferings in his soul, that were the more immediate fruits of the wrath of God against the sins of those he undertakes for.

read it all here

As I draw near to the end of Watson’s “The Great Gain of Godliness” I am finding more and more worth posting, and I’m only posting maybe 1/4 of what I find! Just so we’re all clear, by “jewels” Watson means “Christians” which we learn are not by made by creation but by regeneration. Enjoy.

Firstly, God makes up his jewels at the day of DEATH. Then he makes the saints’ graces, perfect. For this reason the departed saints are called “just men made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). Sin so mixes with, and dwells within a Christian—that he cannot write a copy of holiness without blotting it. Grace, though it abates sin—yet it does not abolish corruption. But at death God makes up his jewels—he perfects the graces of his people. Will not that be a blessed time, never to have a vain thought again, never to be within the sight of a temptation, or the fear of a relapse?

This, I think, may make death desirable to the godly; then the Lord will complete the graces of His children! They shall be as holy as they desire to be, and as holy as God would have them to be! How will God’s jewels sparkle–when they shall be without flaws! In that day of death when God makes up his jewels, the saints light will be clear, and their love will be perfect!

Their light will be clear. They shall be so divinely irradiated, that they shall know the “deep things of God”. They shall in this sense be “as the angels” (Matt. 22:30). Their faculty of thought shall be raised higher and made more capacious! Through the crystal glass of Christ’s human nature, the saints shall have glorious transparent sights of God! They shall know as they are known (1 Cor. 13:12); a riddle too mysterious for us mortals, if not for angels, to expound!

In that day the saints love will be perfect. Love is the queen of the graces—it outlives all the other graces. In this life, our love to God is lukewarm and sometimes frozen. A believer weeps that he can love God no more. But at the day of death, when God makes up his jewels—then the saints’ love shall be seraphic! The spark of love shall be blown up into a pure flame! The saints shall love God—as much as they desire! They shall love him superlatively and without defect—they shall be made up wholly of love. Oh, blessed day of death! When God shall make up his jewels, the saints graces shall shine forth in their meridian splendor!

Secondly, God makes up his jewels at the day of the RESURRECTION. Then he makes the saints bodies perfect. These, like sparkling diamonds, shall shine in glory! At the resurrection God is said to change the bodies of the saint, “He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own!” (Phil. 3:21). How will he change them? Not that they shall be other bodies than they were before. The substance of their bodies shall not be changed—but the qualities. As wool, when it is dyed into a purple color, is not altered in the substance—but in the quality, and is made more illustrious. Just so, God in making up his jewels, will cause a greater resplendency in the saints bodies than before.

When God makes up the jewels of the saints bodies at the resurrection, they shall be perfect in four ways:

1. In amiability or sweetness of beauty. Here the bodies of the righteous are often deformed. Leah has her weak eves, and Barzillai has his lameness; but at the resurrection the bodies of the saints shall be of unspotted loveliness. And no wonder, for they shall be made like Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21).

2. When God at the resurrection makes up the jewels of the saints bodies, they shall have perfection of parts. Their bodies in this world may be maimed and disfigured; but in the day of the resurrection they shall have all the parts of their bodies restored (Acts 3:21). Such as have lost an eye, shall have their eye again; such as lack a leg or an arm, shall have their arm again.

3. When God makes up the jewels of the saints bodies at the resurrection, they shall be swift and lively in their motion. Here on earth, the bodies of the saints move heavily—but then they shall be sprightly, and move rapidly from one place to another. Here the body is a weight; in heaven it shall be a wing!

4. When God makes up the jewels of the saints bodies, they shall be immortal. The body once glorified, shall never be subject to death! “For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die!” (1 Cor. 15:53). Heaven is a healthy climate; no death-bell goes there. This mortal body shall put on immortality.

Let us labor to he in the number of God’s jewels, that when the Lord shall make up his jewels, he may perfect our souls and bodies in glory

Question: How shall we know that we are in the number of God’s jewels?

Answer: Have we holiness? “But we are washed—but we are sanctified” (1 Cor. 6:11). We are not God’s jewels by creation—but regeneration. If holiness sparkles in us—it is a sign we are God’s jewels; and then when God comes to make up his jewels, he will put glory upon our souls and bodies forever!

read the rest here

a hymn

Afflictions, though they seem severe;
In mercy oft are sent;
They stopped the prodigal’s career,
And forced him to repent.

Although he no relentings felt
Till he had spent his store;
His stubborn heart began to melt
When famine pinched him sore.

“What have I gained by sin, he said,
But hunger, shame, and fear;
My father’s house abounds with bread,
While I am starving here.

I’ll go, and tell him all I’ve done,
And fall before his face
Unworthy to be called his son,
I’ll seek a servant’s place.”

His father saw him coming back,
He saw, and ran, and smiled;
And threw his arms around the neck
Of his rebellious child.

“Father, I’ve sinned—but O forgive!”
I’ve heard enough, he said,
Rejoice my house, my son’s alive,
For whom I mourned as dead.

Now let the fatted calf be slain,
And spread the news around;
My son was dead, but lives again,
Was lost, but now is found.

’Tis thus the Lord His love reveals,
To call poor sinners home;
More than a father’s love He feels,
And welcomes all that come.

Not much, apparently. I remember the first time I read Augustine’s “The Spirit and the Letter” in the spring of 2004. It started a trajectory in my life and in my thinking that was nothing short of life changing as it was a reintroduction to the Gospel. The excerpt below is from the introductory bits of Augustine’s “Spirit and the Letter”. I’ve lifted it off of the NewAdvent website so that I wouldn’t have to type it out of my church father’s edition. The NewAdvent translation is at times a bit dissapointing, but you’ll still get the gist either way. Below Augustine is combating the Pelagian heresy by exploring what is called “the use of the law.” By the law, Augustine means the commands of God, that is “do this,” or “don’t do that.” In our fallen human nature, Augustine believes that unless we are assisted by divine grace no good can come from us. So what’s the point of saying “don’t do this,” or “do that?” This is the “letter that kills,” that is, the law only brings guilt and shame for those who can’t accomplish it. Augustine contrasts this (as St. Paul does!) with “the Spirit which gives life.” For Augustine, the Spirit is God’s power freely given to transform dead, sinful hearts into new living hearts. The Spirit is received when the Gospel (“Christ died for sinners”) is proclaimed and believed in. You can read his whole work here. Don’t worry, it’s short 🙂

For that teaching which brings to us the command to live in chastity and righteousness is the letter that kills, unless accompanied with the spirit that gives life. For that is not the sole meaning of the passage, The letter kills, but the spirit gives life, 2 Corinthians 3:6 which merely prescribes that we should not take in the literal sense any figurative phrase which in the proper meaning of its words would produce only nonsense, but should consider what else it signifies, nourishing the inner man by our spiritual intelligence, since being carnally-minded is death, while to be spiritually-minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6 If, for instance, a man were to take in a literal and carnal sense much that is written in the Song of Solomon, he would minister not to the fruit of a luminous charity, but to the feeling of a libidinous desire. Therefore, the apostle is not to be confined to the limited application just mentioned, when he says, The letter kills, but the spirit gives life; 2 Corinthians 3:6 but this is also (and indeed especially) equivalent to what he says elsewhere in the plainest words: I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet; Romans 7:7 and again, immediately after: Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Romans 7:11 Now from this you may see what is meant by the letter that kills. There is, of course, nothing said figuratively which is not to be accepted in its plain sense, when it is said, You shall not covet; but this is a very plain and salutary precept, and any man who shall fulfil it will have no sin at all. The apostle, indeed, purposely selected this general precept, in which he embraced everything, as if this were the voice of the law, prohibiting us from all sin, when he says, You shall not covet; for there is no sin committed except by evil concupiscence; so that the law which prohibits this is a good and praiseworthy law. But, when the Holy Ghost withholds His help, which inspires us with a good desire instead of this evil desire (in other words, diffuses love in our hearts), that law, however good in itself, only augments the evil desire by forbidding it. Just as the rush of water which flows incessantly in a particular direction, becomes more violent when it meets with any impediment, and when it has overcome the stoppage, falls in a greater bulk, and with increased impetuosity hurries forward in its downward course. In some strange way the very object which we covet becomes all the more pleasant when it is forbidden. And this is the sin which by the commandment deceives and by it slays, whenever transgression is actually added, which occurs not where there is no law. Romans 4:15

-Augustine, “On the Spirit and the Letter” ch. VI