“The Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; He does not find, but makes her, lovely.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1960/1988), 105.
“The Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; He does not find, but makes her, lovely.”
–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1960/1988), 105.
“Everything God has made and everything God has spoken, with all the relations and uses of each, may teach us some valuable lesson, (Psalm 19:1–6).
His works declare, preach, show, publish His existence all the time and in every place.
Tholuck: “Though all the preachers on earth should grow silent, and every human mouth cease from publishing the glory of God, the heavens above will never cease to declare and proclaim his majesty.”
The smallest piece of granite or of old red sandstone, the least shell or insect as truly requires a Creator as the heavens above us.
Morison: “It is impossible to direct even a cursory glance to the greater and lesser lights which rule by day and night, without being compelled to think with reverential awe of that incomprehensible Being who kindles up all their fires, directs all their courses, and impresses upon them all laws, which contribute alike to the order, beauty and happiness of the universe.”
Well did the apostle say that all men, even the heathen, are without excuse. Even one day or one night proves that there is a God, as there is but one being that could cause either.
Everett: “I had occasion, a few weeks since, to take the early train from Providence to Boston; and for this purpose rose at two o’clock in the morning. Everything around was wrapt in darkness and hushed in silence, broken only by what seemed at that hour the unearthly clank and rush of the train.
It was a mild, serene, midsummer’s night—the sky was without a cloud—the winds were whist. The moon, then in the last quarter, had just risen, and the stars shone with a spectral lustre but little affected by her presence.
Jupiter, two hours high, was the herald of the day; the Pleiades just above the horizon shed their sweet influence in the east; Lyra sparkled near the zenith; Andromeda veiled her newly-discovered glories from the naked eye in the South; the steady pointers far beneath the pole looked meekly up from the depths of the north to their sovereign.
Such was the glorious spectacle as I entered the train. As we proceeded, the timid approach of twilight became more perceptible; the intense blue of the sky began to soften; the smaller stars, like little children went first to rest; the sister-beams of the Pleiades soon melted together; but the bright constellations of the west and north remained unchanged.
Steadily the wondrous transfiguration went on. Hands of angels hidden from mortal eyes shifted the scenery of the heavens; the glories of night dissolved into the glories of the dawn. The blue sky now turned more softly gray; the great watch-stars shut up their holy eyes; the east began to kindle.
Faint streaks of purple soon blushed along the sky; the whole celestial concave was filled with the inflowing tides of the morning light, which came pouring down from above in one great ocean of radiance: till at length as we reached the Blue Hills, a flash of purple fire blazed out from above the horizon, and turned the dewy tear-drops of flower and leaf into rubies and diamonds. In a few seconds, the everlasting gates of the morning were thrown wide open, and the lord of day, arrayed in glories too severe for the gaze of man, began his state…
I am filled with amazement, when I am told that in this enlightened age, and in the heart of the Christian world, there are persons who can witness this daily manifestation of the power and wisdom of the Creator, and yet say in their hearts, ‘there is no God.’ (Psalm 14:1)”
–William Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary With Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1867/2016), 262–263. Plumer is commenting on Psalm 19:1-6.
“The doctrine of Christ is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics.
Here, too, pulses the whole of the religious-ethical life of Christianity.
Christ, the incarnate Word, is thus the central fact of the entire history of the world.
The incarnation has its presupposition and foundation in the trinitarian being of God.
The Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humanity.
The incarnation, however, is the work of the entire Trinity.
Christ was sent by the Father and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Incarnation is also related to creation.
The incarnation was not necessary, but the creation of human beings in God’s image is a supposition and preparation for the incarnation of God.”
–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 235.
“Promised under the Old Testament as the Messiah who is to come as a descendant of a woman of Abraham, Judah, and David, He is conceived in the fullness of time by the Holy Spirit in Mary (Matt. 1:20) and born of her, of a woman (Gal. 4:4).
He is her son (Luke 2:7), the fruit of her womb (Luke 1:42), a descendant of David and Israel according to the flesh (Acts 2:30; Rom. 1:3; 9:5), sharing in our flesh and blood, like us in all things, sin excepted (Heb. 2:14, 17–18; 4:15; 5:1); a true human, the Son of Man (Rom. 5:15; 1 Cor. 15:21; 1 Tim. 2:5), growing up as an infant (Luke 2:40, 52), experiencing hunger (Matt. 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), weeping (Luke 19:41; John 11:35), being moved (John 12:27), feeling grief (Matt. 26:38), being furious (John 2:17), suffering, dying.
For Scripture it is so much an established fact that Christ came in the flesh that it calls the denial of it anti-Christian (1 John 2:22). And it teaches that Christ assumed not only a true but also a complete human nature.”
–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 3: 296.
“The dogmas we really hold are far more fantastic, and, perhaps, far more beautiful than we think.
We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us.
The great march of mental destruction will go on.
Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed.
It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them.
It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake.
Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four.
Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.
We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face.
We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible.
We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage.
We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.”
–G.K. Chesterton, Heretics (New York: John Lane, 1919), 303-305.
“God has assuredly promised His grace to the humble [1 Peter 5:5], that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves.
But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, and work of another, namely, of God alone.
For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is—or at least hopes or desires that there may be—some place, time, and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation.
But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace.”
–Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, Luther’s Works, Vol. 33: Career of the Reformer III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 33 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 33: 61–62. As quoted in Dane Ortlund, Deeper (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 38.
“To Sheldon Vanauken
January 5, 1951
Dear Mr. Van Auken,
We must ask three questions about the probable effect of changing your research subject to something more theological.
(1.) Would it be better for your immediate enjoyment? Answer, probably but not certainly, Yes.
(2.) Would it be better for your academic career? Answer, probably No. You would have to make up in haste a lot of knowledge which could not be very easily digested in the time.
(3.) Would it be better for your soul? I don’t know.
I think there is a great deal to be said for having one’s deepest spiritual interest distinct from one’s ordinary duty as a student or professional man.
St Paul’s job was tent-making. When the two coincide I should have thought there was a danger lest the natural interest in one’s job and the pleasures of gratified ambition might be mistaken for spiritual progress and spiritual consolation: and I think clergymen sometimes fall into this trap.
Contrariwise, there is the danger that what is boring or repellent in the job may alienate one from the spiritual life. And finally someone has said ‘None are so unholy as those whose hands are cauterized with holy things’: sacred things may become profane by becoming matters of the job.
You now want truth for her own sake: how will it be when the same truth is also needed for an effective footnote in your thesis?
In fact, the change might do good or harm. I’ve always been glad myself that Theology is not the thing I earn my living by.
On the whole, I’d advise you to get on with your tent-making. The performance of a duty will probably teach you quite as much about God as academic Theology would do.
Mind, I’m not certain: but that is the view I incline to.
C. S. Lewis”
–C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950 – 1963, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 3: 82-83. Vanauken had asked Lewis his opinion as to whether he should continue with his postgraduate work in history or study theology.
“In the church’s efforts to defend the faith, Christians must always take a humble stance toward the world. Like the sons of Zebedee, whom Jesus nicknamed “the Sons of Thunder,” we can be all too eager to call down fire on unbelievers (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:54).
Add in the misguided claim that the Bible provides a comprehensive view of life and the world that encompasses all knowledge, and this can easily turn into Christian imperialism.
Christians today often speak less about saving the lost than about conquering the world.
Especially in the secularized West, the problem with such rhetoric is that it does not align with the more modest claims of the Bible.
The church is a pilgrim people: this world is not our home. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were princes among the people of God and were heirs of the covenant promises, yet they dwelled in tents.
As the book of Hebrews tells us,
“By faith [Abraham] went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9-10).
Too often, Christians thunder about transforming and conquering the world, but such rhetoric is far from Christ’s conduct. Rather than seeking to conquer the world, Christians in defending the gospel must be willing to roll up our sleeves, drop to our knees, and wash the feet of unbelievers.
Even Christ washed the feet of Judas, one who would eventually betray him.
To claim, as Van Til does, that no true learning occurs outside of Christian education, casts an unintended but nevertheless real shadow of contempt on God’s natural gifts, which He has abundantly given to the world, even to the apostate line of Cain.
Christians have much to learn from the unbelieving world about many things: science, mathematics, engineering, literature, art, music, and even ethics. Acknowledging that Christians have something to learn from unbelievers does not require that we embrace in toto what unbelivers claim.
Rather, to learn from the unbelieving world ultimately means to submit to God’s natural revelation in the world and the general wisdom He has so liberally bestowed on His good but nevertheless fallen creation.
We dig amid the muddy soil of this sin-marred world in search of pearls and gems of God’s wisdom.
We must always interrogate and compare any claim against the canon of Scripture to determine whether truth-claims are accurate. In our use of the book of nature, we must never set aside the book of Scripture.
Scripture must always regulate our understanding of the book of nature, lest we abandon the truth and imbibe the world’s erroneous and sinful interpretations of the book of nature.
But we must not forget that all truth is God’s truth, regardless of its human point of origin.
It is true that those who hold the truth in unrighteousness resist the very source of the order, pattern, purpose, freedom, and beauty in nature. They ineluctably presuppose the theism that they willfully distort and resist.
Nevertheless, nowhere in the New Testament do we find language touting the superiority of Christian knowledge, claiming that Christians understand math or science better than unbelievers.
Instead, we encounter the humility and love of Christ for sinners, the same characteristics that should mark the church. Hence, Peter counsels Christians to adopt a humble posture in the face of persecution as they testify and give a defense for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
We do not conquer through cultural domination and making claims about the world’s ignorance.
Rather, if love is one of the goals of epistemology, and epistemology is ultimately the submission to God’s authoritative revelation, then we are not cultural conquerors but beggars showing other beggars where they can find a meal.
We conquer the world by laying down our lives in testimony for and defense of the gospel, not in making claims of cultural conquest or epistemological superiority.
As a pride of ferocious lambs, Christians testify to and defend the truth of the gospel with the books of nature and Scripture always in hand.
Christians need not shun the book of nature. We can rejoice because Christ looks out on the creation and all truth and rightfully claims “Mine!” Every square inch belongs to Christ, and therefore every square inch belongs to Christians.
But just because it all belongs to Christ does not mean that Christians are somehow automatically intellectually or culturally superior to their unbelieving counterparts.
Christians know the right motivational foundation and teleological goal of all knowledge, though they frequently forget them, and never succeed this side of glory in living in full conformity to them.
Nevertheless, with this proper understanding of epistemology, we can fruitfully interact with unbelievers, because we share the image of God.
We can defend the gospel, knowing that apologetics can clear away intellectual obstacles to the gospel, clarify our own understanding of the truth, protect the church from false teaching, and encourage our own hearts as we further immerse ourselves in the truth.”
–J.V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2019), 215, 217, 218-219.
“The effects of theological knowledge should be humility and a deepened desire to serve and honor God in all of our commerce with created reality.
The truly profound thinkers in life are often brought to humility, too, but perhaps for different reasons.
They are humbled out of a sense of their own smallness; theology should humble us through a sense of the greatness and wonder of God.
It is what we know, not what we do not know, that subdues our pride and causes us to render to God the worship that is His due.”
–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 174.
“There are few lines quite so poignantly applicable to the theologian’s craft as those of the medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote of ‘The life so short, the craft so long to learn. The attempt so hard, the victory so keen.’
It is, in fact, surprising that the thought should ever cross our minds that the theological undertaking could be otherwise, for understanding– understanding of God, of ourselves, of the world– comes so slowly, so painfully slowly, that ‘life’s’ summer passes and the winter arrives long before this fruit is ripe to be picked.
Or so it seems. And that, perhaps, is why we are so fiercely tempted to turn theology into a technique that we can use to produce a more efficiently gained and bountiful knowledge of God!
God, however, is not like the periodic table.
He is not a quantity that can be ‘mastered’ even though He can be known; and though He has revealed Himself with clarity, the depth of our understanding of Him is measured, not by the speed with which theological knowledge is processed, but by the quality of our determination to own His ownership of us through Christ in thought, word, and deed.
Theology is the sustained effort to know the character, will, and acts of the triune God as He has disclosed and interpreted these for His people in Scripture, to formulate these in a systematic way in order that we might know Him, learn to think our thoughts after Him, live our lives in His world on His terms, and by thought and action projection His truth into our own time and culture.
It is therefore a synthetic activity whose center is the understanding of God, whose horizon is as wide as life itself, and whose mission echoes the mission of God Himself, which is to gather together in Christ a progeny as numerous as the stars above (Gen. 15:1-6; Gal. 3:6-16).”
–David F. Wells, “The Theologian’s Craft” in Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer, John Woodbridge and Thomas Edward McComiskey, Eds. (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 1994), 171, 172.