“Theology should humble us” by David Wells

“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.

“God is not a quantity that can be mastered” by David Wells

“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.

“Bible delight is the heartbeat of this psalm” by Christopher Ash

“As we read and pray through Psalm 119 we keep company with one who delighted in his Bible. Bible delight is the heartbeat of this psalm.

We might even say that he plays with Bible words, as he turns from one word to another in an elaborate poetic playfulness. More than twenty-five times he says he delights in the word of God, or loves and longs for the word of God.

To him it is delicious (119:103) and delightful. As he reads it he keeps stumbling across treasure (119:162). It is his hope, his peace, his joy, his song, his freedom, and his comfort.

He had much less of the Bible than we do. Certainly he had no New Testament. Probably he didn’t have all our Old Testament. We don’t know who wrote the psalm, or when.

But he loved his shorter Bible. From his psalm we may learn the logic and the dynamics of Bible delight.

I pray that as we learn to sing his psalm, we too may learn to love our complete and even richer Bibles, and that our hearts will beat in time with his, the heartbeat of Bible delight.”

–Christopher Ash, Bible Delight: Heartbeat of the Word of God: Psalm 119 for the Bible Teacher and Hearer (Proclamation Trust) (Geanies House, Fearn by Tain, Ross-shire IV20 1TW Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 2011), 11.

“We need to carve out space for ourselves in which we can daily attend to God’s Word” by David Wells

“The age in which believers live is already ‘the age to come.’ It is totally different from the culture in which they also live.

All believers live in both of these worlds. They cannot escape the one to live in the other. That is the miscalculation that both mystics and monks have made.

Nor yet can believers simply curse the darkness in this world, for they can still see all the marks of its divine creation. They must live in this world and light a fire for it because it is cold and dark.

They live in the midst of their culture but, to change the image, they live by the beat of a different Drummer. They must hear the sounds of a different time, an eternal time, listening for the music from a different place.

For that world is theirs. It is Christ’s world. It is the ‘age to come.’ They have been received into this world.

It penetrates their existence even now. They live in their own culture in order to be the outposts of this other world.

In the one world, they are but sojourners and pilgrims. In the other, they are permanent residents.

But how are we to do this? How are we going to hear this music? How are we going to hear the divine Drummer whose beat gets lost in all of the noise of our modern world?

We are constantly distracted, always under pressure, constantly bombarded by e-mails. We have unwanted telephone calls.

We are alerted to the arrival of text messages. Families have music lessons and football games, and there are hikes to be organized.

Parents have demanding jobs; some have endless traveling to do. And we are all besieged by the world into which we are wired.

It has become a great temptation even as it is a great fascination to us. Indeed, in 2013, almost half of the American adults surveyed acknowledged this.

Like everything in the modernized world, our information technology has two sides to it. It blesses with one hand and then takes away with the other. And, most importantly here, what it takes away is our capacity to have a functioning worldview.

Without that, our doctrine of God becomes emasculated. An emasculated view of God will never be able to sustain the life of sanctification to which we have been called.

Information and entertainment technologies have annihilated distance, enlarging the circle of our knowledge and, indeed, of our presence. Or, would it be truer to say that the entire world with all of its events, movies, and music has entered our homes?

Once we had to be where the events were happening, where the music was being made, to know about it. Now, all that is needed is a camera and it is splashed across the whole world.

This instant access to information worldwide, to all of its sights, sounds, and happenings is an extraordinary benefit. It has made us citizens of the entire world with an ability to communicate with any other citizen in this world instantaneously.

It has the capacity to lift us beyond our naturally parochial boundaries. At the same time, though, as our knowledge of the world grows— indeed, at an exponential rate— our capacity to have a worldview becomes much diminished and our ability to pay attention to God and His truth is often undermined.

God, we need to remind ourselves, is not just an experience or an idea. The saving knowledge of God comes within a framework which God Himself has disclosed. It is a framework of ideas that corresponds to what is there in the world, in reality, in God Himself.

If this worldview breaks down under the bombardment of news, e-mails, videos, blogs, and music, then what is lost is also what is at its center. It is God Himself, or I should say, it is our understanding, our ability to make sense of who God is that breaks down. And that is where our sanctification breaks down, too.

Technology greatly expands and enlarges our abilities and it mightily expands what we can know. But this is a two-way street.

If it enables us to be everywhere, it is also the case that the whole world– at least its sounds and sights— can enter our minds, too and, once in, it can then enter our souls.

This potentially imperils any functioning worldview. Why is this so?

It is partly because of the sheer volume of what is coming in. It overwhelms us. Since 1960, the amount of data and information individuals are absorbing, because of all of our new technology, has tripled.

If this technology expands our capacity to know things, it also multiples the things that are thrown at us to know. When all of this was just taking shape, Neil Postman warned about ‘information glut,’ and a little later David Shenk spoke of ‘data smog.’

They were right. That is what we now have. Our minds are choked with too much to know. And things are only intensifying.

What allowed all of this to happen only keeps expanding. The iPad and iPhone now massively increase our capacity to access media while we are on the run. The iPod and MP3 massively increase the amount of music we can consume.

With the ability to multitask, American teenagers are now packing in an additional two hours of media consumption per day, bringing their total to more than ten hours.

In addition to the sheer volume is the rapidity with which the whole of the media-filtered, technology-delivered world is changing.

It never stands still long enough for us to take our bearings on it. What is important and what is not, what is weighty and what is ephemeral, what is tragic and what is trivial, meet us with about the same intensity.

It becomes hard, sometimes, to tell which is which. Our world blurs amid the rapid flow of facts, factoids, images, voices, laughter, entertainment, and vapid commentary.

We slowly lose the capacity see the connections between things. Life seems to have no shape.

It looks like a sequence of fast-moving but random experiences with no center and little meaning. Not only does a Christian worldview disappear; the very capacity for such a thing becomes tenuous.

How, then, will we hear this other music from another place? How will we hear that Drummer’s beat above the sounds of this world?

I will say only this. There are no easy answers and there are no painless ones. But, at the same time, it is not impossible.

It is not impossible for us, if it is important to us, to choose what we are going to do and then to focus on doing it. The real question is how deep—or how shallow— is our desire to know God?

We need to begin by asking what is at stake. What might we be in danger of losing amid the noise and frenzy of our modernized societies here in the West?

We are in danger of being squeezed into the mold of the modernized world with its low horizons of knowing, its relativism, and its superficiality.

This threatens our identities as knowers of God, those for whom he is the center, for whom his holy-love defines what moral reality is, and before whom we stand.

It threatens how we see life and how we live in the world. It threatens all of that.

Recognizing this danger, we need to carve out space for ourselves in which we can daily attend to God’s Word, to study it, mark it, learn it, and inwardly digest its truth.

This truth must shape our whole understanding of life as we recognize from whom this truth comes and why God has thus given it to us. This must take precedence.

It must take precedence even at the cost of phones, e-mails, the Internet, texts, TV, Facebook, music, and all of the other ways that our technology wires us into a major competitor for our time and attention.

Innocent though these things may be, they stand in the way of our knowing God if they steal from us the time that we need for that pursuit. And we do need time.

This kind of daily discipline used to be an undisputed part of Christian practice. But it appears to have fallen on hard times. And the result will be, once again, that we will be in danger of ‘forgetting’ God.

In the Old Testament, as we have seen, this had to do with the disobedience of not paying attention to God and His truth. And today, we are in danger of reaching the same end, though by a different route.

Now, we are simply too preoccupied, too frenzied, living simultaneously on too many fronts, so that we just do not have time. We are not able to find this central space in our lives.

When David spoke of the ‘Meditation of my heart’ (Ps. 19:14; 49:3 cf. Ps. 119:15, 23, 99), he was speaking of being in God’s presence, reflecting on His truth, learning how to walk with God, being before the face of God.

This Word he stored up in his heart ‘that I might not sin against you’ (Ps. 119:11). That is what we need to do and where we need to be every day.

This will happen only if we are deliberate about it and are willing to give up whatever stands in our way to this end.

Let us make no mistake about this. If we do not do this aright, if we are not daily seeking God’s face, if we are not pondering the truth he has given us in his Word, if we are not daily being nourished in our souls by it, and if we are not daily repenting of our sin where we need to, our faith will wither and our walk with God will disappear.

If, however, we carve out this center for our lives, we will be in the place where Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians can be realized in us despite our very modern lives:

‘May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God,’ he wrote, ‘and to the steadfastness of Christ’ (2 Thess 3:5). That is what God, the Holy Spirit, will do.”

–David F. Wells, God in the Whirlwind (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), 182-186.

“The work of redemption is the face of His wisdom” by Stephen Charnock

“The wisdom of God doth wonderfully appear in redemption. His wisdom in creature ravisheth the eye and understanding. His wisdom in government doth no less affect a curious observer of the links and concatenation of the means.

But His wisdom in redemption mounts the mind to a greater astonishment. The works of creation are the footsteps of His wisdom; the work of redemption is the face of His wisdom.

In Christ, in the dispensation by Him, as well as His person, were ‘hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Col. 2:3). Some doles of wisdom were given out in creation, but the treasures of it opened in redemption, the highest degrees of it that ever God did exert in the world.

Christ is therefore called the ‘wisdom of God,’ as well as the ‘power of God’ (1 Cor. 1:24); and the gospel is called the ‘wisdom of God.’

Christ is the wisdom of God principally, and the gospel instrumentally, as it is the power of God instrumentally to subdue the heart to Himself. This is wrapped up in the appointing Christ as Redeemer, and opened to us in the revelation of it by the gospel.”

–Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, vol. 1, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1682/2000), 552-553.

“It runs through the whole web of the world” by Stephen Charnock

“Can anything more delightful enter into us, than that of the kind and gracious disposition of that God who first brought us out of the abyss of an unhappy nothing, and hath hitherto spread His wings over us?

Where can we meet with a nobler object than Divine goodness?

What nobler work can be practiced by us than to consider it?

What is more sensible in all the operations of His hands than His skill, as they are considered in themselves, and His goodness, as they are considered in relation to us?

It is strange that we should miss the thoughts of it.

It is strange that we should look upon this earth, and everything in it, and yet overlook that which it is most full of, namely, Divine goodness (Psalm 33:5).

It runs through the whole web of the world. All is framed and diversified by goodness. It is one entire single goodness, which appears in various garbs and dresses in every part of the creation.

Can we turn our eyes inward, and send our eyes outward, and see nothing of a Divinity in both that is worthy of our deepest and most serious thoughts?

Is there anything in the world we can behold, but we see His bounty, since nothing was made but is one way or other beneficial to us?”

–Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, vol. 2, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1682/2000), 347.

“Hammer your way through a continued argument” by C.S. Lewis

“I should rather like to attend your Greek class, for it is a perpetual puzzle to me how New Testament Greek got the reputation of being easy. St Luke I find particularly difficult.

As regards matter– leaving the question of language– you will be glad to hear that I am at last beginning to get some small understanding of St Paul: hitherto an author quite opaque to me.

I am speaking now, of course, of the general drift of whole epistles: short passages, treated devotionally, are of course another matter. And yet the distinction is not, for me, quite a happy one.

Devotion is best raised when we intend something else. At least that is my experience.

Sit down to meditate devotionally on a single verse, and nothing happens. Hammer your way through a continued argument, just as you would in a profane writer, and the heart will sometimes sing unbidden.”

–C.S. Lewis, “To Dom Bede Griffiths” (April 4, 1934) in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: Books, Broadcasts, and the War 1931-1949, Volume 2, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), 136.