Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is one that perhaps need more attention. Because the Spirit is often associated with the greater blessings of the new covenant, it is often assumed that the Spirit did not operate on believers, or at least most of them, in the old covenant. But this raises some difficulties. How could people believe and have faith without the Spirit? Aren't we dead until He regenerates us to new life? Isn't He by definition given to all believers? How could any Old Testament saint have been circumcised in the heart without the Spirit operating within? 

Also a problem is that David speaks of being regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit in Psalm 51:10-12. 
"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit."
Some say that this was a kingly anointing of the Spirit that David was speaking about, but David seems to be talking of a clean heart, God's presence, and salvation, not his kingship. Also, the Psalms were not merely David's private devotional. They were (and are) meant to be sung by the people of God. All Israel (i.e. all the church) was to identify with this kind of repentance and longing for the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 143:9-10 also speaks of the Spirit's work in the life of individual believers:
"Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!"
Additionally, Isaiah 63:10-14 recounts the Spirit's work in the redemption of Israel under Moses. 

I do believe that the New Testament brought about a significantly greater indwelling of the Spirit (Ezek. 36:25-27, Joel 2:32, Deut. 30:6, Acts 2, etc...) and that this is the root of many of the discontinuities between the testaments. With a greater abundance of the Spirit, we should be more mature than we were in the Old Testament. We were children then, we should be grown up now (Gal. 4:1-7), not needing the shadows and elementary principles of the old covenant. 

John 14:16-17 should probably be mentioned: 
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."
Jesus here teaches that the Spirit is not someone totally new, but someone that the disciples already had in a way. In fact, the reason why the disciples could receive the Helper was because (unlike the world) they were already in relationship with Him because He dwelt with them.

The greater outpouring is not only in strength, but also in inspiration (of the New Testament), expansion (to the Gentiles), and gifts.

On the topic of gifts, perhaps we can make it a little easier by making this distinction: the Spirit regenerates/sanctifies people (John 3:1-8) and He gives them gifts for the edification of the body (1 Cor. 12). In the Old Testament, all believers were renewed and sanctified by the Spirit, but not all were given gifts, which seemed to have been more restricted to special offices and tasks (e.g. Ex. 31:30-35). Some, like Saul, seem to even have been given the gift without the saving renewal. The highest anointing of the Spirit was given to Jesus for His role as the Messiah (Messiah and Christ mean "anointed one"). Now with the NT outpouring of the Spirit, Joel prophesied that a distinctive character of it would be that it would be on all kinds of flesh: sons, daughters, young, old, slave, free (Acts 2:16-21). In other words, all believers are given special gifts for the edification of the body (1 Cor. 12). There are still special (and important) gifts of leadership (Eph. 4:1-16), but even these are for the empowering of the body (so they can use their gifts better).

This is obviously an important and difficult topic, and it can be explored much more. I'm still learning and hope to continue to grow in knowledge. This is my best shot at the topic for now. Whatever the case may be, we should rejoice that God has given us His Spirit and saved us into a loving relationship with the triune God. Praise the Holy Spirit! We would be dead men without Him. 


P.S. I couldn't help but notice the interesting connection in Ezekiel 36:25-27 between "I will sprinkle clean water on you" in verse 25 and "I will put my Spirit within you" in verse 27. Perhaps this has something to say about the mode and meaning of baptism? Also, when Deuteronomy 30 prophesies the new covenant, it says that God will "circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring." It seems like the children of believers are included under the new covenant as they were under the old.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Importance of Christian Community to the Christian Life

Christian community used to be taken for granted, but with the dissolution of Christendom, we now wonder if it is even possible or desirable. Does the Christian life consist of private piety unrelated to society and culture, or is it inescapably related to one’s community? The growing discouragement about today’s society has many Christians backing away from the idea of a Christian community. Either they retreat from community altogether, or they decide we can play around in the world’s community without being distinctively Christian. I am taking the word "community" here to mean not merely people who like each other, but an organic system of people who live with each other, sharing a common culture. How we view this kind of system has great impact in how we think and live. As the concept of Christian community is examined, it should be evident that it is thoroughly interwoven into the Christian life.

The Christian life does not happen in a vacuum. A Christian does not arrive on the scene without any background or relations. The fifth commandment is foundational for a successful Christian life and culture. “Honor your father and mother...that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land” (Eph. 6:2-3). Proverbs is full of exhortations to pay heed to one’s parents’ instruction and training. What a person receives from his parents will form the initial context and position for his life. Our glory and status is our fathers (Prov. 17:6), and some of us have been given more from them than others. What a person receives will determine, in part, his culpability and responsibility. “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Of course, parents are not the only authorities and influences in our lives. The command to honor parents has been traditionally understood to extend to the general principle found throughout the Bible of “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 305). Our community gives us a context in which to live and a heritage on which to improve. Obedience does not merely require a knowledge of our motivations and God’s revealed will. It also requires an understanding of our situation and who we are. In other words, our obedience to God requires a biblical understanding of our community.

The development of a distinctively Christian community is important since our life and work will often reflect the values of our community. Our formal worship of God is a corporate expression of worship as we gather with His people. Our liturgy, if it is done biblically (1 Cor. 14), will be done in a way understandable to the congregation, and thus will start with their culture. “Good communication will be rendered when the listener's own language is used, when his cultural world is penetrated by the communicator” (Lee, 6). This will likely cause problems because ungodly cultures will have formerly been in rebellion to God, suppressing the truth. A renewal of culture by transforming society will be necessary for a mature liturgy. The same happens with economics and art. An ungodly community will have ungodly values determining its work and commerce. For a Christian to participate in economics, he will need to communicate and interact with this ungodly economy to some extent. Art, as a special kind of communication, generally reflects the cultural values and shared experiences of a community, and it runs into problems when faced by a rebellious culture. With nothing less than a Christian community operating with biblical values will we be able to produce mature worship, economics, and art.

The influence of community can be used for good or evil. While its evil influence in our current culture has often been pointed out, the Bible also teaches its use for good (e.g. Prov. 5:12-14, 6:20-24). The man who seeks to isolate himself from others “breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1). While evil company can lead people astray into death, a Christian community is a vital support for the Christian. For a man to cut himself off from community is to cut off the past and future for the mere enjoyment of the present. This is a proud way of dying. Even to cut one’s self off from weak and young Christians, at least if done on principle, can be a danger because it tends to replace the reality of unity in Christ with a community defined by human qualifications. “The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ” (Bonhoeffer, 37-38).

As we pointed out above, God has designed the family to play a large part in the development of Christians, bringing up children in the Lord’s discipline, in His way of life (Eph. 6:4, Prov. 22:6). Individuals and families are also strengthened by the church, where the Spirit has given each person gifts for the benefit of all (1 Cor. 12:7). The ordained preachers of the church are the gifts given by Christ to build up His church so that the members may minister to one another (Eph. 4:16). This close community of believers will give Christians strength to face the task of interacting with the larger community. As we seek to create broader communities that operate on Christian principles, we need to start with a community that does so self-consciously and in opposition to the general culture. We need the church if we are going to lead.
“Deviant subcultures can survive only if they form permanent and effective communities to stand in opposition to the larger society. In sociological terms, they need to have ‘plausibility structures’ that will support their deviance and that can only come from a close community of like-minded deviants” (Schlossberg, 321).

Not only does the church support each individual in his or her life, but the whole body is on a unified mission: the global dominion of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). Christ ascended on high and gave His gifts to His church that “that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10). To live the Christian life apart from the church and her mission is inconceivable. We have been saved into an organically connected body and given gifts for her benefit. This is not just so that each member (e.g. eye, ear, hand, etc...) is healthy, but so that the whole body works together to accomplish its job. This mission given in Matthew 28:18-20 is to make the nations Christ’s disciples. Thus, the church’s mission is to create Christian communities. We create Christian communities through the Christian community of the church.

Christian community, then, is not only a context and support, but is a goal of the Christian life. This all gets back to the two greatest commandments: to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor. There is a reason that visiting widows and orphans in their affliction is one of the highest expressions of the Christian life (James 1:27). We love because God first loved us. Love is the mark of the Christian. We cannot love God and hate our brother–that is a contradiction (1 John 4:20-21). We are to constantly exhort our brothers (Heb. 3:13), building unity and love between us and worshipping God together. Even beyond our Christian brothers, we are to do good to all men (Gal. 6:10) and love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). We are to let our lights shine before men, bearing witness to the gospel to all those around us. As peace is made between us and God through Christ’s sacrifice, peace should follow between men, uniting what Adam’s fall into sin broke apart.

The church’s mission is to make the nations Christ’s disciples by baptizing and teaching them. As members of these nations being discipled, we must apply what is taught. The church has a comprehensive mission, but it is not comprehensive itself. The church is not in the business of the actual economic production, political administration, etc... per se, but the members of the church are to live the Christian life in all areas, according to all that Christ commanded. These cultural activities would then form the basis of the broader Christian community and nation. “As the number of converts increase, this providentially leads to the subsuming under the authority of Christ whole institutions, cultures, societies, and governments” (Gentry, Jr., 54). Even non-Christians, by the fact of their participation in the same community, would begin to take on the habits and assumed cultural values of the Christians. Christianity would become the primary reference point and shared experience by which people would communicate and think.

And not only would the community be more Christian, but Christians would become more communal. People who see one another for a few hours once a week will not be able to love each other very deeply compared to those who also work together six days a week. People who sing, eat, dress, dance, and play together will have relationships sealed with the beauty of art. The shared reference point of the Bible will give culture stability and meaning, enabling it to flourish. The culture will in turn reenforce the community as a means of fellowship. This will not work without the love of Christ in believers to hold people together, but this is where the love of Christ leads.

In short, the Christian life aims at nothing less than the reign of Christ over the nations, and that is nothing less than Christendom. We should never lose sight of the origin of this reign: the Spirit’s work in the heart of the individual. However, we must not stop there. Christ has called us to a life which is shaped by our relations to people and things around us. He has given us our families and churches to provide mutual support and a unified force. He has given us a task of creating Christian communities by the right of His kingly authority. This is both a grand and an eminently practical mission. It gets down to the simple decisions of everyday life. This vision, though, does not occur naturally. It will take a self-conscious love for others that breaks out of the anti-Christian trends of society. It may feel awkward because it will challenge the premises of modern society. It may feel dangerous because it will deal with real human relationships. It may feel insignificant because it will start like a mustard seed, hidden in local communities and neighborhoods. Nevertheless, this is the life to which we were called by Christ, and so let us joyfully pursue it.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Life Together. New York, NY: HarperOne, 1954.
Gentry, Jr., Kenneth L. The Greatness of the Great Commission. Tyler, TX: Institutes for Christian Economics, 1990.
Holy Bible (ESV), The. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.
Lee, F. Nigel “Lecture 6: Language, Folklore, and Communication” SOC208 Sociology. Lakeland, FL: Whitefield, 2008.
Schlossberg, Herbert Idols for Destruction. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990.
Westminster Confession of Faith. Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1994.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Loving the Hard-to-Love Church

I am currently reading, among other things, John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I am in the beginning of book 4 where Calvin teaches concerning the church. It is a wonderful book, and in one section Calvin makes a helpful point about patience with erring brothers and churches which I hadn't thought of before:
"They exclaim that it is impossible to tolerate the vice which everywhere stalks abroad like a pestilence. What if the apostle’s sentiment applies here also? Among the Corinthians it was not a few that erred, but almost the whole body had become tainted; there was not one species of sin merely, but a multitude, and those not trivial errors, but some of them execrable crimes. There was not only corruption in manners, but also in doctrine. What course was taken by the holy apostle, in other words, by the organ of the heavenly Spirit, by whose testimony the Church stands and falls? Does he seek separation from them? Does he discard them from the kingdom of Christ? Does he strike them with the thunder of a final anathema? He not only does none of these things, but he acknowledges and heralds them as a Church of Christ, and a society of saints. If the Church remains among the Corinthians, where envyings, divisions, and contentions rage; where quarrels, lawsuits, and avarice prevail; where a crime, which even the Gentiles would execrate, is openly approved; where the name of Paul, whom they ought to have honoured as a father, is petulantly assailed; where some hold the resurrection of the dead in derision, though with it the whole gospel must fall; where the gifts of God are made subservient to ambition, not to charity; where many things are done neither decently nor in order: If there the Church still remains, simply because the ministration of word and sacrament is not rejected, who will presume to deny the title of church to those to whom a tenth part of these crimes cannot be imputed? How, I ask, would those who act so morosely against present churches have acted to the Galatians, who had done all but abandon the gospel (Gal. 1:6), and yet among them the same apostle found churches?"
May we have the patience of Paul to work with erring Christian churches, speaking the truth in love, hoping all things in the process (1 Cor. 13:7). May we remember that no church will be perfect, but that all churches will require love and patience. Would you have remained at the church at Corinth?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Council of Gangra

The council of Gangra was an eastern church council held in the 300s A.D. (between the councils of Nicaea and Constantinople) and directed to suppress a schismatic, ascetic movement in Armenia. It has some very interesting, biblical points. Here are a couple of them:
Canon I: If any one shall condemn marriage, or abominate and condemn a woman who is a believer and devout, and sleeps with her own husband, as though she could not enter the Kingdom [of heaven] let him be anathema. 
Canon II: If any one shall condemn him who eats flesh, which is without blood and has not been offered to idols nor strangled, and is faithful and devout, as though the man were without hope [of salvation] because of his eating, let him be anathema. 
Canon XIII: If any woman, under pretence of asceticism, shall change her apparel and, instead of a woman’s accustomed clothing, shall put on that of a man, let her be anathema. 
Canon XV: If anyone shall forsake his own children and shall not nurture them, nor so far as in him lies, rear them in becoming piety, but shall neglect them, under pretence of asceticism, let him be anathema. 
Canon XVI: If, under any pretence of piety, any children shall forsake their parents, particularly [if the parents are] believers, and shall withhold becoming reverence from their parents, on the plea that they honour piety more than them, let them be anathema. 
Canon XVII: If any woman from pretended asceticism shall cut off her hair, which God gave her as the reminder of her subjection, thus annulling as it were the ordinance of subjection, let her be anathema. 
Canon XVIII: If any one, under pretence of asceticism, shall fast on Sunday, let him be anathema.

The whole thing is beneficial to read and can be found here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.viii.v.iii.html

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Family Economy of Daniel Boone

Seeing the family as central to work and economics has been a very common view throughout time. An example of this can be found in the life of one of America’s frontier heroes. In the life of Daniel Boone we can see a family that worked as a unified economy and built a multigenerational legacy of creative and diligent dominion taking. It was families like these that formed the economic foundation for our country.

Daniel Boone was born in 1734 in the Schuylkill Valley of Pennsylvania. He was the sixth of eleven children. He was raised in an enterprising home that took on tasks such as weaving, blacksmithing, and farming. Each family member had a job to do and contributed in his/her own way to the family’s work. Daniel’s mother, Sarah Boone, took care of the family’s dairy industry. From his tenth to his seventeenth year, Daniel’s chief occupation was to be her assistant. He was to watch, take care of, and herd the cows. Daniel, as a ten year old who spent much time in the woods, would carry a club and would hunt birds and small game with it. A few years later he got a gun and became a good marksman and hunter as well as a herdsman. During this time Daniel was “homeschooled” by his older brother, Samuel, and Samuel’s wife. They taught him to write a little, read, and spell. After the Boone family moved to North Carolina, Daniel worked in his father’s blacksmith/gunsmith shop for a time. After that, he used his hunting and trapping skills for profit in the winter, and would work as a teamster for his family in the summer, bringing in their diverse produce into market. The lessons he learned of responsibility, initiative, and literacy were to prove very important as he grew to be a man and a leader.

At the age of 22 Daniel Boone married Rebecca Bryan and set to establish his own household. While the young family started out living on Daniel’s father’s land, they soon established themselves on their own land. They grew and made quite a bit of what they needed. Daniel also earned money by hauling goods by wagon for hire, hunting, and trapping. That way they could buy the things which they couldn’t produce themselves. Regrettably the hunting and trapping often required him being away from the family for weeks and even months at a time. But even when the family was separated, they still worked for their own household economy. As Daniel had done growing up, he had his own job and responsibility, but it fit into the larger plan of the whole family. And Daniel still sought to integrate his family, especially his sons, into his hunts as best he could. One of his sons later told how Daniel “started taking James [Daniel’s first son] on hunts when he was seven or eight years old; and sometimes during a cold, snowy spell, Father would have difficulty in keeping little James comfortably warm and could do so only by hugging him up to him.”

On the longer hunts Daniel took his younger brother, Squire Boone Jr., and with him started to explore Kentucky. In 1775 Daniel led his family and other families to this land. There weren’t many “job openings”, but there was a lot of work to do and abundant resources to improve. A new problem, though, faced them. This was the beginning of the American War for Independence. The British-allied Indian tribes (who had long disputed among themselves the ownership of Kentucky) began to attack the American settlers. The Boone family and the families with them now had to work together, not only to provide, but to defend themselves. These families worked, suffered, and sometimes died together. With hard work these families subdued and civilized the wilderness. As Daniel later said, “we behold Kentucky, lately a howling wilderness, the habitation of savages and wild beasts, become a fruitful field…in the midst of a raging war, and under all the disadvantages of emigration…Here, where the hand of violence shed the blood of the innocent, where the horrid yells of savages and the groans of the distressed sounded in our ears, we now hear the praises and adorations of our Creator.” After more than twenty years of frontier violence the Boones were even more tightly woven as a social economic unit.

As the Indian troubles died down, the Boone family continued to support themselves with various family businesses such as growing ginseng, farming, hunting, trapping, running a general store, surveying, etc… They had a weakness, though, in keeping up with their paperwork, and not all the new settlers in Kentucky were as virtuous and trustworthy as the Boones. It wasn’t long before the Boones were involved with land disputes and other financial claims made against them. Instead of spending the rest of his life defending his land claims, Daniel sold what he could, paid off his debts, relinquished his rights to his disputed lands, and moved to Missouri in 1799.

When Daniel moved to Missouri, it was a migration of a community. Not only his immediate household moved, but also his grown children, relatives, and friends. There Daniel spent the last twenty years of his life enjoying the fruits of his labor. While Daniel and Rebecca had land of their own, they spent most of their time with their children’s families who provided for and took care of the aging couple. Daniel still went hunting and trapping with his children and grandchildren, even into his eighties. He spent his time telling stories of the old days to his grandchildren, and anyone else that came by, up to his last day. He saw his children and children-in-law follow in his footsteps as military leaders in the War of 1812, and as those respected in the community with enterprising families of their own. He and his wife had 10 children, 70 grandchildren, and 364 great-grandchildren. This progeny formed an important part of the communities of Kentucky and Missouri. Even the deaths of the Daniel and Rebecca showed the strength of their family. Rebecca died after she and Daniel had aided their daughter’s family in making sugar. Daniel died after being cared for by his grandson-in-law, Dr. John Jones, in his son Nathan’s house with children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends gathered around. The funeral was preached by another grandson-in-law, Rev. James Craig.

The later western explorations would tend to become less family oriented. Although the family and covered wagon continued the tradition of family settlement, it would become more common for the explorations to be composed of mountain men employed by fur companies, military expeditions, miners with families back east, and cowboys. The life of Daniel Boone is a great example of using the family to take dominion and subdue the earth. May we learn from his example and remember to be diligent, flexible, creative; to train our children, and to honor our parents in their old age. May we see our families, as Daniel Boone saw his, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (Genesis 1:28).

Main Sources Used: 
Boone, Colonel Daniel Daniel Boone: His Own Story. Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 1996. (Originally: The Adventures of Daniel Boone, 1784)

My Father, Daniel Boone: The Draper Interviews with Nathan Boone. Ed. Neal O. Hammon. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1999.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Glory of Children is Their Fathers

"Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers." 
Proverbs 17:6

Somehow I have read this verse before and only noticed the first line. It is common for parents and grandparents to glory in their children and grandchildren. For example, we can think of the common bumper sticker: "My child is an honor student at _____." But how many children recognize that their fathers are their glory? How many recognize that to dishonor or honor their parents is to dishonor or honor themselves? 

As the child of my father, I bear his name, Bringe. He is my reputation and glory. I inherit a heritage from him, as he did from his father. My son will inherit it from me. We are not disconnected individuals, but are united with past generations in our families. While the idea of the honor of a family and the inheritance of glory and responsibility by right of birth may seem antiquated to us, it is biblical. While some family legacies may be better than others, the command to honor father and mother is given to all. Some of us are given two talents, some are given five (Matt. 25:14-30). Let us all improve on what we have been given, striving to both maintain the honor of our fathers and to leave an even better inheritance for our children. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Manly Sacrifice

There are two kinds of sacrificial men. The first is the man who sacrifices his duty, responsibility, and authority. The second is the man who sacrifices his pleasure, privilege, and life. The first is a lover of self, a slave, and a coward. The second is a lover of others, a man of authority, and a hero. The prime example of the first is the first Adam. The prime example of the second is the second Adam, Jesus Christ. We, as Christian men, are called to imitate Christ. The men of the Titanic, as products of a fading Christendom, did this on the night of April 14th/15th, 1912.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (Ephesians 5:25)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


A better recording of this song should be done at some point. And yes, I accidentally put the apostrophe in the wrong place in Abr'am in the second verse.

This hymn, "Rockingham," is taken from The Missouri Harmony. The words are by Isaac Watts (drawn from Genesis 17:7, 10; Acts 16:14-15, 33) and the tune is by Amzi Chapin, 1813. It beautifully and concisely pulls together God's gracious redemptive covenant through the ages and its blessing to the children and families of believers. It is good to realize that this subject is not just a point of discussion, but a thing to be rejoiced over. Praise God that His grace is now more abundant, not less, than in the Old Testament. May we continue to claim God's gracious promises through faith and live as true children of God in His covenant.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).


P.S. If this concept of infant baptism seems strange to you, you might want to check out my post: Oikos-Baptism

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Patrick's Hope

"60. For the sun we see rises each day for us at [Christ's] command, but it will never reign, neither will its splendour last, but all who worship it will come wretchedly to punishment. We, on the other hand, shall not die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never die, no more shall he die who has done Christ's will, but will abide for ever just as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now and for ever and ever. Amen."
-Confession, Patrick of Ireland, c. A.D. 450


Friday, March 15, 2013

Reading Bede

I love reading early medieval history! I just finished the first book of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It already contains martyrs dying for their faith; preachers preaching the gospel, attacking heresy, and fighting demons; Roman, British, Pictish, and Saxon leaders fighting battles; very practical pastoral instructions from Pope Gregory for the discipleship of the nations; and, above all, the sovereign God who carries it all out according to His purposes.

Bede gave his thoughts on at least one use of history in the preface:
"Should history tell of good men and their good estate, the thoughtful listener is spurred on to imitate the good; should it record the evil ends of wicked men, no less effectually the devout and earnest listener or reader is kindled to eschew what is harmful and perverse, and himself with greater care pursue those things which he has learned to be good and pleasing in the sight of God."
Bede is teaching what the Scripture teaches, such as in 1 Corinthians 10:6 concerning the history of Israel in the wilderness: "Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did."

The following is as close as it gets to mentioning King Arthur (I believe Ambrosius is Arthur's uncle and Arthur is the one who fought the battle of Mount Badon):
"Their [the Briton's] leader at that time was a certain Ambrosius Aurelianus, a discreet man, who was, as it happened, the sole member of the Roman race who had survived this storm [of Saxon invasion] in which his parents, who bore a royal and famous name, had perished. Under his leadership the Britons regained their strength, challenged their victors to battle, and, with God's help, won the day. From that time on, first the Britons won and then the enemy were victorious until the year of the siege of Mount Badon, when the Britons slaughtered no small number of their foes about forty-four years after their arrival in Britain."

For those of you interested in the use of Old Testament law, Pope Gregory goes right to the OT case laws to discuss several practical issues, including: "It is a grave sin to marry one's stepmother, because it is written in the law: 'Thou shalt not uncover his father's nakedness.'"

I look forward to reading more!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Samuel Rutherford on Tyranny and Government

On tyranny and resistance:

"Therefore an unjust king, as unjust, is not that genuine ordinance of God, appointed to remove injustice, but accidental to a king. So we may resist the injustice of the king, and not resist the king. 8. If, then, any cast off the nature of a king, and become habitually a tyrant, in so far he is not from God, nor any ordinance which God doth own."

"A tyrant is he who habitually sinneth against the catholic good of the subjects and the state, and subverteth law."

On balance of powers due to man's depravity:

"Power and absolute monarchy is tyranny; unmixed democracy is confusion; untempered aristocracy is factious dominion...all three thus contempered have their own sweet fruits through God's blessing, and their own diseases by accident, and through man's corruption; and neither reason nor Scripture shall warrant any one in its rigid purity without mixture."

-Samuel Rutherford, Lex Rex, 1644

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Prodigal Son

The song above, "The Prodigal Son," is a shape-note anthem taken from The Missouri Harmony. The words are by Isaac Watts (drawn from Luke 15) and the music is ascribed to Josiah Moore in The Kentucky Harmony, 1816. It is sung by our church's youth choir that my brother and I run. We sang it after the church service yesterday (the 17th). 

P.S. And yes, the camera was recording near the alto section...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God's Temple

"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple."
-1 Corinthians 3:16-17

The "you" in these verses is plural. From the surrounding context it is plain that the church is the temple, just as it is also taught in Ephesians 2:19-22 and elsewhere. Don't mess with God's temple. He destroys the enemies of His church. God dwells among His people not only individually, but also corporately. I count it a high honor to fellowship with God in His temple tomorrow.

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
-Psalm 122:1

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Importance of Medieval Church History

Through Christ we are united to the whole church in ages past and future. In each era the church has been given strengths and weaknesses for the benefit of the whole body. Thus, church history is important if we are to attain “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Regrettably, many Christians have neglected to study it, and many more have specially neglected one certain era: the medieval period (approx. A.D. 590-1517). Modern church history is studied because it is close to us. The Reformation is popular among Protestants because it was a desperate time of struggles and heroes. The early church has its appeal because it is so foundational and close to Christ Himself. But what of this millennium stuck in the middle, the one we call the “Dark Ages”? Are we really united through Christ to those people? Despite our initial reactions, medieval Christianity is worth our attention and study as we seek to build the church in our day.

In any age there will be errors from which we can learn, and the Middle Ages are no exception. One great error the medieval church made was in its government. While its emphasis on the unity of the church and society was originally seen through and under Christ, this was corrupted by the fact that they made the pope the “vicar of Christ,” subordinating society to the pope. They transferred Christ’s transcendent authority to the power of a man. This was then countered by the ancient competing claim that the emperor was over all, leading to the great struggles between the pope and the emperor from the 11th century onward. The idea did not come from the Bible, which teaches a strong Creator/creature distinction and a limited and distributed human authority structure. Instead, it came from Greco-Roman thinking, which was especially brought into Europe via the Crusades.
“The concept that all men were subordinated to one infallible, supreme, and super-human justice manifested on earth, whether in church or empire, was alien to Christian Europe. [It was introduced] to the degree that Aristotelian and other pagan thought infected their thinking” (Rushdoony, 206).
This false doctrine wreaked havoc as far as it was implemented, and it was why the Reformers used the term “papist” to identify their Roman opponents. The tendency to replace Christ with human government is still one of our greatest threats today in the form of statism. We ought to look at the immense trouble this problem caused and ascribe sovereignty to Jesus Christ alone.

There were other errors as well, many of which were simply the accumulations of human tradition. While the early church had done a great job at minutely defining the doctrines of the Trinity and Christ’s natures, it had left the application of salvation somewhat vague. Various pagan ideas of works and a higher view of the church’s sacraments quietly crept into the church. In the 12th century Thomas Aquinas incorporated Aristotle’s Greek ideas into theology and developed the Romanist system of merit and justification by substantive grace. Along with this system came the defined doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, transubstantiation, and the like. Thus justification and sanctification were mixed and confused, leading to a grave corruption of the gospel. The lack of peace that was produced by this deficient system led men like Martin Luther to seek reform. Many people in our day still suffer from a lack of peace from faulty systems of justification. We must avoid all failed systems and seek justification only and completely by Christ, received by faith alone.

Despite the errors of the medieval church, which we Protestants are usually quick to point out, there was also much good developed at that time that we can benefit from. Despite its imperfections, medieval Europe was a distinctively Christian era and culture with hundreds of years of maturation. The Reformation did not come out of nowhere but “was in many ways a continuation of a theological discussion of authority, worship, and redemption which had been started in the middle ages...Protestant concerns were medieval concerns, and the two fit together organically, naturally” (Jones, 20).

While some men in Christendom made important theological errors, others made beneficial theological developments. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) did the church a great favor by developing the doctrine of the atonement, which had been fairly imprecise up until then. The Reformers benefited from his work and would build upon his doctrine in their view of penal atonement and justification (Musin, 11). Anselm taught that only Jesus Christ, the God-man, could satisfy God’s justice for men by his sacrifice. As a direction for the visitation of the sick written by Anselm says,
“I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between myself and my evil deserts, and the merits of His most worthy passion I bring in place of the merit which I should have had, and, alas, do not have” (Owen, 16-17).
At this time the Scholastic philosophers, of whom Anselm was one, sought to build up Christianity as a whole system. A study of them is helpful for modern discussions over the place of reason in theology, the relation of particulars and universals, and how Western Civilization ended up like it has. The Scholastics sought to develop a Christian philosophy with which to interact with Greek philosophy. It is due to their errors that the Renaissance and Roman Catholicism developed, and due to their successes that the Reformation and its heirs continued the search and answered many of their questions. To ignore these ideas and their consequences would be a grave mistake if one wants to understand what has happened to our world.

The piety of medieval Christians was something that we should not despise. Various medieval movements, especially among the monks and mystics, emphasized a piety that was firmly rooted in meditation on the Bible. Singing the psalms and hymns were also promoted. The Rule of Benedict, for example, required that the Psalter be chanted in its entirety every week (Browne, 8). The simple pre-industrial rhythm of life, though it was hard and unromantic, was generally more conducive to meditation on God’s reality than today’s society. This medieval piety also expressed itself in fervent activity. The conversion of Europe is a monument to its energy. Monks, bishops, priests, and friars all joined in the massive project of bringing a continent out of barbaric paganism. There was much to discourage them with the fall of Rome, invading Muslims and Vikings, periodical apostasies, warring kings, and stubborn superstitions. Nevertheless, these men courageously transformed Europe by the gospel over hundreds of years with efforts often unrecorded or forgotten, setting the stage for the Reformation and world-wide expansion. This should be a rebuke to our wimpy modern pessimism, and should encourage us in having a long-term and victorious vision for Christ’s Kingdom despite our momentary set-backs.

This transformation established a new kind of civilization, Christendom. This trajectory was set early by Augustine (354-430). Going back to the fall of the Roman empire, “Augustine stood between two worlds, the classical and the new medieval. He insisted that people must look forward to the ‘City of God,’ a spiritual civilization, because the old classical civilization was passing” (Cairns, 139). Augustine’s book The City of God, as well as other books he wrote, had a huge influence on medieval Christianity. In it he taught a Christian view of history, which is the struggle between the City of the World and the City of God. These are opposing principles, the love of self versus the love of God, and result in different civilizations. Thus medieval Europe, while it could not escape some syncretism with the world, was self-consciously built on a principle of antithesis against the world. Unlike pagan and classical civilizations, it glorified labor and technology as the work of saints. It civilized warfare and protected and honored women and children. It maintained the freedom of the church against state control. It set up charitable and hospitable organizations to care for the poor and needy. It outlawed abortion, sacrifices, sodomy, adultery, and often, as in the case of King Alfred, incorporated Old Testament law into civil law codes. The medieval motto could have been the same as the motto of the Reformers, “out of darkness, light.”

After the chaotic fall of the Roman empire, a new social system was developed, feudalism. In this system people were knit into a decentralized, local community through interconnected covenants and relations. The idea of personal and concrete communities was preferred over large and abstract nation-states. People generally learned to be content with their status and to show honor where it was due. Today we see this reversed with the rise of egalitarianism and individualism. The idea of “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals” (Westminster Confession, 305) is scorned. Envy and rebellion are commonplace today. Even though it wasn’t a perfect system, the older mindset of serving God in one’s calling in an unequal society is much closer to what the Bible teaches (see Col. 3:18-4:1, 1 Cor. 12, Eccl. 10:5-7). Not only might we learn from their idea of decentralization and hierarchy, but also from their idea of unity. Unity was not primarily seen in terms of national or ethnic unity but was seen in Christ. A medieval peasant would have seen himself as part of his local manor and as part of Christendom. “The earlier unity of Christendom had been a religious unity, a Christian unity which was a reality in a decentralized civilization” (Rushdoony, 203). As I mentioned above, the emperor and the pope eventually corrupted this unity. As the pope fell out of favor, national leaders like King Henry VIII continued this human-centered form of unity. The earlier goal, though, of a decentralized civilization united by Christ is a fitting goal for us today.

Even though the Middle Ages may seem dark to us, that is most likely because we have not studied them as we ought. When we look at them more closely we can see that they had their struggles like us and can give us direction as we face our problems today. Perhaps our current situation is not unlike Augustine’s situation. Like him, we face the crumbling of human empires and civilizations and the pressures of barbaric paganism. This is the time to learn how the first Christendom was formed so that we may learn to build a second. May we not look down upon the medieval folk as a bunch of backward, ignorant brutes who did nothing for a thousand years, but may we value their mistakes and successes and seek to build upon them. The corruptions of modernity and narrow pietism have done their damage, but let us recover what we have lost. May we look to disciple the nations as our medieval fathers did, and as we build upon them may the second Christendom be even better then the first.


Browne, Gerald M. The Abbreviated Psalter of the Venerable Bede. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002.
Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.
Jones, Douglas and Douglas Wilson Angels in the Architecture. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1998. 
Musin, Dr. Donald J. “Lecture 11: Reformation and Post-Reformation Soteriology” HCH 201 History of the Christian Church. Lakeland, FL: Whitefield, 2006
Owen, John Justification. Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth, 1971 [1677].
Rushdoony, Rousas John The One and the Many. Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1971.
The Holy Bible (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.
Westminster Confession of Faith. Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1994.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Idolatry of Tyranny

"That which is the garland and proper flower of the King of kings, as he is absolute above his creatures, and not tied to any law, without himself, that regulateth his will, that must be given to no mortal man or king, except we would communicate that which is God's proper due to a sinful man, which must be idolatry." -Samuel Rutherford, Lex Rex, 1644

In other words, holding that a man (i.e. a king, ruler, or rulers) is above the law is idolatry because it attributes divinity to man.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Examining the "Middle Ages"

“Humanists, Roman Catholics, and Protestants commonly err in their accounts of ‘medieval’ civilization in that they ascribe to it a modern perspective with regard to the papacy and then either condemn or approve the ‘Middle Ages’ in terms of their attitudes towards the claims of the papacy. Their historical perspective is thus conditioned by their reactions to an ecclesiastical dogma rather than an examination of a culture...

"...The Roman Catholic approaches the so-called 'medieval" era believing that it possessed a modern papal unity and authority which did not then exist. It was, indeed, the very struggle for that unity which destroyed the culture and led to the chronic conflicts of succeeding eras. The earlier unity of Christendom had been a religious unity, a Christian unity which was a reality in a decentralized civilization. The basic localism of feudal culture governed both church and state. The struggle of both the papacy and the empire was directed against one another, but it was also directed against feudalism, and both papacy and empire worked to subjugate church and state to their own authority. They used feudalism to destroy feudalism."

-R.J. Rushdoony, The One and the Many, p. 202

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Old Orange Flute

Long live Irish and Presbyterian flutes and fifes!

In the county Tyrone, in the town of Dungannon
Where many a ruction myself had a hand in
Bob Williamson he lived, a weaver by trade
And all of us thought him the stout orange blade.

On the twelfth of July as it yearly did come
Bob played on the flute to the sound of the drum
You can talk of your lyre, your piano or lute
But there's none could compare to the Old Orange Flute.

But Bob that deceiver he took us all in
For he married a Papish named Bridget McGinn
Turned Papish himself and forsook the Old Cause
That gave us our freedom, religion and laws.

And the boys in the place made some comment upon it
And Bob had to fly to the province of Connaught;
he left with his wife and his fixins, to boot,
And along with the latter, the Old Orange Flute.

At Mass the next Sunday, to atone for past deeds,
Said Paters and Aves and counted his beads
Till after some time at the Priest's own desire
Bob went with his flute for to play in the choir.

Bob went with his flute for to play in the mass
But the instrument shivered and cried "O Alas!"
And try though he would, though he made a great noise,
The flute would play only "The Protestant Boys."

Well up Bob he jumped with a start and a flutter.
He threw the old flute in the blessed holy water;
He thought that this charm would bring some other sound,
When he tried it again, it played "Croppies Lie Down!"

Now for all he would finger and whistle and blow
For to play Papish music, he found it "No Go"
"Kick the Pope" and "Boyne Water" it clearly would sound
But one Papish squeek and it could'nt be found.

At a council of priests that was held the next day
They decided to banish the Old Flute away;
They couldn't knock heresy out of its head
So they bought Bob a new one to play it instead.

Now the poor flute was doomed, and its fate was pathetic
'Twas fastened and burnt at the stake as heretic.
As the flames soared around, you could hear a strange noise
'Twas the Old Flute still a-whistlin' "The Protestant Boys."

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Chief End of Man

Question 1, The Westminster Shorter Confession:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. 

The question of man’s purpose is one that is often asked, but rarely answered in a right manner. For many people, this question is asked only in its immediate application: What should I do right now? Instead of working out a general principle for life, many will choose some limited goal, like getting to the next level on a computer game or getting a raise at work. Some will rise higher and pick some vague principle like “love.” Why? Well, it sounds nice, doesn’t it? While Christians occasionally fall into these traps, they should have a much greater reason, one that ties all of life into one grand unity: to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

This “chief end,” of course, presupposes that man has a purpose to begin with. While this may seem like an obvious point, it is only obvious to one who is used to a culture that once was Christian. Does man have a purpose? Perhaps man is an accident, a random combination of various elements. That man is purposeless, except for some purposeless pragmatic goal, is perfectly consistent with atheism and evolution. This doesn’t seem to fit with man’s self-consciences, his ethical capacity, the order of the universe, and basically everything, but that is only because any religion besides Christianity will not fit with God and the way He made this world. The only way to make sense of this world and to find meaning in our tasks is to submit to our eternal Creator. Because God is independent of His creation and limitation, because He alone is before all things, and because all His creation is dependent on Him, He is the key to the purpose of our existence. Any purpose outside of Him is doomed to fall short.

This question seems to have two parts, and indeed it does, but they are not as separate as one might think. First, we are told to glorify God. This is obvious from the Bible. As God’s creatures, made in His image, our created purpose is to reflect and proclaim God’s glory, His glory being the brilliance and manifestation of His nature. This is our purpose as humans. In everything we do, we are His image and ought to act like it. Second, we are told to enjoy God. Some people mistakenly have the idea that enjoyment and service to God are two separate things, but, as Calvin says, the devotion of our life to God’s glory is “the highest good of man.” It doesn’t get better than this! We can enjoy nothing so much as when we enjoy our God. All other things are limited and fade away. The music to which we listen, the food which we eat, are the most enjoyable, nay, only enjoyable, when they are received in a way that glorifies God, in thanksgiving and righteousness before His face. Fulfilling our purpose of glorifying God is enjoyable; to do otherwise is vanity and manifestly unenjoyable. Furthermore, God is most glorified in us when we enjoy Him, reflecting and proclaiming His “wondrous works to the children of man” (Ps. 107:31).

What a glorious purpose! What a life this sets before us! How we fall exceedingly short of this grand intent! This is the first question of the catechism and it sets the stage for the rest. While we have indeed fallen from our intended role, Jesus Christ, the only mediator of God’s elect, restores us by grace to fellowship with God. As we are sanctified in this salvation let us continue to strive in Christ for this chief end of man.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Keeping the Law in the Covenant of Grace

“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not."
-Deuteronomy 8:1-2

This passage (and all of chapter 8) is very helpful in understanding Deuteronomy and the law. Many Christians have a hard time with God's constant admonitions to hearing His voice and obeying His law and figure that the Mosaic Covenant must have been a covenant of works. But I disagree. Here we see that keeping (or not keeping) the commandments of God is important because it it a sign of one's heart commitment.

If one is a child of God by faith, he will hear the voice of His Father, he will heed his Father's law. And the Father loves giving His gifts to His children. Rebellious children are cut off (Deut. 21:18-21). The child does not earn his Father's gifts (or sonship) by his obedience, especially in our case when we are unnaturally adopted as sons by grace. Our obedience always is deficient, and a life of love is also a life of repentance, but obedience and repentance must be apparent in a son. This is what is called a relationship. It is vital to the idea of covenant. This is all over Deuteronomy and the whole Bible.

This is the same as 1 John constantly points out: we love God and our brother because God has loved us (i.e. brought us out of bondage and sin, Ex. 20:2) and loving means keeping God's commandments (1 John 5:1-3). In the Covenant of Grace, whether in the Old or New Testaments, we should be careful, as sons, to do God's whole commandment, that we might receive God's blessing. God's blessing is not a reward for our acts of obedience, but is given to us as His children. And we are the children of God only in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. Praise God!

"But to all who did receive him [Christ], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."
-John 1:12-13

Monday, January 7, 2013

John Calvin on the Holy Calling of Motherhood

"For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control" (1 Timothy 2:13-15, see also Genesis 3:15-16).
"'Through child-bearing' To censorious men it might appear absurd, for an Apostle of Christ not only to exhort women to give attention to the birth of offspring, but to press this work as religious and holy to such an extent as to represent it in the light of the means of procuring salvation. Nay, we even see with what reproaches the conjugal bed has been slandered by hypocrites, who wished to be thought more holy than all other men. But there is no difficulty in replying to these sneers of the ungodly. First, here the Apostle does not speak merely about having children, but about enduring all the distresses, which are manifold and severe, both in the birth and in the rearing of children. Secondly, whatever hypocrites or wise men of the world may think of it, when a woman, considering to what she has been called, submits to the condition which God has assigned to her, and does not refuse to endure the pains, or rather the fearful anguish, of parturition [childbirth], or anxiety about her offspring, or anything else that belongs to her duty, God values this obedience more highly than if, in some other manner, she made a great display of heroic virtues, while she refused to obey the calling of God. To this must be added, that no consolation could be more appropriate or more efficacious then to shew that the very means (so to speak) of procuring salvation are found in the punishment itself." (Commentary on Timothy, Titus, Philemon)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Biblical Directions for Art and Pleasure

Ever since Adam was created, man has had to deal with his earthly surroundings. God created man as one to subdue and interact with the world around him, and this interaction was at first perfectly righteous. Since man’s fall into sin, his relations to the world around him have been corrupted. As the Christian experiences Christ’s renewing power, he is forced to consider in what a right relation to this world consists. Especially difficult in Christian history has been our relation to those things that are not necessary for existence variously known as pleasure, art, decor, entertainment, and civilized culture. Even in the days of the Apostles there was conflict over ascetic practices of abstinence (1 Tim. 4:3, Rom. 14). Many extremes can be found in history from Christians who were very strict in prohibition of entertainments, to Christians who were very indulgent in all sorts of excess, although the former has tended to be more common. As we look at what the Bible says concerning earthly pleasures, we will find that it directs us in finding godly enjoyment in them.

Perhaps the most obvious direction we have concerning these pleasures is that they must be used with faith in Christ. Speaking of eating food, Paul teaches, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Without faith in God, our pleasure will be idolatry. We will look to something else as the provider of blessing. We might look at the pleasure itself as the object of our faith. Without faith in God, the blessings that God sends will actually only increase our accountability and judgement. God is the one from whom all blessings flow, and to deny this is to deny His deity. On the other hand, when we have faith in God, our enjoyment becomes a way to praise and worship Him. These blessings then are truly blessings, for our good, because they build up our enjoyment of our relationship with God. With faith in God’s power and goodness through Christ even the littlest pleasure is recognized as a gracious gift from our Father.

Similar to faith, joy is another aspect of what should be our relation to pleasure. When we receive something good and reject it as “earthly vanity,” or as a mere temptation, we are being ungrateful for what God has made for us. “For, although all the imperfections in culture are exclusively due to the sins of man, nevertheless, all that is really good and true and pleasant in culture is due solely to the grace of God” (Lee). Paul harshly condemns this attitude of abstinence, saying, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5). It is not the pleasure (marriage and food, in this case) that is evil, but the way we might use it. When we receive it with thanksgiving, praising God in prayer and using it according to His word, it is not only not evil, but good and holy. Paul also got upset at the Roman Christians who were dividing themselves by disputes over food. Food is supposed to increase, not decrease, faith, love, and joy. The food (or similar pleasure) is not an end it itself. The “kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Many people do become absorbed in the pleasures themselves so as to lose sight of God the giver. As John Calvin colorfully describes, “many are so delighted with marble, gold, and pictures, that they become marble-hearted—are changed as it were into metal, and made like painted figures” (471). Instead, “the object of creating all things was to teach us to know their author, and feel grateful for his indulgence” (470-471). When we eat, drink, dance, and sing with righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, our enjoyments are actually expressions of the kingdom of God.

One of the blessings that God gives, to be received in faith and joy, is beauty. Beauty comes from God; it is an aspect of His glory. To seek the source of beauty somewhere else (e.g. in ourselves or the creation) is a form of idolatry. God proclaimed that He would take away and defile Tyre’s beauty because the king of Tyre had set himself up as god, saying, “I am perfect in beauty” (Ezek. 27:3, 28:6-7). On the other hand, God gives beauty to His people. God gave extraordinary physical beauty to Job’s daughters as a blessing (Job 42:15). He describes His salvation in terms of beautification, as in Isaiah 28:5, 62:3. He promises that the beauty and glory of the nations shall come “to beautify the place of my sanctuary” (Is. 60:13, also Rev. 21:24, 26). God’s beauty is all around us in His creation and, as we have said, to ignore it would be wicked ungratefulness (Ps. 19:1, Rom. 1:20). As the heirs of the world (Rom. 4:13, Gal 3:29) we are to rejoice at the beauty that God has made, claiming it as His sons.

Not only do we receive beauty, but we also imitate God in making beauty ourselves. Adam and Eve were created perfectly in God’s image, reflecting Him by taking dominion of the earth in ordering and, among other things, beautifying it. The creation was good already, but it was not developed and needed to be brought into its potential. Since man’s fall, both we and the creation have been negatively influenced by sin. As we are now being renewed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29, Col. 3:10) we must once again learn to obey God by imitating our Creator (albeit imperfectly) by beautifying the world, engaging both the work of dominion as well as the additional work of reversing the ugly effects of the curse.

As Zechariah 9:16-17 says, we are made beautiful because our Savior is great in beauty. We engage in this pursuit of beauty by reflecting the source of beauty, God. I would suggest we define beauty as that which is the earthly reflection of God's nature. As R.C. Sproul Sr. has said, "God is the ultimate standard of beauty, just as He is the ultimate standard of truth. Works of art that somehow reflect His nature are more beautiful than works that do not" (60). There are several aspects of this. For example, order as well as zeal are attributes of God (1 Cor. 14:33, Is. 42:13) and both add beauty, especially when entwined together. Our Triune God is both one and three, bringing aspects of unity and diversity in perfect harmony. God is also ethically pure, and true beauty will reflect this. Since God’s beauty is revealed in His creation, we can study patterns and values in creation, recognizing that we are to take these primitive elements of nature and develop them. It is in this rewarding pursuit of beauty that much of art consists. When we are engaging in painting, music, dance, and poetry we are taking color, sound, bodies, and words and subduing them to God’s beauty. Art, then, is to be God-centered.

Another important direction given to us concerning enjoyment is that it should be relational. The Bible doesn’t really talk much about “me time.” There are times when a person is away from other humans but only to be more focused on God (e.g. Matt. 14:22-23). As we have already mentioned, our enjoyments are always to be done in relation to God in faith, joy, and thanksgiving. To enjoy things purely by one’s self is selfishness. Moreover, the Bible places a high priority on enjoying God’s gifts in community with other people. In the Old Testament thanksgiving feast of the tithe it was important that the intense celebration be done by “you and your household,” incorporating into the household celebration the Levite, widow, orphan, and stranger (Deut. 14:26, 15:20, 26:11). Jeremiah proclaims that the prosperity that God’s salvation brings shall include the dancing of the young and old, men and women, all together (Jer. 31:13). In the parable of the prodigal son, the celebration described, which included feasting, dancing, music, and rich attire, was done in community, celebrating the love of the father for his son (Luke 15:22-32). The Philippian jailer and his household rejoiced together that he had believed in God (Acts 16:34). Hospitality and the sharing of our blessings with others are encouraged and commanded in many places in Scripture (Heb. 13:2, Rom. 12:13). The list could go on and on, including every section of the Bible.

This community in which we enjoy God’s blessings and create beautiful culture is a complex thing. The basic social unit seems to be the family, or more properly, the household. This is the group of people, tied by the natural ties of blood and time, and more importantly, under the protection of the marriage covenant with strict commands to obey father and mother. Death is the punishment in biblical law for the undermining of the family, i.e. adultery or incorrigible rebellion (Lev. 20:9-10, Matt. 15:4). It is to this unit, under the headship of the husband, that the dominion mandate was primarily given (Gen. 1:26-28). The household is in a manner saved as a unit (Acts. 16:31) and covenantally unified in its aim to glorify God (Gen. 17:7, Acts 2:39). It is here, in (what should be) the strongest of relationships, that culture and pleasure is primarily enjoyed and developed. It is in the family in which you have the elements of the rest of society: male and female, young and old, with differing gifts. Thus, a culture that is operating biblically will have distinct ethnic, folk, and traditional elements.

Included in the family, and beyond, are the elements of personal community and generational continuity. While the family is basic, it ought not be ingrown. These principles express themselves in the local community in which the family lives, creating nations and their cultures. Both the culture and the medium in which it is conveyed is important, and they actually influence each other. In fact, in today’s situation, “the forms of our popular culture may well have a more significant effect on our perceptions than the content” (Myers, 16). In modern society, culture and its popular forms have been uprooted from the family and become individualistic, impersonal, and revolutionary. As Christians, not only must our motive and standard of enjoyment be right (i.e. thanksgiving and God-defined beauty) but also the situation of our enjoyment. Our enjoyment becomes richer when it is shared by a community, transcending the individual, where each can contribute his/her gifts. It becomes more excellent when it is shaped and built upon by the generations, transcending the moment, where each generation adds more experience and perspective to our enjoyment. And the interaction of people, when done in Christ, is itself something to celebrate. “Like feasts and holidays, celebration in lovemaking is about remembering. It is a love of history, a couple’s history of good times, of positive personal knowledge shared by no others, of refuge from a crazy world” (Jones, 86-87).

While there is much more that could be said concerning our enjoyments, we can see that the Bible does give us good, and comprehensive, directions. Our motivation must be faith in Christ and joy for what God has given us. We must measure our (puny) achievements not only by their usefulness, but by the beauty and glory of our God, submitting our work to His nature. Our medium of pleasure and enjoyment must be rooted in the family and community, sharing God’s gifts and our work with one another. As we have mentioned, this godly culture should not be ingrown, but should grow into our communities and nations. Discipling the nations is our “Great Commission” and includes the art and culture of the nations. The Christian family disciples the nations by its dominion work in its vocation and cultural relations to its neighbors. The Church as an institution also changes culture. Through the preaching of its pastors, a Christian culture is indirectly founded when men are made new creatures in Christ (Van Til, 225). The Scripture which the Church teaches equips us for “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). While the exact application is usually left to the families in their vocations, the families of the earth are coming to the Church, the New Jerusalem, to learn the ways of God and to learn to walk in its light (Is. 2:3, Rev. 21:24). May we show the world a culture of delight and hope amid its gloom of death. May we learn to exalt in the goodness of our God who causes

“the grass to grow for the livestock 
and plants for man to cultivate, 
that he may bring forth food from the earth 
and wine to gladden the heart of man, 
oil to make his face shine 
and bread to strengthen man's heart.” 
(Ps. 104:14-15) 


Calvin, John Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008.
Jones, Douglas and Douglas Wilson Angels in the Architecture. Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1998.
Lee, Dr. F.N. “Lecture 1: The Roots of Culture” PHL110 Foundation of Christian Culture. Lakeland, FL: Whitefield, 2007.
Myers, Kenneth A. All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1989.
Sproul Sr., R.C. Tabletalk 36.9, Sep. 2012: 60
The Holy Bible (ESV). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003.
Van Til, Henry R. The Calvinistic Concept of Culture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001.