Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Note to Christians...


I just finished reading a book by Bishop J.C. Ryle (pictured left, looks like Father Christmas!). I have found it exceptionally challenging. Ryle is writing in the mid to late 1800's, and I find many similarities to his world (19th century England) and ours (21st century America). It is an especially interesting connection because it is shortly after Ryle's death that England's church began to really go down the tubes.

Here's an excerpt from Ryle's "Holiness" at the end of his discussion on Lot. He quotes a passage that simply states of Lot that "he lingered" at Sodom (Gen. 19:16):

And now let me speak a few parting words to all who read this paper, and especially to all who call themselves believers in Christ.


I have no wish to make your hearts sad. I do not want to give you a gloomy view of the Christian course. My only object is to give you friendly warnings. I desire your peace and your comfort. I would fain see you happy as well as safe-- and joyful as well as justified. I speak as I have done for you good.


You live in days when a lingering, Lot-like religion abounds. The stream of profession is far broader than it once was, but far less deep in many places. A certain kind of Christianity is almost fashionable now. To belong to some party in the Church of England, and show a zeal for interests; to talk about the leading contraversies of the day; to buy popular relgious books as fast as they come out, and lay them on your table to attend meetings; to subscribe to societies; to discuss the mertis of preachers; to be enthusastic and excited about every new form of sensational religion which crops up--- all these are now comparitively easy and common attainments. They no logner make a personal singular. They require little or no sacrifice. They entail no cross.


But to walk closely with God-- to be really spiritually-minded-to behave like strangers and pilgrims-- to be distinct from the world in employment of time, in conversation, in amusements, in dress--- to bear a faiathful witness for Christ in all places-- to leave a savor of our Master in every society--- to be prayerful, humble, unselfish, good-tempered, quiet, easily pleased, charitiable, patient, meek-- to be jealously afriad of all manner of sin, and tremblingly alive to our danger from the world--- these, these are still rare things! They are not common among those who are called true Christians, and worst of all, the absence of them is not felt and bewailed as it should be.


In a day like this I venture to offer counsel to every believing reader of this paper. Do not turn away from it. Do not be angry with me for plain speaking. I bid you "give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). I bid you not to be slothful--- not to be careless--- not to be content with a small measure of grace-- not to be satisfied with being a little better than the world..."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tolerance


Are you a tolerant person?

A few days ago, I was talking with my brother, and he said something about tolerance that was profound:

"Tolerance used to be based on knowledge; now it is based on skepticism."

I think what he meant was this:  In the past, a tolerant person would know the differences between his own view and the view of his neighbor.  Knowing these differences and being fully convinced his own view was correct, he would then, because of civility or perhaps brotherly love, tolerate the false view of his neighbor.

In this circumstance, tolerance is the best of three options.  (The other two being annihilation of the neighbor and the holding of the other person's false view.)  It is the choice of tolerance that leaves open the door for persuasion and dialogue.  But without this first step, a claim of true knowledge by one or both parties, there can be no tolerance.  And without this, no dialogue worth having.

Today this classic view of tolerance is not commonly assumed.  What passes for tolerance in our day is really agnosticism: we assume that knowledge of ____ is impossible, so therefore anyone could be right. Again, this cannot be tolerance because, by definition, tolerance requires a difference, and if we are all just making equally valid guesses at an unanswerable question, then there is no substantial difference between our stances.

I believe that the classic view of tolerance is one of the most basic expressions of love.    And I believe the current usage of the term, the agnostic use, to be the cornerstone of oppression.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Roman Empire and the U.S.A.


I ran across this while reading Tertullian’s Apology. I am impressed by the similarities between Rome and the United States. Do we really hold the same values our founding fathers did? Are we still a nation living by their principles? Tertullian’s thoughts on Rome speak to us today.

“Where is that happiness of married life, ever so desirable, which distinguished our earlier manners, and as the result of which for about 600 years there was not among us a single divorce? Now, women have every member of the body heavy laden with gold; wine-bibbing is so common among them, that the kiss is never offered with their will; and as for divorce, they long for it as though it were the natural consequence of marriage. The laws, too, your fathers in their wisdom had enacted concerning the very gods themselves, you their most loyal children have rescinded, The consuls, by the authority of the senate, banished Father Bacchus and his mysteries not merely from the city, but from the whole of Italy. The consuls Piso and Gabinius, no Christians surely, forbade Serapis, and Isis, and Arpocrates, with their dogheaded friend,9 admission into the Capitol-in the act casting them out from the assembly of the gods-overthrow their altars, and expelled them from the country, being anxious to prevent the vices of their base and lascivious religion from spreading. These, you have restored, and conferred highest honours on them. What has come to your religion-of the veneration due by you to your ancestors? In your dress, in your food, in your style of life, in your opinions, and last of all in your very speech, you have renounced your progenitors. You are always praising antiquity, and yet every day you have novelties in your way of living. From your having failed to maintain what you should, you make it clear, that, while you abandon the good ways of your fathers, you retain and guard the things you ought not.” (Ch. VI)

To me, the most interesting and disturbing similarity is the increase of divorce and the destruction of marital happiness. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a sign of our declining civilization.

Here’s another quote that will end this post:

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.”