Monday, 29 April 2013


'There is no substitute for grieving. Nor is there a timetable or end. I have never understood why lamenting should come to an end. Why expel the dead from our heart? Closure, the word used in popular self-help books for greiving, strikes me as suiting financial settlements. Mourning, even if unresolved and wounding, is negative in word only. A sense of deprivation can expand the heart. Grief, the price we pay for love, can unlock the way to a new basis for repose.'  
Richard Giannone, Hidden, p.164.


'I measure God by everything I am not.'
Flannery O'Connor in Richard Giannone, Hidden, p.109.

Saturday, 27 April 2013


'I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe.'
Flannery O'Connor in Richard Giannone, Hidden: Reflections on Gay Life, AIDS, and Spiritual Desire, p.12.

Friday, 26 April 2013


'The early church's legitimation of singleness as a form of life symbolized the necessity of the church to grow through witness and conversion. Singleness was legitimate, not because sex was thought to be a particularly questionable activty, but becuase the mission of the church was such that "between the times" the church required those who were very capable of complete service to the kingdom. And we must remember that the "sacrifice" made by the single is not that of "giving up sex", but the much more significant sacrifice of giving up heirs. There can be no more radical act than this, as it is the clearest institutional expression that one's future is not guaranteed by the family, but by the church. The church, the harbinger of the kingdom of God, is now the source of our primary loyalty.'
Stanley Hauerwas, 'Sex in Public: How Adventurous Christains Are Doing It' in Bretherton & Rook (Eds.), Living Out Loud, p.182. 


'...the strength of any narriage is partly judged by the ability of each partner to rejoice in the friendships of the other. Indeed, such friendships can be seen as necessary for the enrichment of any marriage.'
Stanley Hauerwas, 'Sex in Public: How Adventurous Christains Are Doing It' in Bretherton & Rook (Eds.), Living Out Loud, p.171.

Thursday, 25 April 2013


'I can think of not more conformist message in liberal societies than the idea that students should learn to think for themsleves. What must be said is that most students in our society do not have minds well trained enough to think - period. A central pedagogical task is to tell students that they do not yet have minds worth making up. Thus training is so important, because training involves the formation of the self through submission to authority that will, if done well, provide people with the virtues necessary to be able to make reasoned judgement.
I cannot think of a more conformist and suicidal message in modernity than that we should encourage students to make up their own minds. This is simply to ensure that they will be good conformist consumers in a capitalist economy by assuming now that ideas are but another produce that you get to choose on the basis of your arbitary likes and dislikes. To encourage students to think for themselves is therefore a sure way to avoid any meaningful disagreement. That is the reason that I tell my students that my first object is to help them think just like me.'
Stanley Hauerwas, 'How We Lay Bricks and Make Disciples' in Bretherton & Rook (Eds.), Living Out Loud, p.43.  


'For Evangelicalism to survive, it has to put people at risk to need one another, to make them vulnerable. That means they've got to risk their children. But to survive, we need to want to produce people that are as dysfunctional as the world in which we find ourselves. People have got to give their children to that process as well. They've got to be willing to let them engage in the kind of work that doesn't look as though it's going to be safe. This is just a kind of bottom line for reclaiming basic habits of vulnerability through which we discover our need for one another. Evangelicalism puts far too much emphasis upon belief rather than creating communities of vulnerability.'
Stanley Hauerwas in Luke Bretherton and Russell Rook, Living Out Loud: Conversations about virtue, ethics, and evangelicalism, p.8.


'Mutual communion is the soul of all true friendship; and a familiar converse with a friend hath the greatest sweetness in it...(so) besides the common tribute of daily worship you owe to (God), take occasion to come into his presence on purpose to have communion with him. This is truly friendly, for friendship is most maintained and kept up by visits; and these, the more free and less occaisioned by urgent business, or solemnity...the more friendly they are...We used to check our friends with this upbraiding. "You stll (always) come when you have some business, but when will you come to see me?...When thou comest into his presence, be telling him still how well thou lovest him; labour to abound in expressions of that kind, than which...there is nothing more taking with the heart of any friend.'
Thomas Goodwin in Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p.130.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


'The Christian life still entails obedience. It still involves a fight. But its a fight we will win. You have the Spirit of Christ in your corner, rubbing your shoulders, holding the bucket, putting his arm around you and saying before the next round with sin, "You're going to knock him out, kid." Sin may get in some good jabs. It may clean your clock once in a while. It may bring you to your knees. But if you are in Christ you will never be knocked out.'
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p.105.


'If I had to summarize New Testamenty ethics in one sentence, here's how I would put it: be who you are. That may sound strange, almost heretical, given our culture's emphasis on being true to yourself. But like so many of the worst errors in the world, this one represents a truth powerfully perverted. When people say, "Relax, you were born that way." or "Quit trying to be something you're not and just be the real you," they are stumbling upon something very biblical. God does want you to be the real you. He does want you to be true to yourself. But the "you" he's talking about is the "you" that you are by grace, not by nature. You may want to read through that last sentence again because the difference between living in sin and living in righteousness depends on getting that sentence right. God doesn't say, "Relax, you were born this way." But he does say, "Good news, you were reborn another way."'
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p.100.


'...when every sin is seen as the same, we are less likely to fight any sins at all. Why should I stop sleeping with my girlfriend whne there will still be lust in my heart? Why pursue holiness when even one sin in my life means that I'm Osama bin Hitler in God's eyes? Again, it seems humble to act as if no sin is worse than another, but we lose the impetus for striving and the ability to hold each other accountable when we tumble down the slip-n-slide of moral equivalence. All of a sudden the elder who battles the temptation to take a second look at the racy section of the Lands' End catalog shouldn't dare exercise church discipline on the young man fornicating with reckless abandon. When we can no longer see the different graduations among sins and sinner and sinful nations, we have not succeeded in respecting our own badness; we've cheapened God's goodness. If our own legal system does not treat all infractions in the same way, surely God knows that some sins are more heinous than others. If we can spot the difference, we'll be especially eager to put to death those sins which are most offensive to God.'  
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p.72.


'Why do we imagine God to be so unmoved by our heart-felt attempts at obedience? He is, after all, our heavenly Father. What sort of father looks at his daughter's homemade birthday card and complains that the color scheme is all wrong? What kind of mother says to her son, after he gladly cleaned the garage but put the paint cans on the wrong shelf, "This is worthless in my sight"? What sort of parent rolls his eyes when his child falls off the bike on the first try? There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Chriost. But for those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God's family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God's eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him.'
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p.70.


'It is a dangerous thing to ignore the Bible's asssumption, and expectation, that righteousness is possible. Of course, our righteousness can never appease God's wrath. We need the imputed righteousness of Christ. More than that, we cannot produce any righteousness in our own stregth. But as born-again believers, it is possible to please God by his grace. Those who bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God are fully pleasing to God (Col.1:10). Presenting your body as a living sacrifice pleasees God (Romans 12:1). Looking out for your weaker brother pleases God (14:18). Obeying your parents pleases God (1 Thess. 2:4). Praying for the governing authorities pleases God (1 Tim. 2:1-3). Supporting your family members in need pleases God (5:4). Sharing with other pleases God (Heb. 13:16)). Keeping his commandments pleases God (1 John 3:22). Basically, whenever you trust and obey, God is pleased.'   
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p.69.


'Many Christians have the mistaken notion that if only we were better Christians, everyone would appreciate us. They don't realize that holiness comes with a cost. Sure, you can focus on the virtues the world likes. But if you pursue true religion that cares for orphans and  promotes purity (James 1:27), you'll lose some of the friends you were so desperate to make. Becoming a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, requires you to resist the world which wants to press you into its mold (Rom. 12:1-2) Saving yourself for marriage, staying sober on Friday night, turning down a promotion to stay at your church, refusing to say the f-word, turning off the television - these are the kinds of things the world doesn't understand. Don't expect them to. The world provides no cheerleaders on the pathyway to godliness.'
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p.38.


'Do you know why so many Christains are caving on the issue of homosexuality? Certainly cultural pressure plays a big role. But our failure to really understand the holiness of heaven is another significant factor. If heaven is a place of universal acceptance for all pretty nice people, why should anyone make a big deal about homosexuality here on earth? Many Christaiuns have never been taught that sorcerers and murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood will be left outside the gates of heaven (Rev.22:15). So they do not have the guts (or the compassion) to say that the unrepentantly sexually immoral will not be welcomed in either, which is exactly what Revelation 21-22 teaches.'
Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, p.14.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


'It's as if we have all Hiduized our Christianity - is your god more a god of bellicosity and war, or does he look more like the god of prosperity, or perhaps the god of social action? At least the Hindus aim for clarity by calling them by different names, yet we insist on using the same word - God - and identifying our priorities as his. We have taken a God of many names and hand-selected our favorite few. A vast and mysterious yet intimate and personal God has been reduced into something small and manageable and comprehensible. Whereas the Scripture says that we were created in God's image, we have remade him in ours.'
Jeff Chu, Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, p.346.


'One aspect of that uniqueness is that we make far more mistakes in our line of work than other so-called professionals. If physicians and engineers and lawyers and military officers made as many mistakes in their lines of work as we do in ours, they would be out on the street in no time. It amazes me still how much of the time I simply don't know what I am doing, don't know what to say, don't know what the next move is. The temptation in that state of being is to determine to be competent at something or other. Unfortunately, there are many "ways of escape" in which we can exercise and develop areas of administrative or therapeutic or scholarly or programmatic competences in the church and in doing so avoid the ambiguity of being a pastor.
But I also had a sense that much of the time (but not by any means continuously) that "not knowing what I am doing" is more or less what it feels like when I am "trusting in God" and "following Jesus."'
Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor, p.314.  


'We don't grow and mature in our Christian life by sitting in a classroom and library, listening to lectures and reading books, or going to church and signing hymns and listening to sermons. We do it by taking the stuff or our ordinary lives, our parents and children, our spouses and friends, our workplaces and fellow workers, our dreams and our fantasies, our attachments, our easily accessible gratifications, our depersonalizing of intimate relations, our commodification of living truths into idolatries, taking all this and placing it upon the altar of refining fire - our God is a consuming fire - and finding it all stuff redeemed for a life of holiness. A life that is not reserved for nuns and monks but accessible to every Dick and Jane in every ordinary congregation.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor, p.230.


'...pastors may be the only people on the planet who are in a position to encourage an imagination that conceives of congregation strategically not in terms of its size but as a congenial setting for becoming mature in Christ in a community, not a crowd.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor, p.158.


'...a colony of heaven in the country of death, a strategy of the Holy Spirit for giving witness to the already-inaugurated kingdom of God.' 
Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor, p.110.


'If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it?...A book must be like an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.'
Franz Kafka in Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor, p.90. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013


'A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must never be a place where a person is labeled. It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated. Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus's name. A place where dignity is conferred.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor, p.40.


'...the most effective strategy for change, for revolution - at least on the large scale that the kingdom of God involves - comes from a minority working from the margins.'
Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor, p.16.


'It's like building a chicken coop in a high wind. You grab any board or shingle flying by or loose on the ground and nail it down fast.'
William Faulkner in Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor, p.6.


'I was a pastor long before I knew I was a pastor; I just never had a name for it. Once the name arrived, all kinds of things, seemingly random experiences and memories, gradually began to take a form that was congruent with whom I was becoming, like finding a glove that fit my hand perfectly - a calling, a fusion of all the pieces of my life, a vocation: Pastor.' 
Eugene H Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir, p.2. 

Friday, 5 April 2013


'Every Christian's life story plays somewhat different music - variations in lyrics, melody, harmony, key, tempo, and instrumentation. Handel's "Messiah" and "Blessed Be Your Name" by Matt and Beth Redman are both in the repertoire of Christian faith. Redemption in Christ plays out in every story. This is how it should be. Pastoral ministry - both preaching and counseling - should relish the variety. We serve a King who makes no two snowflakes alike, and his thoughts regarding each individual are more numerous than snowflakes in a blizzard. It would be most odd if he said the exact same thing to every one of us. It would contradict who he is and who we are.' 
David Powlison, 'How Does Sanctification Happen?' in Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 27 No.1), p.63.  


'Ministry, Scripture, and the Spirit speak variously. This is also why any two wise, godly friends will speak differently into your life, even when addressing the same situation. Organic unity (balance) and infinite adaptability (unbalance) characterize the wisdom that sanctifies us. There is no formula or pat answer. When two friends say the same thing, or when you say the same thing to every struggler, it is probably a pat answer.' 
David Powlison, 'How Does Sanctification Work? (Part 1) in Journal of Biblical Counselling (Vol 27 No.1), p.59. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013


'To fret about the quality of our love is to miss the point. Yes, we examine ourselves, confess our failings and pray for grace to offer the best. But it will never be good enough, unless with all its flaws it is handed over and taken up into his love for the Father. Foolishly we rummage through what Yeats called the "rag and bone shop" of our hearts to find a love that is pure, untouched by self-interest or pretense. It is an endless and futile search, compunded by complexity the more rigorously it is pursued. Among the things we give up, among the things we hand over, is that futile search.'
Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon, p.235.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


'Justice requires that satisfaction be made; we were and we are in no position to make such satisfaction. Jesus Christ actively intervenes on our behalf; he freely takes our part in healing the breach between God and humanity by the sacrifice of the cross. To speak of a collusion between the persons of the triune God suggests the word "conspiracy." It is a helpful word when we remember that conspire means, quite literally, "to breathe together." In the beginning God breathes life into Adam; Jesus breathes life upon the disciples and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit." The triune God conspires for our salvation. The entire plan is love from beginning to end, and the fullness of God  - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is engaged every step of the way. It is not an angry Father punishing an innocent Son, with the Spirit on the sidelines helplessly watching. No, it is the Father, Son and Spirit conspiring together to save us from ourselves. At the Father's command, the Son goes forth in the power of the Spirit to become one of us. On our behalf, as Representative Humanity, he lives the life of perfect obedience that Adam - and all of us "in Adam" - failed to live. And he completes that life by dying the perfect death.'
Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon, p.221.  


'Remove the idea of sacrifice, the reality of sacrifice, from Christianity and it becomes something other than Christianity.
The concept of expiation, of making amends by sacrifice, is indeed primitive. It is primitive in the sense that it is deeply rooted in human nature and variously expressed in all cultures that we know about. Once again, to say that something is primitive does not mean that it is naive and should be outgrown. That which is most deeply rooted in human nature and culture - whether it be attitudes toward sexual relations, property and theft or the love of children - reflects a wisdom that we ignore at our peril.' 
Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon, p.216. 


'This "exemplification theory" of the atonement - the crucified Jesus as the supreme example - is strong on challenge but weak on comfort. It has little to say about what the crucifixion actually did, what it actually accomplished in terms of reconciling God and humankind. That we are alienated from God and in need to reconciled is the premise of the entire biblical story, without which it simply makes no sense. In this liberal theory, it is hard to know what is mean by "It is finished." Perhaps that Jesus lived to its conclusion an extremely good, even uniquely good, life. That might elicit our admiration and our efforts at emulation, but it doesn't say much about our inability to be what we strive to be. It doesn't say much about the ways in which we are what we hate. In short it doesn't say much about our salvation. Christianity is about salvation.' 
Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon, p.212. 


'...the paradox at the heart of the muddle - God's loss of everything on the cross, his taking our place, is our only hope that all is not lost.' 
Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon, p.203. 


'From now on, in the abandonment of Christ the alone are never alone. That is because, as paradoxical as it may sound, aloneness is no longer alone, but has been brought into the good company of God.' 
Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon, p.198.