Wednesday, 27 February 2013


'If orthodoxy is to attain vitality - and stop frightening the rest of professing Christendom away from biblical thinking by producing such monuments as the American Bible Belt and South African Calvinism - orthodoxy must enlarge its task to include cleaning its own house along with detecting and denouncing heresy.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.286.


'A stategy in which the church becomes a silent presence in the world is therefore an ineffectual form of mission, which reveals to non-Christians our doctrinal confusion and spiritual impotence rather than commending our humility. Good works done in silence are often a necessary part of pre-evangelism, but in themselves can only win others to moralism or repel them in bafflement. The sheep can be led into social righteousness, but they will not follow unless they hear the voice and words of the Shepherd.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.283.


' proclaim Christ in living power it is necessary for us to depend on him in a double way. On the one hand, for accurate knowledge of the incarnate Word which he inspired through the Spirit and which is the continuing instrument through which his mind is made present among believers. On the other hand, for illuminated understanding of the written Word, who is alone to enliven the dead conceptual knowledge of the fallen human mind through the sanctifying operation of the Holy Spirit, and to focus it existentially so that it will be wisdom in the biblical sense and not mere knowledge.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.279.


' I always preached right to the consciuence. Every sermon with my eye on the gun to hit somebody. Went through the doctrines; showed what they didn't mean; what they did; then the argument; knocked away objections, and drove home on the conscience.'
Lyman Beecher in Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.276.


'A Puritan sermon was never a tape-recording session in which abstract doctrinal information was transferred from the pastor's memory to that of the congregation. It was always an operation on the spiritual lives of the hearers in which no doctrinal tool was used which did not vitally relate to the needs of some class among them. The preacher who was content to rehearse and admire doctrines without applying them to the life and the world of the congregation in such a way that believers sensed the guiding control of the Holy Spirit and heard the voice of God addressing them in concrete situations, was not for the Puritans a physician of souls, but an aesthetician or tool-salesman, displaying the instruments of healing but refusing to employ them.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.275.

Monday, 25 February 2013


'...the devil on our shoulder is only truly dangerous because of the devil that's already inside us.'
Alan Jacobs, Orginal Sin, p.92.


'A wonderful story is told about St. Martin of Tours, who was born in what is now Hungary about forty years before Augustine and whose early career was as a Roman soldier. Probably when still in his twenties, he had a dramatic conversion to Christianiaty, abandoned military life, and eventually founded one of the first Christian monastic communities. The story says that because Martin and his fellow monks acheived such deep piety and lived such pure and righteous lives, Satan was angered and began to appear to Martin and tempt him to sin. Failing at that, the Evil One turned, as he so often has throughout his career, to biblical exegesis. Does not the Lord himself counsel us to be perfect (Matt. 5:48)? Does not St. Paul the Apostle simply assume that he and his fellow Christians are perfect (Phil. 3:15)? Does not the beloved disciple John  say that whoever abides in Christ does not sin (1 John 3:6)? Yet Martin and his monks still, sometimes, sin; they are therefore damned. The wages of sin is death. They belong to Satan, not to God: it is clearly demonstrated in Scripture itself!
To this Martin replied - so says the tale - O Prince of this world. not only can I and my monks be saved, thanks to the infinite mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, but you too, if you repent, can be saved! It is not too late! Turn from your dark ways, your rebellion, your pride! Turn to the God who loves you, beg his pardon, and He will forgive! And upon hearing these words Satan departed from Martin and troubled him no further.
This is, I think, my favourite story about any saint. Such zeal for the Gospel! And such hopefulness, to think even the Great Rebel himself is capable of ammendment of life! And why not?'
Alan Jacobs, Original Sin, p.88.


'Only our concept of Time makes it posible for us to speak of the Day of Judgment by that name; in reality it is a summary court in perpetual session.'
Franz Kafka in Alan Jacobs, Original Sin, p.79.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


'Elements of truth can be found in almost any system, if not because of common grace, then because the devil needs an admixture of truth in order to market a lie successfully. The most effective heresies have capitalized on important elements of truth which were lacking in current Christian understanding.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.218.


'We are not saved by the love we exercise, but by the love we trust.'
PT Forsyth in Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiriutual Life, p.213.


'...if the church has not fully appropriated the life and redemptive benefits of Jesus Christ, it will inevitably be subject to two forms of re-enculturation. Either it will suffer destructive enculturation, absorbing elements of its host cultures which it should discern and suppress as unholy, or it will try to re-create once again the Old Testament protective enculturation, fusing itself with certain aspects of Christianized culture until the gospel is thought to be indisolubly wedded to those cultural expressions.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.191.


'Prayer functions as a safety valve without which informed Christians would constantly be anxious, aware as they are of the spiritual warfare surrounding them. And since faith is the essential grace expressed by and strengthened through prayer, we might say that we have interceeded enough when we have held before God the major responsibilities which confront us and any wider burdens which the Holy Spirit may suggest from day to day, and have exercized faith that he is at work in these. This is not at all a difficult labour; there may be times when it can be the work of minutes. Too little prayer is an expression of unbelief in God's love and care; so is too much.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.160.

Monday, 18 February 2013


'The proportion of horizontal communication that goes on in the church (in planning, arguing and expounding) is overwhelmingly greater than that which is vertical (in worship, thanksgiving, confession and intercession). Critically important committee meetings are begun and ended with formulary prayers, which are ritual obligations and not genuine expressions of depoendence - when problems and arguments ensue, they are seldom resolved by further prayer, but are wrangled out on the battlefield of human discourse. The old midweek prayer meetings for revival have vanished from the prgrames of most churches or have been transfomed into Bible studies ending with minimal prayer.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.153.


'This tendency to forget the redemptive emergency in the world and concentrate on enjoying dominion in a part of it has been a continual temptation to the the church.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.147.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


'The life we all live is amateurish and accidental; it begins in accident and proceeds by trial and error toward dubious ends. That is the law of nature. But the dream of man will not accept what nature hands us. We have to tinker with it, trying to give it purpose, direction, meaning - or, if we are of another turn of mind, trying to demonstrate that it has no purpose direction, or meaning. Either way, we can't let it alone. The unexamined life, as the wise Greek said, is not worth living. We have to examine it, if only to persuade ourselves that we matter, and are in control, or that we are at least aware of what is being done to us. Autobiography and fiction are variant means to the same end.'
Wallace Stegner, 'The Law of Nature and the Dream of Man' in Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, p.219.


'Wilt thou love God, as he thee? then digest,
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angel's waited on
In heaven, doth make his temple in thy breast.
The Father having begot a Son most blessed,
And still begetting, (for he ne'er begun)
Hath deigned to choose thee by adoption,
Coheir to his glory, and Sabbath's endless rest;
And as a robbed man, which by search doth find
His stol'n stuff sold, must lose or buy it again:
The Son of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom he had made, and Satan stol'n, to unbind.
'Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.'
John Donne, Poems and Devotions, p.52.


'Batter my heart, three personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'oerthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue,
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy,
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthral me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.'
John Donne, Poems and Devotions (Edited by Robert Van de Weyer), p.51.

Thursday, 7 February 2013


'It is, obviously, a belief that violates the most basic notions of justice. No wonder John Taylor of Norwich exclaimed, "What a God must he be, who can curse his innocent creatures before they have a being!" And yet the individual components of the idea are utterly familiar. Everyone knows that some people are born with a malady of some kind: a birth defect resulting from the mistransmission of genetic information, say, or a disorder (HIV, hepatitis) passed from mother to child through the umbilical cord. And we acknowledge that some social circumstances make certain sins all but inevitable. I don't see how I, as a white Southerner, raised in the 1960s and 1970s could have avoided some taint of racism, yet I don't think I should use that upbringing to declare myself innocent. Most of us are also comfortable with talk of "the human condition" - general circumstances shared by everyone, if nothing else "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to." So we comprehend inherited affliction, collective and inherited responsibility, universally shared circumstances. It is the joining of these ideas that strains our minds. We struggle to hold together a model of human sinfulness that is universal rather than local, in which we inherit sin rather than choose it, and in which, nevertheless, we are fully, terrifyingly responsible for our condition.'
Alan Jacobs, Original Sin: A Cultural History, p.xiv.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


'...failure to recognize the Holy Spirit as personally present in our lives is widespread in the churches today. Sometimes the lack of recognition is intentional and theologically motivated, as in Fundamentalist or confessional churches which are afraid that too much emphasis on conscious communion with the Holy Spirit will lead to a lessened regard for Christ, enthusiasm, mysticism or Pentecostalism. More often it is simply ignorance. Even when Christians know about the the Holy Spirit doctrinally, they have not necessarily made a deliberate point of getting to know him personally. They may hacve occasional experiences of his reality on a hit-and-run basis, but the fact that the pronoun "it" is so frequently used to refer to him is not accidental. It reflects the fact that he is perceived impersonally as an expression of God's power and not experienced continually as a personal God and Counselor.
A normal relationship with the Holy Spirit should at least approximate the Old Testament experience described in Psalm 139: a profound awareness that we are always face to face with God; that as we move through life the presence of his Spirit is the most real and powerful factor in our daily environment; that underneath the momentary static of events, conflicts, problems and even excursions into sin, he is always there like the continuously sounding note in a basso ostinato.
The typical relationship between believers and the Holy Spirit in today's church is too often like that between the husband and wife in a bad marriage. They live under the same roof, and the husband makes constant use of his wife's services, but he fails to communicate with her, recognize her presence and celebrate their relationship with her.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.130.


'The process of sanctification is broader and more subtle than our conscious efforts to mortify known patterns of sin in our lives. Much of our growth in grace is quietly effected by events and conditions God brings into our lives to perfect his work in us. We are faced with sacrificial choices, like Abram's call to leave Ur and the later command to offer up Isaac, and our positive response to such choices deepens the purity of our intention to follow Christ. We undergo painful losses and illness, or attack and persecution, and our trust and obedience to these circumstances enlarge our character and conform us to the image of Christ.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.117.


'The human conscience is very deeply disorientated in its conviction that we must have works and sanctification to recommend ourselves to God. We must carry out very deliberate replacement of this misunderstanding with the awareness that God simply wants honesty, openness and a trusting reliance on Christ our Savior.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.114.


'The anesthetic of grace is constantly needed in the healing process of sanctification along with the surgical ministry of the law. For this reason, many areas of the church which contain a great deal of legal thunder and lightning, exposing at least the surfaces of sin, are full of desperately anxious and bitterly contentious people.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.113.


'...the rate and depth at which progress in sanctification takes place is determined by the Holy Spirit, the resident counselor in every believer. The process cannot be rushed by overloading the conscience with the administration of the law. God will proceed at a rate and follow a course which are ideally suited to the individual, raising successive issues over the years and making a point of need for growth in one area after another. He seldom shows us all of our needs at once; we would be overwhelmed at the sight.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.111.


'The law is like a "tracer chemical" which makes the invisible course of a disease evident or a medicine that aggravates a hidden illness until it breaks out in surface symptoms.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.110.


'...the Protestant disease of cheap grace can produce some of the most selfish and contentious leaders and lay people on earth, more difficult to bear in a state of grace than they would be in a state of nature.'
Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.103.  

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


'All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. They will never take the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.'
Blaise Pascal in John Piper, Desiring God, p.15.

Friday, 1 February 2013


'Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.'
Henri JM Nowen in Michael S Beates, Disability & The Gospel, p.164.


'Perhaps this is why the retarded scare us so much - namley, they remind us that for all our pretension we are as helpless as they are when all is said and done. Like them, we depend on others for our lives and for the simple things that make life liveable. We prefer to keep our dependence hidden, however, as we are under the illusion that, unlike the retarded, we are in control of our existence. Thus we label those who are so clearly dependent as "retarded" in order to mark them off from us. To Christians, such a distinction must be particularly anathema, for the very content of revelation is to teach us precisely that we are indeed a dependent people.' 
Stanley Hauerwas in Michael S Beates, Disability & The Gospel, p.150.