Introductory Essay concerning Accidie – Francis Paget.

Introductory Essay Concerning Accidie.

Yea, they thought scorn of that pleasant land, and gave no credence unto His word; but murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord

Most men may know that strange effect of vividness and reality with which at times a discoloured of character and experience in some old book seems to traverse the intervening centuries, and to touch the reader with a sense of sudden nearness to the man who so was tried, so felt and thought, so failed or conquered, very long ago. We are prepared, of course, for likeness and even for monotony, in the broad aspect of that ceaseless conflict through which men come to be and to show what they are; for the main conditions of a man’s probation stand like birth and death, like childhood, and youth, and age awaiting every human soul, behind the immense diversity of outward circumstance. We expect that the inner history of man will go on repeating itself in these general traits; but when out of an age whose ways imagination hardly represents to us with any clearness, there comes the exact likeness of some feature or deformity which we had thought peculiar to ourselves or our contemporaries, we may be almost startled by the claim thus made to moral kinship and recognition. We knew that it never had been easy to refuse the evil and choose the good; we guessed that at all times, if a man’s will faltered, there were forces ready to help him quietly and quickly on the downward road; but that centuries ago men felt, in minute detail, the very same temptations, subtle, complex, and resourceful, which we today find hiding and busy in the darker passages of our hearts, is often somewhat unreasonably surprising to us. For we are apt, perhaps, to overrrate the intensive force of those changes which have extended over all the surface of civilized life. We forget how little difference they may have brought to that which is deepest in us all. it is, indeed, true that the vast increase of the means of self-expression and self-distraction increases for many men the temptation to impoverish life at its centre for the sake of its ever widening circumference; it may be harder to be simple and thoughtful, easier to be multifariously worldly now than once it was; but the inmost quality, the secret history, of a selfish choice or a sullen mood, and the ingredients of a bad temper, are, probably, nearly what they were in quieter days; and there seems sometimes a curious sameness in the tricks that men play with conscience, and in the main elements of a soul’s tragedy.

Continue reading “Introductory Essay concerning Accidie – Francis Paget.”

Series Preface to the Brazos (SCM) Theological Commentary on the Bible

SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible
Series Preface
by R. R. Reno

Near the beginning of his treatise against Gnostic interpretations of the Bible, Against the Heresies, Irenaeus observes that Scripture is like a great mosaic depicting a handsome king. It is as if we were owners of a villa in Gaul who had ordered a mosaic from Rome. It arrives, and the beautifully colored tiles need to be taken out of their packaging and put into proper order according to the plan of the artist. The difficulty, of course, is that Scripture provides us with the individual pieces, but the order and sequence of various elements are not obvious. The Bible does not come with instructions that would allow interpreters to simply place verses, episodes, images, and parable in order as a worker might follow a schematic drawing in assembling the pieces to depict the handsome king. the mosaic must be puzzled out. This is precisely the work of scriptural interpretation.
Origen has his own image to express the difficulty of working out the proper approach to reading the Bible. When preparing to offer a commentary on the Psalms he tells of a tradition handed down to him by his Hebrew teacher:
The Hebrews said that the whole divinely inspired Scripture may be likened, because of its obscurity, to many locked rooms in our house. By each room is placed a key, but not the one that corresponds to it, so that the keys are scattered about beside the rooms, none of them matching the room by which it is placed. it is a difficult task to find the keys and match them to the rooms that they can open. We therefore know the Scriptures that are obscure only by taking the points of departure for understanding them from another place because they have their interpretive principle scattered among them.

As is the case for Irenaeus, scriptural interpretation is not purely local. The key in Genesis may best fit the door of Isaiah, which in turn opens up the meaning of Matthew. The mosaic must be put together with an eye toward the overall plan.
Irenaeus, Origen, and the great cloud of premodern biblical interpreters assumed that puzzling out the mosaic of Scripture must be a communal project. The Bible is vast, heterogeneous, full of confusing passages and obscure words, and difficult to understand. Only a fool would imagine that he or she could work out solutions alone. The way forward must rely upon a tradition of reading that Irenaeus reports has been passed on as the rule or canon of truth that functions as a confession of faith. “Anyone,” he says, “who keeps unchangeable in himself the rule of truth received through baptism will recognize the names and says and parables of the scriptures.” Modern scholars debate the content of the rule on which Irenaeus relies and commends, not the least because the terms and formulations Irenaeus himself uses shift and slide. Nonetheless, Irenaeus assumes that there is a body of apostolic doctrine sustained by a tradition of teaching in the church. This doctrine provides the clarifying principles that guide exegetical judgment toward a coherent overall reading of Scripture as a unified witness. Doctrine, then, is the schematic drawing that will allow the reader to organize the vast heterogeneity of words, images, and stories of the Bible into a readable, coherent whole. It is the rule that guides us toward the proper matching of keys to doors.

Continue reading “Series Preface to the Brazos (SCM) Theological Commentary on the Bible”

Spinoza on “the interpretation of Scripture”

If you wish to purchase this book please follow this link.

One cannot overstate the influence of this book. Spinoza applied the scientific method (which was developed in order to conquer nature) to the reading of Scripture, and this became what is now known as the “historical-critical method.” His view was that religious conflict in Europe was a result of differing interpretation on key biblical passages. He developed this method of reading Scripture in order to bring about universal agreement on its meaning. The method is exceedingly powerful (like the scientific method) and it was for a long time, and mostly still is, the only method of Bible study taught in seminaries and colleges. It is often taught and used without any reference to its philosophical roots. Like the scientific method applied to nature, it does not allow for a spiritual or supernatural component in reading the Bible (or any other book). Being merely natural, a devotional aspect has to be attached to it, rather artificially and as an afterthought. So, like the relation of modern science to nature, there is the conflict in Biblical circles about the difference between “conquering” scripture and “understanding” scripture. Modern biblical scholarship is reluctant to throw out the method because of fears regarding “free for all” interpretation of scripture, but some quarters have also acknowledged the inherent danger of this disecting and critiquing method upon any devotional relationship to it. Various alternative methods have been developed (ie, “historical-narrative” method and neo-patristic reading) in order to try and keep the desired scholarly objectivity while allowing room for devotion.

“If we would separate ourselves from the crowd and escape from theological prejudices, instead of rashly accepting human commentaries for Divine documents, we must consider the true method of interpreting Scripture and dwell upon it at some length: for if we remain in ignorance of this we cannot know, certainly, what the Bible and the Holy Spirit wish to teach.

I may sum up the matter by saying that the method of interpreting Scripture does not widely differ from the method of interpreting nature — in fact, it is almost the same. For as the interpretation of nature consists in the examination of the history of nature, and therefrom deducing definitions of natural phenomena on certain fixed axioms, so Scriptural interpretation proceeds by the examination of Scripture, and inferring the intention of its authors as a legitimate conclusion from its fundamental principles. By working in this manner everyone will always advance without danger of error — that is, if they admit no principles for interpreting Scripture, and discussing its contents save such as they find in Scripture itself — and will be able with equal security to discuss what surpasses our understanding, and what is known by the natural light of reason.

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Scripture and acedia

Judges 5:15-17 (Song of Deborah and Barak)

“Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
Why did you sit still among the sheepfolds,
to hear the whistling for the flocks?
Among the clans of Reuben
there were great searchings of heart.
Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan;
and Dan, why did he stay with the ships?
Asher sat still at the coast of the sea,
staying by his landings” (ESV).

Psalm 91: 5,6

“You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday” (ESV).

“You will not be afraid of nocturnal fright,
of an arrow that flies by day,
of a deed that travels in darkness,
of mishap and noonday demon” (New English Translation of the Septuagint).

Psalm 106:24,25

“Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the LORD” (ESV).

2 Corinthians 7:10

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (ESV).

Ancient and medieval exegesis identified “the destruction that wastes at noonday” and “worldly sorrow” with acedia.

“Heaven” and the Ascension

“To understand it [heaven], let us skip all approximations and go straight to the point: Heaven is the intimate reserve of holy God, that which St. Paul calls the “light inaccessible” which he inhabits, unapproachable for any creature (I Tim. 6:16). When we meet a person in the street or in a room, he stand there openly before us. We can look at him, photograph him, describe him, and can often guess a good deal of what is going on inside him. Withal, he is more or less ‘public.’ On one point, however, he remains impenetrable: his attitude towards himself, his manner of answering for himself and his acts. For the most part, man is absorbed by corporal, psychological, sociological realities; in other words, by public things. But there are certain moments when he retires into a corner of his being that is closed to others–into his most personal self. No one can violate that privacy; if it is to be opened, then only by opening itself. This is what happens in love, when a person not only permits himself to be observed, not only speaks about himself, but gives himself in vital exchange. If the other accepts him, likewise opening the way to his most intimate self, desire the other more than himself, entering into pure contemplation and exchange, the the two intimacies unite in a single community open to both participants, but closed to everyone else. The greater and deeper the person and his experience, the less accessible this inmost realm will be. But what if it is not question of a person, but of God? God, the incommensurable, infinite, simple; essence of truth and holiness? His reserve is absolute. Nothing can even approach it. God is all light because he is Truth itself; all clarity, because nothing can overshadow him; he is the Lord, free and genuine Being to whom all that is belongs–yet inaccessible in his light, mysterious in his truth, invulnerable in his kingdom. This initmate reserve of God is heaven, ‘destination’ of the risen Lord–and not only of his spirit, but of the whole resurrected Lord in all his living reality” (Romano Guardini, The Lord, p 429).

Dostoevsky — Sonia’s reading of the raising of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment

“So you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?” he asked her.

Sonia did not speak; he stood beside her waiting for an answer.

“What should I be without God?” she whispered rapidly, forcibly, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand.

“Ah, so that is it!” he thought.

“And what does God do for you?” he asked, probing her further.

Sonia was silent a long while, as though she could not answer. Her weak chest kept heaving with emotion.

“Be silent! Don’t ask! You don’t deserve!” she cried suddenly, looking sternly and wrathfully at him.

“That’s it, that’s it,” he repeated to himself.

“He does everything,” she whispered quickly, looking down again.

“That’s the way out! That’s the explanation,” he decided, scrutinising her with eager curiosity, with a new, strange, almost morbid feeling. He gazed at that pale, thin, irregular, angular little face, those soft blue eyes, which could flash with such fire, such stern energy, that little body still shaking with indignation and anger–and it all seemed to him more and more strange, almost impossible. “She is a religious maniac!” he repeated to himself.

There was a book lying on the chest of drawers. He had noticed it every time he paced up and down the room. Now he took it up and looked at it. It was the New Testament in the Russian translation. It was bound in leather, old and worn.

“Where did you get that?” he called to her across the room.

She was still standing in the same place, three steps from the table.

“It was brought me,” she answered, as it were unwillingly, not looking at him.

“Who brought it?”

“Lizaveta, I asked her for it.”

“Lizaveta! strange!” he thought.

Everything about Sonia seemed to him stranger and more wonderful every moment. He carried the book to the candle and began to turn over the pages.

“Where is the story of Lazarus?” he asked suddenly.

Sonia looked obstinately at the ground and would not answer. She was standing sideways to the table.

“Where is the raising of Lazarus? Find it for me, Sonia.”

She stole a glance at him.

“You are not looking in the right place. . . . It’s in the fourth gospel,” she whispered sternly, without looking at him.

“Find it and read it to me,” he said. He sat down with his elbow on the table, leaned his head on his hand and looked away sullenly, prepared to listen.

“In three weeks’ time they’ll welcome me in the madhouse! I shall be there if I am not in a worse place,” he muttered to himself.

Sonia heard Raskolnikov’s request distrustfully and moved hesitatingly to the table. She took the book however.

“Haven’t you read it?” she asked, looking up at him across the table.

Her voice became sterner and sterner.

“Long ago. . . . When I was at school. Read!”

“And haven’t you heard it in church?”

“I . . . haven’t been. Do you often go?”

“N-no,” whispered Sonia.

Raskolnikov smiled.

“I understand. . . . And you won’t go to your father’s funeral to-morrow?”

“Yes, I shall. I was at church last week, too . . . I had a requiem service.”

“For whom?”

“For Lizaveta. She was killed with an axe.”

His nerves were more and more strained. His head began to go round.

“Were you friends with Lizaveta?”

“Yes. . . . She was good . . . she used to come . . . not often . . . she couldn’t. . . . We used to read together and . . . talk. She will see God.”

The last phrase sounded strange in his ears. And here was something new again: the mysterious meetings with Lizaveta and both of them– religious maniacs.

“I shall be a religious maniac myself soon! It’s infectious!”

“Read!” he cried irritably and insistently.

Sonia still hesitated. Her heart was throbbing. She hardly dared to read to him. He looked almost with exasperation at the “unhappy lunatic.”

“What for? You don’t believe? . . .” she whispered softly and as it were breathlessly. Continue reading “Dostoevsky — Sonia’s reading of the raising of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment”

Christ on the cross

“Christ on the cross!  Inconceivable what he went through as he hung there.  In the degree that we are Christian and have learned to love the Lord, we begin to sense something of that mystery of utter helplessness, hopelessness.  This then the end of all effort and struggle!  Everything, without reserve–body, heart and spirit given over to the illimitable flame of omnipresent agony, to the terrible judgement of assumed world-sin that none can alleviate and whose horror only death can end.  Such the depths from which omnipotent love calls new creation into being.  Taking man and his world together, what impenetrable deception, what labyrinthian confusion, all-permeating estrangement from God, granitic hardness of heart!   This the terrible load Christ on the cross was to dissolve in God, and divinely assimilate into his own thought, heart, life and agony.  Ardent with suffering, he was to plunge to that ultimate depth, distance, center where the sacred power which formed the world from nothing could break into new creation” (Romano Guardini, The Lord, p 399-400).

Good Friday (1 Corinthians 13)

It may be strange to hear “the love passage,” along with the Passion according to John. Today we are called upon to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Here we are called upon to think in particular upon his suffering and death. It is hard for us. It has, in many ways, become so cliché, so common, so much a part of our culture and history, that it is hard for the full weight of what he did to hit us… If we aren’t careful, the very works of art and stained glass that surround us, that seek to represent the Passion of the Christ to us, may also serve to deaden us to it’s full impact…

Yes, we are all responsible for what happened to the Son of God. We are responsible. The Jews called out, “may his blood be on us and on our children”. Those fated words, which have been used as a rationale for anti-Semitism, are actually the means for salvation, for them and for us.

It is only by saying those same words, saying “we will bare the full responsibility of our actions in this matter” that the same blood we shed can become our soul’s salvation and protection. No, we don’t deserve it. No, we don’t deserve the curse that we put on him to be overturned into such a blessing. It’s true, we suffer, and Jesus entered into that suffering in the most extreme way, and overcame it, but through it all, we don’t deserve such love.

I read recently, “Love is the only difference between an execution and martyrdom… ” Only Love.

So we have the “love chapter”, used at so many weddings, and one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture, and one of the most beautiful poems ever written… We have it, and it’s most perfect expression, side by side.  It may be strange to hear “the love passage,” along with the Passion according to John, but there is a connection.

We have this beauty held together with Christ’s agony and bloody death. We have this beauty held together with the perfect Son of God bearing upon himself the evil and corruption of the entire created universe.

Christ’s sacrifice is, in fact, Love in its finest suit. Continue reading “Good Friday (1 Corinthians 13)”

Romano Guardini on Judas and betrayal

“Discussing Judas, we do well not to limit our attention entirely to him. He completed the treachery, but was he the only one touched by it? What did Peter do, whom Jesus had taken with him to the mountain of transfiguration and declared the Rock and Keeper of the Keys? When the danger became acute, accosting him in the miserable form of the wench who kept the gates, didn’t he declare “I do not know the man!” (Luke 22:56-57). And did he not insist, denying it “with an oath” once, twice, thrice (Matt. 26:72-74)? What is treachery if not this? That he does not go down to his doom in it, but is able to rise again through contrition and reform is due only to the grace of God… And John? He also fled, and the flight of one who had leaned on Jesus’ breast must have weighed particularly heavily. True, he returned and stood under the cross, but that he was able to do so was likewise a gift… All the others fled, dispersed like “the sheep of the flock” when the shepherd is struck (Matt. 26:31)… And the masses whose sick he had healed, whose hungry he had fed, whose burdens he had lightened—those in whom the Spirit had moved so that they had recognized him as the Messiah and cheered him—when it came to the choice, they preferred a highway robber… And Pilate? What moves us so strangely in his conversation with Christ is that for a moment the sceptical Roman seems to feel who Jesus is. We sense something of the wave of sympathy that passes between them. Then cold reason returns, and Pilate washes his hands (Matt. 27:24). No, what came to the surface in all its terrible nakedness in Judas, existed as a possibility all around Jesus. Fundamentally not one of his followers had much cause to look down on Judas. Continue reading “Romano Guardini on Judas and betrayal”

Evangelicals and the Virgin Mary

Evangelicals and the Mother of God

by Timothy George

February 2007

It is time for evangelicals to recover a fully biblical appreciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in the history of salvation-and to do so precisely as evangelicals. The question, of course, is how to do that. Can the evangelical reengagement with the wider Christian tradition include a place for Mary? Can we, without forsaking any of the evangelical essentials, including the great solas of the Reformation, echo Elizabeth’s acclamation, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42), or resonate with the Spirit-filled maid of the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on, all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:46-48)?

Continue reading “Evangelicals and the Virgin Mary”