Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Theological Lint-Pickers

The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

In 1813, Thomas Chalmers wrote in “The Christian Instructor” bemoaning the compulsion to internecine warfare amongst the Reformed, Paleo-Conservative, Theological Lint-Pickers, and Nomenclature-Saber-Rattlers in the Scottish Church.

He described the tendency as “that mingled sentiment of fear and aversion with which they listen, even to opinions that are evangelical and substantially their own, when they came to them couched in a phraseology different from what their ears have been accustomed to.”

Their selective but ardent litmus tests for acceptance, he argued, goes well beyond creedal faithfulness. “They must have something even more than the bare and essential attributes of orthodoxy.”  Indeed, “Even orthodoxy is not welcome unless she presents herself in that dress in which she is familiar to them; and if the slightest innovation in the form of that vehicle which brings her to their doors, she is refused admittance, or at best treated as a very suspicious visitor.”

Chalmers concluded that this parsimonious fractiousness is largely due to “a want of those two very things which they often insist upon, and with justice, as the leading attributes of a true and decided Christian: there is a want of faith and a want of spirituality.”

Alas, two hundred years later, it seems little has changed.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Glory of the Ascension

"Hail the day that sees Him rise,
Ravished from our wistful eyes!
Christ, awhile to mortals given,
Re-ascends His native heaven.
There the glorious triumph waits,
Lift your heads, eternal gates!
Wide unfold the radiant scene,
Take the King of glory in!" Charles Wesley

"By the Ascension all the parts of life are brought together in the oneness of their common destination. By the Ascension Christ in His Humanity is brought close to every one of us, and the words “in Christ,” the very charter of our faith, gain a present power. By the Ascension we are encouraged to work beneath the surface of things to that which makes all things capable of consecration. Then it is that the last element in our confession as to Christ’s work speaks to our hearts. He is not only present with us as Ascended: He is active for us. We believe that He sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; He the fount of Living Water, now ever lives to refresh us unto eternal life." Brooke Foss Westcott

"See, the Conqueror mounts in triumph,
See the King in royal state,
Riding on the clouds His chariot
To His heavenly palace-gate;
Hark, the choirs of angel voices
Joyful halleluiahs sing,
And the portals high are lifted,
To receive their heavenly King." William Wordsworth