Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Defense of Proper Education for Those Who Minister in the Church, Part V

Those who prefer good intentions to competence always ask, “Is it not true that clever men are more likely to be untrustworthy?” hoping to instill a distrust of higher learning.

How many times do we find ourselves in the position of having to trust someone more intelligent or better informed—shall we say, an expert—than ourselves? We consult doctors, lawyers and accountants for matters requiring specialized knowledge that is beyond the ability of the common person to completely understand—how much more the ancient document recorded in foreign languages that most of us only glance at a few minutes out of each day? Ultimately we must trust in someone of superior knowledge; we have the responsibility of choosing wisely the object of that trust. (God does not require a blind faith; we exercise a faith grounded in reality and truth. There are always clues to guide our choices; faith simply bridges the gap between our experience and our hope.)

Anti-intellectuals often observe that we live in a culture where seminaries are becoming increasingly disrespectful in their approach to the Word and apostate.

Hypocrisy, lies, or false teaching do not change what is and will always be true. The responsibility lies with the student and his mentors to determine the underlying suppositions of his teachers, and to seek out teachers who respect the divine inspiration of the Holy Bible. It goes without saying that not all seminaries are apostate!

Christians are called to be in the world (though not of it) and to be salt and light in whatever environment they find themselves.

A common misconception is that Christian ideals are at odds with academic ambition. Are we not to love the Lord with all our minds? No anti-intellectual culture could have produced a J. S. Bach, a Milton or a Kepler. They made a point of casting their crowns before Christ and dedicating the fruits of their minds to His service. Again, Paul exhorts Timothy to “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” Surely it is God Who grants gifts of the mind, and He expects us to invest our talents wisely.

Does not God show His glory (and therefore work better) through weakness?

The attainment of an advanced degree does not prevent any person from being a “weak vessel.” We make a faulty assumption when we imply otherwise.

2 Corinthians 12:9 "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Notice who is saying this: someone we all too frequently assume was “strong,” a highly educated man and master of theology: the Apostle Paul, who had the ancient-world equivalent of a Ph. D. Why does he call himself weak? Was God not able to use his education in a mighty way? History demonstrates that God used every painfully acquired skill Paul was able to bring—from skilled debate and passionate persuasion in the public square to the humble trade of tentmaking. And yet Paul calls himself weak, and so he was, being human and subject to like passions as we are, but he also knew the undergirding of God’s strength. God, in His infinite wisdom, saw to it that the greatest missionary of the first century was adequately prepared for the work.

The teaching of God’s Word must be held in high esteem and those who essay to teach it must be held highly accountable for their handling. The Word must be understood in its original intent, its absolutely objective meaning; must be handled seriously as a historic document inspired by a Holy God. It is a serious undertaking that requires the best linguistic and research skills developed by human civilization. Any careless, lighthearted approach is an insult to our God and the Christian faith, not to say damaging to Christ’s beloved flock.

Remember Christ’s test of Peter’s love for Him: “If you love Me, feed my sheep.” Sheep were not merely bumbling, clumsy creatures; they were and are the main form of wealth in the Middle East. When Christ calls his people sheep, He implies that they are precious to him in the same way sheep were valuable to their owners. We cannot make the mistake of thinking that any old fodder will do for these sheep. We may be sure that “hirelings” will give account to Christ along with the faithful pastors.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Text of Brahms' Requiem

I. Chorus
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
-Matthew 5
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. They go forth and weep, and bear precious seed, and shall come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.
-PSALM 126

II. Chorus
For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls...
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient.

III. Baritone Solo & Chorus
Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a few handbreaths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath. Surely everyone goes about like a shadow. Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather them. And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in Thee.

IV. Chorus
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.

V. Soprano Solo & Chorus
Ye now are sorrowful; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,and no one will take your joy from you.
-JOHN 16
As a mother comforts her child so will I comfort you. Behold with your eyes: but for a little have I known sorrow and labor and found much rest.

VI. Baritone Solo & Chorus
For here have we no continuing place, but we seek one that is to come.
Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the hour of the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.

VII. Final Chorus
Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord. "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labors, and their deeds follow them."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Defense of Proper Education for Those Who Minister in the Church, Part III

Those who distrust education love to point out that in the past, God has used people with little or no education.

Without a doubt, God can use anyone, and He delights in surprising the world with unlikely candidates. Please note that even the wicked accomplish God’s purposes, but this does not expunge their accountability to answer for their wickedness. If a man withholds himself from the preparations to qualify him for ministerial service, God CAN use him—but it may not be in the way that the man hoped or that was ideal.

Some of the mightiest figures in the Inspired Record were highly educated men: Moses, raised in the courts of Egypt (and yet God preserved him so that he was not drawn away by temptation), Daniel, who arrived in the Babylonian palaces with advanced knowledge, and received the finest training Babylon could provide, and of course Paul, who studied at the feet of Gamaliel. We must not rush to the conclusion that God cannot or will not use men and women of letters.

Consider the Parable of the Talents: this literally speaks for itself. It is God who gives gifts of the mind, and if we fail to invest and use them for God’s glory, we will face our Lord’s displeasure for wasting precious resources.

Another fallacious argument is that the disciples were uneducated men.

Consider that those who were fishermen spoke, minimally, two languages in order to conduct business. They not only performed manual labor, but they were involved in trade, commerce and negotiation. They knew a thing or two about human nature; they would not have been easily taken in by some passing charlatan.

We may surmise that Matthew, the tax collector, had advanced accounting skills, sufficient for “cooking the books” (Matthew 9:9-12). Luke, of course, we know as “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). These men were hardly unintelligent or ignorant, even though they may have lacked the formal training of the day.

Finally, the disciples spent three years undergoing a “seminary” education by the master Teacher himself, who undertook to prepare His men for their task.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

At a Solemn Musick

by John Milton (1608–1674)

BLEST pair of Sirens, pledges of Heav'ns joy,
Sphear-born harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ
Dead things with inbreath'd sense able to pierce,
And to our high-rais'd phantasie present,
That undisturb├Ęd Song of pure content,
Ay sung before the saphire-colour'd throne
To him that sits theron
With Saintly shout, and solemn Jubily,
Where the bright Seraphim in burning row
Their loud up-lifted Angel trumpets blow,
And the Cherubick host in thousand quires
Touch their immortal Harps of golden wires,
With those just Spirits that wear victorious Palms,
Hymns devout and holy Psalms
Singing everlastingly;
That we on Earth with undiscording voice
May rightly answer that melodious noise;
As once we did, till disproportion'd sin
Jarr'd against natures chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair musick that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway'd
In perfect Diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
O may we soon again renew that Song,
And keep in tune with Heav'n, till God ere long
To his celestial consort us unite,
To live with him, and sing in endles morn of light.


by George Herbert

Prayer, the Church's banquet, Angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;
Engine against th' Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.