The fool has said in his heart, redux

WordPress provides a Blog Stats page which gives the owner of a blog a little bit of information about, among other things, which posts are being read, how often, and something about how the reader got there. For instance, if they used a search engine to search for something that resulted in a hit on one of my posts, and then they at least followed that link (regardless of the amount of time they spent there), I’d see a record of the actual search string which they used.

Interestingly enough, it seems that the searches which have led people to my blog of late have been searches on phrases like “the fool said there is no God” (which lead to this post).

My question, for future visitors, is this: why were you searching on the phrase that brought you here? (Yes, I’m assuming that the above trend continues, hence the title of this post.)

The value of legalism

I’ve been reading through Colossians lately, and I was reminded of the precise value of legalism when I read this:

Colossians 2:20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21″Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)–in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (NAS)

In chapter 2, it appears that Paul is covering both the Mosaic law as well as the addition of rules and regulations by men – but even if he’s only addressing one or the other, we know that it is true of both since legalism of any kind is… so valuable that it can make us stand righteous before a Holy God? Nope… it can’t do that (Eph. 2:8-9, Gal. 3:2, etc., etc.) But if it can’t save us, surely legalism can help us to live better, more Christ-like lives, right? Nope – legalism is “of no value against fleshly indulgence” – no value! So why have I tried so many times over the years to kill sin by my own efforts and not by applying “gospel tools” (as Owen says)? Partly, I think, because I’m such a task-oriented person, who easily sees any problem as a task to be solved. To go along with this natural disposition, I seem to easily forget that this task is not one I can solve! This I have to acknowledge to be due to a lack of appreciation for God’s grace, which is required for both my being declared righteous before God initially, and for my daily sanctification. There is no other way for me to become or live righteously other than by God’s grace, made visible in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

May God grant me the wisdom to discern when I fall into trying to sanctify myself.

A reconciliation hopping on one leg

I’ve been involved in an interesting discussion here on Christ’s choices and choices in general. This post is in reply to Perry’s assertion that “…Christ’s death is a propitiation, a reconciliation, but not as a deferment of wrath. God can freely forgive for mercy triumphs over justice.” I responded to that assertion already – but I just came across this quote from Owen which I just had to post somewhere:

As, then, the folly of Socinus and his sectaries is remarkable, who would have the reconciliation mentioned in the Scripture to be nothing but our conversion to God, without the appeasing of his anger and turning away his wrath from us, — which is a reconciliation hopping on one leg, — so that distinction of some between the reconciliation of God to man, making that to be universal towards all, and the reconciliation of man to God, making that to be only of a small number of those to whom God is reconciled, is a no less monstrous figment. Mutual alienation must have mutual reconciliation, seeing they are correlata. The state between God and man, before the reconciliation made by Christ, was a state of enmity. Man was at enmity with God; we were his “enemies,” Col. i. 21; Rom. v. 10; hating him and opposing ourselves to him, in the highest rebellion, to the utmost of our power. God also was thus far an enemy to us, that his “wrath” was on us, Eph. ii. 3; which remaineth on us until we do believe, John iii. 36. To make perfect reconciliation (which Christ is said in many places to do), it is required, first, That the wrath of God be turned away, his anger removed, and all the effects of enmity on his part towards us; secondly, That we be turned away from our opposition to him, and brought into voluntary obedience. Until both these be effected, reconciliation is not perfected. Now, both these are in the Scripture assigned to our Saviour, as the effects of his death and sacrifice.

John Owen, Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Book 3, Chapter 6.

Usually I’m taken by the force and eloquence of Owen’s writing – I don’t remember him being funny before!

More on memory…

I wrote post a while back about my memory, wondering why I remember useless things and not important things.

It turns out Spurgeon had something to say about memory:

I believe that the fall crushed man entirely, albeit, when it rolled like an avalanche upon the mighty temple of human nature, some shafts were still left undestroyed, and amidst the ruins you find here and there, a flute, a pedestal, a cornice, a column, not quite broken, yet the entire structure fell, and its most glorious relics are fallen ones, levelled in the dust. The whole of man is defaced. Look at our memory; is it not true that the memory is fallen? I can recollect evil things far better than those which savor of piety. I hear a ribald song; that music of hell shall jar in my ear when gray hairs shall be upon my head. I hear a note of holy praise; alas! it is forgotten! For memory graspeth with an iron hand ill things, but the good she holdeth with feeble fingers. She suffereth the glorious timbers from the forest of Lebanon to swim down the stream of oblivion, but she stoppeth all the draff that floateth from the foul city of Sodom. She will retain evil, she will lose good. Memory is fallen.

From The Carnal Mind Enmity Against God.

It’s obviously not an excuse – but it does help explain things!

He who believes and is baptized will be saved…

I had forgotten about this verse (Mark 16:16).

I recently picked up where I left off in my collection of Spurgeon’s sermons, and was initially surprised to read the following:

Measure me by the articles of the Church of England, and I will not stand second to any man under heaven’s blue sky in preaching the gospel contained in them; for if there be an excellent epitome of the gospel, it is to be found in the articles of the Church of England. Let me show you that you have not been hearing strange doctrine. Here is the 9th article, upon Original or Birth Sin: “Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam; (as the Pelagians do vainly talk); but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and, therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.” I want nothing more. Will any one who believes in the Prayer Book dissent from the doctrine that “the carnal mind is enmity against God?”

(From The Carnal Mind Enmity Against God.)

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This post is brought to you by the letter ‘S’

This is from The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem. I’ll get around to nominating something by Lem for the NOBC one of these days. Note that this was originally written in Polish and translated by Michael Kandel into English – I have yet to find out anything about the original Polish version of this poem and how much work Kandel put into translating it so exquisitely.

“Have it compose a poem–a poem about a haircut! But lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism and in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter s!!”
“And why not throw in a full exposition of the general theory of nonlinear automata while you’re at it?” growled Trurl. “You can’t give it such idiotic–”
But he didn’t finish. A melodious voice filled the hall with the following:

Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed.
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.