Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Saturday, March 01, 2003

This afternoon I translated the first two chapters of James. It is quite a refreshing change from Peter. Though I needed lexical help fairly often, I did not need to refer to a grammar a single time. James' Greek is straightforward and easy to understand. I am looking forward to preaching and teaching the epistle of James, chronologically first of the New Testament writings. There are so many excellent themes in the first two chapters, I know that there is going to be an abundance of good wisdom to come from this study.

Some of the early theological doctrines that I noticed are: undeserved suffering; temptation; prayer; divine provision, discrimination, wealth, and the biggie... the relationship between faith and... and...

The relationship between post-salvation faith and maturity. So many interpreters of the Bible goof up James 2:14-26 that it makes me totally eager to teach it.

Courage and Faith
Thank God for the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11. God allowed 9/11 but has now given one of the great enemies of America and of freedom into the hands of justice. Pray that the world will understand him for the monster that he is.

Friday, February 28, 2003

Double post deleted.
Paul reveals something significant about all nations in his famous speech to the philosophers in Athens, Acts 17:24-27, “24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;”
a. God does not predetermine the course of man’s life, but He does determine the times and boundaries of the nation.
b. This doesn’t necessarily have to happen in eternity past. God can choose to make these determinations in time.
c. But what is very important here is that there is a single purpose for all the nations. That purpose is for men to seek God.
d. The nations exist, the course of their histories unfold, in order to reveal God. The history of nations is a revelation of God.
e. All nations come from one man, Noah. All nations have a single purpose under God for every man, which is for the seeking of God.
f. The purpose for all nations in history is to provide an environment so that men can seek God.
g. This is plainly establishment freedom. To seek God requires freedom, and this is the purpose of nations.
h. This purpose is drawn from a close association with His purpose for man, as though God’s purpose for men and nations is very tightly woven together. And indeed they are.
i. Two present infinitive verbs describe the purpose of nations. These denote purpose, and are dependent on the phrase, “He made from one man every nation...”
(1) There is a parenthetical statement which precedes these two purpose clauses, which is, “...having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation...”
(2) KATOIKEN, “to live.” Nations exist so that men might live. This is a general statement concerning freedom.
(3) ZETEIN, “to seek.” Nations exist so that men might seek God. This is a specific expression of freedom.
j. Even more remarkable are the two optative verbs, PHELAPHESEIAN and HEUROIAN, “grope” and “find.”
(1) There is great significance in the person and number of these verbs.
(a) They are both third person plural, which designates the subject as a “they.”
(b) This does not refer back to “every nation,” which is third person singular. An important feature of Greek verbs is that they agree with their subject in person and number.
(c) Instead these verbs find their subjects in ANTHROPON, “men.”
(d) Nations exist not for nations to live and seek God, to grope for and to find Him. They exist so that men might do so. The emphasis is on quest of the individual to find God, and definitely not the nation.
(e) This is profound in its implications. Nations have a function toward the individual.
(2) The significance of the optative moods is that it shows that these actions are left entirely to the desires of men. The optative shows desire, and wish.
(3) Nations exist so that men may express their desires. This means that the primary function of the nation has to do with liberty.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The Four Feathers, by A.E.W. Mason.

A book that has been made into film at least four times might just be worth reading. That was my thinking just 10 days ago, and I hit the nail on the head. Written in 1902, the product of Victorian England, this book is about redemption, true romance, and friendship.

A young man, the scion of a general in the British Army and generation upon generation of highly decorated officers... convinces himself that he is a coward. On the night before his regiment is to leave for war in the Soudan, young Harry Feversham resigns his commission in order to avoid war and be engaged to his sweetheart, Ethne. Three fellow officers of that regiment discover his cowardly act, and together they send him a feather apiece. Those feathers arrive by post at the estate of Ethne's father, on the night of a ball, and disastrously at a moment when the two lovers stand alone. Ethne learns of Harry's perfidy, and impulsively snaps a fourth feather from her fan. Hence the name and the theme of the book.

That is merely the beginning of a Magellan-like exploration of friendship and romance, spanning the geography of the British Empire and the geography of the human heart. Harry Feversham, stricken to the core by the fourth feather, and inspired by his love for Ethne, seeks by his deeds to provoke his accusers to accept the feathers again, and to retract their accusation of cowardice.

While he travels to Egypt and Soudan to do so, there are complications at home. Another suitor eagerly seeks Ethne's heart, and... and...

Mason constructs a very fine plot, and his thesis concerning honor is flawless. You will not find a more stringently virtuous and honorable book, and I highly recommend it. Recent writers of fiction could learn at Mason's feet: he doesn't compromise his morals to write a book, and he entertains despite the cumbersome handicap of virtue. This is not one of those stultifying pieces of fiction from a hundred years ago. You realize the protagonist's awful mistake and begin pulling for him right away, so that you keep reading.

I have not seen the most recent film adaptation of the book. It may be interesting if it tries to be a modern application of the Victorian ideal. It will fail if it is. The reviews I read were lukewarm to warm, but not a lot of people were wowed by it.

Courage and Faith.

Monday, February 24, 2003

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald.

Almost every night I read out loud to my family, and The Princess and the Goblin was our chapter-a-night serial for a couple of months. Generally speaking I like what I read of George MacDonald. He does not have the elegant prose of John Crowley, or the superb plot construction of Tolkien. His works have charm though, and there are some dynamic spiritual lessons to be found here and there. The Princess is no different. Of particular charm are the scenes with Princess Irene's fairy grandmother, a person of questionable existence. Around her is the center of the story's moral: Does she exist? Should Curdie, the hero, believe in her for Irene's sake, despite the betrayal of his own senses to the contrary? Another wonderful virtue is the way in which Irene is determined to keep her word, even when prevented by the authority of her nurse (governess). She both respects the decision of the nurse, and gets to keep her word in due season. The author communicates that it is more than a small matter to keep your word even in small matters.

The Princess and Goblin has its funny moments as well. The royal family of the goblins may well have been a prototype for the TV Bundys or Simpsons. The queen and her granite shoes are a running joke that brought our family laughter more than once; the hen-pecked king was a funny-pitiful sight as well.

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, MacDonald doesn't write all that well, but his books are better than most. I believe that Lewis, an Oxford don of impeccable merit, hit the nail on the head with his weighty academic hammer. Reading out loud is a great way to savor the elegance of good writing. I found this work no gourmet meal of literature. Yet... at the end we were all more than satisfied on account of the virtue of the work, the true sustenance of all literature.

As a side note, there were some passages that were proto-Tolkienesque. Early in the book, as Irene wanders in the castle and meets her many-times great-grandmother, I felt Like I was reading the early pages of The Hobbit.