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."

Friday, September 05, 2003

The Problem with James

Over the centuries since it was written the epistle of James has confounded some of the very best interpreters of the Bible. The chief difficulty lies in reconciling such statements as "faith without works is ," with the bold statements of Paul such as "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. " The exegesis of James 2:14-26 requires some of the most careful work that a teaching pastor can do, and I have already completed the preliminaries. I had one person ask me specifically about it last night, and I told him to hold on for a year or so, since it will take a while to get to that passage. I find myself putting people off that way a lot, and I'm grateful for their patience. But let me say that James is fully reconcilable with a grace view, and that it is done not with smoke and mirrors, nor with the dispensationalist contortionism, but with a detailed study of vocabulary, theology, and history.

Another controversial subject that I have promised to teach in the next year or so is original creation and restoration. This is a tremendous challenge, regardless of who you are, or what theory you espouse. Like we say in hiking: it's uphill both ways! I have heard people dismiss what I believe without taking the time to listen to my work, and even recently had two families quit our local assembly because they evidently did not share my view. They never once indicated an interest in what I taught or a willingness to listen to what I will teach after my own careful review of the matter. The thing is, creation is one of those emotionally charged doctrines that often cause division among Christians. I am quite certain, above all, that it comes down to what the text of the Bible teaches. Although there are (literally!) mountains of evidence out there from the disciplines of astronomy, biology, geology, and archaeology, the evidence is easily and often distorted, and unfortunately subject to rank amateurism. Christians are especially guilty of this. I am an amateur astronomer, and do a little rockhounding on the side as well, but my real area of expertise lies with the Bible, and that's where I'll gladly plant my flag.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The extended quote below is from Jane Eyre, which I am currently reading to my family. Helen Burns is the great character of the early part of the book, and the e to Jane Eyre.
Close by Miss Temple's bed, and half covered with its white curtains, there stood a little crib. I saw the outline of a form under the clothes, but the face was hid by the hangings: the nurse I had spoken to in the garden sat in an easy-chair asleep; an unsnuffed candle burnt dimly on the table. Miss Temple was not to be seen: I knew afterwards that she had been called to a delirious patient in the fever-room. I advanced; then paused by the crib side: my hand was on the curtain, but I preferred speaking before I withdrew it. I still recoiled at the dread of seeing a corpse.

"Helen!" I whispered softly, "are you awake?"

She stirred herself, put back the curtain, and I saw her face, pale, wasted, but quite composed: she looked so little changed that my fear was instantly dissipated.

"Can it be you, Jane?" she asked, in her own gentle voice.

"Oh!" I thought, "she is not going to die; they are mistaken: she could not speak and look so calmly if she were."

I got on to her crib and kissed her: her forehead was cold, and her cheek both cold and thin, and so were her hand and wrist; but she smiled as of old.

"Why are you come here, Jane? It is past eleven o'clock: I heard it strike some minutes since."

"I came to see you, Helen: I heard you were very ill, and I could not sleep till I had spoken to you."

"You came to bid me good-bye, then: you are just in time probably."

"Are you going somewhere, Helen? Are you going home?"

"Yes; to my long home--my last home."

"No, no, Helen!" I stopped, distressed. While I tried to devour my tears, a fit of coughing seized Helen; it did not, however, wake the nurse; when it was over, she lay some minutes exhausted; then she whispered -

"Jane, your little feet are bare; lie down and cover yourself with my quilt."

I did so: she put her arm over me, and I nestled close to her. After a long silence, she resumed, still whispering -

"I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am , you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about. We all must die one day, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no one to regret me much: I have only a father; and he is lately married, and will not miss me. By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault."

"But where are you going to, Helen? Can you see? Do you know?"

"I believe; I have faith: I am going to God."

"Where is God? What is God?"

"My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness: I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore me to Him, reveal Him to me."

"You are sure, then, Helen, that there is such a place as heaven, and that our souls can get to it when we die?"

"I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me."

"And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?"

"You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane."
Again I questioned, but this time only in thought. "Where is that region? Does it exist?" And I clasped my arms closer round Helen; she seemed dearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could not let her go; I lay with my face hidden on her neck. Presently she said, in the sweetest tone -

"How comfortable I am! That last fit of coughing has tired me a little; I feel as if I could sleep: but don't leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me."

"I'll stay with you, DEAR Helen: no one shall take me way."

"Are you warm, darling?"

"Yes."

"Good-night, Jane."

"Good-night, Helen."

She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.

When I awoke it was day: an unusual movement roused me; I looked up; I was in somebody's arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying me through the passage back to the dormitory. I was not reprimanded for leaving my bed; people had something else to think about; no explanation was afforded then to my many questions; but a day or two afterwards I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen Burns's shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen was--dead.

Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after her it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word "Resurgam." [I shall rise again]