Friday, September 11, 2015

A genuine Luther quote

It intrigues me that many famous quotes are misattributed. My Scots friend Jeanette Stewart says that they were so busy, they outsourced them!

But Terry Gallagher has given me a wonderful genuine quote by Martin Luther, from his Introduction to Paul's letter to the Romans:

"Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. 
Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. 
The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. 
Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace."

Thanks Terry!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ten year anniversary

In 2005,  Ron, one of our church members in Bathurst, encouraged us to read through the New Testament in 3 months, and gave us a pamphlet that gave you readings for each day, from September to Christmas.

Only a few of us joined in, but I enjoyed reading through the TNIV New Testament, and then decided to read through the Old Testament. That was not easy, because it is over 3 times as long as the New Testament, and has many chapters of genealogies and lists.

But I got through it, and decided that in the future I'd read a bit of the Old Testament and a bit of the New and go through them both together.

Over the next ten years, I read through four study Bibles, listened to two audio Bibles, worked through the Bible in nine different translations, and last year read through the Greek New Testament.

This has been an enriching experience.

One of the most enjoyable read-throughs, which I did once in the TNIV and once in the new NIV, was going through the unusually-named The Books of the Bible, which is a reorganised Bible, with chapters, headings and verses removed, but with judicious spacing to mark the different sections.
This version is partly thematic and partly chronological. The First Testament is more like, but not exactly the same as, the way the Hebrew Bible is organised.

Most of the Bibles I read are in the tradition of the King James Version of the Bible [which closely follows the earlier Tyndale Bible], but two of them have been translated without letting the KJV dictate the agenda. I find this refreshing, as it provides some interesting new insights into what the original authors may have intended. These two versions are the New Jerusalem Bible, available, if you scroll down, here, and the one I'm working through now, the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

The two audio Bibles were well worth listening to. I enjoyed the African American dramatic version of the TNIV called The Bible Experience. (If you purchase a copy today, it will be in the recent version of the NIV.) And I listened to a lightly-dramatised free-of-charge version of the King James Version from Faith Comes By Hearing. I think it would be hard-going to read through the King James, and if I were trying to, I think I'd use a version such as the Cambridge Paragraph version of the KJV, because its usual format of  a paragraph per verse spoils the flow of God's Word. (There is a copy of this edition available in Logos Bible software.)

I enjoyed reading the ESV through twice, in the Reformation Study Bible and in the ESV Study Bible. Both of these versions have excellent helps for understanding the message of the Bible, but  I am always left with questions they didn't answer, or questions whose answers raised more questions!

It was fascinating going through the NIV Archaeological Study Bible in the 1984 edition of the NIV. This Bible has lots of maps,photos, diagrams and articles about the historical background of the Bible. Did you know that the oldest part of the Bible that exists as an archaeological artefact is the wonderful Aaronic blessing, at the end of Numbers 6:

      The LORD bless you
         and keep you;
      the LORD make his face shine on you
         and be gracious to you;
     the LORD turn his face toward you
         and give you peace.

I enjoyed the exercise of reading through three idiomatic Bible versions: the Contemporary English Version, the Australian edition of the Good News Bible and the New Living Translation
I can see the value of the CEV for new readers of English, but found the translation of some parts of the Bible (such as Ephesians) too loose to be useful.

Having nearly been through the whole Bible thirteen times over the past ten years (after I finish reading through The Holman Christian Standard Bible in the Mission of God study Bible edition), I'm looking forward to the next part of the journey!

I'm thinking of reading through J B Phillips' version of the New Testament, and would like to tackle the New King James Version and the New Revised Standard Version.

And I'm eagerly awaiting the new Zondervan NIV Study Bible, edited by Don Carson, which is expected to be released next month.

By the way, I have devised my own Excel spreadsheet to make the read-through easier. I never read from Genesis to Revelation, but read a few chapters of the First Testament, a Psalm and a chapter or two of the New Testament, as often as I can. Sometimes every day. Sometimes I miss a day or more. Life gets in the way. Then I pick up where I left off.

And I don't begin on 1st January, which is the worst day to begin anything. Any other day is a good day to start reading the Bible!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Early Church Fathers and Sola Scriptura

A well-documented collection of quotes from Michael Patton, showing that the Early Church Fathers taught that  authority for Christians beliefs comes ultimately from Scripture.

Patton concludes with this quote from J N D Kelly:

The clearest token of the prestige enjoyed by (Scripture) is the fact that almost the entire theological effort of the Fathers, whether their aims were polemical or constructive, was expended upon what amounted to the exposition of the Bible. Further, it was everywhere taken for granted that, for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis (Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978, pp. 42, 46).

Friday, April 24, 2015

Where does God draw the line?

I was brought up in a Baptist Church and was taught that God offers salvation from his wrath for everyone who believes in Jesus as Saviour. We understood that apart from God's grace, we all deserve punishment for our sin.

Trying to gain God's favour by good works is fruitless, because none of us can measure up, and because God has made clear that we are freed from sin through what Jesus has done, not from our own efforts.

But we were also taught that many people hope that they will be saved because their good deeds outweigh their bad ones.

And, many churches also do not truly teach salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but add extra things to this.

We were usually told that those who add to the good news of salvation through Christ cannot be saved from God's judgment.

However, every now and again, someone would say something like this:

When we get to heaven, there will be a lot of surprises. There will be plenty of Roman Catholics in heaven.
It seems to me there is a line between universalism (which teaches that all will be saved) and exclusivism (where only those in our little group are enjoying God's favour). But where does God draw the line?

I am sure many folk would think of me as being very narrow-minded. And we did spend two enjoyable, but challenging years in the little town of Narromine. The challenging part was high school Music teaching!

I enjoy reading articles in Christianity Today, but have discovered that some other Evangelicals think it is far too inclusive. I'm sure they would cringe at this article in which Marlena Graves writes about her experiences at seminary, where she learnt
to be generous to Christians who see some important things differently.
They might also not be very happy with the story in The Wall Street Journal about the identical twin brothers, raised as Baptists, who are now a Roman Catholic priest and an Anglican bishop.

I was also interested to see that the newly-formed Australian chapter of The Gospel Coalition is attracting criticism from folk who think it is too inclusive and from those who would like it to be less complementarian.

I think Marlena Graves achieves a good balance in what she says in the last half of her article:

I think of my experience in seminary, where I studied alongside students from 50 different church backgrounds and denominations, from Pentecostal to Presbyterian and Roman Catholic to African Methodist Episcopal. The distinctives of our traditions meant that at core, we had intense disagreements over doctrine (especially over the nature and practice of the sacraments) and other controversial issues (like the ordination of women). But amazingly, we didn’t spend time debating our differences.
We could all trace the genesis, trajectories, emphases, and tragedies of our particular traditions in church history. None of us could afford to be arrogant about our traditions. We all “called upon the name of the Lord”; we all “declared with our mouths, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believed in our hearts that God raised him from the dead” (Rom. 10:9-13). Our common devotion to Jesus and love for one another reigned supreme. For the first time in my life I thought, “This is what heaven must be like.”
As Protestant evangelicals, we have some specific beliefs that are starkly different than a lot of fellow Christians, including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters. But to those who suggest that moving from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy amounts to “changing religions,” I direct them to our brothers in Christ who have been martyred for the faith.
Those Coptic Christians killed in February, or the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians killed just days ago, are they not really Christians? Are they members of a different religion, Orthodoxy, not “the faith once for all delivered to the saints”? I certainly wouldn’t say that. (And, for the record, neither wouldPope Francis.)
As CT blogger Peter Chin wrote earlier this year:
Our response to the death of the 21 clearly demonstrated that we share a profound connection with other believers despite the considerable geographical, cultural, and theological gaps between us. We have proven that we do not need to be in complete alignment with other followers of Christ to stand with them in their pain.
What do you think?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Is this harmonisation really by Bach?

Is this wonderful harmonisation really by Bach?
I have not been able to locate it anywhere other than in Geoffrey Shaw's Twice 20 Choral Songs for Choirs.
I have found the tune harmonised by Bach, but not in this specific, superb version.

Can you help?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One Perfect Day

I was listening to Denis Walter's terrific album Songs From a Southern Land today and was captivated again by One Perfect Day.

Vin Maskell is a great writer and tells the story of how he came to love this song here and also includes the songwriter's own recollections.

It looks like he is thinking of this article as old and I'm hoping he doesn't take the page down, because it's a great story.

I love Sara Storer's version. I love Denis Walter's version, too. But I'm disappointed the line about Margaret Thatcher's government doesn't feature in either of them.

In case he does:

St Andrews market, Victoria, May 2012

Is One Perfect Day, by 1980s Melbourne band The Little Heroes, one perfect song?

St Andrews is a town in the hills on the edge of Melbourne. It’s not quite a suburb and it’s not quite out in the country. I visited its popular Saturday market as the stall holders were packing away their goat’s cheeses, their angora scarves, their wooden toys, their landscape paintings.

But the bloke with about 30 milk crates of second-hand records was in no hurry. There were hundreds of, if not a few thousands of, albums there. “Five dollars each,” the bloke said.  “Or, at this time of day, three for ten.”

But with so many albums, where would I start? Pop, folk, rock, country?  By accident or by design, by chance or by fate, The Little Heroes’ 1982 album Play By Numbers was jutting out on an angle from the back of one of the milk crates on the ground. I only knew one Little Heroes song, One Perfect Day, and I’d always liked it. (The song reached number 25 on the Australian charts.)

I can’t remember when and where I first heard it (maybe on Countdown) but I’ve always felt it was a gorgeous piece of pop, in which the singer tries to will a reunion with a former lover who is on the other side of the world.

One Perfect Day, I’ll get your telegram
And you’ll be calling me – who whoa
This Perfect Day I can’t stop thinking
Are you over there, are you happy there

The only version I had of the song was a restrained version by Bernadette Robinson, an internationally acclaimed Melbourne soprano who has also interpreted songs by Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, Leonard Cohen, Rufus Wainwright and Leonard Cohen.  Her Perfect Day (on a very good 1993 compilation album called Moon Over Melbourne) is stripped back and slowed down:  a pure voice, a piano and a bass, rather than the original pop band treatment, which included a touch of  1980s synthesiser.

Crouched there on the gravel of the St Andrews market, I turned the album cover over  to read the song listings and there was One Perfect Day – final track, side one. The song had been floating in and out of my head for 30 years and now here it was in my hands, on old-fashioned vinyl.

And tell me if it’s still raining there in England
And did the Government fall last night
And tell if it’s still raining there in England
Adventures so hard to come by
If you ever come back just drop by

One Perfect Day
One Perfect Day
One Perfect Day

I flicked through some more milk crates and plucked out Dedication by Gary US Bonds (for his version of Jackson Browne’s The Pretender) and a Linda Ronstadt Greatest Hits album.

Australian country music star Sara Storer recorded a version of One Perfect Day in 2010. The song’s writer and The Little Heroes’ lead singer, Roger Wells, told One Song at a Time:  “Sara’s strong Aussie accent took the song into her world and she made it her own.  I loved it.”

The Little Heroes called it a day in 1985, after three albums and the one hit single. Roger Wells later became a meditation trainer and author, with a keen interest also in travel, art and photography.  He writes songs from time to time.


Roger Wells speaks to Stereo Stories (via email),  August 2012

Missing, alienation and yearning seem to be at the heart of most of my songs, which is unfortunate, because it got a bit tedious for everyone else. Of course now, with the ability to look back and connect all the dots of my life, I understand – but back then, with various bands rolling their eyes as I reeled out yet another melancholy lament, I kind of wished I could write something different.

One Perfect Day came to me one night in 1979.  I was still getting over the death some months before, of a girlfriend, Christine, who I’d been very much in love with. And not having been present when she died, or seen her buried, her loss left a nagging feeling that I just couldn’t throw, that she was still alive somewhere – so I was having trouble moving on.

That particular night I was sitting on a couch watching the late night news on a little black and white TV – coverage of the British elections, and it seemed as if Thatcher might lose.

I’d received a letter that day from an old friend, Kerry, who was living in London working as a nurse, and I had been writing a reply, which was lying on the table.

On the couch beside me was a book I’d been reading, This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, a science-fiction novel about a false utopia.

So I’m sitting there noodling on my guitar, gazing blankly at the British election on the little black and white screen, thinking of Kerry, having just finished reading this book, and I began singing, and as often happens, the song just happened – very quickly.

The two short verses and chorus drew together all the elements I’ve mentioned and wrapped them around the core of Christine’s death . And I had yet another song of missing and yearning.

I recorded the song on an old cassette, then played it back.  It seemed oddly complete, though there wasn’t much to it. I thought maybe it needed more, because after all, two verses and a chorus isn’t much. But still, there was a strange symmetry to it that seemed to work.

I woke my girlfriend Carol and played the song to her.

'It’s a hit,' she said and went back to sleep.

And that’s the only song I ever wrote that she said that about.

From then on the song seemed blessed – Carol’s pronouncement was echoed by everyone who heard it – the band, the producer, Peter Dawkins, the head of EMI, who we were signed to.  In rehearsals and then the recording of it, everything came easily, as if the song was using all of us to realise itself – it was the strangest thing. It had a momentum all of its own.

And when it went out, everybody picked it up and ran with it, from audiences to radio.

Problem is, I, the writer, just cannot hear the magic of the song.  For sure, I can hear a nice song – but I can’t hear the magic.

Over a couple of wines a friend of mine even tried to point it out one night, saying “… it’s when your voice goes up, and the bass does this, and the chords change, and … fuck mate, it’s amazing … and the outro …”

And I thought I could see it, but then I couldn’t.

But it’s been like an angel to me, in the life I’ve led. Each time I’ve been broke, or stuck somewhere, it leans down from the sky and scatters a little money to help me out … and my life stumbles on.

So it is a magical song … I just wish I could hear that magic.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Investigating Baptist origins

I found this interesting article by Leon McBeth today. It is over 35 years old, but is worth reading.

I was looking for an article on origins of the Baptist Church and was pleased with what is said in this short piece.

This part is particularly helpful:

Baptists New and Old
The story of Baptist beginnings forms a paradox. On one hand, Baptists are deeply convinced that theirs is a Bible faith, rooted in the message of Jesus Christ and the apostles. To that extent, Baptists can be called a New Testament church.
On the other hand, the historical evidence clearly states that Baptists originated, as a distinct denomination, in the early seventeenth century. How does one harmonize the sense of continuity from Bible times with the factual reality of more recent beginnings?
Some have so emphasized the sense of continuity from Bible times that they find it difficult to face up to historical facts about Baptist origins. Some have even erected elaborate schemes, or "Trails of Blood," seeking to trace Baptists through all the centuries from Christ to the present. These theories are based upon assumptions, unreliable or nonexistent historical data, or faulty interpretation of Jesus’ promise that the gates of death should never prevail against his church. A Baptist today can have a real sense of identification with the teachings of Christ without trying to prove historical succession.
Other Baptists, however, may so emphasize the recent origin of Baptists that they lose the sense of continuity in faith and practice from Jesus himself. The earliest Baptists recovered and proclaimed anew the old faith that has come down the centuries from the Lord and his apostles. The Baptist denomination dates from the seventeenth century; the Baptist faith, we believe, dates from the first century.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why do bad things happen to us?

Why does God allow suffering?
I think there's a clue in one little word in John chapter 11: the story of the raising of Lazarus to life again.

When Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick, he says:
 "This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." (John 11:4 Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Then we read:
 Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. *So* when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after that, He said to the disciples, "Let's go to Judea again."  (verses 5-7)
Some translations don't have "so", but I think it makes sense of the story.  Because Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he wanted them to see for themselves that he is the Son of God, who brings the dead back to life. This could only happen if he waited till Lazarus was dead before he got to Bethany.
And when that happened, he was able to assure them with the magnificent words:
"I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.  Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die- (John 11:25-26 HCSB)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Making sense of the Matthew and Luke genealogies of Jesus

Ben Witherington has a good article on the quite different genealogies of Jesus, which is as good as anything I've read, so far.

Here are a few pertinent bits:

While there are a few similarities between the two (e.g. they both mention that Jesus is the ‘so-called’ son of Joseph), they are mostly different, and they serve very different purposes. Some Bible students along the way have tried to suggest that we have Mary’s genealogy in Luke, and Joseph’s in Matthew, but this solution simply doesn’t work, since Joseph and his ancestry is referred to in both cases...

Luke’s, is an ascending genealogy (tracing Jesus all the way back to Adam, and thence to God) and focuses on Jesus’ human ancestry in general. The other, Matthew’s, is a descending genealogy and is a strictly Jewish genealogy that wants to establish that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham and of Moses and of David, and thus is the Jewish messiah. Neither genealogy attempts to be complete, but rather they are selective and stylized. In royal genealogies in antiquity often the skeletons would be left in the closet, and sometimes whole generations would be left out of account.The genealogy was intended to be illustrative of the ancestry, not an exhaustive account thereof. Furthermore, in the case of Matthew’s genealogy, there is an attempt to suggest that Jesus is the perfect descendant of Abraham, noticing the references to three sets of 14 generations, with seven being the number of perfection...

Because Matthew is trying to shoe horn Mary and Jesus into Joseph’s genealogy (a reasonable thing to do since if Joseph adopted or accepted Mary’s child, by Jewish tradition she was entitled to Joseph’s genealogy in the bargain), because of the virginal conception,many scholars have suggested that the odd references to various notable or notorious women in this otherwise all male genealogy is meant to prepare for the irregularity of mentioning Mary, the mother of Jesus (and his only physical parent) who came by her child in an irregular way. So we have Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife (i.e. Bathsheba), and what all these women share in common with Mary is ‘irregular unions’. In other words, God can use all kinds of irregularities his wonders to perform, even to produce his messiah, the final anointed king. 



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

John Woodhouse on Scripture

Andrew Moody, citing John Woodhouse on Scripture ... I think:

The Classic Reformed claims about Scripture are less about the abstract properties of a book and more about the fact that God is a good God who provides for his children through the Bible.
1. Inerrancy - the whole of Scripture can be trusted and should be viewed as truth from God.
2. Clarity - God will lead us into truth through his Word, no matter how smart we are.
3. Sufficiency - We don't need to go elsewhere, Scripture is the table at which God will bring us the food we need.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Musings on the Bible's trustworthiness

If you are a clever person, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is a challenge—not because it
is irrational, but because it makes your cleverness less important. If you are a creative
person, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy might annoy you—not because the inerrant Bible
is dull, but because your creativity is less significant. If you are a proud person, the
doctrine of biblical inerrancy will certainly be a problem. This doctrine says that this book is
not subject to your evaluation, it does not need your ingenuity, it does not bow to your
superiority as a sophisticated 21st century intellectual. This ancient book is for you to hear,
understand, and believe. Humbly.
– John Woodhouse

Weiyi Lou's video is well made and makes me think.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Have you discovered Alec Motyer?

If you haven't encountered Alec Motyer, the first thing to learn is that his surname is pronounced muh TEER.

Mr Motyer is 90 and has just published a newly-written book called A Christian's Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament.

He has specialised in making the Old Testament accessible. The first book he wrote, with which I am familiar is his book The Day of the Lion, on the Old Testament prophet Amos.

He has also written commentaries on Philippians and James.

This Amazon link gives a list of his books which Amazon currently has available.

If you'd like to see and hear him, you can access several of his talks at this UK website.

He has contributed articles to The New Bible Dictionary (on Amos, for example) and was one of the Old Testament editors of the New Bible Commentary.

He is a great treasure, and I am so pleased he is still writing and "bearing fruit in his old age."

Why Women Are Leaving Evangelical Churches

I'm posting this so that I can find this article again, if I need to read it.

Josie McSkimming says that one reason women leave the church is that it teaches that sexual expression should be limited to heterosexual marriage.

But isn't that what all churches have always taught, at least until recently?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Did Jesus Exist?

This article cites Tacitus and Josephus as extrabiblical evidence for the existence of Jesus. The author sensibly views part of one statement by Josephus as having been added to by later Christian forgers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Then and Now

In 2008, Joan and I  went to the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre to hear Tatiana Kolesova, the second place winner in the Sydney International Piano Competition, perform a magnificent program of Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Haydn and Stravinsky.

One of her three encores intrigued us: Joan told me it was Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits, but this didn't satisfy me, because I was thinking of its opening and had forgotten its middle.

When we got home, I looked up the Dance of the Blessed Spirits and found Dominique and Valerie Kim, aged twelve and ten, playing it beautifully, and showing that the music we had heard was indeed the middle part of that work. (We later discovered that Ms Kolesova had performed Sgambati's Arrangement of a Melody from Orfeo.)

We then spent the next hour sampling some of the 68 videos Mr Kim of San Diego had put up of his talented daughters playing flute, violin and piano. There are a lot of child prodigies on Youtube, but not all of them play musically!

Joan and I kept going back to the site and listening to Valerie and Dominique's beautiful playing. 

Today Mr Kim sent out a link to part of Valerie's Juilliard recital. Wow!

Mr Kim's website has 5000 subscribers and has had 5 million views. Not because the girls wear revealing outfits or do fancy tricks, but because of their wonderful musicianship.

Here is 9 year old Valerie, playing part of the Bruch Violin Concerto.

And here she is, last week playing Kreisler's Tambourin Chinois

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Mark Durie's comments on the martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians

Mark Durie has written a  perceptive  2 part article about the recent kidnapping and beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.

Dr Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist and Anglican pastor.

In his well-researched article, Dr Durie says  I choose to honour [these Coptic Christians] today by writing to acknowledge the truth about why they were killed, and in particular the explanation given by their killers. 
I also wish to record, as a Christian and a pastor, my intense protest at theWhite House official statement of February 15 2015 concerning this event.  This makes no mention of the reason the twenty one were killed: their Christian faith.  This culpable denial dishonours them, as it dishonours me and Christians everywhere.  

The White House statement claimed that “ISIL’s barbarity knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect or ethnicity.”  Not true.  The Islamic State’s actions are constrained by its theology, and in this case its targets are also determined on religious grounds; they were Christians.  It is not an endorsement of the killers’ Islamic beliefs to acknowledge that these jihadis follow a form of Islam, and that their sect and faith does constrain their behaviour accordingly. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Amelia Schwarze on domestic violence and abuse within Christian marriage

Amelia Schwarze wrote a thoughtful article for The Bible Society's webpage entitled On Christian marriage, submission and abuse  In this article she carefully articulates a sensible definition of domestic violence and argues passionately for victims of domestic violence within the church.

She says that she expects that the rate of domestic violence within the church would be the same as for the general population. I hope this isn't true.

From reading  later Facebook comments she has made, I understand that Mrs Schwarze has personal acquaintance with some female victims of domestic violence.

The article makes me reflect on the small amount of contact I have had with people who seem to have been abused by their fellow church member.

I am pleased that she does not argue for abandoning the biblical teaching on husbands and wives as many do, but praises the efforts of Phillip Jensen in presenting this teaching in such a way that makes clear what isn't "acceptable conduct on the part of husbands in a Christian marriage."

When I was growing up, in the 1950s and 60s,  people used to whisper about families where others were being mistreated, but I got the impression that this was as far as it went. I'm pleased that people are learning to speak out and to address these issues today.

I also wish that folk would realise that there are also male victims of domestic abuse. Sometimes this is not even contemplated when these issues are raised, despite the clear evidence available.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In Praise of Slow Opinions

The trick to writing on the Internet and getting heard is making a very loud, very extreme argument. The Internet does not reward nuanced takes or people who wait a week and a half to think something through, and the Internet especially does not reward people who say, You know? I'm not sure I've figured out what I think on this yet.
At several of the most formative moments in my life, I encountered three philosophers whom I greatly admire. All three of them are Christians, as it happens; all three also are colleagues and friends of one another, and they all prompted a revolution in the field of academic philosophy, which I peer into every so often from my perch way out on the edges. Those men are Nicholas WolterstorffAlvin Plantinga, and Richard Mouw.
In three separate settings, on three separate occasions, I heard people ask these men questions in public settings—events they won't even recall, but that made a great impression on me. Each time, the questioner asked something relatively benign (so benign, I don't remember what the question even was). Each time, the eminent philosopher, a leader in his field, an authority and well on his way to being a sort of legend, responded the same way: “You know, I haven't thought that through yet. So I'm not sure what I think.”
I was knocked flat every time. And I've never heard it elsewhere.
This is from Alissa Wilkinson's article In Praise of Slow Opinions

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Michael Patton on The Apocrypha

This is a very good article on the value of the Apocrypha, and its subordinate place, compared with Holy Scripture.

The oldest song in the world

Here is an opportunity to read about, view and listen to the oldest known song in the world.

I do wonder if the rhythm is correct! Sounds too modern.

The oldest instrument in the world

Here is an opportunity to view, listen to and read about the oldest musical instrument so far discovered. It is believed to be a neanderthal flute.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Does God suffer?

Five years ago I wrote a post, commenting on Kevin DeYoung's article Tis Mystery All, the Immortal Dies: Why the Gospel of Christ’s Suffering is More Glorious Because God Does Not Suffer.

I thought he argued his case well, and was pretty convinced he was right. But Craig Bennett has upset the apple cart by linking to Donald Macleod's persuasive article The Crucified God.

I think Macleod and DeYoung would be in agreement on much of this, though I think we would end up with Macleod arguing against impassibility and DeYoung arguing for it.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A million monkeys?

Someone once said that if you sat a million monkeys at a million typewriters for a million years, one of them would eventually type out all of Hamlet by chance. But when we find the text of Hamlet, we don't wonder whether it came from chance and monkeys. Why then does the atheist use that incredibly improbable explanation for the universe? Clearly, because it is his only chance of remaining an atheist. At this point we need a psychological explanation of the atheist rather than a logical explanation of the universe. —Peter Kreeft

I read this at The Poached Egg

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Critique of Carson, Keller and Piper explaining Gospel Coalition position on women in ministry

I'm posting this link to a critique of Carson, Piper and Keller on The Gospel Coalition position on women in ministry so that I can find it again if need be. Not because I agree with it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Useful Trinitarian Links: 2. Fred Sanders

I want to read Fred Sanders' The Deep Things of God  But this article may at least be a taster.

Justin Taylor posted this link a few years back and I was pleased to discover it today.

In his article Think Bigger he says:

The Trinity is a biblical doctrine, but let’s admit it: There’s something annoying about how hard it is to put your finger on a verse that states the whole doctrine.
The Bible presents the elements of the doctrine in numerous passages, of course: that there is only one God; that the Father is God; that the Son is God; and that the Spirit is God. We can also tell easily enough that the Father, Son and Spirit are really distinct from one another, and are not just three names for one person. If you hold all those clear teachings of Scripture in your mind at one time and think through them together, the doctrine of the Trinity is inevitable. Trinitarianism is a biblical doctrine and all the ingredients are given to us there: Just add thought and you have the classic doctrine.

He goes on to say:

set aside for a moment the desire to fit the doctrine into one verse. Look instead at how it shows up in a slightly larger (three verses) passage, Galatians 4:4-6: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son … to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” Paul is describing God’s greatest acts in the history of salvation, and those acts are specifically Trinitarian: The Father sends the Son and the Spirit to save.
Or think even bigger: In a crucial passage of Romans, Paul summarizes his message in five verses, and there is a necessarily Trinitarian cadence to his summary: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. … We rejoice … because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:1–5).
Or try to take in 12 verses at once: Ephesians 1:3-14 is one gigantic sentence (in Greek) that surveys all of God’s plans and intentions from eternity past, through our present salvation, and on to final redemption. Three times it points us to the kind intention of God’s will, and three times it points us to the praise of his glory. The fundamental movement of the passage, though, is from the Father’s choosing and predestining us in love, through the beloved Son’s death for our forgiveness, to the Holy Spirit’s work sealing us for redemption.
Once you learn to see the Trinity shaping these larger stretches of Scripture, you’re ready to notice how entire books of the Bible are structured by the same Trinitarian logic. In Galatians, for example, Paul proves his gospel of faith against salvation by works in a three-part argument: The Galatians received the Spirit by faith, God promised Abraham that he would justify the Gentiles by faith, and Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. The great arc of Romans runs from the Father’s judgment through the Son’s propitiation to the Spirit’s deliverance.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the Trinity as the big story behind the Bible, the best thing to do is to read the Gospel of John fast, in one sitting. Your dominant impression during the first half will be that the Father and the Son love each other, and in the second half the Holy Spirit will burst into your attention as the fulfillment of the revelation.

The Trinity is a biblical doctrine, therefore, in a very special sense: not in any one verse, but as the key to the entire book.

Great stuff!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Useful Trinitarian Links: 1. Tom Schreiner

The Bible is inescapably trinitarian. As Augustine of Hippo said, so long ago, in On Christian Doctrine, Book I, Chapter 5:

The true objects of enjoyment, then, are the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are at the same time the Trinity, one Being, supreme above all, and common to all who enjoy Him, if He is an object, and not rather the cause of all objects, or indeed even if He is the cause of all. For it is not easy to find a name that will suitably express so great excellence, unless it is better to speak in this way: The Trinity, one God, of whom are all things, through whom are all things, in whom are all things. Thus the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and each of these by Himself, is God, and at the same time they are all one God; and each of them by Himself is a complete substance, and yet they are all one substance. The Father is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is not the Father nor the Son: but the Father is only Father, the Son is only Son, and the Holy Spirit is only Holy Spirit. To all three belong the same eternity, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power. In the Father is unity, in the Son equality, in the Holy Spirit the harmony of unity and equality; and these three attributes are all one because of the Father, all equal because of the Son, and all harmonious because of the Holy Spirit.
Augustine of Hippo. (1887). On Christian Doctrine. In P. Schaff (Ed.), J. F. Shaw (Trans.), St. Augustin’s City of God and Christian Doctrine (Vol. 2, p. 524). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

 These things are so clearly taught in so many places in Scripture.

Today, I was interested to read Tom Schreiner's interesting observations on whether Genesis 1:26 (Let us make man) refers to the trinity.

He argues that (1) it is doubtful that the author of Genesis was specifically thinking about the Trinity when he used this expression, (2) it is doubtful that the earliest Israelites read it this way, but (3) it should still be understood as a reference to the Trinity when it is read as part of the whole canon of Scripture.

Justin Taylor quotes Schreiner's words in his The King in his Beauty (which is a biblical theology of the Old and New Testaments).

Recent developments in hermeneutics, however, have rightly corrected an overemphasis on authorial intent. Interpreters of sacred Scripture must also consider the canonical shape of the Scriptures as whole, which is to say that we must also take into account the divine author of Scripture. Nor does appeal to a divine author open the door to arbitrariness or subjectivity, for the meaning of the divine author is communicated through the words and canon of Scripture. It is not the product of human creativity but is textually located and circumscribed.
A canonical approach supports a trinitarian reading, which is suggested by the actual words of the text and confirmed by the entire canon. The Spirit’s role in creation is signified by his “hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). Psalm 33:6 . . . probably alludes to the work of the Spirit, for the word “breath” is the word used for “Spirit” (rûaḥ), and hence here the writer attributes the creation of the world to the Spirit.
In light of the NT revelation on the divinity of the Spirit, it is warranted to see the Spirit as creator. The Son’s role as creator is even clearer from a canonical perspective. John’s Gospel commences, “In the beginning” (John 1:1), an unmistakable allusion to Gen. 1:1. Another allusion to Genesis immediately surfaces, for John 1:3 speaks of the role of the “Word” in the beginning, claiming that “all things were made” by the one who is the “Word.” Hence, the “Word” that spoke creation into existence (Gen. 1:3691114202426) is identified as the Son of God—Jesus the Christ (John 1:14).
Hence, from a canonical perspective, the “let us” in Gen. 1:26 should be understood as a reference to the Trinity.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Comment on Intelligent Design

Interesting article, commenting on Intelligent Design.

I like the observation that Christians who aren't science professionals criticised the science, whereas the scientists criticised the philosophical and theological aspects.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

What will Heaven be like?

This stimulating article by Peter Kreeft may only be available to Christianity Today subscribers.
In this brief chapter I would like to attempt the impossible: to answer the 35 most frequently asked questions about Heaven. Obviously, it would take more than an article, more than a lifetime, and more than human wisdom to answer any one of these questions adequately. But "fools rush in where angels fear to tread."
More seriously, sometimes a taste can whet the appetite for more complete consumption later on, and perhaps these samples will at least suggest ways to think about the subject.
1. How do we know anything about Heaven, anyway?
If we had no "inside information," we could only speculate. Fortunately, we have some solid data to build on: divine revelation. I think God wants us to use our reason and also our imagination (for why should we neglect any God-given faculty) to explore the treasure of tantalizing hints in Scripture. To be indifferent to it is to be like the unprofitable servant who hid his master's talent in the ground.
In having this data, we are in a position very different from that of the unbeliever (or rather, the difference lies in our believing the data, for the whole human race has it; it is public). We are like the sighted compared to the blind, who can only speculate about things visible. We can do more than speculate about things invisible.
"What do you know about Heaven, anyway? Have you ever been there?" We can answer this challenge: "No, but I have a very good Friend who has. He came here and told us about it and showed it to us. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
2. Why won't we be bored in Heaven?
I suspect this question subconsciously bothers most of us more than we like to admit. I can remember having something of a crisis of faith as a child: I thought I didn't want to go to Heaven since the popular pictures of it seemed pretty boring to me.
Freud, who occasionally comes up with nuggets of wisdom sandwiched between mountains of nonsense, says that everyone needs two things to make life worth living: love and work. The two are really one, for love is a work and work is a love. Love is a work, for it is something you do, not something you just feel or fall into. And work must be a love, for if not, it is threatening and boring. What love-work will we do in Heaven, then?
We will complete the very love-works we are meant to do on Earth. There are only six things that never get boring on Earth, six things that never come to an end: knowing and loving yourself, your neighbor, and God. Since persons are subjects and not objects, they are not exhaustible; they are like magic cows that give fresh milk forever.
The two great commandments that are our job description for life, in both this world and the next, express this plan: We must love God wholly and we must love our neighbor as ourself. And in order to love we must know, get to know, as endlessly as we love endlessly. This never gets boring, even on Earth: getting to know and love more and more someone we already know and love. It is our clue and our preparation for our eternal destiny of infinite fascination.
3. Will we recognize our loved ones in Heaven?
George Macdonald answers this question with a counterquestion: "Will we be greater fools there than here?" Of course we will know our loved ones. This is a divinely designed, essential part of our joy. We are not designed to be solitary mystics, lovers of God alone, but to be, like God himself, lovers of men and women as well.
Just as Jesus on Earth loved each person differently and specially—he did not love John as he loved Peter, because John was not Peter—so we are designed to love people specially. There is no reason why this specialness should be removed, rather than added to, in eternity. Our family and special friends will always be our family and special friends. In this life a child begins to learn to love by loving mother, then father, then siblings, then pets. The concentric circles of love are then gradually expanded, but the beginning lessons are never abandoned. There is no reason to think God rips up this plan after death.
4. How can I be happy in Heaven if someone I loved deeply on Earth doesn't make it to Heaven?
This brings up all sorts of other questions about emotions, relationships, and suffering in Heaven. These will be dealt with shortly, but the simplest and most important answer to this question for now is this: If there is someone you love and identify with so deeply that you cannot imagine being happy in eternity without him or her, and that someone seems now to be in peril of being unsaved, then use the relationship that God's providence has ordained for you.
Tell God that he has to arrange for this person's salvation as he has arranged for yours, because this person is a real part of you, and for you as a whole to be saved, this person has to come along, just as your own body and emotions have to come along. It need not be a "wheedling" or "blackmail" prayer; it can be a simple presentation of the facts, like Mary's "They have no more wine." Let God do his thing: it is always more loving, more gracious, and more effective than our thing, more than we can ever imagine or desire.
Trust him to use your earthly love as a channel, supernatural and/or natural, of grace and salvation for your friend. Your very question, your very problem, is the clue to its answer. God put that burden on your heart for a reason: for you to fulfill.
5. Can suicides be saved?
Simply, yes. Most people who commit suicide are not in full control of their reason and thus are not fully responsible. Suicide is a dreadful mistake, of course, and a terrible sin. But only unrepented sin locks Heaven's door, and sometimes sins are repented of at the same time they are committed, or immediately afterward. The deeper part of a suicide's soul and will may believe and hope in and love God even while the surface part drives him to despair. Or repentance may come in an instant between the act and its result, death, or even at the moment of death. We do not know. Only God sees and judges hearts, not just acts, and God will use every possible means to save us. Perhaps many of those means are unknown and unsuspected by us. No one dare limit the mercy, the cleverness, or the power of God.
But our very uncertainty should send us running from this horribly dangerous sin in holy terror. Those who commit suicide do not automatically ensure their damnation, but they certainly risk their salvation.
6. Will we have emotions in Heaven?
This question prompts a series of questions of the form: Will we have the following earthly thing in Heaven? I believe the answer to all such questions is this: Yes, but not in the present form. Nothing is simply continued, and nothing is simply lost forever; everything is transformed, as it is at birth.
We can know very little about this transformation, of course, and our answers must be largely disciplined guesswork. But I strongly suspect that we will have emotions in Heaven, for they are part of God's design for our humanity, and not only a result of the Fall. But our emotions will not drive us or control us. They will be no less passionate, but they will be less passive. Thomas Aquinas opines that sexual enjoyment was greater, not less, before the Fall (since sin always harms, never helps, every good thing), and Augustine opines that in Heaven the joy that we receive from God in our souls will "overflow" into our resurrection bodies in a "voluptuous torrent" of pleasure.
7. 1f we have emotions in Heaven, why won't we be sad about those we loved who are in hell?
We know there is no sadness in Heaven: God "will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Rev. 7:17). I think we will not be sad about the damned for the same reason God is not. According to the Sermon on the Mount, he will say to them, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:23). God will wipe our memories clean. This is not falsehood or ignorance, but truth, for in a sense, the damned no longer are—that is, they no longer are in the most real place of all, Heaven. They no longer count. They are like ashes, not like wood. They once were fully human, fully alive, real men and women. But hell is a place not of eternal life but of eternal death. We do not love or weep over ashes; we only love or weep over the thing that existed before it was burnt. In Heaven, however, we will not live in the past—we will have no regrets; nor will we live in the future—we will have no fears; but like God, we will live in the eternal present. Our heavenly emotions will be appropriate to present reality, not past reality.
8. Does this mean hell is unreal?
Certainly not. Jesus is very clear about the reality of hell. But he is also clear that it is death, not life, for the soul. In Greek philosophy, souls cannot die. In Christianity, they can—in hell. Is this annihilation? No, it is death. Annihilation is the opposite of creation; death is the opposite of life.
9. What happens in hell?
10. What happens in Heaven?
11. Can the blessed in Heaven see us now?
Let me put it this way: Is there any compelling reason why they shouldn't? Would their perfection be threatened thereby? Can Heaven be Heaven only by being quarantined and having the blinds drawn? It is reasonable to interpret the "cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12:1 not only as witnesses to their faith during their own lifetimes but as witnesses to us, now; not just as the dead "witness to" the living by our memory of them but as the living witness the living by their living consciousness.
Is there anything wrong with your love of your family? Will there be anything wrong with it in Heaven? Will there be anything wrong with your desire to see how they fare on Earth? I see no compelling reason to answer no.
12. Will we know everything in Heaven?
I think not. Only God is omniscient. We will never stop learning, but we will never come to the end, either. Only God can endure knowing everything without being bored.
13. Will we all be equal in Heaven?
We will be as we are now: equal in worth and dignity, equal in being loved by God. But will we be equal in the sense of the same? God forbid! One of the chief pleasures of this life, as of the next, is the mutual sharing of different excellences, the pleasure of looking up to someone who is better than we are at something and learning from him or her. The resentment expressed in saying, "I'm just as good as you are" is hellish, not heavenly. (By the way, that is one sentence that always means the opposite of what it says. No one who says it believes it.)
14. Do differences include sexual differences? Is there sex in Heaven?
Of course. Sex is part of our divinely designed humanity. It is transformed, not removed, in Heaven. We will be "like the angels" in "neither marrying nor being given in marriage," according to Christ's answer to the Sadducees (Matt. 22:30), but not in being neutered. Sex is first of all something we are, not something we do. I do not think we will be "doing" copulation in Heaven, but we will be busy being ourselves, and that includes being men and women, not genderless geldings. Vive la difference!
15. What kind of bodies will we have in Heaven?
Gnostics of all kinds (Platonists, Buddhists, Hindus, Spiritualists, Manichaeans) say we will become pure spirits, angels, for they do not know the dogma of Creation. Pagans and Muslims say we will have earthly bodies and harems or happy hunting grounds.
Christians say we will have transformed bodies, but real, physical bodies, as Christ had after his resurrection. His body could be touched and could eat. Yet it could come and go as he pleased, with neither walls nor distance as an obstacle. It was the same body he had before he died, and it was recognized as such by his friends. Yet it was so different that at first they did not recognize him. I think our new resurrection body will be related to the body we have now in the same way that our current body is related to the body we had in our mothers' wombs. If a fetus saw a picture of itself at the age of twenty, it would at first not recognize itself, so unforeseen and surprisingly new would it be. Yet it is the same self, even the same body, now grown radically more mature.
16. What of injuries and deformities? Will they all be removed in the resurrection body?
I think not. Christ still had his wounds. But they were badges of glory, not suffering and sadness. I think everything—in the body, in the soul, and in the person's world—that was offered to God and taken up into the eternal kingdom will be preserved and transformed and glorified in Heaven: but everything that was not—everything that was not the work of God or of the sanctified soul but was of the world, the flesh, or the devil—will be left outside Heaven's gate. The martyrs' wounds will glow like gold, but the amputee's limb will be restored, and so will the brain-damaged person's intelligence. God's justice and mercy are perfect, and so is his style.
17. Will there be nature in Heaven?
Scripture tells us there will be "a new heaven [that is, sky] and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1). If we have a new body, we need a new Earth: bodies are not for drifting in empty space. And if a world, why a dead world, like the moon, rather than a world brimming with life, like this Earth? I think we will have a much more intimate relationship with nature than we do now, not less. I think the images of the nature mystics and pantheist poets are almost right, but as prophecy: In the heavenly future we will get inside the secret of life that we now stare at as outsiders.
C. S. Lewis suggests, in his great sermon "The Weight of Glory," that the reason we have peopled the Earth with gods and goddesses is so that these projections of ours can do what we long to do but cannot do, or at least cannot do yet: touch the inner secret of the beauty we see in nature. "But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we will get in."
18. Will we be able to perform magic and miracles?
I think so. Powers that are now largely denied us, for our own safety, will be restored to us when we have learned to use them well. When our souls follow the will of God like orchestra players follow the baton of their conductor, then we will play in harmony. But just imagine what havoc God would allow if he gave us preternatural powers over nature in our fallen condition!
19. Will there be animals in Heaven? Will my dead cat be there?
The simplest answer I know to this question, so frequently asked by children, is: Why not? Children's questions are usually the best ones, and we should beware treating them with any less seriousness than their askers have in asking them. Right now, pets, like everything else in this world, can mediate God's love and goodness to us and train us for our union with him, or they can distract us from him. In Heaven, everything mediates and nothing distracts.
20. Will we eat in Heaven?
We will have bodies, so we will be able to eat, as Christ did after the resurrection. But I think we will not have to eat. The resurrection body will live off the soul and the soul off God. As we are now, our bodies are dependent on what is less than they are, subsidies from nature; and our souls are dependent on what is less than they are, our bodies (if our brains are damaged, we cannot think well). This situation of being hostage to our inferiors must be reversed. Perhaps the matter of which the resurrection body will be composed will not have separate atoms and molecules (and so will be indestructible). Perhaps our bodies will not have separate organs and systems, but the body as a whole, or the whole soul in the whole body, will perform all of its operations. But of course this is pure speculation.
21. Will our bodies be clothed in Heaven?
Those who claim to have caught some glimpse of people in Heaven, whether in a vision or in a near—death experience, usually say that the people in Heaven are clothed, but differently than we are. The clothing is not artificial and concealing, but natural and revealing. Clothing came after the Fall, to conceal what was shameful only because it was fallen. Once redemption is complete and the Fall wholly reversed, nothing is shameful. Clothes will then be a pure glory, not half glory and half shame, as they now are. Perhaps they will seem to grow out of the resurrection body itself rather than be put on from outside.
The issue is more important than it seems, because clothing symbolizes the whole world and our relationship with our world. We take parts of our world unto ourselves as clothes and make them intimate parts of our lives. In Heaven we will clothe ourselves with the new heavens and the new earth, like the "woman clothed with the sun" in Revelation 12:1.
22. Will there be music in Heaven?
Indeed. Even now, great music seems like an echo from Eden, a souvenir, a memory from Paradise—something not merely pleasant but profoundly meaningful in an ungraspable, unformulatable way, a high and holy mystery. Once again I refer (only as a clue) to numerous visionaries who have said they heard music in Heaven, but of such a different quality from earthly music that it was incomparable—like comparing a toddler's banging on a toy xylophone with a symphony orchestra.
Music, according to widespread tradition, was the first language, the language God spoke to create the universe. I strongly suspect there is more to this than we think. We usually think of music as ornamented poetry and of poetry as ornamented prose. But God is not prosaic. I think prose is fallen poetry and poetry fallen music. In the beginning was the "music of the spheres," and so it will be in the end.
23. Will Heaven be big?
Yes, but with a different kind of bigness. Now, space contains us, confines us, defines us. But we can transform space into place by humanizing it, spiritualizing it. A house becomes a home, a space becomes a place, by our living in it. Heaven will be both as intimate and as unconfining as our spirits want.
No one will think it too small or too large. In a sense, it will be in us rather than we in it—not in the sense that it will be subjective, but in the sense in which stage settings and props are in a play, or part of a play, rather than the play being in or part of the setting.
24. Is Heaven in this universe?
No. If it were, you could get there by rocket ship. It is another dimension, not another world. Yet, in a sense, it is continuous with this world, somewhat as this one is continuous with the world of the womb. From the viewpoint of an unborn child, this world is distant and outside the womb; but from the viewpoint of a born person, the womb is in the world, and the unborn child is already in the world—the child just doesn't see this until after birth.
I suspect that from the viewpoint of Heaven we will truly say that Earth was part of Heaven, Heaven's womb. But you cannot get there by rocket, only by faith and death, just as the fetus cannot get into the world outside the womb except by birth.
25. Will there be time in Heaven?
Eternity does not mean simply endless time; that would be boring. Nor does it mean something strictly timeless; that would be inhuman. Time is part of our consciousness, and God does not tear up his plan for us; rather, he fulfills and transforms it.
I think eternity will include all time, as the dying see their whole life pass before them in perfect temporal order, not confusion, yet instantaneously—somewhat as you can do now when you call to mind a story you have read and know well. When you say "David Copperfield," you mean all the Davids, in order, but you see them all at once, from the young David to the old David, because, having finished the story, you are outside it.
You are "after death" regarding David. One day you will be "after death" regarding yourself. Time now confines us. There is never enough of it. I think heavenly time will be like heavenly space: fully humanized and subject to the soul. Even now there are two kinds of time, as there are two kinds of space (space and place): chronos, or chronological time, material time, and kairos, or lived time, human time, time for some purpose measured by mind and will. Now, kairos iscontained and constrained by chronos; there is seldom enough time to do justice to anything. In heaven this inside-out situation will be reversed, and chronological time will be contained and mastered by kairos, somewhat as even now playwrights and novelists master the time in their stories.
Our dissatisfaction with time, by the way, is a powerful piece of evidence that we are made for eternity. There is nothing more natural and all-pervasive in this world than time. Not only our bodies but our souls as well are immersed in time. Yet we complain about it. C. S. Lewis asks, "Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact not strongly suggest that they had not been, or were not destined always to be, aquatic creatures?" We long to step out of the sea of time onto the land of eternity, even though we do not really understand what eternity is!
26. What age will we be in Heaven?
Medieval philosophers usually thought we would all be 33, the ideal age, the age of maturity, as of Christ's earthly maturity. I take it this is symbolically accurate: we will all be fully mature. Infants who die prematurely will be given, by God (perhaps through the mediation of their own parents!), all the maturing they missed on Earth.
Geneticists say that the aging process is not inevitable; that a live organism could theoretically be immortal, never age, never die. Cancer cells do not die unless they are killed or their host dies. The aging and dying process began at a certain time in our history, after the Fall. God did not make death, but he unmakes it. In Heaven no one will be old. Yet in a sense everyone will be both old and young, as a reflection of the God who is the Alpha and Omega, oldest and youngest, "beauty ancient yet ever new." Even now we sometimes see the wisdom of old age in the musing face of a baby or the eternal freshness of youth in the twinkling eyes of the very old. These are hints of Heaven.
27. What language will we speak in Heaven?
My ancestors stoutly maintained that it would be Dutch, of course. A rabbi I know has told me it will be Hebrew; every baby, he said, still remembers the language that will be restored in Heaven, the language of Eden, as evidenced by the fact that a child's first word is often abba ("Father" or "Daddy" in Hebrew).
It will be none of the languages that now divide us, which began at Babel. Babel and its babble will be reversed. This was foreshadowed at Pentecost, where distinctive languages were preserved, not muddled, yet each person understood everyone else. Perhaps there will be as many languages as there are individuals, and yet at the same time only one. What is sure is that there will be no misunderstanding. Language, like clothing, now both reveals and conceals, unveils and veils meaning. In Heaven, language, like clothing, will only reveal.
28. Will there be privacy in Heaven?
I think not. No one will want to hold anything back, for no one will be ashamed or afraid of being misunderstood or unloved. Privacy is like clothes and like laws: necessary only because we are fallen. When sin is gone, all hiding will be gone.
Certainly there will be no private property, no "this is mine, not yours." Communism, like nudism and anarchism, dimly sees something heavenly, but by insisting on enacting it now, by human force, it turns the heavenly into the hellish, as when adult powers are given to infants.
29. Will we be free in Heaven? 1f so, will we be free to sin? 1 f so, won't anyone ever exercise that freedom?
"Freedom to sin" is a contradiction in terms, like "freedom to be enslaved." Free choice is only the means to true freedom, "the freedom of the sons of God," liberty.
In heaven we will not sin because we will not want to. We will freely choose never to sin, just as now great mathematicians do not make elementary mistakes, though they have the power to do so. In Heaven we will see the attractiveness of goodness and of God so clearly, and the ugliness and stupidity of sin so clearly, that there will be no possible motive to sin.
Now, we are enslaved by ignorance. Every sin comes from ignorance, for we sin only because we see sin as somehow attractive, which it is not, and goodness as somehow lacking in attraction. This is an ignorance that we are responsible for, but it is ignorance, and without that ignorance we would not sin. In Heaven, in the "beatific vision" of God, overwhelmed and filled with the total joy of goodness, baptized with goodness as a sunken ship is filled with water, no one could possibly ever want to turn from this perceived glory. Now, "we walk by faith, not by sight"(2 Cor. 5:7). Heavenly sight will not remove our freedom. Ask the blind whether sight would remove their freedom.
30. Isn't concern about Heaven escapist?
I answer the question with another question, from C. S. Lewis: Who talks the most against "escapism"? Jailers. Is it escapist for a baby to wonder about life outside the womb? Is it escapist for someone on a long ocean voyage to wonder about landfall? Is it escapist for the seed to dream of the flower? It is escapist if, and only if, Heaven is a lie. Those who call Heaven "escapism" are presupposing atheism.
31. But doesn't concern for Heaven detract from concern for Earth?
No, just the opposite. Does a pregnant woman's concern for her baby's future detract from concern for her baby's present? If she believes her baby will be born dead, she will cease to take care of it, and if we believe that this life ends with a cosmic abortion, we will cease to take much care of it. But if we believe that this life is the preparation for eternity, then everything makes an eternal difference.
The early roads that led to California were well cared for; the ones that led nowhere were abandoned. If Earth is the road to Heaven, we will care for it. If it leads nowhere, we will not. Historically, it is those who have believed most strongly in Heaven who have made the greatest difference to Earth, beginning with Christ himself.
32. How intimate is the connection between Heaven and Earth? Does Heaven begin now?
The joy of Heaven does, because Christ is our joy, who tells us "I am with you always, even to the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20, Phillips). We do not now fully appreciate that joy, but it is here, because the very life of Heaven, the very life that flows from the Vine into the branches, is here. If it is not here in us now, it will not be there in us then.
If Heaven is not in us now, we will not be in Heaven forever. For Heaven is where God is. God determines where Heaven is; Heaven does not determine where God is. God contains Heaven; Heaven does not contain God. If God is in our souls now by faith, then the very life of Heaven is here in us now, in seed form. That is what Jesus came to preach about and to give, the focus of all his sermons: "the kingdom of Heaven." It is the "pearl of great price," the thing for which the whole world is far too small a price to pay. And it is free.
33. How do you get to Heaven?
This is the most important question anyone can ask. The answer has already been given: It is free. "Let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price" (Rev. 22:17). Faith is the act of taking.
It sounds crazy, too good to be true. But it makes perfect sense. For God is love. Love gives gifts, gives itself. God gives himself, his own life, membership in his family. We are made "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). For God is pure love, and pure love has no admixture of stinginess in it.
34. Is Jesus the only way? (Or can good pagans, Hindus, et cetera get to Heaven too?)
The first part of the question is clear, and the answer is clear: Unless Jesus is the victim of grandiose self-delusion or deliberate, blasphemous lying, he is the only way, for he says exactly that (John 14:6). But the second part of the question is not clear. People who have never heard of Christ, and thus have neither consciously accepted him nor consciously rejected him, must also get to Heaven through Christ, for there is no other way. That much is clear from Christ's own words. But it is not clear what is going on in the unconscious depths of the souls of such people. Only God knows. Perhaps they know and love him in the obscure form of a deep, unconscious desire and love.
The game of heavenly population statistics is one that Christ discouraged his disciples from playing. When they asked him, "Are many saved?" he answered neither yes nor no but said, "Strive to enter in" (Luke 13:24). In other words, mind your own business, your own salvation, rather than speculating about others and statistics. God has not told us the answer to this question, for his own good reasons, just as he has not told us when the world will end, another question about which we love to speculate. I think that in both cases we can see the wisdom of not telling us. If we knew when the world would end, we would not be ready at all times for the thief who comes in the night, unexpectedly. If we knew that most were not saved, we would tend to despair; if we knew that most were saved, we would tend to presumption.
What we do know is that Christ the Savior is not only a 33-year-old, 6-foot-high Jewish man, but also the eternal God, the Logos that enlightens every individual (John 1:9). Thus everyone has a fair chance to accept him or reject him, whether implicitly (for all light of truth and goodness is from him) or explicitly. We are not saved by how explicit our knowledge is; we are saved by him. Faith is the glue that holds him fast (or, more accurately, the glue by which he holds us fast, for faith is also his gift).
This is a traditional, mainline Christian position, from the time of Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria to the time of C. S. Lewis. It is halfway between the liberal view that one can be saved in other ways than Christ (for example, by good intentions) and the frequent fundamentalist view that it takes an explicit knowledge of Christ to be saved.
The middle view does not detract from the infinite seriousness of missionary work, as the liberal view does. For if we do not know how many children will fall through a hole in the ice and drown, we feel just as much urgency in shouting warnings (and in putting our words into action) as we would if we knew exactly who would die and who would not.
35. How do you think all these questions and answers will look to you in Heaven?
I think they will look very much like Michelangelo's first lump of clay—worked on at the age of two—looked to him after he had sculpted the Pietd. I think we will see these childish babblings about "what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived" (1 Cor.1:9) as we will see everything else in our present lives: suffused with the light and love of God. And so we will cherish these childish toys, even as we laugh at them. Seeing and loving God in all good things, including our own, is what we were made for, and what we will be doing forever without boredom. We had better get some practice now.
In the light of Heaven, everything we do and everything we experience takes on two new meanings. On the one hand, everything becomes infinitely more important, more serious, more weighted with glory than before. If we are practicing only for a casual pastime, our practice is not terribly important, but if we are practicing for the world championship, it is.
On the other hand, Heaven makes everything earthly seem light and trivial by comparison. Saint Theresa says that the most horrible, suffering-filled life on Earth, looked at from Heaven, will seem no more than a night in an inconvenient hotel. Saints and martyrs know the value of this life and this world; they love it because God loves it. But they lightly give it all up for Heaven. Heavenly light gives us not only "an eternal weight of glory," but at the same time a lightsome spirit, as in the Cavalier poet:
Man, please Thy maker and be merry,

And for this world give not a cherry.
This article was published in the Christianity Today book, Tough Questions Christians Ask. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and the author of more than 40 books.