All posts by RL

From “The Pattern of Christian Truth”

MC ’14

One of the classes I took in the past semester was Hist 226, “Jesus to Muhammad: Ancient Christianity to the Rise of Islam.” Taught by Prof. Stephen Davis, the class presents an historical overview of the development of the Church in her first seven centuries. It was fascinating and informative to say the least. I heartily recommend it to everyone (Christians and non-Christians) who finds church history remotely interesting.

Now, brown-nosing to the professor aside, when I was preparing for its final exam a few days ago, I read an article online that I would like to share with you. It is “The Pattern of Christian Truth” by Timothy George, who discusses Church’s responses to Marcion, Arian and the Pelagian heresies. Here is a brief excerpt:

As Christians who accept the Church’s regula fidei and who stand Sunday after Sunday to recite the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, we are not free to view the Bible as though we had it at our disposal, as though we ourselves were not claimed by its story, as though we had already mastered this ancient document and could now move on to other bodies of knowledge without the discernment we have learned from Scripture. When Calvin began his Institutes with the sentence, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves,” he didn’t mean that we should first earn a Ph.D. in systematic theology, and then, with the knowledge of God safely under our belt, switch disciplines and go on to earn a second Ph.D. in, say, psychology. The duplex cognitio Calvin refers to is not sequential but correlative: we cannot know ourselves without knowing that we are at once finite and fallen creatures of God. Nor can we know God without knowing ourselves as persons made in His image, as objects of His judgment and love.

This is not to say, of course, that we cannot learn a great deal about the world of nature and history and science and politics and art quite apart from the story of God and His creatures as it is told in the Bible and confessed in the creeds of the Christian faith. Of course, we can and we must. But as believing scholars committed to the pattern of Christian truth, we must never forget that the usefulness of such abstract knowledge is limited. By itself, abstraction will always lead us away from what is truly real. Divorced from the biblical narrative, a purely abstract knowledge becomes not only self-referential but also self-defeating, fatuous, and sterile. It, too, will curve back in on itself.

As the noted theologian Robert Jenson once put it: “Scripture’s story is not part of some larger narrative; it is itself the larger narrative of which all other true narratives are parts. And so do not when reading Scripture try to figure out how what you are reading fits into some larger story; for there is no larger story.” This is true whether we are talking about biology, political science, or aesthetics. Disconnected from the biblical story, such disciplines can tell us how things work but not what they are for; how to clone a human baby but not whether this should be done; how to construct an atomic bomb but not whether it should be used; how to build a maximum security prison but not how to treat the prisoners. Without some teleology, there is no flourishing and no future for the human community.

I hope it’s enough to pique your interest to read the article in its entirety.

Definition of the Gospel, an Exercise of Brevity

MC ’14
Executive Director, Logos

The Bible course at YFA (Yale Faith and Action) is on the Epistle to Romans this semester. As homework, the students were told to prepare a one-minute long explanation on the Gospel according to what Paul presented in Romans. Here is something I wrote, which I shall copy verbatim shamelessly.

The Gospel of is the good news of the salvation of Faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, through Whom God has justly punished our sin and offered the free gift of righteousness to those with faith in Him.

Through our willful disobedience to God, men fell away from God for distorting our relationships with God and with the Creation: for we were made in God’s image to serve God and rule over the Creation; instead, we chose to serve the creation and try to rule over God. Therefore, humanity reaps the natural and rightful consequences of its own rebellion—a world filled with unrighteousness. As members of this corrupted world, all of us have sinned and are counted as unrighteous before God.

But the righteousness of God is manifested through Jesus Christ, who, being God the Son, took on flesh and became a man. Though He obeyed God and was perfect, He was crucified on a cross for the sins of humanity (dying in our place) and was resurrected on the third day (bringing life out of death). Therefore, only through Faith in Christ, we are counted as righteous before God. Those who stand in Christ are alive to God and dead to sin. Therefore, we are to no longer continue in sin, because it has no power over us, but we are to become servants of God. Further, Holy Spirit is sent to those who belong to Christ to lead us so we may become sons of God and be glorified with God.

This is the Gospel of the reconciliation and the restoration of the rightful relationship between God and men. All these come about, not through the work of men, but through the merits of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Given that I am a layman, if anything I have written can be construed as erroneous, it is not my intention, and please disregard it.

Some Thoughts after Nine Lessons and Carols, with Apology for Rambling

MC ’14
Executive Director, Logos

I don’t always visit Battell Chapel, but when I did, I was almost overcome with emotions at the Nine Lessons and Carols Service. This service, originally conceived at the King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, has been (at least during my three year at Yale) a regularity attended by many students and University faculties. If you have never been to this service before, I strongly implore you to do so next year, or watch the Cambridge live broadcast on BBC.

The lessons tracing mankind’s salvific history from the Fall to the Patriarchs to the Prophets to Christ were well structured. I was particularly moved by the reading of John 1 in the darkened chapel lit only by candles, and the singing of O, Come All Ye Faithful.

Sitting in the pew and pondering on the mystery of Incarnation, the verse “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient o the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8) came to mind. Unlike other religions’ solution to evil, Christianity’s solution is that God took the initiative. Out of love, God came down to the earth and became one of us. This thought was deeply humbling, for what have I done to deserve this? For our sake, God is with us in this world of darkness, conceit, and despair. Yet our response to Christ has often been disobedience and nonchalance. Though God is merciful and gracious, we cannot presume upon God’s mercy and grace to use our heart as a factory of idols instead of offering our heart to God. God is patient, because He wants us to give us time to repent so that none would perish until the revealing of God’s righteous judgment (cf. Rom. 2:4-5, I Pet. 3:9-10).

Rev. Ian Oliver prayed that God would “come to even the lowest of all places, maybe even into our hearts.” I pray that God will come into our hearts, so that we may cast away the works of darkness, but put on the armor of light, so we may be prepared for the day of Christ’s return.

Treasure Hidden in a Field

MC ’14
Executive Director, Logos

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buy that field.” –Matthew 13:44, ESV

Parable of the Hidden Treasure by Rembrandt

In this perhaps the shortest parable in the entire Gospel, we see a man who sells his entire possession to buy a field with the hidden treasure. It seems odd at first, for why would he sell everything? I ask this question, in part because I have struggled through many reading comprehension exams, but pause and imagine that you are walking through a field and discover a trove with gold, diamonds, gems and 500,000 shares of Apple stock. You are shocked. You want to claim the treasure, but your conscience tells you not to steal, for it is on another man’s property. If we truly “believe” or “have faith” in this situation, then it is natural that we would sell all that we have to buy the field with the hidden treasure, which is worth infinitely more than anything we have.

The kingdom of heaven is like such. When people hear the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God and believe, they do not merely affirm the Truth, but they have faith in it; they take up their cross and follow Christ. Faith is more than a simple intellectual acquiesce. The man in the parable does not only say “I believe that the treasure is hidden in the field,” but he gives up everything for it. When Felix Baumgartner jumps from 24 miles above, he does not say “I believe in parachute” and never uses it, but he leaps and deploys his parachute that saves him from certain death.

Those who profess to be Christians must examine if they indeed have surrendered their entire self for Christ’s kingdom. Those who are called by God must give up their sinful lives, their idols, and their treasures, for the inheritance of the everlasting treasure that is infinitely more than what we have or what we can imagine.

To do so is faith, because “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

The Elixir

MC ’14
Executive Director, Logos

Have you ever wondered what is “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus?” As a reflection on Colossians 3:17, here is a poem by  George Herbert:

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or it he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—”for Thy sake”—
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.

Golden Fire by Makoto Fujimura