Posted by: reiterations | October 21, 2014

The Roman Family in Paul’s Time

In a legal point of view, however, the family was absolutely guided and governed by the single, all-powerful will of the “father of the household” (“pater familias”).  In relation to him, all in the household were destitute of legal rights – the wife and the child no less than the bullock or the slave.  As it was by the free choice of her husband that the virgin became his wedded wife, so it rested with his own free will to rear, or not to rear, the child which she bore him.  This maxim was not suggested by indifference to the having a family – on the contrary, the conviction that the founding of a house and the begetting of children were a moral necessity and a duty of the citizen had a deep and earnest hold on the Roman mind.  Perhaps the only instance of a support accorded on the part of the community in Rome is the enactment that aid should be given to the father who had three children presented to him at birth, while their views regarding exposure are indicated by its religious prohibition, so far as concerned all the sons – deformed births excepted – and at least the first daughter.  Censurable, however, and injurious to the public weal as exposure might be, a father could not be divested of his right to resort to it, for he was, above all, thoroughly and absolutely master in his household, and it was intended that such he should remain. 

The father of the household not only maintained the strictest discipline over its members, but he had the right and duty of exercising over them judicial powers and of punishing them, as he deemed fit, in life and limb.  A grown-up son might establish a separate household or maintain, as the Romans expressed it, his “own cattle” (“peculium”) assigned to him by his father but, legally, all that the son acquired, whether by his own labor or by gift from a stranger, whether in his father’s household or in his own, remained the father’s property.  So long as the father lived, the persons legally subject to him could never hold property of their own and could not, therefore, alienate, unless by him so empowered, or bequeath.  In this respect, wife and child stood quite on the same level with the slave, who was, not infrequently, allowed to manage a house of his own, and who was, likewise, entitled to alienate, when commissioned by his master.  Indeed, a father might convey his son, as well as his slave, in property to a third person.  If the purchaser was a foreigner, the son became his slave.  If he was a Roman, the son, while as a Roman he could not become a Roman’s slave stood, at least to his purchaser, in a slave’s stead (“in mancipii causa”).

From: The History of Rome: Volume 1 by Theodor Mommsen; translated from the 3rd German edition by William P. Dickson; Cambridge Library Classics series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 61-62.  The 3rd German edition was published in 1862.  The first German edition was published in 1854.

Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903) was a German historian and author, specializing in the history of the Roman Empire.  In 1902, he became the first of only two historians to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  (The other was Winston Churchill, in 1953.)

Posted by: reiterations | October 20, 2014

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Holiness is not something we are called upon to do in order that we may become something.  It is something we are to do because of what we already are.  There is a great deal of teaching on this subject that really amounts to this: we are to be holy and live the holy life in order that we may become truly Christians.  Every phase or aspect of the doctrine of justification by works really teaches that.  But any suggestion we may have in ourselves that we are to deny ourselves certain things, that we are not to do certain things, and that we are to discipline ourselves in order that we may become Christian is a denial of the doctrine of justification by faith.  I am not to live a good and holy life in order that I may become a Christian.  I am to live the holy life because I am a Christian.  I am not to live this holy life in order that I may enter heaven.  It is because I know I am going to enter heaven that I must live this holy life.

That is the emphasis here: “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3.3).  I am not to strive and sweat and pray in order that, at the end, I may enter into heaven.  No, I start, rather, from the standpoint that I have been made a child of God by the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am destined for heaven.  I have an assurance that I have been called to go there and that God is going to take me there, and it is because I know this that I am preparing, now.D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)

Posted by: reiterations | October 19, 2014

For the Lord’s Day (351)

Whom have I in heaven but You?  And, there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  (Psalm 73.25-26)

Posted by: reiterations | October 18, 2014

One and Three

Orthodox Christianity is often reproached with being dry and abstract in its formulas.  The trinitarian formula, in particular, is represented as the petrified residue of the speculations of neo-Platonism.  In reality, it expresses, in scientific form, the most vital statements of the faith of those who brought together the writings of the New Testament.  It proceeds from the intellectual necessity for harmonizing the religious faith of a conscious monotheism with the specific experiences which give birth to the Christian life.

Monotheism forbids believers to place their absolute confidence in anyone other than God.  Entire reliance is His exclusive right.  On the other hand, Christian experience shows the believer that he finds effectively his refuge in Christ, and his specifically Christian piety obliges him to place his entire confidence in Christ.  This is why our fundamentally theistic dogmatics will be a dogmatics of the trinity and the incarnation, an orthodox Christian dogmatics, orthodox in the sense of ecumenical.

From: An Introduction to Reformed Dogmatics by Auguste Lecerf; translated from the French by S. L.-H. (London: Lutterworth Press, 1949), p. 292.

Posted by: reiterations | October 17, 2014

On Martin Luther and the Roman Catholic Church

But the papacy is, for Luther, not simply a tyranny which can be described, as a liberal historian might describe it, in terms of the corrupting influence of power.  Its tyranny is of a unique kind, for which there can only be one category, the demonic, biblical category of anti-Christ.  By its entanglement with law and politics, the papacy has brought the souls of men and women into bondage, has confused, disastrously, the law and gospel, and has become the antithesis of the Word of God which comes to free and liberate men’s souls.  Thus, he cannot regard the papacy simply as a corrupt institution, as did the medieval moralists and the heretics.  In Luther’s later writings, the papacy is included along with the law, sin, and death among the tyrants who beset the Christians and is part of a view of salvation which demands an apocalyptic interpretation of history.

From: The Righteousness of God: Luther Studies: the Birkbeck Lectures for 1947 by Gordon Rupp (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1953), p. 13.

Posted by: reiterations | October 16, 2014

On Separation

The biblical doctrine of separation includes man’s separation “to” God as fully as his separation “from” the world.  The initial idea of separation, in Genesis 12.1ff, is of Abraham’s enlistment in the divine purpose.  The idea of separation from evil is only implicit.  Israel is separate from the other nations only in and through God’s choice of her as His own special people (Deuteronomy 7.1ff; 14.2).

The great purpose of God in separating for Himself a people is not that they develop a negative or passive attitude toward certain areas of life.  Rather, it is that they be conformed to the character of the living God.  Jesus reserved some of His most scathing denunciations for those whose separation was only legalistic negativism.  Separation to God does not imply that separation from evil is unimportant, but only that separation from evil is the correlate of an intimate personal fellowship with the living God.

Granting that separation is primarily to God, not from evil, how much of the culture of the world about us shall the Christian assimilate?  It is, of course, impossible for him to escape from being greatly influenced by his cultural setting.  Culture does much to make him what he is as a person.  The question is not, “Shall he withdraw from his culture in protest against it?,” for he can no more withdraw from it than can the fish from water.  The question is, rather, “From what areas of his culture shall he withdraw?”

From: Christian Personal Ethics by Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957), p. 435.

Posted by: reiterations | October 15, 2014

Overviewing Part of the Book of Jeremiah

Pause for prose.  Once again, our editors slow down the pace and passion of Jeremiah’s poetry with a pillar of more sermonic prose.  Once again, the main reason is to summarize the message with clear rationale.  And, once again, we find that the pain of Jeremiah is a window into the grieving heart of God.  This time, however, Jeremiah faces a very specific threat – a conspiracy against him from those of his own home and family.  When Jeremiah challenges God as to why God allows such wickedness to continue, God answers with a direct parallel to himself.  He, too, is the victim of a conspiracy from His own home and family.  Whatever pain and anger Jeremiah feels is vastly amplified in the heart of God, and Jeremiah’s cry for justice will be answered – but with a surprising twist of compassion in the end.

The opening sermon (11.1-17) introduces the third major section of the whole book, running from here to the end of chapter 17.  This section is suspended between two prose sermons that emphasize the demands of the Sinai covenant.  The overall message is the dismantling of Israel’s trust in their covenant relationship with YHWH.  They needed to be reminded that the Sinai covenant itself included threat and curse, along with promise and demand.  The covenant had now become so broken and disregarded that nothing remained but the outworking of its curse in the horrors of invasion, defeat, and exile.

This third section of the book (chapters 11-17), then, builds on the second section (chapters 7-10), where the major thrust was to dismantle Israel’s trust in the temple and declare it “a lie.”  Now, Jeremiah turns his full attention to the covenant in all its scriptural weight, and declares it “broken” (11.10).

From: The Message of Jeremiah: Against Wind and Tide by Christopher J. H. Wright; The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), p. 141.  Comment on Jeremiah 11.1-12.17.

Posted by: reiterations | October 14, 2014

Augustine’s “Confessions”

I make my confession to You, Lord of heaven and earth, and I sing Your praises for my origins and infancy, which I do not remember.  You have allowed this mortal man to deduce facts about himself from the examples of others, and also to understand a great deal about himself from evidence given by mere women.  For, even then, I existed and was alive and, as my infancy came to an end, I began to investigate the signs by which I made my feelings known to others.  Where could such a living creature come from, Lord, if not from You?  Or can anyone be the artist of their own creation?  Does some channel of heredity feed from elsewhere to where it pours existence and life into us, independently of what you make us, Lord?  For, to You, existence and life are not two different things: to exist as the Most High, and be alive as the Most High, are one and the same.  For You are the Most High and You do not change.  In You, the present time does not come to an end, and yet in You it does come to an end because all things are in You: they would have no ways of changing unless You were maintaining them.  Since Your years do not fail, those years are the same as a “today.”

How many days of ours and of our fathers have now traversed Your eternal today, and have taken from it the measure and manner of their existence?  And yet, others will pass through, in future: they will receive, likewise, the manner of their existence.  And still, You Yourself remain the same: everything tomorrow and beyond, everything yesterday and before, all of it You will make, and You have made, Your “today.”  Do I care if anyone cannot understand this?  Let them rejoice and say, “What is this?”  Let them be glad, even, and love discovering You by failing to discover You, rather than failing to discover You through attempting to discover You.

From: Confessions by Augustine; translated from the Latin by Carolyn J.-B. Hammond; Loeb Classical Library 26 (Cambridge, MA/London, England: Harvard University Press, 2014), pp. 15-17.

Posted by: reiterations | October 13, 2014

Defending the Common Man

This is one important reason for the defense of the common man that runs through Chesterton’s writings and that distinguished him so sharply from the majority of other contemporary writers.  What Chesterton calls the

“merely educated can scarcely ever be brought to believe that this world is, itself, an interesting place.  When they look at a work of art, good or bad, they expect to be interested but, when they look at a newspaper advertisement or a group in the street, they do not, properly and literally speaking, expect to be interested.  But, to common and simple people, this world is a work of art, although it is, like many great works of art, anonymous.”

Their popular literature, unlike the morbidities of modern literature, contains “a plainer and better gospel.”  To them, “this planet is like a new home into which we have just moved our baggage.”  The common and simple are humble and, therefore, are privileged to have a “colossal vision” of “things as they really are.”  The loss of respect for the virtue of humility had led to the revival of “the bitterness of Greek pessimism.”  The “merely educated” have also “lost altogether that primitive and typical taste of man – the taste for news.”  And Chesterton then makes a familiar and hackneyed expression come alive in all its original sense: “When Christianity was named the good news, it spread rapidly, not only because it was good, but also because it was news.” 

The dignity of the poor was always close to Chesterton’s heart, a dignity he thought was more threatened in modern society than even in “ages in which the most arrogant and elaborate ideals of power and civilization held…undisputed sway,” when “the ideal of the perfect and healthy peasant did, undoubtedly, represent, in some shape or form, the conception that there was a dignity in simplicity and a dignity in labor.”  Sadly, “no such ideal exists in the case of the vast number of honorable trades and crafts on which the existence of a modern city depends.”  

From: G. K. Chesterton: A Biography by Ian Ker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 84-85.

Posted by: reiterations | October 12, 2014

For the Lord’s Day (350)

I, myself, am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.  But, on some points, I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.  For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience – by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God – so that, from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum, I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.  And, thus, I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation but, as it is written, “Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand” (Isaiah 52.15).  (Romans 15.14-21)

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