Gratitude has some claim to be regarded as the rarest of human virtues. - Anthony Powell (1905-2000)
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! (Psalm 57.7)
There is no religion worth calling so which has not warmth in it. We hear a great deal from people, against whom I do not wish to say a word, about the danger of an emotional Christianity. Agreed – if, by that, they mean a Christianity which has no foundation for its emotion in principle and intelligence – but not agreed, if they mean to recommend a Christianity which professes to accept truths that might kindle a soul beneath the ribs of death and make the dumb sing, and yet is never moved one hair’s-breadth from its quiet phlegmaticism. There is no religion without emotion. Of course, it must be intelligent emotion, built upon the acceptance of divine truth and regulated and guided by that, and so consolidated into principle, and it must be emotion which works for its living, and impels to Christian conduct. These two provisions being attended to, then we can safely say that warmth is the test of life, and the readings of the thermometer, which measure the fervor, measure also the reality of our religion. If the adjective is certainly applicable, I am afraid the applicability of the noun is extremely doubtful. If there is no fire, what is there? Cold is death. We want no flimsy, transitory, noisy, ignorant, hysterical agitation. Smoke is not fire… - Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910). Comment on Isaiah 31.9.
The specific quality of faith is extraspective and, in that respect, is the diametric opposite of works. Faith is self-renouncing. Works are self-congratulatory. Faith looks to what God does. Works have respect to what we are. It is the antithesis of this principle that enables the Apostle to base the complete exclusion of works upon the principle of faith. – John Murray (1898-1975)
Karl Barth’s position is a good point of entry for our present discussion because he was invited, quite early in his career, to deliver the Gifford Lectures, and he did so, at Aberdeen University, in 1937 and 1938. The lectures were based on the Scots Confession of 1560 (doubtless in deliberate contrast to the Westminster Confession which, later, became the dominant doctrinal standard of the Scottish Church) and were published under the title “The Knowledge of God and the Service of God.” It was paradoxical, no doubt, that he was invited to lecture in a series explicitly defined as devoted to natural theology and, doubtless, he had some difficulty in making up his mind to accept. From the start, his approach to his subject was bound to be a peculiar one, since his central conviction in the whole matter was that no such subject as natural theology existed at all. When he did use the words “natural theology,” he put them in quotation marks, as if to indicate that this was a beast like the unicorn: the word existed, but no such thing existed; or, maybe, it was an expression internally contradictory, like “hot ice” or “black milk.” Now, you might have thought that Barth could reasonably interpret the invitation as an invitation to talk about natural theology in the sense of developing his arguments against it, showing why it was wrong. By no means: what he did was to refuse to talk about natural theology at all. How could one give a series of lectures about a non-existing subject? What he, in fact, did was to give a series of lectures on revealed theology, of a Calvinist Reformed kind, a series which largely ignored even the question of natural theology.
Moreover, in doing this, Barth developed an unusual piece of casuistry. He did not dispute that Lord Gifford had meant what he said: natural theology – in Barth’s words “a knowledge of which man, as man, is the master” – was the topic, but no such subject existed to be discussed. There was nothing to be said about it at all. This is what Barth thought. But, he did not state this as his own personal opinion. He ascribed it to his being a theologian of the Reformed church. ”As a Reformed theologian, I am subject to an ordinance which would keep me away from ‘Natural Theology,’ even if my personal opinions inclined me to it.” To be a Reformed theologian entailed, in itself, that there was no such thing as natural theology.
From: Biblical Faith and Natural Theology: The Gifford Lectures for 1991 Delivered in the University of Edinburgh by James Barr (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), pp. 6-7.
James Barr (1924-2006) was a Scottish Old Testament scholar and author. His most influential book (among several), The Semantics of Biblical Language, was published in 1961.
There is no license given by the blessed Jesus for idleness, for, in the very infancy of the world, idleness was not allowed. In Paradise, Adam and Eve dressed the garden, Cain was a tiller of the ground, and Abel was a keeper of sheep…You are called to be useful in the society to which you belong. - George Whitefield (1714-1770)
But, the doctrine of the resurrection, to which the transfiguration alluded, was what the disciples were utterly unable to understand. They had never learned that the Messiah was to die, far less that He was to be raised from the dead. They were, on the contrary, persuaded that He was to abide forever and that His kingdom was to have no end. They were also greatly surprised at the sudden appearance of Elias [Elijah - RZ] and could not comprehend what the scribes meant by affirming that He must appear before the Messiah erects His empire. They, therefore, after long debating among themselves, asked their Master, “Why say the scribes that Elias must first come?” To which, Jesus answered that Elias should truly come first, according to the prediction of Malachi, “and restore all things.” But, at the same time, He assured them that Elias was already come, and described the treatment he had met with from that stiff-necked people, giving them to understand that He spake of John the Baptist. ”But, I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they liked. Likewise, shall also the Son of Man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17.12-13).
From: The Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Containing an Accurate and Universal History of our Glorious Redeemer, from His Birth to His Ascension into Heaven, Together with the Lives and Sufferings of His Holy Evangelists, Apostles, and Disciples, Who Have Sealed the Divine Truth of Christianity with Their Blood, to Which is Added a Full Defense of Christianity Against All the Objections of Atheists, Deists, and Infidels, the Whole Properly Adapted to Promoste the Knowledge of Religion by James Fleetwood; 2 volumes; revised (Carlisle: L. Smith, 1792), 1:187.
James Fleetwood (1603-1683) was an English Anglican divine and author.