Let Us Give Thanks

JP: a Thanksgiving prayer by Dr Kevin Bauder.

EYXAPIΣTΩMEN – Let Us Give Thanks

O Father of lights, with Whom is neither variableness nor shadow of turning, from Your hand receive we every gift, each one good and perfect. Naught have we of our own; nothing do we possess that we were not given. Our open hands know not for what they grasp, but discover themselves filled with goodness and blessing from Your bounty.

You are life; You have life in Yourself; You are the source of all living. Our being, frail and small, races ever toward dissolution. Our little existences, propped up moment-by-moment from without, depend incessantly upon You. Ceaselessly Your life-gift pours into us, else we would straight away unform, undo, and unbe. Without life from Your Life, we could neither stand, nor sense, nor say, nor even sin. Your Life is the light that ignites our own tiny sparks.

Made like beasts as to our bodies, we share their need for breath. Athirst, we cannot even weep without water. Hungered, we cannot thrive without food. Naked, we cannot abide without cover. Weary, we cannot mend without rest. Your eye, which sees the sparrow’s plight, perceives our want. Your bounty, which clothes the lilies, attends to our lack. From Your good hand receive we bread and breath, hearth and health.

Made within like You (splendid likeness!) we stand on display, images of Your self-disclosure, each a little lens to focus Your perfections in the eyes of our fellows. Like Your own dance, step-to-three, in eternal, transparent, intertwining compenetration, so do our meetings and partings, our greetings and doings, signify Your personhood. Not made for ourselves, we crave other eyes to peer through us into Your selfless self. Thus we yearn for love and trust and human care, for we are Your image. Before we know our need, You, Who hold counsel from eternity, have already encircled us with multiplied intimacies. Or ever we can speak their names, You grant us parents, brothers, and friends. Before we grasp their purpose, You bestow spouses and children. Delights these are indeed, but not private enjoyments. Lacking their eyes to focus upon You, our little lens would grow dark and our purpose remain empty. Our fulfillment lies in making You seen, in magnifying Your perfections for the eyes of others. We need Him Whom we image; we need also them to whom we image. Your infinite wisdom has foreseen and fore-granted our need in goodness and mercy.

Mirrors we are, made to reflect your person, but mirrors now shattered. Eager to see ourselves in ourselves, we did twist back upon ourselves and did burst the glass. We cannot paste ourselves back into place, for the broken facets of our visage now reflect a contorted mosaic. Is brokenness better than unbeing? Yet still we bend, and twist, and burst again the shards.

You might have swept us aside. In what desolate place should we lie, forever contemned, cast out as a danger? What need have You of broken glass?

But we are not rejected! For He, in Whose likeness we are, came finally to be in our likeness, too. The Original (without ceasing to be original) became image; the Countenance (without ceasing to be the countenance) became mirror. Into our brokenness this Firstborn mediates and radiates the one, flawless representation of Your invisible perfection. Made one of us, but unbroken, He shines as You meant us to shine, and more! For He is we unbroken, and He is You.

Into the vast, liquid expanse of Your brightness You gather all the broken bits of our shattered visage. To be forgiven is not to be ignored! For the sake of His infinite pain You take infinite pains with every still-reflecting splinter. What we could never repair, He refashions in Himself, and out of brokenness You create variegated vessels of glory, reflecting and refracting perfection in thousand-fold splendor.

Thus You are making us in Him. From You we receive the forgiveness of sins (so freely! so freely!), not so that we may escape the pains of brokenness, but so that Your countenance may be seen in its utter wholeness. When the glory of Your presence finally bursts upon every eye, our once-shattered fragments, now redeemed and fused and shaped by Your grace, will sparkle and glisten with the manifold perfection of Your being. Finite eyes that could never comprehend the Whole will behold in our multiplied facets each reflected aspect of Your goodness and greatness and glory.

O Lord Who fills all in all, we marvel at Your great gifts: life and breath, provision and relation, redemption and glorification. These gifts are not many, but one. You have made us for Yourself, to be Your possession, but You have given Yourself to us as our lot and portion. We rejoice, for in the end nothing satisfies us except You, and nothing fulfills us except to be Yours. This is the delight of our souls: to gaze upon You, to behold Your perfection, to lose ourselves so completely in You that we become more truly ourselves than we have ever been, and to know that You are God.

For Yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

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There are no new heresies, only echoes of the old ones

JP: Good ready by Albert Mohler who comments on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Divinity School Address.

Echoes of Old Heresies Still Among Us — A Visit to Divinity Hall

Excerpts:

The date was July 15, 1838, the place was the chapel of Divinity Hall at Harvard, and the speaker was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson had been asked to deliver an address to the Senior Class of the Divinity College, and he accepted the challenge. Emerson was then a part-time Unitarian preacher, but his intellectual stature in the movement known as Transcendentalism attracted the attention of the students training for ministry.

Emerson rose to deliver his address to the Divinity School. Speaking to young men studying for the ministry, Emerson repudiated Christianity and called the young ministers to trust their own spiritual instincts and to free themselves from the Bible, from belief in a divine Christ, and from any remnant of orthodox Christianity.

“Historical Christianity has fallen into the error that corrupts all attempts to communicate religion,” he declared. “As it appears to us, and as it has appeared for ages, it is not the doctrine of the soul, but an exaggeration of the personal, the positive, the ritual. It has dwelt, it dwells, with noxious exaggeration about the person of Jesus.” This singular focus on Christ has turned Christianity into an uninspiring religion, he argued. All the “official titles” ascribed to Jesus just serve to make him into a “demigod,” Emerson insisted.

Preaching that centers on Jesus Christ as the divine Savior is “vulgar,” Emerson asserted. Miracles were eliminated as a possibility. Men and women do not come to be “converted,” he insisted, by a “profanation of the soul” that centers on necessary beliefs. Instead, they should be converted “by the reception of beautiful sentiments.”

Emerson also attacked the ministers of his day by accusing them of preaching the Bible. So far as Emerson was concerned, the Bible was a dead and lifeless book in itself. Preaching from the Bible will not produce greatness, Emerson explained. To limit the voice of God to the Bible is to shut the voice of God up into a dead book.

“Men have come to speak of the revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead. The injury to faith throttles the preacher; and the goodliest of institutions becomes an uncertain and inarticulate voice,” he argued.

In other words, the young ministers were challenged to give up preaching the Bible and instead to preach their own religious sentiments:

“To this holy office you propose to devote yourselves. I wish you may feel your call in throbs of desire and hope. The office is the first in the world. It is of that reality that it cannot suffer the deduction of any falsehood. And it is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater of new revelation than now.”

Emerson’s bold and confrontational call for “new” revelation was translated into his most memorable lines from this historic address — “Yourself a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost, cast behind you all conformity, and acquaint men at first hand with Deity.”

In other words, he commanded the young ministers to abandon the Scriptures and to trust their own instincts, religious sentiments, and intuitions as all the divine revelation they will need. “Preaching,” he explained, is nothing more than “the expression of the moral sentiment in application to the duties of life.”

With his address, Emerson ignited a firestorm. He had boldly and thoroughly repudiated biblical Christianity. His proposal was to replace the Christian faith with a religion of individualistic sentimentality, iced with a coating of moralism.

Albert Mohler concludes:

Standing in the chapel in Divinity Hall last evening, I was struck by how contemporary Emerson’s argument sounds. The call he issued 170 years ago is the very message we now hear from others — Christianity must change or die. We cannot simply preach a book that is two thousand years old. God still speaks, and a slavish dependence on the Bible is both offensive and ineffectual. Doctrines must go — intuition and sentiment will be enough.

The issues and arguments are the same. Nevertheless, we have all the evidence we need to show us where Emerson’s argument leads. It leads to the death of churches, denominations, institutions, and ministries. It leaves sinners dead in their sins and robs them of hearing the Gospel.

The church has never needed “newborn bards of the Holy Ghost.” Instead, the need of the church is for preachers who are skilled in the art of preaching the Word of God — rightly dividing the Word of Truth, while holding without apology to the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

I am glad I visited that historic room in Divinity Hall last night. It served to remind me of what is at stake in our generation — and for eternity. There are no new heresies, only echoes of the old ones. And yet, the old ones come back again and again.

JP: Colossians 2:8 comes to mind.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.