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“He manifests his comparative glory; “Thou art more excellent than hills of prey: fairer than the sons of men;” the bride, the believer sees him as the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, every way incomparable. Whatever he be compared to he excels it; if he be a lily, he is the lily of the valley; if he be a rose, he is the rose of Sharon; if he be a plant, he is the plant of renown; if he be a physician, he is the physician of value; if an advocate, he is an advocate with the Father; he is represented without any parallel.”

-Ralph Erskine (1685-1752)

Some robust natural theology, courtesy of the redoubtable Mr. Sherlock Holmes (from The Naval Treaty, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

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“What a lovely thing a rose is!”

He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.

“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

This open letter to Donald Trump is a first-rate piece on how the rehabilitation of marriage in our culture is the sine qua non of truly making America great again. It also underscores the tragic reality that “the way of transgressors is hard.”

Deeper than this need, however, is national repentance and renewing covenant with God and His Christ. Without the fear of God, not even demonstrable socio-economic harm will bring about the desperately needed reform, restore relationships and advance true human flourishing. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

“Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. For instance, when you have grasped that the earth and the other planets all go round the sun, you would naturally expect that all the planets were made to match-all at equal distances from each other, say, or distances that regularly increased, or all the same size, or else getting bigger or smaller as you go farther from the sun. In fact, you find no rhyme or reason (that we can see) about either the sizes or the distances; and some of them have one moon, one has four, one has two, some have none, and one has a ring.

“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies-these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.”

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

The God-Man

Rembrandt_The_Apostle_PeterSomething that often strikes me when reading the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – is their earthiness.  There is something raw, unpolished, and therefore real about these four eye-witness accounts of Jesus Christ.  It has the ring of the genuine.  Their portraits of Christ and the twelve apostles are absolutely not photo-shopped.

One clear instance is the un-photo-shopped Peter.  Peter was hand-picked by Jesus at the very beginning of his three-year ministry.  Peter was a common man.  A fisherman by trade.  Really, had the Savior not singled him out, he would have lived and died a nameless nobody in the backwoods of Judea.  But Jesus changed all that.

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Rembrandt_The_Apostle_PeterUna cosa que siempre me atrae la noticia al leer los Evangelios—Mateo, Marcos, Lucas, y Juan—es su terrenidad.  Hay una calidad cruda, no pulida, y por eso autentica de estos cuatro relatos de estos testigos actuales de Jesucristo. Tiened una calidad genuina.  Sus retratos de Crito y los doce apostoles absolutamente no estan retocados.

Una instancia clara es el no-retocado Pedro.  Pedro fue escogido personalmente por Jesus al pricipio de su ministerio de tres años.  Pedro era un hombre comun.  Un pescador por profesion.  Verdaderamente, si el Salvador no lo hubiera escogido, hubiera vivido y morido como cualquier otro en  Judea.  Pero Jesus cambio todo eso.

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“Perhaps you wonder, ‘Why are the wicked joyous? why do they live in luxury? why don’t they have to strive like I do?’

“The reason is that they who have not signed up to strive for the crown are not required to undergo the labors of the contest. Those who haven’t gone down to the track don’t smear themselves with oil, nor get covered with dust. Trouble comes only to those on their way to glory. The perfumed spectators prefer to watch, not to join in the struggle, nor to endure the sun, the heat, the dust, and the rain.

“So those who have devoted themselves to pleasures, luxury, robbery, gain or honors are spectators rather than combatants. They have the profit of labor but the not the fruits of virtue. They love their ease. By cunning and wickedness they heap up riches. But they will pay the penalty of their iniquity, though it be late in coming. Their rest will be in hell, yours in paradise. Thus, Job said beautifully that they watch in the tomb (see Job 21:32), for they cannot have the calm of quiet rest that he enjoys who shall rise again.”

-Ambrose of Milan (337-397 A.D.)

“But the proof of the possibility of the resurrection of the flesh I have sufficiently demonstrated, in answer to men of the world. And if the resurrection of the flesh is not found impossible on the principles even of unbelievers, how much more will it be found in accordance with the mind of believers! But following our order, we must now speak with respect to those who think meanly of the flesh, and say that it is not worthy of the resurrection nor of the heavenly economy, because, first, its substance is earth; and besides, because it is full of all wickedness, so that it forces the soul to sin along with it. But these persons seem to be ignorant of the whole work of God, both of the genesis and formation of man at the first, and why the things in the world were made. For does not the word say, Let Us make man in our image, and after our likeness? Genesis 1:26 What kind of man? Manifestly He means fleshly man, For the word says, And God took dust of the earth, and made man. Genesis 2:7 It is evident, therefore, that man made in the image of God was of flesh. Is it not, then, absurd to say, that the flesh made by God in His own image is contemptible, and worth nothing? But that the flesh is with God a precious possession is manifest, first from its being formed by Him, if at least the image is valuable to the former and artist; and besides, its value can be gathered from the creation of the rest of the world. For that on account of which the rest is made, is the most precious of all to the maker.”

-Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.)

This lecture from Peter J. Williams, of the Tyndale House at Cambridge, is an extremely powerful argument that in my judgment explodes the silly ‘telephone game’ objection given to the reliability of the four Gospels.  Compelling – and amusing at the same time.