October 24, 2012 by Matthew Mason
“Do you want to ask
“No. If you do,
He went ahead:
his prayer dressed up
in Sunday clothes
rose a few feet
and dropped with a soft
If a lonely soul
did ever cry out
in company its true
outcry to God,
it would be as though
at a sedate party
a man suddenly
removed his clothes
and took his wife
passionately into his arms.
Wendell Berry, “An Embarrassment,” Leavings: Poems (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010), 16f.0 Comments
October 17, 2012 by Jason Hood
What Calvin rejects in monasticism is its
elitism and separatism . . . not the “rituals” associated with it. So Calvin “storms the monastery” as it were, not to demolish the disciplines of the community but to liberate these formative practices from their separatist captivity.
“For Calvin,” Boulton observes, “monastics are mistaken only insofar as they make elite, difficult and rare what should be ordinary, accessible, and common in Christian communities: namely, whole human lives formed in and through the church’s distinctive repertoire of disciplines, from singing psalms to daily prayer to communing with Christ at the sacred supper.”
That is from Jamie Smith, “John Calvin’s Catholic Faith.” (In a footnote he points out that he has previously cited Calvin’s affirmation of a “holy and lawful monasticism”: Desiring the Kingdom, 209 n.118.)
Smith’s/Boulton’s/Calvin’s point is that Christ is Lord over everything, and that Christians need to be shaped for all their vocations (for all of life, that is) by the same activities that fueled the better parts of monastic Christian service. Smith certainly takes his shots on the way to making the point: “our ‘functional Zwinglianism’ offers little anchor for resisting the spirit of the age.” I have no doubt Calvin would agree.
The point is that monks did almost all manner of things–from plant genetics to music to the preservation and transmission of ancient manuscripts to hospitality, prayer, liturgy, evangelism and fasting–to the glory of God. And in these vocations, they were in fact not going beyond the ordinary Christian life; they were being shaped for service and mission. So from one angle, the Reformation goal was to widen participation in this dedicated life of service, not restrict it.
This is but a sub-point for the larger argument of Smith’s essay, summed up in this way: “Protestantism, on this account, is not the demolition of Catholic Christianity, but rather its expansion and democratization.”0 Comments
October 4, 2011 by Jason Hood
The story of Solomon’s wisdom doesn’t start with 1 Kings 3 and his request for wisdom.
We tend to see Solomon as a young king in his early teens, seeking wisdom because he doesn’t know the first thing about ruling (see 1 Kgs 3:7). But Solomon was at least in his twenties when he began to reign, and he does not ask for wisdom because he has none. He asks for wisdom because he is already wise.
I was reminded recently that Solomon’s wisdom appears earlier in 1 Kings. As David fades off the scene, he tells Solomon to deal with his enemies. David wants him to deal with Joab “according to your wisdom, but don’t let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace.” And as for Shimei, “do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man; you’ll know what you ought to do to him.”
So Solomon acts according to his wisdom. He has Joab killed and places Shimei under house arrest, and later kills him when he skips town. Adonijah likewise gets a reprieve, until hormonal stupidity makes him a danger. The text doesn’t critique Solomon’s actions, but it does show us just how difficult it was to be king.
When Solomon asks for wisdom, it is not purely out of ignorance but out of insight into his limitations and the difficulties of the job. He asks for wisdom out of humility and out of concern for the people he is to rule, because he already knows full well the difficulty of ruling the people of God.
Assuming David’s assessment of his son is correct, the God of all wisdom takes Solomon’s natural abilities and, to quote a fool, “turns them up to eleven.” And he does the same for those struggling with limitations and difficulties today (James 1:2-8).2 Comments