Category Archives: Worldview

“A Christian” by Herman Bavinck

“A Christian has found his standpoint in the promises of God’s grace in Christ. The foundations of his hope are fixed, for they lie outside him in God’s Word, which will never be moved. He doesn’t need to constantly examine the genuineness and strength of the foundation on which the building of his salvation has been built.

He is a child of God not on the basis of all kinds of inner experiences but on the basis of the promises of the Lord. Assured of this, he can now freely look around and enjoy all the good gifts and the perfect gift that descends from the Father of lights. Everything is his because he is Christ’s and Christ is God’s. The whole world becomes material for his duty.

Religious life does have its own content and independent value. It remains the center, the heart from which all the Christian’s thoughts and acts proceed, by which they are animated and given the warmth of life. There, in fellowship with God, he is strengthened for his labors and girds himself for the battle.

But that mysterious life of fellowship with God is not the whole of life. The prayer chamber is the inner room, although it is not the whole house in which he lives and functions. Spiritual life does not exclude family and social life, business and politics, art and science. It is distinct from these; it is also of much greater value, but it does not stand irreconcilably opposed to it. Rather it is the power that enables us to faithfully fulfill our earthly calling, stamping all of life as service to God.

The Kingdom of God is, to be sure, like a pearl more precious than the whole world, but it is also like a leaven that leavens the entire dough. Faith isn’t only the way of salvation, it also involves overcoming the world. The Christian, as he is drawn in Scripture and as he speaks in the Heidelberg Catechism, stands and works in this conviction. Reconciled with God, he is also reconciled with all things. Because in the Father of Christ he confesses the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, he cannot be small-hearted and constricted in his affections.

For God Himself so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. And this Son came to earth not to condemn the world but to save it. In His cross heaven and earth are reconciled. Under Him all things shall be gathered together with Him as head.

The history of all things proceeds according to His counsel toward the redemption of the church as the new humanity, toward the liberation of the world in an organic sense, toward the new heaven and the new earth. Even now, by rights, everything in principle belongs to the church, because it is Christ’s and Christ is God’s. As a priest in the temple of the Lord, he who believes this is king over the whole earth.

Because he is a Christian, he is a human in the full, true sense. He loves the flowers that grow at his feet and admires the stars that sparkle overhead. He does not disdain the arts, which are to him a precious gift from God. Nor does he belittle the sciences, for these, too, are a gift from the Father of lights. He believes that everything God has created is good and that, taken in thanksgiving, nothing is condemned.

He labors not for success and doesn’t work for wages, but he does what comes to hand, seeing, by means of God’s commandments, though ignorant of what the future may bring. He does good works without thinking twice and bears fruit before he realizes it. He is like a flower that spreads its fragrance unawares.

He is, in a word, a man of God, perfectly equipped to all good works. And while for him to live is Christ, in the end to die is gain.”

—Herman Bavinck, The Certainty of Faith, trans. Harry der Nederlanden (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 1891/1980), 95-97.

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“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied” by Jonathan Edwards

“Heaven is that place alone where is to be obtained our highest end, and highest good. God hath made us for Himself: ‘of God, and through God, and to God are all things’ (Rom. 11:36).

Therefore then do we attain to our highest end, when we are brought to God. But that is by being brought to heaven, for that is God’s throne; that is the place of His special presence, and of His glorious residence.

There is but a very imperfect union with God to be had in this world: a very imperfect knowledge of God in the midst of abundance of darkness, a very imperfect conformity to God, mingled with abundance of enmity and estrangement. Here we can serve and glorify God but in an exceeding imperfect manner, our service being mingled with much sin and dishonoring to God.

But when we get to heaven, if ever that be, there we shall be brought to a perfect union with God.

There we shall have the clear views of God’s glory: we shall see face to face, and know as we are known (1 Cor. 13:12).

There we shall be fully conformed to God, without any remains of sin: ‘we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2).

There we shall serve God perfectly. We shall glorify Him in an exalted manner, and to the utmost of the powers and capacity of our nature.

Then we shall perfectly give up ourselves to God; then will our hearts be wholly a pure and holy offering to God, offered all in the flame of divine love.

In heaven alone is attainment of our highest good. God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of Him is our proper happiness, and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.

To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here: better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any or all earthly friends.

These are but shadows; but God is the substance.

These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun.

These are but streams; but God is the fountain.

These are but drops; but God is the ocean.

Therefore, it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end, and proper good, the whole work of our lives; and we should subordinate all the other concerns of life to it.

Why should we labor for anything else, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?”

–Jonathan Edwards, “The True Christian’s Life a Journey Towards Heaven,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1730–1733 (ed. Mark Valeri and Harry S. Stout; vol. 17; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1999), 17: 437–438.

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“An ethic of hope pervades the New Testament” by J.I. Packer

“‘For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.’ –Romans 15:4

Living between the two comings of Christ, Christians are to look backward and forward: back to the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb, whereby salvation was won for them; forward to their meeting with Christ beyond this world, their personal resurrection, and the joy of being with their Savior in glory forever.

New Testament devotion is consistently oriented to this hope; Christ is ‘our hope’ (1 Tim. 1:1) and we serve ‘the God of hope’ (Rom. 15:13). Faith itself is defined as ‘being sure of what we hope for’ (Heb. 11:1), and Christian commitment is defined as having ‘fled to take hold of … this hope as an anchor for the soul’ (Heb. 6:18–19).

When Jesus directed His disciples to lay up treasure in heaven, because ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matt. 6:21), He was saying in effect, as Peter was later to say, ‘set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Pet. 1:13).

An ethic of hope pervades the New Testament.

It is an ethic of pilgrimage: one should see oneself in this world as a stranger traveling home (1 Pet. 2:11; Heb. 11:13).

It is an ethic of purity: everyone who really hopes to be like Jesus when He appears ‘purifies himself, just as He is pure’ (1 John 3:3).

It is an ethic of preparedness: we should be ready to leave this world for a closer relationship with Christ our Lord at any time when the summons comes (2 Cor. 5:6–8; Phil. 1:21–24; cf. Luke 12:15–21).

It is an ethic of patience: ‘if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently’ (Rom. 8:25; cf. 5:1–5, where the Greek word for ‘patience’ is translated ‘perseverance’ to bring out its nuance of stubborn persistence in face of pressures).

And it is an ethic of power: the hope gives strength and confidence, energizing effort for running the race, fighting the good fight, and enduring the ‘light and momentary troubles’ (2 Cor. 4:17) that still remain before we go home (Rom. 8:18; 15:13; 2 Tim. 4:7–8).

Though the Christian life is regularly marked more by suffering than by triumph (1 Cor. 4:8–13; 2 Cor. 4:7–18; Acts 14:22), our hope is sure and our mood should be one of unquenchable confidence: we are on the victory side.”

–J.I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 183–184.

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“A neighborhood of strangers and a world of fragments” by Neil Postman

“A book is an attempt to make thought permanent and to contribute to the great conversation conducted by authors of the past. Therefore, civilized people everywhere consider the burning of a book a vile form of anti-intellectualism.

But the telegraph demands that we burn its contents. The value of telegraphy is undermined by applying the tests of permanence, continuity or coherence.

The telegraph is suited only to the flashing of messages, each to be quickly replaced by a more up-to-date message. Facts push other facts into and then out of consciousness at speeds that neither permit nor require evaluation.

The telegraph introduced a kind of public conversation whose form had startling characteristics: Its language was the language of headlines–sensational, fragmented, impersonal. News took the form of slogans, to be noted with excitement, to be forgotten with dispatch.

Its language was also entirely discontinuous. One message had no connection to that which preceded or followed it. Each “headline” stood alone as its own context.

The receiver of the news had to provide a meaning if he could. the sender was under no obligation to do so. And because of all this, the world as depicted by the telegraph began to appear unmanageable, even undecipherable.

The line-by-line, sequential, continuous form of the printed page slowly began to lose its resonance as a metaphor of how knowledge was to be acquired and how the world was to be understood.

“Knowing” the facts took on a new meaning, for it did not imply that one understood implications, background, or connections. Telegraphic discourse permitted no time for historical perspectives and gave no priority to the qualitative.

To the telegraph, intelligence meant knowing of lots of things, not knowing about them.

Thus, to the reverent question posed by Morse–What hath God wrought?–a disturbing answer came back: a neighborhood of strangers and pointless quantity; a world of fragments and discontinuities.

God, of course, had nothing to do with it.”

–Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 1985), 70.

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“The heart of man was created for God and it cannot find rest until it rests in his Father’s heart” by Herman Bavinck

“The heart of man was created for God and that it cannot find rest until it rests in his Father’s heart. Hence all men are really seeking after God, as Augustine also declared, but they do not all seek Him in the right way, nor at the right place.

They seek Him down below, and He is up above.

They seek Him on the earth, and He is in heaven.

They seek Him afar, and He is nearby.

They seek Him in money, in property, in fame, in power, and in passion.

And He is to be found in the high and the holy places, and with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isa. 57:15).

But they do seek Him, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him (Acts 17:27).

They seek Him and at the same time they flee Him.

They have no interest in a knowledge of His ways, and yet they cannot do without Him. They feel themselves attracted to God and at the same time repelled by Him.

In this, as Pascal so profoundly pointed out, consists the greatness and the miserableness of man. He longs for truth and is false by nature.

He yearns for rest and throws himself from one diversion upon another. He pants for a permanent and eternal bliss and seizes on the pleasures of a moment.

He seeks for God and loses himself in the creature. He is a born son of the house and he feeds on the husks of the swine in a strange land.

He forsakes the fountain of living waters and hews out broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13).

He is as a hungry man who dreams that he is eating, and when he awakes finds that his soul is empty; and he is like a thirsty man who dreams that he is drinking, and when he awakes finds that he is faint and that his soul has appetite (Isa. 29:8).

Science cannot explain this contradiction in man. It reckons only with his greatness and not with his misery, or only with his misery and not with his greatness.

It exalts him too high, or it depresses him too far, for science does not know of his Divine origin, nor of his profound fall.

But the Scriptures know of both, and they shed their light over man and over mankind; and the contradictions are reconciled, the mists are cleared, and the hidden things are revealed.

Man is an enigma whose solution can be found only in God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (trans. Henry Zylstra; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 6–7.

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“Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven” by Izaac Walton

“Richard Sibbes became known as ‘the heavenly Doctor,’ due to his godly preaching and heavenly manner of life. Izaac Walton wrote of Sibbes:

Of this blest man, let this just praise be given,
Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven.

–Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 535.

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“The love of one’s country” by C.S. Lewis

“I turn now to the love of one’s country. Here there is no need to labour M. de Rougemont’s maxim; we all know now that this love becomes a demon when it becomes a god.

Some begin to suspect that it is never anything but a demon. But then they have to reject half the high poetry and half the heroic action our race has achieved.

We cannot keep even Christ’s lament over Jerusalem. He too exhibits love for His country. Let us limit our field.

There is no need here for an essay on international ethics. When this love becomes demoniac it will of course produce wicked acts.

But others, more skilled, may say what acts between nations are wicked. We are only considering the sentiment itself in the hope of being able to distinguish its innocent from its demoniac condition. Neither of these is the efficient cause of national behaviour.

For strictly speaking it is rulers, not nations, who behave internationally. Demoniac patriotism in their subjects—I write only for subjects—will make it easier for them to act wickedly; healthy patriotism may make it harder: when they are wicked they may by propaganda encourage a demoniac condition of our sentiments in order to secure our acquiescence in their wickedness.

If they are good, they could do the opposite. That is one reason why we private persons should keep a wary eye on the health or disease of our own love for our country. And that is what I am writing about.

How ambivalent patriotism is may be gauged by the fact that no two writers have expressed it more vigorously than Kipling and Chesterton.

If it were one element two such men could not both have praised it. In reality it contains many ingredients, of which many different blends are possible.

First, there is love of home, of the place we grew up in or the places, perhaps many, which have been our homes; and of all places fairly near these and fairly like them; love of old acquaintances, of familiar sights, sounds and smells.

Note that at its largest this is, for us, a love of England, Wales, Scotland, or Ulster. Only foreigners and politicians talk about “Britain.” Kipling’s “I do not love my empire’s foes” strikes a ludicrously false note.

My empire! With this love for the place there goes a love for the way of life; for beer and tea and open fires, trains with compartments in them and an unarmed police force and all the rest of it; for the local dialect and (a shade less) for our native language.

As Chesterton says, a man’s reasons for not wanting his country to be ruled by foreigners are very like his reasons for not wanting his house to be burned down; because he could not even begin to enumerate all the things he would miss.

It would be hard to find any legitimate point of view from which this feeling could be condemned. As the family offers us the first step beyond self-love, so this offers us the first step beyond family selfishness.

Of course it is not pure charity; it involves love of our neighbours in the local, not of our Neighbour, in the Dominical, sense. But those who do not love the fellow-villagers or fellow-townsmen whom they have seen are not likely to have got very far towards loving “Man” whom they have not.

All natural affections, including this, can become rivals to spiritual love: but they can also be preparatory imitations of it, training (so to speak) of the spiritual muscles which Grace may later put to a higher service; as women nurse dolls in childhood and later nurse children.

There may come an occasion for renouncing this love; pluck out your right eye. But you need to have an eye first.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1960/1988), 22-24.

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