The Brothers Karamazov: 17 Quotes

dostoevsky

This summer I read through Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a classic for a reason: in this book there meets together beauty and ugliness, grandeur and the mundane, good and evil, death and life, suffering and salvation. It functions as a compelling apologetic for the Christian faith in a secular age.

I wanted to share seventeen memorable quotes from the book. There are massive limits to what I’m doing here. It’s a novel, after all. These brief excerpts cannot capture the impact of a whole chapter or section or how masterfully Dostoevsky develops a theme, image, or character through the whole book.

Nevertheless, there are lots of great quotes to be found. Here are seventeen that stood out to me: Continue reading “The Brothers Karamazov: 17 Quotes”

Alcohol and Temperance

Beer

I am excited to begin my graduate studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary here in a couple weeks. With a world-class faculty (Tom Schreiner, Gregg Allison, Stephen Wellum, and Peter Gentry, to name a few), a beautiful campus, and a huge number of students, there is much to be excited about.

One thing is not so enthralling, though: their no-alcohol policy. Continue reading “Alcohol and Temperance”

6 Reasons Churches Should Recite Creeds and Catechisms

Nicene Creed

In his excellent book on the doctrine of the church, Sojourners and Strangers, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Gregg Allison argues that one of the characteristics of the Christian church is that it is confessional, or “united by both personal confession of faith in Christ and common confession of the historic Christian faith” (132).

As a Baptist and having grown up in churches of the low-church tradition, the first time I read this I found myself very familiar with the former aspect—personal confession—and very much a stranger to the latter element—common confession of the historic Christian faith. Continue reading “6 Reasons Churches Should Recite Creeds and Catechisms”

A Happy Sunday, Indeed

When you think about Sunday, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Or perhaps a better question: what feeling do you have, if any?

Perhaps you think of Sunday as the day before Monday, when you’ll have to go back to work, and so you mainly feel sad that the weekend will soon be over. Besides, with work in the morning you can’t do too much Sunday evening, so maybe you think of it as though your weekend already is over. Or perhaps you take a more optimistic view and see it as the last chance you have to relax, and so you view it with warmth as your final day of rest. Maybe Sunday for you is mainly Gameday—a day of football and friends and food and drink. Maybe you work on Saturday and so Sunday for you is your only full day of rest. Maybe you work on Sunday and therefore view it pretty much just like any other day.

If you’re a Christian your first thought might be that Sunday is the day when you go to church. Maybe it makes you feel excited: you genuinely look forward to corporate worship—singing songs of praise to the Lord and hearing the gospel preached to you and sharing in the Lord’s Supper, and all with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You know that your soul needs it, and you regularly find yourself encouraged and upbuilt in faith by these gatherings.

But as Christians, if we’re honest, we don’t always feel this way. Our hearts aren’t always aligned with the psalmist’s when he wrote, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD'” (Ps 122:1). We know that we should feel excited, but sometimes church feels like a chore, and Sunday seems just like any other day. We might look forward more to watching the game or catching up on some sleep than in participating in corporate worship. (To be clear: this is not at all to say that we shouldn’t look forward to watching the game or getting some needed rest: it’s a question of our overall priority and general posture. Do we look forward more to recreation than to corporate worship? Do we merely put up with church and bear through it to get to the good stuff?)

So we need help—grace from God to help us to rightly value the regular, weekly gathering of the church on the first day of the week to worship Jesus. There are, of course, a number of things we can and should do: we should seek to delight ourselves more in the Lord throughout the week such that worshiping him with other Christians on Sunday is just the natural overflow of our joy in him—like of course that’s what we’d want to do; we should confess to God when our hearts aren’t right on a Sunday morning and ask him to change our desires; we should get a more robust theology of the church, and start viewing it less as a voluntary social club and more as the body of Christ, “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:23).

But here’s one thing in particular that has helped me: Andrew Wilson’s Sunday tweets. If you’re on Twitter, I would strongly recommend that you follow Andrew Wilson (@AJWTheology), even if just for his Sunday tweets. (If you’re not on Twitter, you can still google “Andrew Wilson Twitter” and view his page.) Just about every Sunday Andrew posts something that helps you view the first day of the week for what it is: a day of joy and celebration, the day when the worldwide church gathers to worship the risen Christ. I know myself well enough to know that I’m prone to have low views of the church, so I’m immensely helped by reading these! Here are some of my favorites:

On Sunday we sing & dance—because on Sunday the dull drumbeat of death turned into the riotous riverdance of resurrection. Happy Lord’s Day.

All sorts worshiped: poor farmers, teenage girls, rich foreigners, faithful widows. We still do. Then—dozens. Now—billions. Happy Sunday.

Politics, sport, news, travel, money, empire: shakeable. Gospel, creeds, scriptures, bread, wine, kingdom: unshakeable. Happy Lord’s day!

Treasures new & old. New songs, old psalms, new words, old creeds, sacraments of two millennia ago, stories from two days ago. Happy Sunday!

Today, God welcomes you into his home. Come in. Talk to him. Listen to him. Share the meal he’s prepared. Meet his family. Happy Lord’s day!

Today, the world turns. CEOs serve coffee. Cops baptise criminals. Fishermen preach to PhDs. A Jew is worshipped by Gentiles. Happy Sunday.

Three persons, one God. Many voices, one song. Many languages, one word. Many worshippers, one loaf. Many members, one body. Happy Sunday.

Today we meet in 10s, 100s or 1000s; on that day, it will be billions. Now, local; soon, global. One love. One loaf. One Lord. Happy Sunday!

Daily we rise, wash, eat, work, pay, talk, listen, sleep. Today we rise, baptise, break bread, serve, give, sing, hear & rest. Happy Sunday!

Songs rise today in the US & the UK, Uganda & Uruguay, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the UAE. And yet: one church. One faith. One Lord. Happy Sunday!

Yes, we come together to give: time, praise, service, money. But we come primarily to receive: gospel, joy, rest, refreshment. Happy Sunday!

The new world first collided with the old one on a Sunday morning. Week by week, it still does. And the new world wins. Happy Sunday.

We join, sing, hear, pray, eat & drink because we believe. But we also believe because we join, sing, hear, pray, eat & drink. Happy Sunday!

Well, I have to stop somewhere! Don’t worry—there’s only six more days until the next one.

St. Bernard on the Tragedy of the Human Condition


St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

It is always natural for every rational being to desire what it sees to be finer and to direct its energies toward it. It is never satisfied with anything which lacks what it judges it should have. For example, a man who has a beautiful wife looks at lovelier women with a discontented eye or mind. He who is dressed in fine clothes wants better. He who is very rich envies a richer man. Today you see many men who already have great wealth and possessions still laboring day by day to add one field to another and to extend their boundaries with greed which knows no bounds. And you see those who have houses worthy of a king in vast palaces nevertheless adding house to house everyday, and building with a restless love of novelty, knocking down what they build, altering rectangles to rounds. And what of men in high positions? Do we not see them striving with all their might to reach still higher positions? Their ambition is never satisfied. There is no end to it all because the highest and the best is not to be found in any of these things. If a man cannot be at peace until he has the highest and best, is it surprising that he is not content with inferior and worse things? It is folly and extreme madness always to be longing for things which cannot only never satisfy, but cannot even blunt the appetite. However much you have of such things, you still desire what you have not yet attained. You are always restlessly sighing after what is missing. When the wandering mind is always rushing about in empty effort among the various and deceptive delights of the world, it grows weary and remains dissatisfied. It is like a starving man who thinks that whatever he is stuffing himself with is nothing in comparison with what remains to be eaten. He is always anxiously wanting what he has not got rather than enjoying what he has, for who could have everything? That little which a man obtains by all his efforts he possesses in fear. He does not know what he will lose and when. Thus the perverted will, which is aiming for the best and trying to make speed towards that which will fully satisfy it, fails in its endeavor. The wicked, therefore, walk around in a circle: naturally wanting what will satisfy their wants, and foolishly thrusting away their means of obtaining it—that is, obtaining not consumption but consummation.

 – Quoted in Carl Trueman’s lecture, “Medieval Church 4: St. Bernard of Clairvaux.” 


Only in God do the deepest longings of the human heart find their consummation: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply,” but “in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:4, 11).

Christmas in July: A Poem from Glen Scrivener

It may seem odd to write a blog post about Christmas during the month of July. Heat waves, bike rides, mosquito bites, and outdoor grilling are not experiences that Americans tend to associate with Christmas. Why should we? But for those who live in the southern hemisphere Christmas goes hand-in-hand with summer events like these, and it is one such southern-hemispherian who induced me to write this out-of-season blog post. (But then again, the incarnation is never out-of-season!)

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a Christmas poem by Glen Scrivener called, “Christmas in Dark Places.” In it he describes his own personal journey from his native land of Australia to the northern land of England, particularly as it relates to his differing experiences of Christmas celebrations in both countries. As the poem continues though, the concepts of summer and winter broaden to a much larger level. And as with the other poems Glen has written, the point is Christ. May we rejoice in him in these summer months.

It used to be summer when Christmas came round,
Neath tall southern skies, over sun-scorched ground,
With the backyard cricket, the barbies, the beach,
And munching on mangoes to watch the Queen’s Speech.
The slatherings of sunscreen, the glorious glare
And toasting the glow in the warm evening air.

It used to be summer… when I was young.
A golden age in a land far flung.
But there came a point, I crossed a divide,
Went up in the world and summer had died.
December is dark now, the nights close in,
So we huddle together as kith and as kin.

It’s winter now when Christmas rolls round,
We celebrate still though with different surrounds.
We mull the wine and strike the matches,
Light the fires, batten the hatches,
Gather around the warming beam
Of family love or a TV screen.
So safe inside, no place to go,
We toast marshmellows and let it snow.

Our summer’s gone, if you’ve been around,
You’ve felt the fall: life’s run aground.
We’ve gone up in the world, seen summer die.
So what’s our hope? the dark defy?
Stoke the hearth? retreat indoors?
Rug up warm with you and yours?
The shadow reaches even here,
But this is the place for Christmas cheer.

It’s dark, in the Bible, when Christmas is spoken.
Always a bolt from the blue for the broken.
It’s the valley of shadow, the land of the dead,
It’s, “No place in the inn,” so He stoops to the shed.
He’s born to the shameful, bends to the weak,
Becomes the lowly: the God who can’t speak!
And yet, what a Word, this Savior who comes,
Our dismal, abysmal depths He plumbs.
Through crib and then cross, to compass our life.
To carry and conquer – our Brother in strife.
He became what we are: our failures He shouldered,
To bring us to His life: forever enfolded.
He took on our frailty, he took on all-comers,
To turn all our winters to glorious summers.

It’s Christmas now… whatever the weather,
Some soak in the sun, some huddle together.
But fair days or foul, our plight He embraces.
Real Christmas can shine in the darkest of places.

For more from Glen Scrivener, you can visit his website at christthetruth.net.

The Deceitfulness of Riches

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 
– Matthew 13:22
 
Be on your guard against “the deceitfulness of riches.” Don’t buy the lies that they tell.
  • Riches promise happiness, yet “he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income” (Eccl 5:10).
  • Riches promise security, so Solomon writes, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city” (Pv 10:15). Nevertheless, “neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the LORD” (Zeph 1:18). At the very moment when you most need its protection, it will flee from you. Money only offers earthly security; it provides no eternal security. It doesn’t give you what you really need.
  • Riches promise friendship, and so it is written, “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich have many friends” (Pv 14:20). Yet “the ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threats” (Pv 13:8). Riches make enemies too.
  • Riches promise life, so Christ’s warning implies, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Where then should we look for life if not in wealth? The Lord answers: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is the one who gives life: “The Son gives life to whom he will” (John 5:21). “I came that they may have life” (John 10:10). The apostle announces that Christ is our life (Col 3:4). Wealth could never provide true life to us. So the rich are exhorted in 1 Timothy 6 to not clutch their wealth, but have an open hand, letting it go, being generous, so that “they may take hold of that which is truly life” (v. 19).
Don’t let money trick you. Wealth lies. Riches lie. Possessions lie. “Christ is all” (Col 3:11).

He Gives Generously to All Without Reproach

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. – James 1:5

God is not stingy or mean-spirited. He “abounds” in steadfast love (Ex 34:6). His people should not fear to bring their supplications and requests to him – whether it be for wisdom or strength or faith or love or patience or zeal or victory over sin or any other good thing. He is not like man, who is prone to hoard all his good things to himself, and when asked to give, does so reluctantly (or doesn’t at all). God is happy to provide help for those who fear him and draw near to him through his Son. He “gives generously to all without reproach.”

But that’s not all. Another fear we may have when asking another person for something is that we will be put to shame. They may say things like, “Why don’t you have this already?” or “You’re always asking to borrow my stuff!” or “Why didn’t you ask for this sooner?” or “I thought you said you were getting along fine without it” or “It took you long enough to figure out you needed this” or other similar things. We fear being reproached for asking. But this fear must simply be done away with when we come before God in sincerity! “He gives generously to all without reproach.” He will not make a mockery of you. He will not chide you for not coming sooner. You will hear no “I-told-you-so”s. The prodigal son did not return home to find his father cross-armed with his foot tapping and a stern look on his face. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

So whether we are lost sinners pleading for grace for the first time or sinful saints pleading for grace for the hundredth time, we do not need to fear coming to God in prayer. Because of Jesus, even though we deserve reproach, we will find none when we come before the throne.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).