Thursday, January 29, 2009
Augustine was famously sensitive to, and fascinated with, music. One of his earliest pieces of writing was a book 'On Music'. To modern readers it may appear to posit an overly mathematical view of music; in reality it is presenting a view of the universe as fundamentally musical - with rich implications for beauty, communication and relationships.
In The Confessions Augustine pondered the seemingly dangerous power of sung Psalms to overwhelm his aesthetic senses and make him weep. Was this his fallen nature- or a foretaste of heaven?
Renewing a mobile phone contract with T Mobile this morning gave me reason to ponder the power of music. When I suggested that I may leave for another company unless I was offered a cheaper deal (Yes I am from N. Ireland!), I was put on hold. The music which was played down the phone to me was:
'I'm leaving you for the last time,
You think you love me but you don't...'
It did not quite move me to tears, but I stayed with T Mobile. For the music. And infinite free text messages...
Friday, January 09, 2009
At 8.08pm last night, our first baby was stillborn. His heart stopped in the womb and he went to heaven before being born to earth.
Before we met, my wife and I both had the same favourite names for children. Our baby boy was given the name we always intended for him - Calvin. Small enough to hold in your hand, he is infinitely precious. Somehow, we know that his all too brief life, was lived for the glory of God.
Little Calvin was named after one of the great theologians - John Calvin, born 500 years ago. Our baby Calvin is now a greater theologian than any person on earth; for he sees God face to face, rather than by faith.
Our God gloriously and awesomely rules over the timing of all events. With regard to the precise moment of death, John Calvin wrote:
"He is said to have fulfilled his day who leaves the world — for a certain time for our sojourn has been prefixed. God, when it pleases him, calls us to himself. Hence, our time is then fulfilled, as our course is said to be finished; for, as the life of man is compared in Scripture to a race, so death is like the goal." Commentary on Lamentations
This sovereign Lordship is particularly painful to behold when it is your own child who dies, in this case before he was born. As the Psalmist wrote:
"Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them." Psalm 139:16
As I mourn with my wife the loss of baby Calvin, we humble ourselves beneath the sovereign timing of God's gracious hand, and praise him that all his books are masterpieces. It just breaks our hearts that some of his books are so tragically short.
Friday, January 02, 2009
I have not posted much recently as I have mainly been either driving accross Britain, or sitting in front of a log fire reading. Having just put a fresh log on the fire I intend this comment to be brief!
One of the books I read over past few days was the classic work on religious toleration, by Jeremy Taylor. Written in 1646, years before the secular pleas for toleration, by Locke, Taylor made a passionate case for not executing heretics. I like highlighting the full title of books, so here it is:
'A Discourse of the liberty of prophesying: shewing the unreasonableness of prescribing to other men's faith; and the iniquity of persecuting other men's opinions.'
Taylor, himself suffered as he was imprisoned and exiled to Wales. When the political mood changed, he secured the honour of being appointed a bishop in Ireland.
In today's secular culture, it may be wise for us to read Taylor's book. For when, as it now is, Christianity is a minority viewpoint in an increasingly hostile environment, we have good cause to avoid fighting and arguing over secondary issues. Taylor's book does not help us progress much towards clarifying the difficult questions of when a secondary issue becomes primary, or how in practice we live out the disputable issues which Paul mentions in Romans. John Stott, in his book 'Evangelical Truth' simply lists issues he thinks may be secondary. I suspect we need a more refined approach, perhaps describing three levels of importance rather than two, and we need to recognise that issues may vary in their position of importance due to the culture, setting and connected variables. Regardless of that, I have found that Taylor's writings are a great incentive to work harder at living out and formulating the charity and catholicity which is truly orthodox.
I have been enjoying some of Taylor's sermons also - which can be very witty. In one I came accross he commented, 'Let no man pull down the ministry of another - for if you can only make yourself look big by pulling another down, you must be a dwarf!'
A typical quote from his 'Of Liberty' is:
'Many mischiefs proceed not from this, that all men are not of one mind, for that is neither necessary nor possible, but that every opinion is made an article of faith, every article is the ground of a quarrel, every quarrel makes a faction, every faction is zealous, and all zeal pretends for God, and whatsoever is for God cannot be too much. We by this time are come to that pass, where we think we love not God except we hate our brother, and we have not religion except we persecute all but our own.'
The nice people at Google have digitised an entire copy of Taylor's book On Liberty and it may be downloaded here: