Monday, 13 February 2017

Soul formation and care in the Psalter

"...the anatomy of all the parts of the soul, for not an affection will anyone find in himself whose image is not reflected in this mirror.  All the griefs, sorrows, fears, misgivings, hopes, cares, anxieties, in short all the disquieting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated, the Holy Spirit hath here pictured exactly."

                           - John Calvin, from the preface to his commentary on the Psalms

"The canonical shape of the Psalter assured the future generations of Israelites that this book spoke a word of God to each of them in their need.  It was not only a record of the past, but a living voice speaking to the present human suffering.  By taking seriously the canonical shape the reader is given an invaluable resource for the care of souls, as the synagogue and church have always understood the Psalter to be."

             - Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 523

"...the psalms have much to say about behavior, about what actions please God and what he hates, so that anyone praying them is simultaneously being taught an ethic.  Those who use the psalms as prayers are often not aware of this aspect, but...this is one of the most potent forms of ethical indoctrination."

         - Gordon J. Wenham, Psalms as Torah: Reading Biblical Song Ethically, p. 2

"In the other books we are taught by both precept and example what we ought to do.  This book not only teaches but also gives the means and method by which we may keep the precept and follow the example."

                                                     - Martin Luther, from his Preface to the Psalter

"Whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you not merely hear and then pass on, but learn the way to remedy your ill."

               - from "The Letter of St. Athanasius to Marcellinus on the Interpretation
                          of the Psalms," in On the Incarnation

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Bonhoeffer for our cultural/political moment

"Through all this [his resistance to Nazism and the compromising German church], Bonhoeffer wrote theology - sermons, lectures, circular letters, and books.  In a very great degree his writing is characterized by beautiful iterations of doctrine, a sort of visionary orthodoxy:  'History lives between promise and fulfillment.  It carries the promise within itself, to become full of God, the womb of the birth of God.'  To understand his method, one must remember his circumstances.  He is asserting the claims of Christ in all their radicalism in order to encourage and reassure those drawn to what became the Confessing Church.  At the same time, he is chastising those who use Christianity as an escape from the evils of the world and from the duties those evils imply, and he is chastising those who have accommodated their religion to the prevailing culture so thoroughly as to have made the prevailing culture their religion.  His object is to make core beliefs immediate and compelling, to forbid the evasions of transcendence and of acculturation.  He is using the scandal of the cross to discover the remnant church among the multitudes of the religious."

                                            -   Marilynne Robinson, "Dietrich Bonhoeffer", from
                                         The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought,  p.115-16

Who is doing this today?   How are they doing it?   If no one is, who will and how ought it be done?