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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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An Honest Subscription to Creeds

Quoting Samuel Miller:

“It is certainly a transaction which ought to be entered upon with much deep deliberation and humble prayer; and in which, if a man be bound to be sincere in anything, he is bound to be honest to his God, honest to himself, and honest to the church which he joins. For myself, I know of no transaction in which insincerity is more justly chargeable with the dreadful sin of “lying to the Holy Ghost” than in this. It is truly humiliating and distressing to know that in some churches it has gradually become customary to consider articles of faith as merely articles of peace: in other words, as articles which he who subscribes is not considered as professing to believe, but as merely engaging not to oppose at least in any public or offensive manner.”

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Madison On The Architects Of The Constitution

Signing The Constitution

Quoting James Madison, 1835:

“Whatever may be the judgment pronounced on the competency of the architects of the Constitution, or whatever may be the destiny of the edifice prepared by them, I feel it a duty to express my profound and solemn conviction … that there never was an assembly of men, charged with a great and arduous trust, who were more pure in their motives, or more exclusively or anxiously devoted to the object committed to them.”

Christianity And Humanism

Dorthy Sayers

After 12 novels and several collections of short stories, Dorothy L. Sayers announced that she intended to stop writing fiction and to turn to more serious subjects. Sayers viewed all life in terms of the incarnation. She lectured and wrote on the imperative need to make Christian dogma meaningful in ordinary life. In this essay, she stresses that it is fatal to allow people to suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling and that it is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vague, idealistic aspiration. She believed Christianity to be a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine steeped uncompromising realism:

A young and intelligent priest remarked to me the other day that he thought one of the greatest sources of strength in Christianity today lay in the profoundly pessimistic view it took of human nature. There is a great deal in what he says. The people who are most discouraged and made despondent by the barbarity and stupidity of human behavior at this time are those who think highly of Homo Sapiens as a product of evolution, and who still cling to an optimistic belief in the civilizing influence of progress and enlightenment. To them, the appalling outbursts of bestial ferocity in the Totalitarian States . . . are not merely shocking and alarming. For them, these things are the utter negation of everything in which they have believed. It is as though the bottom had dropped out of their universe. The whole thing looks like a denial of all reason, and they feel as if they and the world had gone mad together.

Now for the Christian, this is not so. He is as deeply shocked and grieved as anybody else, but he is not astonished. He has never thought very highly of human nature left to itself. He has been accustomed to the idea that there is a deep interior dislocation in the very centre of human personality, and that you can never, as they say, “make people good by act of parliament,” just because laws are man-made and therefore partake of the imperfect and self-contradictory nature of man. Humanly speaking, it is not true at all that “truly to know the good is to do the good” ; it is far truer to say with St. Paul that “the evil that I would not, that I do”; so that the mere increase of knowledge is of very little help in the struggle to outlaw evil. The delusion of the mechanical perfectibility of mankind through a combined process of scientific knowledge and unconscious evolution has been responsible for a great deal of heartbreak. It is, at bottom, far more pessimistic than Christian pessimism, because, if science and progress break down, there is nothing to fall back upon. Humanism is self-contained—it provides for man no resources outside himself.

The Christian dogma of the double nature in man—which asserts that man is disintegrated and necessarily imperfect in himself and all his works, yet closely related by a real unity of substance with an eternal perfection within and beyond him—makes the present parlous state of human society seem both less hopeless and less irrational. I say “the present parlous state”—but that is to limit it too much. A man told me the other day; “I have a little boy of a year old. When the war broke out, I was very much distressed about him, because I found I was taking it for granted that life ought to be better and easier for him than it had been for my generation. Then I realized that I had no right to take this for granted at all—that the fight between good and evil must be the same for him as it had always been, and then I ceased to feel so much distressed.” As Lord David Cecil has said: “the jargon of the philosophy of progress taught us to think that the savage and primitive state of man is behind us; we still talk of the present ‘return to barbarism.’ But barbarism is not behind us, it is beneath us.” And in the same article he observes: “Christianity has compelled the mind of man, not because it is the most cheering view of human existence, but because it is truest to the facts.” I think this is true; and it seems to me quite disastrous that the idea should have got about that Christianity is an otherworldly, unreal, idealistic kind of religion which suggests that if we are good we shall be happy—or if not, it will all be made up to us in the next existence. On the contrary it is fiercely and even harshly realistic, insisting that the kingdom of Heaven can never be attained in this world except by unceasing toil and struggle and vigilance: that, in fact, we cannot be good and cannot be happy, but that there are certain eternal achievements that make even happiness look like trash. (Speech: “Creed or Chaos?”)

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