Quick Quote 9 – we are praying from within the Trinity

Because we are united to Christ by faith, when we are adopted into God’s family we not only join the international people of God scattered around the world, wee are even brought right into the triune family of God himself! When we pray, we are not shouting to our Father from a distance .We can whisper in our hearts to our Father, for as members of the body of the Son we have ‘access to the Father by one Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:18). In Christ by faith, we are praying from within the Trinity of God!

Richard Coekin, Our Father, p34

Quick Quote 8 – complimentary tickets

Please do not ask management for complimentary tickets for your friends. If your friends will not pay to see you, why should the public?

Quoted in Bradford Theatres summer 2014 programme

According to rumour, this quote was placed on the dressing room doors of the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford by its founder, Francis Laidler. The man has a point!

Quick Quote 7 – free, undeserved, eternal love

When John Owen writes about saints, he is referring to all Christians, not those who have been specially recognised by the church.

The chief way by which the saints have communion with the Father is love – free, undeserved, eternal love. This love the Father pours on the saints. Saints are to see God as full of love to them. They are to receive him as the One who loves them, and are to be full of praise and thanksgiving to God for his love. They are to show gratitude for his love by living a life which pleases him.

John Owen, Communion with God

Do not call anything impure that God has made clean

I’m currently reading through the book of Acts in the Bible, and in chapter 10 the apostle Peter has a famous vision in which God tells him to eat animals which are impure for a Jew to eat. When Peter refuses, God tells him three times

“Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Acts 10:15, NIV

The meaning in its context is clear. Acts is the story of God’s word spreading throughout the world, and the inclusion of Samaritans (half-Jews) and Gentiles (non-Jews) in God’s kingdom. Peter has this vision just before being asked to preach to a Gentile called Cornelius, and Peter says to him

“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.”

Acts 10:28, NIV

The gospel is now open to the Gentiles, and it is no longer important to become a Jew to be right with God. This is indisputably the primary meaning of what God said, and I certainly don’t wish to detract from that.

However, as I was reading this a few days ago, another implication of this struck me for the first time. Those of us who are Christians are made clean by God, yet how often we fail to recognise this. How often we focus on our own impurity, our sin. Yet once God has made us clean, we are clean, and we are not to call ourselves (or other Christians) impure. We are still sinners, and it’s right to fight against sin, both in our own lives and the lives of other Christians, but let’s not lose focus on the cleanliness God has given to us in Christ. We should not be despondent about sin. Instead, we can rest confidently in the God who has made us clean.

Quick Quote 6 – would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind?

In this quote, naturalism is the belief that physical matter is the only thing that exists, and that the universe is a system of cause and effect with no external person (e.g. God) who can interact with it.

Is there a test for distinguishing illusion from reality? Naturalists point to the methods of scientific inquiry, pragmatic tests and so forth. But all these utilize the brain they are testing. Each test could well be a futile exercise in spinning out the consistency of an illusion.
For naturalism nothing exists outside the system itself. There is no God … There is only the cosmos, and humans are the only conscious beings. But they are latecomers. They “arose,” but how far? Can they trust their minds, their reason?
Charles Darwin himself once said, “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” In other words, if my brain is no more than that of a superior monkey I cannot even be sure that my own theory of my origin is to be trusted.

James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door

Stating your opponent’s case

One of the things I have on my life plan is that I want to always seek to understand others’ ideas and perspectives, and always represent them fairly when explaining them. It is my conviction that when we state an opinion that we disagree with, we should do so with such clarity that someone who does hold that opinion would recognise their own opinion and acknowledge that you did it full justice. If you think someone holds an opinion that no sane person could possibly think was a good one, you probably aren’t representing your opponent well. If you can’t find any appeal in their views, maybe you haven’t understood them rightly. It seems to me that only once we have understood and appreciated an argument can we then argue against it.

I was reminded of this recently, while considering the writing of Erasmus at church. I believe that Erasmus was, quite simply, wrong in his debate with Luther, but it struck me as important that we allowed Erasmus to speak for himself, rather than only reading Luther. It is difficult to be persuasive in how we express the viewpoint of someone with whom we disagree, but to read Erasmus’ own words removed that problem. Indeed, in several places he wrote with great persuasiveness, and people found themselves challenging their own beliefs. This challenge to our own ideas is what makes this sort of exercise valuable, and it is only when we feel the same force of an argument that its proponents feel that we can benefit from it. We do not have to accept the truth of someone else’s view, but only by appreciating it can we learn from it and sharpen our own views.

The importance of representing opinions well even if they are not our own was also brought home when I was reading a commentary on Philippians recently in preparation for a talk I’ll be giving in a few weeks, and found the author had suffered from someone not accurately portraying his opinion.

“In the process of making a case for his interpretations, there is a tendency to represent the views of others in less than accurate fashion. In several instances … my own position has been badly misrepresented… It appears to me that other scholars have also not fared well, but they will need to speak for themselves.”

Moisés Silva, Philippians (2nd edition) in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series, p33

Let’s all make sure that we take the time to portray others in a fair light when we disagree with them.