28 July 2016

Two Ways of Thinking

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in March 2011. Dan pointed out that there are only two ways to approach any subject: By starting with God and Scripture, or by starting somewhere else.

As usual, the comments are closed.
How can we figure out what to think about the big issues of spiritual import?

Well, we can ask a lot of questions, all centered around ourselves, or centered around other people. We can, for instance, ask how a concept makes us feel. We can ask whether it makes sense to us. We can test whether it fits the contours of our own personal thought. We can propose paradigms and syllogisms of our own crafting.

We can get into dialogue with others, and listen to them. We can hear their stories, and let those stories move us and mold and form our thinking. We can get a broader sample by reading bios, looking at polls, reading the mainstream media. We can embrace their questions and their rationales and their hierarchies, let them set the agenda for the endeavor.

We can sample this and that "faith-tradition," as broadly as we care to do. See what other men and women have done with it in the name of religion. If it important to us to be seen as (or to see ourselves as) cosmopolitan, we can search the world over 'till we think we find true love.

Then, once we've formed what feels right, what makes sense, what appeals, what best suits us — then, I say, we can launch, journey, and arrive.


Or we can be Christians.

While you're either looking for me to qualify that antithesis, or preparing to demand that I do so, let me just double-down by insisting that I mean exactly what I say. Thinking like a Christian, and thinking like anything else, are two fundamentally distinct processes. They are as different as night and day, and as irreconcilable as left and right.

There are fundamentally two ways to approach any concept, and only two. We can start with God and His Word, or we can start somewhere else; and the "somewhere else" usually boils down to ourselves. This is a philosophical methodology of ancient coinage.

My text here — one of many possible — is Proverbs 1:7.
The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge;
Wisdom and discipline, dense people belittle. (DJP)
"Beginning" here can mean several things. I bat this around in my book on Proverbs, and explain that I think it means beginning in the sense of starting-place.  It is the starting-place not in that we check the box and move on, but in the sense that, if we don't start with the fear of Yahweh, we won't get anywhere in knowledge or wisdom. I liken it to the alphabet. You don't get anywhere with reading without knowing the alphabet; but, having started with the alphabet, you never discard it. You use it constantly, because it permeates all you do when you read.

So likewise the fear of Yahweh is the starting-place of knowledge, and of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). We start there, or we get nowhere. And, having started there, we never leave it, because it permeates every thought and every chain of reasoning.

24 July 2016

What a change it is!

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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 43, sermon number 2,510, "Apart."
"True repentance is always accompanied by sorrow." 

It has been said by some of those of modern times who disparage repentance that repentance is “nothing but a change of mind.” These words sound as if there was merely some superficial meaning to them; and so, indeed, they are intended by those who use them, but they are not so intended by the Spirit of God.

Repentance may be and is a change of mind; but what a change it is! It is not an unimportant change of mind such as you may have concerning whether you will take your holiday this week or the next, or about some trifling matter of domestic interest; but it is a change of the whole heart, of the love, of the hate, of the judgment, and the view of things taken by the individual whose mind is thus changed.

It is a deep, radical, fundamental, lasting change; and you will find that, whenever you meet with it in Scripture, it is always accompanied with sorrow for past sin. And rest you assured of this fact, that the repentance which has no tears in its eye and no mourning for sin in its heart, is a repentance which needs to be repented of, for there is in it no evidence of conversion, no sign of the existence of the grace of God.

In what way has that man changed his mind who is not sorry that he has sinned? In what sense can it be said that he has undergone any change worth experiencing if he can look back upon his past life with pleasure, or look upon the prospect of returning to his sin without an inward loathing and disgust?

I say again that we have need to stand in doubt of that repentance which is not accompanied with mourning for sin; and even when Christ is clearly seen by faith, and sin is pardoned, and the man knows that it is forgiven, he does not cease to mourn for sin.

Nay, brethren, his mourning becomes deeper as his knowledge of his guilt becomes greater; and his hatred of sin grows in proportion as he understands that love of Christ by which his sin is put away.

In true believers, mourning for sin is chastened and sweetened, and, in one sense, the fang of bitterness is taken out; but, in another sense, the more we realize our indebtedness to God’s grace, and the more we see of the sufferings of Christ in order to our redemption, the more do we hate sin and the more do we lament that we ever fell into it. I am sure it is so, and that every Christian’s experience will confirm what I say.

17 July 2016

Our hope: transformed wolves

Spurgeon's Beard

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Gospel of the Kingdom, page 70, Pilgrim Publications.
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16.

It would be foolhardy to go if Jesus did not say, “I send you.” When Jesus sends forth sheep, they may go fearlessly into the very “midst of wolves.” He sends them, not to fight with wolves, nor to drive them out of their haunts, but to transform them.

The disciples were sent to fierce men to convince them, and therefore they must be wise; to convert them, and therefore they must be gentle. The weapons of Christians are that they are weaponless. They are to be prudent, discreet, “wise as serpents”; but they are to be loving, peaceful, “harmless as doves.” 

The Christian missionary will need to be wary, to avoid receiving harm; but he must be of a guileless mind, that he do no harm. We are called to be martyrs, not maniacs; we are to be simple-hearted, but we are not to be simpletons.

After all, the mission of sheep to wolves is a hopeful one, since we see in the natural world that the sheep, though so feeble, by far outnumber the wolves who are so fierce. The day will come when persecutors will be as scarce as wolves, and saints as numerous as sheep.

Lord, in my work for thee, so teach me that I may display the wonderful blend of serpent and dove, which thou dost here commend to thy ministers. Never allow me to become to others like a wolf, but may I conquer by the meekness of a lamb!

10 July 2016

The unequal yoke

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 50, sermon number 2,914, "A mournful defection."
"If you want to wither your happiness for ever, you have only to go and be yoked with an unbeliever."

Never confide in those persons of whose principles you have good cause to stand in doubt. Above all, let me admonish you, young people, not to be “unequally yoked together.” Marriage without the fear of God is a fearful mistake. Those ill-assorted unions between believers and unbelievers rob our churches of more members than any other popular delinquency that I know of.

Seldom—I might almost say never—do I meet with a woman professing godliness who becomes joined in wedlock to a man of the world but what she goes away. She ceases to follow Jesus and we hear no more of her. Absorbed in the pursuits, the passions, and the pleasures of the life that now is, she is sucked under the stream and drawn into the vortex.

In the romance of her courtship, she glibly said, “I shall win him;” but, in the reality of their conjugal bonds, he could coolly say, “I have won you.” Probably the stronger nature wins the day. In this case, however, a precept of the Gospel is violated and the penalty of disobedience is incurred.

It is much easier for the one who professes religion to give up the faith, after laying down the cross, than for another who has no religion to take up the cross and follow the Saviour in whom he has never yet believed.

I counsel you, young man or woman, who contemplate a marriage on the basis of capricious attractions, without reference to the sanctity of the relationship before God, to communicate your intention to your minister and renounce your membership in the church, before you say your vows. Give up all profession of religion voluntarily. Do not wait to be excommunicated. Do not sneak away without giving an account of yourself.

You had better count the cost and pay the price of your own presumption. Should your unwarranted but sanguine hopes succeed, and your earnest endeavours to gain the conversion of your helpmeet be successful, that would be an uncovenanted mercy. If God chose to give it to you, it would not even then excuse you for tempting him by your waywardness, or provoking him to jealousy by your wilfulness.

There is an express command, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” I appeal to every Christian man or woman who has been converted since marriage,—Do you not find it exceedingly hard to keep up your courage when one pulls one way and one another? And does it not cut you to the quick to think that your union is but temporary; that, however dear you may be to each other now, you will be parted at the judgment seat of Christ—parted to meet no more?

The Lord make us careful about our associates, about those among whom we stand, by whom we sit, with whom we walk!
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03 July 2016

A deadly disease

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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Words of Counsel, page 84, Pilgrim Publications.
"The resolve to do all as unto the Lord will elevate you above that craving for recognition which is a disease with many." 

It is a sad fault in many Christians that they cannot do anything unless all the world is told of it. The hen in the farm-yard has laid an egg, and feels so proud of the achievement that she must cackle about it: everybody must know of that one poor egg, till all the country round resounds with the news.

It is so with some professors: their work must be published, or they can do no more. “Here have I,” said one, “been teaching in the school for years, and nobody ever thanked me for it; I believe that some of us who do the most are the least noticed, and what a shame it is.”

But if you have done your service unto the Lord you should not talk so, or we shall suspect you of having other aims. The servant of Jesus will say, “I do not want human notice. I did it for the Master; He noticed me, and I am content.

I tried to please Him, and I did please Him, and therefore I ask no more, for I have gained my end. I seek no praise of men, for I fear lest the breath of human praise should tarnish the pure silver of my service.”

If you seek the praise of men you will in all probability fail in the present, and certainly you will lose it in the future sooner or later.

26 June 2016

“Not so much"

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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Words of Counsel, pages 106-107, Pilgrim Publications.
"I am afraid that this is a magazine-reading age, a newspaper-reading age, a periodical-reading age, but not so much a Bible-reading age as it ought to be."

 In Puritanic times men used to have a scant supply of other literature, but they found a library enough in the one Book, the Bible. And how they did read the Bible! How little of Scripture there is in modern sermons compared with the sermons of those masters of theology, the Puritanic divines!

Almost every sentence of theirs seems to cast side-lights upon a text of Scripture; not only the one they are preaching about, but many others as well are set in a new light as the discourse proceeds. They introduce blended lights from other passages which are parallel or semi-parallel thereunto, and thus they educate their readers to compare spiritual things with spiritual.

I would to God that we ministers kept more closely to the grand old Book! We should be instructive preachers if we did so, even if we were ignorant of “modern thought,” and were not “abreast of the times.” I warrant you we should be leagues ahead of our times if we kept closely to the Word of God.

As for you who have not to preach, the best food for you is the Word of God itself. Sermons and books are well enough, but streams that run for a long distance above ground gradually gather for themselves somewhat of the soil through which they flow, and they lose the cool freshness with which they started from the spring head.

Truth is sweetest where it breaks from the smitten Rock, for at its first gush it has lost none of its heavenliness and vitality. It is always best to drink at the well and not from the tank.

You shall find that reading the Word of God for yourselves, reading it rather than notes upon it, is the surest way of growing in grace. Drink of the unadulterated milk of the Word of God, and not of the skim milk, or the milk and water of man’s word.

19 June 2016

On avoiding the pigpen

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Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 43, sermon number 2,525, "Joy in place of sorrow."
"True Christians need never covet the poor joy of worldlings."

We cannot fall into the insanity of living with such miserable ends and objects as those which are compassed within the short pale of our existence here below. It has become slavery to us; and I bear witness for myself and for you also, that we do not forsake the pleasures of the world because we think that we are denying ourselves. It is no self-denial to us, for they would not please us.

I have gone by a whole line of sties, and seen the pigs feeding greedily; but I never thought that I was denying myself because I did not feed with them. I never wished to have a law passed that the unclean beasts should not have their swill.

No, let them have it, and as much as they can eat; and we say just the same of the pleasures of the carnal man. We do not envy him that which is so great a relish, it is no self-denial to us to go without it; we have come out of that style of living, and we do not want to go back to it.

When the man says that he is perfectly happy and satisfied, we think, “Just so; no doubt you are, and we have seen many a fat bullock in the field look perfectly content.” But Christians have different pleasures, and higher joys; and we cannot be bullocks, we cannot be swine.

We have been brought out of that kind of merely animal life, we have been lifted up into another and a higher style of living; and it is nothing short of a miracle of the divine hand which has brought us right out of it, so that we have done with it for ever, and loathe it, and could not go back to it under any circumstances whatever.

Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. The Lord has brought us out of the region of darkness into his marvellous light, and delivered us for ever from the power and dominion of Satan.