I Won’t! Because I Can’t Believe It!

When Jesus says the OT is all about Him He doesn’t have in mind a verse here and a verse there, a prediction here or an event there. He sees the entire corpus (Moses, the Psalms and Prophets–Luke 24:25-27, 44-49) as a single narrative with Himself as the unending climax BUT with Himself as one human of faith along with all humans and particularly with humans of faith & of faith in God.

We can see the way He and Paul and others will quote from the Psalms and apply the experience of the psalmist to Himself. “They hated me without a cause.”   “My familiar friend betrayed me.” “The reproach of them that reproached You fell on Me.” And note Hebrews 11:24-26 that makes Moses’ suffering “the reproach of Christ.” Jesus saw Himself as one with the entire nation of Israel and refuses to distance Himself from His sinful family so we find Him being baptized along with them, By this He confesses He is part of a family that has sinned against God.

When He becomes incarnate, lives and is counted by His contemporaries as a sinner and dies sharing what they all experienced He was teaching them and us all manner of things. But He didn’t HAVE TO DO any of that. He didn’t HAVE TO teach us, suffer WITH us and FROM us and FOR us. He did it simply and solely because He WANTED to.

What brought Him to Incarnation, earthly life and ministry, saving death (and resurrection & glory) was no LAW by which God was bound; it was no internal conflict in the Godself between love and “punitive or retributive justice” which left Him helpless to freely, graciously simply forgive Sin. He came in and as the human called Jesus, the fellow-human of a race that chose and chooses ALIENATION—He came to offer restored life and friendship. His coming in pure free and sovereign grace to “plead” with the beloved rebel, the human family to be friends with Him again ( see 2 Corinthians 5:20 and context). I know it’s astonishing but He did it!
In choosing ALIENATION from God we chose the consequences which include inner self-ruin, pain and loss and anguish and temptation; and we choose all that for those around us! God in coming IN and AS the human, Jesus of Nazareth, was choosing the pain and loss and anguish and death that comes with humanity’s alienation.

Like innocent little babies (with profound differences, of course!) the sinless and holy Jesus in an alienated world freely embraced all that comes with being a human in such a world. It was unadulterated and limitless love of the human family, that God expressed in His coming personally to show it and tell it.
He wasn’t expressing any sick notion that He cannot FORGIVE sin unless He punishes it to the nth degree. And that He must punish the Innocent One,  While we continue in this world, the innocent and/or righteous will suffer along with the impenitent guilty. God does not punish the innocent! Sinners do that! Penal substitution is meant to glorify God but it distorts and cheapens Him. Punishment is NOT the same as suffering!
God joined us here. He joined us here to make it clear that our Sin and sins didn’t destroy His love and longing for us and life with us. That sustained act in Jesus of Nazareth is the fountain of all Christian response and it is still going on in the life of those who have been drawn into union and participation with the life and purpose of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus.
The meaning of the life, death of our Lord & Savior who would not distance Himself from His human family and so shared our suffering is being rehearsed and made visible in His body, the Church. He’s till suffering for the world. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” His body in which by His Holy Spirit He now dwells and makes Himself present in the world, is by its very existence bearing witness to all He meant to be and do in His earth-bound presence here and He does it until He returns to completely fulfill God’s eternal purpose.
PENAL SUBSTITUTION

He Did It Again, He’s Doing It Again & He Will Do It Again!

Psalm 2 records actual historical events that hover around an historical person called David. David was anointed by God to be king over Israel but His purpose and His commitment to fulfilling it in and to David was opposed by foreigners like the Philistines and also by his own people Israel in people like Saul and Absalom. Despite that opposition God in faithfulness and because He was adequate set David on the throne and there he sat all his days, having been declared to be God’s son (a royal title such as supreme earthly kings would bestow on their successors). But in this case while Nabopolassar’s son Nebuchadnezzar would sit on the throne of Babylon David would sit on the throne of God (1 Chronicles 28:5 and 29:23 where Solomon replaces David on the throne of the Lord (Yahweh). See too 2 Chronicles 9:8 and the acknowledgement of the Queen of Sheba.
Once more, Psalm 2 is a rehearsal of God acting within history and bringing about His will in actual historical events. Many truths are embedded in His actions which are intended to reveal truths about the God who involves Himself that way. The historical moment in which the historical events occurred are laden with truth that is not confined to David and that historical moment. God did not cease to be God when He fulfilled His purpose to David against enemies of that time. Nor was God’s commitment to David an isolated event that was an end in itself. It was part of an unfolding purpose that lasted long after David moved out of this life (Acts 2:25-31).

To use the category of narrative David had his personal and historical place in the “story and plot” of the divine Author. He played his part (lived it out) and then moved off stage and the “play/drama” continued as others stepped on to life’s stage.

Peter and the brothers and sisters take note of Psalm 2, its historical reality and revelation of God and in Acts 4:23-26 and in prayer they remind one another that “God has done it again!” He did it in David back in 1,000 B.C and (they insisted) “He has done it again in our day in Jesus Christ!” And they thanks and praised God for His faithfulness and His adequate power in the face of Israel & Rome.

Psalm 2 isn’t a “prediction”—it is a rehearsal of a time when God revealed Himself and His sovereignty over all opposition, it was a time when He reigned in David “in the midst of His enemies” and Peter simply cries, “He has done it again!” It isn’t that God acted “back then” and isn’t doing anything now! Now He reigns through Jesus whom He raised to glorious deathlessness! The gospel word of His promises and purposes is no dead letter, it is no “once upon a time” record. The Bible’s rehearsals of Psalm 2 & Acts 4. God’s Word is not dead! It’s “alive!” (Hebrews 4:12), it is “spirit and life” (John 6:63) because it‘s the voice of the ever-living God about the ever-living Lord Jesus given to us by the ever-living Spirit of the Father and His Son! And the kind of thing God did in 1000, BC or in 33 AD He is doing now!

In the face of entrenched evil, in the face of invisible hosts of wickedness that express themselves in history even here and now, in the midst of His enemies, God is raising people from their death in sin to sit in faith-filled living hope alongside Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:5-7; Colossians 2:11-12 with 3:1-4). GOD IS DOING IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN! And in a coming day He will bring all His promises to an unending climax and full fulfillment.

Those who are “in the know” will rehearse that truth about God on this coming Lord’s Day!

RESURRECTION       LIVING WORD

 

Wisdom Is Justified In Her Children

A prophet or a God-appointed scribe of Holy Scripture is not permitted to speak his own wisdom or his personal assessment of the political situation and offer it as: “Thus saith the Lord!” It’s certainly true he is not a Dictaphone into which God whispers His word as though He were stamping the precise wording of the message on inert brain tissue. No, the God who gifts people with wisdom, sensitivity, a listening heart that cares for His honor and His People—that God superintends and guides His specially commissioned servants as they speak God’s message or collect the oracles of God’s prophet. This process no doubt includes the activity and witness of the Chosen Community so that we end up with the Canonical Holy Scriptures. Be sure to see how Luke describes his own work under God that he gained from eye-witnesses and those writers who were in touch with eye-witnesses and the established early Christian accounts (Luke 1:1-4).
In the course of this complex creation of Holy Scripture those moved by the Spirit to speak and write were permitted free choice of the way and manner in which they conveyed God’s message entrusted to them. We mustn’t be frightened into adopting a theory of inspiration and then making the biblical witness go along with our theory. Better to believe that the Holy Scriptures are indeed from God and let the Bible be what it is and shape our theory of inspiration to fit the biblical text.

So the Bible has poetry, prayers, parables, visions, protests; so it speaks of things that didn’t actually happen when it has God speaking to gods though the gods have no objective existence or when it has God taking advice from some advisors in His council or when it attributes to Him feelings that cannot be a description of His inner feelings (Anthropopathism). Isaiah speaks of God as astonished and Hosea speaks of Him as a father who is in two minds what to do with Israel and Moses has Him being afraid or sorry that He created humankind. Don’t be worried about any such things. Preachers do that kind of thing all the time and we don’t bat an eye at it providing they are expressing the truth from and about God. Under the superintendence of God’s Spirit the prophets were free to express the truth entrusted to them and choose the wording that (under guidance) expressed the truth they were given by God.
We are not to be worried about the manner in which the Bible was written! If we’re going to worry about anything we should worry about our bringing our thoughts, convictions and lifestyle into line with the Bible God has given us. If we’re going to worry about anything we might worry about flamboyant Bible professors who are teaching the young and inexperienced and telling them, “Paul is wrong!!!” about a lot of things! We don’t need more Bible nor do we need a different one. We have enough and we have the right one! What we need is to listen to it and trust God in it rather than the fashionable critics. But, as Jesus said, “Wisdom is justified by her children.”

IF IT ISN’T GOD THEN WHO IS IT? (1)

Disagree with me or balance my statements if you feel you must; I’d not be unhappy with that. I don’t pretend to have my views worked out to a final decimal point or anything that approaches such a mindset but I’m a bit weary of christianly “vagueness” in profoundly important areas where at least some degree of clarity is clearly possible.

God bless you and me as we reflect on the suffering of our human family. 

  1. God doesn’t micromanage human life. In making humans humans He knowingly and freely, with fatherly sovereignty, created all that goes with being a human as a human. Humans become hungry and thirsty because God chose to make them humans. He asked no one’s opinion about what to create or how they would best be created. But He doesn’t micromanage their choices on what to eat, how much or how often or at what times. He created them with the capacity and (within limits) to make decisions about countless things that not only affect the chooser but also affect those who do not make those specific choices.
  2. In creating God created the means and methods of human procreation. This He did in the initial moment of bringing humans into existence and He sustains those means and methods as His will and way to continue to bring humans into being. But with the Fall, with (as the Holy Scriptures teach us) humanity’s chosen alienation from God the procreation process developed weaknesses and deformations and genetic and other faults so that humans suffered and now suffer from abnormalities that are passed through the processes which God set in motion and continues to keep in motion. That which was good (that is, suited His overarching purpose) became the very means of passing on disability, abnormality and all the painful, heartbreaking  consequences experienced by humans.
  3.  God is the Creator and sustainer of the biological/physiological “laws” that make such agony-generating occurrences possible. The same “laws” that govern the production of “normal” and healthy humans govern the conception and birth and condition of the hurt and “abnormal” babies. That is, if a “seriously bad gene” is there it will result in a seriously hurt human. Say it better than I’m saying it, say it more carefully than I’m saying it and with more knowledge and understanding than I have but in the end the same physical/biological “laws” govern biological development. “Bad genes” (or whatever) produce hurt humans and “good genes” (or whatever I should be saying) produce healthy humans.
  4. Let me repeat that God is the creator & sustainer of the “laws” and conditions of human procreation. There would be no two-headed little babies or little girls who are “normal and healthy from the waist up but look like an octopus from the waist down due to the development in the womb of more than one human. (Forgive me please if my speech here is too crass. Her condition is too distressing to make less of it.)
  5. We know this and God’s critics hold Him responsible for the results in a world like this. Even His friends in their heartbreak will cry out like Job. And many of God’s other friends shush the protests and work to show that God is not responsible for the result. They don’t want Him to get “bad press,” don’t you see! But God won’t have it! He, Himself, claims ultimate responsibility. Christians who take the Holy Scriptures seriously will allow God to say what He says rather than what they wish He had said.
  6. I understand the dilemma. They believe for many good reasons, that God loves the entire human family with a love that knows no limit in a God like Jesus Christ. Since that’s true they don’t want to believe anything that casts Him in a cruel light! So everything is laid at the door of human sin and corrupted free-will and in this way God is exonerated.
  7. Well not everything! The Devil is the main culprit and is granted miraculous power that beggars description and he is made to appear almost equal with God in power and wisdom. And so once again, God is not responsible for the disease, death, cruel and brutal abuse that exists in the world–it all the Devil’s fault!
  8. And who is the Devil who does all these unspeakable things? Where did he come from? God created him? God keeps him alive and operational? God gives him life and power to do what his inexpressibly evil heart does to a human family that God so loves that He gave His Son to save them? God gives life and power to that one and that is how we plead God’s “innocence”?
  9. In various ways we say, “God has nothing to do with these hurts and losses that humans experience—He is not responsible!” Why is it then that He says He is responsible?

                                            10. God says I am responsible!

  1. In Exodus 4 we have Moses trying to squirm out of the job God is calling him to; but God isn’t having it. Moses says he is not a good speaker so God is calling on the wrong person. God brushes the excuse aside by telling Moses that He knows all about such disabilities (real or pretended). God says it this way in 4:11: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (ESV)
  2. Some years ago I asked an Old Testament scholar about the text. He said it meant that God “allowed” them to be mute, deaf and blind. I remarked that it would have been nice if that is what God had said instead of what he actually said. “Allowed” is a good word and in some texts it works well but God knows how to say “allowed” when that’s what He means to say (Acts 14:16).
  3. Then there’s this text in Amos 3:1-8, particularly 3:6. The prophet Amos has traveled north to bring a warning from God to a spectacularly wicked kingdom, Israel, who was God’s chosen nation to teach and bless the world by honoring God and who instead degraded Him before them. For this God would come in chastisement that would finally result in 722/721 with the dismantling of the kingdom and exile. They would see signs of that chastisement but would offer various explanations for this or that national setback. Any explanation but God’s work would do but God won’t have it. In light of their evil and in light of this warning He says (3:6), “Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it?” (ESV)
    14. Finally for now there is Deuteronomy 32:23-30, with the entire chapter. It is a scathing denunciation of Israel’s treasonous, traitorous, persistent rejection of the God who took them for His own. He was faithful to His promises, He delivered them from Egyptian slavery, saved hem in battle, endured their lack of trust and brought them to a home of their own. And so He rages in His anger because they dishonor Him and hinder His purpose to bless all the nations through them. To underscore the depth of their apostasy He says this (32:23-30), “I will heap disasters upon them…they shall be wasted with hunger and devoured by plague…outdoors the sword shall bereave and indoor terrors for the young man and woman alike…” (then note this particularly)…”I would have said, ‘I will cut them to pieces; I will wipe them from human memory,’ had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should misunderstand, lest they should say, ‘Our hand is triumphant, it was not the Lord who did all this.’ (then He goes on to say of the enemy nation)…For they are a nation void of counsel and there is no understanding in them. If they were wise, they would understand this…How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand in flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up?”

***Here is an interesting thing! Many lovers of God are afraid of God’s enemies thinking God did these things and He is afraid that they will think He didn’t do them. ***

(To be continued shortly, God enabling.)

 

 

 

What He Has Done & What We Should Be Happy He is Doing!

He’s “King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” He’s the “Ruler of the princes/kings of the Earth!” He sits “Far above all rule and dominion, above all the powers, above every name that is named in this world and any other world, present or future!” He “is the Lord of the dead and of the living and the Lord of Sin, Death and Life itself!” In Him, “all things without limit ‘hold together’!” He’s “the Prince who brings peace and hope and assurance that on a coming day of His choosing all wrongs will be righted and both victims and their impenitent, exulting abusers will receive what unlimited wisdom and love with bring to pass!” When He was here, visible to the human eye, touchable by human hands and hearable by the human ear He revealed His Holy Father by going around healing and blessing and delivering and assuring and fiercely opposing and exposing and…teaching!

He did all this in living! He rebuked disease in every form and ordered demonic power to leave; He confronted Death at funeral processions and in tiny bedrooms and with a word transformed sobs and heartache into laughter and praise that God had made Himself present there and He brought fellowship and self-respect to people who were shunned and isolated by their powerless and fearful neighbors. All this He did in living and He did no less in His dying—He did more in His dying because as he said Himself, “My Father loves Me because I lay down my life that I might take it again!” (John 10:17-18)

Like His Holy Father who sends the rain on the thankless, the evil, the rabid atheist, the godless abusers, the religious leaders who are whited-sepulchers and lukewarm believers Jesus gave and offered purpose and power, life and understanding to humans of every class. And He did it not only because they needed it—He did it to proclaim that this is what GOD wanted for them. In watching Him people were seeing without understanding that God was reigning in their presence, in their bodies and minds, in their homes and in their families, in their daughters and sons.

And it’s true—much of it was miraculous and could only be manifested by someone such as He was. But it was bigger than miraculous—the miracles were also messages within a grander message. In Him we’re not seeing astonishing though temporary transformations—in Him and what He did God was saying, “See Me! See what I’m offering you! See what kind of God I am! Don’t just see the miracles—don’t just see the bread that could be a meal for a family becoming a meal that fed thousands. See ME expressing My heart by healing and feeding and liberating! Don’t ask why all weren’t healed and fed and liberated! Don’t wrestle with why I didn’t make Myself miraculously present at all times and everywhere—rejoice that I showed Myself anywhere at any time. Know that IAm! Know that in Jesus Christ you have seen Me and so trust Me. Know through Him, the resurrected and glorified Lord Jesus that I can be trusted and that a day will come, in the “fullness of time” when you in wide-eyed speechless joy will see that what I have done in a spellbinding manner in Him was a revelation of the nature and unchanging character of my Kingship and reign.

“In the light of His death see your own! In the light of His mission see your own         purpose for being! In the light of His vision of Me, see your own! See the rain and the sunshine the way He saw them—My gifts to all. Don’t doubt Me because right now not everyone everywhere experiences My gifts; be happy that anyone anywhere experiences them. I purpose all that is freeing and for the heart’s upifting. See the past miracles as tokens of My reigning presence in a world that lost its way by walking away from Me. Know through Him that My way of reigning is not by violence or corruption or sheer punitive means. Imagine how this world could have been and could be if the human family—if you, the Church—acted and thought and taught as He did and believed as He did.

“In Him, within the limits of just one human person, I have experienced the hurt and the pleasure, the ugliness and the beauty, the glory and the gloom of life as a human. I have taken all that on Me as a human and by this I wanted you to know that I take your pain and loneliness seriously and in raising Him from the dead to an unending climax of all that is wondrous and right and joyously thrilling I show you who I am and what I’m about.

“You wouldn’t like me nor could you worship Me freely in love and joy if I were nothing but almighty power. You could never trust Me and gladly commit yourself and all your beloved ones to Me if I were heartless wisdom and self-centered in My limitlessness. You could never share with anyone a Story about Me if I loved only some of you that I have created and if I had purposed to bring only a select handful to life eternal. Believe Me, believe in Me and believe in Me through Him.

“And believe this, My work in Him has not ceased because you can no longer see Him (though you will see Him in a coming day). In light of Him I continue to express my kingly reign in its nature and purpose in the midst of My enemies (Psalm 110).

“A day of My choosing will come when My Lordship will be known to all but in the meantime remember this, you can see My reign in anyone, anywhere you see human life respected, where leaders, men and women, nations and governments, reign in solidarity and unity, where a just and righteous order is sought and worked for, where orphans and widows, the vulnerable, powerless and voiceless are noted, where their pain is felt, where their needs are supplied or at least where the wise attempt is made to supply them; there, where human beings are given the opportunity to be what I intend them to be, THERE I am revealing My kingdom power!”   (The heart of this last paragraph is from Mortimer Arias.)

(Holy One, in the Lord Jesus you have not only saved us for you and one another, you have saved yourself for us. In Him we who have been blessed with the truth about Him, see who you are despite what nagging questions, layers of bad religion, bad religious teaching and the awful suffering of a world in agony bring to our minds. Grant us an even clearer vision of you through your Holy Scriptures given to us by faithful trustees and by your work among us in daily living so that we will doubt any doubts that make us feeble. Empower us that we might admire you more in a grander view of you that brings you nearer to us and we to you. Help us to be happy that you are manifesting your glorious kingdom power in countless homes and relationships all over this world and strengthen us in this happiness that we might feel free to commend such people and tell them in truth who it is that is blessing them in this glorious manner that they might turn to you in thankful response.  We’re coming to trust you more as we begin to see you more clearly in Him through whom we offer this prayer, The Lord Jesus Christ.)

A CHURCH WITH AMNESIA?

In the mid-seventies and speaking about “the Church” Carl Braaten wanted to know, “What do we remember?”
Jesus when He saw some Greeks heading in His direction knew the divine clock said the hour of sorrow-filled pain had come (John 12:27). He would offer Himself to His beloved nation as their champion against the hosts of wickedness of the invisible realms, their deliverer and their way back to the God who loved them beyond words (Luke 4:16-21). He, the man that God was being, would offer Himself to them in that very public way (Mark 11:1-11) as their King and they would definitively reject Him. They (in company with the Gentile powers) would reject Him as they had done down the centuries (so their own prophets said) and that God who was being the young man Jesus of Nazareth, later asking three friends for help, would lurch off to a garden filled with overwhelming sorrow (not fear!) and express the agony of His heart’s feelings, asking, “Must it be this way?” That same God who was being the young man hanging on the cross cries out (can’t you hear the hoarseness of His voice?),  He cries out, “They don’t know what they’re doing!”
This was GOD being a man who sat on a hillside overlooking the city, sobbing His heart out. “If only you knew,” He said, “If only you knew that this was the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44.*
This was the one who on the night He was betrayed took bread and wine and said “This is my body and blood…remember ME.”

Remember who He is, remember what who He is means.

Not remember “this meal” but in this meal remember ME.

Not remember there was such an individual as Jesus of Nazareth but remember what His being Jesus of Nazareth means! The Incarnate God, the God who lived among us, who suffered and died with us, from us and for us and then rose from among the dead for us and will return in a final ”visitation” to right all wrongs and initiate an unending climax for the countless ones of all the ages who are embraced in His saving and redeeming work. He is more than some sweet young Jew who lived many years ago.
Say this in a soft pious tone: “How lovely he was, how kind and compassionate he was and how he hated injustice. We should all try to be more like him and we would have a better world.” Sickeningly sweet reductionism!
He’s the immortal Lord Jesus! He’s the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! He is the invisible God made visible! He is the indwelling Spirit that constitutes those who have embraced the truth about Him to be His Body, His concrete presence in the world today. We have no identity as the chosen People of God without the indwelling Lord Jesus! Remember ME He said! “Give My love to the world,” He said.

* TEV paraphrases well: “You did not recognize the time when God came to save you.” See also the NEB and Moffatt.

G.B. CAIRD & “AMATEURS” & “BALANCE”

It’s humans God created. It’s humans God communicated and continues to communicate with. It’s via humans that the Spirit of God has given us the Holy Scriptures and not by Dictaphones. I’m content to believe with Jesus Christ and His commissioned witnesses that it is GOD who speaks to us in the Scriptures whose origin and canonization were superintended by His Spirit.

I think I do understand that such a common view generates many questions but I’m not particularly interested (especially at this moment) in theories of inspiration, canonicity debates or current literary/hermeneutical questions. I’m happy to let the scholars or those who think they are scholars or the would-be scholars—I’m happy to let those continue to debate each other about the nature of the Holy Bible.

In the end we’re all going to have to call things as we see them. I’m not dismissive of scholars! It’s probable that no day goes by that I don’t thank God for men and women who have spent years becoming specialists in some area of truth that affects the masses of us. Though I don’t live in the same world as Alasdair MacIntyre I can still sympathize with his low view of philosophical work that doesn’t stay in touch with the actual living of life. The same is true of Clifford Geertz, the cultural anthropologist, who confesses to be weary with those in his own discipline who prove the obvious one more time and then publish their findings.

I think I do recognize the need for fresh thought and critical study and I confess I don’t know what (consistent) balance is or whether it can ever be gained when it comes to determining “how much” and what is “critical study”. How much do we need to know? How much do we need to “know for sure”? “How do we know what we know?” Epistemological certainty is a never ending quest with philosophical types. Where does it stop? And in the end, who knows a lot?

That remarkable man George Bradford Caird (a teacher who had a profound influence of N.T. Wright) wrote a book called The Language & Imagery of the Bible. He begins the book with this statement, “This is a book by an amateur, written for amateurs. Only an amateur could undertake to write on such a subject, since one life-time is too short for anyone to become an expert on more than one of the qualifying disciplines. For language is not the concern of the linguist alone, but of the literary critic, the psychologist, the anthropologist, the lawyer, the philosopher and the theologian as well. A prudent expert cultivates his own garden, not wasting time in looking over the fence at what his neighbors are doing. The amateur accepts cuttings from everyone, hoping that they will take in his own soil. I am content to…”

What is true of linguistics is true of everything else. Everything is linked to something else and the truth about anything is astonishing if someone teaches us to ask the right questions; not only astonishing, but in the end and in its entirety it’s “ungettable”.

So what we all do is this: we fence off a tiny plot of ground and work in that. That makes sense and as Caird says, we take cuttings from others to make our little garden grow with some semblance of order and maybe beauty. But we’re not to nod approvingly at Caird’s point and then ignore it—it’s not ignorable! Everyone is an amateur!

And then, of course, there are “gardeners” and gardeners. Some work at it, gratefully borrowing cuttings from here and there; content to settle for what does well and find pleasure and beauty in it. And there are those who are easily carried away with the latest fashions and die in pursuit of them.

Finally there is this that I can never quite be content: how much do I need to know? And if there is a lot that needs to be known am I the one that needs to know it? And the people I sometimes get the privilege to teach, what is it they need to hear from me?

Reuben Shapcott, a long-time friend of “Mark Rutherford” (a troubled soul of many years ago) thought Rutherford’s central problem was that he got in over his head with issues too great for him. I’m not sure what to make of Shapcott’s advice. See what you make of it.

“There is one observation which I may perhaps be permitted to make on re-reading after some years this autobiography. Rutherford, at any rate in his earlier life, was an example of the danger and the folly of cultivating thoughts and reading books to which he was not equal, and which tend to make a man lonely.

It is all very well that remarkable per sons should occupy themselves with exalted subjects, which are out of the ordinary road which ordinary humanity treads but we who are not remarkable make a very great mistake if we have anything to do with them. If we wish to be happy, and have to live with average men an d women, as most of us have to live, we must learn to take an interest in the topics which concern average men and women. We think too much of ourselves. We ought not to sacrifice a single moment’s pleasure in our attempt to do something which is too big for us, and as a rule, men and women are always attempting what

is too big for them. (To the bulk of us) the wholesome healthy doctrine is, “Don’t bother yourselves with what is beyond you try to lead a sweet, clean, wholesome life, keep yourselves in health above everything, stick to your work, and when your day is done amuse and refresh yourselves. It is not only a duty to ourselves, but it is a duty to others to take this course. Great

men do the world much good, but not without some harm, and we have no business to be troubling ourselves with their dreams if we have duties which lie nearer home amongst persons to whom these dreams are incomprehensible . Many a man goes into his study, shuts himself up with his poetry or his psychology, comes out, half understanding what he has read, is miserable because he cannot find anybody with whom he can talk about it, and misses altogether the far more genuine joy which he could have obtained from a game with his children, or listening to what his wife had to tell him about her neighbors.”

MARK RUTHERFORD               BALANCE   SPIRIT   G.B. CAIRD