I am reading “the Reconciling Wisdom of God: Reframing the Doctrine of the Atonement” by Adam J. Johnson.  He suggests that Wisdom is an orchestrating attribute that best draws together all the aspects of the Atonement: penal substitution, reconciliation, sacrifice, victory, justification, propitiation, liberation, new creation, etc.

“Here the wisdom of the atonement has a decisive role to play. Attending to the fact that Christ’s atoning work was a work of wisdom brings powerfully to mind the way in which God, through one simple means, brings about a massive range of purposes. The means in questions is clearly the death and resurrection of the incarnate Son of God by the will of the Father and in the power of the Spirit, and the abundant range of purposes we have already seen in the previous chapter…”  p. 97

That got me thinking…

If Justice is the governing theory, why didn’t God simply judge? In love he sent his Son.

If Love is the governing theory, why didn’t God just accept us in an act of kindness?  To satisfy justice he sent his son.

If Honor is God’s reason, why did Christ accept humiliation for us?

If God’s Glory was rejected, why did he bother to send his Son? The heavens declare the Glory of God.

If Christ came to win a Victory over death, why did he die?  Sin brings death, but Christ brought the resurrection.

If Alienation is the problem, why didn’t God invite us to return, with no questions asked?  He sent his son as a Shepherd to seek and save the lost.

If Error is the problem, why didn’t God stop at giving revelation of the truth?  He sent his Son to be a teacher and a sacrifice and the Spirit to bring his word to us.

If Corruption of our nature is the central problem, why prevents God from purifying us?

If Enslavement to sin is the problem, why can’t he just set us free.  Redemption takes a price.

I am not sure Johnson gets it right to say that in his Wisdom God found the best, most complete way to work out salvation.  But He is right that the Atonement is not one simple thing – all the attributes of God are in play.  The Trinity is united in the multi-faceted work of Atonement.

Christians at the Border – book review


Christians border

I wrote this review a few years ago, but the topic of Immigration is very much in the news. This book is very thought provoking.  I recommend it.

Christians at the Border, M Daniel Carroll R., Baker Academic, 2008

Review by David Carlson, Pastor of Bethany EFC, Madison, WI

Summary Review:

Christians at the Border calls the reader to think biblically about Immigration.  Many Christians base what they believe on immigration more on their politics than on the Scripture.  “We must determine whether the place we choose to stand on the national debate will be based on the word of God….or whether we will defend our opinion on other grounds.”  (p. 23)  Carroll calls upon both the Christian citizen and the Christian who is undocumented to conform their lives to the Word.

The first chapter outlines the history of Immigration in the United States.  He raises this question:    “Is God bringing millions of Hispanics to the US to revitalize the Christian Churches here and to present to those who do not yet believe the opportunity to turn to Christ…?”  (p. 61)

My answer is “Yes!”  We have begun a Latino church planning movement in Wisconsin.  Many have been won to Christ.  We Anglos have learned about faith from our Latino brothers and sisters.

Carroll outlines passages and themes in the Old and New Testament that are relevant to the question.   He does not try to proof text or fabricate a simplistic answer.  Indeed the 140 pages are greatly enriched by thoughtful footnotes and resources; further study is available to you the reader.  He discusses: the Image of God; The experience of OT people as refugees and immigrants; hospitality; the Law and the sojourner (which calls for fair treatment).  In the New Testament he notices Jesus life as an alien and his treatment of outsiders and Samaritans in particular.   His discussion of Romans 13 is eye opening.

I recommend this book as a good entry point on the issue.  You will have to read and reflect to glean what is here.  The adventurous pastor may even find a sermon series.

Extended Review

Author:  M. Daniel. Carroll (Rodas) is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and adjunct professor at El Seminario Teológico Centroamericano in Guatemala City, Guatemala.  He received his PhD from the University of Sheffield.

He describes himself as being both bilingual and bicultural.  He is the son of a Guatemalan mother and an American father, growing up in Houston.  His mother made a point of raising her children bilingually and bi-culturally, by involving them intentionally in Latin American culture.

In addition to his ongoing work in Guatemala, he founded a Spanish language training program at Denver Seminary called IDEAL.

Purpose of Book: (p. 19ff)  “My intention is to try to move Christians to reconsider their starting points in the immigration debate.  Too often discussion default to the passionate ideological arguments, economic wrangling, or racial sentiments that dominate national discourse.  Among Christians, my experience has been that there is little awareness of what might be a divine viewpoint on immigration.”

Defining Terms:  He discusses the terms “Hispanic” (Hispano-), Latino(a), immigrant, refugee, undocumented immigrants, illegal aliens.  He uses “Hispanic” because it is the more familiar term.  He prefers “undocumented immigrants” as it is less prejudicial.

Title:  “Christians at the Border” has a double meaning.  He will point out the number of Christians, or persons with Christian heritage among Hispanic immigrants.  He is also suggesting that Anglo Christians in the US are at a border:  Will we stand with the Word of God or will we defend our opinions on other cultural grounds?

Chapter 1 – Hispanic Immigration.

History: The majority of this chapter is a brief history of immigration in the United States.  He points out that immigration is always part of a global story of forces that push and pull people from one country to another.  The US has had a history of restrictions on immigration:  The Chinese immigration of the mid 19th C was feared and limited by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Chinese could not be citizens until 1943 when that act was repealed.  Irish and Southern European immigrants met prejudice – often because they were Roman Catholic.  This lead to the Quota Act (1921) and the Johnson-Reed Act (1924).  Africans were brought to America as slaves and were left largely disenfranchised until the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the passage of the 13th Amendment (1865), the 14th  Amendment (1868).

Hispanic Immigration did not begin until 1848.  At that time, large parts of the SW United States were ceded to the US by Mexico.  This means that there has been a large Hispanic presence in the US from that date.  When Chinese workers were restricted in the 19th C it resulted in more Mexican workers coming across the border.  Labor shortages in WWI increased this number.  Political conflicts in Mexico were a factor.  The US Border Patrol was begun in 1924.  With the Great Depression the pull of immigration was lessened and resistance was stronger.  The Bracero agreement in 1942 welcomed guest workers during WWII. This was scaled back during McCarthy era of 1954.  The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 preserved quotas – at a rate much lower than the reality on the ground.  In a986 The Immigration and Reform and Control act was passed and remains in effect – it granted 3 million “amnesty” if they could prove residency since 1982.  Since that time the number of immigrants has increased from all over Latin America.  Recent attempts at “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” have not passed Congress.

National Identity: Carroll segues here into a discussion of “Americanness”.  Hispanic population has more than doubled since 1990, to an estimated 35.3 million.  Some, such as Samuel Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations) and Congressman Tom Tancredo, as well as Pat Buchanan raise the fear that the cultural distinctives of the US might be under threat – among these are: individualism, private property, a market economy and a legal and cultural heritage from Western Europe.

Carroll makes these points:  increased controls of undocumented immigrants only serves to keep them from assimilating into American culture; immigration is a worldwide phenomenon and research shows that the world is becoming ‘transnational’; Latinos themselves feel the pull of two cultures, and their children are forming a new culture; different cultures have their strengths to contribute to our culture (such as putting a high value on family); American identity has never bee static, and we are going though another periodic transformation.  He concludes “These developments are an opportunity for an enhancement of national identity, not a threat to be warded off at all costs.” (p. 48)

Economic Realities:  There is an argument that all these immigrants are a net drag on our economy because of the various social service costs involved.  Carroll cites Congressman Tancredo’s book (In Mortal Danger) as an example.  Carroll then cites alternative research to suggest another way to view this issue.  When the Hispanic contributions to our economy, the need for Social Security for young workers to pay into it, and the need for service sector workers are added to the conversation it is not nearly so negative.

The story or Remittances, or monies sent from Hispanic workers to the home country or village is mixed.  Carroll wants us to realize that all of the Americas are affected by this and “simplistic solutions do not work.”  He goes on to discuss NAFTA and its effects.

The Christian Faith:  The Christian faith is vibrant among immigrants.  The 2/3 of immigrants who are Roman Catholic are matched by the increased numbers of protestant Hispanic churches that are being established in out country.  After some discussion of these developments, Carroll notes that it is part of the “browning” or the “globalizing” of the faith.  We need to “[appreciate] the breadth and power of what God is doing in the world today.”  He asks: “Is God bringing millions of Hispanics to the United States to revitalize the Christian churches here and to present to those who do hot yet believe the opportunity to turn to Christ in their search for a new life?  Many Hispanics and pastors sincerely believe that God has led them here for a purpose:  to play an important role in a revival of the Christian faith in this country.” (p. 61)

  1. Of Immigrants, Refugees, and Exiles: Guidance from the Old Testament, Part 1.

            This chapter is a thematic exploration of Old Testament texts that might shed insight into a Christian framework of the issue.

The Image of God, Genesis 1:  That is to say, we need to remember that it is people, created in the image of God, who are in view.  This means immigrants have value as persons.  Human rights are a logical extension of this idea.  He cites Exodus 34:6,7; Joel 2:13; 4:2; Psalm 145:8-9.  This message is also for the immigrant believer – emphasizing worth as well as responsibility.

Experience of the People of God:  This line of thought is more suggestive than declarative.  One asks “how did these people find themselves where they lived?”   Abram and his family migrated repeatedly, only owned a gravesite, and was called a sojourner.  Isaac and Jacob moved based on famines.  Ruth transferred her life and faith from Moab to Israel and Israel’s god.  The book of Ruth has to be read against the backdrop of O. T. Law (Dt. 25:5-10; Ex 6:7; Lev 26:12) Joseph was forced into exile, where he accommodates to Egyptian life but maintains faith in the LORD, and is seen as part of a larger plan of God’s.  Daniel was also in exile and dealt with cultural accommodation and faithfulness.  Moses was an escapee from Egypt, David had to run from Solomon.  Israel lives as aliens in Egypt. They were Deportees who went to Babylon after 586 BC.   Some were Escapees who returned under Ezra and Nehemiah.  Ezekiel lived among the exiles and Jeremiah wrote to them on how to live there (Jer 29). The story of Esther takes place in Persia.  All of these stores show the various dynamics of immigration, cultural accommodation, and developing boundaries for culture and for faith.    Carroll suggests that they show that immigration is a part of biblical history and ours, they add a human face to the issue, and such movements seem to add “creative space” to the lives of those who have been disrupted from familiar patterns.

  1. The Law and the Sojourner: Guidance from the Old Testament, Part II

            This chapter differs from the previous in that it discusses particular O. T. legal texts.

Hospitality to the stranger is a virtue – both in the narratives (Gen 18, Exodus 2, 2 Kings 4 and I Kings 17) in other writings (Job 31:32, Isaiah 58:6-7 and perhaps Psalm 23).  “The theme of hospitality is relevant to the immigrant debate.  The biblical text can gently prod believers in the majority culture to a greater mind-set of hospitality and to actions of hospitality toward the strangers who are Hispanic immigrants.”  (p. 94)

Carroll emphasizes that the purpose of the Law was not for the people to earn salvation, but to learn how to live as the redeemed people of God.  (Ex 19,20).   Genesis12 indicates that Abraham’s seed were to be a blessing to the nations.  Deuteronomy 4:5-8 indicates the law was a blessing and a witness.

Four terms are used for outsiders:  (ger, tosab, nokri and zar). The first receives the most attention.  Numerous laws regulate the relationship of Israel and it’s resident aliens: as workers (Dt 24:14, I Chron 22:2, II chron 2:17-18); gleaning law (Lev 19:10, 23:22; Dt 24:19-22, Ruth 2), tithe for poor (Dt 14:28-29, 26:12-13), fair wages (Dt 24:15), Sabbath rest (Ex 20:10; 23:12; Dt 5:14), fair legal treatment (Dt. 1:16-17; 24:17-18; 27:19).  The Prophets defended them against abuse (Jer 22:3; Exek 22:7, mal 3:5, cf Ps 94:6).  The reasons behind these laws is that they had been aliens themselves (Lev 19:18, 24).  God himself defends the alien (Dt 10:17-19, Ps 146:6-9, Dt 24:14-15).

In addition there are provisions for assimilation, participation in the Sabbath, the Day of Atonement, Passover, Weeks, Tabernacles, Firstfruits, forgiveness of unintentional sins and cities of refuge.  They were to be present at the reading of the Law (Dt 31:10-13).  They were subject to criminal penalties, dietary restrictions, sexual taboos and prohibited form the worship of other gods.  (I have not cited every scripture here, but enough to give a sense of the whole.)

He concludes, “…the importance of caring for the sojourner is also binding today.  At the very least, this ethical commitment should resonate with the people of God in the majority culture.  It ought to be demonstrated in specific measures that respond to the needs of the immigrant.”  (p. 109)   He also notes that “…the arrival and presence of sojourners were not a threat to Israel’s national identity; rather their presence was fundamental to its very meaning.” (p. 109-110).  And “The Old Testament law makes clear that there are expectations for the sojourner, just as there are demands on Israel.” (p.111.)


  1. Welcoming the Stranger; Guidance from the New Testament.

In this chapter Carroll looks at themes and particular texts.


Jesus the refugee.  The Christmas story contains the account of the flight to Egypt (Matthew 2).  This “locates the Jesus story within a movement that spans history, of people desiring a better life or escaping the threat of death.”  ( p. 116)

Jesus and outsiders.  Noting that there were divisions and conflicts in 1st Century Palestine, Carroll review how Jesus treated the outsider.  Jesus did not share the anti-Samaritan attitudes of his disciples (Luke 9:51-56).  John 4 shows Jesus encounter with the woman of Samaria, were geographic and cultural borders were crossed in Jesus conversation by the well.  Luke 17 shows that only the Samaritan leper returned to offer thanks.  In Luke 10, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan to answer the question: “who is my neighbor?”  Matthew 25 speaks of the “stranger.”

There are no direct teachings on immigration in the teaching of Jesus.  However, “Jesus actions and attitudes transcend cultural identity; they also help define what it means to be his follower.” (p. 125).

Christians as Sojourners.  Citing I Peter 1:1 and 2:11, and linking the passage to Genesis 23:4 he says, “This Old Testament allusion connects the experience of these Christians back to the ancient patriarch.  Their sojourning is not unique.  The history of the people of God is the pilgrimage of faith of whose who are alienated from the world.” (p. 127)  Carroll does not suggest that the majority simply accept the immigrant, rather that both recognize their status as sojourners, and accept rejection if necessary.

The Call to Hospitality.  Carroll focuses on the Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14 as an imperative to offer a gracious welcome to those who can not repay us. (Rom 12:13, Heb 13:2, I peter 4:9, I Tim 3:2, Titus 1:8, I Tim 5:9-10)

What about Romans 13?  In this section Carroll suggests that we need to back off and take a wider view of this passage and the current context of immigration.  It is not enough, he says, to simply say, “obey the law.”  “It is my conviction that there are a series of prior considerations that must be dealt with before introducing issues of legality. One must treat legal matters eventually.” (p. 131) Such factors as the call to “not be conformed to the world” in Romans 12, and the stated need by our government that the laws need to be somehow changed, suggest this wider view.  “Discussion on legality cannot be limited just to questions about complying with the present laws.  If the laws are problematic theologically, humanely and pragmatically…the call to submit to the authorities in Romans 13 can be processed in fresh and constructive ways.”  (p. 134).

  1. Where do we go from here?

Carroll indicates in a variety of ways that his purpose is to get Christians to think more carefully and more biblically on this issue.  We need to move away from ideological or political convictions and think scripturally.  “Christians at the Border above all else strives to motivate believers of the majority culture and Hispanics to begin thinking, talking and acting as Christians in regard to immigration.  What I have written here is a starter, a primer.”  P. 138

Reviewer’s Evaluation:

I believe that Carroll has accomplished the purpose of widening our view of the historical context of immigration and the larger biblical context.  He goes beyond proof-texting, and lays a great deal of emphasis on biblical themes.  This makes sense in that there is very little specific to borders and immigration law in the Bible. Nation states with guarded borders are a modern reality, not one from the Ancient Near East.

Carroll, bring himself bi-lingual and bi-cultural is clearly pulled by his background when he comes to Romans 13.  I appreciate fully his desire to broaden our reading here.  However this will be the sticking point in the discussion.  He is persuasive to those (like me) who think as he does, but to the more strictly textual minded, his answer will seem vague.

Christians at the Borders is an excellent guide into thinking biblically about Immigration.  His bibliography and extensive footnotes possibly the best part of the book.

Conversations – Part 2



Norman and David Geisler suggest the use of questions.  They can clarify where there are areas of confusion.  Practice here with asking a question to some famous people who have had things to say about faith.  Below are quotes and a space following the Q for you to think of a good question to ask.



  1. “In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” – Dwight Eisenhower: Address at the Freedoms Foundation, Waldorf-Astoria, New York, NY, 12/22/52



  1. “There never was a good war or a bad peace.” -Benjamin Franklin (from Humble Libertarian website)



  1. Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time. — Richard Dawkins,  from Brainy Quote (



  1. The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos




  1. All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives. — Dalai Lama- from Brainy Quote


On Books, March Madness and Biblical Study

isaiah-scroll-lThe Emerging Scholars Network blog is running a Sweet Sixteen topics tournament  for the topics of most interest to believers in academia.  Bracket

I submitted a topic that got listed as #15 seed, so the chances are weak of beating @2, but we live in hope.

The suggestion I made was how can we make use of academic biblical studies, who often are technical in nature and also may have nothing theological in their content, or the theological content is far afield from an evangelical’s set of beliefs.

An example of this is in the book of Proverbs.  There are a large number of books at a popular level who deal with this book. Some take each proverb as a law that must be literally kept – which in my view does not take into account the literary nature of Wisdom Literature or of proverbs.  An example of this approach suggests that not spanking is a denial of biblical authority.  (Pv 13:24).

A good number of evangelical commentaries will have a discussion in them about the literary value of a proverb and it’s “rule of thumb” quality.  That is, it is a general saying that generally is true, but it is not absolute.  An example are the twin proverbs in Pv 26:5,6 which seem to contradict at first glance.

I like Duane Garret’s commentary in the NAC series (Vol 14) who went so far as to cluster proverbs in the more random chapters starting at chapter 10.  I also like Bruce Waltke (NICOT series) who does a lot of literary outlining.

Then there are works like Michael Fox’s Proverbs 1-9 in the Anchor Bible series.  He is a well respected academic. I find that his analysis of the shape of the text in chapters 1-9 is very helpful.  However he has very little that is theological or pastoral in nature. That is not his interest.

So what I try to do as a preacher is this. I will buy or find books from the second and third categories. I can skip the popular level books that do not even consider scholarship.  I try to balance the works with evangelical conviction, such as Garrett and Waltke with more academic works such as Fox.  Sometimes I find the second category at the main library at the University of Wisconsin.  This saves me lots of money on books and lets me sit at an oak table in a large room where cell phones are prohibited.

If interested, I have a bibliography on Wisdom Literate here.  Bibliographic Notes on Wisdom Literature

Review: Wisdom & Wonder by Abraham Kuyper

wisdom & wonder_frontWisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science and Art, Abraham Kuyper, Edited by Jordan J Ballor and Stephen J. Grabill, Translated by Neslson D. Kloosterman; Christians Library Press, Grand Rapids, 2011

Wisdom & Wonder contains a new translation of chapters written originally under the title “Common Grace in Science and Art.”

Common Grace refers to God’s preservation and self-revelation within the created order, which is imperfectly but universally available.  It is revelation by the creation as well as an invitation to study, understand and enjoy the creation.  It is “common” because it is not limited to Christian believers.

I’d like to give a brief account of Kuyper’s perspective on Science and Art – though he discusses a number of other topics.   Kuyper states that art and science were given their start and patronized by the church and the state.  One sees this in any survey of Art History: the earlier the art, the more likely it was part of worship.   Art and Science, though birthed by church and state, possess legitimate and independent domains.

“First, then, let us emphasize the independent character of science.  Before everything else it must be understood that science is a matter that stands on its own and my not be encumbered with any external chains.”  (p. 33)

Science had its origin in the church as it grew out of the universities, which had their birth in the church.

“Science has not demanded such independence in overconfidence, but possesses this independence by diving design, so much so that science neglects its divine calling if it permits itself again to become a servant of the state or church.  Science is not a branch growing from the trunk of government service, and even less a branch that grows from the root of the church.  Science possesses its own root…” (p.34)

            If, therefore, God’s thinking is primary, and if all of creation is to be understood simply as the outflow of that thinking of God, such that all things have come into existence and continue to exist through the Logos, that is through divine reason, or more particularly, through the Word, then it must be the case that the divine thinking must be embedded in all created things. Thus there can be nothing in the universe that fails to express, to incarnate, the revelation of the thought of God.”  (p. 39)

            “In this way, then, we obtain three truths that fit together. First, the full and rich clarity of God’s thoughts existed in God from eternity.  Second, in the creation God has revealed, embedded and embodied a rich fullness of his thoughts.  And third, God created in human beings, as his image-bearers, the capacity to understand, to grasp, to reflect, and to arrange within a totality these thoughts expressed in the creation.”  (p. 41-42)

Art had a similar origin and division from the church.  Art does not need to return to the patronage of the church.  The Reformation, according to Kuyper, with its restrictions on art in worship, brought about an abrupt separation in Western Europe, especially where the Reformed Churches predominated.  This is a good thing. Yet a true artistic vision will be incomplete without the corrective influence of the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.  Art is independent, but needs guidance to find integration

           “The inspiration for art never belonged to particular grace, but always proceeded from common grace.  It is exactly everyday human living that constitutes the broad arena where common grace shines, and simultaneously the arena where art constructs its own temple as well.”  (p. 118)

The separation between church and art, therefore, does not at all bear the character of a complete separation between art and religion. Instead, the bond between both is guaranteed in the ideal character of both, so that if people refuse to permit the refined religious impulse to affect art, that defect belongs not to art as such but to the impiety of those advocates.” (p. 118-119)

By way of evaluation, I have several comments.

One has to read the Kuyper with grace.  He made assumptions about non-European cultures and non-Christian religions that could offend our sensibilities.  We are all marked by the prejudices and judgments of our town times. Try not get impaled on these thorns.

The independence of Art and Science as domains intended by the Creator and built into the world is a scriptural idea.  Kuyper cites passages such as Genesis 1 where God created by the Word.  Wisdom Literature sees wisdom imbedded in all things (e.g. Proverbs 3:19-20; Proverbs 8).  The wise even seemed to gather wisdom from other places (see Proverbs 22:27ff and the 30 Sayings of the Wise).

One does not need to do Christian science or Christian art to be a faithful Christian in those domains.  One needs to do good science or good art.  Yet, science and art are powerful tools that come without a clear moral compass or centering integration.  A believer ought to do art or science in a way that is truly integrated by means of Special Grace.

            “Sin’s darkening lies in this, that we lost the gift of grasping the true context, the proper coherence, the systematic integration of all things.  Now we view everything only externally, not in its core and essence, each thing individually, but not in their mutual connection and in their origin from God. That connection, that coherence of things in their original connection with God, can be sensed only in our spirit.”  (p. 55)

What I’d like to do is gather a few bible students, some artists and scientists from any field and read and discuss this work together.


Blowing off the Dust from Walter Kaiser

I have had a book by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. on my to be read for so long it was collecting dust. I just picked up and read his chapter on OT Narrative.  This chapter at least is excellent.  His advice for reading a narrative and finding its intended meaning follows in my summary here.

At least half of the Bible is written in Narrative form.  Much of my training in preaching assumed other genre such as gospel or epistle.  My adult class will take September to practice these ideas.  First sample will be Genesis 37 – the start of the Joseph cycle.


Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, p.76

  1. Identify each scene: every change in time or location.
  2. Analyze the plot: Beginning, Middle, End; Climax and Resolution.
  3. Determine the “point of view” – what is the focal point that gives the subject of idea that the story is trying to tell.
  4. Observe if there is dialogue and see if this contributes to the “point of view”
  5. How is each “scene” related to the “point of view.”
  6. What stylistic devices does the author use:  repetition, key word, chiasm  (ABCC’B’A’), irony,  etc.

Guigo II – Checking it Out



In pursing my reading on “Spiritual Reading” or “Lectio Divina“, the name Guigo II came up repeatedly.  He is identified as the first to have discussed spiritual reading as a four stage process of reading, meditating, praying and contemplation.

This study had raised several questions for me:

  • Was this an anti-intellectual project or did the reading include study?
  • What is the difference between meditation and contemplation?
  • What sort of prayer are we talking about?

I traveled to the University of Wisconsin Library and found “The Ladder of Monks and Twelve Meditations” by Guigo II, translations and introductions by Edmond Colledge and James Walsh, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, 1981.  This is an English  translation of the original “Scala claustralium” and “Meditationes.”

“Ladder” is a short piece, about 20 pages,  written as a letter.   Guigo II became the ninth  prior of the mother house of the Grande Chartreuse in 1173 or 1174.  This  house is in the Benedictine tradition, which itself stretches back to the 6th Century.  He speaks of the four steps as a latter reaching from earth to heaven.    On the first read through I have some observations.

  • This is a means to a mystical experience  that is not automatic, but the desired result of the exercises   The person who follows this seeks to have “contemplation” in the sense of a mystical vision of Christ.
  • Thus meditation differs from contemplation in that the first is a mental reflection on the text, while the second is a spiritual experience.
  • It seems that to Guigo II this is part of a process of gaining eternal life. It is not merely part of his spiritual exercises; it is part of his salvation. [This is not totally clear in my reading.]
  • As far as anti-intellectualism, it seems first of all that in the 12th Century, there was not a lot of access to books, yet there was an emphasis on reading.  It may be better to say this is something above rational inquiry, not necessarily to replace it.  However, consider this quote, “Otherwise it is of no use for the reader to search in earthly books; there is little sweetness in the study of the literal sense, unless there be a commentary which is found in the heart, to reveal the inward sense.” [p. 76]  Like many in the middle ages, the real meaning of Scripture is sought beyond the grammar of the written page.

So the question for me is how is this useful to me as a protestant?  I have noticed that most protestant users of Lectio Divina live in the first three steps, and/or define the fourth step  in a different way.  that is to say, we see value in reading, meditation and prayer.  The end seems to be different, a more godly life as opposed to a mystic experience.

If I wrote a book on this, it would probably take the shape of a cycle.  Having received the new life in Christ (as an event not a process),  spiritual reading is a way to grow that faith and to extend the effect of salvation to all areas of life (this is a process, not a single event.)

Even so there are some interesting passages, particularly where he talks about how the stages are both sequential and inter-related. This quote defines the stages as Guigo uses them.

“Reading is the careful study of the Scriptures, concentrating all one’s powers on it.  Mediation is the busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s own reason for knowledge of hidden truth. Prayer is the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good.  Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness.”  [p.68]

My next project is to read the Rule of St. Benedict, written in 520 a.d. This is seen as the source of this particular stream of thought.

Contemplative Bible Reading – Richard Peace


Another book on Lectio Divina (in which Fresh Read learns how to pronounce this correctly (lex-ee-oh di-vee-nuh).

I am just getting familiar with this book. It is designed as a study guide for an individual or a group.  What I like is that first Peace presents a rather normal (for evangelicals) bible study on each sample passage.  then he offers a separate Lectio exercise on each passage.

I like this because our reflection on the word needs to be based on what the word actually says.  There is a great danger of subjectivity in scripture reading, that is we read the text without regard to the intended meaning.  There is also the danger of objectivity – if we leave our relationship to scripture to the assembling of information, we have not heard the word of God.

This is where reflective or meditative reading comes in.  We allow this book to speak to us by the ministry of the Holy Spirit   It is personal, prayerful and thoughtful.

To me it seems that Bible Study compares with cooking a meal.  You need to know how to prepare, mix and cook properly.  Just as in Bible study you need to know about grammar, history, genre and so forth.

Lectio Divina compares with eating the meal, not wolfing it down in your car, but eating it with friends or family in a relaxed and conversational style.

I will add more as I delve into this book.

Contemplative Bible Reading, Richard Peace, 1998, NavPress.

14 Books

14 Books

The C. S. Lewis society of Madison sponsored a conference on the 10 books that most influenced that great author.  It raised the question of the most important books to me, so here is my list, which grew to 14.  These are books that influenced my faith and sense of calling to ministry, in almost alphabetical order.

Answering God, Eugene Peterson.  This work shows the value of the Psalms in the prayer life of a believer.

The Confessions, St Augustine, translated by Henry Chadwick.  The first Christian autobiography and at one time a healing balm to my soul.

Child Craft book of Fairy Tales.  My mother read these to me as a child and there are some that I still quote.

Diet for a Small Planet,  Frances Moore Lappé.  One practical way I can contribute to the health of the earth and its people.

Ecclesiastes.  This O. T. book explains why I am in ministry, and with all Wisdom Literature, shows that both content and skillful expression are important.

Ephesians.  This N. T. book explains why the church is so important.

Founding Brothers, James Ellis.  This is a work on the period of the American Revolution, and stands in to represent this large section of my library.

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand.  I am not fond of her politics, or of her literary style, but this book has affected my view of art and of the limits of government.

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair.  I had to jump this up to make a counter point to Ayn Rand, as this warns of the danger of unregulated commerce, and speaks of the flaws in human nature.

I Married You, Walter Trobisch.  This is great teaching from scripture on marriage as well as a model of pastoral ministry.

Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I keep passages from this in my “back pocket” to keep me from both hubris and despair in ministry.

Luther’s Works, Martin Luther.  Ok, this is 55 volumes, so I will just mention two articles, “Two Kinds of Righteousness” and “The Freedom of the Christian.”

Lincoln at Gettysburg, Garry Wills.  This is important on the art of speaking; it is the history of the Gettysburg Address.

Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan.  A shoemaker without formal education wrote a masterpiece of theology and preaching.

the first 200 pages of Sailhamer

Having read the first 200 pages of “The meaning of the Pentateuch” I am able to summarize his point, I think.  Revelation is in the form of scriptures.  Many have fallen off the track by elevating the historic background or the acts of God in history to the place of revelation.  While background and events are important ( they needed to have happened, of course) they are not revelation.  Revelation is what the text, made up of words and sentences has to say.

The other interesting thing, now we are over the introductory hurdle, is to see him make his case that the Pentateuch is more about the life of faith (Abraham) than the life under the Law (Moses.)  It was also interesting to see his idea that disobedience brought a more legally complex set of regulations on the people of God than what was first given at Sinai.

Now for the next 400 pages.

If you read this book, please come and play.