As we consider the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, there is much of spiritual value that we can gather from it, even though we might not grasp the overall narrative thread. This intensely emotional and very erotic love poem is very much like the way of a man with a maid—everybody knows what is going on, and nobody quite knows what is going on
“There be three things which are too wonderful for me, Yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; The way of a serpent upon a rock; The way of a ship in the midst of the sea; And the way of a man with a maid” (Prov. 30:18–19).
Interpretations of this book are legion, but there are three main options to choose from. The first is to take the book allegorically. This is what the ancient rabbis did, and is part of the reason the book managed to be included in the canon of Scripture—that, and Solomon’s authorship. The rabbis waxed eloquent about Yahweh’s love for Israel, and Christians, not to be outdone, were fully their match on Christ’s love for the Church. But this, obviously, can sometimes get out of hand—consider the rabbi who thought that the Shulamite’s belly, compared to a heap of wheat, represented the Great Sanhedrin. Or the Christian interpreter who thought her two breasts represented the Old and the New Testaments. In 550 A.D., one church council forbade any interpretation that was not allegorical. But sometimes the best hermeneutical move is to put your head between your legs and breathe into a paper bag.
NB: This is the outline for the first service at Christ Church
Often we confront problems in our individual lives, or in our families, and after we have exhausted all the possibilities in our hunt for a solution, we ask others to pray for us. “Oh,” some might be tempted to think. “Has it come to that?” We must learn to begin where we are sometimes tempted to end.
One of the central things that a place dedicated to worship should do is frame a space that is conducive to true worship, and to do so in a way that does not tend to draw “worship” to itself.
With regard to the first, we have to ask ourselves what a Christian worship service should be like. Contrary to the operating assumption of many Christians today, it should not be a breezy and informal affair. First, worship should be disciplined and orderly, as Paul commends the Colossians for having just a worship service. “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ” (Col. 2:5). Not only must it be orderly, it should be attended with reverence and godly fear. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). The word rendered serve here is worship. This means that when churches strive to create a sense of casual informality, they are striving to do the wrong thing.
But the second task of a worship space is also important. In one sense the worship space is set aside for the congregation, and the congregation is the bride of Christ, formed as such by the Holy Spirit. One of the distinctive characteristics of the Spirit is that He draws attention to the Son, who brings us to the Father. The Spirit is not garnering attention for Himself, and neither should a sanctuary do so.
So if a worship space goes overboard in giving “too much” glory to God, the failure is seen in how the glory does not take you on to the worship of God. And this failure, of course, is not actually a case of too much glory to God, which is impossible, but rather a mistaken attempt to render the wrong kind of glory to Him, which winds up giving glory to the creature instead.
So let the stones cry out.
The sun is 93 million miles away. It would be fair to say that the sun is distant. But for everyone who has eyes to see, the sun is very much present.
The Lord Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is there, not here. As a true man, He is located in the heavenly places. And yet, God has established the kingdom of His Son in such a way that the radiance of the Son’s glory extends throughout that entire kingdom, which is done through the power of the Spirit.
That radiance of glory is not felt equally by all. If you were to bury a pebble in your garden and a seed in your garden right next to the pebble, you would get very different results from them. The seed contains life, and so can respond to the gift presented by the distant sun now present. The pebble contains no life, and is insensible to whether the sun is distant or present.
When the Word is preached to you, and when the bread and wine are presented to you, you are called to respond in faith to the felt presence of Christ. This is possible because the Spirit has quickened you—you are a seed, not a pebble. You are green shoot, struggling up through the soil, beginning a glorious journey for such a small plant. You are three inches tall and you plainly want to make a journey of 93 million miles.
The glory of grace is this—that distance is traveled, not by us, but rather by the sunlight. That gap is overcome by the power of the Spirit. The glory of grace is found in how it enlivens our lives here, how life is initially given and then turned into a life that is an abundant life. He comes to us, and we ascend toward Him.
So Christ is here. He is present. If you are alive in Him, you can feel the warmth, you can feel the strength, you can feel the glory.
So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.
“If you have a biblical worldview, you cannot be a libertarian. But if you have a biblical worldview, you will be accused of being one” (Rules, p. 76).
God “has required that you love your wife, love your neighbor, and love your enemy. Everybody you meet will be at least one of those” (Rules, p. 74).
So here is some news that I am kind of whizzed up about, to use the technical phrase for it. After Peter Leithart left for Theopolis in Alabama, New St. Andrews needed to revisit our catalog offerings in our MA program, for the simple reason that Peter had taught a lot of our courses. Now as some of you know, NSA offers an MA in theology and letters, and we have now completed our adjustments to that program. I have accepted the responsibility of directing the MA program next year, and if you click here, and scroll down, you will come to a treasure trove of updated information about our vision for literary theology and theological wordsmithing.
We have kept the heart of our program, but we have also made some significant adjustments. The main thing I would like to draw to your attention is the fact that we have placed a line of directed readings through the middle of the MA program, with the result that at the end of two years of study, our grad students will have had the option of reading virtually everything C.S. Lewis ever wrote. This is not because we are offering an MA “in Lewis,” but rather because we want our students to see Lewis as the “model of the kind of synthesis of story-telling, persuasive writing, literary analysis, and theology sought after” in our program. In short, within the framework of historic Reformed theology, we want to set Lewis up as a mentor in genre synthesis.
Our program is in theology and letters. We want our grad students who are more naturally on the theology side to be equipped to write winsomely, and we want the grad students who are on the wordsmithy side to receive a solid grounding in historic Reformed theology. And speaking of historic Reformed theology, this grad program is also closely integrated with the Wenden House project, which is employing select grad students to translate theologians from the Reformation era out of Latin into English — into English for the first time. The whole thing is way past exciting.
There will be more to say about this in the weeks to come, so please stay tuned. In the meantime, if you are at all interested in what we are doing in this department, more information can be found here.