Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reflections on God and man

I never have original ideas about God or man. I have to rely on the ideas of wiser men or women than myself for insight. All my greatest ideas are borrowed! And in the last week or so, I have run across a couple of ideas that I have found fascinating and encouraging, and that I hope you, too, Gentle Reader, will find illuminating.

The first was in our reading of Calvin's Institutes this week. Calvin is talking about God's providential care over all the created order, and the sticky wicket of evil: if God is really sovereign, isn't He the one responsible for man's sin? To this age-old question, he gives a brilliant illustration, which he in turn had borrowed from St. Augustine (so I am in good company in borrowing from others...) Just because God can expose evil, and even use it, does not mean it resides in him. Here is Calvin's illustration:
And whence, I ask you, comes the stench of a corpse, which is both putrefied and laid open by the heat of the sun? All men see that it is stirred up by the sun'd rays; yet no one for this reason says that the rays stink. Thus, since the matter and guilt of evil repose in a wicked man, what reason is there to think that God contracts any defilement, if he uses his service for his own purpose? Away, therefore, with this dog-like impudence, which can indeed bark at God's justice from afar off but cannot touch it.
~John Calvin, The Institues of the Christian Religion (1.17.5)

The second came from Volume 94 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. I get so many great insights from listening to this! If you are not a subscriber, you ought to consider becoming one to support this excellent work. I always feel that is shakes the cob-webs from my brain. And they now have an option to receive the journal as an mP3 download, which is a bit more affordable than the other options.

I listened with joy and fascination to Jeremy Begbie's interview. He had many fun and interesting things to say, but the one that really struck me, and I can't for the life of me understand why it has never occurred to me, a music teacher, before is this: part of the problem we have with understanding the mystery of the trinity is that we tend to try to think of it in terms of vision. We are an image-driven society, and we try to visualize the trinity, but nothing in our visual vocabulary can really capture it. He suggests we turn to aurally imagining it, instead. He suggests that the trinity is better conceived of as a chord: we hear the notes separately, but also in combination. Each note enhances the others, and brings out the others, while remaining distinct. The over-tone structure of music enables each note to sound best in the company of the others. What a lovely picture!

So, Gentle Readers, as you go about your day, I hope you will ponder the justice of God, His providential care over us, and the mysteries of His Triune nature!


amy in NM said...

Dear Chris (this is David, not Amy),
I've been reading your blog now for a while as a way to keep up with your family (and things in Los Alamos). We just subscribed to Mars Hill over Christmas and volume 94 was my first. I had a smile on my face as I read your comments because I very much enjoyed the interview with Jeremy Begbie as well. I also enjoyed the 40 voice choral music that was played during the interview. I had a hard time trying to understand the name of the composer, so I emailed Mars Hill to ask about the composer. Ken Meyers responded with a personal email (the composer by the way was Thomas Tallis and the piece was called Spem in Alium). I liked the music and interview so much, that I bought the CD to give to my father for his 70th birthday and on the CD, gave him a copy of the interview with Jeremy Begbie. So thanks for your comments -- its nice to know we are listening to and enjoying the same things!

MagistraCarminum said...

David- I have at least 2 recordings of the Tallis Spem in Alium--it is beautiful! And did you know Ken was an elder at Wallace when we were there? I have to put the Begbie books on my wish list (now several pages long! So many books, so little time...)
Miss you!