Beliefs, Practices, History
Albert Camus on Religiosity said...
The Plague, (New York: Vintage International, 1948, 1975) 93.
There were large attendances at the services of the Week of Prayer. It must not, however, be assumed that in normal times the townsfolk of Oran are particularly devout. On Sunday morning, for instance, sea-bathing competes seriously with churchgoing. Nor must it be thought that they had seen a great light and had a sudden change of heart. With regard to religion – as to many other problems – plague had induced in them a curious frame of mind, as remote from indifference as from fervor; the best name to give it, perhaps, might be "objectivity." Most of those who took part in the Week of Prayer would have echoed a remark made by one of the church goers..: "Anyhow, it can't do any harm."
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 74-5.
The Bible, like many of the works of nature, appears to the greatest disadvantage to the most superficial beholder. But, when we exclude such secular principles as are apt to bewilder and deceive; when we examine its essential doctrines; the proportion of all its parts; the pleasing harmony arising from the whole; and the general benefit resulting therefrom; there is such a coincidence with human reason, abstracted from all its grossness, that nothing can justify even you, from withholding your admiration and assent, but your ignorance of those doctrines, which are, at present, the objects of your contempt and scorn. So benign are its precepts, so disinterested its offers, and so extensive its benefits, that, even in the arcana of Deism, there is not a virtue or moral duty, which Christianity does not recommend and enforce. Instead of discarding reason, as you insinuate, it encourages its operations; and it appeals to reason, as the arbiter of its fate. It is by reason that we discover, where reason is incompetent to the task assigned; and it is by reason that we understand, when it must be suspended, and when called into action.
Ralph Cudworth on Truth in Love said...
Cited by John Tulloch, in Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy in England in the Seventeenth Century, Volume 2 (BiblioLife: 2010), pp. 231-2.
Let us endeavour to promote the Gospel of peace, the dovelike Gospel, with a dove-like spirit. This was the way by which the Gospel at first was propagated in the world; Christ did not cry, nor lift up His voice in the streets; a bruised reed He did not break, and the smoking flax He did not quench; and yet He brought forth judgment unto victory. He whispered the Gospel to us from Mount Zion in a still voice; and yet the sound thereof went out quickly throughout all the earth. The Gospel at first came down upon the world gently and softly, like the dew upon Gideon's fleece; and yet it quickly soaked quite through it; and doubtless this is the most effectual way to promote it further. Sweetness and ingenuity will more command men's minds than passion, sourness, and severity; as the soft pillow sooner breaks the flint than the hardest marble. Let us follow truth in love; and of the two, indeed, be contented rather to miss of the conveying of a speculative truth than to part with love. When we would convince men of any error by the strength of truth, let us withal pour the sweet balm of love upon their heads. Truth and love are the two most powerful things in the world; and when they both go together they cannot easily be withstood. The golden beams of truth and the silken cords of love twisted together will draw men on with a sweet violence, whether they will or no. Let us take heed we do not sometimes call that zeal for God and His Gospel which is nothing else but our own tempestuous and stormy passion. True zeal is a sweet, heavenly, and gentle flame, which maketh us active for God, but always within the sphere of love. It never calls for fire from heaven to consume those who differ a little from us in their apprehensions. It is like that kind of lightning (which the philosophers speak of) that melts the sword within, but singeth not the scabbard; it strives to save the soul, but hurteth not the body. True zeal is a loving thing, and makes us always active to edification, and not to destruction.
Remarks on "The Age of Reason" (S. King: 1831), pp. 56-7.
You [Thomas Paine] inform us, with much aflected liberality, that "credulity is not a crime." Now, admitting your observation to be founded on fact, you cannot but allow, even on your own principles, that there is nothing criminal in believing the Bible to be the word of God; and it also follows, from your own concessions, that our adoption of the principles of infidelity is not essential to our future happiness. I am far, however, from granting, that it is a matter of indifference, whether we believe truth or error; for, if faith in a Saviour be necessary to salvation, then those who reject it must have embraced a theory, which will be attended with the most awful consequences. That this is your situation, and that you view the sacrifice of Christ with abhorrence and contempt, we cannot but perceive, from the following passage: "Can our gross feelings be excited by no other subject, than tragedy or suicide? or is the gloomy pride of man become so intolerable that nothing can flatter it, but the sacrifice of the "Creator?" You must be sensible, that this passage contains no argument; and, therefore, it may be repelled in a strain similar to that in which it is delivered. Is, then, I would ask, the arrogance and presumption of man become so intolerable, that even the conduct of Omnipotence shall be arraigned for every action, that will not furnish him with all the evidence that pride requires? Shall man despise overtures of mercy, even while conscious of his guilt, because he happens to dislike the principles upon which they are presented to him, and the medium through which they are communicated? Or, finally shall, the benevolence of God be defeated of its purposes because man is too ungrateful to acknowledge his obligations, and too blind to perceive the benefits, which heaven, out of compassion, confers? The dictates of conscience wilt give to these questions an unsophisticated answer.
John Owen, "The Relation of Christianity to Free-Thought" in Evenings with the Skeptics (Longmans, Green, and co: 1881), pp.61-2.
Arundel. There must always be, so long as creeds are words and men are reasoning beings, a variety of interpretation and opinion as to the essentials or non-essentials of any religious faith. The frequently quoted maxim attributed to Augustine is epigrammatic and pretty: In necesaariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus charitas, but it leaves the main difficulty unsolved. What are necessaria, and why? and what is the boundary line between dubia and necessaria? Certainly the necessaria which can be gathered from the direct utterances of Jesus Christ may be packed in a very small dogmatic parcel.
"Miracles and the Golden Rule: A Christian Approach to History" at Exploring Our Matrix (April 8, 2009).
One doesn't have to be committed in advance to history's inability to deal with miracles in order to begin to realize that one cannot claim that Christianity is grounded purely in history while other traditions are at best shrouded in myth. One simply has to apply the most basic Christian principle to one's investigation of the competing claims ... treating others as you would want them to treat you. The Golden Rule. And so what does it mean to do history from a Christian perspective? ... It doesn't mean defending Christian claims to miracles and debunking those of others, nor accepting Biblical claims uncritically in a way you never would if similar claims were made in our time. It means doing to the claims of others what you would want done to your claims. And perhaps also the reverse: doing to your own claims, views and presuppositions that which you have been willing to do to the claims, views and presuppositions of others. Once one begins to attempt to examine the evidence not in an unbiased way, but simply fairly, one cannot but acknowledge that there are elements of the Christian tradition which, if they were in your opponent's tradition, you would reject, debunk, discount, and otherwise find unpersuasive or at least not decisive or compelling.
The True Intellectual System of the Universe (Gould & Newman, 1838), pp. 560-1.
The great design of God in the gospel is to clear up this mist of sin and corruption, which we are here surrounded with, and to bring up his creatures out of the shadow of death to the region of light above, the land of truth and holiness. The great mystery of the gospel is to establish a godlike frame and disposition of spirit, which consists in righteousness and true holiness, in the hearts of men. And Christ, who is the great and mighty Saviour, came on purpose into the world, not only to save us from fire and brimstone, but also to save us from our sins. Christ hath therefore made an expiation of our sins by his death upon the cross, that we, being thus delivered out of the hands of these our greatest enemies, might serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. This "grace of God, that bringeth salvation," hath therefore "appeared unto all men, in the gospel, that it might teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that we should live soberly, righteously and godlily in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." "These things I write unto you (saith our apostle a little before my text) that you sin not;" therein expressing the end of the whole gospel, which is, not only to cover sin by spreading the purple robe of Christ's death and sufferings over it, whilst it still remaineth in us with all its filth and noisomeness unremoved; but also to convey a powerful and mighty spirit of holiness, to cleanse us and free us from it. And this is a greater grace of God to us, than the former, which still go both together in the gospel; besides the free remission and pardon of sin in the blood of Christ, the delivering of us from the power of sin, by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in our hearts.
Barack Obama on Easter said...
Opening Remarks at the Annual White House Easter Prayer Breakfast, cited at the Baltimore Sun (April 18, 2011).
Then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross. And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection. In the words of the book Isaiah: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this "Amazing Grace" calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son — his Son and our Savior.
Only One Way Left (The Iona Community: 1956), p. 38.
The cross must be raised again at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am claiming that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died and that is what he died about and that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen should be about.
John Stott on Basic Christianity said...
Basic Christianity (InterVarsity Press: 2005; First Edition, 1958), pp. 10-12
Our starting point is the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth. He certainly existed. There is no reasonable doubt about that. His historicity is vouched for by pagan as well as Christian writers. ¶ He was also very much a human being, whatever else may be said about him. He was born, he grew, he worked and sweated, rested and slept, he ate and drank, suffered and died like other men. He had a real human body and real human emotions. ¶ But can we really believe that he was also in some sense "God"? Is not the deity of Jesus a rather picturesque Christian superstition? Is there any evidence for the amazing Christian assertion that the carpenter of Nazareth was the unique Son of God? ¶ This question is fundamental. We cannot dodge it. We must be honest. If Jesus was not God in human flesh, Christianity is exploded. We are left with just another religion with some beautiful ideas and noble ethics; its unique distinction has gone. ¶ But there is evidence for the deity of Jesus — good, strong, historical, cumulative evidence; evidence to which an honest person can subscribe without committing intellectual suicide. There are the extravagant claims which Jesus made for himself, so bold and yet so unassuming. Then there is his incomparable character. His strength and gentleness, his uncompromising righteousness and tender compassion, his care for children and his love for outcasts, his self-mastery and self-sacrifice have won the admiration of the world. What is more, his cruel death was not the end of him. It is claimed that he rose again from death, and the circumstantial evidence for his resurrection is most compelling. ¶ Supposing Jesus was the Son of God, is basic Christianity merely an acceptance of this fact? No. Once persuaded of the deity of his person, we must examine the nature of his work. What did he come to do? The biblical answer is, he "came into the world to save sinners." Jesus of Nazareth is the heavensent Savior we sinners need. We need to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with the all-holy God, from whom our sins have separated us. We need to be set free from our selfishness and given strength to live up to our ideals. We need to learn to love one another, friend and foe alike. This is the meaning of "salvation." This is what Christ came to win for us by his death and resurrection. ¶ Then is basic Christianity the belief that Jesus is the Son of God who came to be the Savior of the world? No, it is not even that. To assent to his divine person, to acknowledge man's need of salvation, and to believe in Christ's saving work are not enough. Christianity is not just a creed; it involves action. Our intellectual belief may be beyond criticism; but we have to translate our beliefs into deeds. ¶ What must we do, then? We must commit ourselves, heart and mind, soul and will, home and life, personally and unreservedly to Jesus Christ. We must humble ourselves before him. We must trust in him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord; and then go on to take our place as loyal members of the church and responsible citizens in the community. ¶ Such is basic Christianity...