A long time ago, while I listened to some spontaneous testimonies, I began to wonder where people get their ideas of God.
When I started out in the ministry (many years ago) I served a small church in the Muskegon, Michigan area. I was young and skinny and had a major chip on my shoulder. I was convinced of the evil of all things (theologically) liberal. (You can get an idea what I looked like at the time from the picture on the left.) I was opposed to all things that smacked of clericalism, very introverted, very opinionated — thinking back on it its a wonder that the people at the Wolf Lake United Methodist Church put up with me to the extent that they did. (People that haven’t known me a long time might be surprised that I was ever like that — but I was.)
In those days the United Methodist, AME, and AME Zion Churches got together on Sunday evening once a month for a Hymn Sing. This was a lay-run event and it rotated among all the various churches involved. (It was always a big thrill for all of us at Wolf Lake UMC when it was our turn to host the Hymn Sing since it filled the sanctuary to capacity — and beyond.) (more…)
For what end is life bestowed upon the children of men? Why were we sent into the world? For one sole end, and for no other, to prepare for eternity. For this alone we live. For this, and no other purpose, is our life either given or continued. It pleased the all-wise God, at the season which he saw best, to arise in the greatness of his strength, and create the heavens and the earth, and all things that are therein. Having prepared all things for him, He “created man in his own image, after his own likeness.” And what was the end of his creation? It was one, and no other, — that he might know, and love, and enjoy, and serve his great Creator to all eternity.
Remember! You were born for nothing else. You live for nothing else. Your life is continued to you upon earth, for no other purpose than this, that you may know, love, and serve God on earth, and enjoy him to all eternity. Consider! You were not created to please your senses, to gratify your imagination, to gain money, or the praise of men; to seek happiness in any created good, in anything under the sun. All this is “waiting in a vain shadow;” is leading a restless, miserable life, in order to a miserable eternity. On the contrary, you were created for this, and for no other purpose, by seeking and finding happiness in God on earth, to secure the glory of God in heaven. Therefore, let your heart continually say, “This one thing I do,” — having one thing in view, remembering why I was born, and why I am continued in life, — “I press on to the mark.” I aim at the one end of my being, God; even at “God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” He shall be my God for ever and ever, and my guide even unto death.
— John Wesley, Sermon #109 “What is Man?”
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I begin this post by calling attention again to a quote I posted on this blog from last week. It is from the second volume of Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology.
But, I need to give it a little context. Pannenberg is pointing out that the idea that humans have a special place in the world because of their rationality has pre-Christian origin. He mentions Cicero’s statement of this idea. He goes on to say:
Yet, Cicero did not link this dignity, as modern usage does, to the idea of the inviolability of human life in each individual. This thought arose only with the idea that we are under a supreme authority that releases us from obligation to other powers, and especially from being controlled by other people or by society. Rightly, then, the Christian tradition sought the basis of personal dignity in our creation in the image of God. Our destiny of fellowship with God forms the indispensable premise of the function of human dignity as the content of a supreme legal principle and a basis for individual human rights, e.g., in modern declarations of such rights.
— Systematic Theology, Volume 2, Chapter 8, page 176, 177.
Let’s stop and look at some of the details of this quote for a minute. The wording is important. (more…)