Learning to chant the psalms

I am using the book Learning to Chant the Psalms by Cynthia Bourgeault.  It comes with a cd so that I can hear as well as read. There is some true simplicity to chanting and from where I sit right now there are some minor twists and turns that bring to the Psalms the mystical, the transcendent, the depth and the emotional power that rightly belongs to them.

Our church is readying itself for Compline services in the Fall and some instruction in chanting will be helpful. Chanting is a way to bring music back to the people since it does not require complex harmonization nor strong melody lines. Of course, this is just one way to sing unto the Lord but it has been a powerful way in the history of the church.

Phyllis Tickle, whose Divine Hours I used for fixed hour prayer writes of this book:

Few books ever manage to both inform and enthrall in equal measure the way this one does. The whole world of Christian spirituality owes Cynthia Boureault an enormous debt of gratitude for having us a classic.”

I’ll keep you posted. It’s an experiment in Christ-following.

The debates over justification-a helpful overview of the issues

DA Carson provides a useful overview of the issues in the justification debates. Click here. This article is twelve years old, but contemporary enough to be a guide for those working through the New Perspectives on Paul school of thought. Some will see this as useless nitpicking and be satisfied with a mere “Jesus saves” motto. But that will not do. See my post on GK Chesterton and the necessity of theological nitpicking to keep our faith from tipping over into immense errors. Christianity keeps in tension a whole host of truths, any one of which left to itself can work a terrible harm when not taught in conjunction with other necessary truths.

The sin so sinful that it isn’t even sin.

From Kierkegaard:

Let others complain that the age is wicked; my complaint is that it is wretched, for it it lacks passion. Men’s thoughts are thin and flimsy like lace, they are themselves pitiable like the lacemakers. The thoughts of their hearts are too paltry to be sinful. for a worm it might be regarded as a sin to harbor such thoughts, but not for  being made in the image of God. Their lusts are dull and sluggish, their passions sleepy. They do their duty, these shopkeeping souls…they think that even if the Lord keeps ever so careful a set of books, they may still cheat Him a little. Out upon them! This is the reason my soul always turns back to the OT and to Shakespeare. I feel that those who speak there are at least human beings; they hate, they love, they murder their enemies and curse their descendants through tall generations, they sin.

As Peter Kreeft has commented, “Sloth[the sin of passionlessness, of having no hunger for God] is the sin that is so dead that it doesn’t even seem to rise to the level of sin.

Is theology such unnecessary quibbling about words?

Here are GK Chesterton’s  thoughts in his book Orthodoxy on nitpicking about words in formulating doctrine:

“It is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all the modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the monstrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair’s breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. It was no flock of sheep the Christian shepherd was leading, but a herd of bulls and tigers, of terrible ideals and devouring doctrines, each one of them strong enough to turn to a false religio and lay waste to the world. Remember that the Church went in specifically for dangerous ideas; she was a lion tamer. The idea of birth through a Holy Spirit, of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins, or the fulfillment of prophecies, are ideas, which, any one can see, need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious.  If some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happenings…The Church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless.

If you wish to have one God…

From John Calvin, The Institutes:  “If we wish to have one God, we should remember that we must not pluck away even a particle of His glory and that He must retain what is His own.”

God gets the glory to be all. In this Calvin is concerned about veneration of the saints and placing trust in the righteousness of another person. God is all or we must resort to polytheism. You can’t have it both ways.

Obama and Iran

We are all trying to get used to Obama’s style of foreign diplomacy. I, for one, grew tired of American swagger in situations that did not call for it and wasted our influence and authority. But I am struggling with Obama’s slow response to the demonstrators in Iran. As a community organizer who has been immersed in the politics of demonstration I was surprised by Obama’s reticence to give comfort and encouragement to those who believed they were being disenfranchised and were willing to risk their lives to protest.This has been one of Obama’s great themes in the American experience. Where did his instinct go?

Here is an article by Caroline Gick of The Jerusalem Post that probes the issue. It’s worth the reading.