"Five words sum up every biography -
Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor
Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor
I see and approve the good, but follow the bad"
People don’t change because they decide to be better. If that happened, then New Year’s Resolutions would work.
People decide to change because they elevate their loves. And as St. Augustine said, “You become what you love.”
But if you can’t talk about the struggle of sin, if you can’t talk about why some loves are higher than other loves, and ordered versus disordered loves, you don’t have the moral vocabulary, the mental tool kit to think about how to be better.
And the Christian tradition gives us that
When Martin Luther wrote the Preface to the first collected edition of his many and various writings, he went to town explaining in detail that theology, which should always be based on the Scriptures, should be done according to the pattern modelled in Psalm 119.
There, Luther declared, we see three forms of activity and experience make the theologian.
The first is prayer for light and understanding.
The second is reflective thought (meditatio), meaning sustained study of the substance, thrust, and flow of the biblical text.
The third is standing firm under pressure of various kinds (external opposition, inward conflict, and whatever else Satan can muster: pressures, that is, to abandon, suppress, recant, or otherwise decide not to live by, the truth God has shown from his Word.
Luther expounded this point as one who knew what he was talking about, and his affirmation that sustained prayer, thought, and fidelity to truth whatever the cost, became the path along which theological wisdom is found is surely one of the profoundest utterances that the Christian world has yet heard.
In using these terms we are of course speaking in a human and hence an imperfect language, a fact that makes us cautious. Yet we have the right to speak this language. For just as the Bible speaks analogically of God's ear, eye, and mouth, so human generation is an analogy and image of the divine deed by which the Father gives the Son "to have life in himself."
But when we resort to this imagery, we must be careful to remove all associations with imperfection and sensuality from it. The generation of a human being is imperfect and flawed. A husband needs a wife to bring forth a son. No man can ever fully impart his image, his whole nature, to a child or even to many children...But it is not so with God. (Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2, p. 308)
We must, accordingly, conceive that generation as being eternal in the true sense of the word. It is not something that was completed and finished at some point in eternity, but an eternal unchanging act of God, at once always complete and eternally ongoing. Just as it is natural for the sun to shine and for a spring to pour out water, so it is natural for the Father to generate the Son. The Father is not and never was ungenerative; he begets everlastingly. (RD Vol 2, p. 310)Gregory of Nyssa spoke well and wisely on this very point:
Again when it interprets to us the unspeakable and transcendent existence of the Only-begotten from the Father, as the poverty of human intellect is incapable of receiving doctrines which surpass all power of speech and thought, there too it borrows our language and terms him "Son,"--a name which our usage assigns to those who are born of matter and nature.
But just as Scripture, when speaking of generation by creation, does not in the case of God imply that such generation took place by means of any material, affirming that the power of God's will served for material substance, place, time and all such circumstances, even so here too, when using the term Son, it rejects both all else that human nature remarks in generation here below,--I mean affections and dispositions and the co-operation of time, and the necessity of place,--and, above all, matter, without all which natural generation here below does not take place.
But when all such material, temporal and local existence is excluded from the sense of the term "Son," community of nature alone is left, and for this reason by the title "Son" is declared, concerning the Only-begotten, the close affinity and genuineness of relationship which mark his manifestation from the Father. (Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, Book II:9)
It is totally inconceivable, however, how a rational human being who knows himself to deserve punishment could seriously believe that he only has to believe the news of a satisfaction having been rendered for him, and (as the jurists say) accept itutiliter [for one's advantage], in order to regard his guilt as done away with...No thoughtful person can bring himself to this faith.That is Enlightenment man showing incredulity toward the atonement.
Kant, therefore, saw with great clarity the correlation between one's presuppositions about the human predicament and religious epistemology. None of the Enlightenment figures wanted knowledge for invoking the name of God (i.e., the gospel), because they did not believe they needed to be saved. (p. 110)
On Boxing Day  he asked for the Gospel account of the birth of Christ and the massacre of the innocents, and also the entries in the Encyclopedia Biblica, remarking when she [his wife Florence] had finished that there was not a grain of evidence that the Gospel was true.On the final day of his life Tomalin notes the following incident:
Then he dictated to Florence two rough and rude epitaphs on disliked contemporaries. One was George Moore, who had attacked him and was now accused of conceit. The other, ungrammatical but clear in its intentions, went for G. K. Chesterton:It was his final word against Church doctrine and in favour of rational thinking, exemplified by Darwin -- a magnificent blast from the sickbed.
The literary contortionist
Who prove and never turn a hair
That Darwin's theories were a snare...
And if one with him could not see
He'd shout his choice word 'Blasphemy'.
He knew the past like a man who has lived more than one span of life, and he understood how difficult it is to cast aside the beliefs of his forebears. At the same time he faced his own extinction with no wish to be comforted and no hope of immortality.The contrast between this ending and that of the seventy third psalm could not be more pronounced:
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
When we say that Jesus existed "pre" his incarnation, we do not mean he preceded it by any finite amount of time. The Son of God preexisted his incarnation the way that the Creator preexisted creation: infinitely.Fred Sanders, Embracing the Trinity, p. 85
Preexistence may be easy to say, but that one little syllable, pre-, is a quantum leap from Here to There, from time to eternity. Before you have finished that syllable, you have left behind everything measurable and manageable.