Two Quotes. Of Early Christian Missions.

A few lines from J. Gresham Machen’s 1933 radio address titled “A Christian View of Missions”:

If Christianity ever settles down to be the religion merely of one nation or of one group of nations, it will have become entirely untrue to the tradition which was established for it at the beginning.

One thing is perfectly clear—no missionary work that consists merely in presenting to the people in foreign lands a thing that has proved to be mildly valuable in the experience of the missionary himself, which he thinks may perhaps prove helpful in foreign lands in building up a better life upon this earth, can possibly be regarded as real Christian missions. At the very heart of the real Christian missionary message is the conviction that every individual hearer to whom the missionary goes is in deadly peril, and that unless the message is heeded he is without hope in this world and in the dreadful world that is to come.

A Critique of a Maxim. Of Confidence. Of Appearance.

The maxim says, “Competence is better than confidence; and truth, more than the appearance of things.”

What a waste, though, when insight stays inside, when speed runs in circles, when eloquence spends itself on self-deprecation, when good news is hoarded for oneself!

Competence implies confidence and is mere possibility without it. And truth is indeed more than appearances, but what is its glory without its revelation?

A Criticism. Of a Maxim Misattributed to Francis of Assisi.

Francis of Assisi never wrote the following maxim, attributed to him since the late twentieth century:

Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.

The maxim’s implication is contrary to Francis’s work as a writer. It also flies in the face of the whole ministry of Jesus, who—before, during, and after the great deed of the crucifixion—preached with words, which are “spirit and life.”

A Meditation. Of the Good News. Of the Christian Faith.

Christian teaching on “the good news” is paradoxical: the faith required to make the news good is occasioned by receiving the good news as good. One cannot have faith in something that has not been heard, yet one cannot hear it rightly without having faith. Faith makes impossible faith possible.

It is as if faith itself is the good news.

 

Two Reflections on the Repetition of a Word. Of the Gospel or Good News.

  1. A good word that I spoke has been repeated to me, and it seems as if I had never said it, as if I have heard it now newly, freshly. This upbuilding word is the message of Christ’s blood covering our sins. And I am built up today. How humbling, too, to be made aware that this good word, even when I spoke it years ago, was not of me but for me! – There nothing in my best words that is mine; there is nothing about which I can boast, except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. Good news that I spoke years ago has rebounded to me. But why am I amazed that this good news is still good and still new? My sluggish heart prays, “Dissipe le sommeil d’une âme languissante qui la conduit à l’oubli de tes lois!”

Notes. Of the Gospel. Of the Poor. Of the Rich.

The gospel says to the lowly, “You are immeasurably valuable in God’s eye.” And in saying this, the gospel warms every heart.

The gospel says to the rich, “You will someday die. You will fade away like a wildflower whose beauties are scorched by the very sun that gives it life.” And in hearing this, many are perplexed.

Yet these are both good news, the very same gospel, contradicting one for one’s good.

Notes. Of the Gospel. Of Expression. Of Universality, Simplicity, and Their Opposites.

A worthy effort is made to distill the gospel message into its simplest and most universal expression. Unfortunately, the simple and the universal, combined, too often yield nothing but ambiguity. This is why we usually do not say, or should be careful of saying, that the gospel message is essentially expressed by the word love, for example. The word is simple, universal, quite accurate—and it will be misunderstood by almost everyone who hears it.

Yet the simple, universal expression of the gospel message is still a worthy effort if it is coupled with the concrete, lived experience of the one who chooses such an expression. For this reason, since the teaching of the apostles, since Christ, since the days of the Law and the Prophets, or even since YHWH rebuked Cain, the paramount expression of the gospel message has been the testimony of personal conduct, which grounds a word like love in the world, in the complex and the particular, so that there may be no ambiguity in what is being preached.