Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Francis did not say it

There are so many famous sayings that are falsely attributed. This is one of the worst, not only because Francis never said
Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.
but because it is a dangerous teaching which Francis would have repudiated.

Mark Galli, one of Francis' biographers, shows convincingly that Francis valued addressing people verbally highly.

Here are a few extracts from his important article:
This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough—that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it.

The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age...
First, no biography written within the first 200 years of his death contains the saying. It's not likely that a pithy quote like this would have been missed by his earliest disciples.

Second, in his day, Francis was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle.

He began preaching early in his ministry, first in the Assisi church of Saint George, in which he had gone to school as a child, and later in the cathedral of Saint Rufinus. He usually preached on Sundays, spending Saturday evenings devoted to prayer and meditation reflecting on what he would say to the people the next day.

He soon took up itinerant ministry, sometimes preaching in up to five villages a day, often outdoors. In the country, Francis often spoke from a bale of straw or a granary doorway. In town, he would climb on a box or up steps in a public building. He preached to serfs and their families as well as to the landholders, to merchants, women, clerks, and priests—any who gathered to hear the strange but fiery little preacher from Assisi.

He apparently was a bit of a showman. He imitated the troubadours, employing poetry and word pictures to drive the message home. When he described the Nativity, listeners felt as if Mary was giving birth before their eyes; in rehearsing the crucifixion, the crowd (as did Francis) would shed tears.

Contrary to his current meek and mild image, Francis's preaching was known for both his kindness and severity. One moment, he was friendly and cheerful—prancing about as if he were playing a fiddle on a stick, or breaking out in song in praise to God and his creation. Another moment, he would turn fierce: "He denounced evil whenever he found it," wrote one early biographer, "and made no effort to palliate it; from him a life of sin met with outspoken rebuke, not support. He spoke with equal candor to great and small."
Why is it, then, that we "remember" Francis as a wimp of a man who petted bunnies and never said a cross word, let alone much about the Cross?

I suspect we sentimentalize Francis—like we do many saints of ages past—because we live in a sentimental age. We want it to be true that we can be nice and sweet and all will be well. We hope against hope that we won't have take the trouble to figure out how exactly to talk about the gospel—our unbelieving friends will "catch" the gospel once our lifestyle is infected with it.

"Preach the gospel; use words if necessary" goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets and Jesus and Paul put on preaching. Of course we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns. As blogger Justin Taylor recently put it, the Good News can no more be communicated by deeds than can the nightly news.

Many have noted how Francis modeled his life on Jesus. But it wasn't just about the life of poverty, but also the life of preaching. We have no instance of Jesus performing a miracle and not speaking a word of comfort or challenge afterwards.

Paul articulated succinctly what Francis and Jesus felt in their souls: "How are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (Rom. 10:14).
A better saying (which you can attribute to anyone you like) is this: Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.

C S Lewis on Punishment of Criminals

I'm posting this here so that I may be able to find it again. Looks interesting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kevin DeYoung: Why I am a Calvinist

This is a great post by Kevin DeYoung. I like the whole post, but especially
The influence of Calvinism is growing because its God is transcendent and its theology is true...
What draws people to Reformed theology is the belief that God is the center of the universe and we are not, that we are worse sinners than we imagine and God is a greater Savior than we ever thought possible, that the Lord is our righteousness and the Lord alone is our boast.

The attraction of the New Calvinism is not Calvin, but the God Calvin saw—not some new fad, but something old with new life blowing through it from the Spirit of God.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Honouring John Calvin

I got this from Alan Reader, Tasmaniac and musician and preacher and lots of stuff I can't tell you, because that's all I know so far.

John Piper at the Resurgence National Conference 2008 - Text and Context

"I think the way to be faithful to John Calvin, insofar as he was true, is to stay faithful to his book, which is right here [the Bible], not The Institutes. And so the way to push the truth of any system that you think has got some truth in it, is not to wave the banner of the system, but to wave its foundations here, talk about [the Bible.]"
Good stuff, Al.

Saturday, May 02, 2009








This is taken from The New Jerusalem Bible. Hope I'm not boring you with these wordles, but I find them fascinating.

I read Psalm 47 this morning, which reminds us that God is the King of the whole world, not just of Israel. I am continuing to appreciate the terrific work John Collins has done in his introduction and notes for the ESV Study Bible.