"In order that the mind may not be taxed, moreover, by the manifold and confused reading of so many such things, and in order to prevent the escape of something valuable that we have read, heard, or discovered through the process of thinking itself, it will be found very useful to entrust to notebooks ... those things which seem noteworthy and striking."

[Commonplace books: Thomas Farnaby, 17th-century]

The Roman Church has made baptism practically meaningless, by reckoning with the possibility of an obex, which can be opposed to baptismal grace, by the baptized person himself; by describing this grace as a thing which can be terribly easily and quickly lost through new sins beginning after baptism; and by placing behind baptism the much more easily handled sacrament of ppenance, for the putting right of such loss. And it is indeed noteworthy that the Roman Christian, although he is taught that baptism was absolutely necessary for him and that through it ex opere operato there has come to him forgiveness of sins and regeneration, up to the present day has from his baptism (inalienable and needing no completing) no more than the imparting of a Christian 'character,' indestructible but entirely empty of content, the prerequisite for the reception of the six remaining sacraments. Through the possession of this 'disposition' he can as well believe as not believe, as well be saved as lost. The mountain has brought forth a mouse... ...The whole argument of Paul in Romans 6, Galatians 3, and Colossians 2 would be sophistic rhetoric, if he had not reckoned that in all circumstances baptism has for the baptized a real significance, an absolute efficacy--that is, one in no way consisting of a shadowy 'character,' but an efficacy which because of its nature, its power and its meaning laughs at any obex. Good heavens, who dare boast over against the grace that is his in baptism of anything more than being the only and indeed formidable obex?

[Christianity: Karl Barth, The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism]

Posted by Wystan on 09.04.2009

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Something must be said about an important consequence which follows from this. The power of Jesus Christ, which is the only power in baptism, is not dependent upon the carrying out of baptism. Baptism has the necessity of a command which cannot fail to be heard. It has not the necessity of an indispensable medium. The free word and work of Christ can make use of other means. That the Church is commanded to use this means cannot signify that Jesus Christ Himself is limited to it. The domain of the divine covenant of grace is larger than the domain of the Church, Christ's regnum is wider than his ecclesia. The rule for us is that outside the Church there is no salvation, but the Lord of the Church is not limited thereto. The remark about water and Spirit in John 3:5 has not this in view. Mark 16:16 to be sure says "he believeth and is baptizes shall be saved," but then simply "he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." The representatives of the view that baptism is an absolute necessity for salvation, therefore, in their dogmatic works, always taught with a certain hesitancy that this threat must cover the absence of baptism. At least for those unbaptized children of Christians, almost the whole church has held out at all times the prospect of either a friendly exception or a somewhat modified perdition (the so-called limbus infantium). Further, Roman dogmatic speaks of the martyrs' blood-baptism as sufficiently taking the place of water-baptism; while since the famous funeral sermon of Ambrose for the Emperor Valentinian II, who died while a catechumen, it has spoken also of a baptism of desire in cases of perfect love and repentance. In the middle ages, under certain conditions, even entry into a monastic order availed in place of baptism. But casuistry of this kind--which is both miserable and ambiguous--is surely superfluous for the solution of the problem before us. It was much more to the point when Luther in his early years, preaching in lively and happy fashion, declared "A man may believe even if he is not baptized; for baptism is no more than an outward sign that the divine promise ought to admonish us. If a man can have it, it is good, let him take it; for no one ought to despise it. But if a man cannot have it, or is refused it, he is not condemned, so long as he believes the Gospel. For where the Gospel is, there is baptism and all else that a Christian man need."

[Christianity: Karl Barth, The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism]

Posted by Wystan on 09.04.2009

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Why is authority like this? Why does it have to be like that? Because God (as in Acts 1 and Matthew 28, which we looked at earlier) wants to catch human beings up in the work that he is doing. He doesn’t want to do it by-passing us; he wants us to be involved in his work. And as we are involved, so we ourselves are being remade. He doesn’t give us the Holy Spirit in order to make us infallible—blind and dumb servants who merely sit there and let the stuff flow through us. So, he doesn’t simply give us a rule book so that we could just thumb through and look it up. He doesn’t create a church where you become automatically sinless on entry. Because, as the goal and end of his work is redemption, so the means is redemptive also: judgement and mercy, nature and grace. God does not, then, want to put people into little boxes and keep them safe and sound. It is, after all, possible to be so sound that you’re sound asleep. I am not in favor of unsoundness; but soundness means health, and health means growth, and growth means life and vigor and new directions. The little boxes in which you put people and keep them under control are called coffins. We read scripture not in order to avoid life and growth. God forgive us that we have done that in some of our traditions. Nor do we read scripture in order to avoid thought and action, or to be crushed, or squeezed, or confined into a de-humanizing shape, but in order to die and rise again in our minds. Because, again and again, we find that, as we submit to scripture, as we wrestle with the bits that don’t make sense, and as we hand through to a new sense that we haven’t thought of or seen before, God breathes into our nostrils his own breath—the breath of life. And we become living beings—a church recreated in his image, more fully human, thinking, alive beings.

[Christianity: N.T. Wright, How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?]

Posted by Wystan on 06.10.2009

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Then, we have to ask, if we are to get to the authority of scripture. How does God exercise that authority? Again and again, in the biblical story itself we see that he does so through human agents anointed and equipped by the Holy Spirit. And this is itself an expression of his love, because he does not will, simply to come into the world in a blinding flash of light and obliterate all opposition. He wants to reveal himself meaningfully within the space/time universe not just passing it by tangentially; to reveal himself in judgement and in mercy in a way which will save people. So, we get the prophets. We get obedient writers in the Old Testament, not only prophets but those who wrote the psalms and so on. As the climax of the story we get Jesus himself as the great prophet, but how much more than a prophet. And, we then get Jesus’ people as the anointed ones.

[Christianity: N.T. Wright, How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?]

Posted by Wystan on 06.10.2009

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There is a too-common assumption among professional intellectuals that the world of thought and ideas is in some way owned by them. In truth, some of the best minds have fled the mediocrity, jealousies, and low pay of the literary-intellectual ghetto.

[Intellectuals: Whit Stillman, The Last Days of Disco]

Posted by Wystan on 06.09.2009

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Must begin somewhere

[general: me, ]

Posted by Wystan on 06.09.2009

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