Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hipster Resolutions

So, I understand that ministry majors and the layman Christian who is passionate about the Scriptures have recently been getting a little absorbed in ancient theologians and the writings of great believers who are now long dead. I think there are pro's and con's to this movement of looking to the past for great theology and substance of truth:

Pro: Some of these men (think Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, St. Augustine, Charles Spurgeon, John Owens, C.S. Lewis, etc) wrote and thought about some of the most profound truths that mankind has ever been able to stumble upon.

Con: We tend to pedestal-ize these men to a position they cannot deserve. The truths they wrote about were not the result of their own brilliance, but were outworkings of the unchanging truths found in the same Bible available to all mankind.

Pro: Though these men were great, we see that they wrestled with the same faith-shaking issues we do: depression, doubt, sin, and heartache. In this, we can find hope for ourselves that God's grace works powerfully in weak men.

Con: I feel that much of the desire to quote old literature and respect old men is a result of our generation's hipster-driven love for the oh-so-vintage-retro. The problem with this is that, more often than not, our love for this type of literature is more a matter of intellectual "I-quoted-John-Calvin-before-he-was-cool" pride than it is a realization of the profound nature of what these men discussed. We seek witty quips to share over coffee rather than weighty truths to cry over when praying through despair.

Pro: These men were driven in their pursuit of holiness and the presence of God. Many of them had a solid grasp of the gravity of sin and of the greatness of God, and I'm stoked to hear our generation read about men who were serious about righteousness in a culture where everything slides.

Con: We make it out as if these men lived in an age where everything was better than it is now. We think that theologians of the past contributed towards a "golden age" of the church. The reality is that they had a ton of problems, too, but they were just different ones than we have now.

That being said, I've come to love one particular work of literature written by a 19-year-old Jonathan Edwards, a great preacher of old who is known for a sermon called, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." The work that I speak of is simply called, "The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards," which is simply a collection of decisions that Edwards made when he was young in the faith. We find decisions like these:

#37: "Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year."


#52: "Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age."


#56: "Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be."

There are 70 of these resolutions. Some of them are a bit strange, and perhaps unbiblical, ("Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s day.") but they reflect something crucial to the walk of faith.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3, emphasis added)
We are commanded to set our minds on matters of the divine, heavenly order. And what else does "setting your mind" mean than to willfully make a decision to pursue holiness in a grace-driven way, to make conviction-minded choices that will lead us more near holiness, and to be intentional about honoring God with purposeful resolutions that will make us more like Him?

Colossians 3 goes on to say that we are to

"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you..."

One does not put something to death by making kinda-sorta wishy-washy choices. This act of killing must be willful, persistent, vigilant, and intentional. And so I end with one last resolution:

"Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live."


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