“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’, or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.”
(from a 1943 letter from C.S. Lewis, included in Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis)
“If I had only one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against Pride. The more I see of existence, and especially of modern practical and experimental existence, the more I am convinced of the reality of the old religious thesis; that all evil began with some attempt at superiority; some moment when, as we might say, the very skies were cracked across like a mirror, because there was a sneer in Heaven.”
~G.K. Chesterton: “The Common Man.”
“Christianity was to introduce the notion that humanity was fundamentally identical, that [people] were equal in dignity – an unprecedented idea at the time, and one to which our world owes its entire democratic inheritance.”
– Luc Ferry, atheist philosopher
Christianity is not a new religion, nor a made-up religion. It is the fulfillment
and continuation of the religion of the ancient Hebrews. It is a uniquely historical religion, built upon God’s self-revelation to real people in the real world.
The Old Testament showcases how amazingly unique ancient Israelite religion was: in the midst of polytheistic and superstitious cultures around it, the ancient Hebrews claimed that there was only one God. They asserted that there was one supreme being who created and upholds all reality. Furthermore, they said this God was separate from his creation – he was not part of it. Neither did he need any help to create the universe. And perhaps most amazingly, he didn’t have an “image”. There were no statues or carvings or amulets to be made. This one true God insiste
d on it. He is to be worshiped, yes. But as the supreme spiritual being his essence cannot be captured or portrayed adequately through the skills of moral craftsmen.
The emergence of this Hebraic monotheism is completely unexpected and unique. Here’s what one scholar said about this:
“There is absolutely no parallel in the ancient Near East for a people resisting the current universal religious thought patterns, challenging the prevailing world views and producing a national religion and literature that in its fundamentals goes against the stream of the entire existing tradition of which historically, culturally and geographically it is a constituent part. The phenomenon defies all attempts at rational explanation, for a linear, evolutionary development of monotheism from polytheism is not otherwise attested.”
[quote is from Nahum M. Sarna, “Paganism and Biblical Judaism,” Great Confrontations in Jewish History: The J. M. Goodstein Lecture Series on Judaica, 1975, edited by Stanley M. Wagner and Allen D. Breck (Denver: University of Denver, Department of History, 1977/5737), reprinted in Studies in Biblical Interpretation (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2000/5760), 17.]
John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the most well-known theologians of all time. His most influential work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, is still standard reading for many studying theology today.
By nature Calvin was not an outgoing person. Like many people he preferred to be away from the limelight. But God worked on him, and brought him to a point in his life where he had to push beyond his comfort zone. I was once like this myself (but now it’s hard to shut me up!)
I found this interesting quote:
“While my one great object was to live in seclusion without being known, God so led me about through different turnings and change that he never permitted me to rest in any place, until, in spite of my natural disposition, he brought me forth to public notice.”
When God is at work in a person’s life, dramatic change can happen. What we think we are not, God can make us – and use us in his service in ways we could never have imagined.