In chapter 3, “Seeking Wisdom in Tradition,” Quentin Schultze attempts to establish the idea that if we want to establish virtue then we need to reassert “a few ‘first things,’” learn to listen, and be diligent at passing virtue along to the subsequent generations. Underlying each of these directives for establishing virtue are the need to learn from religious traditions and history. True to form (at least to this point) Schultze is driving at a noble idea along a road filled with potholes.
Schultze argues that we should look to tradition, specifically religious tradition, in order to re-establish some first things that will help us in our pursuit of virtue. While looking to religious tradition to help us understand and pursue virtue may be helpful, Schultze’s inclusive definition of religious tradition strips his idea of most of its value. He writes,
I use the word ‘religion’ to refer not just to particular religious institutions but more broadly to the ultimate meaning and purpose of existence, along with accompanying practices or customs… To act religiously in the world is to rebind the broken cosmos… I define religious tradition as a transcendentally framed and morally directed way of life that faithfully aims to rebind the broken cosmos from generation to generation.” (Schultze, 72, 75).
With his rebinding language, Schultze is essentially talking about redemption. Redemption is good; however, to talk about redemption in any substantial way apart from Christ is problematic. In the end, Schultze’s plea to look to tradition in order to participate in the religious rebinding of our information culture sounds a lot like Tevye‘s passionate, but ultimately empty refrain, “Traditiooooon, tradition!”
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
words by Isaac Watts inspired by Psalm 117
arrangement by Lance & Treva including the Doxology
From all that dwell below the skies, t the Creator’s praise arise;
let the Redeemer’s name be sung,
through every land by every tongue.
Eternal are thy mercies, Lord;
eternal truth attends thy word.
Thy praise shall sound from shore to shore,
till suns shall rise and set no more.
Isaac Watts based this well-known hymn on Psalm 117. The first American publication of “From All That Dwell Below the Skies” was in Watts’ The Psalms of David Imitated, in the language of the New Testament,” published in Boston for Jonathan Edwards in 1741 (during the Great Awakening).
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The word doxology comes from two Greek words, doxa, which means glory, and logos, which means word. So a doxology is literally “a word of glory.” We sing doxologies to give glory or praise to God. This doxology was written by Thomas Ken in 1674.
SONG: Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder
from 1 Cor. 6:11, 20; Rev. 1:5 John Newton words -Laura Taylor music
Let us love the Lord Who bought us
Pitied us when enemies
Called us by His grace and taught us
Gave us ears and gave us eyes
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He has washed us with His blood
He presents our souls to God
Let us sing though fierce temptation
Threatens hard to bear us down
For the Lord, our strong salvation,
Holds in view the conqu’ror’s crown
He, Who washed us with His blood,
He, Who washed us with His blood,
He, Who washed us with His blood,
Soon will bring us home to God
Newton lays out four proper responses to God and uses them to structure the hymn: love, singing, wonder, and praise. This hymn is not only about worship, but also about the gospel. Newton clearly understood the means by which we can have peace with God – through Jesus’ death on the cross – and saw that as the penultimate motivator for worship. The mercy that God has revealed in loving and saving sinners like us should drive us to love and sing and wonder and praise. – David Ward
In chapter 2, “Moderating our Informational Desires,” Quentin Schultze continues his relentless questioning of unchecked information increase and our uncritical consumption of information. Chapter 2 is divided into three sections (and a conclusion) that Schultze describes as follows,
The first section of this chapter considers the impact of ‘information overload’ on the moral fabric of culture… The second section critiques the bandwidth envy of those cyber-philes who believe that society will necessarily be better served by faster messaging… The third section examines how unmoderated informational messaging can hinder our communication… As the conclusion of this chapter suggests, much of the rhetoric of cybersapce is predicated on an insatiable desire for more information and more powerful messaging technologies (Schultze, 48-9).
Schultze’s foundational issue in this chapter is the apparent, complete lack of moderation with which we create, pursue, and consume new information. There are certainly many important questions to ask surrounding the issues of how and why we pursue and process information. Information, like anything else, can be an idol. It is all too easy to neglect the things that are directly in front of us by constantly trying to keep up with the latest trends, news, and issues that are disseminated through various blogs, web-sites, free-press papers, etc.
Schultze assigns this potential for idolatry primarily to modern modes of communication, and in so doing holds a romantic view of by-gone eras. For instance, in developing his argument for the late advent of mass media consumption, he writes,
The scope of collecting, storing, and distributing information has increased dramatically in recent decades, thanks largely to digital networks and computer databases. We forget how slowly humans gathered information in earlier centuries… Not until the late eighteenth century did most Americans begin reading numerous books quickly rather than carefully rereading a few of them, such as the Bible (Schultze, 50).
Clearly there is not an historically responsible avenue by which one may argue that we are not faced with more information today than in centuries past; however, Schultze seems to be assuming that the increase of information is necessarily a bad thing, which can no more be assumed than the increase necessarily being a good thing.
Technophiles, those who “celebrate supercharged messaging as if it were necessarily a good thing,” are Schultze’s chosen nemesis. In response to their supposed unmoderated desire for more information and view that greater bandwidth is the answer to all societal issues, Schultze makes four claims,
First, the unbridled quest for greater messaging speed discards venerable moral practices that require patience and perseverance… Second, we bring to added bandwidth additional information of dubious merit, including mediocre, extraneous, half-baked, and even disingenuous messages… Third, increased bandwidth devalues human communication because of the ease of making and distributing digital copies of information… Fourth, increased bandwidth further fragments society by expanding specialized messaging at the expense of shared culture (Schultze, 57-9).
While each of these may be true, two things must be pointed out. First, none of these claims are unique, as Schultze implies they are, to the digital age. Second, none of these claims are necessarily true. Scores of books of “dubious merit” fill libraries. Scores of half-baked ideas have been passed down via oral tradition. Increased bandwidth could fragment society, but could it not also create new venues for shared culture. Schultze later writes, “The possibility for more intimate email discourse, for instance is real, but our hectic lives and unmoderated uses of technology work against this intimacy” (Schultze, 63). Schultze is correct in saying such intimacy within the use of technology is possible, and this claim highlights the fact that the real issue is one of the heart (as his title implies) and not one of increased information/technology. Our hearts can just as easily idolize mastering one piece or source of information as it can knowing of 1,ooo sources.
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen”
The regular pattern of the worship service at Christ Church Conway is organized in four cycles: Praise, Acknowledgement of Human Condition, Means of Grace, and Response. The goal of this structure is that God may be glorified as we proclaim who he is (Praise), confess our need for him (Acknowledgment of Human Condition), hear what Christ has done for his people and receive God’s grace (Means of Grace), and respond in praise (Response).
SONG: Were You There?
Old Plantation Spiritual
Were you there when he rose up from the dead?
Were you there when he rose up from the dead?
Sometimes I feel like shouting glory.
Were you there when he rose up from the dead?
“Have you ever thought about what being there would have really meant to you? Would you have recognized that His pain was for you? Would you have realized that His death was so that you might live?
Were you there when He rose up from the grave? Even that is not the end of the account that we today are privileged to know……that man put Him to death, but God raised Him from the dead, and HE LIVES! The cross was not the end but the beginning!” - Mary Free
SONG: Christ Arose
Robert Lowry 1862
Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes
He arose a Victor from the dark domain
And He lives forever with His saints to reign
He arose He arose Hallelujah Christ arose
SONG: How Deep The Fathers Love
I will not boast in anything
No gifts no power no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
The Chi Rho with a wreath symbolizing the victory of the Resurrection, above Roman soldiers, ca. 350.
Prayer of Confession:
O Lord, We marvel that you should become incarnate, be crucified, dead, and buried. The tomb calls forth our adoring wonder, for it is empty and you are risen; the four-fold gospel attests it, the living witnesses prove it, our heart’s experience knows it. Give us to die with you that we may rise to new life, for we wish to be as dead and buried to sin, to selfishness, to the world; that we might not hear the voice of the charmer, and might be delivered from his lusts. O Lord, there is much ill about us – crucify it, much flesh within us – mortify it. Purge us from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of approbation, the shame of being thought old-fashioned, the desire to be cultivated or modern. Let us reckon our old life dead because of crucifixion, and never feed it as a living thing. Grant us to stand with our dying Savior, to be content to be rejected, to be willing to take up unpopular truths, and to hold fast despised teachings until death. Help us to be resolute and Christ-contained. Never let us wander from the path of obedience to your will. Strengthen us for the battles ahead. Give us courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys. Help us to be holy, happy people, free from every wrong desire, from everything contrary to your mind. Grant us more and more of the resurrection life: may it rule us, may we walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence.
SONG: Before The Throne Of God Above
Charitie Lees Bancroft | Vikki Cook
1 Peter 1:18-19: “. . . knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Behold Him there the Risen Lamb
My perfect spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am
The King of Glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
SONG: In Christ Alone
Keith Getty / Stuart Townend
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.
God has designed the world for a particular purpose, his own glory. The Westminster Divines stated this clearly in WSC #7. “What are the decrees of God? The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” WSC #8 begins to answer how God carries out his decrees with a general two-fold answer – the works of creation and the works of providence. This answer places all things under God’s sovereign care.
God is responsible not only for actually creating the heavens and earth, but also for continually holding all things together for the purpose of carrying out his decrees. Genesis begins with the story of God creating all things out of nothing and ends with one of the hallmark stories of God’s providence, the story of Joseph. God’s providence is seen clearly in the life of Joseph, the favored son who was sold into slavery by his brothers, endured an unjust imprisonment, and rose to a position of authority in Egypt in order to provide for his family and welcome them into Egypt where they would dwell as slaves for 400 years in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. At the death of their father, Jacob, Joseph’s brothers got nervous, apparently thinking Joseph may now, in the absence of their father, deal harshly with them as they had with him. However, Joseph comforts his brothers saying, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50.19-20, ESV). Paul also lays out this idea of God sovereignly carrying out his decrees in the works of creation and providence when he writes of Jesus, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1.16-17, ESV).
The true and living God, did not inherit a broken world that he had to set about repairing. Neither did the true and living God of Scripture merely wind the world up like a big top and then step away once it was spinning. Our God is both transcendent, standing outside of his creation, and immanent, intimately involved in his creation. In the creation of the world God was at work to execute his decrees for his glory. Likewise, in all that we face, God is at work to execute his decrees for his glory.
The Israelites often forgot that. We often forget that.
When the Israelites were wandering in the desert they were constantly questioning God’s faithfulness. They thought he had left them, so they built a golden calf to which they bowed. They thought he would not provide for them, so they grumbled and complained. In short, the Israelites chose to believe their circumstances rather than the promises of God. We do the same thing. When life doesn’t go our way, we freak out and think God has abandoned us. When Satan comes trying to rehash old sins, we despair thinking Jesus is not enough. We believe our circumstances rather than the promises of God.
In Genesis, Moses records story after story of God’s faithfulness to keep his promises to his people. The story of Joseph is just such a story. In his providence, God was working out his plan for his people’s deliverance and provision through the planned ups and downs of Joseph’s life. Contained within the promises to Abram we find these words, ““Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15.13-14, ESV). The story of Joseph being providentially positioned in Egypt to provide food for his family to eat and land on which they could live, is a story of God faithfully leading his people into bondage. It is a story of God’s steadfast love and mercy. It is a story of God keeping his covenant. All of the Israelites’ questions about Yahweh’s faithfulness would have been answered by a look back that their history, which stood as a grand testimony to God’s unyielding faithfulness to keep his covenant.
Time and time again throughout Scripture the writers recount the history of God’s people to highlight the faithfulness of God. Psalm 136 alternates between statements of history and the repeated refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever!” Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7 is essentially a run down of Hebrew history ending with Christ. Even Hebrews 11, although we commonly take it as exalting a bunch of people, is a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Think about it. How does the author of Hebrews conclude his argument? He writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12.1-2, ESV). To what did this great cloud of witnesses bear witness? Is the writer not saying, “All of these have proved God to be faithful, therefore you also trust in Christ.” Notice that he doesn’t say, these men were faithful so you be faithful. Rather, he says, these men endured by faith so you look to Christ the AUTHOR and PERFECTER of your faith. The author of Hebrews is not asking us to conjure up faith on our own; he is commanding us to look to Jesus, the faithful God, and rest. This is not a story about folks being great on their own; it is a story about God faithfully keeping his people by a faith that he authored.
Look to Jesus. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Do not be anxious about your life. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Do all things for the glory of God. Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Why? Because God is faithful.
Recently, I heard a news story on the radio about one of the latest trends in Spanish speaking television, Narco Novelas. These shows “play out the drama of [the] Mexican drug war.” Here is the reporters description:
These soap operas share some dramatic ingredients with the actual drug war in Mexico: executions, lavish lifestyles and international fame. They’re part of what I call “narco cultura,” and it feeds into the way a lot of young people in Mexico idolize drug dealers.
“It’s almost as if saying ‘I want to be a narco!’ is in style,” says radio DJ Sergio Garcia, who moved to the U.S. from Tijuana about a year ago. “It’s about fantasizing about having a brand new car, having rhinestones on your clothes, going to nightclubs, having a lot of women, having a lot of money and just being able to spend however much you want. It’s mainly just being able to feel that power.”
Of course, glamorizing the often violent and perverse drug culture is not unique to Mexico or Latin America (apparently most of these show are produced in Columbia). My generation made Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Tupac, and Puffy millionaires and provided an eager viewing audience for shows like The Sopranos. Nonetheless, this story brought to light the real issue of the Mexican drug war, an issue that is common to all mankind, hearts that are black with sin.
In the end, Narco Novelas are about glory – not God’s glory, man’s glory – and that is their appeal. We want to be god, or at least appear to be god. We are glory seekers. We often struggle with the idea that God is jealous for his own glory, all the while ignoring the fact that we are jealous for our own glory. Maybe we are too scared to jump into the violence of the Mexican drug culture, but we all seek our own glory. We build businesses and reputations and accounts and portfolios and resumes and churches and social networks and all kinds of things that point everyone to us and give us a false sense of security. We are all good citizens of Babel seeking a name for ourselves. We all fall short of the glory of God. We all must repent of our sin or perish. We all need Jesus.
In chapter 1, “Discerning Our Informationism,” Quentin Schultze delves into what he calls informationism: “a non-discerning, vacuous faith in the collection and dissemination of information as a route to social progress and personal happiness.” He goes on to say, “As a quasi-religion, informationism preaches the is over the ought, observation over intimacy, and measurement over meaning.” In short, Schultze has serious questions about whether the profound influx of information has that has come with the “information age” has actually made things better or not.
Has our ability to know what is trumped our ability to process what ought to be? Has our obsession with what is killed our motivation to do the hard work of knowing what ought to be? Wikileaks and the whole anti-privacy movement, though predated by Schultze’s book, is a perfect example of what Schultze is concerned about. Sure, we can violate trusts, know state secrets, and make all things public knowledge, but ought we do this? With all of our time and energy spent unearthing and learning all the details of the world, do we have any time and energy left to actually process any of it? Schultze concludes that we are failing to adequately deal with moral implications of the information we receive.
Related to the is/ought issue are issues of observation vs intimacy. Has our expansive knowledge of everything and everyone done anything more than make us trivia masters? Do the 100-million-plus (as of February 2010) daily status updates from Facebook and Twitter actually acquaint us with one another, or do they merely inform us that we are all still here and all still struggling to master as much information as we can? Do our insatiable appetites for being plugged in actually prevent us from being fed? Schultze concludes that we have become a society of observers forsaking intimacy with a few for acquaintance with many.
Schultze’s final category pertains to how we assign value and to what we assign it. Mixed in with our focus on the is over the ought and our perverse fascination with observing everything and knowing nothing, we also constantly seek to evaluate everything based on outcome. How do the various points of data that we collect relate to one another? Is their greater value in processed data or possessed data? Schultze concludes that we venerate possessing large amounts of unprocessed data and are satisfied pursuing and collecting with little thought given to understanding.
In short, one habit of the high-tech heart is bowing to the idol of information. We are told over and over that our society is moving, or has moved, from a labor based economy to a knowledge based economy, and our response has been to relentlessly pursue and attempt to create knowledge. We have let the world define and interpret itself for us, and the world is screaming, “KNOW ME! LOVE ME! SERVE ME!”
Some of Schultze’s claims seem to be based in some amount of conjecture, and some of his conclusions may sound slightly alarmist. Nonetheless, Schultze has raised some important questions and made some astute observations. We have faith in information. We hope for more information. We love information. We are informationists. While we need not necessarily replace the banned books that used to fuel the fires of book burnings with our laptops, smart phones, and notebooks, we would do good to ask some hard questions of how to engage in using technology for God’s glory. We were created to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Technology may assist us in this, but it may also assist us in glorifying and enjoying ourselves by writing a story that not only stars us, but also has us in the audience. It may be that we need to apply Hebrews 12.1-3 to our hot and constant pursuit of information.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
“I am aware that many people stress the idea of “undistracting excellence”. This is the idea that you do everything so well that people don’t notice. They just take it for granted that everything runs smoothly. It is thought that this helps facilitate people’s encounter with God because you’re getting out of the way as much as possible. But everything doesn’t always run smoothly, and, if you’re dependent on some musicians on Sunday morning to facilitate your encounter with God, you’re probably not really worshiping in the first place.
While the notion behind this notion is well-intended, it can border on legalism and cause much unnecessary stress. When it’s up to us to make sure everything runs smoothly to make sure people “encounter God;” to make sure the transitions are right and the lights are on cue and there are no awkward silences; that’s a lot of pressure and somewhere in there is a line between facilitating worship and performance. Wanting everything to run smoothly is not in and of itself a bad thing.
But sometimes life is messy. But as family united by the Blood of Christ, we work through it, in His strength, together. And sometimes, things go wrong during Gathered Worship and that’s OK. If our largest corporate gathering is always slick and smooth, does it really reflect our life together? Is it possible that allowing room for mishaps might remind us that we are real people living real lives before a real God.” -http://www.churchofthecrossaz.com/blog
Sermon Text: Genesis 40 Joseph interprets dreams in prison
Call to Worship: Psalm 66
1Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise!
Confession of Faith: The Heidelberg Catechism 1563
Q & A 1
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong— body and soul,
in life and in death— to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Song: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). What a beautiful reminder of that truth, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” gives us hope amidst the struggles of life. The words, written nearly five hundred years ago, still ring true today: When life storms blow in around us, we can find refuge in the mighty fortress of our God.
The one hymn that most symbolizes the Protestant Reformation is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” In it, Martin Luther proclaims his confidence in God and rallies all Christians to war against evil. Basing his words on Psalm 46, he victoriously states “We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.” Those persecuted and martyred for their convictions during the Reformation sang these words. The first line of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is inscribed on the tomb of Martin Luther at Wittenberg.
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
Song: Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart
Words – John Newton (1725-1807), 1779
Music – Wendell Kimbrough, 2004
Fear thou not, nor be ashamed;
All thy sorrows soon shall end,
I, who heaven and earth have framed,
Am thy Husband and thy Friend;
I the High and Holy One,
Israel’s God, by all adored,
As thy Savior will be known,
Thy Redeemer and thy Lord.
John Henry Newton (July 24, 1725 – December 21, 1807) was an English sailor and Anglican clergyman. Starting his career on the sea at a young age, he became involved with the slave trade for a few years. After experiencing a religious conversion, he became a minister, hymn-writer, and later a prominent supporter of the abolition of slavery. He was the author of many hymns, including “Amazing Grace” and “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken.”
When the woes of life o’ertake me,
Hopes deceive, and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me,
Lo! it glows with peace and joy.
Hymns by John Bowring, 1825. There is a story about the inspiration for these words. The tradition is that Bowring was sailing past the coast of Macao, China. On the shore were the remains of an old, fire gutted church. Above the ruins, he saw the church’s cross still standing. The title of this hymn was carved on Bowring’s tomb stone.
Glorification of the Cross, by Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)
Notes: Sandra McCracken has a wonderful song called Abiding City that references Hebrews 11. It is one of my favorites, give it a listen.