Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jonathan Edwards on Old Men

Was somewhat randomly reading some diary entries from Jonathan Edwards, and found these observations about what old people can be like, and his resolutions for the future...

"Monday , Sept 23 [1723?]. I observe that old men seldom have any advantage of new discoveries, because they are beside the way of thinking to which they have been so long used. Resolved, if ever I live to years, that I will be impartial to hear the reasons of all pretended discoveries, and receive them if rational, how long soever I have been used to another way of thinking." (Memoirs Chapter IV)

"Saturday, Feb. 22 [1724]. I observe that there are some evil habits, which do increase and grow stronger, even in some good people, as they grow older; habits that much obscure the beauty of Christianity: some things which are according to their natural tempers, which in some measure prevail when they are young in Christ, and the evil disposition having an unobserved control, the habit at last grows very strong, and commonly regulates the practice until death. By this means, old Christians are very commonly, in some respects, more unreasonable than those who are young. I am afraid of contracting such habits, particularly of grudging to give, and to do, and of procrastinating." (Memoirs Chapter V)

 (I think he was about 20 years old when he wrote these... not sure how old is "old"..!!)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Does every Christian have a Spiritual Gift?

I remember a few years ago at a home group bible study, we were looking at the question of Spiritual gifts. It is usually assumed that every Christian has at least one "Spiritual gift" (however many different kinds of gifts you think there are), often bundled together with the concept of the "priesthood of all believers". A question I raised at the time, and one which is still not 100% resolved for me, is whether that assumption is really the biblical position? Does the Scripture really teach that everyone has some gift? The three key passages are 1 Corinthians 12-14,  Romans 12:3-8, and 1 Peter 4:10-11. With phrases like "distributing to each one individually as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:11), "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us" (Romans 12:6), "As each one has received a gift" (1 Peter 4:10), it seems to imply that everyone ("each one") has one of these gifts. But strictly, this may not be necessary. Perhaps it may only mean "each one who has received a gift..." The point in each case is not so much whether each Christian has received some gift, but whether those who have gifts must have the same gift. Indeed, the point in each case is about the diversity of gifts, and that all should work together in unity.

The other question is about how we perceive such gifts. I suspect the default for some of us is as if a gift is like some kind super power (the recent preponderance of superhero movies probably doesn't help). Therefore it must somehow be spectacular or overtly exciting in some way, or at least our fascination is upon gifts that seem more like that. And yet, some of the gifts seem hardly so, thinking perhaps of the gifts of giving, or of showing mercy. More so if we think of the artisans in Moses day who were "filled.. with the Spirit of God", endowed with many skills of craftsmanship (see Exodus 31:1-11 and 35:30-34).

It also seems easier for those with gifts like teaching or preaching (or for that matter, healing or speaking in tongues), to know what they should do, but it seems that for many other Christians, those who don't seem to be gifted in such obvious ways, it can be more of a struggle to find their place in using their gift, whatever it may be.

In any case, there is still a lot to be said for each Christian having at least some gift of the Spirit. The jury is still out, and I'm still pondering :)