William Wordsworth- London, 1802

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Today we live in a time of much turmoil. It is a time of ideological warfare often with its end in physical warfare. With ideological warfare comes moral revolution often with its end in physical revolution.

This is apparent in the middle east where battles are raging continuously. For instance, the idea of the long lost caliphate returning to Islam to declare an official Jihad is one of enormous implications. This, if you are not aware, is one of the greatest revolutions to hit the world. Not since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World Warr I has there been an established Caliph with the ability to declare a holy war on the unbelieving. This has great significance since it is an important step in the Eschatology (study of last things) for the Muslim people. This ideological revolution has led to one of the greatest military and political revolutions the Middle East has seen since what was called the “Arab Spring.” This has led directly to physical war with the surrounding states of Syria and Iraq. Most importantly, it shows the reality of the situation to the American people. We cannot pull out of the Middle East since much of this revolution falls at our feet because the radical elements were not fully stamped out. This means military presence and inevitably interaction in the Middle East again.

You have the very religiously fueled rise in world wide prominence and strength of Russia with Vladimir Putin at the helm. Not only is this a political issue! Putin has been not only a political leader but a religious one as well. This is seen in the resurgence of the Orthodox Church’s presence and impact on the nation. They have been one of the few vocal nations to resist another cultural revolution having a big impact in America. Alongside this ideological revolution, but not necessarily as a result of it, comes the military pressure on neighboring states to “come back to Russia.” In fact, Putin is using the same excuse that Hitler used when he sought to obtain both Austria and Poland. Flying groups of planes in military maneuvers over neighboring states is highly destabilizing to the world. We stand, as many have said, on the brink of what may be a Third World War.

This brings us to the moral (and ideological) revolution seen most recently in the acceptance of Same Sex marriage as a constitutional right. This pronunciation comes as the result of accepting homosexuality as a civil right. Because it is a persons inherent right to be homosexual, they have all the “rights” according to their sexual proclivity that a race or sex is given. This ideological revolution has lead invariably to persecution of Christians in a country were their first right granted to a people is religious freedom. No longer can Christians operate based on their own morality in the public sphere. This is leading toward physical persecution. Not only has this caused strife here in America, but it has had political results as well. Foreign policy is often being under the direct influence of the homosexual revolution. Whether or not a country is “pro-Gay” or “anti-gay” will determine whether we assist them.

Lastly, the technological revolution has been affecting every aspect of life and every revolution. ISIS has an entire section dedicated towards social media and military propaganda. Putin has been very affective in fueling a “macho-man” image amongst his people and a need to go back to the glory days of Russia on the world stage. The homosexual revolution has been directly impacted by the support of media and Hollywood in promoting their agenda.

We live in a world of much turmoil and revolution, which harks back to an earlier day where much the same thing was happening. This takes us to the year 1802. Europe, and Britain was still reeling from the Seven Years War, which had devastated Europe and made them very war weary. More recently The United States had been in existence as a country for almost three decades having gone to war with Britain. Imagine the political atmosphere in a country that had recently seen that happen! Not only had they watched their own colonies secede, but they were watching the terror in France after the rise of the Jacobins during the French Revolution in what is now known as the “Reign of Terror.” And most recently, Napoleon Bonaparde led a successful Coup taking full control of the government. He returned power and prestige back to the Catholic church which had undergone great persecution at the hands of the Jacobins. But here was a great military leader heading up a “peoples army” which had never been seen before and would greatly affect his dominance in Europe.

This revolution had an even greater impact on Europe than did the American Revolution. So much so that the Tsar of Russia, Alexander I began extending more rights to their citizens as a reaction to it. Earlier in the 18th century Peter the Third had virtually demolished serfdom, which was slavery under the Feudal system.

It is easy to say that on the dawn of this new century it was the era of revolution. This revolution was greatly influenced by the technology of the day much as it is in today’s world. The printing press had only grown in popularity since the 1600’s so that by the 19th century it was an integral part of how society operated. Just breaking onto the scene was the locomotive promising a greater form of transportation of goods and ideas. In fact, railways had begun to appear in Great Britian.

It is in this context that a young poet who has witnessed the revolution, both ideologically and politically, in France returns to his home in England; William Wordsworth. Great momentous things were happening in France and on returning Wordsworth wrote “London, 1802.” England, however, was mired in controversy and war having lost much prominence on the world stage as a result of the American Revolution. Many point to this poem as an example of his conservatism and nationalism coming through. While it can be argued that there is a revolutionary edge to what he is saying, his complaints are moral rather than political.

England was behind the times culturally and morally. In this poem William Wordsworth, with great affection for his country and people, cries out for a return to what once was. “Altar, Sword, and Pen” have been affected by decline. In other words where has our religion, military might, and culture gone? Where has chivalry gone to? Where is our virtue? All these things the poet laments as having been lost in England and he turns to the one whom he thinks most exemplifies them, the great English poet John Milton. As with many of the Romantic Poets Wordsworth values his poetic appeal but more so praises his religious zeal and his ability to affect his countrymen. In a day where William Wordsworth witnesses great moral decline he calls out to a poet, instead of a revolutionary or military commander. This is an interesting notion, but one which is easier to understand now. While commanders affect the worlds battlefields, and while politicians affect the worlds politics, it is a poet who is most able to affect both mind and heart through great words of passion and zeal. It is the poet that speaks through ideas, which in the case of the French Revolution, was seen to have great impact worldwide.

I have spent many words setting the context for this poem because I think that we may benefit greatly by understanding it was written in a time much like our own. A time of great political and moral upheaval, and maybe we will in turn call for a great poet to arise to influence the shifting sands of religion, war, and culture.

Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:

England hath need of thee: she is a fen

Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,

Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,

Have forfeited their ancient English dower

Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;

Oh! raise us up, return to us again;

And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.

Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:

Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:

Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,

So didst thou travel on life’s common way,

In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart

The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

The Importance of Theology

It has been a while since my last post because i have been taking a break from school and the craziness of life with three kids! However, I have been reading more again and with it comes more great passages from great authors. I want to get back to the series I was doing on the difference between Law and Gospel, but first here is an excellent excerpt from an author who has influenced me greatly. This section is addressing the importance of doctrine in the life of a believer especially as it is related to teaching in the community of the church. The author is Michael Horton, Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California and host of the radio show The White Horse Inn. This is taken from his Systematic Theology textbook.

E. Putting It All Together: God’s New Role For Us In His Play

This movement back and forth between the narrative drama, doctrine, doxology, and discipleship is evident throughout the New Testament epistles. It is also apparent in the Psalms—the hymnal of the Bible, where often we discover the dramatic account of God’s mighty acts despite human sin, provoking the psalmist to grateful praise and then to the response of faith and obedience. This does not mean we always move in a straight line from drama to discipleship. Sometimes something that happens in our experience opens us up to a truth we had never really understood, and sometimes our practice shapes and misshapes our doctrinal convictions. Often, a half-learned doctrine or half-remembered episode in the redemptive drama becomes more fully realized in prayer and praise, especially in moments of crisis or delightful wonder. The traffic moves in all directions, back and forth, in between these coordinates, so that our faith is anchored in the work of the triune God is reaching out to our neighbors in love.

Typically, periods of reformation in both individuals and the church corporately arise from rediscovering this sweeping pattern from biblical drama to doctrine to doxology to discipleship. Periods of decline usually work their way in reverse. First, we begin to question the reliability of the narrative. How can we find our own stories in the unfolding drama of God’s miraculous intervention in history for sinners when our world seems to be governed by nothing more than natural or humanly devised processes and causes? The doctrines may be true, but their historical narrative becomes questionable. Second, the doctrines come under criticism as people recognize that the doctrines depend on the narrative. No one believes that Jesus rose from the dead because of any universal law of nature, reason, or morality. It is not a deliverance of universal religious experience. Therefore, if Christ was not actually raised bodily on the third day, then there is no basis for speculating about a “doctrine of resurrection.” Third, worship loses its rationale. We may still express our inner experience or piety (at least for a while), but eventually this leads to burnout because it is self-referential. Our hearts are stirred byu truth, not by vacuous exercises. Finally, we become disciples more of the culture than of Christ. Instead of being transformed by the renewing of our minds, we become conformed to the pattern of our non-Christian neighbors (Ro 12:1-2). In a last gasp for religious authenticity, the church tries to defend Judeo-Christian morality (discipleship), but it is a desperate attempt. The battle has already been lost at the earlier stages. Without the creeds, the deeds surrender to vague moralism.

The alternative to this growth in the knowledge and grace of Christ is not pious experience or good works but gradual assimilation to the powers of this passing evil age. The biblical drama plots our character “in Adam” by our natural birth in this present evil age. Nevertheless, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1Pe 1:3-5). Once strangers to God’s promises, we are no rewritten into God’ script. We should never lose our astonishment at the good news that in Christ even Gentiles can hear the divine playwright declare,

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1Pe 2:9-10)

The key markers in this plot are not premodernity, modernity, and postmodernity but before and after Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Because Christ has been raised as the firstfruits of the new creation, we are living in “these last days” (2Ti 3:1; Heb 1:2; Jas 5:3; cf. 1Pe 1:5) before “the last day” when Jesus returns in glory and judgment (Jn 6:40; 12:48). The Spirit creates the church at the intersection of “this age” and “the age to come” (Mt 12:32; 24:3; 1 Co 2:6; Gal 1:4). It is therefore this unfolding drama that orients us as new characters who know where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.

Nobody has to be taught the world’s story; we are born with it, as fallen children of Adam. However, we have to be taught out of it by persistent pastors and teachers who know that we prefer by nature to think differently of God and ourselves than the Scriptures require. “But understand this,” Paul warned Timothy, “that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2Ti 3:1-5). It is the constant renewing of the mind by God’s Word that reorients us away from this fading age with its aimless plot, its “empty words” (Eph 5:6) and “philosophy and empty deceit” (Col 2:8), toward the everlasting inheritance in Christ.

This happens first of all in the regular gathering of God’s people—the casting call that transfers us from death to life through preaching and sacrament. We cannot take this new identity for granted, however. We must be renewed in this inheritance constantly, since our default setting is always the script that governs the idolatries of this present age. Furthermore, just as we were created by God as inherently covenantal creatures—in relationship with God and each other, and redemption restores this extroverted identity—theology is done best in community and conversation rather than in lonely isolation. Theology is always done for and by the church. Therefore, I have included discussion questions at the end of each chapter in the hope that they will encourage fruitful and lively interaction on the matters that concern us all.

(Pages 25-27)

Horton, Michael. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2011. Print