Category Archives: G.K. Chesterton

Take Not Thy Thunder From Us

On this 4th of July weekend, I would like to offer a couple of thoughts from G.K. Chesterton’s great hymn: “O God of Earth and Altar.” Chesterton had an ability to summarize the need of a nation. I think his words are rather applicable to our country this morning:

Chesterton writes after appealing to God for help:  “O God… our earthly rulers falter.” Here is a statement we can all overwhelmingly affirm this morning. We have leaders who have become so accustomed to the status quo that their t-shirts read: “Keep Calm: No surprise here!” Our God throughout history is constantly changing the political class. When kings and rulers falter for too long, he replaces them. In God’s political cycle, there is never the status quo, there is always change and newness of life.

In verse 2, Mr. Chesterton observes that, “From lies of tongue and pen, from all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men…” Have we not become so easily seduced by fancy political rhetoric? We are as a nation more prone to being drawn by political speeches than biblical language. The Gospel calls us to draw near, and we say, “Let me first hear the lies of tongue and pen of earthly rulers.” Chesterton says, “Deliver us, good Lord!” from this kind of fanaticism and blatant disregard of your call to your people. We are comforted by false things in this nation when the abiding truth is that only the Gospel promises true comfort.

Finally, Chesterton petitions God to “bind our lives together, smite us and save us all.” This is a bit of a Psalmic imprecation from Chesterton’s pen. He is longing for a form of death/resurrection in the lives of citizens. In other words, make us faithful citizens who wield a “single sword”, that is, “a united Gospel” to crush our dependence on earthly rulers and to satisfy our hunger in the divine king of all creation, Jesus Christ.

Our Declaration of Independence will only survive if our pride is taken away. Our freedoms will only last when the thunder of God is proclaimed, when the peoples clap their hands and sing for joy to a ruler who will never falter, never sleep, and never die. Let us pray to our God of earth and altar!





10 Things to Expect in a Federal Vision Church

I recently read a post by a frustrated woman on the outcome of some decisions made in different PCA Presbyteries. Among many things, this individual observed that she was deeply concerned for the well-being of the people who attend PCA churches. She urged them to leave the denomination. Many of them have bought into the “Federal Vision theology,” and are possibly doomed to a “Christ-less eternity,” she wrote. They also are grace-less, because they emphasize a robust faith that is not dead.  Among the other things mentioned, apparently Federal Vision advocates do not care about personal relationships, but only church business, because we put so much emphasis on the church. And to top off the list of accusations, we have traded “a relationship with Jesus for religion.”

I am not a PCA pastor, but as someone who served in the PCA for several years, I do want to defend those brothers who are referred to as Federal Vision. Suffice to say, these accusations are childish in every way.

At the same time, I know there is a lot of misunderstanding out there. And in case you are either curious or tempted to visit one of these so-called Federal Vision churches, I would like to prepare the bold visitor for ten things he/she is to expect as they enter into a typical one:

1) Apart from using the term to clarify ideas and misunderstandings in friendly conversations and the occasional men’s study, the term Federal Vision will most likely never be used in the pulpit.  Further, opponents and even advocates of the Federal (Covenant) Vision differ on many points. The closest thing to a consensus is found here, but there are still are sorts of distinctions and qualifications that need to be made.

2) Be prepared for that archaic practice of singing the Psalms. Yes, we confess to singing from Yahweh’s songbook, as well as some old time religion music from the 4th century. Expect very vibrant singing; the one that roars!

3) Be alerted that we are a very friendly congregation, and contrary to what you have heard (if you have ever heard such a thing) we will greet you and likely invite you to lunch after church.

4) Also, do not be alarmed by the little cries in the congregation (Ps. 8:2-3). We really love our little ones and we encourage parents to train them up in worship, and the best place to do that is…in worship.

5) You may be asked to kneel (Ps. 95:6). We believe posture is important to God. Obviously, you do not have to kneel. It is optional, though everyone will.

6) The pastor may get a bit theological at times, he may take the time to explain the text in detail, but he usually explains his theologizing and biblicizing and is very consistent in applying his text and theology to the life of the body.

7) This may truly shock you, but we have the Lord’s Supper every week. And furthermore, we offer bread (real bread) and wine (real wine). This may take some adjustment, but I promise it will make sense after a while.

8) And I know the red flags are all over the place by now, and this is not going to help, but we also believe that baptized children are called to partake of the table of the Lord. Here is where we confess we have strayed from broad Reformed practices. But we have only done so because we believe that the early Christians practiced this. We further believe that I Corinthians 11 actually confirms our practice.

9) The ministers may wear an alb and a stole (though many others may simply wear a suit and tie). This practice serves to point out the unique role the man of God has in proclaiming God’s truth in Word and Sacrament. This may appear very Roman Catholic to you, and you are right. Of course, it is also very Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and yes, even Reformed (see data on clerical collars).

10) Finally, you are correct to assert that we love the Church. We love her because Christ died for her. Our Reformed forefathers were clear. But the Church is no substitute for Christ, the Church is called to build on her firm foundation, which is Christ. You cannot separate Groom and  Bride. And what does this Christ demand of his Church? He demands repentance, and in repentance you will find fullness of life.

I trust you will visit us, but if you do so, we want you to be prepared.


Chesterton and the Donkey

Chesterton once penned a poem from the perspective of the donkey that Jesus rode:

G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936)

The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Video Book Review #10: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton


G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a masterpiece. It is also a dictionary for brilliant quotations. I regret that it has taken me so long to read this gem. But I am grateful and more equipped after having read it.

Chesterton is poet. Orthodoxy at times sounds like ramblings, but they are ultimately poetic reflections on his own journey to embracing the Christian faith. He is in love with the gospel; orthodoxy, for Chesterton, is romance. It’s a dangerous and lively view of life; it is far from monotonous.

One great theme of Chesterton’s work is this idea of a mystic. To be a mystic is to be satisfied with mystery and actually delight in it. The materialist lacks humility presumably because everything needs to be scientifically explained, but the mystic, the Christian finds the romance of orthodoxy that which connects him to eternal truth. Orthodoxy is not embracing a lifeless faith, but a faith with so much life that our lifetimes will not be enough to fully understand it.  Yet, Chesterton says that the things we do believe, like the Apostle’s Creed must be affirmed and embraced. Concerning the deity of Christ he writes:

For orthodox theology has specially insisted that Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God.

Chesterton has read the great doubters of the Christian faith and concludes that all their attempts to make Christianity more “liberal” or “free” actually made the world more tyrannical. Rather, in the gospel, Chesterton has found the great dance of redemption; the dance of heaven.

The arguments in this book are not always easy to follow and this is why I will probably read this again next year. One author said that Orthodoxy is the thinker’s paradise; I concur, and I encourage you to enter this paradise by picking up this book.