Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hulda Crooks

South of Loma Linda, California, where I'm in medical school there are miles and miles of trails in some dry, grassy hills. The hills are accessed at Hulda Crooks Park, named after a Seventh-day Adventist woman who was an avid mountaineer who climbed to the summit of Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the lower 48, at the age of 91. I've come to have a great appreciation for these hills and will often take my Bible, a water bottle and some granola bars up with me for some time in prayer and reading. I also like to take my camera up so here are some photos taken over a few months of hiking up in the Loma Linda South Hills.

Moonrise over Mt. San Bernardino, looking east. The city of Redlands in the foreground.

There are lots of interesting canyons in the hills. Looking north toward San Bernardino.

In Spring the hills briefly come alive with a lot of interesting plant life.

Lizards seem to be the predominant animal inhabiting the hills. They are very difficult to catch or get close enough to for a good photograph.

This year was very wet. Here is some dried-out mud with deep cracks in it at the bottom of what must have been a good-sized pond.

This plant was in the bottom of a dried-out creek bed. The flower is almost as large as the plant itself.

A honey bee in mid-flight.

A close up of the flower of a yucca, growing wild in the hills.

Looking south toward Riverside, a Coptic Church in the distance.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trivializing Sin

The awareness of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin, feared it, fled from it, grieved over it. Some of our grandparents agonized over their sins. A man who lost his temper might wonder whether he could still go to Holy Communion. A woman who for years envied her more attractive and intelligent sister might worry that this sin threatened her very salvation.

[Today] preachers mumble about sin. The other custodians of moral awareness often ignore, trivialize, or evade it.

- Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, 1995, H/T: T19

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Only for the merit of our Lord

From the Anglican Articles of Religion (A.D. 1549):

XI. Of the Justification of Man.

We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

For the rest of his excellent and encouraging reflection on justification by faith go to Fr. Timothy Fountain's Blog: Northern Plains Anglicans.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I recently saw an interesting reference to the Council of Orange on a friend's blog and decided to check it out. I pulled down one of my church history books from seminary and found that there were actually two councils which took place at Orange in southern France, the first in 473 and the second in 529. It is the second of these councils which I found so interesting and also encouraging.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says of the second Council of Orange:
It was attended by fourteen bishops with St. Cæsarius of Arles as president, and its deliberations bore on the current errors concerning the doctrine of grace and free will, i.e. Semipelagianism. Cæsarius had informed Felix IV of the pernicious activity of the Semipelagians in Gaul and had applied to him for support. The pope, in response, sent him a series of "Capitula", i.e. propositions or decrees drawn almost in their entirety from the works of St. Augustine and the "Sententiæ" of St. Prosper of Aquitaine.
These “capitula” became the basis of the canons of the Council of Orange. The council published twenty-five canons. Here are some of the ones which I found the most interesting:
1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was "changed for the worse" through the offense of Adam's sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:20); and, "Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?" (Rom. 6:16); and, "For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved" (2 Pet. 2:19).

3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

21. Concerning nature and grace. As the Apostle most truly says to those who would be justified by the law and have fallen from grace, "If justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21), so it is most truly declared to those who imagine that grace, which faith in Christ advocates and lays hold of, is nature: "If justification were through nature, then Christ died to no purpose." Now there was indeed the law, but it did not justify, and there was indeed nature, but it did not justify. Not in vain did Christ therefore die, so that the law might be fulfilled by him who said, "I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfil them" (Matt. 5:17), and that the nature which had been destroyed by Adam might be restored by him who said that he had come "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).