FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » Just Give It Up

First Things will never be the same without Richard Neuhaus. His proto-blog at the end of every issue provided great insight—and, admittedly, some juicy quotes about Catholic doctrine for those of us who still oppose it. But here’s an excerpt from a recent First Things blog article that I have to take a little exception to (though I invite interaction from Touchstone‘s David Mills):

Our eldest, then about two years old, one day announced “I want . . .” but did not finish the sentence. My wife and I waited for her to tell us what she wanted — to be picked up and rocked? a cup of milk? her stuffed bear? — but again she said only “I want” and let her voice trail off. She said it a third time, still sounding equally unsure about what she wanted. And then, with a look of enlightenment on her face, said in a loud, firm voice, “I want!”

There, I thought, was the fallen human condition expressed. We are creatures of ravenous, indiscriminate desire. We want this and we want that, but most of all, We Want.

Limiting desire is a common theme in Protestant preaching, too. But it’s simply wrong. Wanting isn’t bad. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. It’s the object that matters: we ought to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

It’s hackneyed by now, but C. S. Lewis’ comment in the “The Weight of Glory”—a sermon (or “sermon”) I think about often—is apropos:

Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The First Things blog article was pointing out, on its way to an endorsement of Lent, that we are too tightly attached to earthly things. Amen. But the answer is not going without coffee for 40 days (hence giving you a more ravenous desire for it, as the article shows!). It’s asking God to graciously give us a taste, a heart, a mind for divine things. For heavenly things. Where Christ sits at the right hand of God.

I encourage you to do that with me right now.

My Wedding Vows

Originally my thinking about wedding vows ran like this: The Bible doesn’t require a church wedding; it’s more the best of my cultural tradition that I’m honoring when I don a tux and Laura a white gown. That cultural tradition is primarily English, as are the vows which in various mangled forms survive to the present: “for richer, for poorer,” etc. Why not, then, go ad fontes and use the original Church of England vows?

I discovered why not when I looked:

  1. Many contemporary audiences of good Christian people would be confused by the wording.
  2. Thinking Christian people will object to the phrase “with my body I thee worship.”
  3. Admittedly, using the antiquated English of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer sounds elitist, hoity-toity, or even silly in the wrong context.
  4. Non-Christians, inured by custom, will hear only religious drivel.

So I updated some of the language and changed some more. For your perusal, I submit my vows (for comparison to the original, click here). The last vows, the “further pledge,” are the place where I made the most changes. Apparently the Puritans didn’t like “with my body I thee worship” any more than I did, but their replacement was wordy and I wanted to include some Bible truths especially precious to Laura and me.

Ward Wedding Vows

Mark, will you have this woman as your wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of marriage? Will you love her, lead her, comfort, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, cleave only to her, as long as you both shall live?

The Man shall answer, I will.

Then he shall say unto the Woman,

Laura, will you have this man as your wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Will you obey him, follow him, help him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, cleave only to him, as long as you both shall live?

The Woman shall answer, I will.

Then shall the Minister say,

Who gives this woman to be married to this man?

Father:

Her mother and I do.

Then shall they pledge their faithfulness to each other in this manner.

The Minister, receiving the Woman at her father’s hands, shall cause the Man with his right hand to take the Woman by her right hand, and to say after him as follows.

I, Mark, take you, Laura, as my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance. This I pledge in a covenant of love.

Then shall they loose their hands; and the Woman, with her right hand taking the Man by his right hand, shall likewise say after the Minister,

I, Laura, take you, Mark, as my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, respect, and to obey, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance. This I pledge in a covenant of love.

Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Man shall give unto the Woman a ring. And the Man holding the ring there, and taught by the Preacher, shall say,

By this ring I make a further pledge: by the grace of our God I will love you with the true love of delight. I will love you as my own body, for we today become one. With joy I take my role as head. This I declare in the presence of the eternally rejoicing triune God. Amen.

Then the Man leaving the ring upon the fourth finger of the Woman’s left hand.

Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Woman shall give unto the Man a ring. And the Woman holding the ring there, and taught by the Preacher, shall say,

By this ring I make a further pledge: by the grace of our God I will love you with the true love of delight. I will honor you as my head, for we today become one. With joy I take my role as helper. This I declare in the presence of the eternally rejoicing triune God. Amen.

Liberty, License, Legalism

I recently recommended a message by my pastor, Mark Minnick. Here are my notes from that message, taken on my trusty Palm IIIxe. Minnick does something he rarely does: he chooses a controlling metaphor. In the hands of many such a metaphor is a cheesy device. But used sparingly, I think it can be very helpful.

(9/19/2007) Minnick on the Two Closets

  • We tend to categorize things as lawful and unlawful, but just because something is lawful doesn’t mean it’s open season, that it’s the best thing to do in a given case!
  • Think of choices as having to be placed into two closets: “UNLAWFUL” and “LIBERTY.” Every choice you make must be placed not only within one of those closets, but on one more of the racks into which that closet is subdivided.

Racks in the unlawful closet:

  1. Specifically prohibited (even though each of these is questioned within evangelicalism!):
    • Fornication (1 Cor 5-6)
    • Deserting a spouse (1 Cor 7)
    • Women teaching men in church (1 Tim 2)
  2. Prohibited by an institution that has authority over me
    • Family
    • Church
    • School
    • Government
  3. Prohibited by my conscience (Rom 14)
    • PERSONAL NOTE: Frisbee on Sunday
    • PERSONAL NOTE: Alcohol? (also falls under no.2 and possibly no.1) N.B.: Pastor Minnick puts alcohol on the the potentially overpowering rack and on the rack of things that cause people to stumble and on the institutional (school, church) rack.
  4. Applications of general scriptural prohibitions
    • Eph 5:11 – Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
    • Rom 12:2; 13:14
    • 2 Cor 6:14

Racks in the liberty closet:

  1. Profitability: Will this thing bring glory to God and therefore benefit to me?
  2. Power: the degree of power something will have in my life. Paul said, “I won’t be brought under the power of any.”
  3. Things that build people up (on the other end of this rack are things which cause people to stumble).
  4. Inconsequential things: am I going to wear glasses or contacts, eat carrots or broccoli?

Additional comments from Pastor Minnick:

  • Remember that our simplistic, immature tendency is to think that anything in the liberty closet hangs on the “inconsequential” rack.
    Even these racks are subdivided, from the very profitable down to the inconsequential and unprofitable.
  • Unlawful no. 4, applications, are where believers get at odds with each other: music, dress, appearance. We’ve got to distinguish between 1, 3, and 4. The day comes when our applications make no sense and we’ve painted ourselves into a corner (PERSONAL NOTE: face cards?).
  • Christian leadership is responsible to think about these things, to avoid simplifying life into two closets with no racks in them.