On Writing Well

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C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952):

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.

John Henry Newman, personal letter (March 2, 1868; ht: Justin Taylor):

First, a man should be in earnest, by which I mean, he should write, not for the sake of writing, but to bring out his thoughts. He should never aim at being eloquent. He should keep his idea in view, and write sentences over and over again till he has expressed his meaning accurately, forcibly, and in few words. He should aim at being understood by his hearers or readers. He should use words which are most likely to be understood — ornament and amplification will come to him spontaneously in due time, but he should never seek them. He must creep before he can fly, by which I mean that humility, which is a great Christian virtue, has a place in literary composition. He who is ambitious will never write well. But he who tries to say simply and exactly what he feels or thinks, what religion demands, what faith teaches, that the gospel promises, will be eloquent without intending it, and will write better English than if he made a study of English literature.

Antinomianism Is Not the Antidote for Legalism

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We can rejoice that Sinclair Ferguson succumbed to years of pressure to turn his three (now somewhat famous) Marrow Controversy lectures into a book, and the book is done and launches soon from Crossway under the title, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance — Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters.

[Download the original audio files here: part 1, part 2, part 3.]

Yes, this old Scottish theological debate matters, and Ferguson’s three lectures proved life changing for me. I doubt I will ever forget the place I was walking when I first heard Ferguson explain why antinomianism is not the antidote for legalism, and why legalism is not the antidote for antinomianism. One deadly poison cannot cure another deadly poison, but each poison calls for the counterpoison of grace.

Here’s how he says it in the new book (pages 151–170):

Perhaps the greatest misstep in thinking about antinomianism is to think of it simply as the opposite of legalism. . . .

Antinomianism and legalism are not so much antithetical to each other as they are both antithetical to grace. This is why Scripture never prescribes one as the antidote for the other. Rather grace, God’s grace in Christ in our union with Christ, is the antidote to both. . . .

There is only one genuine cure for legalism. It is the same medicine the gospel prescribes for antinomianism: understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ himself. This leads to a new love for and obedience to the law of God, which he now mediates to us in the gospel. This alone breaks the bonds of both legalism (the law is no longer divorced from the person of Christ) and antinomianism (we are not divorced from the law, which now comes to us from the hand of Christ and in the empowerment of the Spirit, who writes it in our hearts). . . .

In some ways the Marrow Controversy resolved itself into a theological version of the parable of the waiting father and his two sons.

The antinomian prodigal when awakened was tempted to legalism: “I will go and be a slave in my father’s house and thus perhaps gain grace in his eyes.” But he was bathed in his father’s grace and set free to live as an obedient son.

The legalistic older brother never tasted his father’s grace. Because of his legalism he had never been able to enjoy the privileges of the father’s house.

Between them stood the father offering free grace to both, without prior qualifications in either. Had the older brother embraced his father, he would have found grace that would make every duty a delight and dissolve the hardness of his servile heart. Had that been the case, his once antinomian brother would surely have felt free to come out to him as his father had done, and say: “Isn’t the grace we have been shown and given simply amazing? Let us forever more live in obedience to every wish of our gracious father!” And arm in arm they could have gone in to dance at the party, sons and brothers together, a glorious testimony to the father’s love.

But it was not so.

It is still, alas, not so.

Motherhood, Facebook Addiction, and Spiritual Sleepwalking

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A friend sent me the following testimony from Tracy Fruehoff on mothering, Facebook addiction, and awaking from a digitally-induced acedia, a kind of social media-driven sleepwalking of the soul.

Fruehoff, the wife of a fourth-year seminary student at Bethlehem College and Seminary, shared her struggles in a message to moms on December 11. The talk was originally posted here, and I edited the audio for volume.

Download it here, or listen (17 minutes):

The message is drawn from a written piece she published here. And near the end of her message she mentions helpful links for moms on her blog here.

Definitely worth a read or listen.