Yesterday I re-shared this piece I wrote for Seedbed a couple of years ago. I haven’t written like I want to in some time, and there is a danger in writing something that pleases you too easily, but this was one darling I didn’t want to kill1. I didn’t…
At the heart of the Methodist movement in its earliest stages were two communal experiences: the class meeting and the band meeting. The class meeting was the entry point into the Methodist societies. Men and women would come together and answer the qu…
Hastily written? Yes. But if I don’t write something down I might forget what I’m feeling and I don’t want to do that.
There are two problems facing me at the moment. The first is that I really need to be doing the edits and revisions on my dissertation project instead of writing this. The second, how do I write this without making it all about me? As to the first, this project has a lot of roots in what I learned and experienced from Dr. Kinlaw. He’s all over the pages I’ve written so this is my 10 minute break. Second, well, as he taught me through Buber’s I and Thou there’s really nothing I can say about him apart from our relationship.
One of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever learned is that the essence of sin is self-interest. I face that self-interest all the time. Every second of my waking hours. Opposing that reality, however, is an even more powerful lesson: God can cleanse the human heart of self-interest.
Both of these lessons I learned from Dr. Dennis Kinlaw who died this morning at 94 years of age.
I write to process and I usually post rough drafts, so I imagine this will be the first in a series of processes I’ll work through this week as we approach Easter. Dr. Kinlaw’s death will add a layer of significance to my
personal preparation for the celebration of the death-defeating event of the resurrection.
My heart hurts over the loss of a genuinely wonderful person who brought much joy and love into my life. But that hurt is massively curbed by the stunning reality that he is in the presence of Jesus, whom he has known intimately since 1935. Mary Fisher, a former student and professor at Asbury Seminary, wrote on her Facebook page, “There are so many things I could say but no-one made me as hungry to know Jesus.” She writes what many of us experienced.
I’m going to try and leaf through, as best I can, some of the notes and journal entries about Dr. Kinlaw during this week and post some more tributes to him. Please pray for his dear sweet family.
Our friend Dennis,
the via salutis now complete,
sees his best friend Jesus
face to face
Some of you may or may not know who Dr. Kinlaw is. I have attached some links below if you want to find out more. I hope your life will be as affected by his as mine was.
Note: I have to start posting something here, otherwise I have no good reason to keep paying for it. So, I’m going to follow in the footsteps of my Twitter friends @johnthelutheran and @mackramer and start blogging through stuff I’m reading – partly to embarrass myself if I don’t finish what I start.
Started reading Silence, by Shūsaku Endō. I saw the trailer for the film directed by Martin Scorsese and found out about the book on Twitter.
I’m a little late in posting this, but Seedbed graciously posted something I wrote for Ash Wednesday and Lent a couple of weeks ago. I’m a huge supporter of all things Seedbed, so check out some of their resources while you’re there.
Sometimes we celebrate something on a yearly basis, but never really know why or what the significance of the event actually is. Matthew Johnson discusses what Lent means, and why it is important to come face-to-face with our own mortality.
During World War II, British Methodist W.E. Sangster wrote his PhD thesis on Christian perfection while also serving as the pastor of Central Hall, Westminster. During the Nazi bombing raids, he and others g…
I entered a bit of a sidetrack while reading for my DMin project on Christian perfection. For the last couple of days I have chased down some readings on what Jonathan Edwards) calls “Religious Affections”. Part of the reason for doing so is because I …
I entered a bit of a sidetrack while reading for my DMin project on Christian perfection. For the last couple of days I have chased down some readings on what Jonathan Edwards calls “Religious Affections”. Part of the reason for doing so is because I happened onto a paragraph in Fred Sanders’ Wesley on the Christian Life in which he connects Wesley to Puritan spirituality. I’m not at all surprised he makes the connection given Wesley had grandparents on both sides who were Puritans. Sanders notes that Wesley, “sounds so much like his contemporary Jonathan Edwards in his insistence on religious affections” (Sanders, 90).
This piqued my interest, so I started reading Edwards’ long treatise “On Religious Affections” and found myself surprised at how often Edwards writes passages sounding like they came straight out of A Plain Account of Christian Perfection or Wesley’s sermon On Zeal . Reading both Wesley and Edwards it strikes me that what they are talking about cannot be reduced to mere enthusiasm. What they are saying is that one cannot come into contact with the one true God, our Triune Creator, and come away unaffected. Arid spirituality is no spirituality at all. Faith cannot be mere mental assent, it must be accompanied by a change in our affections which Edwards’ defines as “exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.” How can one encounter God and come away unaffected? It reminds me of an early passage in Umberto Eco’s book Foucault’s Pendulum in which he writes, “A moment later the couple went off – he, trained on some textbook that had blunted his capacity for wonder, she, inert and insensitive to the thrill of the infinite, both oblivious of the awesomeness of their encoutner – their first and last encounter – with the One, the Ein-Sof, the Ineffable. How could you fail to kneel down before this altar of certitude?”
How can one encounter the Triune God and fail to kneel down before him? Either there was no encounter or we have blunted our capacity for wonder. We can blunt our affections. A year and a half ago, I made two lists: things that stir my affections for God and things that rob my affections for God.
What stirs your affections for God?
+ Praying with other people, particularly in groups.
+ When people pray for me before church.
+ Reading biographies of Methodist/holiness giants.
+ Listening to sermons by Dennis Kinlaw.
+ Victory over sin.
+ When people follow Jesus.
What robs your affections for God?
+ Frustration with myself.
+ Bawdy humor.
+ Not knowing what to do/indecision.
+ Giving in to self-gratifying desires, particularly food.
My intention in creating these lists wasn’t to engage in a form of Pharisaism, but instead to recognize when my affections were growing cold and to exercise the inclination of my heart in God’s direction by replacing, say, the internet with listening to sermons by Dennis Kinlaw.
Hebrews 10:24–25 says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Do you have anyone in your life who stirs your affections for God? In keeping with the heart of the Methodist revival of the 18th and 19th centuries, meeting together to stir one another up is an important practice which can keep our capacity for marveling over God’s majesty and love from fading out.
Of particular note, Wesley says, “In a Christian believer love sits upon the throne which is erected in the inmost soul; namely, love of God and man, which fills the whole heart, and reigns without a rival,” while Edwards says that our where our affections have their “principle and original seat is in the heart” (Edwards 238).
I want to add something that was too long for that post here in case people were curious about one thing in that post. I created a sheet of cards covering the thirty texts scholars determined were the basis for Wesley’s teaching on Christian Perfection. When I created this sheet, I used the English Standard Version for the text of the cards. Some may wonder why a United Methodist would use the ESV.
When I was 8 years old, St. Paul UMC in El Paso, TX gave me a Bible and it was the Revised Standard Version. I read that Bible all the way through elementary, junior high, high school, and most of college. I picked up a paperback version I used for Inductive Bible Study classes in seminary primarily because I was familiar with it and the language. I switched to the ESV in 2001 because it was 95% the same as the RSV and I could get it in nice leather bindings. That wasn’t an option for the RSV by that time. So, although there are some translation quirks, I’m mostly familiar with the language and even though I’ve tried the NIV, NLT, and NRSV, I keep coming back to the ESV because of its familiarity, not because I’m tempted to go Calvinist. μὴ γένοιτο!
(That’s not a slam – some of my best friends are Calvinists.)