A Prayer for Sunday (Alcuin of York)

via Wikipedia
via Wikipedia

The Dark Ages. I hate that label. It makes people conjure images of barbarians, poverty, disease, and rampant ignorance. I’m sure those things existed then, as they do now. But a label like that hides the fact that there were still some amazing people doing amazing things. There was light in the “dark ages.”

And one of those lights was the poet, writer, and theologian Alcuin of York. He is usually considered one of the brightest minds of his day and the leading scholar at Charlemagne’s court. Yesterday marked the anniversary of his death (May 19, 804). So today’s prayer comes from him.

Give me, O Lord, I beseech thee,
firm faith, unwavering hope, perfect charity.
Pour into my heart
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and spiritual strength,
the Spirit of knowledge and true godliness,
and the Spirit of thy holy fear.
Light eternal, shine in my heart.
Power eternal, deliver me from evil.
Wisdom eternal, scatter the darkness of my ignorance.
Might eternal, pity me.
Grant that I may ever seek thy face
with all my heart and soul and strength;
and, in thine infinite mercy,
bring me at last to thy holy presence
where I shall behold thy glory
and possess thy promised joys.

Epic Time Lapse Map of Europe

Here’s a fabulous time-lapse map of Europe from approximately AD 1000 to 2003. It’s a great visual aid for understanding the shifting borders and alliances that have shaped Europe for the last thousand years or so.


HT Tim Challies

Is Learning Greek and Hebrew Really Worth It?

My latest post over at the Transformed blog deals with the biblical languages and whether seminary students really need to spend all that time learning them. Here’s the beginning of the post. You’ll have to head over to Transformed to read the rest.

First, a confession. I like languages. I always have. There’s something fun about unraveling a new language, pulling the pieces apart, learning how it works, and then trying to put it back together again. It’s like a puzzle just waiting to be solved. It’s not easy, and like most puzzles it can be pretty frustrating. But I still enjoy it.

Not everyone agrees.

For many, learning a new language is an exhausting, frustrating, and spirit-killing endeavor, one that has been scientifically proven to cause premature hair loss, marital discord, excess book throwing, and, in small rodents, cancer. So it should come as no surprise that many wonder if it’s really worth it. Should I really invest that much time and that many brain cells in learning these languages? Isn’t that why we have translations in the first place?

Read the rest here.

Ascending to God: Calvin’s Theology of Participation

calvins ladder

Sometimes a book sits on my “to read” list for a while, and, when I finally get around to reading it, I’m disappointed. Fortunately, this wasn’t one of those times. When I finally made time to dig into Julie Canlis’ Calvin’s Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension, I immediately wished I had done so earlier. Well-written and thoughtful, this is definitely a book worth reading.

According to Canlis, concepts like participation, fellowship, and communion, lie at the heart of the Christian faith. We are “in Christ,” “partakers of the divine nature,” and joined together in “one body.” These are key ideas, and how we understand them necessarily shapes how we view things like what it means to be human, how we approach spirituality, and what we think about God himself.

But we struggle to understand what this “participation” theme really means for at least two reasons. First, our modern, western culture is so individualized and atomized that we struggle to see ourselves as anything other than isolated selves. That makes it difficult for us to process the idea that the ground of our identity – indeed, our very being – may lie outside of us. And second, “participation” has been understood by theologians in two very different ways. Some see our participation in God as an ontological reality – to be “in Christ” is to share in the divine nature itself. Others suspect this ontological approach of bordering on pantheism (i.e. we are part of God) and prefer to view participation as simply referring to the fact that believers share in the benefits of being God’s people.

[Read more…]

A Prayer for Sunday (Anselm of Canterbury)


Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of St. Anselm of Canterbury (April 21, 1109). Born in Italy, Anselm served as a monk in northern France for more than thirty years before becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anselm is best known as one of the great theological minds of the Middle Ages, but he as also actively involved in church reform and the investiture controversy.

So in honor of Anselm’s life and ministry, this week’s prayer comes from him.

O my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You,
where and how to find You.
You are my God and You are my all and I have never seen You.
You have made me and remade me,
You have bestowed on me all the good things I possess,
Still I do not know You.
I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek You.
I have not yet done that for which I was made.
Teach me to seek You.
I cannot seek You unless You teach me
or find You unless You show Yourself to me.
Let me seek You in my desire,
let me desire You in my seeking.
Let me find You by loving You,
let me love You when I find You.