The CCEL Times 2.8 (August 1, 2007)
To view this newsletter on the Web, go to www.ccel.org/newsletter/2/8
In This Issue:
From the Director
One of the most illuminating aspects of directing the CCEL these past fourteen years is the opportunity it has afforded to get outside of the culture. Christian belief and practice in any time or place is much affected by the surrounding culture. It's easy to find yourself with beliefs and concerns that are cultural rather than essentially Christian. Of course, literature from other eras has its own cultural bias. But if you can discern what was important to such authors, you can get a better grasp of the timeless essentials of the faith.
Writings from the first century are very helpful and revealing in that respect, because they are so close to the time of Jesus' life and they come at a time when the church was growing dramatically. The gospel preached then is the one that quickly spread throughout the world. The Epistle of Barnabas is one such writing. It was likely written to new Jewish believers in response to the growing heresy that the old law was still necessary for salvation. It's also a good example of how the early church interpreted the Old Testament.
Discovering a Great Library
Several years ago I joined ranks with my Savior; I was a confused man. I had a general familiarity with religion; God had blessed me with a good mind and motivation, and I had a craving to learn truth. On my knees I asked him to teach me. I thought, "If I could only get to the great libraries at Oxford, or Harvard, or Princeton, there I could find what I needed."
Shortly afterward I discovered the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. I cannot express what it has meant to me. Honestly, there has hardly been a day when I haven't either accessed the website, or studied what I have printed out from it; it brings me to tears when I think of it.
What can I say but, thank you Lord for answering my prayer and thank you Lord for CCEL.org and all the workers at Calvin College.
How have you used the CCEL to deepen your research, discover new voices, and enliven your faith? Submit a usage testimonial.
By now you may have noticed the popups that appear when you hover your mouse over a scripture reference in a book. These little popups are available wherever you see the new toolbar along the bottom. From this toolbar, you can change the Bible translation of these popups and access your other CCEL preferences. This toolbar also has some nice Annotations features that we will highlight in next month's newsletter.
As a bonus feature, when you sign up for a 10-book or 1-year subscription to the CCEL you will gain access to the New International Version. Subscribers can access the NIV both as a popups Scripture choice and as a browseable book (soon to be searchable as well). This means you can also set the NIV as your preferred scripture translation under "My account" in the "CCEL Preferences" section (or just click "Preferences" on the toolbar).
Reading E-books with Microsoft Reader
Most of the works in the CCEL are available in a variety of easy-to-open formats, including PDF files and Word documents. Some, though, don't offer as many options. For example, if you want to take in some of Dante's Divine Comedy in English, you'll be faced with an "Open" dialogue box asking you what you want to do with "comedy.lit." If you don't know what to do with this format, and your computer doesn't either, then you need Microsoft Reader. It's a free download from Microsoft's website, and you can get versions for your desktop or a handheld reader. Once you install Reader (by opening the "msreadersetup.exe" file you download), you can go back to Divine Comedy on the CCEL, and open in it Microsoft Reader. And if you'd rather not stare at a computer screen to read the poem's twenty cantos, press play and have Reader read it for you!
Letter to Diognetus
This anonymous second-century letter is the earliest, and arguably the most lyrical, reflection on what it means for Christians to be "in but not of" the world:
They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land. ... It is true that they are "in the flesh," but they do not live "according to the flesh." They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all [people], and by all [people] are persecuted. They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they still pay due respect. ... Christians dwell in the world, but are not of the world.
"In the world but not of the world" is an echo of Jesus' prayer in John 17 (verses 11 and 14): "They are in the world ... the world has hated them because they are not of the world." (The contrast between "in" and "of" is even better in Greek: "en" but not "ek"). This mysterious letter (translator Cyril Richardson calls its origins "puzzling" but presumes it to be Quadratus' Apology to Hadrian, c.129 A.D.) explores this tension beautifully in a series of contrasts: Christians are citizens but foreigners, on earth but citizens of heaven, killed but brought to life, poor but rich, defamed but vindicated. In short: in but not of the world.
This call to discipleship is urgently relevant to Christians today — especially those of us who are living comfortably in Western culture. We often fail to have a sense of "other-ness" about our Christian identity. We tend to pursue power and prosperity as earnestly as non-Christians do. Especially in Western countries that are not overtly hostile to Christianity, we may not see the urgent need to reject any allegiance that conflicts with our allegiance to Christ. But the Letter to Diognetus is a call to be "in the world but not of it," to stick out as strangers, to be poor but rich, to find our life by losing it.
Praying With the Classics
Praying With Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c.394)
You truly, O Lord, are the pure and eternal fount of goodness; ... who did curse, and did bless; you did banish us from Paradise, and did recall us; you did strip off the fig-tree leaves ... and put upon us a costly garment; you did open the prison and did release the condemned; you did sprinkle us with clean water, and cleanse us from our filthiness. No longer shall ... the flaming sword encircle Paradise around, and make the entrance inaccessible to those that draw near; but all is turned to joy for us that were the heirs of sin; Paradise, yea, heaven itself may be trodden by man, and the creation, in the world and above the world, that once was at variance with itself, is knit together in friendship: and we ... are made to join in the angels' song, offering the worship of their praise.
by this author at the CCEL.
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