It’s been a day of gathering loose ends. I completed a draft of a short paper on Forsyth and Ibsen that I will read at the FEET conference in August. I have been transferring various scribbles made on scrap paper kept next to my pillow into a more user-friendly form. I have been reading Thielicke’s The Freedom of a Christian Man. His chapter on casuistry is great. Thielicke notes that one of the reasons for Protestantism’s emphatic rejection of casuistry is because of the evangelical doctrine of justification and its polemic against the law, or, more specifically, its anti-legalistic understanding of righteousness. The same ought to be said for Protestantism’s rejection of perfectionism. Certainly Forsyth was keen to divorce perfection from any idea of law keeping. Standing well within the Reformation tradition, Forsyth’s thinking here was in line with Romans 3:28, ‘For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law’.
What I haven’t done is tidy up a very messy desk … though that seems more like a Friday job anyway.
I’ve also been reflecting over recent days on the poem ‘Hound of Heaven’ by Francis Thompson (1859-1907), who was familiar to Forsyth. Indeed, Forsyth picked up the phrase in the title as one of his descriptions of grace. It reminds me of Vincent Donavan’s rich image of God as a lion who hunts us down, used in Christianity Rediscovered – one of my favourite books. For those unfamiliar with Thompson’s poem, you can read it all here. Here’s a bit as a taster though:
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat — and a voice beat
More instant than the Feet —
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”