Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Unbelievable Atheist Delusions

Although I had to admit defeat when it came to David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite (see here), I thought I might have a stab at the author's Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, Yale, 2009. I've only dipped into the intro so far as I'm saving the rest for summer holiday reading. 

So, I was interested to hear DBH debating with Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society on Premier Christian Radio's Unbelievable programme, here. The image on the right shows DBH receiving the Michael Ramsey prize for theological writing from the hands of Rowan Williams for Atheist Delusions. The key argument of the book is that many of the key values of Western culture are not the product of rationalistic humanist thought, but are parasitic on the "Christian Revolution". The trouble is that we have largely forgotten the extent to which the Christian faith changed the moral outlook of the ancient world.  Notions such as the unique dignity of every human being are testimony to the continuing impact of Christian thought in our so-called post-Christian world. However, with the weakening of Christian influence, the unique vale of human life is being undermined. Some humanistic thinkers advocate eugenics and tragically, abortion is now an accepted part of Western society. Anyway, have a listen to the programme for yourself.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bavinck on The Divine Counsel

Pelagianism scatters flowers on graves, turns death into an angel, regards sin as mere weakness, lectures on the uses of adversity, and considers this the best possible world. Calvinism has no use for such drivel. It refuses to be hoodwinked. It tolerates no such delusion, takes full account of the seriousness of life, champions the rights of the Lord of lords, and humbly bows in adoration before the inexplicable sovereign will of God. (Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2: God and Creation, Herman Bavinck, p. 394).  
I'm still making my way through Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics. His treatment of the Divine Counsel in Volume 2: God and Creation is outstanding. He begins by delineating the biblical teaching. Bavinck cites dozens of proofs texts, but he does so in a thoughtful way. His handling of the biblical materials shows that the dogmatician is sensitive to the unfolding progress biblical revelation. He takes into account the different aspects of the New Testament's teaching on the sovereign purpose of God; the divine "will", "counsel", "purpose", "foreknowledge", and so on. 

True to his own theological method (see here), Bavinck doesn't stop there. Dogmatics is not simply concerned to assemble the biblical data on a given subject. The task of the theologian is to reflect on the Bible's teaching and think through its implications. And so Bavinck delves into the Pelagian controversy. He demonstrates that Pelagianism, which asserts the free will of man over and against the sovereign will of God, fails to do justice to the Bible's teaching. The theologian offers a robustly Augustinian view of the divine counsel, defending the absolute sovereignty of God. However, he is not afraid to offer some correctives to traditional Augustinian/Reformed conceptions of predestination. Bavinck criticises both infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism. Both systems fail to take into account the what he calls the "organic interconnectivity" of the counsel of God, "neither the supralapsarian not the infralapsarian view of predestination is capable of incorporating within its perspective the fullness and riches of the truth of Scripture and of satisfying theological thinking." (p. 391).

Bavinck questions the idea that God chose to save the elect in order to glorify his grace and to condemn the reprobate in order to glorify his justice. He points out that all of God's attributes - his grace and justice will be fully revealed and glorified in the new creation. While it is true that both election and reprobation redound to the glory of God, that is not what made the election of some and the reprobation of others necessary. Election and reprobation can only be explained by reference to the sovereign will of God. We can go no further than that. (See p. 389, 391-392).

The elect are chosen in Christ, but this does not mean that Christ is the meritorious cause of election, "The Son did not move the Father to love; electing love arose from the Father himself." (Bavinck cites John 3:16, 2 Timothy 1:9 & Ephesians 1:4, p. 401-402). The elect consists of particular individuals, chosen by grace. But, explains Bavinck, "in Scripture the elect are not viewed separately, that is atomistically, but  as a single organism. They constitute the people of God, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit. They are, accordingly elect in Christ (Eph. 1:4), to be members of his body. Hence, both Christ and the church are included in the decree of predestination." (p. 402-403).

Furthermore Bavinck reasons,
Its is not that Christ was thereby the ground and foundation of election; but the election of the church is the very first benefit bestowed on the church; and even this benefit already occurred in union with Christ, and above all it has its goal, not as its foundation, that all other benefits - rebirth, faith and so forth - will be imparted to the church by Christ. In this sense, then, the election of Christ logically precedes our own. (p. 404) 
It might be added that if the divine counsel is the counsel of the Triune God (which it surely is), then the Son together with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the one who elects and the one in whom we are elected for salvation. 

Some object that the Augustinian doctrine on sovereign election in Christ is detrimental to evangelism and the free offer of the gospel. But Bavinck counters that it is Pelagianism that leaves the sinner without hope. It teaches that the virtuous are chosen because of virtue. Where does that leave poor sinners? "The purpose of election is not - as it has been so often proclaimed - to turn off the many but to invite all to participate in the riches of God's grace in Christ. No one has a right to believe that he or she is reprobate, for everyone is sincerely and urgently called to believe in Christ with a view to salvation." (p. 402).

In this post I offer but a rough sketch of Bavinck's deeply biblical, richly nuanced, and God-glorifying teaching on election. Dogmatics should aim at the same effect as Scripture. Theology should lead to doxology, Romans 11:33-36. That is certainly the case with Herman Bavinck's The Reformed Dogmatics

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Calvin on Abraham's resurrection faith

I'm preaching through Genesis on Sunday mornings. Last Lord's Day I preached on Genesis 23, where Abraham buys a burial place for Sarah. It's always worth consulting Calvin's commentary on Genesis and his treatment of chapter 23 was especially insightful. He comments on the practice of the burial of the dead even among non-believers,
And certainly (as I have said) it has been divinely engraven on the minds of all people, from the beginning, that they should bury the dead; whence also they have ever regarded sepulchres as sacred. It has not, I confess, always entered into the minds of heathens that souls survived death, and that the hope of a resurrection remained even for their bodies ; nor have they been accustomed to exercise themselves in a pious meditation of this kind, whenever they had laid their dead in the grave; but this inconsideration of theirs does not disprove the fact; that they had such a representation of a future life placed before their eyes, as left them inexcusable.
Calvin deals with this point at greater length in the Institutes (see here). True to his promise in the Epistle to the Reader, treatment of theological points was kept as brief as possible in the Commentaries, as they were designed to be read alongside the Institutes
Having thus, as it were, paved the way [in the Institutes], I shall not feel it necessary, in any Commentaries on Scripture which I may afterwards publish, to enter into long discussions of doctrines or dilate on common places, and will, therefore, always compress them. In this way the pious reader will be saved much trouble and weariness, provided he comes furnished with a knowledge of the present work as an essential prerequisite. 
Getting back to Genesis 23, Calvin explains that  unlike the pagans, Abraham believed not simply in life after death, but that God will raise the dead. This was presumably on the basis of special revelation given to Abraham by the Lord. 
Abraham however, seeing he has the hope of a resurrection deeply fixed in his heart, sedulously cherished, as was meet, its visible symbol. The importance he attached to it appears hence, that he thought he should be guilty of pollution, if he mingled the body of his wife with strangers after death. For he bought a cave, in order that he might possess for himself and his family, a holy and pure sepulchre.
Calvin continues to reflect on the fact that Abraham was concerned to purchase a family tomb in the promised land, 
He did not desire to have a foot of earth whereon to fix his tent; he only took care about his grave: and he especially wished to have his own domestic tomb in that land, which had been promised him for an inheritance, for the purpose of bearing testimony to posterity, that the promise of God was not extinguished either by his own death, or by that of his family; but that it then rather began to flourish; and that they who were deprived of the light of the sun, and of the vital air, yet always remained joint-partakers of the promised inheritance. For while they themselves were silent and speechless, the sepulcher cried aloud, that death formed no obstacle to their entering on the possession of it. A thought like this could have had no place, unless Abraham by faith had looked up to heaven.
Identifying himself with the promise made to Abraham, Jacob also insisted that he be buried in the field purchased by his grandfather, Genesis 49:29-32. His coming out of Egypt to be buried in the promised land prefigured the exodus, Genesis 50:13. Joseph left similar instructions concerning his remains, Genesis 50:22-26. Moses honoured Joseph's request, Exodus 13:19. And so he was buried in Canaan, Joshua 24:32. The patriarchs died believing in God’s promises of redemption and inheritance, Gen 15:13-14 cf. Hebrews 11:13-16. That is the only way to die, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 3-5. We are "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). Death will not deprive us of our promised inheritance. We look beyond the grave to the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's destruction
Land me safe on Canaan's side:
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.

See here for a series of posts on John Calvin and the resurrection of the body. The Commentaries are available for free online, here

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bavinck on faith, reason and theology

I'm steadily working my way through Reformed Dogmatics Volume 2: God and Creation, by Herman Bavinck, Baker Academic, 2006. In his treatment of the doctrine of the Trinity the theologian defends the use of extrabiblical terminology in clarifying and explaining the teaching of the Bible. The trouble is that false teachers cite Scripture as well as the orthodox, so issues won't be settled simply by both sides trading proof texts. When the friendly neighbourhood "Jehovah's Witnesses" turns up on your doorstep you may tell them, "Ah, but we believe that Jesus is the Son of God." But they will respond, "So do we as a matter of fact." Then it comes down to what is meant by "Jesus is the Son of God". Is he the greatest creature that God ever made, or is he fully God, equal to the Father in his divine being and glory? The same problem was faced by the early church in responding to the challenge of Arianism. Hence the Nicene Creed's statement that the Son is homoousios - of the same essence as the Father. The Church was forced to resort to extra-biblical terminology in order to defend the divine identity of Jesus Christ. 

It has often been the case that false teachers have resisted the use of non-biblical language in defining what the Bible says. Arians, Socinians and "Jehovah's Witnesses" tend to be strict biblicists. They protest that they base their teaching solely on the words of Scripture. However, therein lies their subterfuge. They undermine biblical truth by emptying Scripture expressions of their true meaning. They will happily say that Jesus is the Son of God, but they deny that as the Son of God he is of the same essence as the Father. 

Bavinck makes it clear that the church's use of extrabiblical terms does not involve the introduction of newly minted extrabiblical teaching. Rather such language is needed to defend the truth against all error. He makes the interesting point,
Under the guise of being scriptural, biblical theology has always strayed farther away from Scripture, while ecclesiastical orthodoxy, with its extrabiblical terminology, has been consistently vindicated as scriptural. (p. 297).
So, the church needed to resort to other than biblical language in order to safeguard the integrity of biblical truth. But, more positively, Bavinck insists that use of extrabiblical language is essential to the church's constructive theological task,
Scripture after all has not been given us simply, parrotlike to repeat it, but to process it in our own minds and to reproduce it in our own words. Jesus and the apostles used it in that way. They not only quoted Scripture verbatim, but also by a process of reasoning drew inferences from it. Scripture is neither a book of statutes for a dogmatic textbook but the foundational source of theology. As the Word of God, not only its exact words but also the inferences legitimately drawn from it have binding authority. Furthermore, reflection on the truth of Scripture and the theological activity related to it is in no way possible without the use of extrabiblical terminology... Involved in the use of such terms, therefore is the Christian's right of independent reflection and theology's right to exist. (p. 296)
What Bavinck is saying here is in accordance with the principle set out in the Westminster Confession of Faith, 
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture (I:VI) [Emphasis added]. 
Theology is an act of holy reason. It involves faith seeking understanding by thoughtfully reflecting on God's self-revelation in Holy Scripture. Bavinck gives further attention to this matter Reformed Dogmatics Volume 1: Prolegomena, Baker Academic 2003, p. 617ff. Without recognition of this point not only theology, but also preaching would prove impossible. For what is preaching but an attempt to explain and apply the teaching of the Bible? We cannot do that simply by quoting a string of Bible texts, one after another. The preacher has to elucidate the meaning of his text by using extrabiblical language. He has to work out how his text relates to the teaching of other portions of Scripture. He must reflect on how believers should live in the light of the passage he is expounding. These "good and necessary consequences  deduced from Scripture" are part and parcel of the whole counsel of God to which the whole people of God need to be exposed. That is one of the reasons why "the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God." (Second Helvetic Confession Chapter I.) Thus the preacher's task entails 'holy reasoning' akin to the efforts demanded of the theologian. Indeed, preaching is nothing less than 'theology on fire'. 

Bavinck words on the relationship between faith and reason have resonance for would-be pastor-theologians,
Believing is the natural breath of the children of God. Their submission to the Word of God is not slavery but freedom. In that sense faith is not a sacrifice of the intellect but mental health (sanitas mentis). Faith, therefore, does not relive the Christian of the desire to study and reflect; rather it spurs them on. Nature is not destroyed by regeneration but restored. (RD Vol 1, p. 616-617). 

Friday, June 10, 2011

All Watched Over by a God of Loving Grace

Here are some thoughts on some the the issues raised by Adam Curtis' series, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. Catch up with the films here. See my review of the series here.

1. They believe in anything

Ayn Rand very consciously rejected the Judeao-Christian tradition. In its place she  posited a new kind of self-organising society based on human selfishness. Rand and her fellow travellers really believed that her theories could transform the world for the better. Putting her ideas into practice she had an adulterous relationship with one of her acolytes. It seemed the logically selfish thing to do. But when he in turn was unfaithful to her, Rand was outraged and threw him out. Her selfishness was logical, his was unforgivable. Thinking that unrestrained selfishness might be the way to achieve human happiness was a naive dream. It puts me in mind of G. K. Chesterton's quip that, "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in anything." The apostle Paul devastatingly exposes the proud delusions of those who in professing themselves to be wise become fools in Romans 1:18-23. 

2. What is man?

Are human beings little more than nodes in a delicately balanced ecosystem, or deterministic gene-replicators? Clearly we are part of the world. We are dependent on what the earth provides for life and health. Passing on our genes through reproduction is an important aspect  of human life. But is man basically a self-replicating flesh and blood computer? The Bible teaches that human beings, all human beings, whatever their race or state of health are made in the image of God. We have a God-given mandate to subdue the earth, re-shape our surroundings and change the world for the better, Genesis 1:26. In a fallen world carrying out this mandate is subject to frustration and disappointment. But the biblical injunction to "love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22:39) demands that we endeavour to improve the lot of our fellow man. Our behaviour is not mechanistically pre-determined. We are free to make choices and we will be held accountable for our actions. 

3. In the state we're in we need the State 

The ideologues who saw human beings as nodes in a self-correcting ecosystem believed that without State interference society could achieve a utopian state of self-organised equilibrium. As pointed out, the hippies who endeavoured to put this into practice soon came to realise that things aren't so easy. Human beings are sinners. Without the checks and balances provided by the State with its laws and judicial system, society is at the mercy of those who grab power for themselves and use it to their own advantage at the expense of others. The communes had no mechanism for standing up to bullies. Despite talk of "Love and peace, man" the experimental communities failed to reckon on the stubborn fact of the total depravity of man in sin. The State is a necessary bulwark against the worst excesses of human sinfulness, Romans 13:1-7. A democratically accountable State may be, as Churchill put it the "least worst form of government",  but it is certainly better than no government at all. 

4. The rise of the machines

Adam Curtis' key thesis is that human beings have ceded control of the world to machines. Applying Ayn Rand's ideas to the world of economics Alan Greenspan believed that computers would allow the financial system to self-correct. It was therefore thought to be unnecessary for the Sate to intervene to prevent markets spiralling out of control.

The advent of personal computing and the internet has undoubtedly been a positive factor, facilitating easy communication between people across the globe. But we cannot entrust the running of the world to machines. That would be to opt out of our God-given "creation mandate". Machines must be our servants, not our masters. The distinction between human beings and machines must be maintained. Human behaviour cannot simply be understood in mechanistic terms. Human beings, made in the image of God are more than flesh and blood IT systems.

Early developers of personal computing and the world wide web hoped that the internet would enable the achievement of Rand's utopian vision of a self-organising society based on heroic self-expression. The vested interests on politicians could then be swept aside. However, this has not been the case. Social networking sites such as Facebook have done little more than commercialise personal trivia. Our private thoughts are now for sale and friendship has become a financially valuable commodity. Facebook hasn't changed the world. It just means that the world can know that you've just had a shower. And don't forget to click on a few ads while keeping up with the latest gossip. Facebook is now worth an estimated  $76.4bn. That's money earned from your status updates. Social networking has given big business a vested interest in the private lives of millions of users.

Now, I'm not saying that social networking is a bad thing per se. I have a Facebook account and FB is a good way of keeping up with friends, exchanging information and so on.  For what it's worth this is my 1,000th blog post, so I can hardly claim to be a convinced anti-techno Luddite.  But blogging and social networking hasn't made us into world changing  heroes of self-expression as Rand and her followers hoped. Hardly.

5. All watched over by a God of loving grace

Adam Curtis' films raise questions concerning the relationship between man and machine, but they do not propose answers. He has exploded the idea that computers will enable human beings to live in harmony with the environment, "all watched over by machines of loving grace". But how can humanity be saved from the evils of selfishness, greed and the abuse of power?

This is exactly where the Christian gospel comes in. The Bible recognises the true greatness of man, his inventive artistry and technological capability. But the Christian faith is not blind to the fact that human beings are deeply flawed creatures. We are sinners. That is why we have a tendency to mess things up so badly, as even idealistic hippies found to their cost. The most serious thing about sin, however, is not it's disastrous social consequences. Sin is rebellion against our Creator. We are not machines, but his image bearers and he will hold us accountable for our actions.

The good news is that our Creator is a God of loving grace. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ into the world as one of us. Jesus came to die for our sins and be raised from the dead so that we might be forgiven and put right with God. In Christ God has acted not simply to save human beings, but also to rescue the whole creation from the ruinous effects of sin. When Jesus returns at the end of the age, he will usher in a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells and love prevails. Utopian  schemes want the fruits of redemption without a Redeemer, which is why they are doomed to failure.

Machines make for a poor God-substitute. It is folly for human beings to place their unquestioning trust in technology. We need to turn from our IT-olatry to the living God. The Christian believer lives secure in the knowledge that we are all watched over by a God of loving grace, Psalm 139:1-6. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Tuesday evening saw the broadcast of the last of three programmes in the excellent BBC2 series, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. If you are based in the UK you can catch up with the series here. The programmes explore the idea that machines have been allowed to take over the modern world, with disastrous consequences. 

The first film, Love and Power Adam Curtis explores Ayn Rand's proposal that if people were allowed to give expression to their selfish desires, then society would organise itself without the need for formal political power. Distrusted politicians would soon find themselves out of a job. The advent of computer technology led to Rand's ideas on a self-organising society being applied to the wider world. In terms of the economy, it was thought by Alan Greenspan and others that computers would allow the financial system to correct itself, leading to and end of boom and bust. Then the credit crunch happened. The only people who seemed to benefit when it all went wrong were the bankers who caused the problem in the first place.

Next, in The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts, Curtis critiques idea of nature as terms of a self-regulating ecosystem. Theorists mistakenly applied the mechanical concept of equilibrium to "spaceship earth" in an endeavour to respond to the environmental crisis. Hippies latched on to this notion and gathered themselves into non-hierarchical communes. They hoped that with the aid of machines, man and nature could live together in harmony, "all watched over by machines of loving grace". But every singly one of their experimental communities failed. Dominant individuals began to rule the roost. The "self-regulating" communes allowed for no checks and balances to curb the worst excesses of human nature. 

Further research demonstrated that the idea that the natural world spontaneously moves towards equilibrium was a myth. Nature exists in a constant state of flux. Dire predictions of environmental catastrophe were based on a mechanical model of nature in which human beings were mere "nodes" in the ecosystem. No account was taken of the fact that human beings can change the system by choosing to act differently on a personal and political level. 

The final programme, The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey the documentary maker explores the impact of a new view of humanity in which human beings are depicted as little more than gene replicating machines. This idea was developed by scientists George Price and Bill Hamilton and popularised by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene. Price couldn't live with the implications of his theory. He converted to an extreme form of Christianity, devoting his life to helping down and outs in an attempt to show that he was not a prisoner of his selfish genes. Hamilton followed his ideas through to their logical conclusion and advocated eugenics. He  argued that the sick should be left to die in order that inferior DNA be weeded out from the human gene pool.

The film charts the development of these theories against the backdrop of catastrophic post-colonial policies in Rwanda that saw millions die in tribal conflicts. Conflicts made worse by the plundering of Africa's mineral wealth in order to manufacture gaming consoles for western consumers. Curtis posits that seeing ourselves as deterministic computer-like gene replicators  is a way of avoiding our responsibility to try and change the world for the better. We have become machines without loving grace. 

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace made for unusually intelligent and thought-provoking television. Some aspects of Curtis' case might no doubt be called into question. But his key thesis concerning the dire results of seeing human beings as little more than cogs in a global system is a timely wake up call for western culture. See here for an interview with Adam Curtis in The Guardian, where he discusses  his TV series. In the next post I hope to reflect on some of the issues raised by the programmes from a Christian perspective. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Home, Marilynne Robinson, 2008, Virago, 339pp. 

Last year while on holiday I read Marilynne Robison's novel Gilead. Very good it was too. Last week we headed for Portugal for a nice half-term break. We had never flown before as a family, so it was something of an adventure for us. The weather was really hot. We enjoyed exploring lovely old towns like Armaçao de Pêra, where  we stayed, Albufera and Faro, and relaxing on some of the wonderful Algarve beaches. I also took the opportunity to catch up with Robinson's latest novel, Home

Home is in fact a companion piece to Gilead. It is set in the same time and place and shares the same main characters. It was good to get acquainted once more with Presbyterian minister, Robert Boughton, his best friend, Congregationalist pastor, John Ames and their respective families. Gilead is written in the form of an extended letter written by the dying Ames to his young son, Robby. The novel's dramatic tensions are provided by Jack, Boughton's ne're do well son. Ames fears that Jack has designs on his wife and child and is worried for their welfare after his death.

Home is told from the point of view of Glory, Boughton's youngest daughter, who returns to the family home after a failed romance. Near the beginning of the novel, Jack also returns home after severing contact with his love ones twenty years previously.  In Gilead Jack is for the most part a creepy and unsympathetic character. However, in Home Robinson reveals another side to the complex and elusive prodigal son as he joins Glory in caring for their ailing father. At first Robert Boughton is delighted that his beloved Jack has come home, but as time goes on his erratic and difficult behaviour further weakens the already frail old man. 

The interplay of the two novels, covering the same events from differing points of view makes for fascinating reading. Partly to please his father, the irreligious Jack goes Ames' church one Sunday morning. Ames is preaching on Genesis 21, where the Lord commands Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. In Gilead, Ames tells us that as a dying man, he could identify with Abraham in having to entrust his son to the Lord. That was his main point in the message, that we must entrust our loved-ones to God. However, Ames is conscious that it seemed cruel of the Lord to tell Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness and he wants to make it clear that the Bible in no way condones child cruelty, quoting Matthew 18:6. As he expands on this point, Ames notices the ashen faced Jack Boughton sitting in the congregation, grinning at him. 

In Home we get to listen to the sermon from Jack's point of view. As a young man Jack had got a girl pregnant and then abandoned her and their child to live in squalor. The fruit of this illicit union died, aged only three years of age. Jack takes Ames' sermon as a personal dig at his moral failings and is outraged at being got at in church. 

Jack had always been the black sheep of the Boughton family. Even as a child he didn't really fit in, preferring to indulge in petty thievery than join his siblings for a sing-song around the piano. As an adult he succumbed  to alcoholism and spent time in prison for an unspecified crime. One of the reasons that he failed to return home for twenty years, even for his mother's funeral was that he couldn't trust himself not to behave badly and so add to his poor father's grief. But what made Jack the bad boy of the family? He knows that his misdemenours cause misery both to him and those who love him, but it doesn't appear that he can change his ways. He sees himself as a living confirmation of Jeremiah 13:23. At one point in the novel, he asks Glory if his soul might be saved. She tells him that she likes his soul as it is, which doesn't exactly help. 

When Ames and his family are invited to the Boughton's for dinner, Jack asks his father and Ames whether he might be a reprobate, irretrievably doomed to destruction. Their answer is inconclusive, but Lila, Ames' wife holds out the hope that sinners can be saved and people can change. 

As Jack turns to drink on being rebuffed by his estranged partner Della, one wonders whether he might ever change. Redemption is only possible by the grace of God. Jack leaves home once again, probably never to return, leaving Glory to look after their father. Glory muses on the turn of events in her life and that of her troublesome brother. At first she is distressed, but then something happens that makes it all make sense. She reflects, "The Lord is wonderful."