Counsel of Chalcedon
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2012 Issue 2

There is nothing which so constantly controls the mind of a man, and so intensely affects his character, as the views which he entertains of the Deity. These take up their abode in the inmost sanctuary of the heart, and give tone to all its powers and coloring to all its actions. Whatever the forms and activities of the outward life, as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Men do, undoubtedly, liken God, in a measure, to themselves, and transfer to him somewhat of their own passions and predominating moral qualities, and determine the choice of their religion by the prevailing sentiments of their hearts and the habits in which they have been trained; but it is also true that their conceptions of God have a controlling influence in forming their character and regulating their conduct. The unfaithful servant in the parable of the Talents gave as the reason for his idleness his conception of the master as a hard and exacting man. He shaped his conduct not by what the master was, but by what he believed him to be. And if that divine parable have a worldwide application, it discloses the secret spring of a man’s life in the conceptions which he has of God. As these are true or false, so his character and life will be. “As long as we look upon God as an exactor, not a giver, exactors, and not givers, shall we be.” “All the value of service rendered,” says Dr. Arnot, “by intellectual and moral beings depends on the thoughts of God which they entertain.” Hence no sincerity of purpose and no intensity of zeal can atone for a false creed or save a man from the fatal consequences of wrong principles.

"Next to the Bible," Richard Baxter’s Christian Directory,"is the greatest Christian book ever written," wrote Dr. J.I. Packer. It, continues Packer, "is the richest and best single counseling resource available to those who give pastoral guidance today…. It is the fullest, most thorough, most profound treatment of Christian spirituality and standards that has ever been attempted by an evangelical author….'Back to Baxter,' would make a good and healthful motto for the Christian leadership of our time."(1)

Richard Baxter (1615-1691), considered one of the most influential of the English Puritan Theologians, attained his education largely through self-instruction. Some of his more familiar works still being reprinted today are The Saints Everlasting Rest, The Reformed Pastor, and A Call to the Unconverted. The Christian Directory was first published in 1673.

The dominant philosophies on secular campuses are not Christian, and could even be described as actively anti-Christian. But while a Christian student just starting college or university has good reason to be concerned, I strongly believe that a student who works hard and treats people with respect will be treated with respect in turn.

I became a believing Christian during my undergraduate years and later went on to graduate school at two different universities. In total, I had nine years as a Christian in secular universities. My experiences gave me a particular outlook on how a Christian student should approach his or her studies in secular institutions. Different people will encounter different circumstances, so I wouldn't want to lay down a set of proposed rules for Christian students. This article is just "for what it's worth" based on my own observations and experiences. I was in a social science field, so my views apply primarily to the study of social sciences.

The history of the Christian world shows that there has been a wide-spread sensibility in the consciences of Christians to the sin of indulgence in superfluities. This sensibility has sometimes shown itself in a morbid, and sometimes in a blind, undistinguishing way.

Among the mendicant and some monastic orders of the Romish communion, poverty and simplicity of life formed a part of the vows and rules, however little part they may have had in their practice.

Among the churches of the Reformation we find the Mennonites forbidding, not only any luxuries of dress, equipage and furniture, but even the fine arts and liberal education.

The denomination of Quakers, as is well known, practiced a similar sobriety.

A part of the original discipline of the Methodists was to enforce a strict renunciation of all the pomps and vanities of the world.

These facts indicate that the conscience of the Christian world has had an extensive feeling of the obligation to moderation and self-denial in the use of wealth, though they may prove that this feeling has not been very well defined nor intelligent.