Wednesday, June 28, 2006

John Donne, Our Need of God to Deliver


Here is another poem. This one by John Donne is a powerful description of our need of a powerful gospel, one where a Sovereign God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, i.e. change our hearts. Donne uses strong imagery to make his point.

John Donne's Holy Sonnets #14

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new,
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labor to admit you, but O, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed into your enemy,
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor chaste, except you ravish me.

I came across this poem in The Poetry of Piety: An Annotated Anthology of Christian Poetry, by Ben Witherington III, and Christopher M. Armitage. The commentary on Donne’s poem in this book includes the following:

“Donne clearly expresses that salvation is not a human self-help program. Human nature is fallen, and redemption comes only through drastic action by God. Radical transformation, not mere modification, is required if a human being is to be remade into the image of God. Donne was not an early advocate of the therapeutic model of redemption. Even more sobering the fact that he speaks as a person who is not adamantly opposed to God; rather, he labors to admit God into his life. Even so, drastic action by God is required. In Donne’s view, if one is not enthralled by God, one is the captive of the usurper. There is no middle ground. Reason is seen as no match for the powers of darkness.
This poem strongly suggests that salvation is not just a matter of knowing or even desiring the truth. It is also a matter of willing the good. However, the human will is portrayed as captive, bent, and fallen unless God remolds it, straightens it, and sets it upright. Information without transformation is inadequate. A change of mind is only the beginning; a change of heart is also required. (p. 15)”

1 comment:

AspiringTheologian said...

Very good read. I like the way it was put: information without transformation is inadequate. The Pharisees knew a lot about God and the Scriptures - but they sure missed out on the transformation part!

Thanks for sharing this with us, Dr. Van Neste.

God bless,

Albert Shepherd
The Aspiring Theologian