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Why Political Speech Is Inappropriate from the Pulpit!

For years now, I have been criticizing the preaching of politics from the pulpit. Why? What's so wrong with talking about issues and can...

Thursday, April 30, 2020

First Century Christianity

The Didache or The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations was probably written toward the end of the First Century (in other words, before a "New Testament" existed) and provides the earliest known summary of the fundamentals of Christianity:

There are two ways, one of life and one of death; but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, your neighbor as yourself; and all things whatsoever you would should not occur to you, do not also do to another. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there, if you love those who love you? Do not also the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone gives you a blow upon your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes away your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one that asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he that gives according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receives; for if one having need receives, he is guiltless; but he that receives not having need, shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what, and, coming into straits (confinement), he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape thence until he pay back the last farthing. But also now concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.

**Several sections follow this one on sins/behaviors that are forbidden to Christians (e.g. murder, adultery, witchcraft, hate, anger, idolatry, blasphemy, etc.)********************************

And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week; but fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Neither pray as the hypocrites; but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, thus pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Yours is the power and the glory forever. Thrice in the day thus pray.

Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. And concerning the broken bread: We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory forever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs.

**This is followed by a prayer and a discourse on teachers, apostles and prophets. Then there follows a section on reception of Christians and support of prophets.*********************************

But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

Therefore, appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proven; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel; but to every one that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.

Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord comes. But often shall you come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you be not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

see https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

From Book 3 of Eusebius' Church History

Eusebius was Bishop of Caesarea and lived 263-339 AD. Speaking of the canon of the Christian Bible in his day, he wrote in the third book of his Church History:

Chapter 25. The Divine Scriptures that are accepted and those that are not.

1. Since we are dealing with this subject it is proper to sum up the writings of the New Testament which have been already mentioned. First then must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels; following them the Acts of the Apostles.

2. After this must be reckoned the epistles of Paul; next in order the extant former epistle of John, and likewise the epistle of Peter, must be maintained. After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings.

3. Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name.

4. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books.

5. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books.

6. But we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also, distinguishing those works which according to ecclesiastical tradition are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which, although not canonical but disputed, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical writers — we have felt compelled to give this catalogue in order that we might be able to know both these works and those that are cited by the heretics under the name of the apostles, including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles, which no one belonging to the succession of ecclesiastical writers has deemed worthy of mention in his writings.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Martin Luther's Preface to the Book of Revelation

"About this book of the Revelation of John, I leave everyone free to hold his own ideas, and would bind no man to my opinion or judgment; I say what I feel. I miss more than one thing in this book, and this makes me hold it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic. First and foremost, the Apostles do not deal with visions, but prophesy in clear, plain words, as do Peter and Paul, and Christ in the Gospel. For it befits the apostolic office to speak of Christ and His deeds without figures and visions; but there is no prophet in the Old Testament, to say nothing of the New, who deals so out and out with visions and figures. And so I think of it almost as I do of the Fourth Book of Esdras, and can nohow detect that the Holy Spirit produced it.

Moreover, he seems to me to be going much too far when he commends his own book so highly, — more than any of the other sacred books do, though they are much more important, — and threatens that if anyone takes away anything from it, God will deal likewise with him. Again, they are to be blessed who keep what is written therein; and yet no one knows what that is, to say nothing of keeping it. It is just the same as if we had it not, and there are many far better books for us to keep. Many of the fathers, too, rejected this book of old, though St. Jerome, to be sure, praises it highly and says that it is above all praise and that there are as many mysteries in it as words; though he cannot prove this at all, and his praise is, at many points, too mild.

Finally, let everyone think of it as his own spirit gives him to think. My spirit cannot fit itself into this book. There is one sufficient reason for me not to think highly of it,-Christ is not taught or known in it; but to teach Christ is the thing which an apostle is bound, above all else, to do, as He says in Acts 1:8, 'Ye shall be my witnesses.' Therefore I stick to the books which give me Christ, clearly and purely."

-- Martin Luther of Protestant Reformation fame
see http://www.godrules.net/library/luther/NEW1luther_f8.htm

Friday, April 24, 2020

Worship Among Early Christians

"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need."
--from The First Apology of Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.)

Monday, April 20, 2020

Have you performed any miracles lately?

The Christian religion seems to many to have lost its way. Church attendance is down. The number of folks who identify themselves as being a Christian has declined in many parts of the world. In fact, the number of people who are hostile to Christianity seems to be on the rise!

We could all cite a host of reasons for the apparent decline of Christianity: The priestly pedophilia scandals of the Catholic Church, the political activism of Evangelicals, the incessant squabbling within the Church over doctrinal differences, the perceived hypocrisy of the folks who practice the religion, the stubborn refusal of many Christians to accept or reach some kind of accommodation with modern scientific findings, the feeling among many young people that the religion fails to address the reality of their own lives, etc.

Nevertheless, for those of us who are familiar with the history of the first millennium of  Christianity, we know that there was a time when this religion excited much devotion internally and much interest from without. Think about the rise of Christianity to a position of preeminence within the Roman Empire over the course of a few hundred years. Think about the efforts of Patrick among the Irish and Columba among the Scots and Picts. In times past, Christians persuaded the folks of other religions to abandon their traditions and adopt the Christian faith. How were they able to do that?

We read in Scripture that folks attributed miracles to Peter, Paul and the other apostles. Moreover, the question of whether or not these happenings were in fact miraculous is immaterial to this discussion. The people believed them to be miraculous. The apostles' concern for the sick and disadvantaged of society had an impact on almost everyone who observed it. In short, it generated a feeling of "I want to be a part of that!"

In times past, the Christian Church was looking out at the world around it and interacting with it on a fundamental level. Now, many Christians seem to be inward looking and focused on interacting with their own.

To be sure, there are still many Christians who cling to that outward looking tradition of their forefathers. On occasion, we still have miracle workers like Mother Theresa. There are still folks around like my youngest daughter's high school friend from Alabama, who recently volunteered her nursing skills to go to New York and help with the Coronavirus outbreak there. Unfortunately, these folks seem to be becoming the exception rather than the rule.

In other words, have you performed any miracles lately? Have you done anything lately to capture someone's imagination? Have you done anything lately to excite someone's interest in what would motivate you to do what you do? Is a discussion over which holidays should be observed going to excite more interest in your church than the miracle of caring for others? Are folks more interested in a treatise on what's going to happen to them when they die OR something that has had a profoundly positive impact on them in the here and now? How did Peter, Paul, Patrick and Columba win all of those converts to Christianity?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Christianity's Emphasis on Doctrine

As long time readers of this blog know, I have written many posts in the past about the preoccupation of the Christian Church (Catholic, Protestant and Other) with doctrinal differences. Indeed, one would be justified in saying that most of the denominations and organizations which constitute modern Christendom are obsessed with underscoring what makes them different or unique. And this is no where more apparent than in the practice of publishing a "Statement of Belief."

In beginning a discussion of doctrine, it is essential to underscore the fact that the Greek word translated into English as doctrine simply denoted a teaching (see Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). This stands in sharp contrast to our modern, more expansive definition of the word doctrine: a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief : DOGMA (see Merriam-Webster). To the modern churchman, the term suggests a well-developed theological position on topics like the nature of God (unitarian, binitarian or trinitarian), the mechanics of baptism (immersion, dipping or sprinkling) or communion (weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly), the nature of the afterlife (heaven, hell, purgatory, sleep, resurrection), which days to observe (Sunday/Sabbath, Christmas, Easter, Passover, etc.) and how to observe them, Church governance (episcopal, presbyterian, congregational), etc.

Once again, this stands in stark contrast to the way a First Century Christian would have approached the subject of doctrine. We know this, in part, because the elaborate theology that most modern Christians have constructed around their belief system is dependent on the collection of writings that we call the New Testament - most of which were not available to them. Likewise, Christian thinking has been influenced by the writings of many men and women over the almost two millennia that have elapsed since those days. And, finally, we know from the New Testament writings that their teachings centered on proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Messiah and a few other items which they considered foundational or fundamental to the new religion (see Hebrews 6:1-2). If we could resurrect a First Century Christian and show them a modern doctrinal treatise, they would be bewildered and need much background and explanation before they would even be able to comprehend what was being discussed!

In my own religious experience, the Statement of Belief(s) of two of the organizations which I was formerly affiliated with (Seventh Day Baptists and Church of God International) will serve as a good illustration of the point I'm attempting to make in this post. Once again, the approaches of the two groups represent the contrast between a minimalist approach to doctrine compared to a much more elaborately defined system.

The Seventh Day Baptists "Statement of Belief" begins with this introduction: "Seventh Day Baptists consider liberty of thought under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be essential to Christian belief and practice. Therefore we encourage the unhindered study and open discussion of Scripture. We uphold the individual’s freedom of conscience in seeking to determine and obey the will of God. The following statement is not intended to be exhaustive, but is an expression of our common belief, which is derived from our understanding of Scripture." see https://seventhdaybaptist.org/about/statement-of-belief/ The statement goes on to list ten foundational beliefs for the organization: God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), The Bible, Mankind, Sin and Salvation, Eternal Life, The Church, Baptism, The Lord's Supper, Sabbath and Evangelism.

On the other hand, CGI's "Statement of Beliefs" begins with this introduction: "The doctrinal tenets, practices, teachings, and beliefs of the Church of God International are based on the Word of God, the Holy Bible. God’s people believe that they are to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4)." see https://www.cgi.org/about The statement goes on to list thirty-seven beliefs! Moreover, if one takes a closer look at CGI's website, it becomes clear that they also believe in Anglo-Israelism, and that holidays like Christmas and Easter are pagan and should not be celebrated by Christians. Also, like many other denominations and organizations, both organizations (Seventh Day Baptists and Church of God International) affirm that they believe in a traditional interpretation of marriage (as being between one man and one woman).

What does all of this tell us about Christian's and doctrine? It tells us that the question of doctrine is a much more complex notion today than it was in Christianity's infancy. It also tells us that doctrine has been skillfully used to differentiate one group of Christians from another and allow them to say that they are somehow better or closer to the truth than the other group(s). It also clearly presents a dilemma for most believers - must we accept/agree with every doctrinal position of this group to fellowship with them? AND Is it even possible to find a group with which I am in complete doctrinal agreement?

It's ironic that most of these groups love to quote Paul's second epistle to his disciple Timothy to underscore the fact that their doctrines are derived from Scripture. The King James Version translates the verse as "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (II Timothy 3:16) In this connection, it is instructive to notice this passage in the context of its surrounding verses in the New Living Translation: "But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." (II Timothy 3:14-17)

Notice what a difference this makes to our understanding of this verse. The NLT makes plain that Scripture is useful to TEACH us what is true and right and to prepare and equip us to do good. Again, notice that there is NO suggestion/implication in the verse that Scripture is to be used to formulate a Statement of Beliefs - to justify the doctrinal positions of a particular group! In other words, many of these groups twist this scripture to support their elaborate and distinctive theology. Hence, in this blogger's humble opinion, when we are discussing Christian doctrine, this is one of those instances where LESS IS MORE!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Should Christians Cancel Services?

Some pastors and their congregations have refused to follow government public health directives to practice social distancing and refrain from participating in large gatherings of people. They say that these directives are an infringement on their religious freedom and force them to eliminate a practice that is essential to the practice of their faith. Moreover, the fact that most other groups have found ways to continue their worship services that do not involve gathering in large groups has not persuaded them to modify their own practices. They insist that it is more important for them to obey God than to obey men.

Are these holdouts right? Should Christians be defying government directives and gathering together for worship?

Christianity Today weighed in on this question a couple of weeks ago and noted that "Christians shake hands, embrace one another, and kiss cheeks. Some are liturgically directed to drink from a common cup; others pass the peace with a warm touch. Our bodies do naturally what our souls do supernaturally. We connect. And we do so intergenerationally." To Cancel or Not To Canel see https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/walter-kim-nae-timothy-dalrymple-cancel-church-or-not.html

The authors of the article point out that Christians are instructed by Scripture to obey the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17). But they go on to point out that "there are other Biblical principles that help us embrace this difficult decision." They point out that Jesus taught that a critical component of Sabbath worship was the care of needy and vulnerable people (Mark 3:1-5).

And they pointed to an even larger principle related to the Sabbath. They wrote: "Sabbath observance was never just about what worshipers gained personally, but also what they gave communally. Sabbath encompassed the well-being of others. In Deuteronomy 5:12–15, the Israelites were instructed to observe the Sabbath by not working and also not allowing others to work. In the ancient world, it was astounding to be commanded to regularly release your household, servants, animals, and even the immigrant workers and refugees from work. Sabbath answered on a weekly basis the age-old question, 'Am I my brother’s keeper?' Yes! We are called to ensure the flourishing of those within our sphere of influence.'"

In addition to the excellent points made in this article, I would add a principle that should be very familiar to all of those who profess to be Christians: LOVE! Just a few lines down from Paul's instructions about submitting ourselves to the governing authorities, we read: "Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, 'You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.' These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law." (Romans 13:8-10) The application of that principle in this instance seems pretty straightforward to me.

We are also reminded of the fact that Jesus Christ is reported to have said, "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:12-13) Are we willing to lay down our lives for the sake of our friends? Are we willing to interrupt our routines and preferences for the sake of others? OR Do we selfishly insist on pursuing our own interests?

For me, this should be a no-brainer for Christians. The Christian thing to do in the midst of this pandemic is to temporarily cancel services!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Problem of Evil

For many years now, it has been a tradition in my family to watch Cecil B. Demille's The Ten Commandments during the Passover/Easter season. While watching the movie this evening, two of Charlton Heston's lines as Moses underscored one of the favorite arguments of atheists to disprove the existence of God: The problem of evil.

The lines just referenced:
1) Moses to Joshua: "If your God is Almighty, why does he leave you in bondage?" and
2) Moses to the old grease woman (his biological mother) trapped beneath the stone: After the woman tells him that God has renewed her strength and lightened her burdens, "He would have done better to remove them."

Notice that the existence of a better choice is implied in both statements. In other words, if your God really existed, "He" wouldn't do this/that or allow things to happen that way.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides a simplified model of the basic argument:

1) If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
2) If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.
3) If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.
4) If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.
5) Evil exists.
6) If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn’t have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn’t know when evil exists, or doesn’t have the desire to eliminate all evil.
7) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

As this model uses obvious logic, ignoring or dismissing it without addressing the points made would seem to justify the view that this argument validates the conclusion that there is no god/God. After all, it is fairly standard Christian theology to characterize the Christian God as being omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect.

Likewise, most Christians would readily concede that evil exists. After all, the existence of evil is one of the fundamental premises of the Christian faith. Moreover, we have abundant evidence (both past and present) that bad things happen with regularity and that suffering is a constant among the living.

However, as we have pointed out in previous posts here, how can we be sure that everything that we characterize as evil/bad would be viewed in the same way by a deity? A polar bear catches a seal and rips its guts out. After a few minutes of suffering and wallowing in its own blood, the seal dies, and the bear eats it. Is that bad? An asteroid or meteor crashes into the earth and incinerates some dinosaurs. The dust it produces suffocates others and cuts off the food supply of the rest - causing them to slowly starve to death. Is that bad? Lightning strikes, starts a forest fire and thousands of animals suffer a horrible death! Is nature bad/evil? Wouldn't an omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect being have designed a better system?

We could also cite numerous instances of human suffering due to "naturally" occurring phenomena: A child develops Leukemia and suffers all of the debilitating symptoms associated with that disease and dies. A woman develops rheumatoid arthritis and suffers the pain and deformity associated with that condition for twenty years before dying. A man develops idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and struggles to breathe for the next three years before his lungs finally cease to function at all. A tornado touches down and kills a couple's beloved daughter who is within weeks of graduating from college.

And we haven't even begun to address the things that we humans inflict on each other. I'm thinking of things like sexual abuse, murder, war, genocide, slavery, etc.

All of these things should generate many questions and a great deal of thought on the part of serious theists. Does the designation of some behavior as good of necessity make its nonperformance evil? Does good demand an evil counterpart? And what about approaching this from the negative? Does the presence/existence of evil demand/prove the presence/existence of good? Is it possible that disease, storms and death serve some good/positive purpose?

What does it mean for God to be omnipotent (all-powerful)? If God is incapable of evil, can we truly say that "He" is all powerful? If God cannot change, does that mean that there are some things that God cannot do? What does it mean for God to be omniscient (all-knowing)? What does that mean for the concept of free will? Does omniscience demand predestination? What does it mean for God to be omnipresent (everywhere at once)? Does that mean that God doesn't really live in heaven? Does moral perfection mandate the immediate elimination of all evil?

Bottom line: Evil is a problem that serious theists must be willing to confront, but it does not constitute proof that God doesn't exist. If God really cannot be contained, then there is a strong probability that most of us still haven't gotten to the bottom of the questions that confronted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden - What constitutes GOOD and EVIL? and Who gets to decide? 

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Times In Which We Live

Thinking about what we are all going through during this pandemic, Darlene reminded me about this quote from my favorite author:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien