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The better part

"... but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better..." Luke 10.42

At the height of her fame, Anna Maria van Schurman turned her back on the institutions which lauded her. She was struck with the awful realisation that, however noble her aspirations, the pursuit of learning would take her up a cut-de-sac or, worse, up the wrong track so that, the greater her progress, the further she would get from her chosen destination: delight in God. Like the true Protestant she was, van Schurman embraced the conviction: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever" and that meant having one aim in life, with no distractions.

But self denial would never be enough. One might rid the mind of idols and devote one's heart to love but still fall short. van Schurman insisted that the total overthrow of both, mind and heart, is necessary before intimacy with God becomes possible. This was considered too hard, especially for novices in the faith. Asnd so, like the fickle crowds around Jesus, van Schurman's adoring fans deserted her. For her part, she threw in her lot with the Labadists, an emerging Dutch Pietist movement.

But are not humans hard-wired for sin and therefore utterly incapable of doing the rich thing, let alone earning favour with God and securing our own salvation? Of course! And that is why van Schurman and her fellow Pietists relied on knowing God intimately by direct revelation. No longer was the Christian life a matter of learning about God, it must involve living in Christ and that only become possible when the believer chooses to empty themselves so thoroughly as to be in a position to receive God totally.



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