I was sad to hear of the death of the German electronic music pioneer Edgar Froese yesterday. There is a brief obituary here.
Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.
It's back to the seventies yet again I'm afraid, January 1973 again to be exact. I was going to try and break out but I watched a documentary and a performance of TB on BBC 4 and felt compelled to get it out again. Each different part is okay but it is the combined effort that wins you over. I liked Mike Oldfield's description, which I had not heard before of seeing them taking away some tubular bells from the Manor Studio and he thinking perhaps he could use them and so getting them to put them back. In all our lives fairly small things can have quite an impact further down the road in God's Providence. I thought it was brilliant when it was used in the Olympics ceremony. I'm sure I was very late discovering it but I owned a vinyl copy with its brilliant cover and remember the Second House live presentation introduced by Melvyn Bragg one Saturday night.
I remember the tongue in cheek notes on the album (a practice Horslips really got into around the same time)
"In Glorious Stereophonic Sound – Can also be played on mono-equipment at a pinch"
"This stereo record cannot be played on old tin boxes no matter what they are fitted with. If you are in possession of such equipment please hand it into the nearest police station"
The album cover was apparently among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued on 7 January 2010.
Another great fact I spotted on Wikipedia is that the only electric guitar to be used on the album was a 1966 blonde Fender Telecaster (serial no. 180728) which used to belong to Marc Bolan. Oldfield had added an extra Bill Lawrence pick-up and has since sold the guitar for £6500 and donated the money to the SANE charity. This guitar had been put up for auction a number of times by Bonhams in 2007, 2008 and 2009 with estimates of £25,000–35,000, £10,000–15,000 and £8,000–12,000 respectively.
It was always said that Mike Oldfield played all the instruments but there were others on it, quite a few. Having said that, he did play acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, Farfisa, Hammond B3 and Lowrey organs, flageolet, fuzz guitars, glockenspiel, "honky tonk" piano, mandolin, piano, percussion, "taped motor drive amplifier organ chord", timpani, vocals and tubular bells.
Having read the John Ruskin biography in OUP's VIP series I thought I'd read the one on George Eliot the female novelist, another individual with an evangelical background who rejected that upbringing. It was translating liberals like Strauss and Feuerbach that undid here along with the influence of liberal minded friends. She was considered to have lived a scandalous life in her day, though compared with other examples she was at least pretty much a serial monogamist, though never formally marrying. Rosemary Ashton doesn't mention Spurgeon, who Ruskin warmed to, to some extent. George Eliot did hear Spurgeon but was unimpressed. She wrote
"My impressions fell below the lowest judgment I ever heard passed upon him. He has the gift of a fine voice, very flexible and various; he is admirably fluent and clear in his language, and every now and then his enunciation is effective. . . . And the doctrine. It was a libel on Calvinism, that it should be presented in such a form .... It was the most superficial, grocer's back-parlour view of Calvinistic Christianity; and I was shocked to find how low the mental pitch of our society must be, judged by standard of this man's celebrity. . . . Just now, with all Europe stirred by events, that make every conscience tremble after some great principle as a consolation and guide, it was too exasperating to sit and listen to doctrine that seemed to look no farther than the retail Christian's tea and muffins."
She is also said to have said "This Essex man drove bullock wagons through ecclesiastical aisles; his pulpit gown was a smockfrock." This article here gives more of Eliot's religious background with reference to Baptists.
I wrote this letter to ITN tonight
I have just been watching the ITN News on ITV+1. I notice that in one package journalist Rohit Kachroo refers to "historic claims of sexual abuse" and "historic rape allegations". I wonder if he is aware that there is a difference between the words historic and historical. He is not the only one I have heard making this mistake.
If you google the two words you will see the difference:
historic hɪˈstɒrɪk/ adjective adjective: historic 1. 1.famous or important in history, or potentially so. "the area's numerous historic sites"
historical hɪˈstɒrɪk(ə)l/ adjective adjective: historical 1.of or concerning history or past events. "historical evidence" ◦belonging to the past. "famous historical figures"
A shorter version of this review also appears in the February ET
Many readers will be aware of the book War and grace by Don Stephens, a collection of short biographies of Christians from the two world wars, that was published in 2005 and again, in a new edition, last year.
The first story in that book concerns an American of Italian extraction called Louis Zamperini. The new edition reveals that he died on July 2, 2014 and mentions the 2010 biography Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and the then forthcoming film of the same name, directed by Angelina Jolie. This film has now appeared, going on general release in British cinemas on Boxing Day, 2014.
We are always looking for ways to introduce Christ to our unbelieving neighbours and so the fact that a biopic about a Christian has appeared is good news. Sadly, the film, unlike the book that it is drawn from, chooses very much to downplay the fact that Zamperini became a Christian after the war and spent much of his life talking about Christ and the forgiveness that can be found only in him.
In his book, Don Stephens prefaces his life of Zamperini with seven summarising bullet points. The first five of these are well covered in the film.
The three middle points are covered the most extensively – An Air force bomb aimer, decorated for gallantry in action; a survivor of 47 days adrift on a life raft; an ill-treated prisoner of war of the Japanese for two and a half years. The bulk of the film looks at these periods, most of the time being devoted to his harrowing years as a POW when a man known as 'The bird' did all that he possibly could to 'break' his prisoner. Much of this, which includes a great deal of senseless violence, does not make pleasant viewing. Hence the '15' certificate. If you do see this film, be prepared for that. Zamperini had recurring nightmares after his experiences, until he came to Christ. One can imagine some people having nightmares after watching this presentation.
The first two bullet points (a juvenile delinquent in California and an Olympic runner at the Berlin Games of 1936) are covered in the film by means of flashbacks that bring out his Italian background, the racism he suffered, his delinquency and the way his older brother eventually steered him in a better direction by means of sport, leading to some success at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
As for Stephens' final two bullet points – a drunkard who almost wrecked his marriage and a Christian – these are almost entirely ignored. The main film ends when the war ends and just a few subsequent points are covered in a brief epilogue, where written material is combined with contemporary stills to fill in the rest of the story.
All this means that the only real Christian elements in the film itself are a snatch from a sermon by a Roman clergyman when Zamperini was a boy (blurring the fact that he later rejected Catholicism for the gospel), his prayer in the life raft that he would dedicate his life to God if he survived and some conversations about God with his fellow survivor Russell Phillips.
It is hard to understand why the film makers were not keener to depict the moment when Zamperini returned to Japan after the war in 1950 and, having preached to his former guards, warmly shook them by the hand and expressed his forgiveness. They chose not to do it this way, however.
That still leaves us with an opportunity to take advantage of the brief spotlight on Zamperini to draw attention to him and his Saviour by means of Don Stephens' book or other materials that do highlight his conversion and Christian life.
One other point to make, if it is not too esoteric, is that if you watch the film carefully you will notice that sometimes Zamperini is framed in an iconically Christ-like way. Further, near the end we see him symbolically crucified, symbolically dead, symbolically raised and this is followed by a symbolic pouring out of the Spirit and a mass baptism. Some have also detected his representative character, his temptation by Satan and his final ascension too. These elements may be helpful or unhelpful in the long run but are worth keeping in mind.
As promised this is my brief review of the Exodus film (a similar review is in the February Evangelical Times)
Hollywood's current fascination with biblical epic continues and hot on the heels of Noah comes a film based on Exodus directed by the acclaimed Ridley Scott. By no means as bad as the attempt on the Genesis narrative, this current offering takes a similar approach and falls way short of what one would have hoped for.
The broad details are followed, of course – a man called Moses grows up close to the Pharaoh and his successor in Egypt; he is sympathetic to the Israelite slaves in that place; he flees to Midian and marries and settles there; God speaks to him from a burning bush; he returns; there are ten plagues; he leads the people out; they cross the Red Sea; the Ten Commandments are received.
However, at every point there are differences, major and minor, from the biblical text. As in The Prince of Egypt which came out some years ago, Moses is assumed to be a close brother of the man who becomes Pharaoh. This time Moses is presented as being unaware of his Hebrew roots and as attempting to organise a guerilla movement before God steps in. His love affair with Zipporah is far more prominent than in the Bible. Presumably we end up with this sort of thing because film makers are eager to give us someone that most people today can relate to. This does not really work here.
As for why Moses is up to his neck in mud when he meets with God at Sinai or why part of Pharaoh's army is killed in a landslide rather than in the Red Sea, who knows? All this means that when we talk to people about Exodus they will have picked up many ideas that are extraneous to the original text. At least the crossing of the Red Sea is dealt with in a fairly accurate manner (although even here is there is plenty of room for improvement), the ten plagues scene is powerful though slightly garbled and the loss of Pharaoh's firstborn comes across well.
I can't remember why this list came to mind now (probably reading the early chapters of Genesis)
Another good and varied number gathered last night and we had a good time of prayer preceded by our study of Philippians 2:6-8. These are familiar words but it was good to remind ourselves once again of the amazing condescension of Christ in coming to this earth in the way that he did. How it magnifies the grace of God and his greatness. Such knowledge should lead us not only to worship but to deny ourselves and put others first. We began with At the name of Jesus which is a fine hymn with a fine tune.
The programme for the UK Banner of Truth Ministers Conference is out (and the Youth one). It's a privilege to be involved. April 14 marks the first anniversary of my heart op.
Monday, 13th, April
- 5.15pm – Opening Sermon – Christ, Precious to Believers – Gary Brady
- 8.15pm – Jesus, Our Hope and Example in the Midst of Injustice (Mark 15:16-32) – Kevin DeYoung
Tuesday, 14th April
- 7.25am – United Prayer
- 9.15am – Yes, it is hard, sometimes very hard, but . . . Paul’s testimony (2 Corinthians 11-12) – Stuart Olyott
- 11.15am – The Puritan theology of suffering – Michael Reeves
- 5.00pm – Reports Session
- 8.15pm – Praying in Pain (Mark 14:32-52) – Kevin DeYoung
Wednesday, 15th April
- 7.25am – United Prayer
- 9.15am – Ten Minute Address
- 9.30am – Yes, it is hard, sometimes very hard, but . . . Paul’s counsel (2 Corinthians 4) – Stuart Olyott
- 11.15am – The Impassibility of God, the Sufferings of Christ and Good News for the Christian Hebrews (Hebrews 2:5-18) – Kevin DeYoung
- 5.00pm – ‘To proclaim my name; to suffer for my name’ – Alan Davey
- 8.15pm – Faith amid suffering in the life of Charles Spurgeon – Michael Reeves
Thursday, 16th April
- 7.25am – United Prayer
- 9.15am – The Bruised Bride – Jeff Kingswood
- 11.00am – Closing Sermon – The Plight of Man and the Power of God – Geoff Thomas
We got back to things in Childs Hill yesterday as I began two new series, morning and evening. In the morning we started on Ezra, looking at Chapter 1. I think I have preached on Ezra before, but back in the nineties so I have no record on computer of what I preached. It is good to be back in an Old Testament history book. I spoke about God's providence and our duty. In the evening we began on the Sermon on the Mount. I say new series. I actually started on Matthew the Christmas before last and covered the first four chapters. I have been through Matthew (and Mark) in the past but want to go through all four Gospels on a regular basis. My former assistant went through the beatitudes one by one a little while ago so I will not be too slow with this. I covered the first half this time and hope to cover the second half next time. Numbers were typical (around 50 in the morning and half that in the evening). One or two were missing. There was just one visitor - in the evening. In the evening we had communion. I read from Isaiah 53 and spoke about penal substitutionary atonement.
The recent interest I have had in the artist Turner led me to think about John Ruskin again, who I knew little about. I decided to read a little biography I have on my shelves by Robert Hewison, which I think is just actually the current ODNB entry. It was just what I wanted. I was aware of Ruskin's evangelical background and that he had heard and met Spurgeon. What I had missed was the fact that an Irish banker, the father of one of the great and tragic loves of his life, Rose La Touche, was baptised by Spurgeon and was a member at the Tabernacle.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Rick Wakeman is an Everest in prog rock. It has it all.
Wakeman's first solo studio album, it was released on A&M in January 1973. Wakeman decided on the concept in 1972 while touring with Yes. usicians from Yes and previous band Strawbs play on the album. It reached number 7 (UK) and number 30 (US Billboard 200). It was certified gold in 1975 by the RIA of America and has sold 15 million copies worldwide. In 2009, Wakeman performed the album live for the first time at Hampton Court Palace for the 500th anniversary of Henry's accession. Each track was re-scored with added elements that could not be there due to time restrictions on the vinyl record.
In August 1971, Wakeman replaced keyboardist Tony Kaye with Yes. In early 1972, on tour in the USA to promote Fragile (1971), he bought four books at an airport bookstall in Richmond, Virginia, one being The Private Life of Henry VIII by Nancy Brysson Morrison. As he read about Anne Boleyn on the subsequent flight to Chicago, a theme he recorded in November 1971 ran through his mind. He often scribbled down pieces of music while travelling, but could not find a theme to put them to. Said Wakeman, "I had been searching for a style to write in and suddenly I found it in writing music about these six ladies...I would concentrate on one of the wives and then music just came into my head and I would write it down. Sometimes I was flying, other times I was on stage, or just in front of the piano at home...The "Six Wives" theme gave me the thread, the link, I needed to give me a reason for putting these pieces of music together."
He explains the album's concept in its liner notes: "The album is based around my interpretations of the musical characteristics of the wives of Henry VIII. Although the style may not always be in keeping with their individual history, it is my personal conception of their characters in relation to keyboard instruments."
Recording for the album began in February 1972 with an advance of £4K from A&M. Seven other musicians perform on the record.
Catherine of Aragon - Its basis was originally a piece that Wakeman wrote for Fragile titled "Handle With Care". Recorded at Trident Studios, London, the track features Steve Howe and Chris Squire with percussionist Ray Cooper.
Anne Boleyn - recorded at Morgan Studios and featuring drummer Bill Bruford. Wakeman had a dream about attending her execution that caused him to include a version of "St. Clement", the tune to the hymn "The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended" written by John Ellerton. E. J. Hopkins is credited on the album, but the piece is generally attributed to Rev Clement Scholefield.
Catherine Howard - by the time production began on this engineer Ken Scott was replaced by Paul Tregurtha. Strawbs member Chas Cronk, who plays bass on it, recalled the "total confusion" during the recording and "couldn't make head or tail of what [we] were doing. We were going through it part by part and I couldn't see how all the parts were going to match up." He noted that Rick "knew exactly what he was going to do although he had nothing written down. It was all stored in his head."
Jane Seympur - the organ was recorded at St Giles-without-Cripplegate church, London. "I couldn't reproduce the sound I needed on an electronic organ, so we got permission to move the recording equipment into St Giles," said Wakeman. "It was quite an experience playing a lovely instrument like that.
Anne of Cleves - Wakeman calls "a rather fee-form" track, "almost having no form at all, there was a contradiction in what everyone was playing. The guys in the band thought I was completely barking, but it had to be like that."
The album was to be titled Henry VIII and His Six Wives with a track dedicated for Henry himself, but Wakeman recorded the tracks on the wives first and had used up the space available on a vinyl record. The track was then discarded and the album renamed. When recording ended in October 1972 the final cost for the record had reached around £25,000. Wakeman described working on the record as "difficult and cumbersome", but said that the album was a "finally rewarding project".
The cover photograph was taken at Madame Tussauds wax museum, London, where a figure of Richard Nixon can be seen in the background as the curtain was not fully closed.
With Wolf Hall staring next Wednesday (see here) I'm not the only one going Tudor. BBC2 were showing a documentary on The Last days of Anne Boleyn recently I see (a repeat from 2013 with Hilary Mantel, David Starkey, Philippa Gregory, etc), which I hope to get round to watching soon (see here). Philippa Gregory in The Times recommends, on the Tudor theme, the anonymous painting at Hampton Court Palace The Family of Henry VIII, c. 1543-1547 (see here), Mark Twain's novel The Prince and the pauper (see here), the 1970 TV series with Keith Michell as Henry VIII (see here), Donizetti's opera Anna Bolena (see here), the 1969 Richard Burton film Anne of the thousand days (see here) and Edmund Spenser's unfinished poem The Faerie Queene (see here). No room for Rick Wakeman's six wives I see. Leave it to me.