The similar phrase 'Worldly Christianity' is one used by Bonhoeffer. 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.

Day Off Week 50 2019

Yesterday's day off had a real Christmas theme. I did some blogging but mostly I was either reading about Christmas or listening to Christmas music. The snow goose is not really a Christmas book but it has a winter vibe. I enjoyed reading it again, especially in the edition I own illustrated by Angela Barrett. I also have a Wordsworth children's book 'Twas the night before Christmas which is a Christmas anthology. I read Clement Moore's poem, Louisa May Alcott's Christmas dream, a shortened version of A Christmas Carol done by Dickens himself and Hans Christian Anderson's The Fir tree. All full of god morals. In the evening Eleri and I went down to the Royal Festival Hall to see Kate Rusby and her band singing Christmas music. Very nice - more on that anon.

Lord's Day December 8 2019

Way behind still but we had a good day on Sunday with relatively good numbers in the morning but much smaller in the evening. In the morning my sermon title was Politicians - what are they good for? A Christmas study. Given that we vote tomorrow and Christmas is also just round the corner I thought that we could think about Luke 2:1-3 and say things. Politicians good for marking the time, for keeping order and for bringing about God's will. Hopefully, it got people thinking. In the evening we dropped the Christmas theme and looked at the very last verses of Matthew and the Great Commission. I was keen to finish Matthew before the year's end. I have now preached through Matthew (and Mark) twice (and Luke and John once each). Another good day with God's people.

A man is twice as old as his son. When his son is the same age as his father was when ...

One thing that has put me behind is a trip to Aber for my oldest son's thirtieth birthday
at the end of last week. Lovely time!

Midweek Meeting November 20, 27 December 4 2019

Not quite sure why I keep forgetting to write these up. Certainly last week (December 4) was difficult as always as I have to rush home from the conference, grab tea and then go. Fitting in time to prepare is also not easy. Anyway, there were 10 there and similar numbers the weeks before I am sure. On December 4 our old friend, my former assistant Andrew Lolley was with us and that was good. Of course, I can't remember much about November 20 and 27 but I know what we studied (1 Timothy 1:12 to 2:7) and I know that we prayed and that is always good. Part of the focus this time was the coming election, partly in light of the passage we looked at.

Westminster Conference Day 2

Last Wednesday seems ages ago. I have been busy, however, and need to catch up. This post is simply to say that the Westminster Conference 2019 went off very well all told. On day 2 I chaired the opening session (as is clear from the photo). American Matthew Bingham of Oak Hill spoke very helpfully on the difficult topic of the origins of independency and we had a good, well natured discussion to follow. In the afternoon Douglas MacCallum spoke on Thomas Manton. This was a good introduction and it was interesting to learn that Banner will be publishing all 22 volumes of his works next May. Douglas chose to focus on the sermons on Isaiah 53 but then raised but did not resolve the subject of Manton's understanding of Christ's righteousness. This rather sidetracked us. The final paper is always without discussion and this time it was Paul Smith from Broadstairs on The Pilgrim Fathers, a good theological treatment. We meet again next year, God willing, December 1, 2. I will be giving the closing paper. Lots of other good things too.

Westminster Conference 2019 Day 1

Pipa, Walker, Strivens

It was very good to be at the conference this week down in Oxford Street. We had a decent turn out and the papers and even the discussions went well. We kicked off by looking at William Perkins. Our American speaker Joseph Pipa is a Perkins expert but was able to bring a lightness of touch to his delivery that made the subject come alive. It was a great start and we had a good if slightly diffuse discussion under a good chairman (Andy Young).
The other two parts of the day followed on from each other with committee members Jeremy Walker and Robert Strivens looking consecutively at the theory (A holy God worshipped in spirit of holy fear according to a holy book) and practice of Puritan worship. The latter focused on the 1662 men adn their rejection of the prayer book. They spoke and chaired each other with time only for questions of clarification immediately after the paper. We then discussed both papers together. On reflection it might have been better to introduce a third person to chair that. We also got slightly sidetracked onto the question of Christmas trees in the worship area but it was a good day all round.

Another Christmas album from Kate Rusby

Once again Kate Rusby has released a December Christmas album. This is the fifth one and it is called Holly Head (hard not to say that in a North Walian accent for some of us). It follows a similar format to previous albums and so seemed a little tame at first but I am getting into it.
We kick off with Salute The Morn an eighteenth century hymn with some nice guitar work from husband Damien O'Kane. Christmas Is Merry is the first of three originals but with a traditional tune.  The Holly King is very much on the pagan side of things. Hippo For Christmas revives a forgotten novelty hit from the fifties, complete with tuba accompaniment.
There are four traditional carols on the album next. Yorkshire Three Ships, Lu Lay (or the Wexford or Coventry carol) and a laudable sixth version of While Shepherds Watched follow each other in swift succession and are done well. We have to wait one track until the great Victorian hymn Bleak Midwinter done to a Yorkshire tune.
The Mistletoe Bough turns to an 1844 song apparently published in Songs, Ballads and Other Poems. By Thomas Haynes Bayly (of Home Sweet Home fame) and Sir Henry Bishop it is based on the sad story of The Mistletoe Bride which, first related in 1823, tells of how a young bride suffocated on her wedding day unable to get out of a large chest where she had hidden in an ill-fated game of hide and seek. The legend has been ascribed to several different counties, this one is about Lovell Hall, Oxfordshire. It is a jolly song despite the tragic content.
Celestial Hearts is a Yorkshire variant of ‘New Celestial’, arranged by Rusby and O’Kane and I Am Christmas is a simple treatment of a 2010 song written by Bill Meek and John Conolly,
The album closes with another episode in the story of Barnsley's own Big Brave Bill B.B.B.B is Bill, Beryl, Belinda and Bob this time. This time he gets rescued.
Sorry not to hear any banjo this time. The brass and guitars, etc, are here still. Great arrangementss but it is the voice that wins it. The Barnsley lass seems to have pulled it off again. We are looking forward to seeing her soon.

10 Christmas Novelty Songs

A novelty song is a comical or nonsensical song, performed principally for its comical effect. Humorous songs, or those containing humorous elements, are not necessarily novelty songs. The term arose in Tin Pan Alley to describe one of the major divisions of popular music.
  1. Christmas in Blobbyland by Mr Blobby
  2. Frosty the Snowman by Gene Autry and later Jimmy Durante
  3. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo & Patsy
  4. Hokey Cokey by the Snowmen
  5. I'm Walking Backwards For Christmas by The Goodies (or Make a daft noise for Xmas)
  6. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Jimmy Boyd and later The Jackson 5, etc.
  7. Lonely Pup (In a Christmas Shop) by Adam Faith
  8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Gene Autry and later by Spike Jones, etc
  9. Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt and later Kylie Minogue
  10. You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Jim Carrey

Lecture on Thomas Treanor at the Library

We had an excellent lecture on Monday at the Evangelical Library. Norman Hopkins introduced us to Thomas Treanor a forgotten missionary to seamen in the 19th century. It was quite a striking story of commitment to bravely bring the gospel to sinners. We also had a very good number. Well worth seeing on the video taken. Enquire at the Library.

Lord's Day December 1 2019

This week is so busy I have got rather behind so this is rather like ancient history but we had a good day on Sunday with relatively good numbers morning and (to a lesser extent) in the evening. We began with communion and I then preached from Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, a one off text. We enjoyed having our seminary students and their families to lunch and then in the evening I preached the resurrection from the first 15 verses of Matthew 28. It was a good day. No fresh people in and some missing, of course, as ever, but a good opportunity once again.


This slightly doctored clip from last Monday's University Challenge illustrates how the mind craves symmetry (mine at least). One writer puts it down to craving order and adds "The search for symmetry, and the emotional pleasure we derive when we find it, must help us make sense of the world around us, just as we find satisfaction in the repetition of the seasons and the reliability of friendships. Symmetry is also economy. Symmetry is simplicity. Symmetry is elegance."

Things people want for Christmas

1. My two front teeth (Spike Jones and the City slickers)
2. You (Mariah Carey)
3. A Beatle (Dora Bryan)
4. A real good tan (Kenny Chesney)
5. My girl (New Edition)
6. My daddy (Buck Owens)
A hippopotamus  (Gayla Peevey)
8. A banjo (David Myles, Santa never brings me ...)
9. Peace tonight, peace for all (Brian Wilson, What I really want ...)
10. A sable, a '54 convertible (light blue), a yacht, the deed to a platinum mine, a duplex and checks, decorations bought at Tiffany and a ring. (Eartha Kitt, Santa baby)

Jonathan Miller Clive James

Jonathan Miller and Clive James both died this week. Both men straddled the intellectual and popular divide and had a wry sense of humour. Further both were
1. Described as polymaths
2. Cambridge graduates who were involved in the Floodlights
3. And the Edinburgh festival
4. Wrote about Freud (James just an essay and Miller a whole book)
5. Presenters of TV programmes
6. Smokers
7. Professed atheists
8. Both took first degrees outside the arts (Miller medicine, James engineering)
9. Both had CBEs
10. Stephen Fry says they were heroes of his growing up.
Both were slight outsiders in that Miller was Jewish and James Australian.

James once interviewed Miller. See here. (Taste warning).

They seem to have dabbled in a any number of occupations

James (b 1939)
1. Literary essayist
2. Folk music lyricist
3. Novelist
4. TV critic
5. Translator
6. Poet
7. Memoirist
8. Journalist
9. TV presenter
10. Actor

Miller (b 1934)
1. Medical doctor
2. Satirist
3. Drama director
4. Opera producer
5. Artistic director
6. Musical director
7. Collage artist
8. TV Presenter
9. Actor
10. Writer

PS I notice there is a longer serious interview between James and Miller here.

Another chance to hear ...

The radio broadcast I did with Janet Mefferd some time ago on the book about conscience Candle in the wind is available once again. See here. It is the first item on the programme here. Enjoy.

Death of Jonathan Miller

We hear that polymath Jonathan Miller has died. I found myself sitting next to him at the British Library once and resisted the urge to graffitti his notebook when he left his space for a while. His views on atheism can be found in a 2007 article here.