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.
Again, you shall find spiritual life in every church. I know it is the notion of the bigot, that all the truly godly people belong to the denomination which he adorns. Orthodoxy is my doxy; heterodoxy is anybody else's doxy who does not agree with me. All the good people go to little Bethel, and nowhere else: they all worship at Zoar, and they sing out of such-and-such a selection, and as for those who cannot say Shibholeth, and lay a pretty good stress on the "h," but who pronounce it "Sibboleth;" let the fords of the Jordan be taken, and let them be put to death. True, it is not fashionable to roast them alive, but we will condemn their souls to everlasting perdition, which is the next best thing, and may not appear to be quite so uncharitable. Many suppose that because there is grievous error in a church, concerning an ordinance or a doctrine, therefore no living children of God are there. Ah, dear brethren, this severe opinion arises from want of knowing better. A mouse had lived in a box all its life, and one day crawled up to the edge of it, and looked round on what it could see. Now the box only stood in a lumber room, but the mouse was surprised at its vastness, and exclaimed: "How big the world is!" If some bigots would get out of their box, and only look a little way round them, they would find the realm of grace to be far wider than they dream. It is true that these pastures are a most proper place for sheep, but yet upon yonder hill-tops wild goats are pastured by the Great Shepherd. It is true that yonder plains covered with verdure are best fitted for cattle, but the Lord of all has his beasts in the forest, and his conies among the rocks. You may have to look a long while before you find these living things, but he sees them when you do not, and it is a deal more important to a cony for God to see it, than it is for a man to see it; and so it is an infinitely more weighty matter for a child of God for his Father to know that he is his child, than for his brother to know it. If my brother will not believe me to be a Christian, he cannot help being my brother; he may do what he will in his unkindness, but if I am one of God's children, and he also is one, the tie of brotherhood cannot be broken between us. I love to think that the Lord has his hidden ones—even in churches that have sadly degenerated from the faith; and, although it is yours and mine to denounce error unsparingly, and with the iconoclastic hammer to go through the land and break the idols of all the churches in pieces as far as God gives us strength, yet there is not a lamb amongst Christ's flock that we would disdain to feed—there is not the least of all his people, however mistaken in judgment, whom our soul would not embrace an ardent love. God, in nature, has placed life in singular spots, and so has he put spiritual life into strange out-of-the-way places, and has his own chosen where least we should look for them.
If we compare these possessions, we shall see how inestimable is the gain. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation; the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation. Let faith step in, and then sin, death, and hell will belong to Christ, and grace, life, and salvation to the soul. For, if he is a husband, he must needs take to himself that which is his wife’s, and, at the same time, impart to his wife that which is his. For, in giving her his own body and himself, how can he but give her all that is his? And, in taking to himself the body of his wife, how can he but take to himself all that is hers?
In this is displayed the delightful sight, not only of communion, but of a prosperous warfare, of victory, salvation, and redemption. For since Christ is God and man, and is such a person as neither has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned - nay, cannot sin, die, or be condemned - and since his righteousness, life, and salvation are invincible, eternal, and almighty; when, I say, such a person, by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of his wife, nay, makes them his own, and deals with them no otherwise than as if they were his, and as if he himself had sinned; and when he suffers, dies, and descends to hell, that he may overcome all things, since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow him up, they must needs be swallowed up by him in stupendous conflict. For his righteousness rises above the sins of all men; his life is more powerful than all death; his salvation is more unconquerable than all hell.
Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its Husband Christ. Thus He presents to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and salvation. Thus He betrothes her unto Himself "in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies" (Hosea ii. 19, 20).
Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace?
Martin Luther, On the Freedom of a Christian Man
|Nick Needham answering questions with Edward Malcolm seated|
It was great to be at the Protestant Truth Society Conference today with about 50 or 60 others at the college and seminary in Finchley. I wanted to go to something on Luther this month and this was a good choice I'm sure. In the chair was Edward Malcolm of the PTS and the speaker was Nick Needham, pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church in Inverness and lecturer in church history at HTC in Dingwall. Nick is always worth hearing and he was very good today on the material and the formal principle of the Reformation, that is justification by faith and Scripture alone. Perhaps the first message on the formal principle was superior but both were excellent papers. We also had good question sessions following the two papers.
That first message included two excellent quotations that I will include in separate blogs.
I was pleasantly surprised to see this programme recently. See here. Marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Janina Ramirez tells the story of three books that defined this radical religious revolution in England. Tyndale's New Testament, Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer and Foxe's Book of Martyrs are sadly no longer commonly recognised titles, yet for nearly 400 years these works formed the backbone of British life. Their words shaped the English language, fuelled religious division and sparked revolt.
Tyndale's Bible made the word of God accessible to the common man for the first time; The Book of Common Prayer established a Protestant liturgy; and Foxe's Book of Martyrs (they say) enshrined an intolerance of Catholicism, although it did a lot more thna that. Woth catching.
I haven't seen the other three programmes in the series but this was okay. See here.
One of the news items today has been about how few students from the north or from lower income families or ethnic minorities go to Oxford or Cambridge. Apparently if you take five elite schools - Eton, Westminster, St Paul's Boys and Girls and state-funded Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, together they sent 946 pupils to Oxford and Cambridge 2007-2009. By contrast, 2,000 lower-performing schools combined sent a total of 927 students to the two universities, getting less than 6% of available places (this is according to the Sutton Trust). Many of these schools sent no pupils at all, or on average fewer than one per year.
One can understand the frustration. One of my regrets in life is not having gone to Oxford. I did try, with no encouragement from my school. My parents were keen but clueless. I sat an entrance exam and was then interviewed for Lincoln College. They liked the idea of having a boy from a Welsh comp there but in the end it was too much of a risk and they said no. (There were 19 of us trying for 11 places I recall). And they were right. In almost every way I would have been totally out of my depth and it would have been a wretched three years on the whole. Coping with Aber and all that brought was bad enough.
It is all very well talking about outsiders going to Oxbridge but it really is no simple matter. It is not enough to simply tell the universties to be more open to diversity. A public schoolboy in this country today is a million miles away from the average kid in parts of South Wales or certain parts of the North of England and it is foolish to try and pretend that is not the case. It is not something we need to lose too much sleep over either. Us plebs do okay, thank you.
1. Ekseption 'Jesu, Joy' cantata from choral BWV 147
2. Herb Alpert 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring'
3. Wendy Carlos 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring'
4. Apollo 100 Joy
5. Jigsaw 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring'
6. Moody Blues The quiet of Christmas morning (Bach 147)
7. The Byrds She don't care about time
8. Margo Guryan Someone I Know
9. The Beach Boys Lady Lynda
10. Bob Dylan Sad eyed lady of the lowlands
We were in double figures last night to look at Leviticus 17. Leviticus 17 is all about blood and it is easy to forget what a central theme this is in Scripture and what a central place it ought to have in the thinking of Christian people. It was good to be reminded. We spent a good time in prayer too. At the beginning we sang the Lewis Hartsough hymn
I hear Thy welcome voice
That calls me, Lord, to Thee,
For cleansing in Thy precious blood
That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord, Coming now to Thee! Wash me, cleanse me in the blood That flowed on Calvary.
Though coming weak and vile,
Thou dost my strength assure;
Thou dost my vileness fully cleanse,
Till spotless all, and pure.
’Tis Jesus calls me on
To perfect faith and love,
To perfect hope and peace and trust,
For earth and heav’n above.
’Tis Jesus who confirms
The blessed work within,
By adding grace to welcomed grace,
Where reigned the pow’r of sin.
And He the witness gives
To loyal hearts and free
That every promise is fulfilled,
If faith but brings the plea
All hail, atoning blood!
All hail, redeeming grace!
All hail, the gift of Christ our Lord,
Our Strength and Righteousness.
I left the place thinking of that hymn Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
|Bob Dylan with Neil Young|
1. Ballrooms of Mars T Rex
the monsters call out The names of men Bob Dylan knows And I bet Alan Freed did There are things in night That are better not to behold
2. Mystic Lady T Rex Oh bobby you're a hobby With the learned ones Like a setting sun
3. Telegram Sam T rex
Bobby's alright Bobby's alright He's a natural born poet He's just outta sight
(Some say Bolan is from BOb dyLAN)
4. Fizzy Jesus and Mary Chain
Elvis lives and Bob Dylan is dead And OJ's wife's crawling back from the dead
5. Chinese Bakery The Auteurs
just somebodys past Don't blink, pinch me twice Just seen Bob Dylan on a motorbike I don't think this relationship will last
6. Flags of freedom Neil Young
Sister has her headphones on She hears the music blasting She sees her brother marchin' by Their bond is everlasting Listening to Bob Dylan singin' in 1963 Watching the flags of freedom flyin'
7. God Plastic Ono Band
I don't believe in Zimmerman I don't believe in Beatles I just believe in me Yoko and me And that's reality
8. Song for a small circle of friends Larry Norman
Dear Bobby watch your fears all hide And disappear while love inside starts growing You're older but less colder Than the jokes and folks you spent your childhood snowing
9. A Simple Desultory Phillipic Simon & Garfunkel
I knew a man, his brain so small He couldn't think of nothing at all He's not the same as you and me He doesn't dig poetry. He's so unhip that When you say Dylan, he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas Whoever he was The man ain't got no culture But it's alright, ma Everybody must get stoned
10. Folk City Jan &Dean
I'm gonna sing all the words like Bob Dylan does 'bout where it's at and where it was
|Marc Bolan with The Ramones 1976|
The television man is crazy Saying we're juvenile delinquent wrecks Man I need a TV when I've got T. Rex Hey brother you guessed I'm a dude
2. The Who/You better you bet
I love to hear you say my name especially when you say yes I got your body right now on my mind and I drunk myself blind to the sound of old T.Rex To the sound of old T.Rex - who's next?
3. The Ramones/Rock'n'roll radio
Will you remember Jerry Lee, John Lennon, T. Rex and Ol' Moulty? It's the end, the end of the 70's It's the end, the end of the century
She locked the door behind me she lit a candle Then blew it out said the moon would do just fine The lizard king and T. Rex for wall paper Above her bed hung a No-Parking sign
5. Zodiac Mindwarp/Prime Mover
Yeah yeah yeah yeah Well I love TV and I love T. Rex I can see through your skirt I've got x-ray spex
6. R.E.M./The Wake Up Bomb
Practice my T. Rex moves and make the scene get drunk and sing along to Queen
7. B A Robertson/Kool in the Kaftan
Do yourself a favour Don't you savour All that hippy thing find what's next Hey man don't you stop and pray man Go out and buy T Rex
Floating Hear a name From which planet Do you beckon I don't reckon It could be too far from here I'll bet you look like Marc Bolan's girlfriend
9. Kate Bush/Blow away (For Bill)
Put out the light, then, put out the light Vibes in the sky invite you to dine Dust to dust Blow to blow Bolan and Moony are heading the show tonight
10. Devendra Benhart/The Beatles Yo sí oigo a (I have listened to) Donovan. Yo sí oigo a Marc Bolan. Yo sí oigo a Ben Chasny. A Six Organs me gusta a mí.
Over the summer I came across the novels of Cynan Jones. Because he was born near Aberaeron I thought he might have been in the Aber Waterstone's as a local author but when I returned to London I found his works there. There are five or six things altogether. I read the 2006 novella The long dry first adn tht is something quite special. The action all takes place on the same day, although there is a back story that extends back from that day. It is very well written. I then read Everything I found on the beach which, while being a good read, is not such an unusual piece. The first novel is about a couple on a farm, the second about a local man and a Polish immigrant but takes place in a more wide ranging landscape, still within Wales but at various locations. I should probably try The dig next (2014). His latest novel is Cove (2016).
Back in July last year, I bought a copy of Lyndal Roper's biography of the great Reformer. I really got into it early on but then put it down but I picked it up again more recently when we decided to do it at The Pastors' Academy Reading Group.
For various reasons numbers were down and only four of us gathered to discuss the book at our meeting yesterday. It's always good to talk over a book, however, and it was interesting to see what others thought. We agreed that it was a very readable and thorough book that gives a rounded picture of Luther - the good, the bad and the ugly. We were in agreement that no-one could really read this book and come away thinking Luther was some sort of plaster saint.
Be warned that some of the imagery, content and language in this book is outside the usual remit of evangelical publishing.
We were most dismayed at his advocacy of secret bigamy and some of his other advice on marriage and divorce and his manic insistence on the real presence, not to mention his magisterialism and his attitude to the Jews.
One thing we could not agree on is how well Dr Roper understands Luther.
Do get hold of the book if you want a very thorough treatment of the man that we're all talking about this month.
We will meet again in the new year, God willing and look at a book from the past. The exact tome is to be decided.
It was good to be back in Childs Hill again yesterday. We had a bumper turn out in the morning and the usual small crowd in the evening. It was good to see so many there in the morning, though there were afew missing fo known and unknown reasons. There were extras in the morning as my son and his wife were there plus two visitors - a Czech man who liked the words over our door (Jesus lives) and a Nigerian lady. I preached from Acts again - on Philip and the Ethiopian. I have often preached it for a baptismal service but for the first time as part of a series. I did the last bt on Martin Luther for the kids (his death). In the evening we had communion and then I preached on the feeding of the five thousand from Matthew 14.
I know the idea of correct spelling and such like strikes some people as a rather pedantic. Perhaps it is but my fear is that inattention to such minutiae is symptomatic of a deeper malaise. Here is an example from my recent reading.
The Story of Everything by Jared C Wilson published by Crossway, page 13. Just over halfway down there is a reference to a "stunning climatic scene" in a film. A "stunning climactic scene" surely. See here.
More controversially I was surprised to see in Grace Alone Salvation as a gift of God by Carl Trueman published by Zondervan, page 128, that Luther strived for many years to gain assurance. I would have thought the strong form strove the obvious word to prefer there but I may just be out of sync there.
PS We have plenty of typos on this blog, which I try to correct but these are mistakes (or not mistakes in the case of the second example) not typos.
(I was going to include here Martin Luther Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper published by Bodley Head, page 346 . At the beginning of the section on Anabaptists comes a reference to "ideas of millenarian violence". I thought it should be millennarian (as in Millennialism) but apparently not.