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.

Warfield on the essentiality of the supernatural birth of Jesus

... I can only say that I have myself no doubt whatever of the fact of the supernatural birth of Jesus, as that fact is recorded in the opening chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I certainly make no question that additional evidence of tremendous weight is brought to this fact by its place in the system of Christianity, com- mended as this system as a whole is by the entire body of proof which we call the " Christian evidences." But I do not believe that it needs this additional evidence for its establishment. And I prefer my readers to understand that I proceed to the consideration of its place in the Christian system with it in my hands, not as a hypothesis of more or less probability (or improbability), but as a duly authenticated actual occurrence, recognized as such on its own direct evidence, and bringing as such its own quota of support to the Christian system of which it forms a part. ...
If, then, it cannot be denied that the supernatural birth of Jesus enters constitutively into the substance of that system which is taught in the New Testament as Christianity — that it is the expression of its supernaturalism, the safeguard of its doctrine of incarnation, the condition of its doctrine of redemption — are we to go on and say that no one can be saved who does not hold this faith whole and entire? The question is thoroughly impertinent. We are discussing, not the terms of salvation, but the essential con- tent of the Christian system; not what we must do to be saved, but what it behoved Jesus Christ to be and to do that he might save us. Say that faith is the instrument by which salvation is laid hold upon ; the instrument by which the prerequisites of the salvation laid hold of by faith are investigated is the intellect. As it is certain that the only Jesus, faith in whom can save, is the Jesus who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin Mary, according to the Scriptures, it is equally certain that the act of faith by which he is savingly apprehended involves these presuppositions, were its implicates soundly developed. But our logical capacity can scarcely be made the condition of our salvation. The Scriptures do not encourage us to believe that only the wise are called. They even graciously assure us that blasphemy itself against the Son may be forgiven. It would surely be unfortunate if weakness of intellect were more fatal than wickedness of heart. On the whole, we may congratulate our- selves that it was more imperative that Jesus, by whom the salvation has been wrought, should know what it behoved him to be and to do that he might save us, than it is that we should fully understand it. But, on the other hand, it will scarcely do to represent ignorance or error as advantageous to salvation. It certainly is worth while to put our trust in Jesus as intelligently as it may be given to us to do so. And it certainly will over and over again be verified in experience that he who casts himself upon Jesus as his divine Redeemer, will find the fact of the virgin birth of this Saviour not only consonant with his faith and an aid to it, but a postulate of it without which he would be puzzled and distressed.

A True Story

One of my deacons suggested a while ago that we might like to give out some tracts that Roger Carswell has done on Handel's Messiah (see here) outside a performance of the piece. We tracked down one such performance to the Royal Albert Hall last night (see here). Paul then said that it might be a good idea to go into the performance which the others all agreed to do. I decided against it for various reasons.
Anyway, while I was giving out tracts last night and this couple approached me and asked if I was going in, which I wasn't. They then offered me a ticket. They had hoped their grown up children would join them but it hadn't worked out and so they had two tickets spare. I was reluctant at first, of course, but they were keen and so I went for it.
It was an excellent seat and I really enjoyed the performance. That's the third time I've seen it and I have two or three parts that I regularly listen to so I was able to really enjoy it.
I chatted, of course, to the lady who had been so kind to me. During the interval we formally introduced ourselves. Her husband turned out to be a Tory Peer and a household name in the Thatcher/Major era. He was sat next to an even better known Tory Peer of the same vintage. I almost feel obliged to vote Tory next time round. We'll see. (My attitude to Mrs Thatcher is the same as my attitude to Marmite. Not a huge fan or hugely anti-).
So there's an interesting story for me to tell. I take it as yet another little reminder from God of his caring providence that is over my life at all times. As my hands Got colder giving out the tracts and I again stressed that I was not a tout I remember briefly thinking "why am I bothering?" and immediately reminding myself that God is no man's debtor. I had not expected such an immediate and obvious reassurance. If Lord and Lady D should happen to see this - thanks again.

Pastors and Persecutors

The third article on 1 Thessalonians is now in the Evangelical Magazine. It is more or less as follows,
It all happened in just three weeks. Paul came to Thessalonica, preached, many were converted, persecution hit, Paul had to depart. Acts 17 and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-3:5 tell the story. Maybe you know little of persecution personally but you do not go far in the Bible without reading about it.
1 Thessalonians 2:14, 15 speaks of the Thessalonians becoming imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus. The Jews in Judea persecuted the earliest Christians. The same thing happened to the Thessalonians. Later (3:3b, 4) Paul says they know quite well that we were destined for this. He had warned them to expect it.
This is how it has always been. The Jews persecuted their prophets, the Judean churches, Jesus and the apostles. We believe the same things so we can expect persecution too. John 15:20, If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. Paul told the Thessalonians - if you become Christians, expect persecution. And it turned out that way!
To this day believers experience it.
June 2013, Uzbekistan. A Christian is violently assaulted by a police chief. When he lodges a complaint, he is himself charged. He is stopped by the police chief, taken to a police station and a portable data drive containing Christian materials is confiscated. The officer beats him with a book, punches and kicks him. He is taken home and other Christian resources and his laptop are seized.
Is my lack of persecution today due to failing to live as I should? Not to be persecuted, is abnormal.
In 2:15, 16 Paul turns to the persecutors and says
  • They displease God and are hostile to all men as they try to stop them hearing the gospel. They displease God who hates such persecution and as for men, they are hostile to all. Persecutors in one way or another oppose God and man, keeping people from hearing the message and being saved. Some are driven away by fear of persecution. Others see the truth and believe, regardless.
  • In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. They will be judged for their sins and even now God's wrath is coming on them. Sin is like liquid filling a cup, drop by drop. Eventually it fills and God's wrath is unleashed. Paul is thinking of the Jews and the evidence already seen of God's wrath. We should be glad that one day all persecution will end.
2:17, 18 Paul says when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you - certainly I, Paul, did, again and again - but Satan stopped us. Knowing the Thessalonians were being persecuted Paul's sympathies went out to them. He had to move to Berea but did all he could to see them again. He longed to come to them but was stopped by Satan – no detail is given but Satan always wants to separate Christians. A good question is whether our hearts go out to the persecuted. That should be our response.
July 2013, Turkmenistan. Police raid a children’s summer camp. With medical personnel they swoop on the event, organised by a church on its own premises. They question the children, make parents collect them and take extensive video footage of children and the meeting place. The Christians are fined for holding an unregistered religious meeting and not complying with sanitary norms, charges they strongly reject.
Our hearts should go out to them.
Pastor and flock
  • How pastors should regard their flocks, flocks their pastors. 19, 20a what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. The relationship between pastor and flock should be such that the pastor sees the people as his hope, joy and future glory and the people recognise it. The pastor hopes the best for them; for them to truly believe and live to God's praise is his joy. When Jesus returns the Thessalonians will be Paul's crown. He will glory in Christ's presence over them. As it was with Paul and the Thessalonians so it should be today. Perhaps pastors fail to make this clear or maybe people are slow to believe it.
  • Sometimes pastor and flock are parted. Paul describes how he went alone to Athens (3:1). Imagine him – separated from his hope and glory. That is never easy for a pastor but it happens. Joseph Alleine, imprisoned in 1663, greatly missed his flock and wrote many letters. He says “Very pleasant have you been unto me, and your love to me is wonderful; and as I have formerly taken great content in that my lot was cast among you, so I rejoice in my present lot, that I am called to prove my love to you by suffering for you; for you, I say; for you know I have not sought yours, but you; and that, for doing my duty to your souls, I am here in these bonds, which I cheerfully accept through the grace of GOD that strengtheneth me. O that your hands might be strengthened, and your hearts encouraged in the LORD your GOD by our sufferings!” For pastor and flock to be separated is bad. The shepherd is struck, the sheep scatter. Yet sometimes it happens. If it does not, be thankful.
A pastor's fears
3:2, 3a, 5 Paul confesses his fear that in some way the tempter might have tempted them and his efforts have proved useless. It was not sinful fear as he did something about it, sending Timothy to them, his brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel. Paul wanted Timothy to strengthen and encourage their faith, so that their trials would not unsettle them. Good pastors do what they can to see strengthen and encourage the flock as best they can. Unable to stand it any longer Paul sent to find out about their faith. He wanted information; any true pastor would, anyone with genuine concern.
Finally, Paul explains how Timothy returned with good news of their faith and love and their pleasant memories of and longings to see him (as Paul longed for them). How encouraging! Their progress and devotion meant a lot, as with any pastor. Growth in faith and love is vital despite persecution, which should drive pastor and people together. Even if there is none, they should be united.

Mr Turner at last

One of the nice things about living in London is that even when you've pretty much missed a film there is still a chance of seeing it (as a price). Mike Leigh's Mr Turner came out at the end of October. I was aware of it and eager to see it from the time of its nomination and victory in Cannes back in May but just had not been able. Anyway, I had to be in town yesterday and discovered it was still on in Covent Garden and so I went.
I must be honest I was rather disappointed. The film is well acted, beautifully filmed and does give an idea of Turner's life. Timothy Spall is very good as a sort of 19th century Russell Brand figure minus the charisma. However, it deals only with the last 25 years of his 76 years with mere nods to what went on before and is rather impressionistic. It also comes over rather sordidly and I'm not sure on what evidence. Now I know that to complain of its impressionism is ironic given that it is this sort of approach that Turner so often takes in his paintings. However, I would have preferred a film with a definite storyline and some obvious drama and character development. I think may be the problem was that the film assumed you already knew the story, which I must confess I don't. That Peter Ackroyd biography has been sat on my shelf for some time now unread.
His housekeeper Hannah Danby is shown to be suffering from psoriasis but what that has to do with Turner is not clear. In my ignorance I was not entirely clear which John Ruskin was which.
Another problem with the film is presenting the paintings, especially when they want to show Turner in action. That failed miserably for me.
So okay but not quite the amazing film everyone seemed to be saying it was.

HMDUK 9 What is the difference between beer and ale?

What is the difference between beer and ale? Today, virtually none. Lager beer is never called ale, nor are stout and porter, which technically are black beers, but other ise the term beer is taken to include ale. Only at one period, the fifteenth century, was the distinction clear cut. The English in England before the Norman Conquest drank both ale and beer, but what the difference was is not known. During the fourteenth century the terms appear to have meant strong and weak beer, as better beer cost four pence a gallon, penny ale only one penny. Meanwhile, German brewers were beginning to use hops in the making of beer, and it is though that English soldiers fighting on the Continent during the hundred years' War brought home the taste for this new liquor, for which apparently the name imported into England before 1400, and the ensuing century saw beer breweries of which latter at least seven were established in London by 1436. The struggle came to a climax or was ended, in 1483, when the use of hops in the making of ale was prohibited.

Midweek Meeting December 17 2014

We had a good turn out last night with two or three extras present. We sang Angels from the realms then thought about the many characters mentioned in the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke and what we may learn from them, my main point being that the seemingly important people (Augustus, Herod) play a small role compared with people like Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna. A good prayer time followed. I should have let it run a little longer.

HMDUK 8 What is the origin of mind your P's and Q's?

What is the origin of mind your P's and Q's? Various theories have been put forward. Some say that it was a warning to printers apprentices when sorting type, the letters p and q being almost identical in form, others that it was used in inns, the amount owing being chalked on a board in order that customers should not order more than they could pay for when settling day arrived.

From the mouth of God by Sinclair Ferguson

Sinclair Ferguson's latest book is well worth reading whatever level you might be at. Its 11 chapters in four parts deal with many matters relating to the Bible - its authenticity,  its origins, its inerrancy,  hermeneutics, application, etc. it is an excellent help to trusting, reading, and applying the Bible. There are useful appendices by John Murray and John Owen. It also contains a bibliography and a Bible Reading Plan.

HMDUK 7 Where is Spring cleaning compulsory?

Where is spring cleaning compulsory? In Hungary, where in 1937 it was made compulsory for all lofts, garrets and cellars to be spring cleaned, inflammable material removed, and cloth and paper stored in fireproof receptacles. The fine for non-compliance with the order was 30 pounds in towns and 10 pounds in county districts.

Lord's Day December 14 2014

It's the Christmas season here in Childs Hill and so in the morning we looked in the morning at eight reasons why we can say Jesus came in the fullness of time and in the evening at the prophecy at the very end of the Old Testament, in Haggai 4, that the sun of righteousness would rise with healing in its wings. We had tea together before the evening service and that was very well attended, which was nice. Some of us also nipped over to the flat of one of our more elderly members to get his flat ready foir new carpets the next day.

Five interesting facts

1. The Sun makes up 99% of the solar system mass See here
2. The Sun is large enough that approximately 1.3 million Earths could fit inside (squashed in)
See here
3. In most species of bird, it is the male who sings not the female See here
4. The bones of a pigeon weigh less than its feathers See here
5. Sound travels much faster through steel than it does air (sound travels at 5100 m/s through steel, 1480 m/s through water and 330 m/s through air) See here

Loos and pews

Huw Edwards the Welsh newsreader has been writing about toilets in churches and how important they are. We have had one here for the minister since way back when and about thirty years ago we added a public one. I am amazed at how busy it is during the service and the lack of awareness of some that it is not sound proofed. We have to take special steps to prevent people coming in off the street and using it. Read more of what Mr Edwards has to say here. He has recently written a book on London's Welsh Chapels. We have a signed copy and I have checked it for references to Dr Lloyd-Jones (there are a few) but must give it more attention some time.

10 Famous Ambulance Drivers of WW1

Walt Disney (notice the cartoon he has drawn on his ambulance)
1. E E Cummings (writer) - volunteer Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps
2. Jerome K Jerome (writer) - French Army ambulance driver
3. W Somerset Maugham (writer) - volunteer British Red Cross ambulance corps
4. Maurice Ravel (composer) - volunteer ambulance driver or truck driver
5. Ralph Vaughan Williams (composer) - Royal Army Medical Corps
6. Jean Cocteau (dramatist and filmmaker )
7. Stafford Cripps (politician)
8. Walt Disney (Animator and film producer) - volunteer American Red Cross, but served after the armistice ending WWI was signed.
9. Ernest Hemingway (writer)  - volunteer American Field Service
10. John Masefield (writer) - served as hospital orderly in British hospital for French soldiers in France

HMDUK 6 How did surnames begin?

How did surnames begin? Hereditary surnames were unknown among the Anglo-Saxons. It was not until the twelfth century that these came into use, and not universally even then. Many of them were formed by adding son to the father's Christian name, such as Johnson, Ferguson, and so on. Others sprang from localities as Attwood, Byfield, Green, Abbey, Townsend, who were domiciled respectively at or by the wood, field, green, abbey and town's end. More important people took the name of the village or township in which they lived, for example John of Derby would later be plain John Derby. A very large class ofsurnamess recall the occupations of their original owners, as Smith, Miller, Baker, Tanner, Fuller, Mason, Dyer, Abbott; while a vast number arose from nicknames and epithets (not always complimentary) given to their original bearers on account of their personal appearance or characteristics. A few taken at random are Hogge, Fox, Short, Swift, Longman, Rich isself explanatory; but not to Power; which means the exact opposite and was originally poor. Not all English surnames are English in origin. Russell for example is Anglo French and means red haired.

10 Mediterranean Islands

1 Sicily (Italy) 25,460 5,010,000 Palermo
2 Sardinia  (Italy) 24,090 1,656,000 Cagliari
3 Cyprus  (Cyprus, Turkey, UK) 9,251 1088503 Nicosia
4 Corsica  (France) 8,681 322,000 Ajaccio
5 Crete  (Greece) 8,312 624,000 Heraklion
6 Majorca  (Spain) 3,640 846,000 Palma
7 Rhodes  (Greece) 1,398 117,000 Rhodes
8 Corfu  (Greece) 592 108,000 Corfu
9 Ibiza  (Spain) 577 111,000 Ibiza Town
10 Malta  (Malta) 246 409,259 Valletta
There are well over 150 islands all told. Other well known examples include Lesbos, Chios, Minorca and Elba.