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.

Alcohol problems

My attention was drawn to an article here highlighting the deleterious impact drunkenness is having on our society. The article begins

For the first time, researchers have calculated the number of deaths from conditions such as cancers, accidents and heart disease which are related to drinking but not wholly caused by alcohol.
It means previous official figures, which put the number of deaths caused by alcohol at 8,386 in a year, vastly underestimate the full impact of drinking on health.
The new statistics show that 15,000 people died as a result of their drinking in 2005 accounting for three per cent of all deaths in that year.
It is 80 per cent higher than had been thought.
I had not realised there was such a strong link between alcohol and cancer.

Getting back to it




So this week has been mainly getting back into things. Some of the congregation are still away but some are back and some never left town. The main task has been working on my messages for Wednesday and Sunday, trying to get the notices and newsletter written and thinking about how things are going to shape up over the next few months. We were a very small number at the Midweek Meeting. I've put the message here.

Some things have been different though. Rhodri is in the midst of moving out so I've been helping there a little. On Tuesday evening Eleri and I celebrated our anniversary with a meal out at Pizza Express in Golders Green then watched a DVD, Sandra Bullock in Premonition - not a film I might have seen normally. Billed as a thriller it was in fact an interesting exploration of predestination and free will. Mildly Calvinistic in its theology it sought to deal with the problem by urging kindliness and love - there are worse messages out there! (A review I found says "No, this is not a great movie, but it is a well-produced little mystery that asks the audience to engage both mind and imagination, and that is a good thing!"). See trailer here.

I spent most of Wednesday in the Evangelical Library sitting in with a regular volunteer in the Librarian's absence. It was a very quiet day - only 4 or 5 in - and Miss H did most of what work needed to be done. I concentrated on reading (I'm still busy with Machen reading for next week's lectures I'm attending) and then had a little explore. I wanted something on the session of Christ. I found something by the 19th Century Presbyterian W S Plumer but not much (see here). There doesn't seem to be much on it about. I also noticed that the works of Schaeffer associate Hans Rookmaaker are now available in six fat volumes (have been since 2002 - I've been asleep!). They retail at £100 but you can get them on CD-rom for £24. I borrowed one volume to have a little look. I started with the interviews. There is one there with the interestingly named Marc De Klein (say it quickly and it may make you smile!). Being at the Library in that way was a good exercise for me as Chairman of the EL Board. One thing that impressed me was just how diverse our membership is (ethnically and otherwise). I'd not really realised that.

On Thursday the rest of the family were out most of the day visiting friends so I grabbed the chance to pop up to Kenwood House - something I'd wanted to do last week but hadn't got the chance to. It's only a short bus ride away. There were remarkably few people there (I'm sure I spotted a disproportionately high number of pregnant women). I spent a while in the gardens and especially in the house where they have quite an outstanding collection of (mostly 18th Century) stuff - Gainsborough, Reynolds, etc. I spotted a Richard Wilson I'd not seen before (the interest there is a Welshman painting a London scene). I had another long look at the Vermeer. The guitar player is not my favourite of his 36 extant paintings but it's growing on me. The Joseph Wright of Derby piece (Dressing the kitten) was out on loan as ever. Shame. They had two there by Guardi - not a name I knew. A Venetian, he is similar in style to the older Canaletto. Anyway, good fun in lovely weather. Every time I go there I resolve to go more often. Hope I do this time.

Harold Abrahams



This blue plaque has been up in the next but one street to me since May 2007 I discover. (A friend tipped me off about it). Abrahams, known to most of us through the film Chariots of fire, lived there as a single man from around 1923-1930 and then intermittently 1930-1936. More here. Also check out here for blue plaques. There I discover that other ones near me include David Bomberg and Amy Johnson.

Summer Reading 02


Early in the summer I read a nice hardback version of Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Voyage to war (A Story of Courage, Community, and War musbe the American subtitle). A couple of years old now I got it at a discount.
A popularly written but well researched book the interest for me is obvious, I guess. I'd not really realised that although it begins with the Mayflower journey it goes on up until King Philip's War. it mostly held my interest all the way.
There is not mush of a directly Christian nature here - that is not Philbrick's interest. There is no real anti-Christian rhetoric either. That isnot to say the book lacks bias. What it does do well is to sketch out the original make up of New England and the USA so explaining much of the country's current psyche.
A genuinely good and informative read.

Best ofs 03

Having highlighted Don McLean there is a logical step to Buddy Holly. Holly died the year I was born but his music is still very popular. I keep promising myself a trip to the musical some time. Of the greats from that era he's my number one. The nerdiest looking of them, what I love about him is the simplicity of the numbers, his great voice and the nice tunes. Some of the ballads with orchestra work as well as the earlier rock numbers I feel. Of course, his early death and obviously under-explored talent adds to the whole thing. That tag "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll" is intriguing.
The CD I have is one of the many compilations, a 20 track thing called The best of Buddy Holly. On my itunes I have transmuted it into the alternative 36 track The very best of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. (I notice that there are still 13 tracks form that album that I don't have). I also have the instrumental Holly hop there. I notice there is an Ultimate Collection on itunes but it doesn't include that last track. Even the simplest things are complicated. More on Holly here.
And my top seven? (Crying, waiting hoping and Love is strange not considered as they are not on this CD)

1. Rave on
2. Listen to me
3. Every day
4. Not fade away
5. Peggy Sue
6. Oh boy
7. It's so easy

New Photo Series 07

Food Face

It was 20 years ago today

It was twenty years ago today,
That's me and ’Leri’s wedding day.
We've been together for quite a while
But we hope this song can raise a smile.
So may I introduce to you
The act you've known for all these years,
Gary, ’Leri and a wedding band!
Gary Brady’s lonely heart’s been banned!

I thought you would be pleased to know,
Gary Brady’s lonely heart’s been banned!
That Gary Brady’s lonely heart’s been banned!
Sit back and see my feelings flow.
Gary Brady’s lonely, Gary Brady’s lonely,
Gary Brady’s lonely heart’s been banned!

It's wonderful to be wed,
It's certainly a thrill.
She’s such a lovely woman,
That’s why I took her home with me,
I love it that she's mine.

I don't really want to stop the show,
But I thought you might like to know,
That the kids are gonna sing a song,
And they want you all to sing along.
So let me introduce to you
Rhodz, Dylan, Dewi, Gweez and Oze
With “Gary Brady’s Lonely Heart’s been banned!”

Mencken on Machen

I have been looking at J Gresham Machen in connection with some lectures I intend to be at next week. People often refer to H L Mencken's obituary. Originally published in The Baltimore Evening Sun (January 18, 1937), 2nd Section, p 15, it can be found here.

H. L. MENCKEN'S OBITUARY OF MACHEN
"Dr. Fundamentalis"

The Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D. D., who died out in North Dakota on New Year's Day, got, on the whole, a bad press while he lived, and even his obituaries did much less than justice to him. To newspaper reporters, as to other antinomians, a combat between Christians over a matter of dogma is essentially a comic affair, and in consequence Dr. Machen's heroic struggles to save Calvinism in the Republic were usually depicted in ribald, or, at all events, in somewhat skeptical terms. The generality of readers, I suppose, gathered thereby the notion that he was simply another Fundamentalist on the order of William Jennings Bryan and the simian faithful of Appalachia. But he was actually a man of great learning, and, what is more, of sharp intelligence.

What caused him to quit the Princeton Theological Seminary and found a seminary of his own was his complete inability, as a theologian, to square the disingenuous evasions of Modernism with the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. He saw clearly that the only effects that could follow diluting and polluting Christianity in the Modernist manner would be its complete abandonment and ruin. Either it was true or it was not true. If, as he believed, it was true, then there could be no compromise with persons who sought to whittle away its essential postulates, however respectable their motives.

Thus he fell out with the reformers who have been trying, in late years, to convert the Presbyterian Church into a kind of literary and social club, devoted vaguely to good works. Most of the other Protestant churches have gone the same way, but Dr. Machen's attention, as a Presbyterian, was naturally concentrated upon his own connection. His one and only purpose was to hold it [the Church] resolutely to what he conceived to be the true faith. When that enterprise met with opposition he fought vigorously, and though he lost in the end and was forced out of Princeton it must be manifest that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the honors of war.

II

My interest in Dr. Machen while he lived, though it was large, was not personal, for I never had the honor of meeting him. Moreover, the doctrine that he preached seemed to me, and still seems to me, to be excessively dubious. I stand much more chance of being converted to spiritualism, to Christian Science or even to the New Deal than to Calvinism, which occupies a place, in my cabinet of private horrors, but little removed from that of cannibalism. But Dr. Machen had the same clear right to believe in it that I have to disbelieve in it, and though I could not yield to his reasoning I could at least admire, and did greatly admire, his remarkable clarity and cogency as an apologist, allowing him his primary assumptions.

These assumptions were also made, at least in theory, by his opponents, and thereby he had them by the ear. Claiming to be Christians as he was, and of the Calvinish persuasion, they endeavored fatuously to get rid of all the inescapable implications of their position. On the one hand they sought to retain membership in the fellowship of the faithful, but on the other hand they presumed to repeal and reenact with amendments the body of doctrine on which that fellowship rested. In particular, they essayed to overhaul the scriptural authority which lay at the bottom of the whole matter, retaining what coincided with their private notions and rejecting whatever upset them.

Upon this contumacy Dr. Machen fell with loud shouts of alarm. He denied absolutely that anyone had a right to revise and sophisticate Holy Writ. Either it was the Word of God or it was not the Word of God, and if it was, then it was equally authoritative in all its details, and had to be accepted or rejected as a whole. Anyone was free to reject it, but no one was free to mutilate it or to read things into it that were not there. Thus the issue with the Modernists was clearly joined, and Dr. Machen argued them quite out of court, and sent them scurrying back to their literary and sociological Kaffeeklatsche. His operations, to be sure, did not prove that Holy Writ was infallible either as history or as theology, but they at least disposed of those who proposed to read it as they might read a newspaper, believing what they chose and rejecting what they chose.

III

In his own position there was never the least shadow of inconsistency. When the Prohibition imbecility fell upon the country, and a multitude of theological quacks, including not a few eminent Presbyterians, sought to read support for it into the New Testament, he attacked them with great vigor, and routed them easily. He not only proved that there was nothing in the teachings of Jesus to support so monstrous a folly; he proved abundantly that the known teachings of Jesus were unalterably against it. And having set forth that proof, he refused, as a convinced and honest Christian, to have anything to do with the dry jehad.

This rebellion against a craze that now seems so incredible and so far away was not the chief cause of his break with his ecclesiastical superiors, but it was probably responsible for a large part of their extraordinary dudgeon against him. The Presbyterian Church, like the other evangelical churches, was taken for a dizzy ride by Prohibition. Led into the heresy by fanatics of low mental visibility, it presently found itself cheek by jowl with all sorts of criminals, and fast losing the respect of sensible people. Its bigwigs thus became extremely jumpy on the subject, and resented bitterly every exposure of their lamentable folly.

The fantastic William Jennings Bryan, in his day the country's most distinguished Presbyterian layman, was against Dr. Machen on the issue of Prohibition but with him on the issue of Modernism. But Bryan's support, of course, was of little value or consolation to so intelligent a man. Bryan was a Fundamentalist of the Tennessee or barnyard school. His theological ideas were those of a somewhat backward child of 8, and his defense of Holy Writ at Dayton during the Scopes trial was so ignorant and stupid that it must have given Dr. Machen a great deal of pain. Dr. Machen himself was to Bryan as the Matterhorn is to a wart. His Biblical studies had been wide and deep, and he was familiar with the almost interminable literature of the subject. Moreover, he was an adept theologian, and had a wealth of professional knowledge to support his ideas. Bryan could only bawl.

IV

It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony. It is, on the contrary, a corpus of powerful and profound convictions, many of them not open to logical analysis. Its inherent improbabilities are not sources of weakness to it, but of strength. It is potent in a man in proportion as he is willing to reject all overt evidences, and accept its fundamental postulates, however unprovable they may be by secular means, as massive and incontrovertible facts.

These postulates, at least in the Western world, have been challenged in recent years on many grounds, and in consequence there has been a considerable decline in religious belief. There was a time, two or three centuries ago, when the overwhelming majority of educated men were believers, but that is apparently true no longer. Indeed, it is my impression that at least two-thirds of them are now frank skeptics. But it is one thing to reject religion altogether, and quite another thing to try to save it by pumping out of it all its essential substance, leaving it in the equivocal position of a sort of pseudo-science, comparable to graphology, "education," or osteopathy.

That, it seems to me, is what the Modernists have done, no doubt with the best intentions in the world. They have tried to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty as [of] psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes. They may be good people and they may even be contented and happy, but they are no more religious than Dr. Einstein. Religion is something else again - in Henrik Ibsen's phrase, something far more deep-down-diving and mudupbringing, Dr. Machen tried to impress that obvious fact upon his fellow adherents of the Geneva Mohammed. He failed - but he was undoubtedly right.

The News


This is fun. Nice and positive.

Weekend Wales

We spent the weekend in Wales. We went first to Llanfyllin, where Eleri's sister and brother-in-law were staying in Glyn's sister's home. (In 1833 S Lewis wrote 'This place derives its name from the dedication of its church to St Myllin, or Mewn Llyn, concerning whom a tradition is extant that he was the first baptist ever known in Britain, and from being constantly in the water baptizing and inviting those who passed by to partake of that ceremony, was called by the natives St Mewn Llyn, or "the Saint in the Pool." This can't possibly be right!) It was nice to see them and Glyn's parents and their friend and her girls. A chapel in the village is the site of where Ann Griffiths, the Welsh hymn writer, was converted. I also noted that Charles I had stayed in Llanfyllin (en route to Chirk Castle). We played football and watched Last choir standing on TV - two Welsh choirs (one from the north, one from the south) in the final I see (typically the Cardiff contingent among us knew at least one fellow in the southern one).

On the Sunday we headed to Penrhyndeudraeth, where I was to preach in Capel Fron. We went via the infamous Llyn Celyn off the Tryweryn river. I was able to preach with some freedom from Ezekiel 37 and Psalm 94. We had a lovely time with Mike Perrin and his wife Elaine and a friend of theirs who very kindly gave us a load of lovely blueberries, which we are enjoying. We enjoyed walking and talking and fishing newts out of their pond. (Interestingly the Welsh word for newt is madfall ddwr - water lizard. The Welsh like that sort of thing I think. Cf Twrch ddaear - earth boar [mole], dyfr gi - water dog [otter]). Mike's always interesting to talk to. A bit of a renaissance man, he's always into something. Most recently it has been kayaking and recorder playing. He had a nice anecdote about the 1986 funeral of Alfred Bestall (Rupert artist), a Christian it seems, whose funeral he took. Paul McCartney and Terry (Python) Jones were there among others with a lot of middle aged men dressed in red tops with yellow scarves!

The middle boys' paper rounds started again today so we had to head back. We got home around 1 am.

[Music from an ancient Welsh mss. By Yr Hwntws]

Best ofs 02

Also in the CD drawer of 'Best of' albums is a Don McLean album entitled American Pie - The Greatets Hits. It contains 20 tracks. I like nearly all of them. I was first aware of the tracks American Pie (which fascinated me) and Vincent (which fascinated me adn made me cry) through the radio. At school Graham Pearson (Rev Gary Davies and Leo Kottke fan) assured us all that McLean was the only decent player on the pop scene. I was also aware of McLean being held in high regard by others. The discovery that my mother's version of 'And I love you so' by Perry Como was written by McLean had an effect and whenever I went to someone else's house who was a little older they always had a copy of the original American Pie album, which in the end I bought. My top seven:
1. Empty chairs
2. Vincent
3. American Pie
4. Everyday
5. Crying
6. Fools Paradise
7. Castles in the air

Llongyfarchiadau!



In what has been a strange week in many ways we reached something of a peak on Thursday when my eldest son Rhodri and his girl friend, Sibyl, announced their engagement to be married next September. Yes, they are very young but it makes sense on many levels and we are trusting the Lord in this as we believe they are. Sibyl headed for Vietnam yesterday, where she will be teaching on a gap year for several months to come. She also hopes to visit other places and we hope that Rhodri will be able to join her at some point albeit briefly. Sibyl has started learning some Welsh. She should know llongyfarchiadau by now. Congratulations!

Carey Conference 09




The Carey Conference Brochure is now out. (Double click to enlarge).

London Holiday


Due to unforeseen circumstances we have been spending a few unexpected days in London. It's a nice place to holiday in. Apart from catching up with things and that sort of thing we have been out a little. On Tuesday, as mentioned, we went to see Wall-e.
On Wednesday some headed off to Camden Market. I went to see Burgh House and the Freud Museum in Hampstead. All very interesting. Burgh House houses the local free museum. Freud lived the last year of his life at 2o Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, where you can see the actual couch on which his victims lay. I remember reading about Freud in a book called Seven men who rule the world from the grave. The others were Darwin, Marx, Wellhausen, Kierkegaard, John Dewey and J M Keynes.
Yesterday four of us went by bus down to Battersea Park. We hired cycles of various sorts and some good fun. Sadly, I bust my camera though. That's a blow. Dylan spent the day with friends following his interim GCSE results plus completed GCSEs in Welsh (A*) and French (B). Well done Dylan! I should have mentioned before that Rhodri and Sibyl both did well at 'A' level and will be going to my alma mata Aberystwyth University, God willing, in 2009. More news on them to follow.
Thursday evening I watched a film with Eleri. "Because I said so" was not my cup of tea (it's a mother daughter film which is part of the reason). The cinematography was great, the cast okay, the plot poor, the dialogue average.
Today we ended up being in for most of the time but then later I took the three youngest to Finchley Lido Leisure Centre for a swim. That cost a small fortune tempered only by some vouchers Kelloggs are doing at present.

New Photo Series 06

Hoody Monster

Westminster Papers



The papers given at the 2007 Westminster conference are now available in printed form. A 131 page paperback the papers included are
The Clapham Sect and the Abolition of Slavery - Roger Fay; Charles Wesley and his Hymns - Graham Harrison; Preaching - “ex opere operato” - Robert Strivens; Turretin and the place of Systematic Theology - Maurice Roberts; Stephen Charnock and the Knowledge of God in Christ - Jeremy Walker; The Preaching of John Newton - John Harris.
The collected papers can be obtained from the secretary John Harris, 8 Back Knowl Rd, Mirfield, W Yorks WF14 9SA.

Darwin's unbelief


I have been reading a biography of Darwin recently. If there is any doubt in anyone's mind as to his spiritual standing, his autobiography makes clear that by the time h wrote his famous Origin of species he was full of unbelief. He stands as a warning to all who depart from the truth. I think this passage is particularly striking:

Thus disbelief crept over me at very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlasting punished.
And this is a damnable doctrine
For the whole section see here.

Best ofs 01


At least one drawer of my CD collection is filled with 'Best of' albums. These include 'The Kinks Ultimate Collection' a two CD assembly of 44 tracks. I grew up in the sixties. We only had 'All of the day and all of the night' at home but I would hear them on the radio. I also know some songs from covers. Sadly, 'The village green appreciation society' is not included. I'm familiar with about a dozen of them so it's more than I need. Some of them I'm getting to know. My top seven:
1. Tired of waiting for you
2. You really got me
3. Sunny afternoon
4. Dedicated follower of fashion
5. Apeman
6. Days
7. David Watts

Bloggy Special 31


Westminster Conference 2008

Details of the upcoming Westminster Conference can now be accessed here

Summer reading 01



Over the summer I have been reading a number of books including two about the resurgence of Calvinism in the latter half of the 20th Century and beyond. The first Catching the vision (EP) is subtitled 'Roots of the Reformed recovery', the second Young, restless, reformed (Crossway) is subtitled 'A journalists journey with the new Calvinists'. Both books deal with the same theme, though there are many differences and almost no real overlap (except the Banner of Truth). Let me list some

1. The first is journalistic and by an older man (John J Murray) the second more like straight history and by a young man (Collin Hansen)
2. Murray, a Scotsman, focusses on the UK; Hansen, an American, on the USA
3. The first is chiefly concerned with the period 1950-1981, the second with the nineties and beyond
4. Both have indices but there are few people in both. Calvin, Edwards, Hodge, C Henry, C S Lewis, Lloyd-Jones, Luther, Machen and Packer were the only ones I spotted - all dead but one
5. The first is about a rather narrower movement than the second
6. The books are talking about two different things - Murray is on pretty full-orbed (pietist) Reformed theology while Hansen is on five pointism
7. The very cover designs say a lot about the books' style
The first (staid and modernist in style) is dealing with Lloyd-Jones, Jim Packer, Iain Murray, John Murray, etc, and the Evangelical Library and EMW and BEC the second (more hip and post-modern) with John Piper, C J Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, etc, and student conferences and Calvinist rappers. Arguably the second wave would not have arrived without the first.
I was aware of practically every major individual mentioned in both books (having heard many of them preach in person) but for various reasons I guess I am more au fait with the characters in the first book.
A little bit of reflection is good for us and these two books do it well. I commend them to your perusal if you have not come across them yet.

Wall.e

At the insistence of our youngest we headed off yesterday, nectar cards in hand, to see the latest offering from Pixar, WALL•E. A very clever and well presented take on the familiar themes of robots and the end of the world as we know it, the film is chiefly a love story. Remarkably we are very far into the film before a word of real dialogue. Our three kids seemed to enjoy it but we were not over-impressed. Although the cineam was packed with kids I wouldn't think of it as a kids film. Perhaps we were not in the best of moods for various reasons. It certainly isn't a patch on the Toy Story films or The incredibles. There was barely a chuckle to be had and the social comment was not searing. Ah well.

GT Link


This video of an interview with my father-in-law has appeared recently on youtube. (Thanks for the name check pa!)

Aberystwyth Conference '08



[Outside Bethel; the crowds gather midweek]
It was the EMW conference last week and it was great privilege to be there. It is good to meet old friends and new. On the first weekend I had a chance to hear my father-in-law Geoff Thomas three times in Bethel. (Bethel is the Welsh Baptist church diagonally opposite used on that weekend because it is larger - the official EMW preachers are in a chapel further down the road). Geoff is doing a series on the Holy Spirit at present and so we were in John 20 (briefly) and mainly Acts 2.

On the Monday morning it is the tradition to have a straight lecture (with no singing) which I introduce. We took advantage this year of mentioning the book and there was an author signing over in the bookshop. It was gratifying to reach double figures sales wise. I think other copies were sold in the week and figures are going generally well. A sort of review (unfavourable) appeared in the English Churchman. Sadly the piece focusses only on one minor sentence in the book and is a mere excuse to run out a particular hobby horse or two.
The main speaker at Aber this year was Art Azurdia III (see here). Some of the Welshmen have enjoyed his book on preaching with power and he has spoken previously at the ministers conference in Bala. I have been a little sceptical myself having heard that he takes a "new covenant" position with regard to the law (this did not come out really in the four main messages but the young people pinned him down at a question and answer session). His eventual subject (after vetoing his own previous intention) was 'a clarion call to worldly Christianity' (see versions here). AA3 is an all American guy and so we forgave him his rapid, sometimes loud, occasionally schmaltzy delivery and his often word hand gestures. His eagerness to please and yet remain faithful was clear. The first message was a tour de force calling us (a la Gresham Machen et al) not to anorexic asceticism or worldly gluttony but to a third way, which he called worldly Christianity (a title we like, as you might guess). The other messages didn't quite live up to that. The second I thought particularly meagre in content. On the whole these were fine sermons.
I heard John Treharne from Caernarvon preach on Mephibosheth on the Monday night (simple, clear, wholesome) but missed (as I was babysitting) the contrasting Wednesday and Thursday nights of Anglican Rico Tice (doing a rerun of a sermon for believers following a seminar on personal evangelism) and Wyn Hughes, Vernon Higham's successor in Cardiff (using no notes).
I did get to hear the two outstanding messages from Stuart Olyott, however - the highlight of the conference for me. He looked at Psalm 14 (God in a Richard Dawkins age) and the True Vine of John 15. What a model of clear, self-effacing preaching.
There are a whole lot of other meetings that go on at Aber. Our younger kids enjoyed the children's meetings on Abraham. I myself had the privilege of leading a seminar attended by some 60 or so young people. On holiness I looked especially at mortification (a la John Owen) and fielded some really good questions from people present. This was one of around 20 seminars going on in the week.
At some point someone pointed a video camera at me and asked me to speak for two minutes on being in the image of God. I think that ended up being used somewhere.
Next year the main speaker is Joel Beeke. Alistair Begg was due to come but has been unwell.
Aber seems in fine fettle. Constant vigilance is necessary however if the opportunities are going to be grabbed with both hands.

Caerdydd




We've been staying with Eleri's sister in Cardiff for a few days. We came chiefly because the national eisteddfod is in Cardiff this year. Eleri and some of the boys went along on two days. She was helping on the stondin for the London Welsh School. I only went on the Thursday. We had glorious sunshine. It was quite enjoyable to walk around and see the different stalls and activities. I guess 90% of what you hear is in Welsh but you can't keep English out completely, at least on the maes. Part of the joy for Eleri and others is meeting old friends. You can't walk very far without meeting someone you know. I actually know a few myself such as parents with children at the Welsh School, relatives and old Aber connections. I enjoyed meeting again Gwyn Rhydderch (facebook here) and his wife (he's a national children's worker for the Presbyterians in Wales) whose reading my book on Proverbs, Dr Watcyn James (the Bible Society’s Welsh Development Officer), Meirion Morris (Presbyterian minister with the Presbyterians), Derrick Adams (minister of the Welsh church in Aber), Roger Thomas (an Aber based Welsh worker who works in fairs and shows round the country). I spotted but didn't get chance to talk to Hywel M Davies, Arfon Jones (who has this nice website for Welshies here) and Guto Harri (who I don't know at all but has a familiar face). I had a nice chat with Emmanuel Durand (A Welsh speaking Frenchman who I met originally through Alan Davey). On the Thursday evening Eleri, her sisters and mam went to a concert to celebrate Catin's recently turning 40. It was the C Ffactor concert featuring Cerys Matthews, Connie Fisher, Catrin Finch, Shân Cothi, Caryl Parry Jones and Cantorion. Very good apparently.

The day before I made a visit to the National Museum (I'd actually gone on the Monday but it was closed and so I just did some window shopping with Dewi. We particualrly liked Hawkins Bazaar). That was very nice. I looked at the current exhibition "Origins: in search of early Wales". It started badly with ridiculous dating and other horrors but got better, although my suspicious mind suggested a hidden agenda to sideline the gospel. After a nice coffee and bakestone I did the art gallery next. I really enjoyed that. They have works by Rubens, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Millet, one by Van Gogh (Rain - of course), Cezanne, Monet, one by Lowry, etc. I was interested in a painting by an artist I'd never heard of called Gerritsz Quiringh Van Brekelendam. A Duch interior, it looked a very innocent piece but the write up suggested the woman was a prostitute and the more you looked the more you could see that was so (I hadn't spotted the man's clothes hanging up by the bed for example!). It was a lesson in careful observation and (this blog's stock in trade I guess) discerning the heavenly and the worldly.

After lunch I met up with Rhodri and Sibyl who joined us from London by coach and then we all spent a sunny afternoon at the Bay, where national play day appeared to be taking place. The kids had great fun and so did we adults.

Tuesday was our only wet day and we spent half of it in Cwmbran seeing my sister and dad, etc. We played games and talked. I also took time in the week to read and chat and generally enjoy the time. Good stuff. Oh yeah, another joy was walking along the road in Cardiff that our road in London is named after and finding the house with our number. Little things .... Bigger fools ....

Reading in pyjamas



Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died this week aged 89. The Times obituary is here. Solzhenitsyn was a complex and enigmatic man. He encouraged us Christians by criticising both east and west and having a place in his thinking for God. I like that bit in his Ivan Denisovich


The Baptist was reading his Bible, not altogether silently, but sort of sighing out the words. This was meant perhaps for Shukhov. (A bit like political agitators, these Baptists. Loved spreading the word.)
"But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God
."
Alyoshka was a champion at one thing: wiggling that little book of his into a crack in the wall so neatly that it had never been found by searching warders.


It brings out the power of the Word in all ages. In another bit from the Times by D M Thomas here we read that


In 1961, the liberal-minded communist editor, Aleksandr Tvardovsky, lay in bed reading a manuscript that an assistant had foisted on him (Ivan Denisovic). After one page, Tvardovsky got out of bed, dressed and went to his study. He said later he knew at once that it was a great work, and would not dishonour the author by reading it in his pyjamas.


That reminded me of how Bunyan had a conscience once over finding himself eating an apple while reading the Word. The point can be overstated but the importance of reverence when we read the Word is worth pondering.
More on Ivan Denisovic here. It has twice been made into a film. They'll show them on TV soon I'm sure.

Weekend West

On Friday we packed the car and headed west. Our first port of call was Trowbridge where Eleri's sister Catrin lives. This was a brief overnight stay to say hello and catch up on news. Ian was playing cricket for the Bradford 39ers against a pub team. (The high standard is clear from this clip). I know next to nothing about cricket and we didn't hang around too long I'm afraid. The next day we moved in to Cardiff where we met up with our three eldest boys returning from their CCIW camps, which seem to have gone well. We stayed overnight with Eleri's other sister Fflur and the children (Glyn's away on an EMW camp in Quinta).
On the Sunday we all attended Emmanuel Baptist, the FIEC church Fflur and Glyn belong to. They meet in a 1960s building on the Gabalfa housing estate. There were several away including the pastor John Woolley. The preacher was John Legg, a retired minister and a member of the church (an elder I presume). He preached from Galatians morning and evening (2:16 and 5:5, 6) on justification by faith and Faith, hope and love. I don't think I'd heard him preach before. He lectures on Romans at WEST and has written six books for EP. In the afternoon we popped over to Eleri's cousins (he lives in Cardiff but they attend the Welsh speaking church [take a virtual tour here]) where they were nearly all gathered including her youngest cousin who is married to an American serviceman. He was making a flying visit from Las Vegas where they are based.
Anyway more later.