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.

10 Revolution tracks

1. Revolution Beatles (also Revolution 1 and 9)
2. Revolution Bob Marley
3. Revolution Nina Simone
4. Revolution, Revolutions Jean Michel Jarre
5. Talkin' 'bout a Revolution Tracy Chapman
6. Children of the Revolution T Rex
7. Revolutionary Etude Chopin
8. The Rebel Jesus Jackson Browne
9. Changes David Bowie
10. Change Tracy Chapman

September Revolution



It was a busy weekend. I was speaking to the children and then the young people on Friday night on Lot and his bad choice. A bit low on numbers with the younger ones but a decent number of older ones. We played the yes, no game and just a minute after. Good fun.
On Saturday morning we gave out tracts in Golders Green. Little response there but naive to meet Elias, an Angolan pastor based at a Pentecostal church in Hammersmith.
In the evening we had a 15+ meeting for the older ones at our house. About 12 came. I chose September Revolution as the theme. I found some revolution music and did a revolution quiz. Why September Revolution? September obviously because it's still September. As for revolution -

The word is from Latin and means to turn around. A revolution can refer to the act of revolving, rotating, turning round on an axis or a centre as with a wheel or top or earth on its axis. When a car engine turns over that is called a revolution, a rev for short. When I was a boy vinyl records were more popular than today. The big ones (LPs) were 33 1/3 rpm and the small ones (singles) 45 rpm. Rpm = “revolutions per minute”. Today's CDs have a variable rpm (200-500 rpm).
We're much more familiar with the word in reference to a fundamental change in power or organisational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Revolutions of various sorts have occurred throughout human history. Scholars debate what is and isn't a revolution but among the most famous are the various French, American and Russian (leading to communism). Less obvious - Glorious Revolution, 1688 when one king (James II) was deposed and a new king and queen brought in from overseas (William and Mary of Orange). The word is also used for social or intellectual movements such as the Copernican, agricultural, industrial or scientific revolutions.
One dictionary defines it “a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving” and as you may have guessed that is the meaning that I focused on. I myself knew “a drastic and far-reaching change” in my ways of thinking and behaving when I was about 12. I was born again. It was like a revolution. Everything turned round. I experienced what the Bible talks about when it talks about being born again, when it says If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17).
In other words, if you turn from your sin and put your trust in Christ then you'll be made into a new person. Everything will change. Not that you'll become a different person in the sense of your personality changing but all the old ways will go and in will come all sorts of new ways. There will be a revolution of enormous proportions. I'm sure it is more noticeable if like me you don't come from a Christian home. I was brought up to believe in God and believe the Bible was his Word but my parents didn't know God and didn't know much about what was in the Bible. When the revolution came to me then it was quite obvious there had been a big change. If you grow up in a Christian home the change may be less obvious to outsiders. Nevertheless becoming a Christian is a big change – as big a change as any earthly revolution. For me
1. It was like a Copernican Revolution. The Copernican Revolution is the term used to describe the change that took place when Nicholas Copernicus discovered that it is not that the sun goes round the earth but that the earth and the other planets go round the sun. I had thought that everything revolved around me but I discovered that in fact it all centres on God. Have you had a Copernican Revolution? Is God now at the centre of your life?
2. It was a little like the American Revolution and other revolutions of that sort it was all about who was going to rule over my life. There was a time when that old tyrant was ruling but he was overthrown by that powerful revolutionary Jesus Christ. He now rules in my life.
3. It was also cultural revolution, a big change like the agricultural or industrial revolutions. All sorts of changes have come from that one great change in my life.
4. Finally, it was like the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 in Germany or the Glorious Revolution of 1688 here, sometimes called the bloodless revolution. I say that because there was no actual blood shed in my conversion although just as there was some fighting and some bloodshed in the Glorious Revolution and the overthrow of communism came at a price too so in fact blood was shed in order for me to become a Christian too - the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. If he'd not died in my place then I could never have found forgiveness and I could never have been born again.
So I am saying that a radical revolution has come in my life. There has been a very great change. Now you may say that is very nice for you but what has it got to do with me? It is not just me who has known this revolution but countless thousands of others around the world have had their lives turned around too. They too have been converted. They have been born again. They have come to trust in Christ and so they are a new creation. The old has gone the new has come.
In Bob Marley's song Revolution he starts by singing the slightly different word Revelation. He says “Revelation reveals the truth – revelation” before saying “It takes a revolution to make a solution”. I'm not sure why he does that but God's Revelation, the Bible, makes clear that this revolution that I'm talking about is something that needs to happen to us all. Without this you can't hope to go to heaven. Jesus himself says (Matthew 18:3) I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. To be a Christian you need to change. There needs to be a revolution, a turn around. There are many calls to repent – to change your mind, to undergo a revolution in your head. So Peter says in Acts 3:19
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
So when I speak about a September Revolution I'm saying to you "Now is the time for change. Now is the time for revolution. Now is the time for repenting."
1. Stop thinking everything revolves around you and start seeing that God needs to be at the centre of what you do.
2. You've spent enough time following the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in you, Satan. Don't you see that tyrant is doomed. The ruler of this world has been thrown down by Christ and he has as much of a future as poor old Louis XVI who they sent to the guillotine in the French Revolution or poor old Tsar Nicholas II whose body they soaked in acid and burned in the Russian Revolution.
3. Big changes are needed in your life – in the way you think, the way you speak, the way you live. The Bible says that by nature you have a heart of stone. You need to have that stony heart torn out and a new fleshy heart put in its place. You need a new heart and a new spirit. The axe needs to be put to the root of the old true and a new tree put in its place.
4. It's not a matter of starting some sort of war or shedding your blood. All the fighting and bloodshed needed has already been done by Christ on the cross. On the cross he fought against sin, death and Satan and was victorious. He paid the price – his own life blood – to set people like us free. All you have to do is look to him and you'll be free. All your sins will be taken away and you'll have the power to begin again, to turn round and start all over again. You will be a new creation in Christ.
Very practically, how does the revolution begin? Recognise how very sinful you are, how you've broken God's law. Confess your sins to him, ask for forgiveness in Christ. Trust only in him. Do this and you'll be saved. But be warned, it will change everything. It's like a revolution – a September Revolution!

Shakespearean Pub Landlord




Happened to see this Friday. Al Murray is a genius and streets ahead of BBC's alternative Jonathan Ross (although neither programme can be recommended because of the content). To see the genius with this clip you really have to wait until 2:11 where out of nowhere Murray launches into the seven ages of man speech from Shakespeare's As You Like It. It's another example of the low and high brow that I find so amusing.

Down Town


I wanted to put this clip up as soon as I saw it on TV but it wasn't on youtube at first. Good fun if, like me, you find the mixture of high brow and low brow irresistibly amusing (BTW it's the key to Monty Python).

Why two Sunday services?

Alan D picked up on this here. Thanks Alan.

This day in history too

On September 25, 1929, Westminster Theological Seminary opened in the Witherspoon building in Philadelphia, with an enrollment of fifty students.
In his opening address, "Westminster Theological Seminary: Its Purpose and Plan," J. Gresham Machen set forth the school as the successor to Princeton Seminary, which had been recently reorganized to include modernists on its Board:
[T]hough Princeton is dead, the noble tradition of Princeton is alive. Westminster Seminary will endeavor by God's grace to continue that tradition unimpaired; it will endeavor, not on a foundation of equivocation and compromise, but on an honest foundation of devotion to God's Word, to maintain the same principles that the old Princeton maintained. We believe, first, that the Christian religion, as set forth in the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, is true; we believe, second, that the Christian religion welcomes and is capable of scholarly defense; and we believe, third, that the Christian religion should be proclaimed without fear or favor, and in clear opposition to whatever opposes it, whether from within or without the church, as the only way of salvation for lost mankind. On that platform, brethren, we stand. Pray that we may be enabled by God's grace to stand firm. Pray that the students who go forth from Westminster Seminary may know Christ as their own Savior and may proclaim to others the gospel of his love.
Though an independent school, Westminster Seminary proved crucial to the founding and development of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Most of the church's ministers have graduated from Westminster, and its founding faculty, all of whom were ministerial members in the OPC, were active and prominent churchmen. In the words of Charles Dennison, the two institutions developed "one of the most amazing relationships in Presbyterian history.”

10 Hair References in Pop Songs


1. T Rex Telegram Sam
"Me I funk but I don't care/I ain't no square with my corkscrew hair"
2. Larry Norman Why should the Devil have all the good music
"They Say to Cut my Hair / They're Driving Me Insane / I Grew it out Long to make Room for my Brain"
3. Sonny and Cher I got you babe
"So let them say your hair's too long /'Cause I don't care, with you I can't go wrong"
4. Musical Hair Frank Mills
"But he wears his hair/ Tied in a small bow at the back"
5. Beach Boys Surfin' USA
"Huarachi sandals too/A bushy bushy blonde hairdo/Surfin' U.S.A."

6. Scott McKenzie If you're going to San Francisco
"If you're going to San Francisco Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair"
7. The Who Cut my hair
"Why should I care If I have to cut my hair? I've got to move with the fashion Or be outcast"
8. Led Zeppelin The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair
9. Aretha Franklin I say a little prayer
"While combing my hair now And wondering what dress to wear now I say a little prayer for you"
10.  Almost cut my hair CSNY
"Almost cut my hair Happened just the other day It's gettin' kind of long I could've said it was in my way"

Unfair slur 02

In the opening sentences of his essay on Machen in the new Themelios Carl Trueman writes

"In the lounge next to my office hang the portraits of a number of the founding faculty of my institution, Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. There is one of John Murray, the dour-looking Scotsman with the glass eye. Legend has it that you could tell which eye was the real one because that was the one which did not smile."
I know he is writing for students but it is a shame that he is perpetrating a myth. My father-in-law, Geoff Thomas, knew Murray personally and gives quite a different impression (the man I have described as more full of God than anyone else I have known). The impression I am left with is of an Aslan type figure and if you know anything abut Aslan he was no cold fish.
In 1966, The 33rd OPC General Assembly recognized Murray's labors with a testimonial scroll which read (with my italics):

"You have been a warm friend and counselor to us, one and all, giving individual counsel whenever we sought always out of a rich wealth of knowledge and inspiring reverence for the written Word.
You have been a faithful presbyter, spending untold days in the service of our beloved church, both in its assembly services and as a member of many of its committees.
You have been a gracious reprover, a hearty encourager, and an un-bitter dissenter in our deliberations.
To many of us you have been a patient teacher and more, for you have taught us exactness in the study of Holy Scripture, and a deep reverence for its high doctrine.
We honor you in our hearts. We respect you for your scholarship and wisdom. We are grateful to our God for you, Professor Murray. But we are compelled to say more: we love you dearly, and it is with deep sorrow that it appears that we may not see your face or hear your voice in future assemblies. We pray God that He may lay His hand on you for a most useful and happy ministry during your retirement years in your native land. We "thank God on every remembrance of you.""

Unfair slur 01

I am currently reading a book by Tim Keller. In a remark that has nothing to do with his main thesis Keller says he has often preached on Joseph. He calls him "an arrogant young man who was hated by his brothers". I know this is a common view (the majority view?) but I have also preached on Joseph and I beg to differ. Naive, yes; arrogant, no. Certainly Moses never says that Joseph was arrogant and we should be slow to assume he was.
A quick look reveals that certainly R T Kendall and Achille Blaize don't take this view. Blaize says "We have no evidence to show that Joseph was either cocky, proud or too sure of himself". Kendall: "It was not that he was arrogant or cocky; it was simply that he knew something of the ways of God and had no fear whatsoever of being contradicted". Also see on my side J G Vos, the NET Bible (in a footnote on page 86) and A W Pink.

Paned Power etc

"With a cup of tea in your hand, anything is possible". Leading the sheltered life I do I'd never seen a Welsh joke card before. Someone sent this card to Eleri the other week. (September is full of birthdays in our family - Dewi, Eleri, gwion, my sister, etc). They have them here.
There was bound to be a problem somewhere. I notice that one (Pillars of the community and Archers fans) had to say "and never miss Cefn Gwlad" (a Welsh programme for farmers I think). See here.

London Inreach





It was good to be at the London Inreach Project meetings last Saturday. The initial meeting was held at the LCM's Cafe Eterno where the church regularly meets. I was not able to be at that as I was obliged to attend the meeting of the trustees of the Project who gather annually. I am not a trustee but attend with our treasurer Peter Jermyn as chairman of the management committee. I managed to get a cuppa at Cafe Eterno before heading then for the Chinese Church in Shaftesbury Avenue where I chaired our preaching meeting.
It was good to see about fifty or so present. Derek Sewell gave a balanced report on the work, which is still hard going but not without its challenges and encouragements. Andrew Murray then spoke for while and introduced our new worker Roger Carter to us, the successor to Ben Thomas. Peter Jermyn had a word finally and then our preacher, Ray Evans of Bedford (fresh from a paintball fight that morning - don't ask) turned our attention very helpfully to Dr Luke's case notes on Simon the Pharisee and the woman who kissed Jesus's feet.
Most people then drifted off but some took opportunity to head across Shaftesbury Avenue once again to the Fair Trade shop that the church continue to run (at the local council's behest) in Berwick Street, Soho. (This is where I had started my afternoon with the committee in the basement).
This is wonderful work. Not easy at all but vital. Do find out more. Start here.

Davenport's Dark Day


I was trying to recall an anecdote the other day and spoke to others about it. One of them, my good friend Luke Jenner, said he had just read it in (of all places) Christopher Hitchens' God is not great and very kindly sent me a photocopy of the relevant page (page 61). Hitchens likes Davenport's attitude. You can check it out here. I also found this fuller version with another story about Abraham Davenport the man in question here. The incident was popularised in an 1868 poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. See here.

ABRAHAM DAVENPORT, A long-time Councillor of the colony and later of the State of Connecticut, was a man distinguished by his vigorous understanding, uncommon firmness of mind and Christian integrity of character. A resident of Stamford, he was the grandson of the Rev. John Davenport, one of the founding fathers of the New Haven colony and a man who had played an important role in the "Great Shippe" disaster. Abraham Davenport was the central figure in two stories celebrated in literature and legend and traditionally cited to illustrate the constancy of Connecticut character.
As a matter of fact, one of the Davenport tales, the story of Connecticut's "Dark Day," has become so much a part of the state's lore that the event's bicentennial was remembered by special ceremonies in the House of Representatives of the Connecticut General Assembly on February 27, 1980. Although the memorial occurred somewhat prematurely because the legislature would not have been in session on the actual anniversary date, legislators were reported to have listened in hushed fascination as House Speaker Ernest Abate of Stamford recounted the legend of his illustrious fellow-townsman from an earlier time.
They say that during the first two weeks of May in 1780 the skies over much of New England had been so dark that people had difficulty conducting their daily affairs because of reduced visibility, even during the sunniest days. Many of the good Puritan folk saw in the lowering heavens a sign of God's displeasure. While the actual cause of the unnatural lack of light has been lost to history, both widespread and unchecked forest fires spreading their leaden smoke over the land and a complete eclipse of the sun, especially on the ultimate "Dark Day," have been cited by chroniclers as possible sources of the phenomenon.
Be that as it may, as the Connecticut General Assembly began their deliberations on May 19, 1780, the chambers of the State House in Hartford grew so dark that it seemed as if the sun had been turned off. Reports came from those who had been outside that the streets of Hartford, too, had been reduced to inky blackness. In many homes candles flickered in windows, birds were silent and disappeared, and fowl retired to their roosts. To many members of the legislature, devout Puritans as they were, it appeared that the promised Day of Judgment was at hand.
Probably as much out of general consternation as out of inability to conduct business in the dark, the House of Representatives adjourned. In the Council, however, it was a different story. There, advice on how to proceed under such trying circumstances was sought by the members from their most respected colleague, Abraham Davenport. With scarcely any hesitation, the worthy Stamford lawmaker answered: "I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought." That settled it. The candles soon dispelled the dismal gloom, deliberations continued, and a bill amending an act regulating the shad and alewife fisheries passed the Council that very day.
Needless to say, news of Colonel Davenport's decisive words received wide circulation. Not only did their repetition become a source of pride for his fellow citizens in Connecticut, but they also inspired John Greenleaf Whittier, one of New England's best-loved poets, to celebrate them in verse many years later, thus perpetuating the legend well beyond its time of origin. The final lines of Whittier's "Abraham Davenport" (1866) summed up the sentiment attached by the folk to Davenport's speech that black day: And there he stands in memory to this day, Erect, self-poised, a rugged face, half seen Against the background of unnatural dark, A witness to the ages as they pass, That simple duty hath no place for fear.
Revered throughout Connecticut for his courage and foresight during the famous "Dark Day" episode, Abraham Davenport spent his final years as Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. In this capacity Davenport once again affirmed the value of devotion to duty, even under dire circumstances.
As the story goes, the venerable Chief Justice was "struck with death" (i.e. suffered a serious heart attack) while hearing a case in Danbury. Since the trial was only well-started at the time of his illness, the judge refused to be relieved from the bench until the case went to the jury. While in obvious and severe pain, he heard a considerable portion of the trial, gave the charge to the jury and even called the jury's attention to an article in the testimony which had escaped the notice of lawyers on both sides of the case. Once he had discharged his judicial obligations, however, Justice Davenport immediately retired to his chambers, lay down on a couch and died. The people of Connecticut would not soon forget the example of Abraham Davenport.

Heavenly Worldliness

Found this great Machen quote here
In reading through J. Gresham Machen’s Notes on Galatians (p 33), I found this interesting quote. It first appeared in Christianity Today in January 1931. Machen died in 1937. I assume this comment is a product of Machen’s more mature thought:
“In the second place, Christians should by no means adopt a negative attitude toward art, government, science, literature and other achievements of mankind, but should consecrate these things to the service of God. The separateness of the Christian man from the world is not to be manifested, as so many seem to think that it should be manifested, by the presentation to God of only an impoverished man; but it is to be manifested by the presentation to God of all man’s God-given powers developed to the full. That is the higher Christian humanism, a humanism based not upon human pride but upon the solid foundation of the grace of God.”

Bloggy Special 32

Best ofs 06

Next up is an album of 25 hits by the US answer to the Beatles - The Byrds. The key to the Byrds sound, I guess, is the Rickenbacker or what I call the jangly guitar. A large part of the genius is taking Bob Dylan and making him palatable to non-purists like me. This Definitive Collection probably has too many tracks on it and would have been improved by being pruned. Less is more. But then we may have missed the two Arthur Reid Reynolds tracks (Jesus is just alright and Glory, glory). Who was that guy? Also glad to see Turn Turn Turn (from Ecclesiastes) here Bells of Rhymney - words by Monmouthshire born Idris Davies. My favourite seven:

1. Chestnut Mare
2. Turn Turn Turn
3. My back pages
4. The bells of Rhymney
5. Mr Tambourine Man
6. I'll feel a whole lot better
7. All I really want to do

New Photo Series 09

Boy with red dragon

If I had my way


As we're into a blues groove I thought this might be worth putting up - as referred to on pages 169, 170 of Steve's book.

Music and suffering


One of the many good things to come out of the recent Machen week was the chance to swap books with Steve Nichols. During the course of the week Steve mentioned a plan to meet up with the music journalist Steve Turner which opened up a side to him that I'd missed in a previous encounter. It turns out that Steve (N) has done this whole book Getting the blues looking at 'What blues music teaches us about suffering and salvation' and it really is a brilliant book.

Being a big music fan (though not the blues especially) and a lover of good theology I was immediately drawn to it. It takes you through a sort of history of the blues but all the way it gives you theology too. It is what he calls a theomusicology, a term borrowed from another contemporary writer in this area. The theology is good (ruin, redemption, regeneration, etc) and although there may be a little selectivity here and there his argument that a sound theology is woven through the blues stands up.

I liked this book on many levels - the fine introduction to the music (I'm pretty hazy except for the sound track to Brother where art thou and a half dozen Rev Gary Davis tracks in my i-tunes); the good theology (in a minor key); helpful things on Ruth and Ecclesiastes; the whole idea of looking at what is so often considered by secularists on robust Christian lines. Oh yeah - great title too.

I'm hoping to pass copies on to people who will appreciate it even more than me and who may be will get to understand the theology too.

This day in history


Bit late but I notice that this day in history:

The Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth on 16th September 1620 in the 'Mayflower' captained by Myles Standish and steered a course for Virginia. The ship was a double-decked, three-masted vessel. However, a storm blew them off course and they reached land at Cape Cod which they subsequently renamed Plymouth Rock. Anchor was dropped on November 21st 1620. They reached the site that was to become Plymouth Colony on December 21st and established their own government. Read more

John Owen Centre Conference Day 02




It was good to hear the final three papers today at the John Owen Centre.

In a most interesting and thought provoking paper Dr Stephen Lloyd of Biblical Creation Ministries looked first at The New Testament and Creation focusing chiefly on agony and death but also on the flood and, very briefly, Adam, and pointing out the difficulties with the "bad stewarding view" that sees the groaning of creation not as death and the other effects of the fall (these being something that was part of the original creation) but the general malaise upon the world caused by sin.

Equally interesting though largely cautionary and negative was Professor Helm's paper, raising questions regarding the intelligent design argument and its prosecution. See here for the fine paper more or less as given. I particularly liked this
Apologetics, the business of offering apologiae for the Christian faith or for some part of it is, presumably, a part of the missionary and evangelistic calling of the Church. That strategy is set by the Great Commission. It is (where the words are understood in a comprehensive sense), 'the preaching of the Gospel'. The New Testament also indicates the manner of such preaching: 'I am among you as the one who serves', (Lk 22.27); 'The servant is not greater than his master', (Jn 13. 16); 'I was with you in weakness and fear and much trembling', 'Not in plausible words of wisdom....' (I Cor 1.3-4 ); ' 'For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake' (2 Cor. 4.5); 'To the Jews became I as a Jew, in order to win Jews' (I Cor. 9.20). The New Testament is full of such expressions. The Church fulfils her mandate when her preachers preach Christ, in the manner in which Christ should be preached. Matter and manner together. That, in a nutshell, is the strategy.There is not, as part of that strategy, something in addition, a revealed apologetic system. I’d say, there is no more a revealed apologetic system than there is a revealed way of heating church buildings. But there is a revealed Gospel and a revealed way of spreading it. This way of spreading it is, naturally enough, often given to us in Scripture in the form of examples.If the preaching of Christ in the manner in which Christ ought to be preached is the Church's strategy, what, then, are the tactics? I’d say Apologiae, defences, is one type of tactic. In the case of tactics, there are no separate ends, but the means, the apologetic tactics, are justified by the ends. This, surely, is clear enough. Paul preaches, delivering his apologia for the Gospel, differently in Lystra and Athens than in Antioch and Thessalonica. So what is Paul doing? What are his tactics? They differ from place to place.

Finally the bow-tied Dr Jason Rampelt of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion addressed the subject of Authority: Bible and Science. Though very engaging and thoughtful the underlying assumptions which appeared to give more ground to the unbelieving scientist than is warranted left the more conservative members of the audience much more concerned than they were with Professor Helm's negativism. If you examine the Faraday site as against the BCM one you might gather how much more favourable to theistic evolution the former is. It was nevertheless good to hear what Dr Rampelt had to say.

Geoff Thomas on B B Warfield

Follow this link to the Calvin500 blog for a brief piece on B B Warfield by my father-in-law.

Machen on culture

Came across this nice quotation here

Christianity may be subordinated to culture. That solution really, though to some extent unconsciously, is being favored by a very large and influential portion of the Church today. For the elimination of the supernatural in Christianity—so tremendously common today—really makes Christianity merely natural. Christianity becomes a human product, a mere part of human culture. But as such it is something entirely different from the old Christianity that was based upon a direct revelation from God. Deprived thus of its note of authority, the gospel is no gospel any longer; it is a check for untold millions—but without the signature at the bottom. So in subordinating Christianity to culture we have really destroyed Christianity, and what continues to bear the old name is a counterfeit.

New Photo Series 08

September sunset, Childs Hill

John Owen Centre Conference Day 01


It was good to be one of around 150 present at the John Owen Centre, Finchley, to hear this year's Dr Lloyd-Jones memorial lecture by Philip Eveson on Gospel and Creation - the significance of a theology of creation for preaching. A very full paper, it considered what a theology of creation should include (making some 12 points including the fact that there can only be one universe, that creation is the work of the triune God, who is also a relational God and insisting on the distinction between Creator and creation, creation and providence); the message of the gospel; the centrality of Christ and the significance of all this for preaching. Relying heavily on the work of Herman Bavinck, both creation and the gospel were expounded and asserted in the face of Muslim, Hindu, atheist and other deviant views to the contrary. It closed with an alliterative admonition to adore our Maker, appreciate his creation, understand the ache or groan that we presently know, anticipate the new creation and being active in making the message known.

The lecture came at the end of a busy first day of lectures and discussion under the title of Creation, the Bible and Science. About a hundred, mostly men and most of them ministers, had listened to three papers. The first was by Dr John Currid from RTS, Charlotte, Virginia, on Interpreting Genesis 1 & 2. This focused almost exclusively on Genesis 1 and was perhaps rather narrow as it simply sought to show that Genesis 1 is not poetry. Other interesting matters were raised in the paper and in discussion, however, and it was good to hear and discuss this paper.

Dr Robert Letham from WEST spoke next. Billed as Genesis 1 & 2 - the History of Interpretation this was inevitably boiled down to a history up until the Westminster Assembly and so did not interact at all with post-Darwin reactions. Indeed we may get through the whole conference saying very little about Darwin or Darwinism. Dr Letham's agenda was to suggest that there has never been much of a consensus on anything beyond the fact that the Bible teaches an ex nihilo creation by the triune God. He made a great deal of the popularity of Augustine's idea of instantaneous creation for hundreds of years.

The third paper of the day was Genesis 1 & 2 - a Scientist’s Perspective. Because Professor Stuart Burgess was the chosen speaker this was really an engineer's perspective. This was the most conservative, the warmest, the easiest and perhaps the most interesting paper of the day. He spoke of God's power, skill and goodness in creation and then spoke briefly in favour of "a young Adam" and a "young earth" and against the possibility of extra-terrestrial forms of life.

The day was a very stimulating one with lots of good questions and good answers and many expressions a genuine desire not to demonise fellow believers, seriously grappling with the biblical text and the scientific data but coming to differing conclusions to our own but within the biblical requirements. As ever, it was good to talk over the meals about these issues and others.

Hopefully tomorrow will be an equally stimulating day.

10 musicians who died at 27


Reading recently about blues singer Robert Johnson and the fact he died at 27 reminded me of an article I had read recently in The Times about the apparent phenomenon that several musicans have died at the age of 27. For more on this see here.


1. Louis Chauvain (1908)
2. Robert Johnson (1938)
3. Brian Jones (1969)
4. Jimi Hendrix (1970)
5. Janis Joplin (1970)
6. Alan Wilson (1970)
7. Jim Morrison (1971)
8. Ronald McKernan (1973)
9. Peter Ham (1975)
10. Kurt Cobain (1994)

Summer Reading 04

A large chunk of reading time this summer went on J Gresham Machen.
Dr Nichols had us read his own introductory book which I already had and started to re-read but lost somewhere in Wales (had to borrow my father-in-law's copy). From Machen's own works he selected for us to read Christianity and liberalism (online here), some sermons from God Transcendent and some essays from the Selected Shorter Writings edited by Daryl Hart.
The supplementary works were The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism by William R Hutchison, which I found quite hard going as I was unfamiliar with most of the names in it - and there are lots. It is basically a history of liberalism from the 1880s-1930s and so although a relatively small part deals with Machen it gives important background which I found useful. Much easier to read and more obviously relevant was The Presbyterian Controversy by Bradley J Longfield which looks not only at machen but Bryan, Coffin, McCartney, Erdman and Speer too.
There is quite a lot of Machen online and I have tried to collate what is available here.

Then Aslan stopped

My last post was on death. In the car yesterday I had the radio on very quietly when I recognised there was some C S Lewis on so I turned it up. (It turned out to be Brian Sibley's Shadowlands on Radio 2). It includes this extract from The Silver Chair.
Then they saw that they were once more on the Mountain of Aslan, high up above and beyond the end of that world in which Narnia lies. But the strange thing was that the funeral music for King Caspian still went on, though no one could tell where it came from. They were walking beside the stream and the Lion went before them: and he became so beautiful, and the music so despairing, that Jill did not know which of them it was that filled her eyes with tears.
Then Aslan stopped, and the children looked into the stream. And there, on the golden gravel of the bed of the stream, lay King Caspian, dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass. His long white beard swayed in it like water-weed. And all three stood and wept. Even the Lion wept: great Lion-tears, each tear more precious than the Earth would be if it was a single solid diamond. And Jill noticed that Eustace looked neither like a child crying, nor like a boy crying and wanting to hide it, but like a grownup crying. At least, that is the nearest she could get to it; but really, as she said, people don't seem to have any particular ages on that mountain.
"Son of Adam," said Aslan, "go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there, and bring it to me." Eustace obeyed. The thorn was a foot long and sharp as a rapier. "Drive it into my paw, Son of Adam," said Aslan, holding up his right fore-paw and spreading out the great pad towards Eustace. "Must I?" said Eustace. "Yes," said Aslan. Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the Lion's pad.
And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined. And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the King. At the same moment the doleful music stopped. And the dead King began to be changed. His white beard turned to grey, and from grey to yellow, and got shorter and vanished altogether; and his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoothed, and his eyes opened, and his eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them - a very young man, or a boy. (But Jill couldn't say which, because of people having no particular ages in Aslan's country. Even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are most childish and the stupidest grown-ups who are most grownup.) And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go round the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a King, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a Lion.

I am standing upon the foreshore


I came across this again recently. I was first aware of it when Vernon Higham read it at Dr Lloyd-Jones's funeral in 1981 (see here). He read it from Lorraine Boettner's book Immortality. I can't remember how Boettner introduces it but it appears to be (not by Victor Hugo a some say) but by the Dutch American educator and preacher Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933). Ironically he was one of Machen's early opponents. He refused to listen to Machen in 1923 as he felt his preaching was "bitter, schismatic and unscriptural". That fact puts me off a bit as well as the sentimentality but it is biblical.

I am standing upon the foreshore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to meet each other. Then someone at my side says, 'There, she is gone.' Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living weights to its place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her; and just at the moment when someone at my side says, 'There, she is gone,' on that distant shore there are other eyes watching for her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, 'Here she comes'.

Best ofs 05


The Beach Boys are technically before my time but I have pieced together something of their history over the years. Someone in college had a tape of their hits so I got to know them a bit then. The 20 track compilation The Very Best of the Beach Boys is sold at a snip and is enough for me. I was staying over somewhere once and being left to myself I had chance to play through the legendary Pet Sounds which was okay but I guess I was just too late for it. I love the Beatles parody Back in the USSR. More here. Anyway top seven Beach Boys hits?


1. Barbara Ann
2. Sloop John B
3. Good vibrations
4. I get around
5. Surfin' USA
6. California Girls
7. I can hear music

American Pie


In light of recent posts on Don McLean and Buddy Holly I thought this attempt may be of interest. A little long I'm sorry.

Creation Evolution Link

While Darwin and Creation etc are fresh in our minds you might like to check this interesting link here on my friend Mike's blog.

Week of Prayer

We are having a week of prayer in the church this week as we often do in September when we begin our work again in earnest. We had an early birds prayer meetuing first thing (7 am) on Monday. It was encouraging to be joined by five others from the church, including one South African lady who has recently started coming along, at the start of a new week.
Then this morning (Tuesday) some seven of us gathered mid-morning for a cuppa and another half hour or so of prayer.
We have more meetings tomorrow night adn Thursday night and then on Saturday we will have our Prayer Breakfast.
It is a good way to underline the importance of prayer. I wish all the members could come.

Beard Removed


I grew a beard over the summer. Not very popular I'm afraid so off it came -bit by bit.

Summer Reading 03


Another book I got to read this summer was David Quammen's The reluctant Mr Darwin in the Great Discoveries series subtitled "an intimate portrait of Charles Darwin and the making of his theory of evolution". Reluctant is a contentious epithet as although he showed a certain amount of reticence, an eagerness to avoid any sort of confrontation (he avoided funerals like the plague) there was also a driving desire to be first with his idea in print
Quammen is a journalist so his book is easy to read and probably as accurate as any although hardly anything like neutral in its treatment. Skipping over the voyage of the Beagle, largely he presents a man who comes over as a thorough scientist and a hopeless sceptic, his agnosticism and atheism growing over the years. In the anniversary year of the Origin of Species here this 2006 biography is a good one to get hold of and read.

Machen on Walking


Back in harness after a week of lectures on Machen and I find someone has posted this. Thanks!

“Having the great joy of three weeks of climbing in the Canadian Rockies, I am writing this little article to see whether I cannot help even those readers who cannot climb and cannot go to the Canadian Rockies to get some of the benefits which I am getting here.
Climbing mountains is good, in the first place for the body, and in the second place for the soul.
It is good for the body because of the wholesome buffeting of the body which it brings. To get such buffeting, the “tired American businessman” is wont, I believe, to place himself under the despotic control of some ex-prizefighter until he comes out of the ex-prizefighter’s (very expensive) establishment feeling fit. There are, I suppose, cruel and unusual punchings of the bag and pulling of the chest weights most severe. I shudder when I think of it. Such drudgery will people submit to in order to harden their bodies and make them a little better able to undertake the duties of life. I admire people who thus recognize the fact that a soft body will not do hard work.
But there are even better ways of hardening the body, and one of these is to learn to climb. Let that tired businessman get a good Swiss guide, like the one that I have here; let him be initiated into the mysteries of rock climbing, and he will find that his softness of body will soon disappear. What a thoroughgoing twisting and pulling and bumping the body gets, at every conceivable angle and in every conceivable way, on a rock climb even of moderate difficulty! It is glorious exercise indeed.
Now I know that it is only a few people who can climb. Climbing without expert guides, unless one is oneself a real expert, is highly dangerous; and there are now, I believe, only four mountaineering guides in all of Canada. Since the Canadian Pacific Railway speaks of western Canada as “fifty Switzerlands in one,” that makes just about one guide for every dozen Switzerlands - hardly enough to go around!But the point that I am making is that many of the same benefits as those that are obtained in climbing may be obtained also without climbing and without the expense of guides. They may be secured through that cheapest and simplest of all forms of exercise - the exercise of walking.
I can testify to that from personal experience, for I have been a walker all my life. I do not, indeed, underestimate those comparatively rare occasions when I have been able to climb. They would hardly have justified the expense involved in them if they had brought to me merely the pleasure of the moment, but as a matter of fact when the climbs have been over, the benefit of them has just begun. During a period of nineteen years, when I did no climbing at all, how I used to live over again in memory those glorious days in the Eastern Alps in 1913! How eagerly did I read countless descriptions, in books and Alpine journals, of precipitous mountains of South Tirol! Then in 1932 and 1935 came the crowning joy of standing on the great Zermatt peaks. When I get discouraged I love to think of that unbelievable half hour when, after having climbed the Matterhorn by the Zmutt Ridge, we sat on the Italian summit, with our feet over Italy and our backs to a little wall of summit snow, and let our eyes drink in the marvelous beauty of the scene. What a wonderful help it is in all discouragements, what a blessed gift of God, to be able to bring before the mind’s eye such a vision as that.
But do you know, my friends, a man can have very much that same joy in much simpler ways.
The more I see of the high mountains, the more I love the simple beauty of the woods and hills, and the more I love to walk.
What a very simple amusement walking is! You do not need any elaborate equipment; you just “up and do it” any time you like.
But perhaps you say that as a matter of fact you do not like it. All right, I say; but will you not learn to like it?There are many things that man does not like at first, and yet that he comes to like. A man says, for example, that he cannot see anything at all in golf. It seems to him a very silly game. But then a friend persuades him one day to go out and have a try. He has “beginner’s luck.” He manages just once to hit the ball instead of the earth. To his amazement he watches that ball go. How amazingly far that little pellet will sail when you happen to hit it right! Well, the man understands the fascination at last. He plays golf and talks golf and the rest of his life. He is a hopeless victim of the well-known “hoof and mouth disease.”
So when you say you do not love to walk, I do wish I could just get you to try. I do wish I could persuade you to use the old Ford this summer just to get to the edge of the woods. If you did choose that kind of a holiday, it would not cost you much, shoe-leather being much cheaper than gasoline and rubber tires. And the wholesome exercise you would get, and the close contact with the beauties of nature, would be a wonderful thing “as well for the body as the soul.”
PS I've just set up a Machen blog if you're interested. It's a mainly a list of links. See here.

JOC Conference


Guy was just ahead of me - so I'll nick his page to remind you of this upcoming conference. (If anyone is into redaction criticism this good be a good place to start).
It's a two day conference at the John Owen Centre and the programme is as follows:

Monday 15th September
Interpreting Genesis 1 & 2 - Dr. John Currid
Genesis 1 & 2 - the History of Interpretation - Dr. Robert Letham
Genesis 1 & 2 - a Scientist’s Perspective - Prof. Stuart Burgess

7.45 pm The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Memorial Lecture:
The Gospel and Creation - the significance of a theology of creation for preaching - Rev. Philip Eveson. This lecture will be held in Kensit Evangelical Church and is open to everyone.

Tuesday 16th September
The New Testament and Creation - Dr. Stephen Lloyd
Design Arguments - stepping stones or stumbling blocks? - Prof. Paul Helm (*)
Authority: the Bible and science - Dr. Jason Rampelt
Looks very interesting. More info here.
* Prof Helm's paper is available in draft form here

Night ragas etc


A slightly strange thing happened last Tuesday that I meant to mention. One reason why drink and drugs have never been a very great temptation for me is that I can get quite a high from the chemicals that naturally run through my head. It does mean a corresponding low when they are not so active but there we are. Anyway I went to bed last Tuesday and after two minutes (I'm usually asleep in five) I decided I couldn't get to sleep. I explained to Eleri (not over sympathetic). She said (and I don't think it's ever happened quite like this) words to the affect that if I was so full of energy why didn't I go down and clean up the kitchen. Well, I went down and the radio happened to be tuned to Radio 3 and some Indian music. I have discovered that it was the end of the proms programme on from 10 until 11.30 pm. I'd missed most of it but I caught the Indian night ragas performed by Nishat Khan (sitar) with Rashid Mustafa Thirak (tabla) and Natasha Ahmad (tanpura). I might not have enjoyed it so much on another occasion but it was a real treat at this time and helped me get that kitchen perfect!

Best ofs 04


The eighties was definitely not my period musically but somehow Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark sneaked under the radar and I bought The Best of OMD first on vinyl (18 tracks) then CD (20 tracks). More here. I don't know much about them and there aren't quite seven tracks I really like, but I do like these six.
1. Talking loud and clear
2. Electricity
3. Joan of Arc
4. Maid of Orleans
5. Tesla Girls
6. Enola Gay

Machen Week




This week began with Dewi's birthday, which went off well. It's been back to school week for the boys adn for me the week has been dominated by attendance at four and a half days of lectures in the John Owen Centre. Steve Nichols gave us an excellent introduction to J Machen Gresham the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, who run the course with the JOC. Six of us attended (Miguel, San Heung, Mark, Gary and Findlay - all from different nations) - two of us just auditing. It was a real privilege to investigate the background to Machen's life and his writings. Steve is the author of a fine introduction to Machen as well as other books. It was good to benefit fom his wisdom both in and out of the classroom. I had attended his previous lectues on Jonathan Edwards and greatly enjoyed them too. I'd met the others attending before and it was good to renew fellowship with them and, as ever, with the Evesons.
Everything else had to be squeezed into the hours outside the lectures, which included keeping up with e-mails, a pastoral visit, completing the newsletter, making a poster, our Wednesday night meeting (I'd prepared the message beforehand), a meeting about our children's work which needed to be minuted and preparation for and involvement in our Friday night work with children and young people which started yesterday with around 25 coming along (we looked at John 14:6). Preparation for Sunday has been difficult but we're making good progress so far.

Spelling




I was sorting out my briefcase the other day and I found this item. When I think of the fact that W H Smith sell dictionaries it makes me wonder. I've seen them make this mistake before. It reminds me of that old joke - "Do you sell stationery?" "No, sometimes I swivel round and move my arms!". Double click to see it properly.

Nissan Cube


Spotted this Nissan Cube in Finchley this week, with its appropriate registration number.