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.

Heavenly nightclubness


Went with Rhodri last night to see the Heaven in a night club presentation at Grove Chapel. We'd hoped to bring someone along but he couldn't come. Travelling south of the river is always an adventure with me but we were only 10 minutes late and in time to see the whole concert.
Apologetics professor (and that's what he looks like) Bill Edgar (piano) has been making these sort of gospel angled presentations using mostly jazz and spirituals for years. He was accompanied by two fine young African Americans on vocals and saxophone. The concert was followed by a question time, which we could not stay for. A number of things bothered me (I'm not a jazz fan I discover - the two blues numbers were like oases; they were too quiet; they didn't seem to sweat, no drums, the setting, a white man telling us about African Americans and their struggle, etc, etc). One just hopes that someone was helped. I'd be very surprised if anyone was genuinely hindered. The idea is much like the Steve Nicholls book on Blues mentioned here a while back. Probably a book works better but a concert is the logical extension. May be a change of venue would have been enough. Ah, Brady you old fuddy duddy.

52 JC No 4

Third use of the law
The third use of the Law (being also the principal use, and more closely connected with its proper end) has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns ... For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge ... Man is retarded by the sluggishness of the flesh, and make's less progress than he ought. The Law acts like a whip to the flesh, urging it on as men do a lazy sluggish ass. Even in the case of a spiritual man, inasmuch as he is still burdened with the weight of the flesh, the Law is a constant stimulus, pricking him forward when he would indulge in sloth.
From Instititutes Book 2.17.12

Life's ironies


Three things in mind here.
You may have seen the clip of Barack Obama revealing that he was unsure of how many states he is now President of. The irony, of course, is that Bush would have known that one (I guess).
Then there is Obama's mess up with the Presidential oath (whoever's fault it was). Apparently in an effort to undercut conspiracy theorists it was decided to do it again (as two previous presidents have). For some reason, however, there was no Bible available and some newspapers are already saying that there is conspiracy keen internet traffic asking why Obama did not swear on the Bible the second time round!
The other thing is this debate over whether the BBC is going to show an appeal for Palestine. The whole facade of the BBC reporting on the BBC gets me. (It's like me doing a report on my own blog - now there's an idea). The real irony here, though, of course, is that far more publicity has been generated for the appeal than would ever have been given had the BBC simply broadcast it. (Perhaps another irony is that IMHO the BBC has been rather biased towards the Palestinians).
(There is some argument about what qualifies as ironic, but all senses of irony revolve around the perceived notion of an incongruity between what is said and what is meant; or between an understanding of reality, or an expectation of a reality, and what actually happens.)

More than seven




Enjoyed watching University Challenge on the iplayer tonight. There was a reference to the phrase "Nobody can remember more than seven of anything". I'd heard that before but hadn't known the source. It is the response Cardinal Robert Bellarmine 1542-1621 made to criticism of a catechism he made that omitted all reference to the eight beatitudes. The traditional way of testing this is with the seven dwarfs - Doc, Dopey, Sneezy, Happy, um, er. See!
PS You'll notice that in the shot above Bellarmine hasn't even got as far as me!

Suffolk Collection

I'm always meaning to get up to nearby Kenwood House and today for once I managed it. I had a nice little walk in the winter sunshine and popped into the house to see the portraits on show from the Suffolk Collection. These include full-length Jacobean portraits by William Larkin and royal Stuart images by Van Dyck and Lely. Also had a cuppa and a read. Cold but okay in the sunshine.

Banner 09 Brochure


Just had my booking form for the Banner Conference. It's all Calvin this year.
More here.

John Colquhoun Link


I enjoyed reading this here on John Colquhoun (174-1827) author of a book on Repentance, soon to be reprinted according to Heresy Huntin' Martin Downes. Also see here at Monergism.

"Colquhoun was a Church of Scotland minister who also wrote Law and Gospel, the Covenant of Grace and The Covenant of Works. He was considered an able preacher of the "Marrow" theology, having been moulded in his Christian life and ministry by Thomas Boston's Fourfold State.

The "Marrow men" were defenders and preachers of the offer of God's free grace in Christ to all sinners.
The book (on Repentance) was first published in 1826, and published by the Banner of Truth in 1965. As I started reading through it I could not fathom why they let this little gem go out of print. Well the good news from Jonathan Watson at the Banner is that they will be republishing the book later this year.
Colquhoun wrote the following words about "evangelical" as opposed to natural or legal repentance:

It is a gracious principle and habit implanted in the soul by the Spirit of Christ, in the exercise of which a regenerate and believing sinner, deeply sensible of the exceeding sinfulness and just demerit of his innumerable sins is truly humbled and grieved before the Lord, on account of the sinfulness and hurtfulness of them.
He feels bitter remorse, unfeigned sorrow, and deep self-abhorrence for the aggravated transgressions of his life, and the deep depravity of his nature; chiefly, because by all his innumerable provocations he had dishonoured an infinitely holy and gracious God, transgressed a law which is "holy, just and good," and defiled, deformed and even destroyed his own precious soul.
This godly sorrow for sin and this holy abhorrence of it arise from a spiritual discovery of pardoning mercy with God in Christ, and from the exercise of trusting in his mercy.
And these feelings and exercises are always accompanied by an unfeigned love of universal holiness, and by fixed resolutions and endeavours to turn from all iniquity to God and to walk before him in newness of life.
Such, in general is the nature of that evangelical repentance, to the habit and exercise of which the Lord Jesus calls sinners who hear the Gospel.
Repentance, p. 10

Here is the inscription from Colquhoun's gravestone:


Having studied deeply the Doctrines of
Grace, and experienced their saving and
sanctifying power in his own soul.
He laboured earnestly and affectionately
to communicate the knowledge of them
to his Fellow Sinners.
As an Author his chief aim was to advance
the Glory of the Saviour.
In private he exhibited the effects of the
holy Doctrines he inculcated in public by
a close walk with God;
And by a kind affable and humble deportment
towards all men.
And in these several ways his labours
were acknowledged of God,
by whom they were blessed to many.
He was faithful unto death
and
has now received the Crown of Life.

Victoria


I noticed it was the 108th anniversary of Queen Victoria's death last Thursday (22nd) then I heard this Kinks number on the radio and thought you might enjoy this live version. Wikipedia says it's a Ray Davies number, the opening track of the 1969 concept album Arthur (or the decline and fall of the British Empire) and a largely unsuccessful single.
In the satirical style Davies had become known for in earlier works, the lyrics juxtapose the paternalist aspirations of Empire in the Victorian age, "Land of my Victoria/Land of hope and gloria", with the grim reality of life in Britain during the 19th Century, "Sex was bad and obscene/And the rich were so mean". It expresses the simple adulation of queen and country found among the working class, "Though I am poor, I am free/When I grow I shall fight/For this land I shall die".
The original starts with a simple electric blues riff under the lyrics, and builds to an exuberant climax with brass and strings at the "Land of hope and gloria" bridge. The play-out features brass, heavy rock guitar and raucous background vocals from Dave Davies. A "psychedelic" effect is achieved by use of an Indian style drone.
A version by The Kooks will be on the War child charity album, Heroes next month.

Noson Cwis

Enjoyed a nice evening yesterday with Eleri, Rhodri and others at the Welsh School. The main event was a seven round quiz and over £450 was raised. We were with two other parents (the fine by meez we were) and nearly won. We did well on the rock and pop (using our joker) and music intro rounds (thanks to Rhods and me and others). Thankfully John did the maths questions for us (though kicked himself over the formula for measuring a cone). We were okay but not great on the people bits but got caught out in the movies round not knowing the final line of Some like it hot*. Literature should be my forte but I hadn't heard of Sophie Kinsella, couldn't remember the surname of Chocolat woman Joanne (Harris) and boobed on Sherlock Holmes' address (it's a number and I'm disnumerate!). (BTW caught an excellent programme on Radio 4 - Gyles Brandreth looking at Conan Doyle, R L Stevenson, Wilde, Bram Stoker and J M Barry. See here.). Anyway we went into a tie break and had to say how many days a red blood cell lasts - not a clue. We said 4 days, the other team 14 so they won - though we were both miles out. Answer here. Ah well, *nobody's perfect*.

Bloggy Special 35


I will strengthen

Zechariah 10:12 I will strengthen them in the LORD and in his name they will walk, declares the LORD.
The promises in this verse come at the end of a series of promises regarding God's future care for Israel. The LORD promises rain and crops; judgement on unreliable leaders; care for the flock and great boldness; the coming of Messiah; strength, salvation, restoration, compassion, answers to prayer; joy, redemption, growth; return from exile and large numbers. This final verse is really by way of summary. God's people will be given God's strength and so they will be able to live for him. They will walk in his name – that is to say, they will live in a way that honours him. That had not been happening in the past but it was going to happen in the future. In our day we have begun to see the fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy. There is strength for all who look to the LORD and we are able to walk in his name. This is what we must do. There is no point in relying on our own strength or trying to walk in our own name. Rather we must live for him and in his strength.

Bloggy man 50


Grace Assembly 09


The programmes for the next Grace Assembly, May 19-21, are now out. Hope you can read some of the detail. (Try double clicking pics).

Never a dull moment




There certainly seem to be few dull moments here. Let me see. Last Thursday I was in the garden with Eleri and I noted how one of our two female rabbits looked larger than the other and was rather aggressive. That should have warned me. Anyway by Saturday the larger one (Minnie) had produced a litter of about five! So we've sorted out who is who (thanks to a friend who grew up on a farm - we're townies and know nothing) and Peppa's off to the vet tomorrow. Till then he's in quarantine which is a bit mean but there we are. Baby rabbit anyone?
Meanwhile Eleri's finger has been swelling up making the ring on it even tighter. Anyway enough was enough this morning and so I took her (with her knitting and two newspapers) to the A & E at the Royal Free. Well, in two minutes they had this special machine in and the ring was off!
One of the benefits of the internet is to realise that you're hardly alone in these things. You also gain an education of sorts - 31 days is the gestation period for rabbits, window cleaner can be a good aid in removing a stuck ring, etc. For more info - rabbits (also), rings.

52 JC No 3

Christian freedom
The third part of Christian freedom lies in this: regarding outward things that are of themselves 'indifferent', we are not bound before God by any religious obligation preventing us from sometimes using them and at other times not doing so, as it suits us. And the knowledge of this freedom is very necessary to us, for, if it is lacking, our consciences will have no rest and there will be no end of superstitions. Today we seem to many people to be unreasonable because we stir up discussion upon the unrestricted eating of meat, use of holidays and of vestments, and such things which seem to them vain frivolities. But these matters are more important than is commonly believed. For when consciences once ensnare themselves, they enter a long and inextricable labyrinth, without an easy exit.
If a man begins to doubt whether he may use linen for sheets, shirts, handkerchiefs, and napkins, he will afterward be uncertain also about hemp; finally, doubt will even arise over tow. For he will turn over in his mind whether he can sup without napkins, or go without a handkerchief. If any man should consider daintier
food unlawful, in the end he will not be at peace before God, when he eats either black bread or common victuals, while it occurs to him that he could sustain his body on even coarser foods. If he boggles at sweet wine, he will not with clear conscience drink even flat wine, and finally he will not dare touch water if sweeter and cleaner than other water. To sum up, he will come to the point of considering it wrong to step upon a straw across his path, as the saying goes.
Institutes 3.19 (I think I've used two different translations here)

Woodpecker

I was in the park yesterday and a green coloured bird flew by a short distance away. I'm no bird expert but when it then landed on a nearby tree I could see it was a green woodpecker. It was a joy to behold. I have seen one before; a lesser spotted too. One of the things about London is that you do so see a good variety of bird life - pigeons, jays, magpies, wood pigeons, ducks, wrens, tits, etc - more than I used to see back home when I was surrounded by countryside. More on green woodpeckers here at wikipedia.

52 JC No 2

Worldliness
This is from the Institutes 3.19.9
.... Certainly ivory and gold, and riches, are the good creatures of God, permitted, nay destined, by divine providence for the use of man; nor was it ever forbidden to laugh, or to be full, or to add new to old and hereditary possessions, or to be delighted with music, or to drink wine. This is true, but when the means are supplied to roll and wallow in luxury, to intoxicate the mind and soul with present and be always hunting after new pleasures, is very far from a legitimate use of the gifts of God.
Let them, therefore, suppress immoderate desire, immoderate profusion, vanity, and arrogance, that they may use the gifts of God purely with a pure conscience. When their mind is brought to this state of soberness, they will be able to regulate the legitimate use. On the other hand, when this moderation is wanting, even plebeian and ordinary delicacies are excessive. For it is a true saying, that a haughty mind often dwells in a coarse and homely garb, while true humility lurks under fine linen and purple. Let every one then live in his own station, poorly or moderately, or in splendour; but let all remember that the nourishment which God gives is for life, not luxury, and let them regard it as the law of Christian liberty, to learn with Paul in whatever state they are, “therewith to be content,” to know “both how to be abased,” and “how to abound,” “to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need,” (Phil. 4:11).

Bloggy Man 49

Zebra


Someone showed us a picture of a zebra the other day and played a clip of how it sounds. I'd not realised it would sound like this although my youngest son who loves animals knew. Listen to this.

Notes on holiness 03

More specific – Putting sin to death
1. What does Paul say in Romans 8:12, 13?
1 Preliminary observations
What sort of sentence is Romans 8:13? A conditional one. The if is not an if of doubt but of connection. Put sin to death and you will live.
Who is addressed? Brothers. All Christians.
2 Main observations
Negatively
Consider what you are not obliged to do.
Negatively speaking, it is the duty of every professing Christian not to live according to the sinful nature.
Consider the warning added for you.
It is a very clear fact, those who live according to the sinful nature will die (eternally). You may profess to be a Christian but if you go on living according to the sinful nature you will go to hell.
Positively
Observe what you are obliged to do. NB Body = Body or sinful nature Misdeeds of = Both outward and inward sins Put to death Picture language = deprive of life force. The power of sin was utterly destroyed on the cross but we must carry the work to perfection.
Observe the promise held out for you – Life. Ie the very opposite of death - not merely the essence of it but the joy and comfort it gives
Observe the method you need to employ By the Spirit
2. Why is this so important for me to know?
1 While we are on earth remaining sin is present, so it must always be put to death
2 Sin is both with us and active in us, struggling to do what the sinful nature desires
3 If ignored remaining sin leads to life-dominating, soul destroying sins
4 This is one of the main reasons why we have the Holy Spirit
5 Otherwise grace will wither and sin will flourish
3. How can I put this into practice?
Not by means of
1 Asceticism 2 Perfectionism 3 The mere appearance of victory
4 A quiet temperament 5 Diverting sin 6 Occasional conquests
But seek to
1. Engage in regular self-examination
2. Get a clear and lasting sense on your mind and conscience of sin’s evil, guilt and danger
3. Pray for a new and constant desire to be released from the power of sin
4. Consider your temperament and the relationship between it and your sin
5. Analyse the occasions of your sin
6. Strike at sin's first risings
7. Centre your mind on God’s greatness and your weakness
8. Avoid excuses when you do fall into sin

Notes on holiness 02

Some General Points
1. Sanctification is spoken about in two ways in the New Testament
Definitive sanctification. It is like a full stop in that it is once and for all. It happens at the beginning of Christian life. All believers are definitively set apart to God. They are consecrated now to the Lord.
Progressive sanctification. This is more like a continuous line. It goes on throughout the Christian life and is only complete at death.
Definition: The ongoing inward work of Christ by the Spirit in co-operation with man that makes the Christian increasingly more free from sin, Christlike in his living and pleasing to God.
Christ did not die simply to make believers right with God and forgive sins. No, always his intention was their sanctification.
2. Sanctification is important because it
1 Brings glory to God 2 Is the mark of all who go to heaven 3 Can be a source of great assurance
3. Sanctification is something that happens to you if you’re
Elect. We can't peer into the mists of eternity and know who is elect but we know election is to holiness, Eph 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy ....
Born again.
1 John 3:9 No-one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
United to Christ
. John 15:5 If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.
Spirit anointed. If there are no waves it is be casue there is no wind; if there is no-one writing, there will be no signature.

4. Sanctification is something that if it happens to you
1 Will always be seen
2 For which you are responsible. If you are not sanctified whose fault is it? It is yours!
5. Sanctification is something that is
1 Capable of growth and development. Believers are to grow in grace.
2 Dependent on your diligent use of the means of grace – Bible reading, prayer, church, etc.
3 Compatible with an ongoing struggle.
4 Necessary to prepare you for heaven. J C Ryle ‘Most men hope to go to heaven but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy heaven if they got there.’

Notes on holiness 01

Speaking to the students the other day I began with this newspaper story about an incident that occurred in 1995 just to get thtme thinking.

Workman strangles attacking leopard
by Ray Kennedy

A drill operator who was attacked at a mineral exploration site in the Kalahari Desert by a leopard fought back against the animal and eventually strangled it.
Frik van Heerden, 35, nursing painful bites and scratches at his home in Bothaville in South Africa’s Free State province described the attack 10 days ago deep in Botswana. He said he was walking the short distance from his caravan home to another trailer used as an office ‘when I heard a noise and spun round. As I did so, a leopard pounced on me.’
His shouts alerted his wife, Alta and their two young sons, but they could do nothing to help as Mr van Heerden wrestled for his life.
‘I punched and fought with it but I could not get it off me’ he said. ‘I did not know what I was doing but I suppose the survival instinct took over. Somehow I managed to grab its throat and eventually I felt it go limp. I had strangled it’
Mrs van Heerden radioed for help and her husband was flown by helicopter to hospital in Gaborone, the Botswanan capital He will be returning to work soon.
Leopards, known as silent killers, are solitary beasts and regarded as among the most dangerous by wildlife experts. They circle their prey and attack from behind. The animal that attacked Mr van Heerden probably was attracted to the family’s camp by the smell of food.
(You may wonder what that story has to do with the subject of holiness. All will become clear as we proceed I trust.)

Carey Blogged

So it was more or less possible and hopefully of some interest to some. After a quick cuppa I headed back with Richard, Clinton and Femi (but not Klebert who was off to Brighton) plus Tom Schreiner who needed to be at Heathrow first thing today (Friday). That was a real bonus.
Theological students have endless questions and so it was good to listen to the conversation as they fired away. Tom is not a Sabbatarian so it was good to knock that one back and forth in preparation for the conference next month on the law.
It was great to be back with the family. Eleri had prepared a lovely meal for Tom and I and we enjoyed chatting, sharing notes on family life and trying not to stay up too late. It's difficult to unwind after a conference, however. I eventually got off and got Tom to Heathrow in good time, then came home and went to bed again!
For info on Tom Schreiner check this link.

Carey 08


The final session, chaired by Phil Heaps, was given over to a sermon from Steven Curry (formerly in Ballymoney but now pastoring in Bangor). Steven should have spoken last year but was unwell. Typically thorough, clear and warm he took us to Philippians 2 (an adapted Christmas sermon perhaps) and made the following helpful five points. If we are to go on in the ministry in the footsteps of Jesus as true servants of God then

1. We should have an attitude that surrenders position for the sake of the people of God
2. We should have an attitude that serves submissively in obedience to God
3. We should have an attitude that patiently waits in humility to be exalted in due time by God
4. We should have an attitude that puts first the cause of God
5. We should have an attitude that is motivated by the glory of God

Carey 07


For his final paper Tom Schreiner took us through Romans 9:30-10:21 and again had useful things to say.
He reminded us, for example, that we can sum up Reformed Theology by saying “If we do any good it is due to God's grace. If we do evil, it is our fault.” He reminded us that election does not exclude human responsibility. In passing, he noted that Romans 9:1 is a clear example of praying for unbelievers. He also said that he believes in a coming revival for the Jews from the passage but did not really flesh that out. Dutchman Kees Van Kralingen chaired. It was good to hear from him that the 1689 Confession is about to be translated into Dutch.
After coffee, Bill James chaired Tom and Jerry (! ie Schreiner and Marcellino) in a question session. People wanted to ask Tom Schreiner about the new perspective and one or two other things. We heard from Jerry Marcellino about his escape from "Al Martinism" and the formation of FIRE . In the course of explaining himself he said a number of things about his present church in Laurel, Mississippi, including the fact that they do not have an evening service. This led to a brief (and in my opinion inadequate) discussion of the Lord's Day. Anyway very soon it was time for lunch.

Carey 06

By speaking for CICCU I had to miss the prayer and share session, which I normally look forward to. Apparently, 9 or 10 spoke -
Three EMF students - Sergey, Jack and Andreas (from Ukraine, Poland and Switzerland respectively)
Erroll Hulse (unable to be at all of the conference) spoke about Conferences for African pastors in Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Another Sergey from Ukraine who is a student in WEST.
Three LTS students - Phil, Clinton and Femi (from the UK, South Africa and Nigeria respectively)
Roger Fay also introduced Slava Viazovski who is involved in literature work in Belarus, where EP hold conferences and where it is hoped that a seminary can be begun.
By the time I got back to Swanwick, Jerry Marcellino was well into his second paper on finishing well. His burden seemed to be the importance of persevering to the end. He emphasised faithfulness not success. His style seemed a little sentimental to me and less theologically toned than yesterday but I missed the first half of the talk so I can't say.
I stayed up rather late unwinding with several people. It eventually dwindled down to me and Phil Arthur. It was a good time.

Excursus


After lunch I headed off in the car to Quinta Christian Centre where I had agreed to give a seminar on holiness for the CICCU (Cambridge Inter-collegiate Christian Union). It's about 95 miles and there is no obvious route so I ended up taking quite an interesting pathway. About 120 were at the conference and 20 of them came to the seminar, which was great. I'm not used to students really. By my age they look like children but when they speak they are obviously young adults and I had some really nice chats both in and out of the seminar. Ian Hamilton was doing the main talks. No time to talk to him as he had just been told that the man who had agreed to give a seminar on the Trinity couldn't show up so was substituting.

Carey 05b

Stephen Lloyd also spoke of new landscapes with regard to
2. Creationism
Things have moved on since Whitcomb and Morris but there are still things to criticise. There are bad creationist books, etc. Often very negative, simply anti-evolutionary. Better to be positive. There are research journals and other efforts have been made simply to do research on a creationist model. New creationism (cf Paul Garner's book by that title) involves new people working in their own special fields. Eg John Baumgarten an expert in plate tectonics; Kurt Wise (who did his PhD with Stephen Jay Gould) a palaeontologist, etc. Such people are working as teams. They seek to be positive. Simply rubbishing evolutionists is not helpful. It is better to give a better model, one true to the Word. (A model is a story to explain something). Creationists have been developing various models. There are not only new models but also new questions. Eg carbon dating a diamond, looking for mica in the grand canyon where it is not supposed to be. It is real science. A model can only be consistent or inconsistent with the Bible, which is not a scientific textbook.
3. The Bible
There is a new landscape here too. We tend to think there is nothing new to say but some of the biblical arguments need developing, in part because we have been asking the wrong questions. There is a sense in which we can forget Genesis, which is pretty straightforward. Romans is perhaps more important. The Gospel Coalition helpfully emphasises Creation - fall - redemption - restoration in a way that sometimes has not been done in the past. We live in a biblically illiterate age and we need to press the story line. This is where we really come into conflict with Darwinism. Three crucial doctrines that are particularly pertinent to the matter of origins are whether
There was agony or death before Adam; Adam was a real human being; Noah's flood was a worldwide deluge
Dr Lloyd (as at the John Owen Conference back in September) concentrated on the first issue only (he has something in print soon). If we try and make the biblical story cohere with the Darwinian one the biblical story becomes incoherent and disjointed. For example, to say cancer is part of the original creation is problematic in many,many ways.

Carey 05a


2009 sees the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th of his Origin of Species and so it was appropriate to have pastor and scientist Dr Stephen Lloyd speaking on Darwin to Dawkins. He began by noting how nervous many evangelicals are about Darwinism. They feel intimidated scientifically and theologically. Also it is feared that the debate with Darwinism is divisive and a non-starter apologetically. Further, there is a fear that it may prove a distraction. Finally, creationism is thought of as dated. Yet, in the secular world they do not think Darwinism as dated. In the move from modernism to post-modernism it has remained intact. Dawkins etc are saying nothing new just asserting what has long been believed.
The media is interested in Darwinism because people are interested. Despite general apathy there is a great interest generally in the subject of origins. So we can't avoid it. Further we should turn it to our advantage. It can unite rather than divide. It is also not a problem evangelistically and can be helpful pastorally too. Now is a good time for debate. What Dr Lloyd did then was to helpfully update us on three areas of the debate where the cultural and scientific landscape has changed – the intelligent design movement, creationism and biblical understanding.
1. Intelligent Design
The movement began in the USA through lawyer Philip Johnson. On a sabbatical in Oxford, still then unconverted, he bought and read Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker and Michal Denton's Evolution - Theory in crisis). He saw that the debate was not a scientific one by definition. He pointed out the circularity of evolutionary arguments. The debate is set up in terms of a religion/science debate but it is not. Evolution is always the assumption. Naturalism rules. Dawkins is determined to take this view regardless of facts. Religion is put in the non-real realm. Evolutionary theory is not so much anti-God as anti-science. Johnson argued that we must be more scientific and follow the facts wherever they lead (Darwin on trial 1991 also note Reason in the balance 1995). At first the ID movement was not so much anti-evolution but a reaction to new science and discovery.
We were shown a clip of Michael Behe (Darwin's Black box) and Scott Minnich speaking of the complexity in humanity (as discovered since the fifties) and how it speaks so clearly of design. Darwinism has no way of explaining such things. The cell is outrageously complex - the opposite of what 19th Century scientists expected.
Mathematician William Dembski wrote The Design Inference in 1998 seeking to set out a rigorous mathematical way of detecting design. His publishers CUP were happy with the idea but became nervous about the application to biology. Dembski speaks of evidence of design very narrowly and certainly does not seek to identify the Designer. (Dembski would not see a snowflake as designed). CUP also published (2004) Debating Design.
Anthony Flue is one who has now moved, because of ID arguments, to a belief in a God. ID has had a high media profile. Christians are unclear what to think. The media often lump it in with creationism but it is only a scientific theory and not necessarily biblical. It is useful for puncturing the naturalism bubble. Unlike creationism some scientists are at least willing to consider ID. It cannot save but it is our friend. ID is like the airforce and creationism the ground forces!
(To be continued)


Carey 04

So we've had a good start here in Swanwick. I stayed up quite late chatting and then blogging but had a good night's rest and was able to be up for the prayer meeting. Our first session was Tom Schreiner's second message from Romans. I chaired. We skipped Romans 3:21-26 and then worked through 3:27 to the end of Chapter 4.
Again we started with an apt quote from Luther. Yesterday it was the hammer of the law and today a reminder that we always have more to learn with regard to the matter of justification by faith. Again we had an excellent walk through interacting especially with the new perspective on Paul, acknowledging insights where possible but more often pointing out its misreadings. We also had a few anecdotes such as his wondering at one time why his Christian life was such a struggle and then remembering that we have no reservoir of strength but need to rely always on God and about praying for things with faith and realism. Abraham's perseverance in faith is a great example to us and reminds us that justification is only by faith.
There was time for a few questions on the new perspective and assurance and then it was time for coffee.

Carey 03


After supper our second American spoke - Jerry Marcellino, a pastor in Laurel, Mississippi. John Benton chaired. In a very interesting paper he sought to encourage us from 1 Corinthians 4 by asserting that the doctrine of providence will fuel your perseverance in the ministry if you do four things.
1. Rightly assess your call - Who are you? (1 Cor 4:1-6)
Speaking up very much for the traditional understanding of the call he spoke of the call to shepherd the sheep, to reach the perishing and to proclaim Jesus as Lord and ourselves as his servants.
2. Know you are in the place of ministry where you should be - Where are you? (1 Cor 4:7-12)
Hopefully you know you are in just the place you know you should be. Think of Bunyan's faithfulness to his 120 in Bedford when he could gathers hundreds in London.
The need is a voice for the hour and an hour for the voice. He also spoke of the importance of suffering.
He asked are you remembering where the power comes from? (But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.)
We should expect opposition.
We need to keep the focus on the person of Jesus and be sure that we are in the place of his providential ordering.
3. Rightly assess the length of your ministry - Why are you there? To make known the Living God (1 Cor 4:13-15)
He quoted some helpful things from my father-in-law (Geoff Thomas) on finding a place and settling there – including the helpfulness of attending ministers conferences. He advocated not planning to go but being willing to stay but planning to stay but being willing to go. He referred to Gilbert Tennant's response to Whitefield – wanting not to die but to live as long as I can and to do my people as much good as I can.
4. Get your aim in ministry right - What are you doing? Living in the light of eternity (1 Cor 4:16-18)
He spoke alliteratively of
Persevering (Therefore we do not lose heart.)
Plodding - a long obedience in the same direction. (Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day)
Preparation (For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.)
Perception (So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.)
He concluded with these words:
Aim to remain
Aim to sustain – word centred, warm hearted
Aim to proclaim – Jesus
Aim to obtain – crown of life, righteousness.
This was warm hearted and useful stuff worth hearing. A good discussion followed.

Carey 02


Bill James chaired our second session and Dr Tom Schreiner, Professor of NT interpretation at Southern Baptist Seminary, Louisville, who has written on Romans and NT Theology among other things gave us an exegesis of Romans 2:1-3:20 (omitting 3:1-8). In a very clear and helpful style he worked through the passage pointing out exegetical issues and revealing his own views as well as those of others (such as Dunn and Moo) en route. Lots of mostly helpful things were said in the message and in discussion afterwards touching on the insanity of evil, how hypothetical Paul is, natural law, secret sins, the advantages and disadvantages of being a Jew, the judgement, etc. Quite stimulating on the whole. We ought to have more exegesis at such conferences.

Carey 01


The first session was chaired by Hugh Collier. The speaker was David Ellis (currently in Stowmarket but due to move soon to Hinckley and at one time a missionary in France). Readers of this blog will not need reminding that 2009 sees the 500th year of Calvin's birth so it was appropriate that we began with a paper on Calvin the pastor and theologian.
Beginning with an amusing reference to the response of a Swiss chocolatier to the Calvin anniversary, David went on to remind us of important aspects of Calvin's character and history. His burden was that Calvin was a real human being not the austere and lifeless plaster saint or tyrant sometimes presented. A man of action, he felt his heart was in God's hand. Fearless and determined, he sought to base all that he taught on Scripture, leaving a monumental legacy in his writings, especially the Institutes. Under his hand Geneva became a centre that had an incalculable impact in many countries – not just in Christian terms but as far as politics and democracy are concerned too. He was every inch a Frenchman, full of tenderness and affection towards his fellow countrymen. Calvin's greatest skill was putting things in their right place. How important that is. Often that is the problem in churches. Things are misplaced and given the wrong emphasis.
Calvin was a man with a sense of humour and a man with a great capacity for life long friendship. His brilliance and his capacity for hard work was evident at a young age. At the same time he was a very modest and by nature a very private man. (The nearest he comes to personal reference is in his preface to his work on the Psalms). His appetite for hard study affected his health and no doubt this was made worse by his temperament. He suffered from many diseases but his strong constitution no doubt helped him to live as long and to be as productive as he did.
Tracing his various movements David referred to a short stay in Italy where he and Mareau worked on a psalter. The two young men were often attractive to the ladies of the court. Calvin was always chiefly concerned to bear witness to them. It was en route from Noyon to Basle that he was eventually confronted in Geneva by Farel in a historic meeting. The rest, as they say, is history. How one explains this except as an act of God is difficult to see.
Reformation was the aim in Geneva. It was an uphill struggle and Calvin did not always get his way. Calvin's influence was very great. Apart from anything he trained many men for the ministry, including 88 men who went to France, 10 of them dying as martyrs He was from Picardy. They are known as 'the southerners of the north'. They have a Latin temperament and are great lovers of freedom. Calvin's obstinacy and quick temper were no doubt partly due to this. He confesses at one time about his temper 'I have not been able to tame this ferocious beast'.
David also spoke about his way of writing. He used popular proverbs (eg sickness comes on a horse and leaves on foot), sometimes earthy language and always plain and straightforward language. He was always fearful of not being clear enough.
Calvin was married for 8 years to the widow Idelette de Bure. She brought two sons to the marriage. They themselves had two children but they died as infants. This clearly affected him though he never let go of the fact of God's sovereignty.
Since the Apostle Paul there probably has not been a greater minister.
(David referred to a 1964 Puritan Paper on Calvin by O R Johnston worth checking out on these matters).

Carey Conference 2009


It's my great privilege to be at the Carey Conference in Swanwick once again. We're packed out here. I travelled up by car with four African students from LTS - two from West Africa (Femi and Klebert), two from South Africa (Richard and Clinton). I'm hoping to do some regular liveish blogging. We'll see.

Cymraeg all the way


Rhodri's feeling nostalgic so he's dug out this clip from BBC 2's Newsnight in the mid-nineties. He's interviewed about a minute in. I think it's good that all children in Wales need to learn some Welsh. I'm of the lost generation that was taught nothing - not even how to pronounce the name of the place we lived in can you believe?!

Called to the ministry?


Someone asked me recently about the call to the ministry. I know some people don't think there is a call but for many years it has seemed to me that there are three essential elements. 1. Strong desire (the call). Without that you'll give up when you find out what it's really all about. 2. Certain skills - this is hard to assess sometimes but obviously you must be able to preach and teach and pastor. Training can help. 3. Opportunity - Your home church needs to be sure you are called (they can be wrong, of course and that makes for difficulties) and finally you need a church to call you to pastor them (they too could be wrong, of course, nothing is infallible in this life). Without that last bit you obviously never were called.
This may seem a little simplistic but I think it fits the biblical pattern.

Bloggy Special 34

Winter Wonderland


Most of us went to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park on Saturday. Good fun!

New Photo Series 16

Teenager with an unusual T-shirt

Hymn of the week 30


This is one of two Doddridge hymns for the new year in New Christian Hymns that we sang yesterday,

Great God, we sing Your mighty hand
By which supported still we stand;
The opening year Your mercy shows,
That mercy crowns it ’til its close.

By day, by night, at home, abroad,

Still are we guarded by our God,
By His incessant bounty fed,
By His unerring counsel led.

With grateful hearts the past we own;

The future, all to us unknown,
We to Thy guardian care commit,
And peaceful leave before Thy feet.

In scenes exalted or depressed,

You are our joy, and You our rest;
Your goodness all our hopes shall raise,
Adored through all our changing days.

When death shall interrupt our songs

And seal in silence mortal tongues,
In fairer realms, O God, shall we
Your praises sing eternally.

52 JC No 1

Never slow to nick a good idea I see that Martin Downes is offering us a quote a day from Calvin. May be I can manage one a week, starting with this double dose.
Christ in all the Scriptures
Again, we are taught by this passage [John 5:39-40], that if we wish to obtain the knowledge of Christ, we must seek it from the Scriptures; for they who imagine whatever they choose concerning Christ will ultimately have nothing of him but a shadowy phantom. First, then, we ought to believe that Christ cannot be properly known in any other way than from the Scriptures; and if it be so, it follows that we ought to read the Scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them. Whoever shall turn aside from this object, although he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth; for what wisdom can we have without the wisdom of God? Next, as we are commanded to seek Christ in the Scriptures, so he declares in this passage that our labours shall not be fruitless; for the Father testifies in them concerning his Son in such a manner that he will manifest him to us beyond all doubt. But what hinders the greater part of men from profiting is, that they give to the subject nothing more than a superficial and cursory glance. Yet it requires the utmost attention, and, therefore, Christ enjoins us to search diligently for this hidden treasure. Consequently, the deep abhorrence of Christ which is entertained by the Jews, who have the Law constantly in their hands, must be imputed to their indolence. For the lustre of the glory of God shines brightly in Moses, but they choose to have a veil to obscure that lustre.
John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel of John (1563).

So then, from this we must gather that to profit much in the Holy Scripture we must always resort to our Lord Jesus Christ and cast our eyes upon him, without turning away from him at any time. You will see a number of people who labour very hard indeed at reading the Holy Scriptures - they do nothing else but turn over the leaves of it, and yet after ten years they have as much knowledge of it as if they had never read a single line. And why? Because they do not have any particular aim in view, they only wander about. And even in worldly learning you will see a great number who take pains enough, and yet all to no purpose, because they kept neither order nor proportion, nor do anything else but gather material from this quarter and from that, by means of which they are always confused and can never bring anything worthwhile. And although they have gathered together a number of sentences of all sorts, yet nothing of value results from them. Even so it is with them that labour in reading the Holy Scriptures and do not know which is the point they ought to rest on, namely, the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John Calvin, Sermon on Ephesians 2:19-22 (1559).

Calvin link

I got quite excited when I saw the heading Calvin (audio links). I was wondering just how they'd done it. Not quite what I thought, it is a link worth pursuing. Thanks Martin.

Condensed classic


Eleri is shopping and Dylan is busy downstairs eating his Christmas present from Gwion - a tin of condensed milk.
According to Wikipedia (more here) condensed milk or sweetened condensed milk, is cow's milk from which water has been removed and to which sugar has been added, yielding a very thick, sweet product that can last for years without refrigeration if unopened. The two terms, condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk, have become synonymous; though there have been unsweetened condensed milk products, today these are uncommon. Condensed milk is used in numerous dessert dishes in many countries, especially in Russia and the former Soviet Union. A related product is evaporated milk, which has undergone a more complex process and which is not sweetened.

12 Forgotten OT Prophets

1. Iddo the Seer had visions in connection with Jeroboam and wrote other things down
(2 Chr 9:29, 12:15, 13:22)
2. Ahijah the Shilonite who prophesied against Jeroboam (1 Kin 11:29-39; 14:1-18)
3. Shemaiah who prophesied to Rehoboam (2 Chr 11:2-4; 12:5-7, 15)
4. Azariah son of Oded who prophesied to Asa (2 Chr 15:1-8)
5. Hanani the Seer who also prophesied to Asa (2 Chr 16:7-10)
6. Micaiah, son of Imlah who prophesied to Ahab and Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 18:7-27)
7. Jehu son of Hanani who prophesied to Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 19:2, 3; 1 Kin 16:1-7)
8. Jahaziel son of Zechariah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, who also prophesied to Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 20:14-17)
9. Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah who again prophesied against Jehoshaphat
(2 Chr 20:37)
10. Oded who prophesied in the time of Ahaz (2 Chr 28:9-11)
11. Huldah the Prophetess, the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, who was approached by Hilkiah and others (2 Kin 22:14-20, 2 Chr 34:22-28)
12. Urijah son of Shemaiah killedin Jeremiah's time (Jer 26:20-23)

New Year 2009



We're back in London after welcoming in the new year in Wales. We were in Aber with Eleri's parents and her younger sister and family. We didn't do anything very special though the boys had fun with glow sticks. Earlier in the evening we were at a party in the church and before that we were all invited over to Eleri's auntie and uncle for lunch. On new year's day we played football again then after lunch we held our traditional silly string squirting event, which has featured here before. After that we packed and hit the road, stopping at MacDonald's Meole Brace retail park en route. The house was pretty cold when we got back but it's good to be home.

Affinity Conference


The book of papers for the Affinity Conference early in February on the end of the law has arrived. It currently lacks Paper 4: The use of the Mosaic Law in the New Testament church by Chris Bennett Wilton Community Church, Muswell Hill. The other papers

Paper 1: The concept of Covenant in the history of theology
Bob Letham Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST), Bridgend
Paper 2: The validity of the three-fold division of the Mosaic Law in Scripture
Iain D Campbell Back Free Church, Isle of Lewis
Paper 3: One Covenant or two – the relationship between the Old and the New
Douglas Moo Wheaton College, Illinois
Paper 5: The use of the Mosaic Law in society today
Paul Helm Regent College, Vancouver and London University
Paper 6: Where do we go from here?
Michael Horton Westminster Seminary, California

I've only just started on the papers so I can't comment yet but I am looking forward to reading them and the discussion at the conference. Douglas Moo and Michael Horton are names I know well but have rarely had opportunity to hear. The Affinity website is here.

More holiday stuff


Another fun thing over Christmas was a chocolate fountain. Chocolate is always fun. Being in Wales, of course, there was rugby. The Cardiff Blues lost twice to the Ospreys (Wales in black shirts). Someone gave the boys a rugby ball for Christmas. They're more familiar with the round ball. Another feature there is singing grace together. We always use an englyn (a traditional form of poem in Welsh)

O Dad, yn deulu dedwydd - Y deuwn
A diolch o'r newydd,
Cans o'th law y daw bob dydd
Ein lluniaeth a'n llawenydd.

[O Dad, yn deulu dedwydd (Dad & dedwydd, d repeated) - Y deuwn
A diolch o'r newydd, (deuwn & diolch, d repeated)
Cans o'th law y daw bob dydd (law & daw rhyming, daw & dydd, d repeated, cynghanedd sain)
Ein lluniaeth a'n llawenydd. (ein lluniaeth & a'n llawenydd, ll-n repeated)]

It means something like

O Father, the happy family comes to thank anew, Because from your hand comes each day our food and our joy. Amen.

It appears to have been written by W. D. Williams (1900-1985).

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Happy new year to you all!