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.

Out and about 02

On Friday we took Owain to hospital to have five milk teeth extracted. Obviously it was rather traumatic but he's come through it fine. I was impressed with the thorough and straightforward way most of it was done. Various people come and speak to you before the operation all asking whether he has eaten that morning. He hadn't but his patience was wearing thin by the time he was ready to go in. They must do them in batches of six and he was last for some reason (because he was the oldest or the one having most out?). It took a little while to get through the general anaesthetic. He was distracted by visiting cousins over the weekend but we kept him off school Monday just to help him. He is a brave boy.

Out and about 01

I was at a police I D suite the other day. Obviously, I can say very little about it but it is all done with video these days.
They show nine individuals one after the other on a computer screen. They appear silently against a uniform green background for about a minute, turning their heads (presumably at a command). They show you all nine twice and no-one says anything then if you have anything to say you do and they record it. The whole procedure itself is videoed. This obviously beats the old live method by a mile, scoring well on many counts such as cost, accuracy, fairness, safety, etc. I understand that they can choose the control likenesses from a bank of about 25,000 images.
What struck me is that these images were clearly all of different people but so close in look that if I described any one of them I'd describe the others, lacking the vocabulary to distinguish very easily beyond the obvious. It looks like a good, fair system and the officers involved were all careful not to create difficulties by discussing the case, etc. There's a lot more about it here.

Famous Brady 06

E. J. (Edwin James) Brady (1869 – 1952) was an Australian poet born at Carcoar, New South Wales, and educated both in the USA and Sydney. He worked as a wharf clerk, a farmer and journalist, editing both rural and city newspapers. He was a friend and correspondent of Sir Edmund Barton, the first Australian prime minister and helped to save Henry Lawson's life in 1910. He later established a writers' and artists' colony at Mallacoota, in 1909, and continued to live there until his death in 1952 at the age of 83. More here and here

AV AV


This looks interesting

All Together Now


The expertly marketed Beatles are now on itunes and me posting this video here stems from that move, I guess. I seem to remember seeing this postscript to Yellow Submarine at the cinema some time.

Childs Hill Peer

Childs Hill is nowhere near the sea but it now has a peer. Apparently LibDem Councillor Monroe Palmer OBE has been made a life peer in the Prime Minister's list of newly-created peers. I hope he will be known as Lord Palmer of Childs Hill rather than of Barnet. I have only met him once or twice but see him about from time to time.
He plans to carry on in his role as a councillor, which he has done for the last 25 years. He said recently “I hope to combine both roles. I think my work in the House of Lords will benefit from the knowledge I have as a councillor regarding how local councils work and how people react to things, and I think me being in the House of Lords will help my colleagues in Barnet Council.”
Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, nominated Cllr Palmer for the position and he will be introduced into the House as a working life peer in the new year.
Cllr Palmer said: “Nick Clegg knows me personally and he is well aware of the work I have done locally and nationally.”
He added: “I am excited about my new role and feel very privileged.”
Cllr Palmer is also national chairman of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel and has an interest in matters concerning the Middle East.
Talking about what issues he would like to raise in the House of Lords, Cllr Palmer said: “I would like to inform people on my views on the conflicts in the Middle East and I want to do my best to bring peace to that region.
“But I also hope the House of Lords can make use of my knowledge on issues such as planning, highways and taxation.”
Cllr Palmer represents the Childs Hill ward alongside his wife, Councillor Susette Palmer.
They married in Golders Green Synagogue and have three children and six grandchildren.
Cllr Palmer said: “We are very family orientated and most of our family is close by – my son and daughter-in-law live next door with their three children.”
Cllr Susette Palmer, who has lived in Childs Hill all her life, added: “I am so proud of him – he really deserves it and I think he will be an asset to the House of Lords.”
Matthew Harris, vice-chairman of Barnet Liberal Democrats, said: “It is great that Monroe is going to represent Barnet in Parliament.
“He will be a splendid voice for local people in important Parliamentary debates. Nobody has worked harder than Monroe in his many years as a Barnet councillor.”

Update

I've been rather busy this week taking a large wardrobe down the stairs and back up again, preparing sermons and writing an article amongst other things but I do want to report on last week.
Last Sunday I drove down to Pains Hill Chapel once again and had a nice day with the Averys (I was in college with Jonathan so it is always good to catch up). I preached from Titus 3 and Romans 8:28. They are  a small group of Reformed Baptists seeking to bear witness in the stockbroker belt. They are pretty conservative but make big efforts to reach out and are slowly making a little impact. A lady wandered in on Sunday Morning. She was of the Baha'i faith. It was gratifying to talk to someone who has really been appreciating my book on Song of Solomon, Heavenly Love.
Saturday morning I was over at the chapel putting gaffer tape on the floor at a clean up morning. Time after that was typically taken up with preparing for Sunday, including photocopying the notices in Swiss Cottage (my current supplier) where I usually have a quick coffee in Apostrophe in the O2 Centre and  a wander round Waterstones. I also bought some shoe laces in Sainsbury's. Eleri took the younger ones to see Harry Potter in the afternoon. The other two made their own way there. Also watched an hour of Harry Hill on TV.
Rhodri was around briefly Saturday having made a flying trip down to see a play (Blasted) at the Lyric, Hammersmith. We collected him from Euston late Friday night. Always good to see my eldest son. It was clubs before that (lost sheep and coin) and we had had a decent turn out at both though some were missing. We got the younger group back on track where we were having some behaviour problems.
Thursday was a church members meeting and a red letter one in that we agreed to welcome five new members including my sons Dylan and Dewi who are to be baptised this Sunday evening. Earlier in the day I spent some time taking our oldest member to the audiologist for a new hearing aid fit - all very interesting.
Wednesday had been a full day with my visits to Spring Court and Heathgrove Lodge both falling on the same day this time. There was also the midweek meeting looking at Titus on avoiding arguments and divisive people.
Tuesday it was my great joy to be at the John Owen Centre for Hebrew with David Green. We were looking at Psalm 104 and two other psalms. Very stimulating.
Monday we had the lunch time lecture from Barry King on Sutcliff and the call to prayer at the Evangelical Library. I'd hoped there'd be more but we were in double figures at least. It was good to be reminded of revival and the importance of prayer. In the evening I made my way over to Hounslow where we had the first official meeting of the new Cranford Support Trust in connection with Robin Asgher's work in Cranford. That went well but we are in great need of God's help.

Ten unwritten novels

I found a list in my study I wrote some time. I think it's a list of unwritten novels or perhaps possible album titles:

1. Re: the public
2. What's the time Virginia Woolf?
3. Will he give him a snake instead?
4. Cricket to hide
5. Like that of a young boy
6. On the way to London 123
7. Dead leaves falling
8. Utopiary
9. Dylan and Cynddylan
10. Fairy Silk

Beatles on itunes at last

We knew it would happen eventually. Well, there they are now. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Famous Brady 05


This is slightly different in that the name is a Germanised one. Toronto based George Brady, O.Ont (born February 9, 1928) is the brother of Hana Brady (Bradova) who died in Auschwitz. He was born in Nové Město na Moravě, Czechoslovakia, the son of Marketa and Karel Brady. He is a Jewish Holocaust survivor of both Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. There was apparently a film about them - Inside Hana's Suitcase.  More here.

Foggy Day in London Town

It's been quite foggy today. "A Foggy Day" is a song composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1937 film A Damsel in Distress. It was originally titled "A Foggy Day (In London Town)", and is often still referred to as such. Many people have recorded it including Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble. The lyrics are I was a stranger in the city

Out of town were the people I knew
I had that feeling of self-pity
What to do? What to do? What to do?
The outlook was decidedly blue
But as I walked through the foggy streets alone
It turned out to be the luckiest day I've known

A foggy day in London Town
Had me low and had me down
I viewed the morning with alarm
The British Museum had lost its charm
How long, I wondered, could this thing last?
But the age of miracles hadn't passed,
For, suddenly, I saw you there
And through foggy London Town
The sun was shining everywhere.

Pray for Tanzania

Anti Bullying Week

Doing my bit for anti bullying week I sent this abuisive email to my sister and sisters-in-law:

Ladies

I noticed it was anti bullying week and so I thought I'd email you on behalf of the boys and say that we're gonna send someone round to beat you all up this week if you don't do whatever we say. I don't know if your kids have anything in mind for Eleri?
Or may be I've misunderstood something.
G

Oreos

Once upon a time in the dac dac wyd is wos dr. x man tra to kill oll the animals. But then owain in the sgi was fleng and shoot dawn and faet dr. x man and tyn en to a danosr. He et the oreo to be mor strong and bit him up and cel dr. x man.
The end.

This is the first draft of a story my 9 year old son is writing. It reminds me of those Michelangelo statues where the figures are emerging from the stone with effort it seems.

Evangelical Library Lecture Monday

This is just a reminder that on Monday at 1 pm there is an opportunity to hear Barry King at the Evangelical Library in Bounds Green. Barry will speak on John Sutcliff an the concert for prayer. Do come if you can. More details here.

Foxe's Martyrs

I notice that Melvyn Bragg is planning to discuss Foxe's Book of Martyrs on Radio 4 next week. Details here. It will probably be rather frustrating but may be there will be something good.

Famous Brady 04

Yellow ball of wool
Charles Brady (1926 – 1997) was a painter who was born and trained in New York and spent most of his life in Ireland. More here.

Countries with the most Protestants

I found this info here What I really wanted was the statistics for evangelical population that I saw on the OW site but that has now disappeared.
1 United States: 82,283,895
2 United Kingdom: 36,000,000
3 Nigeria: 34,124,577
4 South Africa: 30,154,013
5 Brazil: 27,916,919
6 Germany: 27,065,000
7 Korea, South: 16,550,000
8 China: 15,675,766
9 Indonesia: 14,276,459
10 Kenya: 12,855,244
11 Uganda: 9,544,319
12 Canada: 9,513,462
13 Philippines: 8,785,747
14 Sweden: 7,741,526
15 Australia: 7,634,366
16 India: 7,561,851
17 Venezuela: 7,358,832
18 Ethiopia: 7,305,328
19 Ghana: 6,939,852
20 Mexico: 6,372,174
21 Netherlands: 5,414,472
22 Tanzania: 5,147,290
23 Denmark: 4,943,425
24 Guatemala: 4,836,212
25 Madagascar: 4,510,085
26 Finland: 4,445,149
27 Malawi: 4,316,418
28 Mozambique: 4,269,475
29 Zimbabwe: 4,206,507
30 Norway: 4,133,737

The Last Station

Watched this on DVD the other night. It is a biopic about the final days of the novelist Count Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer). I'm rather vague on my Tolstoy so it was nice to have some insight into a towering figure of 19th Century literature. The story  is told through the eyes of a writer called Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy) which allows in a love angle (so beloved of Hollywood) with Masha (Kerry Condon) though most of the drama comes from the fight over Tolstoy between his wife (Helen Mirren - very good - a Dame as a Countess!) and Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti). Gorseinon boy John Sessions does a good turn too. How accurate it all is who nows but it was a nice introduction. I must get out War and Peace ....

Mark Twain

Radio 4's Book of the week is the autobiography of Mark Twain. Apparently it is only just out as Clemens put a hundred year embargo on it for some reason. Twain is a superb writer. His use of hyperbole, litotes and similar rhetorical devices is just magical. Do check it out while you can. Start here.

ICM Devotional Books

With the new year looming I noticed that ICM have these on sale at present.

Famous Brady 03

Robert A. "Bob" Brady (born in Philadelphia, April 7, 1945) is the US Representative for Pennsylvania's 1st congressional district, serving since 1998, and the Chairman of the United States House Committee on House Administration since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party. more here.

Real records you missed

I found this genuine record sleeve here. Plenty more where that came from.

Famous Brady 02

Beau Brady (born 11 October 1981 in Sydney) is an Australian actor, best known for his role as Noah Lawson on the drama Home and Away. more here.

Countries with the most Christians

Operation World seems to have dropped its charts but elsewhere (Wikipedia) I have found this list of nations wit the most professing Christians (not evangelicals but Christians of all sorts). This is not the list I saw on OW which haf Nicaragua near the top if I remember correctly.

Countries with the greatest proportion of Christians from Christianity by country (as of 2008):

1. Vatican City 100% (100% Roman Catholic)
2. Federated States of Micronesia ~100%
3. Samoa ~100%
4. Panama ~ 100%
5. Romania 99%
6. East Timor 99% (90% Roman Catholic)
7. Bolivia 98.1% (95% Roman Catholic)
8. Venezuela 98% (mostly Roman Catholic)
9. Marshall Islands 97.2%
10. Peru 97.1%
11. Paraguay 96.9% (mostly Roman Catholic)
12. Papua New Guinea 96.4%
13. Kiribati 96%
14. Angola +95%
15. Barbados +95%
16. Cyprus 95% (mostly Greek Orthodox)
17. Mexico 95% (mostly Roman Catholic)
18. Malta 95%
19. Colombia 93.5% (mostly Roman Catholic)
20. Guatemala +90% (50-60% Roman Catholic and ~40% Protestant, 0-10% non-Christian)

Word watching 4 Generation X

The term Generation X began as a more general term in the 1950s and was then used as the title of a 1964 sociological study by Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson. For a number of years now it has been used to refer to young adults born somewhere between 1965 and 1985. Generation X: Tales for an accelerated culture by Canadian Douglas Coupland appeared in 1991 and gave currency to the term.
What 'X' stands for is debatable. One writer speaks of Xers as a lost generation, becoming adults at the end of a century characterised by economic boom and bust, punctuated by world wars. With high unemployment, easy access to various entertainments, including computers, alcohol, drugs and recreational sex, Xers are often seen to be lacking motivation and unwilling to take on responsibility. The word slacker (as in Richard Linklater’s 1991 film Slackers) has also been used to refer to an apparently lack lustre generation.
Their parents, The baby boomers (c 1945-1965), it is said, were raised in church then left. Baby busters, as Xers are often called, have no Christian base whatsoever. Modernists believed progress was inevitable and were generally optimistic but have given way to postmodernists, who despise rationality and are often pessimistic. Dieter Zander once designated them the me generation and we generation. Boomers lived to work, Busters work to live; Boomers desired strong institutions, Busters strong relationships.
AIDS, the effects of divorce, single parenthood, both parents working and so-called ‘blended families’, rebellion against authority, cynicism and loathing for hypocrisy are other traits often noted. Bruce Tulgan has made his name writing about Generation X. He highlights disloyalty, arrogance, short attention span, unwillingness to pay ones dues and the demand for instant gratification. He argues, however, that these are due to growing up experiencing the effects of redundancy, broken homes, information overload and a fast changing world. He argues that these traits have a positive side. Speeches about ‘in my day’ cut no ice, says Tulgan, but Xers do look for mentors who can give what cannot be learned from other sources. Be willing to give them the ‘remote control’ and let them sift through what is on offer. Their apparent laziness is often more a matter of keeping plenty of personal time free, preferring relationships over achievement. ‘Busters have grown up watching the Boomers excel at their jobs and not excel at their homes’ (Zander). There is plenty of evidence of willingness to work hard given the right situation. Others have spoken positively too of a more balanced work ethic – happiness is more important than money; a rediscovery of the individual; enterprise; high social responsibility and high consumer savvy.
Zander has spoken of Generation X’s pain, postmodern mindset, fear, grassroots orientation and spiritual hunger. Perhaps this latter characteristic is the most encouraging. Zander quotes the striking statement in Coupland’s later book Life after God, ‘My secret is that I need God. That I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give because I no longer seem to be capable of giving. To help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness. To help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love’. Many have noted, with Chris Seay, what he said in an article called Pastor X ‘They’re open to the God thing, but they’re not into the church thing’.
Therefore Zander has a point when he suggests that in communicating with such people we need to be real (they want to know the bottom line and prefer honesty over politeness, says Andres Tapia), rousing, relevant and relational (talked with not at). Tapia, similarly, says Busters look for authenticity (tired of broken promises and commitments, they want honesty, sincerity and the truth), community (Xers often grew up surrounded by people but unable to connect with anyone.), lack of dogmatism, a focus on the arts and diversity. We cannot deny the truth but we can present it in ways that will win people. The preference of many for discussion groups over traditional sermons must be recognised how ever we respond. Racial, economic and ethnic diversity in our churches is an asset.
As Charlene Solomon argues no generation is monolithic, however there are significant ways in which one generation differs from a previous ones and we are wise to bear this in mind in regard to Generation X and the rising Generations Y and Z. If she is right that Xers dislike hearing about the past, inflexibility about time, workaholism, being scrutinised, disrespect, pressure to convert to traditionalist behaviour, disparaging comments about their generation’s tastes and styles, surely we are wise to take that on board.

AHOCIA 100 Objects 19

Perhaps we're leaping ahead too quickly now but we can come back if needs be.

Famous Brady 01

Alice Brady (November 2, 1892 – October 28, 1939) American actress who began her career in the silent film era and survived the transition into talkies. She worked up until six months before her death from cancer in 1939. Her films include My Man Godfrey (1936), in which she played the flighty mother of Carole Lombard's character, and In Old Chicago (1938) for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Brady was born in New York as Mary Rose Brady, and was interested at an early age in becoming an actress. Her father,William A Brady, was an important theatrical producer, and her mother was Rose Marie Rene who died in 1896 when little Alice was four. More here.

OW Declining Populations

Countries with the Lowest Population Growth Rate (AGR)
Rank Country Annual Growth
1 Georgia -1.1%
2 Moldova -1.0%
3 Lithuania -1.0%
4 Ukraine -0.6%
5 Bulgaria -0.6%
6 Belarus -0.5%
7 Latvia -0.5%
8 Romania -0.4%
9 Russia -0.4%
10 Dominica -0.3%
11 Serbia -0.2%
12 Hungary -0.2%
13 Croatia -0.2%
14 Bosnia -0.1%
15 Estonia -0.1%
16 Germany -0.1%
17 Poland -0.1%
18 Japan -0.1%
19 Virgin Is of the US -0.1%
20 Guyana -0.1%
21 Samoa 0.0%
22 Cuba 0.0%
23 Montenegro 0.0%
24 Greenland 0.0%
25 Macedonia 0.1%

Operation World

John, Paul, George, Ringo ... and Harry


Caught Harry and Paul the other night. These Beatles sketches are hilarious and really highlight how things have moved on in my life time.

OW Growing Populations

A new edition of Operation World is now out. There is also a new website here. This includes some interesting table of statistics that I would like to highlight. I'm not sure of OW's source but for a second opinion try here. Most of the countries in this list are predominantly Muslim I think. This is why we hear so much about Muslim growth even though there is declines at the same time. None of the countries listed is in Europe, of course, which does not give me a good feeling as one who rejects the overpopulation theories.

Countries with the Highest Population Growth Rate (AGR)
Rank Country Annual Growth
1 Qatar 11.2%
2 Liberia 4.2%
3 Niger 3.9%
4 Afghanistan 3.5%
5 Burkina Faso 3.4%
6 Timor L'este 3.4%
7 Uganda 3.3%
8 Syria 3.3%
9 Palestine 3.2%
10 Benin 3.2%
11 Eritrea 3.2%
12 Jordan 3.1%
13 Tanzania 2.9%
14 Burundi 2.9%
15 Yemen 2.9%
16 United Arab Emirates 2.9%
17 Malawi 2.8%
18 Chad 2.8%
19 Congo, Republic of 2.8%
20 Gambia 2.8%
21 French Guiana 2.7%
22 Madagascar 2.7%
23 Angola 2.7%
24 Rwanda 2.7%
25 Sierra Leone 2.7%

Jesus Storybook Bible

You may be interested in this link to Zondervan's website - Jesus Storybook Bible. There are plenty of things to object to (Jesus being portrayed, Amyraldianism, etc) but it is very theological and worth a look for yourself if not for your kids.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

 
A large grey coach came along the road the other day and some of the youngsters on board were waving to passers by. I waved back. I was wondering who these lads were and thought at first that I must know one of them. As I peered to try and see who it was I thougt for a moment that I recognised one of them as my twelve or thirteen year old son. Just as quickly I realised, of course, that it wasn't him just some boys from Leicester or wherever it was up in London for the day and waving to strangers for a bit of fun. Besides my twelve or thirteen year old son will be twenty-one next month and lives in Aberystwyth. What's that verse again?  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. We're only talking about a gap of eight or nine years in this case but it shows the sort of thing the verse is alluding to - eternity in the hearts of men.

Word watching 3 Abortuary

If you are concerned at the high number of abortions that take place in this country and elsewhere you will immediately recognise the point being made in the term ‘abortuary’. Coined in the late 1980s the term is used to refer to an abortion clinic and amalgamates the words abort and mortuary. The purpose is to emphasise that every time an abortion is performed a death results. As much as any mortuary, an abortion clinic is a place of death. Unlike a mortuary, however, the deaths of babies in abortion clinics are all preventable.
An anti-abortion or pro-life group called the Prolife action league is much in favour of this sort of emotive language. In a series of 99 things you can do about abortion they include use of ‘inflammatory rhetoric’. Most of the language they have in mind would only be ‘inflammatory rhetoric’ to pro-abortionists. For example, ‘baby’ rather than foetus, foetal tissue or the outrageous POC (‘product of conception’) and ‘mother’ rather than ‘killing a baby’ rather than ‘pregnant woman’ or ‘interrupting a pregnancy’. Some doctors object to being known as abortionists. American doctor, Robert Tamis, is an example named by another organisation. He wants to be known as a ‘fertility specialist’ but what many women who seek his help do not realise is that, despite his efforts to help them conceive at other times in the week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays he kills approximately 20 babies a morning.
Christians are well used to this reticence. Many have a distaste for terms like fornication or adultery and prefer ‘pre-marital sex’ or ‘having an affair’. Perhaps terms like ‘pro-life’ and ‘abortuary’ are inflammatory. The Pro-life action league recognises that constant use of such terms can be counter-productive. Nevertheless such terms can be useful in shocking people into realising what is going on.
Other terms for abortion clinics include ‘Death camp’ and ‘Abortion mill’. The word ‘holocaust’ has often been applied to the whole sorry spectacle of mass death that characterises the 20th century abortion industry. Such terms emphasise that just as under Hitler a mechanistic, conveyor belt approach to death existed, so, perhaps for the first time in history, abortionists take the same cold, ruthless line with unwanted babies today.
We cannot condone attacks on abortionists and abortion clinics and we may see little point in ‘inflammatory rhetoric’ but we cannot close our eyes to what is going on. Every day in cardboard boxes marked ‘Medical Services - Regulated Medical Waste’ or something similar, mangled, bloody bodies and torn limbs from tiny babies are taken across town to be incinerated. Can we have any sympathy at all for a man like Henry Morgentaler who alone has been personally responsible for some 100,000 abortions in Canada, a man who once said on a radio talk show ‘I’m quite proud of this accomplishment ... This is my calling in life, it’s my art … I should be given a medal for the compassionate service I have performed for women in this country’!? In 2008 he was indeed given the Order of Canada 'for his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations.' A number of members of the order withdrew in protest.
Our sympathies are with them and the American Joe Scheidler who wrote, ‘We live in a sick nation whose highest court legalised child murder, whose medical profession commits the carnage, whose government approves of it, whose legal system defends it, whose legislatures pass laws to protect it … and whose journalists have consistently conducted a program of silence and misinformation regarding this holocaust known as legal abortion.’

Things Seen and Heard

So I am at the bus stop on the Kilburn High Road and three smartly dressed girls in hijabs on their way home from Primark are talking and one has a camera taking pictures. They are not dressed very alike but they look like they could be sisters, two of a similar age and one a bit older. The language they are using sounds rather European, which is counter-intuitive. May be its Malay, I guess. So I politely ask. Swedish, they say! They are from Stockholm. Of course, I've been caught out like this before with African speakers. As for them being sisters, the older girl tells me she is from Iraq and the other two are from Turkey and Lebanon. All Arabic anyway.

Word watching 2 Pagan

Few readers can be unaware of the resurgence in recent years of paganism. The emergence of the Pagan Police Association demanding time off for pagan holidays has highlighted the fact. Consciously and unconsciously, men and women are seeking to fill the spiritual vacuum created by the general abandonment of Christianity with the old pagan beliefs once rejected by so many. If John Bunyan were writing his Pilgrim’s Progress today he might not write, as he did, of a cave where “two giants, Pope and Pagan, dwelt in old time; by whose power and tyranny” men “were cruelly put to death” nor that “Pagan has been dead many a day”. He might have something else to say about Pope too, but that is another matter.
Of course, many are using the word paganism in a technical sense – as referring to a vaguely definable nature religion. However, the word is often used more loosely in at least three other ways.

1. To describe religion outside Judaism before the coming of Christ.
2. To describe the religion of those who have heard the gospel and rejected it.
3. To describe the religion of those who have never heard the gospel.

The word itself has an interesting etymology. It comes directly from Latin and orginally meant rustic or peasant, a word that itself has the same roots. Both are ultimately from a word pagus, which referred to a rural district or to the countryside in general. That word itself is probably from pangere to fix, as in fixing a landmark to define an area or, possibly, from a Greek word in the Doric dialect referring to a fountain, as found in every village.
Pagans, then, could be villagers, or sometimes civilians as opposed to the military. Because Christianity first made its mark in the cities and towns, the main urban centres of the Roman Empire, it tended to be peasants, rural folk, country bumpkins we might say, who were the most likely not to have heard of Christ or to be unbelievers. From as early as AD 365 this secondary meaning of pagan began to be used. In his Decline and fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon says ‘Christianity gradually filled the cities of the empire: the old religion … retired and languished in obscure villages; and the word pagans, with its new signification, reverted to its primitive origin.’
Gibbon states that an important element in the rise of the word is that early believers dubbed those not in Christ’s army as ‘Civilians’ or Pagans as they had not taken the sacrament of baptism.
The word heathen, a Germanic word, seems to have similar roots. The dwellers on the heaths away from the towns were later again the slowest to accept the gospel. In the Middle English work Piers Plowman there is an explanation ‘Hethene is to mene after heth, And untiled earth’. It is fair to say that this explanation is disputed.
In Scripture there is no exact equivalent of these words. Rather words for the nations and for the Gentiles take on the meaning of heathen or pagan at times leading some translations to use such words. In Old Testament days the straight choice really was between the true God and the gods of the nations or pagans. Today we discriminate between nominal Christianity, Islam, Judaism and may be more, confining the word pagan to animistic beliefs, but the word also serves as a useful catch-all term for non-Christians found, sadly, both in rural and urban areas.

Word watching 1 Wicked

I recently came across some articles I did for Grace magazine a few years ago on words. I thought I made brush them up and place them here adn may be even try my hand at some more.

The word wicked appears many times in our English Bibles. It translates a range of Hebrew words in the Old Testament and three or four Greek words in the New Testament. It will not surprise you to learn that in every case the words have negative connotations.
The word wicked was probably a dialect word before the 13th century and finds its roots in the once forgotten Old English word, Wicca. The latter is the male form of Wicce from which (!) our word witch comes. Thus wicked originally meant bewitched. It has an affinity to the word cursed in that way. It came to refer to anything evil, depraved or corrupt and that is how most people understand it today. The witchcraft element has been all but completely forgotten.
It is a common word and this has led to a weakening of its power as an adjective. However, in the last twenty years or so it has been further weakened in the UK by the introduction of a slang usage, documented in most newer dictionaries, where the word has a positive and complimentary tone. (In New England it simply means extremely, really or very, context deciding whether very good or bad). Most of us are aware of this by now and those who work with young people have long learned to take care. Preachers also need to remember the alternative meaning as although young people know both meanings they often find it difficult to disassociate the word from its positive sense. The preacher who says ‘We are all wicked’ is in danger of giving the impression, at least to some, that he is praising the congregation rather than condemning it.
It is generally accepted that the slang usage began as ‘Jive talk’ popular among mainly African American jazz musicians in the middle of this century. They would speak, for example, of a ‘Wicked horn player’ meaning a saxophonist of great dexterity. Etymologically that parallels an older more mainstream expression wizard, as in ‘He’s a wizard on the keyboards’. This rich expression suggests initiation into an occult though not necessarily evil world where he has gained mastery of his instrument. It is more likely, however, that the use of wicked and similarly bad (‘This is a really bad tune’) as positive terms grew out of the abuse often heaped on jazz musicians, especially people of colour. If jazz music is held to be wicked music then, by definition, the better the music to the ears of those who appreciate it then the more bad or wicked to those that do not.
From the world of jive talk to that of popular music is a short step. The late Michael Jackson’s 1987 album Bad sold millions. Of course, the double meaning of the word is important here and has been exploited by many others. It is at this point that Isaiah 5:20 is most relevant, Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. The word passed to the other electronic media, most notably the world of football commentating. A wicked left foot is one that harms opponents in regard to their chances of winning but that is most desirable from the other team’s point of view. From here the word has passed into general usage in youth culture and beyond.
If there is a Satanic plot afoot here our enemy still has a long way to go. If he does succeed it will not be the first time. The word silly once meant holy! We have coped with that change and as long as we are aware of what is going on there is no reason why we should not be able to cope with this one either.

AHOCIA 100 Objects 18

New Book

I signed a contract with EP last week for a new book that is due out soon. It is in the What the Bible says about series and is to be called What the Bible says about what Jesus is doing now.
It has proved quite dificult to put together but I think that we have something worthwhile at last and I hope it will be a great help to many in due time.
Watch this space.

Third Photo series 05


Red leaf in the Autumn sunshine

Discover something new

The current Waterstones strapline is "Discover something new". The new thing that I've discovered is, as so often, an old thing. It involves going to a bookshop (yes, remember them), choosing a book, purchasing it and (and this is the best bit) having it put into a paper bag. The simple things in life are often the best.
I have had similar fun taking some material to the post office, buying a stamp, buying a single envelope in the newsagents next door, addressing and stamping it back in the post office then posting it.
The envelope did cost 20p (!!) and I'm sure the books could be found more cheaply on the internet but you're paying for the sheer pleasure of the process too, let's not forget.