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.

Why Dream


This is an old Focus track from Youtube collection. I've tried to give it a real sixties feel.

Donkey rides

I have fond memories of donkey rides as a kid. This fellow in Southport wasn't getting any takers last Saturday.

Southport


So I had a brilliant weekend up in Southport where I was very well looked after and was so pleased with the opportunities to minister. I arrived on Friday afternoon and did my first talk on Proverbs in the evening (men being faithful) to about thirty men, mostly from the church. On the Saturday morning we did another two sessions (men at work and the wife you need) with a similar number present, though including more from other churches nearby (Ormskirk, Preston, Stockport, etc).
In the afternoon I was free to do a bit of exploring and reading. Southport was a bit of a blank to me, never having visited there or Blackpool just up the coast. A town of 90,000, it has a very long pier and is nicely set out with Victorian boulevards. It looks pretty monocultural although they have experienced the Eastern Europe phenomenon as much as the rest of us. It is a pretty flat part of the world with several golf courses, including Royal Birkdale and (further away) Lytham St Anne's. Trevor Condy who with his wife looked after me for most of the weekend (I was with another very kind family later) pointed out the homes of Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hanson for me.
In the evening there was a fish and chip supper for about 30 men, followed by amazing puddings kindly provided by one of them, a quiz with some challenges (I discovered I can stay sat like a sumo without a chair quite a while when challenged!). I also gave a short talk from Jeremiah 6:16.
On the Sunday I preached from Romans 10 and 2 Kings 5. I noticed that some in the prayer meetings prayed for a hush on the congregation not a phrase I know but one I understand. I think we had something of that. I also spoke to the kids in the morning and Adam Laughton (soon to leave for church planting work in Ebbsfleet, Kent) led in the morning and Stuart Harding in the evening. My only slight uneasiness was the modern tunes that we didn't seem to do very well with, or perhaps it was just me.
What a privilege to be in such a large, faithful, evangelistic and missionary minded and active church, with wonderful facilities. There is a good range in the congregations (male/female, young/old, rich/poor, converted/unconverted) though there are some gaps. It was good to meet former pastor Peter Day (rarely seen in the south these days) - so warm, wise and kind man. Also GBMers in whom we havea special interest Maciek and Mary Stolarski. I'd never met GPT editor Don Crisp, whose name I knew so that was nice and there were lots and lots of others.
My messages can be found here.

Rules of life

I was in W H Smith's in Euston the other day and they had the best selling books set out in order. I was amused to see that in the top three were the biographies of Blair and Mandelson with Mandelson appropriately in slot three with the title The Third Man. And what was number one? I hear you ask. It was The Rules of Life by Richard Templar. So here is a society that has decided to abandon the Bible and God's rules but can it live with itself? No it has to go shelling out money on "A Personal Code for Living a Better, Happier, More Successful Kind of Life" by some nobody. I saw Satan laughing with delight.

The Lottery

I was reminded recently of this quotation from George Orwell's 1984.

They were talking about the Lottery. Winston looked back when he had gone thirty metres. They were still arguing, with vivid, passionate faces. The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive. It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate calculations and staggering feats of memory. There was a whole tribe of men who made a living simply by selling systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets.

Southport Proverbs

I have agreed to give three talks on Proverbs for men this Saturday in Southport Grace Batist Church.

P's March


And another Focus video from my youtube collection.

10 Myths about the AV

I gave a paper on the King James Version last Monday at the Evangelical Library. I finished with 10 myths about the AV. I've seen other list that are just trying to make a point. This is a genuine list I believe. (I hope to put the whole paper on the EL site soon).

1. It is the authorised version
Documentation may have been lost, but it would seem that though the original title page usually included the phrase “appointed to be read in churches”, unlike the Great Bible, there was never any edict of convocation, act of parliament or royal decree authorising this Bible. Modern writers usually make this point. It was “never, in fact, authorised” (David Daniell). “It was not an authorized version in any meaningful sense of those words” (Derek Wilson). The first reference to Authorised Version in the OED is as late as 1824.
2. It was a brand new translation
Despite the title page's “newly translated out of the original languages” we know that the translators diligently consulted the previous versions and, as instructed, tried not to depart from the Bishops Bible any more than strictly necessary.
3. It was the Bible of the Puritans
Although there was Puritan support for the KJV, it is the earlier Geneva Bible that has the best claim to be regarded as the Puritan Bible, that is, the one they most often used until it was outlawed. Leonard J Trinterund, making the point that the Geneva Bible was not solely a Puritan Bible, nevertheless says that "Few things have seemed more obvious to historians over four centuries than the assertion that the Geneva Bible was the Puritan Bible. In fact, some have even supposed the Geneva Bible to be the cause and Puritanism the effect."
4. It was the Bible of Shakespeare, Milton and Bunyan
More than one scholar has noted that Shakespeare's writings are saturated with scriptural thoughts and words. He died in 1616 and so it should be no surprise that the evidence points to his having learned what he knew of the Bible from the Geneva version. Milton and Bunyan were later and do use the AV but follow the Geneva at least as often.
5. It has only begun to sound old fashioned in the last hundred years
There is evidence rather that even when it first appeared the KJV would have sounded old fashioned. They appear to have sought an elevated and slightly archaic style. Gordon Campbell says "In several respects ... the language was archaic when the KJV was published ... the language of the translators reflects their conservatism and slightly out-of-touch language. They were content to leave in place the language of earlier generations that was embodied in previous translations."
6. All the translators were godly Calvinists
The 50 or so translators were all Protestants, chosen for their scholarly ability rather than anything else. There is evidence to say that there were Arminians among them and, in at least one case, a man who had a problem with alcohol (Richard “Dutch” Thomson). This is similar, perhaps, to the way that among those involved with the NIV translation there was one who proved later to be guilty of homosexuality.
7. It has been popular ever since it was first published
Uptake of the KJV when it was first published was pretty slow and it was some years before it even began to be as popular as it has become. It was only after 1660 tat "attacks on the KJV abated and it was quietly adopted by Protestants of all persuasions" (Campbell).
8. People who use the AV are using the 1611 version
There are currently two slightly different versions of the AV commonly in print today (the Cambridge and Oxford versions). These both date back to the final revision of 1769. Between 1611 and 1769 there were as many as 24, 000 changes. Some of these were of some significance.
9. The KJV always uses word for word translation
Although the KJV translators usually aimed at a word for word rendering, they were not afraid to use a dynamic equivalent where they thought it appropriate. So for example they regularly translate Paul's “May it not be” (as in Romans 6:2) as God forbid.
10. There are no arguments for using the KJV today
Many people today have long abandoned the AV and can see no reason for retaining it. Joel Beeke and others, however, give several reasons for doing so. The fact it was good enough for St Paul is not one of them! We may disagree with what such people say but to say that there is no reason to carry on using the AV today is to overstate the case.

Special People

The April edition of Evangelical Times carries the third and final guest column in the series, this time on special people, ie the call to the ministry.

Today’s aversion to anything special is found among a growing number of evangelicals. It manifests itself in various ways. Take the antipathy some Christians have toward revival. Often behind this gut reaction is resistance to the idea that God ever does anything special or out of the ordinary.

Such Christians so emphasise that God works in ordinary ways among us that they leave no room for extraordinary visitations of the Spirit.

Or take the common argument that the Bible is to be read ‘just like any other book’. The very suggestion that the Bible is special and needs to be approached in a special way puts some interpreters in a fairy fit!

But consider too the antipathy found among some evangelicals to the idea of ‘special people’. Unlike the aversions we have considered in the last two months to ‘special days’ and ‘special times’, this phenomenon is not entirely new.

Confused
It manifests itself today chiefly as opposition to the whole idea of a ‘call’ to the Christian ministry. According to R. L. Dabney, ‘the church has always held that none should preach the gospel but those who are called of God’, but some are not so sure.

A recent survey of some 400 men thinking about ministry in the 21st century revealed that 40 per cent were confused as to what was a divine call. This is not surprising given the current climate.

Some are so impressed by the biblical doctrine of the sacredness or priesthood of every believer and are so taken up with the rediscovery of Reformation teaching on vocation that they run to the opposite extreme. They end up with something unbiblical and potentially damaging to churches and individuals.

One can understand people reacting against the wrong mysticism that is sometimes associated with ‘the call’. Agreed, that while there are analogies to the call to be a prophet or an apostle, the call to the ministry is not the same; Charles Bridges wrote long ago that ministers ‘having no extraordinary commission ... do not expect an immediate and extraordinary call’.

Agreed too, that a mystical experience of God’s call is not a firm enough foundation for it; desire, gifts and opportunity are all vital factors in a true call to the ministry.

But what we are protesting against is the idea that there is no such thing as a call, and that more or less any man will do for the ministry provided he is morally upright, reasonably educated and can speak in public.

‘Woe to me’
If anyone can be a minister of God’s Word and there is no call to the ministry, why in Acts 20:28 does Paul say to the Ephesian elders, ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers’?

If anyone can be a minister of God’s Word and there is no call to the ministry, what does Paul mean when he says in 1 Corinthians 9:16, ‘Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’?

If anyone can be a minister of God’s Word and there is no call to the ministry, why does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 12:28 that, ‘God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers...’?

If anyone can be a minister of God’s Word and there is no call to the ministry, why does Paul say of Christ in Ephesians 4:11-12, ‘It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up’?

Our concern is not to deny that each Christian must conscientiously use whatever gift he has to God’s glory. Rather, it is to say that to deny that there is a special call to the ministry is to make the mistake of supposing that just anyone can try for it. Such an attitude is bound to lead to disaster.

Books on the KJV 04

The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today

Unlike previous books we have talked about, this is not really a popular book but a scholarly one. English professor David Norton must be one of the leading authorities on the AV. His interest appears to be a purely academic one but he certainly has a number of interesting facts at his fingertips that others seem not to have.
The book is not an easy read but it is very thorough and well judged. Like others, Norton begins by dealing with the AV's predecessors and its drafting. Chapter 3 looks at the translators and Chapter 4 the actual work. Chapter 5 considers the first edition. A long penultimate chapter deals with the printing, editing and development of a standard text. Perhaps the most interesting chapter is the final one (Reputation and future). A digest of previously produced material of his, it charts the slow but almost inexorable rise of the AV to its present state.
So an excellent and thorough piece of work, the one to get.
I notice that Norton's book on the textual history of the AV can be found here.

Map projections


I thought this was interesting too.

Dymaxion Globe


The last man in the book of the dead is Richard Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the Dymaxion Globe, among other things.

QI Book of the dead

I've really enjoyed this book. Part of my pleasure came from the fatc that I spotted it in Poundland (£1 for a hardback!). What it is, is a collection of 68 short biographies over 10 chapters. The oddity is that instead of dividing the chapters into subjects like "Scientists", "Sportsmen", etc it uses "more diverting categories". Eg "There's Nothing Like a Bad Start in Life", covering people who had bad childhoods; "Man Cannot Live by Bread Alone", about people with unusual diets; and "Is That All There Is?" about people interested in the after life.
Many of the people are very well known (Da Vinci, Freud, Isaac Newton, etc); some I had heard of before but didn't know much about (Epicurus, Edward Jenner, William Morris, etc); some were just names and it was good to know a bit about who they were (Mary Seacole, Colette, John Dee); others I had never heard of (Archibald Belaney, Fernando Pessoa, Sir Jeffrey Hudson, etc). I've already forgotten who some of them are but all in all it was quite interesting, each biography dealing really only with the interesting bits. More info here.

Banner and M'Cheyne

The April Banner of Truth mag is already out in electronic form. The focus (not sure why) is on M'Cheyne. It includes a rare M'Cheyne sermon, an obituary by Spurgeon, a commendation of the memoir by Samuel Miller and this memorial inscription from St Peter's in Dundee:

Erected by His Sorrowing Flock


IN MEMORY OF
THE REV. ROBERT MURRAY M‘CHEYNE
FIRST MINISTER OF ST PETER’S CHURCH,
DUNDEE,
WHO DIED ON THE 25TH DAY OF MARCH,
MDCCCXLIII.,
IN THE THIRTIETH YEAR OF HIS AGE.
WALKING CLOSELY WITH GOD,
AN EXAMPLE OF THE BELIEVER IN WORD,
IN CONVERSATION, IN CHARITY, IN SPIRIT, IN FAITH,
IN PURITY,
HE CEASED NOT
DAY AND NIGHT TO LABOUR AND WATCH FOR SOULS;
AND WAS HONOURED BY HIS LORD
TO DRAW MANY WANDERERS OUT OF DARKNESS
INTO THE PATH OF LIFE.
“Those also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” 

10 things that remind me of my dad

1. Baseball (British)
2. Tobacco
3. Golden Shred marmalade
4. Camphorated ointment
5. Fry up
6. Glenn Miller and clarinets
7. Halibut oil capsules/Cribbage board (I accidentally did two number sevens)
8. Monmouthshire v All Blacks 1967
9. Windsor knotted tie
10. Dance floor

10 things that remind me of my mother

Just to put these in list form

1. Sheepskin mittens

2. Bananas in milk
3. Cameo brooch
4. Pavements
5. Apple pie
6. Pastry
7. Tweed talc
8. Perry Como
9. Black leather gloves
10. Oil of Ulay

TTRMOMD 10

So here's my final one of these. It's a dance floor. My dad was a life long dancer (as was my mam) 14-late seventies anyway. Dad wa always keen on a good floor. I remember seeing this place in Pontypool he used to dance at on Saturday nights and expressing doubts about it. "Lovely floor" was his answer. Sadly, I haven't followed in his dance steps having two left feet and no real sense of rhythm.

LTS Placement

The LTS placement scheme is a fairly new thing and for the first time this year we had two students on it – one from Germany and one from Madagascar, both of who are already being mentored by me and have become church members.
The placement was February 21-March 13 and over the three week period I tried to involve them in a number of activities typical of ministerial life in this particular church in North west London.
There were organised activities on 11 of the 21 days of placement, not including activities on the three Lord's Days of the period. Some days have been busier than others.
The time-table was:

Week 1
Mon Feb 21
We attended the TSG reading group at the John Owen Centre to discuss Ted Donnelly's book Peter, eye witness of his majesty.
Wed Feb 23
We were involved in two quite different meetings for the elderly at two different locations. There was also a midweek meeting in the evening at which I spoke.
Thurs Feb 24
In the morning we did some door to door work in flats near the church
(We were prevented from tract distribution on the Saturday owing to inclement weather)

Week 2
Mon Feb 28
We spent the morning looking through the books and other items in the pastor's study, discussing this aspect of the ministry
Wed Mar 02
In the morning we paid a visit to the regular meeting for Mums and tots in the church then went on to do some further door to door work. In the evening one of the men spoke at the midweek meeting.
Thur Mar 03
Pastoral visit to church members
Fri Mar 04
In the evening both came to help with the clubs for children and young people.

Week 3
Mon Mar 07
In the morning we travelled down to the Westminster Fellowship, where we heard and discussed the message on Biblical theology and Covenant theology.
Wed Mar 09
We were involved in two quite different meetings for the elderly at two different locations. There was a midweek meeting in the evening at which the other man spoke.
Thur Mar 10
In the afternoon we went to Childs Hill School where we were involved in taking an assembly together. We focused on John 3:16. In the evening we were at the regular church officers meeting.
Fri Mar 11
Pastoral visit to a church member. In the evening both came to help with the clubs for children and young people.
Lords Day Mar 13
One read the Scriptures in the morning and the other in the evening.

Thus we were able to get a flavour of various elements of the work. The
fraternal
preparatory
evangelistic
pastoral
administrative
The variety of situations encountered included interaction with young people and the elderly, churched and unchurched people, activity in church and out. It included opportunity to be involved directly in preaching and leading worship and to attend a church officers meeting. There was also plenty of time to talk about the ministry in an informal way.
I hope they enjoyed it. I certainly did and learned a number of things from it.

Preaching Ezekiel 02

Continued

3. It is a book that includes a number of difficult, sometimes obscure and hard to understand passages
The final chapters are particularly difficult but all the way through there are difficulties. If we are going to preach those passages we need to be pretty sure what thy are about and how they fit in with the rest of Scripture. We are likely to be more sure footed later in a pastorate than early on.

4. Like many prophecies, judgement is the major theme of Ezekiel and so it needs to be handled with great care
Our congregations need to hear about judgement but a solid diet of judgement themes can be demanding on both preacher and congregation. Donald MacLeod again

When we are thinking of doing a series of sermons on one of the prophets, this is something we must ponder carefully. If we are going to be faithful to our text, our sermons are going to be critical and judgmental; and if we are going to expound consecutively, this is the diet our people are going to have for weeks on end. The question is: Do they need it? 

5. For all these reasons and perhaps more the book is a rather unfamiliar one
Apart from Chapter 37 and may be the opening chapters and Chapters 18 and 33, people are not really familiar with the book. One writer has written

Probably no book of the Old Testament is as little read as this, and it may well be the least popular, as it is the least known of the Old Testament.

Speaking personally, I have been the minister in one charge for the last 27 years and so I have already been through almost all the New Testament and a great deal of the Old Testament, including Ezekiel. It was in my twenty third year of ministry that I began to tackle the book. I preached some 36 sermons on its 48 chapters. This involved preaching, usually, one sermon a chapter but I preached two sermons on Chapter 37, a whole sermon on 3:16-21 (on being a watchman) and only one sermon on 1:1-3:15; 3:22-5:27; 8/9; 10/11; 26/27; 30-32; 35/36 and 40-42. When you try to cover three chapters there is a lot of reading to do. We always have a consecutive reading so that allows more expected reading time by dropping it that week. Nevertheless that still leaves 95 difficult verses to cover and so I think we had four readings that morning, the first one being right at the beginning of the meeting and the fourth just before the sermon.
Because of the book's length I took it in about five or six unequal chunks over what turned out to be a period of about 3 years. We began April 23, 2006 and went on for 10 consecutive weeks covering the first 14 chapters. We then took a break over the summer, returning to it in October for another seven sermons on the next 8 chapters (15-22). I did another seven sermons in May-July of 2007 (Chapters 23-32) and a further five in the Autumn of that same year. It was a whole year later that I finally started on the final difficult chapters 38-44. I preached two in October and the final five early in 2009, the last being the first Sunday in February. Obviously, with the benefit of hindsight things could have been arranged better but that is the way it worked out.

Most helpful commentaries

Matthew Henry
Ezekiel (Commentary on the whole Bible) 1706
Patrick Fairbairn
Ezekiel and the book of his prophecy 1855
Denis Lane
The Cloud and the silver lining 1985
Douglas K Stuart
Communicator's Commentary Old Testament Volume 18 1989
Derek Thomas
God strengthens: Ezekiel simply explained (Welwyn series) 1993

Preaching Ezekiel 01

I had a nice opportunity this afternoon to speak at LTS on preaching through Ezekiel. David Green, the assistant principal lectures on Ezekiel and is aware that I have preached through it and fancied the idea of having me in to discuss it,which I was happy to do. I began with an intro and then we discussed things using my sermons (which can be found on my preached sermons blog). I began by saying

Any minister who is committed to the idea of systematic expository preaching will need to consider at some point what he is going to do with the Book of Ezekiel. You may well have heard, perhaps, that story from Andrew Bonar of a Christian getting to heaven and meeting Ezekiel and other prophets. Ezekiel looks at the believer and says eagerly 'What did you make of read my book?' How embarrassing if the truth is that we made very little of it and never even got round to preaching it.
In practically every case, it will not be the first book that a man preaches on or even the second for that matter. However, there may be situations where a fairly lengthy pastorate has preceded yours or is progressing alongside the new ministry and so with the more obvious books, such as the Gospels, epistles, Psalms, minor prophets and Isaiah all covered, Ezekiel may be brought up the rankings.
The problems facing anyone who wants to preach Ezekiel are many. Let me mention five.

1. It is an Old Testament book
Generally speaking, Old Testament books are more difficult to preach than New Testament ones. As Donald MacLeod notes

The hermeneutical barriers which separate us from the world of the Old Testament are enormous. Everything is on a grander scale than the difficulties of New Testament exposition. The time is more remote. The language is more alien. The culture is more unfamiliar.

Ezekiel is steeped in Old Testament Temple ritual that has to be explained to some extent. That makes for difficulties.

2. It is a very long book
In fact, it is the third longest book in the Bible. Psalms is obviously first, then Jeremiah. Genesis is fourth, Isaiah fifth (though it has more chapters than Ezekiel it has well over some 2,000 words less). It is easy to weary a congregation with a long series. Of course, the answer to this is to take it in sections. One preacher wisely says

If a series grows so long it tends to weary the congregation, I do not hesitate to break it off in favour of another, but will come back later and finish the original series.

(To be continued)

Bavinck on missions

For a positive review of J H Bavinck's Introduction to the Science of Missions look here.

Strange teaching 02

After the break, Dan Strange carried on with a further series of points:

3. The precious good news: Christ and salvation
1. Jesus is Yahweh
2. False faith in the Son
3. Christ's saving work
4. The necessity of verbal revelation
4. The Gospel as subversive fulfilment of other religions
The gospel is both the antithesis of false religion and, in a sense, the fulfilment of it. We need to show both.
5. Let the nations be glad: the church, mission and eschatology
Focusing on Tim Keller, we were given an example of an approach that emphasises not only Christianity's uniqueness but also the connections.
Coming to a close we looked at contextualisation and the point of contact and the lack of it when we seek to  bring the gospel home. There is no non-contextualised Christianity.
"No truth which human beings may articulate can ever be articulated in a culture -transcending way – but that does not mean that the truth thus articulated does not transcend culture" (Don Carson).
It was good to be introduced to Bavinck's idea of possessio.
"We would ... prefer to use the term
possessio, to take possession [as opposed to the common terms "adaptation" and "accommodation"] .... Within the framework of the of the non-Christian life, customs and practices serve idolatrous tendencies and drive a person away from God. The Christian life takes them in hand and turns them in an entirely different direction; they acquire an entirely different content. Even though in external form there is much that resembles past practices, in reality everything has become new, the old has in essence passed away and the new has come. ... [Christ] fills each thing, each word, and each practice with a new meaning and gives it new direction. Such is neither "adaption" nor accommodation; it is in essence the legitimate taking possession of something by him to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth (Bavinck ISOM 178-179).
So this has been an interesting and stimulating couple of lectures promoting a balanced Reformed approach to false religion. The book will be worth reading (at least Dan's part) when it appears.
Useful discussion followed among the 20 or so present.

Authors quoted through the morning included Hendrik Kraemer, Jacques Dupuis, John Frame, Christopher Wright, Richard Bauckham, J H Bavinck, Mike Ovey, R Letham, C Van Til, John Murray, J Witte, John Stott, C Platinga and Tim Keller.

LTS Ghosts

The four speakers in the new lecture room at LTS always remind me of stylised ghost heads

Strange teaching 01

Dan Strange lectures at Oak Hill on Culture, Religion and Public Theology. He has recently completed an SCM book (with Gavin D'Costa and Paul Knitter) called Only One Way? Three Christian Responses to the Uniqueness of Christ in a pluralistic world. This morning at LTS he shared with us his thesis, which is in summary
Non-Christian religions are sovereignly directed, variegated and dynamic human idolatrous distortions of divine revelation behind which evidence demonic deception. Being antithetically against yet practically dependent upon the truth of the Christian worldview, non-Christian religions are 'subversively fulfilled' in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He defended this thesis with a very carefully worked out biblical and theological argument. He used the following headings (before the break):
1. YHWH's transcendent uniqueness: God and Trinity
Implications - 1. Yahweh's transcendent uniqueness 2. God's name and glory 3. Derivative uniqueness of Israel and the church
2. The perilous exchange: creation and fall
The relationship between Christianity and other religions is one of both principial discontinuity and practical continuity.
1. Principial discontinuity
Antithesis between true and false faith
Lies about God which lead to divine judgement and human disintegration
Deception which only brings disappointment, disillusionment and destruction
Religions are worldviews
Here he took the example of Islam. Its unity without diversity idea works it out in all sorts of ways.
2. Practical continuity
Like Christians, unbelievers are full of inconsistencies with their own views. Elements here include
Anthropological complexity
Historical or phenomenological complexity
Personal complexity
Other religions are made of imaginal, remnantal, influential and demonical revelation.
(To be continued)

Bragg on the AV

I watched on Saturday Melvyn Bragg's The King James Bible: The Book That Changed the World on BBC 2. Rather disappointing , it was a solo effort from Bragg with none of the usual talking heads. Its main failure was the way it sat so loose to the subject itself. We had a little bit of linguistic reference then a lot of history that had little directly to do with the AV. Finally Lord Bragg summed up by saying that (I summarise) liberalism needs a bit of religion thrown in to be really good. At least I know not to read the book (Lord Bragg's that is). Available for a few more days here.

The Tempest

I should have mentioned that last Tuesday we went to see my son Gwion in a version of Shakepeare's The Tempest. It's not an easy play to follow but they did very well and Gwion is clearly following in the Brady thespian tradition.

More Minor Details

There is also a track listing and some info
  1. Free Wheeling
  2. Big Sir
  3. Dinner Time
  4. Love Train
  5. Blind Baby
  6. Minor Details
  7. Joy
  8. Fernando's Minibar (Plat met 't ouwe wijf)
  9. Kharmah Chantalah
  10. Searching For Angela
  11. As Long As You're Near
  12. San Frisky
  13. The Arrogant Frogs
  14. Mena Muria
About his new album “Minor Details “Jan Akkerman says:



I’m proud to present my latest album called ‘Minor Details’ .When you are on the top it’s all about details. This album has many details, major and minor.
In preparation it was one of the most difficult things I ever did, as I wanted the whole project being done via the internet. Whilst in concert, usually during breaks, the band would discuss this particular way of working. They would need to work this during their own heavy schedule.
As Willy (bass) doesn’t have a studio I would send him the music sheets and Marijn (drums) and Coen (keys) would receive MIDI files, examples of tunes, to work on. Last year, on tour in Brasil, Marijn had his own portable home studio with him and Willy recorded bass parts in a resort near Recife. Back in Holland, Coen did the keys in his home studio and Marijn recorded his drums at his studio with additional tracks from Willy. Since the whole project was virtually done via the net, I had to trust this band in what they were capable of playing and it sounded great from what I got back from each member separately. In the old days there was a saying "We’ll fix it in the Mix".
Well, I guarantee you that mixing was no sinecure, but eventually a very rewarding experience which resulted in our new album ‘Minor Details’.

Hocus Pocus Blue Grass Style


Life in that thar old tune still. (There are one or two other versions of this on Youtube).

Something to look forward to

Out soon I understand. It's been a long time.

Mobilea

I sometimes get hooked on a song. Currently it's the subtle and mesmerising post-Akkerman track Mobilea by the Dutch band Brainbox. Here is a live version from last year featuring Rudy de Queljoue and Jan Schuursma on guitars with the world's greatest drummer Pierre Van Der Linden. Singer Kaz Lux makes the introduction.


TTRMOMD 09

My dad was always very neat about the collar. He always used a Windsor knot, which he taught me to do.
I think other knots look rather naff.

Books on the KJV 03

Derek Wilson is a popular historian and his book The People's Bible on "the remarkable history of the King James version" (publisher Lion) is an essentially historical approach with some comments about Bible translation more generally.
He begins as far back as 1215 and medieval antipathy to translating the Scriptures and making them available. Further chapters take us from Wycliffe to Tyndale then on to Coverdale and the other translations immediately before the AV. Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the Hampton Court Conference and the translating of the AV with some further comment on its publication and reception in Chapter 6. Chapter 7 takes us as far as the Restoration before coming to the impact on America and the British Empire and its growing popularity in general. Chapter 9 briefly surveys modern translations from the RV on. A final chapter attempts some sort of analysis, while keeping in mind the changing ecclesiastical scene, touching on the literary merits of the work and wisely pointing out that compisons with Shakespeare are out of court, being of so different a nature.
Wilson is not afraid to criticise the AV but his conclusion is that the book has had an extraordinary and unique history. "Its influence" he says "has been and continues to be incalculable. It has helped to shape the western mind; has influenced what we think and how we think. It has changed the world." These lavish statements are followed by a warning against idolatry. he is probably right to see the story as part fo a larger narrative - tht of the quest for religious certainty.
In his preface he remarks on how ironic it is "that a Bible commissioned by a cheerfully bisexual monarch" should be the standard translation for "Christian fundamentalists in the world's most powerful republic". As a historian, however, he is well aware that "history is prone to playing strange tricks".

The Adjustment Bureau

We went to the cinema to see The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt last night. Based on a Philip K Dick (Minority Report) short story, it was an ideal film for us as it is a love story but the context is a conceit that has an adjustment bureau working for the Chairman so that people's lives run "according to the plan". Most things happen by chance, it was said, but now and again the bureau have to make adjustments and that's where the bureau come in. So it's an examination of the classic subject of free will and determinism. Obviously as a Calvinist I know that the premise is utterly wrong and I'm not the only one who would have been disappointed with the cheesy and unrealistic but romantic ending. Anyway, worth checking out if you like this sort of thing. It's a 12A.
PS She doesn't wear that red dress at any point.

Ron Sexsmith

Sometimes when you "veg" in front of the TV it is a completely unrewarding and pointless exercise. On other occassions, you may find a gem. That's what happened to me last Friday when I caught a documentary on Ron Sexsmith on BBC 4 called Love Shines (available for another 6 days here).
The portrait of the Canadian singer making his twelfth album was quite beguiling and has resulted in me buying the album Long Player Late Bloomer from itunes. It's a great album - very commercial in its presentation but with enough depth to make it possible to listen to it over and over again. The vocals remind me of paul McCartney and Gery Rafferty but the voice is individual enough. It's pure humanism, of course, but humanism in a very attractive package for all that.
"Heavenly" slips into the quasi-religious as so often happens. Difficult though not to warm to a line like "Pessimism's so tempting/It's spreading all over town". "Believe it when I see it" is more overtly anti-Christian (We've just a wish and an empty vessel/A hole to fill with days/On a road where children stray/Then pray there is no hell/And as for heaven, well). The utter hopelessness of such nonsense is made palatable by the beauty of the song itself. Even bleaker, yet powerful for its honesty, is "No help it all" which would serve as a good theme tune for humanism I guess. "Michael and his dad" is moving. The more aggressive, uncaring and self-asserting side comes out on the opening track "Get in line". So all in all an album that people will enjoy in their droves, sadly having their worst prejudices confirmed at the same time. Or perhaps they will listen carefully, rejecting the philosophy but enjoying the music.
In the documentary Ron says he feels he's here to produce music. He's not much good as a dad or anything but he can produce music. You can see how he has got there but most people won't want to get too close to someone like that, as endearing as he may appear.

Goldsworthy/Blackham

Dr Densham also drew our attention to the interesting debate from 2001 between Paul Blackham and Graeme Goldsworthy recorded here. Goldsworthy also interacts with Carl Trueman here. There ar e a few interesting things on the site Theologian.  

Systematic/Biblical Theology


Guthrie
We had a nice lecture from Dr Ian Densham today at the Westminster Fellowship. Among other good things was this quote from T C Hammond's In understanding be men

"A gifted preacher of over a century ago, Dr Thomas Guthrie, drew attention to the difference between dogmatic and biblical theology. He compared biblical theology to the profusion of nature in which the various plants and flowers are scatted with a bountiful hand 'in ordered disorder'. He compared dogmatic theology to the botanical garden where plants and lowers are gathered together and arranged according to species. The former is pleasing to the eye. The latter is suited for that closer study which opens up the secrets of nature."

Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura is the name of a Reformed Baptist Blog organised by Micheal Haykin, Fred Zaspel and others. I have been invited to contribute and the first of these can be found here. You will find the other articles interesting and stimualiting too, I'm sure.

Chief Paul Achimugu

It was my privilege last Saturday to be at a memorial service for a Nigerian friend, Chief Dr Paul S Achimugu, who died back in February at the age of 66.
An early press release announced his death this way

Dr. Paul Achimugu, a leading Kaduna-based businessman died yesterday in London. He was 66 years old.
Achimugu was the chairman of the board of a number of business organisations, including the defunct Eagle Bank Ltd.; Arewa Textiles; Zaria Industries, and Arewa Cotton and Allied Company Limited.
According to family sources, the late businessman had been receiving medication in a London hospital over a protracted illness before he was transferred to his residence in the British capital city, where he breathed his last in the early hours of yesterday.
A scion of the late Chief Peter Achimugu, a minister in the Northern Regional Government of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Dr Paul Achimugu was born on December 10, 1944 in Idah in the present Kogi State.
He had a distinguished career in the civil service before he went into business following his retirement.
Dr Achimugu is survived by his wife, 9 children and several grandchildren.
Arrangements for his burial will be announced by his family soon.

With others, I was asked to pay tribute. This is what I wrote:

2 Samuel 1:19 Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights. How the mighty have fallen!
It was my privilege to have known Paul Achimugu for a period of over 25 years, indeed from the time I began as pastor at Childs Hill Baptist Church in 1983. I want to acknowledge here his respect for and love to me as a younger man than himself and occasional acts of kindness that I am still grateful for.
At first, I was unaware of his prestige back home in Nigeria and his many achievements. In some ways I was at an advantage in that, getting to know and admire the man before I was fully aware of his honours and successes. It was only as the years went by that I began to be aware of his significance as a chief and in the world of business and with the YMCA.
Most of what I learned about his achievements came from others. Not that Mr Achimugu tried to hide his life in any way. He was quite happy to explain to an ignoramus like me what a cotton gin was or to laugh with me regarding the novelty that his skin colour was for the Japanese. I remember asking him too about the Qua Iboe Church's Peter Achimugu College of Theology and his simply saying, with no trace of pride, “it was named for my late father”.
I last saw him shortly before the Lord took him and he was full of Scripture. All those verses he had stored away, especially as a young man, were now rising to the surface, as it were, and what comfort they were to him. I cherish the memory of a man at death's door, yet being sustained by the Word of God.
I also remember the dignified and God-centred way he conducted himself at the time of Timothy's tragic death. What a model of dignity and of submission. He was determined to look to the Lord. His whole conduct seemed to say with Job “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
These examples from the end of his life are consistent with all that I saw in Mr Achimugu in the previous years of happiness and sadness, good times and bad.
The verse I have quoted above from 2 Samuel refers, of course, to the deaths of King Saul and his son Jonathan. They were “the chief ornament and pride of Israel” just as, in many ways, Paul and Timothy were “the chief ornament and pride of the Achimugu family”. It is right then that we mourn and grieve. However, it is right too that we look to God with hope. The same God who sustained them and brought them safe home will sustain us and bring us safe home too, if we look to him. What God gave to Israel following the death of Saul and Jonathan was even greater than what they had known before. Great David's greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is on the throne, and the God who kept Paul and Timothy on earth until he was ready to take them to himself in heaven will keep us too, until his time.

I also spoke briefly making that same point that we should grieve but that we should not grieve without hope.

Crossing the Red Sea


I read the story again today amd watched this. There are some inaccuracies but it gives the feel.

Ignorance

I came across this quotation from Barry Reay's 1985 Popular Culture in Seventeenth Century England in a book I am reading at present. It acts as a warning against idolising the past but is also a reminder of how we are probably in similar times once again. How much gained, how much lost.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century the rector of a parish in Kent found that of four hundred communicants "scarcely 40" had any knowledge about Christ, sin, death and the after life. It was said of men in south Yorkshire and Northumberland that they were totally ignorant of the Bible and did not know the Lord's Prayer. A Yorkshire boy when quizzed by a minister could not say "how many gods there be, nor persons in the godhead, nor who made the world nor anything about Jesus Christ, nor heaven or hell, or eternity after this life, nor for what end he came into the world, nor what condition he was born in". Otherwise he was "a witty boy and could talk of any worldly things skilfully enough". A Lancashire woman when asked about the Jesus Christ mentioned in the Creed, replied "she could not tell, but by our dear Lady it is sure some good thing, or it should never have been put in the Creed, but what it is I cannot tell you". An old man from Cartmel, also in Lancashire, a regular church attender, did not know how many gods there were. When Christ was mentioned by his questioner he said: "I think I heard of that man you spoke of, once in a play at Kendall, called Corpus Christi play, where there was a man on a tree, and blood ran down."

Gwyl Dewi Sant 04

Okay last one. I haven't mentioned the rugby this six nations as although Wales have won two of three games they haven't been playing at their best. I came across this the other day, though, and thought I might pop it on here. Look out for one of the few B&W sections and an utterly amazing try by the previously mentioned Keith Jarrett.

TTRMOMD 08

Being in St David's Day mode my mind has gone back to St David's Day as a child in Junior School, when it was always a half day at school (we'd spend the morning drawing something Welsh - a leek or a daffodil - the girls would wear traditional clothes with black top hats you could buy from local shops). We'd also get a half day if there was a rugby game on (my dad was a soccer man and would sometimes moan that they didn't do that for soccer). Anyway on the afternoon of December 6, 1967 (I was 8) my dad took me to Rodney Parade in Newport to watch Monmouthshire play the touring New Zealanders (who only lost one game that tour). The great Keith Jarrett (not the jazz pianist) whose career was tragically cut short by strokes when only 25, was playing, and Monmouthshire did well thanks to his kicking, eventually losing 23-12. All I remember is Jarrett kicking a lot of goals and that they wore black shorts. It might have been the only rugby game my dad took me to (not sure how he had time off work).

Gwyl Dewi Sant 03

The other thing I thought I might put down here on this St David's Day was a little bit about Afon Leri (the Eleri River), the interest being that my wife's name is drawn from it.

Mae hen delynau yn y gwynt

Am ddyddiau gynt yn canu
A llif Eleri yn y glyn
A’r niwl yn dynn amdani


[The wind like harps singing Of times that have gone And Eleri’s waters flowing Through the mists of the glen]


The valley of the river Leri (as it is named on maps) or Eleri, as those who know her call her, begins on the western edge of the Cambrian Mountains where the river waters fall from a lake into the narrow gorge of Craig y Pistyll. They run for twenty miles or so to reach the sea through the salt marsh between Borth Bog (Cors Fochno) and the sand dunes of Ynys-Las. In spite of the natural settings of both her source and her estuary, both are engineered places. At the end of the lake where the waters fall into the gorge there is a dam to regulate the flow down to the water pumping station on the nearest road in the village of Bontgoch, or Elerch, five miles away. But this is a lonely place and little detracts from the wild splendour of the open mountain and moorland that stretches as far as the eye can see even on a clear day when there is no mist. And it is a small dam, unlike the barrier at the end of the nearby reservoir of Nant-y-Moch that regulates the flow into the river Rheidol to a small hydro-electric power station miles downstream. These waters drain from the mountain of Pumlummon (‘five peaks’) as do the springs that give rise to the River Severn and the River Wye. Up on the summit Cei and Bedwyr stood in “the highest wind in the world” in their search for the things required by the giant Ysbadadden Pencawr for Culhwch to wed Olwen. So it is a place of great significance both in legend and its importance as the source of great rivers. Further east waters run off this range to fill the reservoirs of Claerwen and Elan for Birmingham’s water supply. But Eleri is a quiet stream running a short distance to the sea and supplying sweet water to the local population. Pumlummon is known as the ‘Mother of Rivers’ and the whole area is a place of water, held in the peaty earth as in a sponge. Waters of life welling up and then released slowly into streams and rivers. It is a realm of water spirits.

Gwyl Dewi Sant 02

I've often thought that if they were to redesign the Welsh flag this might do