It was a privilege to be among the 14 or 15 people present for the latest lunch time lecture at the Evangelical Library here in London. Dr Robert Strivens, Principal of the London Theological Seminary, spoke of the Synod of Dort. He very helpfully and clearly gave us the background to the Synod that took place in the Dutch town of Dordrecht (Dort for short) 1618 and 1619 and then something about the (Calvinistic) canons it produced. Dr Strivens was at pains to acknowledge the political as well as theological currents in existence at the time. A recording was made and can be obtained from the Library. A good time of questions and answers followed. We also learned how recent the TULIP term is (more to follow on that I hope). (For the canons of Dort see here). The best book of the subject will cost you a small fortune sadly. See here.
The similar phrase 'Worldly Christianity' is one used by Bonhoeffer. 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.
I don't think it was the Welsh win over England the night before (I hope not) but I did wake quite encouraged and managed to go on like that all day, which I'm often not very good at. (I also had my two sermons more sorted than usual as I knew we were due to be out all day - that helps I think). Anyway the encouragements kept coming all day.
- First, we resumed our bitesize theology class with the very encouraging and central doctrine of justification.
- We had a full double figure turn out for that.
- Then there was a good sized congregation for the morning service where I preached a harvest message from Psalm 126, which I hope was helpful. I got help on it from John Piper. The tears are not caused by the sowing but we are often in tears as we sow. We need to press on until harvest.
- It was good to have as many as nine children under ten there (when we often have only two).
- We also had visitors - a lady with two children and the African gentleman who came last week, who turns out to be from Ghana. Of course, there were some missing as ever but it was a good time.
- We then had a lovely afternoon with others in the home of one of my deacons.
- We had a good attendance in the evening too, including a visit from a family we know. I preached (quite animatedly I thought) On Ehud the left hander. (I've found Tim Keller's book on preaching a help on the matter of preaching Christ I think).
- My son and his family came back to us for cuppa after the evening service and that was nice too.
2. Aurelius Augustine
6. Albertus Magnus
10. Archibald Alexander
(The book by Peter Sanlon and Mostyn Roberts share some slight blame for this list)
2. Aurelius Augustine
6. Albertus Magnus
10. Archibald Alexander
(The book by Peter Sanlon and Mostyn Roberts share some slight blame for this list)
Every time I meet Afrikaans speakers, which I do from time to time and did again recently, I try to remember the sentence that is written the same in English and Afrikaans. In fact there are two sentences which I relocated today. Here it says
Most interestingly, consider these two sentences:
My hand is in warm water.
My pen is in my hand.
These two sentences can be either English or Afrikaans, and both have exactly the same meaning in both languages. But despite this, Afrikaans has significant differences from English. It might not be as easy to learn for an English speaker as, say, Esperanto, but it is still considered a relatively easy language to learn, and is advocated by some as a good introduction to learning Dutch and other Germanic languages in general.
Just a reminder of the lecture next Monday
28th September:Dr. Robert Strivens “The Synod of Dort:unravelling the complexities”
16th November:Rev. G. Brady “William Brock. Pastor, writer and abolitionist”
Both lectures will begin at 1 pm. All welcome.
At the Evangelical Library, London N11 2UT
(nearest tube:Bounds Green)
5/6 Gateway Mews
020 8362 0868
It was good to be at the John Owen Centre again today for our regular TSG. Our book this time was Simply God by Peter Sanlon. The book defends the traditional view of the doctrine of God and the importance of systematic theology, emphasising the simplicity of God. The book interacts with various recent ideas such as Open Theism and the high view of the Trinity promoted by Colin Gunton and others. Seven of us, mostly ministers, met to discuss the book. Mostyn Roberts kindly led. We were pretty sympathetic although we sometimes found it hard to accept all his statements, fearing at times that his penchant for Thomas Aquinas had grown too strong.
I suppose yesterday was a fairly typical day in Childs Hill. By 11 am a fairly sparse congregation gathered growing eventually into something decent. Most of our regulars were there and there were visitors too. An eastern gentleman we haven't seen in ages, an African I had never seen before, two different Iranians who have been before but weren't there last week. In the evening we were many fewer, under twenty. There was a Romanian visitor. We had communion before the evening service, singing unaccompanied as we do. I preached on Revelation 2:1-7 in the morning, the letter to the church of Ephesus and in the evening on Judges 3:7-11, the story of the first judge Othniel.
On Tuesday evening I took my third son off back to Swansea for his final ear in the university. We stopped briefly in Cardiff to collect stuff and drop stuff off, seeing his girlfriend and my second son. I then stayed the night in Cwmbran with my sister. The next day I went with her over the hills via Pontypool and Hafodyrynys to Machen where my sister teaches in the Christian School there. The school has been going for over 30 years and although I've long been aware of it I'd never seen it. It is refreshing to think of 120 kids growing up in a godly environment not the one I grew up in. This is their website.
We were then in Moriah, Risca, for a funeral. My mother's sister, Auntie Joan, died a month ago. She was born in 1929 and was the second child of my grandparents' seven who grew to adulthood. (Joan was one of twins but the other died at birth). I read the eulogy her daughter Marion had prepared. The minister led well.
Rather, late with this but I just wanted to note that we did meet last Wednesday to study the Word and to pray. We had a good attendance and plenty of prayers. We looked at the Tree of life this time, having looked at the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil the previous week. That was uncontroversial but we went slightly of topic as we had read from Genesis 3 on Sunday and I had commented on the phrase I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children. Someone wanted to disagree with my understanding of that, which is to take it more broadly as in Barnes' comments below. (I think the problem was that I underplayed the pain of actually giving birth).
"Sorrow is to be multiplied in her pregnancy, and is also to accompany the bearing of children. This sorrow seems to extend to all the mother's pains and anxieties concerning her offspring. With what solicitude she would long for a manifestation of right feeling toward the merciful God in her children, similar to what she had experienced in her own breast! What unutterable bitterness of spirit would she feel when the fruits of disobedience would discover themselves in her little ones, and in some of them, perhaps, gather strength from year to year!"
I noticed this quotation in Tim Keller's new book on preaching
Referring to legalism and antinomianism he says
“Both come from the belief that God does not really love us or will our joy, and from a failure to see that “both the law and the gospel are expressions of God’s grace.” For both the legalist and the antinomian, obedience to the law is simply the way to get things from God, not a way to get God, not a way to resemble, know, delight, and love him for his sake.” (p 55)
It reminded me of the way John MacLeod in Scottish Theology (recently republished by Banner of Truth) also sees two opposite errors having a surprisingly similar source. This time Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism.
In regard to the claims of God, each of these extremes worked from a common principle which they turned to opposite ends. The Hyper Calvinistic brethren held that there is no worldwide call to Christ sent out to all sinners to whom in the letter the Gospel comes, neither are all bidden to take Him as their Saviour. On the other hand, they maintained that Christ is held forth or offered as Saviour to those only whom God effectually calls. They reasoned that man, as a bankrupt in spiritual resources, cannot be called upon to do what is out of the compass of his power. He can neither repent nor believe. So it was out of place to call upon him to do what he cannot do.
In this, when we look into it, we find the common Arminian position that man’s responsibility is limited by his ability. The Arminian holds to the presence of a certain ability in those that are called; otherwise sinners could not be called upon to repent and believe the Gospel.
Each side takes up the principle from its own end. They fail together to recognise that the sinner is responsible for his spiritual impotence. It is the fruit of sin; and man’s sin does not destroy nor put out of court God’s right to ask for an obedience alike in service and repentance and faith that His sinful creatures have disabled themselves from yielding to Him. His title to make His demand is entirely and absolutely unimpaired. He claims but His own when He bids man, made in His likeness and for His glory, serve Him and be the doer of His will as He makes it known. When He calls upon him to repent He but asks what He is entitled to. When He bids the sinner who needs the Saviour receive Him, as His own, He is altogether within His rights in doing so. There is a glorious superiority to man’s reasonings shown by Him who bids the deaf to hear and the blind to look that they may see.
A leading feature of Childs Hill is its unpredictably. Yesterday, as expected, quite a few people were away - at least eight and two children (mostly in Christian service - two were preaching and four were involved in parachurch activities elsewhere). I was wondering if we would see much of a crowd. Truth is we were a little small in the evening but in the morning two or three factors meant the congregation was as large as ever. First, there were eight friends (three generations of one family) in London for a wedding the day before. Then a Romanian girl who attends invited several friends to come. A South African couple we know, passing through en route to Canada, were also there (I asked Brian Stone to give us an update on the Ravens, who we know from their LTS days, church planting in Bloemfontein).
I carried on with Revelation and Judges and that seemed to go well. We had all had lunch together, after the morning service, which was again very nice. Of course, there are other people who weren't there but to see a full congregation can be an encouragement.
We looked at the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2 and 3 last night. I've been thinking about it since the week on Covenant Theology. The subject of the trees in the garden is often taken up by supporters of the Adamic covenant of works, although plenty can be said without getting into that issue. There were twelve of us present and there was plenty to pray about as ever. I'll probably look at the Tree of Life next week.
1. River Avon
4. River Don
- River Avon, Bristol, running from Acton Turville to Avonmouth
- River Avon, Devon, running from Ryder's Hill to Bigbury (aka River Aune)
- River Avon, Hampshire, running from Pewsey to Christchurch (aka Salisbury Avon)
- River Avon, Warwickshire, running from Naseby to Tewkesbury (aka Shakespeare's Avon)
- River Dee, Wales (Afon Dyfrdwy), flowing through N Wales and Cheshire
- River Dee, Cumbria, flowing from the border between Cumbria and N Yorkshire through Dentdale to the River Rawthey
- River Dee, Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
- River Piddle or Trent or North River, a small rural Dorset river which rises next to Alton Pancras church
9. River Tyne
- River Tyne, Scotland. It rises in the Moorfoot Hills, Midlothian near Tynehead, south of Edinburgh
- River Eden, Cumbria. It flows through the Eden District on its way to the Solway Firth
- River Eden, Fife, Scotland (one of Fife's two principal rivers)
Our second day of conference has been refreshing again. We were around 60 or so once more - a slightly different 60 from yesterday.
Garry Williams started us off with a paper arguing against the everything is ordinary approach that suggests that everything inimalized so that the divinely different in Christian worship is removed. “God does not indwell a place as he is always in us by his Spirit" goes the argument "and our whole lives are worship so someone should be able to move from mowing the lawn into public worship without setting off any alarm, until the single moment of preaching the cross.”
Garry countered with a theology of the divine presence of God, who fills all things - not circumscriptively or definitively but repletively (He added three clarifications - Creation is 'contained' by him, not him by it; God is everywhere but in a non-physical manner [not by mixture, division, multiplication, extension or diffusion]. There are different types of divine presence. He is present everywhere by essence. He is distinctively present by visibility and activity, by operational omnipresence. In heaven is “the court of his majestical presence, but not the prison of his essence” (Charnock). With his people he is present graciously and covenantally. In hell, by essence and wrath. He leaves and attends - “he departs from us when he leaves us to the frowns of his justice; he comes to us when he encircles us in the arms of his mercy” (Charnock)
His essential presence is foundational. Examples of applying the distinctions would include the presence of God in corporate worship and especially preaching, the Lord's Supper and prayer. Ethos and habit is the thing here. The question is not How would you behave if Jesus was here (bodily) but what are the practical implications of the fact Christ is here to do this? It is not A speaking to B about C but C to B in the words of A. This leads to fear and joy. How should we conduct ourselves in public worship? In sum, in a way that is appropriate to what God is doing.
Discussion followed. After lunch Bill James spoke helpfully on the means of grace as identified by Garry beforehand and again said helpful things. I chaired that one (hence no photo of Bill, sorry). Gerard Hemmings brought things together to close giving us boast important principles from Matthew 13 and some pragmatic suggestions for growing conservative churches.
It was good to at the John Owen Centre today for the first of two days on Putting Theology into Practice. There were three speakers.
Colin Burcombe from Northern Ireland took us helpfully to Genesis 26 and the Patriarch Isaac as an example of a man of principle attracted to pragmatism who makes a principled withdrawal and a return to first principles.
Two nice quotations:
“The promise given to Isaac was searching; to refuse the immediate plenty of Egypt for mostly unseen and distant blessings demanded the kind of faith praise in Hebrews 11, verses 9 and 10 and proved Isaac a true son of his father, even though, like Abraham, he was to mar his obedience at once.” (Kidner)
". . . this account of Isaac's dealings with the Philistines portrays Isaac as very much walking in his father's footsteps. He receives similar promises, faces similar tests, fails similarly, but eventually triumphs in like fashion. Indeed, in certain respects he is given more in the promises and achieves more. He is promised 'all these lands [v. 4],' and by the end of the story he is securely settled in Beersheba and has a treaty with the Philistines in which they acknowledge his superiority." (Wenham)
Then came another speaker new to me Alistair Wilson from Scotland who looked at the Apostle Paul, looking mostly at 1 Corinthians and seeking to articulate where Paul was driven by principle and where he was pragmatic. As before, good discussion followed.
The final paper by Ian Hamilton (currently in Cambridge but set to return to Scotland next year) was more anecdotal, reflecting on the Church of Scotland and other developments in church history. He closed by saying
1. God's Word is not a systematic theology
2. Godly men have differed down the years
3. Principled pragmatists have often had a high view of the church
4. Always think the best of others
Some more quotations:
"... quietness and patience and persuasion are no less Christian virtues than is the heroic sacrifice of stipends on high principle." (Owen Chadwick)
“Among the chief evils of our time is that the churches are so divided, that human fellowship is scarcely now in any repute among us. Thus it is that [as] the members of the church [are] being severed, the body lies bleeding. If I could be of any service, I would not grudge to cross even ten seas on account of it.” (Calvin to Cranmer)
Some of us LTS alumni had a nice get together with the Principal and a short time of prayer after the day's proceedings.
Unusually yesterday I started new series both morning and evening. In the morning I began a series on Revelation, just taking the first eight verses and giving three reasons why we should study the book and take it to heart. In the evening we took in the opening chapter of Judges and went as far as 2:5 seeking to apply the data the fight against sin. We closed with Onward Christian soldiers! I have preached on both books in the past - Revelation back in 1999/early 2000 and Judges before that (I also dipped into Revelation 2 and 3 in 2010). Being the first Sunday of the month we began the day with communion. I read Psalm 22. Attendances were quite good.
It was possible once again this week to sit in as an auditor for a series of lectures from Garry Williams on Covenant Theology. There was a bumper turn out of some 14 men, most of whom are doing the MTh course. Garry's approach was to give us his notes with a series of questions which we worked through as well as tackling a number of set texts (by Boston, Petto, etc) presented by the students working for credits. It was great to work through the material on the various covenants trying to come to some conclusions on the various issues. If they repeat the course, it is one well worth attending.
We were 11 tonight. We looked at Psalm 13. It's a brief psalm (only six verses) that starts in the doldrums of how long and ends on a note of joyful praise. I don't think I'd preached on it before. I heard someone have a go at it this week and thought it would be a good for us, which it appeared to be. Good time of prayer too. I couldn't find a version of Psalm 13 in or hymn book. This is my attempt
How long, Lord, will I be forgot?
How long your face not see?
How long my thoughts churn, sad at heart,
How long my foe mock me?
Lord my God, look on me, answer,
Give light, from death save me;
"I've overcome" my foe will say,
Foes glad my fall to see.
But in your cov'nant love I trust;
Salvation glad to see.
Sing gladly to the Lord I must,
For he's been good to me.