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.

Edward Irving and Félicité de La Mennais

Today at the seminary we looked at two more nineteenth century figures with Nick Needham - Edward Irving (1792-1834), of whom I had heard thanks to Arnold Dallimore's book (see here), and Félicité de La Mennais (1782-1854), of whom I knew nothing. La Mennais was a Catholic liberal in a word. On Irving's death, M'Cheyne famously said "I look back upon him with awe, as on the saints and martyrs of old. A holy man, in spite of all his delusions and errors. He is now with his God and Saviour, whom he wronged so much, yet, I am persuaded, loved so sincerely."

Schleiermacher, Coleridge and Kierkegaard

A good chunk of yesterday was spent at the London Seminary. They have a week of special lectures with Nick Needham. Nick has not been well enough to travel but is delivering the lectures on 19th century church history remotely. That worked quite well with very few glitches. The main audience (half online, half in person) is the students but there are a few of us others also sitting in. Nick, an excellent lecturer, is doiung tbings biographically and yesterday we considered Freidrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Samuel T Colerdige (1772-1834) and Soren Kierkegard (1813-1855). All very interesting.
Two quotes for you

Herman Bavinck
"Schleiermacher has exerted incalculable influence. All subsequent theology is dependent on him. Revelation in nature and revelation in Scripture form, in alliance with each other, a harmonious unity which satisfies the requirements of the intellect and the needs of the heart alike."

W G T Shedd
"Now as the defender and interpreter of this decidedly and profoundly theistic system of philosophy, we regard the works of Coleridge as of great and growing worth, in the present state of the educated and thinking world. It is not to be disguised that Pantheism is the most formidable opponent which truth has to encounter in the cultivated and reflecting classes. We do not here allude to the formal reception and logical defence of the system, so much as to that pantheistic way of thinking, which is unconsciously stealing into the lighter and more imaginative species of modern literature, and from them is passing over into the principles and opinions of men at large. This popularised Naturalism - this Naturalism of polite literature and of literary society - is seen in the lack of that depth and strength of tone, and that heartiness and robustness of temper, which characterise a mind into which the personality of God, and the responsibility of man cut sharply, and which does not cowardly shrink from a severe and salutary moral consciousness .... The intensely theistic character of the philosophy of Coleridge is rooted and grounded in the Personal and the Spiritual, and not in the least in the Impersonal and the Natural. Drawing in the outset, as we have remarked above, a distinct and broad line between these two realms, it keeps them apart from each other, by affirming a difference in essence, and steadfastly resists any and every attempt to amalgamate them into one sole substance. The doctrine of creation, and not of emanation or of modification, is the doctrine by which it constructs its theory of the Universe, and the doctrine of responsible self-determination, and not of irresponsible natural development, is the doctrine by which it constructs its systems of Philosophy and Religion."

10 People who may have been addicted to opium

  1. Samuel T Coleridge
  2. Thomas De Quincey
  3. John Keats
  4. Francis Thompson
  5. George Crabbe
  6. Charles Baudelaire
  7. William Wilberforce
  8. Hector Berlioz
  9. Elizabeth Siddal
  10. Branwell Brontë

Lord's Day June 16 2024

It was good to be with the Lord's people once again on the Lord's Day. We looked at the subject of fasting in the morning from Matthew and then in the evening at that famous text, Romans 8:28. About 11 in the evning and many more in the morning, but still with several missing.

Justification by Faith

It was good to be over in Cranford, West London, on Saturday night for a meeting where John Benton spoke very helpfully on the subject of justification by faith (the meaningm the grounds and the instrument - faith). The meeting was organised by my good friend and former assistant, Robin Asgher and pastor friends among the Teugu speakers of London. The bonus was some very nice Siouth Indian food to follow. It is hoped that further such meetings will be possible.

10 Song Titles containing the word Best

  1. “You’re My Best Friend” Queen
  2. "Simply the best" Tina Turner
  3. "My best friends' girl" The Cars
  4. "The girl of my best friend" Elvis Presley
  5. “Best Years of Our Lives” Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
  6. "Bestof my liive" The Emotions
  7. "The Best of my Love" The Eagles
  8. (Arthur's Dream) "Best that you can do" Chris Cross
  9. "Best Day" Taylor Swift
  10. "Diamonds are a girl's best friend" Marilyn Monroe

10 Song Titles Containing the Word Better

  1. Better Regina Spektor
  2. Better Day Ocean Colour Scene
  3. Better Things The Kinks
  4. Getting Better The Beatles
  5. It's Getting Better Mamas and the Papas
  6. Gonna Get Better Gabrielle
  7. I Should Have Known Better The Beatles
  8. You Better You Bet The Who
  9. Nobody Does It Better Carly Simon
  10. I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better The Byrds

Catalyst Conference 2024 Day 3

Day 3 has lived up to the promise of the first two days. We had the same speakers as before and all four of them did well. Sinclair Ferguson took us to the New Testament for the final part of his triptych, focusing powerfully on Romans 8. David Filson, as dapper as ever, then spoke on the whole gender question. After lunch, Matthew Mason gave a long but helpful esposition of the matter of mrtification of sin. For the fonal session Kent Hughes took us to the final verses of 1 Corinthians 13. Very helpful. He began with this quote from David Brown
"Remarkable it is that an Epistle written under a tempest of conflicting emotions, breathing in some places indignation, reproach, and sadness, at being driven to self-vindication against worthless detractors who should never have been listened to that precisely this Epistle is the one that closes with the richest and most comprehensive of all the benedictions in the New Testament, the one which the Christian Church in every land and of every age has found, and will find as long as the world lasts, the most available for public use, as a close to its worship."

Two stories

At the conference, David Filson framed his message around two contrasting stories, one from Nietzsche and one from C S Lewis in The Silver Chair.

First Story
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: "I am looking for God! I am looking for God!"
As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.
"Where has God gone?" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him - you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God's decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us - for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto."
Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling - it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars - and yet they have done it themselves."
It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered divers churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: "what are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of God?"

Second story
There was a moment's struggling on the cliff edge. Jill was too frightened and dizzy to know quite what she was doing, but two things she remembered as long as she lived (they often came back to her in dreams). One was that she had wrenched herself free of Scrubb's clutches; the other was that, at the same moment, Scrubb himself, with a terrified scream, had lost his balance and gone hurtling to the depths.
Fortunately she was given no time to think over what she had done. Some huge, brightly coloured animal had rushed to the edge of the cliff. It was lying down, leaning over, and (this was the odd thing) blowing. Not roaring or snorting but just blowing from its wide-opened mouth; blowing out as steadily as a vacuum cleaner sucks in. Jill was lying so close to the creature that she could feel the breath vibrating steadily through its body. She was lying still because she couldn't get up. She was nearly fainting: indeed, she wished she could really faint, but faints don't come for the asking. At last she saw, far away below her, a tiny black speck floating away from the cliff and slightly upwards. As it rose, it also got further away. By the time it was nearly on a level with the cliff top it was so far off that she lost sight of it. It was obviously moving away from them at a great speed. Jill couldn't help thinking that the creature at her side was blowing it away.
So she turned and looked at the creature. It was a lion.
Without a glance at Jill the lion rose to its feet and gave one last blow. Then, as if satisfied with its work, it turned and stalked slowly away, back into the forest.
"It must be a dream, it must, it must," said Jill to herself. "I'll wake up in a moment." But it wasn't, and she didn't.
"I do wish we'd never come to this dreadful place," said Jill. "I don't believe Scrubb knew any more about it than I do. Or if he did, he had no business to bring me here without warning me what it was like. It's not my fault he fell over that cliff. If he'd left me alone we should both be all right." Then she remembered again the scream that Scrubb had given when he fell, and burst into tears.
Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later and then you still have to decide what to do. When Jill stopped, she found she was dreadfully thirsty. She had been lying face downward, and now she sat up. The birds had ceased singing and there was perfect silence except for one small persistent sound which seemed to come a good distance away. She listened carefully and felt almost sure it was the sound of running water.
Jill got up and looked round her very carefully. There was no sign of the lion; but there were so many trees about that it might easily be quite close without her seeing it. For all she knew, there might be several lions. But her thirst was very bad now, and she plucked up her courage to go and look for that running water. She went on tip-toes, stealing cautiously from tree to tree, and stopping to peer round her at every step.
The wood was so still that it was not difficult to decide where the sound was coming from. It grew clearer every moment and, sooner than she expected, she came to an open glade and saw the stream, bright as glass, running across the turf a stone's throw away from her. But although the sight of the water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn't rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason; just on this side of the stream lay the lion.
It lay with its head raised and its two fore-paws out in front of it, like the lions in Trafalgar Square. She knew at once that it had seen her, for its eyes looked straight into hers for a moment and then turned away—as if it knew her quite well and didn't think much of her.
"If I run away, it'll be after me in a moment," thought Jill. "And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth." Anyway, she couldn't have moved if she had tried, and she couldn't take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.
"If you're thirsty, you may drink."
They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, "If you are thirsty, come and drink," and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realised that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.
"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.
"Then drink," said the Lion.
"May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realised that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
"Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.
"I make no promise," said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
"Do you eat girls?" she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."
"There is no other stream," said the Lion.
It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn't need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once. Before she tasted it she had been intending to make a dash away from the Lion the moment she had finished. Now, she realised that this would be on the whole the most dangerous thing of all. She got up and stood there with her lips still wet from drinking.

Midweek Meeting June 12 2024

Just five of us gathered last night for our midweek meeting. We looked at Romans 4:1-17 and then after gathering materials for prayer, we prayed.

Catalyst Conference 2024 Day 2


So Day 2 was perhaps not quite up to Day 1 but then in the afternoon Matthew Mason was really quite scintillating on the temptation of Christ. Kindly but definitely rejecting several current Christian theories on this subject, he argued that we must see Christ's temptations as unlike ours because, of course, he is sinless. This was quite moving at times. The other messages were worth hearing too - Sinclair Ferguson's next triptych from Job 16, David Filson on critical race theory and Kent Hughes on Paul's paradoxes from 2 Corinthians 4. Lots of good things once again then. This quote from Calvin was striking "Satan’s aim is to drive the saint to madness by despair". Lots of other good things too.

Catalyst Conference 2024 Day 1

Some 280 are booked in for this year's IPC Conference. It was good to be there once again. We followed the usual pattern of two messages before lunch and two after. Sinclair Ferguson started us off looking at Genesis 3 and seven aspects of Satan's rebellion (the first part of a three part triptych, as he described it). We had lots of wonderful things here - eg the importance of the atmosphere of a text of Scripture, the importance of the affections, the way the references to the LORD God disappear when Satan comes in (he never refers to the LORD) and the idea (drawing on Alfred North Whitehead's similar statement about Plato) that the whole of the Bible is really a footnote to Genesis 3:15. We then had a wonderfully flamboyant man called Dr David Filson, Pastor of Theology and Discipleship for Church and Academy at Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Nashville, Tennessee. He gave a wonderful introduction to Westminster Seminary style apologetics and the whole matter of our battle with the world that was gripping.
After lunch with my father-in-law, Geoff Thomas, and fellow Aber graduates Ed Collier and Emyr James, we had Matthew Mason from the Pastors Academy on the flesh and this whole matter of concupisence, which has come into our thinking again mainly due to the whole question of how to regard same sex attraction. Like Matthew Roberts he rejects the idea of John Stevens and some of the advocates of the view that to be same sex attracted is not wrong in itself. Very helpful. The final message was from R Kent Hughes, very well known by reputation but rarely seen this side of the Atlantic I believe. He took us to Paul and his thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan. A helpful exposition.
So a good day. I headed off after it to visit a member in hospital.
A quotation from day one
“But there are some people, nevertheless - and I am one of them - who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them” (G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, in The Complete Works of G. K. Chesterton, ed. David Dooley, vol. 1, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986, 41).

Lord's Day June 9 2024

I dubbed last Sunday our Super Sunday as we had baptisms, thanksgivings for children and a fellowship meal. I preached on John 6:28, 29 in the morning and on James 1:2, 3 in the evening (in the famous texts series.) One of our Iranian couples had a little boy recently so we gave thanks for him (and also for a baby born to another couple). We baptised two new Iranians who also gave their testimonies. We thn had a meal together - a wonderful mix of African, Iranian, Filipino and European cuisine. A very encouraging Lord's DAy.

Midweek Meeting June 5 2024

Rather behind with this but we did meet last week in the church parlour - eight present and one or two online. We looked at the final verses of Romans 3 and then spent time in prayer. We also had our annual church members meeting the day after.

10 Things about the New Testament Missionary Barnabas

  1. He was a Jewish man
  2. He was from the priestly tribe of Levi
  3. His name was Joseph
  4. He was nicknamed Barnabas (son of encouragement) by the Apostles
  5. He was wealthy but generous; he sold a field and gave the proceeds to the Apostles
  6. He was from Cyprus but moved to Jerusalem
  7. He was cousin to John Mark
  8. He was a pastor in Antioch
  9. He was the one who went to Tarsus and brought Paul to Antioch
  10. He accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey