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.

The Potency of Music

Noel Coward once commented on the potency of cheap music. I don't know exactly what he had in mind but if you look for Tracy Chapman's The promise on the net you should be able to find it somewhere and that will give you the idea.
These are the lyrics
If you wait for me,
Then I'll come for you.
Although I've travelled far,
I always hold a place for you in my heart.

If you think of me,
If you miss me
Once in a while,
Then I'll return to you,
I'll return and fill that space in your heart.

Your touch, your kiss,
Your warm embrace
I'll find my way back to you,
If you'll be waiting too.

If you
Dream of me,
Like I dream of you
In a place that's warm and dark,
In a place where I can feel the beating of your heart.

Remembering, etc.

Oh I've longed for you and I have desired
To see your face, your smile,
To be with you wherever you are.

Remembering, etc. Please say you'll be waiting.

Together again
It would feel so good to be
In your arms
Where all my journeys end.
If you can make a promise,
If it's one that you can keep,
I vow to come for you
If you wait for me
And say you'll hold
A place ... for me ... in your heart.
A place for me in your heart (3).

The Bloggy Man Again

Sarah & Mary compared and contrasted

Sarah and Mary compared
1. Both Sarah and Mary were women in Scripture unable to have children in the normal way but who did. (Sarah had a double disability. She was barren and had then passed childbearing age. Cf Gen 16:2, 18:12; Rom 4:19, Heb 11:11. Mary's problem was at the other end. She had reached mature enough years to conceive but was a virgin until after Jesus was born).
2. Both Sarah and Mary were reminded of God’s power to do the impossible. (Gn 18:14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son. Lk 1:37 Nothing is impossible with God.)
3. Both Sarah and Mary received special revelations that they would give birth to a special son. (Mary was visited by Gabriel, Sarah overheard the Lord talking to Abraham, cf Gen 18 and Lk 1)
4. Both conceived their first born sons in a supernatural way.
5. Both Sarah and Mary were women of faith and virtue and examples to people today, especially women. (Compared with Mary, Sarah lacks faith but Mary was not perfect. 1 Pet 3:6 commends Sarah's attitude to her husband. Heb 11:11 may commend her faith. Paul likens here to the Jerusalem above (Gal 4). Lk 1:38 shows Mary was a woman of faith and virtue.)
6. Both Sarah and Mary knew God’s grace and gave birth to sons, to children of promise. (Gen 21:1 Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. God’s grace to Mary is evident too. Cf Lk 1:50. Gal 4 calls Isaac a child of promise ie one promised before he was born. Believers are children of promise but Christ is particularly one in that he is the long promised OT Messiah.)
7. Both Sarah and Mary had their sons circumcised. (Gen 21:4, Lk 1:21).
8. Both Sarah and Mary travelled down into Egypt at one point. (Gen 12, Lk 2)
9. Both Sarah and Mary's sons were later taken by their fathers, made to carry wood and laid on it to be sacrificed on a mountain. (Cf Gen 22 and the Gospel accounts).
Sarah and Mary contrasted
1. Sarah was an old woman, Mary was a young woman. (God uses all sorts).
2. Sarah tried her own means of securing a child, Mary only waited for the Lord to do his will. (Cf Gen 16)
3. Sarah’s husband was told about her son first, Mary was told about her child before her husband. (Why should that be? Perhaps because Mary was to be the mother of Christ in an exclusive way. Joseph had no part in the conception. It is typical of the Bible to subvert the order too.)
4.Sarah overheard what God said about her son, Mary was spoken to directly by an angel. (Gen 18; Lk 1. Mary is singled out for greater honour.)
5. Sarah laughed at the idea of giving birth, Mary believed what she was told. (Gen 18:12; Lk 1:38).
6. Sarah’s presence when pregnant closed wombs, Mary’s presence when pregnant enlivened a womb. (Cf Gen 20/Lk 1:39-45)
7. Sarah rejoiced after the birth of her son, Mary before the birth of her son. (Gen 18:6, 7 Sarah said, God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. And she added, Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age. Lk 1:46-49 My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name. Etc.)
8. Sarah went down to Egypt before Isaac was born, Mary went down to Egypt after Jesus was born. (Gen 12, Lk 2).
9. Sarah's son was taken to Moriah to be sacrificed, Mary's was taken from Moriah and actually sacrificed. (Gen 22, etc. Isaac was replaced by a lamb from the thorns; Christ is the Lamb of God crowned with thorns).
10. Sarah died before her husband, Mary probably died after her husband. (Gen 23).

Archive 1 Carey the plodder

This article first appeared in Grace Magazine October 1992, then Reformation Today 130, (Nov/Dec 92) and Reformation Africa South (second quarter 93). I have reason to believe it has been a help to many. Coming across it again lately I thought it might be good to have it here. I've scanned it from the RAS version and made one or to minor alterations.
It is often forgotten that William Carey, sometimes referred to as the father of the modem missionary movement, was a Baptist and a Calvinist. His life demonstrates total commitment to the task to which he was called - he was consumed in the service of the gospel, making known the Saviour of sinners to a people fast-bound in the grip of false religion, superstition and ignorance. Pushing aside the arguments of convenience and indifference which mitigated against the taking of the gospel to the heathen of India, he is said to have plodded in the service of Christ.

‘Whatever he began, he finished. Difficulties never discouraged him,’ said his sister. He was ‘determined never to give up a particle of anything on which his mind was set . . . He was neither diverted by allurements nor driven from its search by ridicule or threats,’ noted his brother. This is how those closest to him remembered William Carey.
He was not, of course, a superman, and there were times when Carey did become discouraged. However, he never gave up. In a famous statement he wrote of himself, ‘I can plod. That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.’ As his fellow-labourer J C Marshman pointed out, ‘it was the plodding of a genius’, but it was plodding nevertheless.
We may never emulate Carey’s genius, but we ought to emulate his tenacity. Indeed, this is the need of the hour. There are enough shooting stars. A steep climb, a burst of glory, and then they fizzle out. Rather, we need slow burners who will faithfully shine ever brighter until that perfect day. The art of plodding is exemplified in Carey’s life in many ways. We will highlight some of them.

The teenage Carey, an Anglican, first heard the gospel through fellow-cobbler John Warr. Many and long were the conversations they had on spiritual things, and Carey put up strong opposition to the truth at first. Warr however was, in Carey’s words, importunate with me, lending me books, which gradually wrought a change in my thinking.’ He began to attend Independent meetings and increasingly came under the conviction of sin. It was his first attempt to pass off a counterfeit shilling that became the catalyst for his eventual conversion aged seventeen.
In an instant age, we expect instant conversions, but these are rare and often prove untrue. More likely and more lasting is ‘plodding’ to Christ. Like Warr, we must be persistent and faithful witnesses. Even unpromising material may prove tractable in the end and come to expect great things from God and attempt great things for Him. We also need to encourage seekers to search for Christ, to plod on until they find Him.

Once converted, it was a little while before Carey was willing to take the radical step of throwing in his lot with the despised Nonconformists. It was longer, again, before he became a Baptist. It was a Paedobaptist sermon that drove him to the New Testament. After a typically thorough study of the subject, including consultations with Robert Hall, Carey came to the truth and was baptised at Northampton by Ryland in October 1783.
Superficial thinking is everywhere today, and many lack conviction on doctrinal matters. The question of baptism, especially, has been down-played in some quarters. We must forsake woolly thinking and plod on to ever clearer views of the truth, whatever our roots and whatever conclusions we draw about baptism or similar subjects.

The story of Carey’s valiant efforts to share his convictions regarding the plight of the heathen is fairly well known. It is difficult to appreciate, at this distance in time, what a task it was to share this vision. By 1788, he had already attempted to write a pamphlet setting out his arguments for bringing the gospel to the heathen. Andrew Fuller remembered how Carey’s ‘heart burned incessantly with desire for the salvation of the heathen’. However, Carey felt incompetent to finish the pamphlet and had no way of getting it published, anyway. He unsuccessfully tried to persuade other ministers to write. For Fuller and others, the ‘unbeaten path’ felt ‘utterly beyond their reach’.
Eventually Carey’s Enquiry appeared in 1792. That same year, he preached his famous sermon from Isaiah 54 at the Northamptonshire Association in Nottingham. When the ministers met the next morning, Carey was determined not to let another opportunity pass. ‘Is there nothing again going to be done, sir?’ he asked, gripping Fuller’s arm. At last persistence paid off, and that day the Particular Baptist Missionary Society was formed. The following year, Carey set sail for India.
It does not take long to tell the story, but we need to appreciate the years of struggle as Carey sought to share his vision of what ought to be done. We need to picture in our minds long evenings spent poring over maps, the lives of Brainerd and Eliot, and the Scriptures themselves. Imagine Carey coming home from yet another fraternal where the burning question went undiscussed or was again rejected because of the practical difficulties.
We need men who will beaver and badger for the truth, especially when others fail to see, or are reluctant to act. It is not an easy role, and we must be certain that we really do have it right, but it is work that needs to be done, and That only plodders can do.

So Carey finally reached India. Were the years of plodding over? They had only just begun. Even today, every missionary knows he is in for a tough time. How much more so then. It was nearly seven years before the first convert, Krishna Pal [see pic], was baptised at the end of 1800. Sadly, many missionaries today would already have given up well before that point. It is plodders we need.
Over the years, besides a host of other work, Carey translated the Bible into Bengali, Ooriya, Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit. How on earth did he do it all in that strength-sapping heat? Diary extracts make it clear that it was chiefly by means of the biblical principle ‘little by little’. More than that, there was the deep-rooted conviction that ‘the work to which God has set his hands will infallibly prosper.’ It is such plodders we need.

From the time they reached India, Carey’s wife, Dorothy, was in a fragile mental state. There were also deaths (including his young son in 1794), many disappointments, a breach with the Society back home and many set-backs. Through it all he learned, in his own words, the need ‘of bearing up in the things of God against wind and tide’.
In 1812, a particularly devastating blow struck. The printing house accidentally burned down. Paper, new type, irreplaceable manuscripts - all were lost. His reaction is exemplary. ‘In one night the labours of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the divine ways ... The Lord has laid me low that I might look more simply to Him.’ That Sunday he preached from Psalm 46 on God’s right to do his will, and our duty to acquiesce. He wrote to Fuller, ‘The ground must be laboured over again, but we are not discouraged ... God has a sovereign right to dispose of us as He pleases.’ As he plodded on, the press was re-established and output increased beyond what it was before. Plodding once more proved the way to blessing. Oh for more plodders like Carey today!

The Good Ship Friend

I met up with my good friend Chris last night. He was down from North Wales on business. We just had an hour or two - time for two coffees and a bite to eat. Conversation never let up - music, family, our sins and failures, church responsibilities (he's just been made church secretary), growing old, etc. I've known Chris for 35 years and more and though I'm not much of a friend to have he's a great one. I thought of him when I ran across this C S Lewis quote from Michael Haykin's blog (see my link). He got it from Jayme Thompson at

"Friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, "Sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends." I know I am very fortunate in that respect."

[The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (29 December 1935)].

Introducing the Bloggy Man

The Word Became Fresh

If you've read any Dale Ralph Davis (he has six little commentaries on Joshua-2 Kings) you'll need no persuading about his latest little book The Word Became Fresh. Living up to its bold title in every way, Davis here steps back and speaks mainly to fellow preachers on how to preach OT - something we all need help and encouragement with.
The result is an experience that really makes you want to preach as he moves deftly from one OT narrative to another. It's the combination of (lightly worn) scholarship, clear writing (slick but never too slick), a stunning gift for illustration and a wise and warm pastoral heart that makes this such a tour de force. One is left intellectually stimulated and challenged and emotionally stirred and warmed at the same time. Few books do that.
The nine chapters cover how we approach things, looking for quirks in the text, applying theology, how a passage is packaged, dealing with nasties, using the macroscope for the big picture, appropriation or application (but not like anything else you've read on the subject), centring in the right place and finally how to bring this altogether.
To whet you appetite here is the stand out opening of Chapter 3 (Theology)

Despair may have begun creeping over you as you saw the word ‘theology.’ Here’s the thick, heavy stuff, you say. But I don’t know what’s wrong with theology. It’s what we live for, isn’t it? In any case, I’m using the term here to refer to the theology of a biblical text, that is, what the text means to say about God, his ways and his works. Or, to put it a bit differently, I use the term to refer to the intended message of a biblical text. I do not want to discuss how one detects the intention of a text here — I touched on that via a few inadequate hints in chapter 1. Rather, I want to focus on a section of material (the ‘patriarchal’ narratives in Genesis) in which an initial, premier passage (Gen. 12:1-9) determines the meaning of so many of its individual passages. There are reasons for taking this approach: (1) it will allow us to stay within one block of textual material, while mining for the theology of texts; (2) it will illustrate how preceding biblical theology helps to interpret subsequent passages; and (3) I’m writing the book and should be allowed to do what I want.

More info:

350 Years On Jews Celebrate

I did something unusual after last Sunday evening's service. I walked to my local synagogue. I had never been to the large Golders Green synagogue before but I had been kindly invited to a lecture marking the 350th anniversary of the readmission of the Jews to England and thought it would be good to go.
Here in the London Borough of Barnet we have one of the most ethnically diverse in the country and the one with most Jews. Some 40,000 live here (15% of the population). Sadly, despite efforts, our impact as a church on the community has been negligible.
About 350 (!), mostly Jewish, people gathered in the hall at the back of the synagogue for the lecture. It was quite formal, with Julia Chain (Commission for Racial Equality) in the chair, a word of welcome from local Rabbi Harvey Belovski, a vote of thanks from veteran local councillor Monroe Palmer and various local dignitaries present. We closed with the national anthem and the Hatikva.

The lecturer was a former Golders Green boy, the scientist and Master of Birkbeck, David Latchman [see pic]. He had been invited to speak as one with a life-long interest in Anglo-Judaism and a fine collection of Judaica, which he used to illustrate his interesting, well-judged and fluent lecture.

Amsterdam based Rabbi Menassah Ben Israel [see pic] was identified as the driving force behind what brought to an end 366 years of official exclusion in the time of Oliver Cromwell. Ben Israel used economic arguments but was largely swayed by messianic ones. An encounter with a Jew who claimed to have found the ten lost tribes in South America convinced him that the dispersion was now at its height and it was time to head for the corner of the earth (Angle Terre!). Messianic considerations of a more Christian sort moved others such as Cromwell's secretary John Sadler. See Others, such as William Prynne, warned that re-admitting the Jews was a great mistake. The readmission came about not by Act of Parliament but when a Sephardic Jew was discovered to be living in London and was not expelled. Charles II reversed most Cromwellian policies at the Restoration but not this one and so the Jewish population slowly grew.
Having set the scene, Dr Latchman proceeded to give us some highlights from subsequent years

including various disputes among both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews, the fascinating story of Lord George Gordon (1751-1793) [see pic], architect of the anti-papal Gordon Riots and eventual convert to Judaism and the life of Moses Montefiore (1784-1885) [see pic], whom Dr Latchman considers the greatest British Jew of all time. It was not until 1858 that Jews were allowed to sit in Parliament.
It was all fascinating stuff especially for someone as ignorant as I was of these things. What I would like to know more about was something that was hardly going to be addressed, the conversions of British Jews to the evangelical faith. I know that the late Leith Samuel had a Jewish background as do the well-known Bendor-Samuel tribe. I think David Barron was one famous 19th Century convert. Perhaps the singer Helen Shapiro is the best known British Messianic Jew of recent times. Humanly speaking such conversions would not have come about without this providence.

Days of Glory

The internet is great for nostalgia. I had some early Christmas money and sent for two things that arrived today. The first was the 'new' Beatles CD Love - more on that another time perhaps.
The second was the book Days of Glory, a 168p school history textbook. Published 1961 (3rd impression 1964) it was my favourite book in Junior School. (My mother bought me a copy but it was lost). By Rowland W Purton (b 1925 and the author of several books for kids) its 45 chapters go from 'How things began' to 'Journey into space' via Hammurabi, Julius Caesar, Jesus of Nazareth (!), King Arthur, Caedmon, Robin Hood, The Gunpowder Plot, Honest Abe, etc. It has an undoubted 'Christian' bias (chapters cover Sts Patrick, Columba, Augustine and Aidan, King Edmund, Thomas Becket, Shaftesbury, Fry, etc). My favourite feature was the summary chart for each chapter.
I'm sure a lot of it would make me cringe now but it was a great intro for a young boy. Chapter 11 is quite remarkable. I reproduce it below. Such a chapter would not be allowed today. How things have changed in 40 years.
A few years after Julius Caesar was killed, a baby was born. There was something special about Him. He was only born in a stable and yet wise men came to bring Him presents. He was called Jesus Christ.
As a young man He worked in a carpenter’s shop. Then when He was thirty He began to teach people about God. You will not need to be told of the things He did or the stories He told. For three years people came to hear what He had to say and many came to be healed.
Then He was taken prisoner by the chief priests because they did not like what He was doing. The Roman soldiers nailed Him on a cross and He died. After three days He rose again from the dead and later went up to heaven in a cloud.
Many people had listened to what Jesus had to say and they began to teach other people. Soon there were men and women in many lands who believed in Jesus. They built many churches in which to worship God. Jesus had taught us that God is our Heavenly Father. People who try to do at Jesus taught are called Christians. Many Christian people have worked
hard to change things which were wrong. If Jesus had not come, the world would be much different to-day.
Because Jesus came we have changed our calendar. The Romans counted their years from the year Rome was built. The Jews count theirs from the time of Abraham. We count ours from the Birth of Jesus.

Banner Magazine online

I've been taking the Banner of Truth Magazine since I was a young man and I have all 519 editions in my collection. It can be a bit pedestrian at times but it is a fine magazine that should appeal to all who have any commitment to the historic Reformed Faith of Luther, Calvin and those who preceded and followed them.
It is currently under the editorship of Walt Chantry.
Since February an electronic edition of the mag has been availiable. I'm a bit slow with these things and my first copy came the other day. It is the December issue. They send you a pdf file with the magazine on plus a bonus article, which this time is the introduction to a reprint they are doing of a rare work by David Dickson (1583-1633), which is a commentary on the Westminster Confession.
Two of the main articles (by Calvin and Maurice Roberts) are on the threefold division of the law, something widely dismissed in our day.
One is free to share this stuff but, as they say, the magazine needs funds to survive.
Check out the website for more details

Cain & Christ compared and contrasted

Cain and Christ compared
Here are two men
1. Descended from Adam and spoken of in Scripture. (Cf Luke 3:38)
2. With famous mothers who expected great things of them.
3. Who were firstborn sons but had other siblings.
4. Who became wanderers yet both founded cities. (God condemned Cain to be a restless wanderer on the earth, Gen 4:12, but showed him mercy. He founded a city and named it for his son Enoch. In Lk 9:58 Christ says Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Yet he founded New Jerusalem, the City of God).
Cain and Christ contrasted
1. Cain is the first real villain in the Bible; Christ its great hero. (1 Jn 3:12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. 1 Pet 2:20 Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps 1 Cor 1:11 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.)
2. Cain made a sacrifice to God that was unacceptable; Christ one that was.
3. Cain lacked faith; Christ did not. (Heb 11 speaks of Abel's faith. Cain clearly lacked it. Christ always acted in faith – see eg Matt 17:19, 20)
4. Cain was told to master his sin but failed to do so; Christ was able to master it. (Gen 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. Clearly he failed to do that. Sin mastered him. Jesus was the opposite. The Devil could not get him to sin. Jn 14:30 He has no hold on me.)
5. Cain killed his brother and refused to be his keeper; Christ died to make people his brothers. (Gen 4:9 Am I my brother's keeper? Heb 2:1 Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.)
6. Cain, full of hatred, was no brother to Abel; Christ, full of love, sticks closer than a brother. (Cf Prov 18:24 A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.)
7. Cain spilt another's blood that cried out to God; Christ spilt his own and it speaks a better word. (Heb 12:24 refers to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel, cf 1 Pet 1:18, 19 ... it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.)
8. Cain was angry before he killed; Christ was full of joy before he was killed. (Gen 4:5, 6 Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? Heb 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, ... who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.)
9. Cain deserved to die but did not; Christ did not deserve to die but did. (Gen 4:15 But the LORD said to him, Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over. Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no-one who found him would kill him. 2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.)

A Lovely Hymn

My attention was drawn to this lovely hymn recently. It is especially attractive when sang to KINGSFOLD a traditional English tune arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Hear a midi by following this link and downloading the midi
The author is anonymous but the hymn is from Stockwell Gems, which I presume was a hymn book connected with Spurgeon's orphanage (see pic). Perhaps it was written by Spurgeon or the headmaster Vernon Charlesworth. It is 662 in New Christian Hymns.

Show me Thy face - one transient gleam

Of loveliness divine,
And I shall never think or dream
Of other love than Thine;
All lesser lights will darken quite,
All lower glories wane,
The beautiful of earth will scarce
Seem beautiful again.

Show me Thy face - my faith and love
Shall henceforth fixed be,
And nothing here have power to move My soul's serenity.
My life shall seem a trance, a dream,
And all I feel and see, illusive, visionary -
Thou The one reality.

Show me Thy face - I shall forget
The weary days of yore;
The fretting ghosts of vain regret
Shall haunt my soul no more.
All doubts and fears for future years
In quiet trust subside;
And naught but blest content and calm
Within my breast abide.

Show me Thy face - the heaviest cross
Will then seem light to bear;
There will be gain in every loss,
And peace with every care.
With such light feet the years will fleet,
Life will seem brief as blest,
'Till I have laid my burden down
And entered into rest.

Apologetix Parody

I know nothing about the Christian music scene but somebody played me this parody of Bohemian Rhapsody the other day which I liked. Apologetix are an American band with 9 albums under their belt. They specialise in parody. These are the words to Bethlehemian Rhapsody. If you know the tune you can sing it to yourself. Their website is

Is this a real guy? Is he just fantasy?
'Cause of his grand size, no one's safe from fatality
Open your eyes, look up at Goliath, and see:

(GOLIATH) I’m dressed for war, boys. I need no infantry
Because I'll meet the one you propose
Israelites, pick my foe
Anyway, I'll win, so it doesn’t really matter to me
(DAVID) Mama, there's still no man who can come against this threat
You might figure now we're dead
Mama, Goliath is testing us
And know he's gonna know they’re all afraid
Mama, ooh ooh ooh, he's a mean and crazy guy
He'll come right back again this time tomorrow
Scaring us, scaring us - 'cause he wants to meet in battle
Hooray! My time has come
Been a shepherd all my life - but I'm taking on this giant
Goodbye, everybody - but not for long
God will lead me all the while I face this brute
C'mon! Ooh ooh ooh!
(David you’re a wimp though) I'm not gonna die
The One who wins my battles is Lord of all .

(GOLIATH) I see a little silly shepherd - not a man
What are you tryin' to prove? You’ll be chewed up and mangled!
Send a boy to fight me? Very, very tiny flea!

Gol-la-liath! Gol-la-liath! Gonna die you big galoot!
I'll kick your butt!
I trust the Lord but nobody trusts me

(CROWD) He trusts the Lord, but suffers from insanity
Daring to fight 'gainst this monstrosity
(DAVID) Evil comes, evil goes - You will get deposed
(GOLIATH) I will not, no! I will not get deposed
(DAVID) Yes, you will. Yes, you will
Your head will roll
(GOLIATH) No, no, no, no, no, no, no!
Come-to-me-a! Come-to-me-a! Let the eagles pick your bones
Beelzebub and his devils gonna fight for me for me for me.

(DAVID) So you think you can scorn me and spit at my tribe?
So you think you’re above me just based on your size?
Oh, baby ... you ain't just duelin' David
You're gonna get it now - 'cause God'll win my battle here.

(CROWD) Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!
(DAVID) Guys I’m really flattered — yet it wasn’t me
God wins every battle — God wins every battle for me.

(VOICE) David will be king soon.

Tradition & the Fathers

It's a privilege to be so near London Theological Seminary and the John Owen Centre, Finchley. I was there again today (despite a local bus strike) to join around 30 others for a day seminar with Dr Nick Needham.
Nick pastors Inverness Reformed Baptist Church and lectures in Church History at Highland Theological College. He is the author of a series of popular books on church history published by Grace Publications Trust (a group I'm closely involved with) - 2000 Years of Christ's Power (3 of a projected 5 or 6 volumes have appeared). 
The day was entitled Learning from Tradition and the Early Church Fathers and consisted of two papers and discussion, either side of an excellent lunch. AM Nick began with an anecdote about an American Fundamentalist burning a library of works by the fathers, then showed how different this was to the attitude of Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, Gill and Spurgeon. It should not be the attitude of Protestants today. By way of example, he showed how (in spite of Dan Brown and co) the deity of Christ was accepted before Nicaea, where hardly anyone backed Arius. Similarly, the idea that the canonical Gospels were accepted quite late is untrue.
In the afternoon, we looked more broadly at learning from tradition. Following Jaroslav Pelikan (and Heiko Obermann) Nick urged us to be like the Reformers and reject the Roman view of tradition (T2) and follow tradition where we feel it is biblical (T1). We ought not to be like the anabaptists who argued that we should reject all tradition (T0). The idea has been well expounded in the book The shape of sola scriptura by Keith A Matheson. The example here was of seeing who the fathers concentrate on the person of Christ whereas we often move too quickly to his work.
Ken Brownell chaired and there was good discussion. Nick is a fine scholar with his feet on the ground and he answered our questions with grace and insight. With the resources we have today it is realistic to propose more delving into the patristic field where there are clearly rich pickings.
Perhaps the most interesting line of thought opened up for me was the observation that the fathers (pre-Christendom) were in a position more similar to ours (post-Christendom) than the Reformers.

Pressure on Uni CUs

I hear that the situation at Exeter University made the front page of the Times on Saturday.
I also understand that Edinburgh University has banned the CU there from running a course called PURE, which presents the biblical basis for personal relationships. The University believes PURE is in breach of it
s equality and diversity policy because it claims that any sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage is wrong. it is, of course, an attack on free speech.
UCCF want people to write to the Principal/Vice-Chancellor (Timothy O'Shea) to protest (Old College, South Bridge EH8 9YL).
[Pic: Old college, Edinburgh]

Visit to City Uni CU

It was my privilege last night to speak at the CU at City University. I do very little of this sort of thing but one CU member grew up in the church here and so I've spoken once before and was given this return invite. They meet in an anonymous classroom located in a warren of such faceless rooms. Someone kindly met me at the door and guided me there. Someone had thoughtfully put up directions on a series of A4 sheets knocked up on a PC.
Some 20 or so gathered which was very encouraging. When I spoke last year there were only 6 present. A wonderful influx of first years has been the main thing – the power of prayer! They were, understandably, all in the same age bracket but there was great ethnic variety and a good male/female balance. It was a joy just to be in the room.
After light refreshments and chat we sat and Dan from Malaysia enthusiastically led us, with his guitar, in singing a sandwich of two chorusses and (of course) Before the throne of God above, projected on to the wall. I was introduced and applauded (!) and launched into a talk on the suggested subject 'holiness and purity'.
I'm not used to this scene so I simply try to be myself. Wearing a jacket and tie I read 1 Thess 4:1-11 then ploughed through some fairly undiluted J C Ryle – talking about the difference between justification and sanctification, definitive and progressive sanctification, etc. I had seven points and knew I couldn't cover them all but got through most of it without losing them (I think). At least I got another round of applause (when prompted – not by me!).
By the nature of things most present were young Christians and have a variety of backgrounds. We could easily differ on a myriad of things. My hope was that if I just did what I do someone might wake up to what's out there and go for it.
In the nature of things I couldn't talk much with people but walking to the station I had good fellowship with a newly converted young man from a non-Christian background who is getting baptised soon. While speaking frankly of his difficulties and failures, he was full of enthusiasm for the Lord. It's the enthusiasm that is most encouraging. One wishes there was more theology but at least there is zeal. Last time I was there the six were planning some outreach and I remember pondering how such a small handful could be so positive. This time the twenty have hired a 200 seater hall for a carol service! It's partly the nature of youth to be optimistic but it's chiefly God given. I feel rebuked that I can be such a play-it-safe no-hoper sometimes. Where's the enthusiasm I had when a student?

I was alerted again this morning to the situation in Exeter University where the CU has been excluded from the Students Union. They are going to fight this in the courts. Do pray for Christian students seeking to maintian a witness.

Eve & Mary compared and contrasted

Eve and Mary compared
1. Here are two women in the Bible who are well known to us.
2. Here are two women who were both sinners. (After Jesus' birth Mary makes sacrifices for her cleansing so acknowledging herself to be a sinner. In her song she rejoices in God my Saviour, Lk 1:46,47)
3. Here are two women who gave birth with the Lord's help. (Cf Gen 4:1 With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man Lk 1:54, 55 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful etc )
4. Here are two women who knew Genesis 3:15 and so gave birth with both pain and hope. (Gen 3:15 gives the first hint of how God was going to redeem from the Fall And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel)
5. Here are two women who knew their hearts pierced as their firstborn sons grew up. (Lk 2:35 a sword will pierce your own soul)
6. Here are two women who also gave birth to other sons of some importance. (Abel, Seth; James, Jude)
7. Here are two women who both had a conversation with an angel.
Eve and Mary contrasted
1. Eve was the first of women; Mary is the most blessed of women. (Lk 1:48, 49 From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name).
2. Eve is remembered for her proud, disobedient unbelief; Mary for her humble, obedient faith. (Lk 1:38 I am the Lord's servant, May it be to me as you have said).
3. Eve believed a fallen angel, Satan; Mary believed an unfallen one, Gabriel.
4. Eve conceived Cain in the ordinary way; Mary conceived Christ in a supernatural way. (Cf Gen 4:1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain Lk 1: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God)
5. Eve acknowledged the Lord briefly after Cain's birth; Mary acknowledged the Lord at greater length before Christ's birth. (Gen 4:1 and Lk 1:47-55)
6. Eve gave birth to a sinner, a murderer; Mary gave birth to the sinless Saviour.
7. Eve thought she had given birth to Messiah; Mary really gave birth to Messiah. (This is how some commentators understand Eve).
8. Eve was the Mother of all the living; Mary gave birth to the Saviour of the World.
9. Eve was barred from the Tree of Life; Mary saw Christ die on the cross – the tree of life to all who believe

University Challenge

Eleri and I don't often go to the pictures but we did last night. We went to see Starter for Ten a new British film based on a novel by David Nicholls. Set in 1985, it's the story of working-class student Brian Jackson and his first year at Bristol University. I'm not sure why Eleri fancied seeing it (although it is in part a romantic comedy and two of the female leads have famous fathers - the daughters of Sir Peter Hall and Trevor Eve - which adds interest for her).
My interest was the University Challenge angle. Like the protagonist I too had a parent who loved quiz shows especially UC. I still avidly watch now, partly out of nostalgia. We see the young Brian watching with his dad and answering questions. (My memory is not of answering questions but being mesmerised at the answers to apparently unintelligible questions). Brian gets to appear on TV in UC with Bamber Gascoigne himself. I was always a dab hand on general knowledge (thanks to my mother) but never even thought of being on such a thing, so remote did that world seem.
There were other things to identify with in the film - the diversity of people you meet (eg those who refer to their parents by their first names!); that strange moment when an old friend and new university friends meet; pompous older students (often with hair and clothes just like the Patrick character); falling in love; changes at home, etc. I could especially identify with the thirst for knowledge, the emotional turmoil and the lurking danger of pomposity. The film’s basic idea is that life isn’t like UC. In life sometimes you do get the answers wrong but that’s okay as long as you learn from it. Fine as far as it goes I suppose. I’d want to add that the ultimate questions are quite different to anything on UC or in this film. (References to Marx and to Judaism, etc, are skated over in a relativistic way that suggests they do not matter).
I took my eldest son to see Alan Bennett’s The history boys the other week (again a rare outing I assure you). This again is set in the eighties and deals with a group of Oxbridge candidates in their final year in school. (Dominic Cooper and James Corden appear in both). A deeper, more self-conscious and cleverer film but quite unpleasant in some ways I would not recommend it. Starter for Ten was a gentler look at a similar subject that punched above its weight. (Maybe the soundtrack was better too - though it’s fresher in my mind).
There must be endless scope for plays and novels about working class lads like me who go off to university and collide with worlds they only half understand. They’re far off days now and I marvel at the transition and, in some ways wonder how I ever survived. I can only put it down to the goodness of God. Having been converted in my early teens I was saved from many obvious dangers. What a dangerous valley it can be. I’m glad to have it behind me but like any epic journey a little nostalgia remains as well as various regrets. When my eldest son heads off in a year or two it will be quite different for him but still a challenge I’m sure.
PS That last sentence contains a bit of unintended wordplay.