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.

Evangelical Library Annual Lecture

Reminder that at 6 pm June 2nd 2008 the Annual Evangelical Library Lecture will be given by Dr Jonathan D Moore on "Predestination and Evangelism in the Life and Thought of William Perkins". Do come and join us if you can.

Indiana Jones

The new Indiana Jones film came out on my birthday (it was strange to be away for once though the committee sang to me and I was kindly presented with a gift). The whole family went to see the film today. Set in the fifties it's sheer hokum on every level but good fun. That Lucas and Spielberg know what they're doing.

George Smeaton

I have just finished reading John Keddie’s biography of the Scots theologian George Smeaton (1814-1889). People are aware of Smeaton chiefly through his helpful work on the Holy Spirit published by the Banner of Truth some years ago. Banner also publish his two volume work on the atonement, his other major work. This present volume draws together what little is known of Smeaton and presents it in a popular form in 16 fairly short chapters.
Beginning with his roots, his early years and his early preaching, it goes on to describe his parish ministry, the founding of the Free Church and then his commencement as lecturer first in Aberdeen then in New College, Edinburgh, in 1857, where he served alongside Principal Cunningham and Buchanan, Bannerman and Duncan.
We learn next about his stand on various issues including the establishment principle (very interesting reading for an ignorant Baptist like me), higher criticism and hymn singing (on which he parted with Horatius Bonar, leaving behind the church he had founded). Chapters 12-14 look at Smeaton’s writings, many still in print as indicated above, and two final chapters describe his death and heirs and giving a final summary assessment. A bibliography lists Smeaton’s various works including prefaces and magazine articles. Four relevant PhD theses are also listed.
We are indebted to Mr Keddie for his work in bringing this information to light. The story of the rise and fall of the Scots Free Church is one full of interest and instruction for all Christians as is that of Smeaton himself.

Bloggy man 44

(By popular demand - and counter-demand!)

Grace Assembly 08 Day 3

On our final morning we had two younger men speaking. First, David Last looked at the question of why the Lord’s Supper is important. In a fresh and arresting way he gave us five reasons why we should consider this apparently strange practice as important.
1. Because it is an heirloom – something Christians have always done and that was originally commanded by Christ.
2. Because God and food go together. This striking biblical theological section took us through the Bible pointing out the importance of food in the way God has made us and relates to us.
3. Because it preaches about sin and salvation
4. Because in it we show that the Christians who make up the church are one
5. Because it teaches us humility and other person centredness
It would have been nice to have had a little time for discussion together but it was coffee next and then the closing sermon from Luke Jenner.
Luke took up where his father had left off at the beginning in Philippians 2, helpfully drawing our attention to Timothy and Epaphroditus who, he argued, are chiefly instances of the Christ-like humility Paul commends in the rest of the chapter – the first an example of service , the second of suffering. It was a young man’s sermon in that it was designed to leave us feeling uncomfortable with our commitment to Christ and did just that. We need to hear such sermons.
And so very quickly our time was over. We had lunch together (anothe excellent repast) and then departed. The Olivers very kindly gave Barry King and myself a lift to Derby Station – I hope they found their way home. I was on an earlier train than Barry and only made it just in time. It’s good to be back.

Grace Assembly 08 Day 2

Our second day of assembly, our only full day, began with a well attended prayer meeting led by Mark Richards from Chesham.
We spent the morning on the perennial matter of Christian unity. Before coffee Daniel Webber from the EMF laid before us four important principles
1. Belief in the essential unity of all true Christians and churches
2. The need for all Christians and churches to do what they can to give expression to the unity they have in Christ
3. In a fallen world all visible expressions of unity are subject to certain limitations
4. The use of a sliding scale approach to visible Christian unity – the more we have in common with others the greater the measure of co-operation that is possible
He then showed how these principles may be applied on the individual, church and church leadership levels.
After coffee we looked at a series of questions that arise in this area, such as how we express our unity with other churches. We talked specifically about Gospel Partnerships and Affinity as well as more general matters. John Harris chaired with a panel made up of Jack Jenner, Dr Robert Oliver, Daniel Webber and Tom Forryan from Watford. Contributions were also made from the floor. It was a decent time.
After lunch I bought some Thorntons chocolate and had a group photo on the lawn. The weather here has been quite pleasant. I then chaired the business session, which we got through okay with one or two important decisions, especially to meet again next year at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, May 19-21.

We recommenced at 5 pm with a reports session with Selveraj Jeyekanth who was introduced by Gerard Hemmings from Amyand Park. Selveraj is a converted Hindu who has known quite a ministry in Sri Lanka, being used to plant a large number of churches among the poor of that war torn and tsunami scarred island.
After supper Nick Needham gave his second paper – this time on heaven. Again very fresh he turned us to 1 Corinthians 13, expounded it and then focussed our minds, firstly, as a real place and the goal of the Christian life. Such a realisation would wean us from worldliness and the fear of death. Secondly, it is a world of perfect knowledge and love. He closed with a chiefly evangelistic application. The message was laced with quotes from Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, C S Lewis, A W Pink, etc.
The evening closed with a question panel. We looked at Christian education, new frontiers, etc. A good day indeed.

Grace Assembly 08 Day 1

On Wednesday Eleri took me to the tube in Golders Green and I headed to St Pancras International. I’d not been there since it became the home of Eurostar. All very nice – more like an airport now I guess, though that’s a two-edged sword. A packed train got us to Derby in good time. Derby was more finished than when I was there last but the railway station is a good way from the city centre and the faceless homogeneity of it all made me feel slightly resentful of the northified accents everywhere. I eventually found a packed bus heading in the right direction. The woman driver, who called me ‘duck’ was very nice about getting me to the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick. Around half way she stopped the bus and went to give a carrot to a horse in a field – to the delight of the mostly elderly passengers.
Anyway I reached the Hayes in good time. Dr and Mrs Oliver spotted me and gave me a lift up the long drive. We couldn’t get into our rooms until after lunch so we milled about and then ate lunch together and went to our rooms later. We have managed to get up to a hundred with day visitors so it’s a decent number. We’re rather on the grey side and pretty mono-cultural sadly but there are reasons for that.
Jack and Alison Jenner were our hosts so Jack preached from Philippians 2 for the first session. Later on we had a news reports session featuring Simon Calvert from the Christian Institute (who also did a late night session after 9.30 pm); Eric Cousins from the Particular Baptist Trust, etc; John MacDonald from GBM; Trevor Routley from Argentina, who spoke about the desperate need for Reformed teachers in that country. Also we had Barry King an American from Arkansas who has been in London for a few years now helping the Grace Association with replanting churches. He’s quite a case. His best story was of going to Watford and no-one turning up but preaching anyway. Somehow that led to someone who lived nearby coming that evening, someone who had been praying for something to happen. It is difficult to know if his optimism is down to culture, personality or theology but it is a good thing.
In the evening Nick Needham spoke on hell. There is something slightly brutal looking about Nick but he speaks with very clearly enunciated English and with subdued passion that is quite compelling. With quotations from Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, etc, he took us through the orthodox doctrine adding some fresh things and some necessary correctives. He dealt with objections to the doctrine based on both the justice and the mercy of God. His burden was evangelistic in some ways but with no emotionalism he urged believers to live in the light of the doctrine.
After Simon Calvert I caught the end of the football. Poor Chelsea.

Stott's Basic Christianity

I was at the Evangelical Library today for the third and final lecture in a short series we have been having this Spring. This time Chris Idle spoke on the global best seller by John Stott Basic Christianity. It was written down in the Hookses in Wales in 1958, in preparation for the first of some 50 missions held in various universities over the years.
Chris had some criticisms of the book (chiefly in terms of how it would work today - gender specificity, lay out, assumptions of Bible knowledge, etc) and confessed that he had not really used it for its original evangelistic purpose in the last 30 years (apart from the Bible, is it the best selling but least read evangelical book?). A new edition appeared in 1971 where some of the problems raised were addressed (sloth becomes apathy, egocentric - self-centred and references to 'the mission field' and 'Lent' go, it is more critical of the church, etc) but not the questionable use (ie in an evangelistic context) of Revelation 3:20 with references to Holman Hunt's famous picture. He also mentioned that the resurrection comes well before the death of Christ in the book.
IVP are bringing out a 50th anniversary edition shortly and it may well be that there are further changes to come. (Incidentally I notice that this new edition will be using a cover similar to my own new book with EP. When that will be out I do not know.)
This was an excellent paper. Audio recordings are available through the Library.

Genuine blogging

We like to do various things on this blog but from time to time we actually like to blog (ie provide a web log). I especially like to do that when I've been busy with diverse things.
I started writing this last Thursday afternoon in Membury Services on the M4. I was on my way back from my Uncle Frank’s funeral. Frank Hugh Evans was born in 1922, the youngest of 12 boys. A sister eventually followed (we should have kept going!). He grew up on Buck Farm near Risca and at 16 began working at the new colliery in Risca, moving on to other pits before early retirement in 1984. He met my mother’s older sister Joan when he was 21 and she was 14 and working in a café in Newport. They married in 1947 and had two daughters. Lorraine died while under a year and Marion was born in 1950. (Marion is my eldest surviving cousin on my mother’s side, followed by Gill and Alan, my Aunt Bette’s kids, then me, I think). I think Frank and Joan lived with her parents first then on the farm before moving to Cromwell Road, Risca, where we met before the funeral service.
Frank smoked and drank beer all his life, took six sugars in his tea but was always very active and I don’t remember him having any fat on him. He was on the committee of the working men’s club – responsible for bingo calling (something he sometimes would do in his sleep we were told) and booking the turns (using the phone of the lady across the road).
We travelled over the mountain to Risca. I’d arrived at my sister’s in Cwmbran late the night before after our midweek meeting in Childs Hill. It’s always strange coming back as I see places I don’t often see and forgotten memories return. I haven’t been to Risca in ages. Things flooded back though – the fire station at the back and being there when the alarm went off once; fishing for tadpoles in the canal further up; Uncle Frank giving me a safety helmet that I played with for years, etc.
The family have had a long attachment to Moriah Baptist, Risca. Marion married David there in the seventies. Originally a Welsh speaking congregation it began to use English in order to reach more people coming in. The present large well kept chapel was built in 1893. It is a BU church. The present minister, John Hayward, has been there since 1976. He led the service well and in an evangelical way. We sang three verses of Bread of heaven and six of Abide with me. About 50 gathered – friends and family. I enjoyed talking to Frank’s brother-in-law (I think it was), a Pentecostal believer from Cwmcarn. I managed to get lost between the chapel and the crematorium trying to get through Newport (I have no sense of direction) but made my way back to the Top Club in Risca where we had a nice buffet lunch with plenty of black pudding and other delicacies available.
It was nice to talk to the family – my dad and sister Gail, of course (I saw my nieces at home briefly before leaving); Joan and my Uncle Raymond (there are two brothers still living but neither copes very well with things); Marion and Gill; second cousins, Tracy, Julia and Joanna, Marion’s daughter. Joanna is married to Cai. They have two boys. Elliot is three and suffers from lissencephaly. He has had a gastrostomy tube fitted. He is a lovely little boy and the family love him. Seeing him when Parliament is about to debate abortion and related issues once again reminded me of the reality of all this.
I got back to London around seven. We had our church meeting in the evening, including the annual meeting. That went well. We inch along. For some reason Rhodri and I were in the mood to make a version of the Cat Stevens’ number ‘Father and son’. We’re a weird pair.
We’d had to have the officers meeting on the Tuesday so it was a busy week. I was also at my two meetings for the elderly during Wednesday and at the clubs on Friday night. Tuesday was taken up (before the officers meeting) with a prayer meeting down in Covent Garden, followed by two hospital visits – one to a psychiatric ward (never easy and not something I’ve done in years). Monday we had the annual meeting for the Grace Magazine trustees in the chapel. We keep our heads above water and serve God’s people as best we can. I was glad that Stan Evers was confirmed as permanent editor.
With all that whizzing about I felt quite out of it for much of Friday and didn’t get much done – not even this. No surprise! Anyway I felt better come Saturday. Eleri’s sister and family arrived from Bradford-on-Avon late on Friday for a wedding. It was nice to see them again especially little Osian. They brought a DVD that had been taken from a family video from 1993 and 1997. Viewing such material impresses on you how the years are flying by so quickly.
Dylan spent most of the day in Brighton with friends. Eleri and Gwion popped up to see the wedding, which was in Finchley. I watched half of the FA Cup and was sad that Cardiff lost. Eleri, Rhodri, Sibyl and Dewi went to a twmpath (barn dance) organised by the school so weren’t in until late. Somewhere along the way I’ve been preparing for the Lord’s Day.
Sunday went well. We welcomed in a new member at communion and had a bumper crowd in the morning incuding three Romanians who turned up from nowhere. I preached from Mark 4 on the mustard seed in the morning and from Luke 1:46, 47 on magnifying the Lord with Mary in the evening.

Lloyd-Jones poster

I only ever heard Dr Lloyd-Jones preach once. It was 28 years ago today in Aberystwyth. It was the last time he preached in Wales. He preached from Acts 2 at the English service. I kept this poster, which I came across the other day.

More care needed

My kids will do anything to get on this blog.
An actual break in the case of my youngest. Did it in school.

Flickr Foto Series 35

Glove again - new angle (Link)
Since the glove being featured here I've noticed that this is in fact something of a genre. You can find examples here. I'm sure it's quite innocent. You find a glove you put it where it can be seen and reclaimed. Being so much like hand, however, it take son a certain personality.
This is the same glove I shot a short while ago (still unclaimed). Seeing it again I saw the potential for a fresh shot with an extra element. (I should confess that when I originally saw this glove it was a rude glove and I changed it).

Flickr Foto Series 34

Face in the architecture in Cockspur Street

Hymn of the week 25

This hymn by Thomas Kelly (1769-1855) and Irish dissenter is not very well known except for the final verse.

Praise the Saviour, ye who know Him!
Who can tell how much we owe Him?
Gladly let us render to Him
All we are and have.

Jesus is the Name that charms us,
He for conflict fits and arms us;
Nothing moves and nothing harms us
While we trust in Him.

Trust in Him, ye saints, forever,
He is faithful, changing never;
Neither force nor guile can sever
Those He loves from Him.

Keep us, Lord, O keep us cleaving
To Thyself, and still believing,
Till the hour of our receiving
Promised joys with Thee.

Then we shall be where we would be,
Then we shall be what we should be,
Things that are not now, nor could be,
Soon shall be our own.

D Martyn Lloyd-Jones

I came across this rare photo on Flickr. (Link )


This quote from Martin Holdt following the Banner Conference is on the Banner website and is quoted by Michael Haykin at Historia Ecclesiastica and now here.
“A friend and colleague in England once told me that it was once found that in England the men who are most likely to persevere against the usual odds in the ministry are those who regularly attend minister’s conferences. Those most likely to drop out are those who isolate themselves and never get the benefit of such a fraternity.”

Madlib Example

If you've never played Madlibs you can so do so online here. Here's one I did myself earlier.

Ladies and gentlemen, on this orthopaedic occasion, it is a privilege to address such an ugly-looking group of giraffes. I can tell from your smiling aftershave bottles that you will support my neurotic program in the coming election. I promise that, if elected, there will be a knee in every typewriter and two alarm clocks in every garage. I want to warn you against my thunderous opponent, Mr Bloggy. This man is nothing but an indelible ocean. He has a cantankerous character and is working pudding in glove with the criminal element. If elected, I promise to eliminate vice. I will keep the earlobes in the public till. I promise you gigantic government, omnivorous taxes, and bungling schools.

Friday Night Madlibs

Sometimes on a Friday we'll play madlibs. Whats that? See here.

William and Felix

We tend to think that if we are making progress on ordinary days we are doing well but Proverbs 24:10 says If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength! This is illustrated strikingly in the contrasting stories of William Carey and his son Felix.
See pp 240, 241 of Appleby:
By now a translation of the whole Bible was printed and published in Bengali; the New Testament was published in Sanskrit, Oriya, Marathi and Hindi; translated, but not yet printed, were New Testaments in Telegu. Kanarese, Gujarati and Punjabi; work was beginning on translations in Kashmiri, Burmese and even Chinese. Then on the night of Wednesday 11 March 1812 William Ward suddenly found the warehouse and printing office on fire. Despite attempts by him and some native employees to quench the fire by pouring on buckets of water all through the night, large stocks of paper, valuable manuscripts, a library of grammar books and dictionaries and founts of type were lost. The roof of the building collapsed and the whole premises was engulfed in flames. The cause was never discovered. The labour of twelve years was lost in a few hours. In monetary terms the loss was estimated at £10,000; the loss in terms of time and energy over the years and of valuable manuscripts was incalculable.
Sikh and Telegu grammars and ten Bible versions were gone ... volumes of the Ramayana translation destroyed for ever ... worst of all was the loss of the Polyglot Dictionary of all the languages derived from Sanskrit which would have perpetuated Carey’s name in the first rank of philologists. (Smith 197)
Carey’s response was typical of the man. He wrote to John Ryland:
The Lord has smitten us, he had a right to do so, and we deserve his corrections. I wish to submit to his sovereign will, nay, cordially to acquiesce therein, and to examine myself rigidly to see what in me has contributed to this evil. (Smith 198)
Carey’s first sermon after the event was based upon Psalm 46:10 dividing his material under two headings - 1.God’s right to dispose of us as he pleases and 2. Man’s duty, to acquiesce in his will.

See 252, 253 of Appleby:
Young Felix Carey had been working in Burma for nearly seven years and had prepared a translation of Matthews Gospel in Burmese and a manuscript for a dictionary of the Burmese and Pali languages. His preaching and helpfulness among the people had earned him the respect of the king and high officials. The royal wish was that Felix should set up a mission station in the capital of Ava, together with the installation of a printing press. Serampore donated one of their presses and in 1814 Felix conveyed it across to Rangoon accompanied by his second wife, a son from his former marriage, and a new baby. From Rangoon a boat journey was involved on the lrrawaddy river and there tragedy struck the little family. A sudden storm caused the boat to capsize plunging the family and the printing press into the river. Felix supported his wife and baby until he sank with exhaustion. Coming to the surface again he could find neither his wife nor the baby: nor could he reach his son. He struggled to the riverbank only to realise that his new wife, two children, the press and a precious manuscript of Matthew’s Gospel had all been lost – a loss which affected him so much that his behaviour became eccentric and unpredictable. The Burmese king, perhaps thinking it to be a form of therapy, sent him back to the familiar Calcutta as an ambassador. Felix resigned from the mission, causing Carey to write to Fuller that ‘Felix is shrivelled from a missionary to an ambassador’. In Calcutta’s high society life Felix became addicted to drink and accumulated many debts which his father struggled to repay. Returning to Rangoon to report to the king, Felix learned that he was out of favour and fled to the border of Burma and Assam. He drifted about, a lost soul, until in 1818 William Ward came across him when visiting Burma and persuaded him to return to Serampore. The whole story meant an agony of distress for his father. Felix died in 1822 at the early age of thirty-seven. Until the day of his own death in 1834 Carey never lost his sense of grief over the collapse of Felix.

What a contrast in reactions. presumably many of the same influences had shaped them yet when it came to the test one was found wanting. What a mystery here but also a warning that when we assess ourselves, as we must, we must not be misled by thinking only of how we cope in easier times.

I can plod

There are plenty of biographies of William Carey, the leading 18th Century Baptist what is unique about this one is that it is written by a Baptist, a Calvinist, a missionary to India and a man of mature years. John Appleby's I Can Plod: William Carey, The Early Years Of The First Baptist Missionary Society is a beautifully produced GPT imprint. I found it slightly difficult to get into at first for some reason but once I was past the opening chapters it was fine. I can't put this into words but it struck me as very Baptist in style. I guess what I mean is that he has done his research okay but does not presents it in a cold academic manner. This is chiefly a compliment but may be slightly critical, I guess.

The book is in three parts with 9 appendices.

1. Stalk (1-6 closing with his entrance into the pastorate)
2. Ear (7-22 arguing for overseas mission, eventually going and the early years)
3. Full grain (23-35 New start at Serampore through to death)
It's full of good things including a thorough enquiry into the 'sit down young man' story (Chapter 8); due emphasis on Calvinism and the state of things among Reformed Baptists at the time; plenty of coverage of the rope holders and the Serampore end; honest and sympathetic treatment of Dorothy Carey (with a good appendix on A N Groves and his wife); little extras like references to the Jamaican work and other fields; plenty of material on the problems and the way mission developed; the fascinating 1805 agreement; chapters on Carey the Botanist and the Social Reformer; nice appendices on Carey's catholicity, the communion question, etc.
The book sparked off lots of interesting thoughts - on how mission begins and develops; the matter of commitment (Carey ended up giving thousands to mission); the sorts of men God uses; issues of culture and use of time (the sorts of issues this blog is very conscious of - I thought Mr Appleby sounded slightly defensive of Carey's botanical activities); the place of team work; the ease with which there can be misunderstanding, etc.
I was very struck by the very different way Carey and his poor son Felix reacted to great setbacks and I may well do a post on that.
There are one or two very minor typos. An index would be a great help if a second edition appears.

Bloggy Special 24

The Warner Sisters

Do you know the hymns Jesus loves me and Jesus bids us shine? I remember singing both as a child. (In what I now know is called a Mondegreen I thought the latter was called Jesus bits of shine and spoke of a sort of sparkly Jesus).
We still sing the former. Both have taken a certain amount of flak over the years. Anyway I was just over at Cyberhymnal and I discover that they were written by sisters. When their father Henry Warner got into financial difficulties they began to write for money and also did Bible studies for West point students. Anna Bartlett Warner (1827-1915) [right] wrote Jesus loves me and other hymns. See here. Susan Bogert Warner (1819-1885) [left] wrote Jesus bids us shine. See here. Both wrote novels and used pseudonyms. Anna wrote a biography of Susan. What exactly their theology was I do not know.

Day release

Had a nice day in the West End Tuesday. I wanted to be in Soho at 10 am and at the Astoria 2 near Tottenham Court Road tube at 7 pm. I could have gone home in between but I thought I'd spend the day in town so was out from 9 am until gone 11.30 pm. As I've reflected on the day I've realised how much I enjoyed it and what a Londoner I am.
So I got the 13 bus to kick off. I was running late so took the tube from Finchley Road to Bond Street (actually on Oxford Street) then walked. I got lost a little but found myself in Hanover Square where a street map showed the way to Berwick Street, where the Soho church have their Fair Trade shop. We had an LIP meeting there, which I chaired. That went off okay.
There was a lot of rain in London that day but for much of the afternoon it was dry. I can't remember quite the order I did things in then but I bought a headphone jack adaptor in a big electrical shop, had an overdue haircut at Mr Topper's on Charing Cross Road from a nice young Colombian fellow (£6, which is good for Central London) and bought my ticket for the Focus gig in the Astoria 2. I had lunch in a Caffe Nero somewhere and a cuppa later in a McDonalds. I was looking for Handel's house, which I thouight was open to the public, but couldn't find it (need to plan better). Then I saw a sign for Somerset House. I remember my mother telling me that was where all the birth certificates were kept (as was once the case). That was one of the things she thought all young boys should know. I'd never been there, however, so it was nice to have a little look around and then head down onto the embankment where I came to a garden full of interesting statues and flowers. I had a nice time there reading (mainly I Can Plod, John Appleby's excellent new book on Carey, which I practically finished) and praying. I also looked at my passages for Sunday, read the paper and did the crossword and sudoku.
On my travels I bumped into a young Scots girl reading her Bible in the Caffe Nero. She was an actress or dancer, waiting on an audition. She'd been given the Bible by an LCMer I've met. She attends a church I know of (not a Reformed one). Outside Charing Cross station a young man asked me for the bus fare to Golders Green. I was a little cautious but watched him onto the 13 bus (you can easily sell a ticket). Daniel is an Israeli from Jerusalem. He'd apparently had his wallet stolen. I told him I was helping him because I was a Christian and to come to church. His English was not great, though, and I came over rather aggressively. Both those encounters were interesting and quite striking in that I must have seen hundreds of people that day. Watering with prayer is the hard thing now.
Anyway I got to see Focus, which was great. I didn't hang around afterwards but came straight home by tube. It was raining hard but I was happy. As I approached the house I saw a fox but it soon ran. I like London.