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.

Hartelijk gefeliciteerd Thijs!

I think I missed Thijs's birthday last year but here's a slightly cheesy but very pleasant effort from the eighties to celebrate this year

Larry Knechtel

The subject of harpsichords came up and it led to me looking this up. Great video. I think it's a clavinet rather than a harpsichord as such but it really makes the song. Larry Knechtel is the player.

Google Street View

We are quite impressed with Google Street View in our house, well Rhodri is anyway. See here. Dylan has been across the Gold Gate Bridge in San Francisco for some reason. I did briefly look for Jan Akkerman's house (sad I know) but I'm not sure of his address.

JOC on Calvin

[Dr G with Neil, myself and Wim at the back
and Katie & Rich, Lewis and Peter seated]
I've spent the best part of the last four days up at the John Owen Centre sitting in on the latest module of the MTh course. The LTS Library building work continues apace and so we were confined to the common room, which was okay (except for the lack of an Internet connection). There were seven of us all told - three actually doing the course and four auditing. I knew three students and the other three were new to me. Five of us seven are ministers like the lecturer himself, Dr Mark Garcia. He led us through his recently published book (from his PhD) Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin's Theology (Studies in Christian History and Thought). See here.
I have given up all hope of going to Geneva this year and so was glad to be doing something on Calvin. Besides the book, we were recommended Muller's Unaccommodated Calvin and the introductory work by de Greef, translated by Bierma. I've only really dipped into these so far.
It's always a great privilege not only to read such a work but to have the author there ready to answer questions. Perhaps we did too much reading at times but it was very good. I particularly appreciated seeing the doctrinal connection between justification and the sacraments, something that had long puzzled me. Some seem to suggest that the Reformation was all about the Lord's Supper, some that it was justification, whereas the two are intimately linked.

52 JC No 12

When therefore we discuss this subject, we ought to proceed in this way: First, the question respecting our justification is to be referred, not to the judgment of men, but to the judgment of God, before whom nothing is counted righteousness, but perfect and absolute obedience to the law; which appears clear from its promises and threatenings: if no one is found who has attained to such a perfect measure of holiness, it follows that all are in themselves destitute of righteousness. Secondly, it is necessary that Christ should come to our aid; who, being alone just, can render us just by transferring to us his own righteousness. You now see how the righteousness of faith is the righteousness of Christ. When therefore we are justified, the efficient cause is the mercy of God, the meritorious is Christ, the instrumental is the word in connection with faith. Hence faith is said to justify, because it is the instrument by which we receive Christ, in whom righteousness is conveyed to us. Having been made partakers of Christ, we ourselves are not only just, but our works also are counted just before God, and for this reason, because whatever imperfections there may be in them, are obliterated by the blood of Christ; the promises, which are conditional, are also by the same grace fulfilled to us; for God rewards our works as perfect, inasmuch as their defects are covered by free pardon.
From his commentary on Romans 3

Prayer Language

I have noticed at least two people recently praying about meeting around the Word. I noticed it because someone once told me that we meet under the Word not round it. It's like the phrase you often hear in graces and that I used to use - 'Bless this food to our bodies' . Somebody once asked me what exactly that means. I had no answer so stopped using it. I found an interesting blog on this but have lost trace of it.

Song of the whale Pt 2

This is from the Underwater Sunlight album and lasts about 10 minutes. If you can't listen to it all try the first 2 minutes of just piano. Beautiful!

Choco Leibniz

I just had a Choco Leibniz made by Bahlsen's. Whenever I eat one I think the same thing - that's what a chocolate biscuit should look like! They go back to the 19th Century. More here. Great review here.

Poetry and pizza

Eleri and the youngest boys headed off to Wales on Friday afternoon (for an eisteddfod and to pass on 4 of our 11 rabbits - did I mention that there had been a second litter?) so when I came in from the GPT meeting it was just me and the middle boys here. (As I mentioned GPT very kindly gave us all copies of the newest books Frank Allred's brilliantly titled Just by believing and the new edition of John Hall's book of 12 Bible basic studies which I am hoping to get someone to study with me.) We sent out to Pizza Hut for a stuffed crust pizza - very nice. Then it was of to clubs at chapel which went off quite well despite a shortage of staff. I spoke on the lost sons.
On Saturday morning we had a clean up day which was quite well attended (thanks to our Korean friends and our two LTS men). We made good progress on lots of things. A chapel is lke ahome - always things to clean and tidy and fix. Then there was rugby all afternoon, which I kept coming in and out for in the midst of preparations for the Lord's Day. I watched most of the Welsh game. It's hard to begrudge the Irish their win after 61 years (our name is Brady so we must be part Irish anyway) and they were the better team. So we are forced back to 'as long as we beat the English' sadly. At least we were well disciplined and in with a shout.
Gwion returned in triumph. He had been reciting a poem (Un funud fach - see below - something about a child bored out shopping with his mam) in the Urdd prelims and was considered good enough to enter the national competition - he is the best for his age in the whole world at it (excluding Wales) - I guess that last bit is important to add.
The Lord's Day was good. I preached on the transfiguration. We had one of the deacons and his wife here for lunch. When we read the Bible after lunch it was the bit about deacons and their wives in 1 Timothy - ironic. They joined Rhods and I for a nice walk before the evening meeting (on Abraham in Hebrews 11). Eleri was beginning to go down with a cold by the end of the day. We'd marked Mother's Day with cards and gifts. I prayed for mothers in church but we don't mark it any other way.

Suddo i nyth clyd
y soffa hufen
a’m byd yn gartwnau gwyllt
ond daw llais Mam fel drudwen
i bigo’r lluniau o’m llygaid
‘Tyrd! Cwyd!
Allan â ni.’
Ac allan â mi
i siopa.
Codi hediad a mynd
Dilyn y lli
yn un haid,
yn un dorf,
o un siop i’r llall.
‘Un funud fach fydda i,’
Meddai hi.

Cyfir’r craciau yn y palmant
a sylwi ar bapurach fel hen blu
yn hel yn y gwter.
Ceir yn ymlwybro fel pryfed genwair
yn y maes parcio –
a hen wynt main
yn gwneud i mi grynu
ar y silff ffenast oer.
Ac mae hi’n dal i bigo mynd
Heibio rêls y dillad
yn sbaena, yn cyffwrdd y defnyddia
yn codi’r hangyr, sbio
a’i roi yn ei ôl.
Mae bagiau plastig
sy’n barod i ddodwy
yn fy mhasio

a finna yn ysu ysu
am fynd ‘nôl
i’r nyth clyd hwnnw
ar y soffa.

(Gan Rhian Sanson)

52 JC No 11

On Romans
Calvin's first commentary was on Romans. In the argument at the beginning he writes
With regard to the excellency of this Epistle, I know not whether it would be well for me to dwell long on the subject; for I fear, lest through my recommendations falling far short of what they ought to be, I should do nothing but obscure its merits: besides, the Epistle itself, at its very beginning, explains itself in a much better way than can be done by any words which I can use. It will then be better for me to pass on to the Argument, or the contents of the Epistle; and it will hence appear beyond all controversy, that besides other excellencies, and those remarkable, this
can with truth be said of it, and it is what can never be sufficiently appreciated — that when any one gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.

Hymn of the Week 32

We sang this fairly familiar 1736 Doddridge hymn on Sunday evening and it lingers in my mind. The amazing tune helps but it is the words that make it. Someone told me it was Dr Lloyd-Jones's favourite. I wonder if they know about it in health and wealth circles? Watson calls it an interesting exercise in Puritan covenant theology.
O God of Bethel, by Whose hand
Thy people still are fed,
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led.

Our vows, our prayers, we now present
Before Thy throne of grace;
God of our fathers, be the God
Of their succeeding race.

Through each perplexing path of life
Our wandering footsteps guide;
Give us each day our daily bread,
And raiment fit provide.

O spread Thy covering wings around
Till all our wanderings cease,
And at our Father’s loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace.

Such blessings from Thy gracious hand
Our humble prayers implore;
And Thou shalt be our chosen God,
And portion evermore.

Busier and busier

As ever the week has been pretty busy. My father back in South Wales went into hospital last Saturday and so I took the coach to see him last Monday. As it turned out he was leaving the hospital as I arrived so I missed him and had to go on to Croesyceiliog (two buses) to visit. So in the end I only had an hour with him but that was okay. I also got to see my sister Gail, which was good. She gave me a lift back to the bus station.
It's always a little traumatic going back. I love hearing the accents. Newport is a rough old place. I noticed that opposite the bus station the university has a massive 35 million pound building project – but it all seemed quite quiet.
Tuesday I was giving my last lecture for the year at EMF. We made a quick visit to the world of Opus Dei and spent most of the morning on Eastern Orthodoxy. They're a good bunch this year (unusually all men but one). As I only give six lectures by the time I get to know them it is time to go,which is a shame. After lunch in Welwyn, I headed to Hampstead School, where Dylan with others was doing his GCSE Drama group devised play. Dylan's play was the fourth of eight. He took the lead role of Sydney in a sort of morality play about a successful writer who loses touch with what really matters. The boy is clearly gifted (like his older brother).
Wednesday morning we had about 40 kids from the nearby Anglican School at the chapel to look around as part of their religious education. Some of them I know from our clubs. I told them some thing then they asked questions – lots of questions but mostly of the more terrestrial kind. I had to slip down to the Evangelical Library in the afternoon to sign something. In between all this I prepared for the evening meeting where we looked at the first nine verses of Deuteronomy 22. It was a good time. Our old friend Grace Lan, a Chinese missionary with CWI in Glasgow was there. Always nice to see her.
On Thursday, books I'd ordered from Amazon for some lectures on Calvin next week at JOC finally arrived. I need to do some speed reading there, in between preparing for the Lord's Day. I also managed to get a manuscript book read this week – a potential GPT title. In the afternoon I was at LTS to sample the coffee again. We also did some Greek (three of us being led by Robert Strivens) – the subjunctive and a bit more of the Sermon on the Mount. After that I joined Richard (our LTS student) again for a bit more Lloyd-Jones on preaching.
And so Friday is here already. The main thing today is GPT committee meetings in Covent Garden. They went off okay. We were given copies of the latest publications Just by believing by Frank Allred and Christian Basics revised edition by John Hall. So it's off home now for tea and then the clubs tonight.

Because I can

So here I am in Leicester Square en route home from a meeting. Modern technology is wonderful. All that I need to do now is to think of a use for it.*
* I should explain that I took the photo with a computer notebook and blogged it there and then.

Edmund Hockridge

I think I've mentioned this autograph book before. It contains about 25 mostly entertainers from the sixties. One of them is Edmund Hockridge who has recently died. The Times obituary ends:

He never really retired and even in his eighties he was still making public appearances and giving talks about his long career. “I keep going,” he said, “and I’m flattered when anyone remembers me.”
Edmund Hockridge, singer and actor, was born on August 9, 1919. He died on March 15, 2009, aged 89

It begins:

With his rugged looks and strong baritone voice the Canadian-born singer Edmund Hockridge was one of the West End’s biggest stars in the 1950s.
He played leading roles in a string of popular musicals including Carousel, Guys and Dolls, Can Can and The Pajama Game and had recording hits with songs such as Young and Foolish, No Other Love, The Fountains of Rome and More than Ever. A song from The Pajama Game, Hey There, gave him his biggest record hit and became his signature tune.
Immensely popular with British audiences, Hockridge eventually made his home in the UK and for more than 40 years topped bills around the country in musicals, variety, radio and TV shows.
Edmund Hockridge was born into a musical family in Vancouver in 1919. His mother was a pianist, and his father and three brothers were keen amateur singers. As a teenager Hockridge had an outstanding singing voice, and he was encouraged by the New York Metropolitan Opera star John Charles Thomas to turn professional.
He first visited Britain in 1941 with the Royal Canadian Air Force and helped set up the Allied Expeditionary Forces Network, which supplied entertainment and news for troops in Europe. He was loaned to the BBC, often working with the Glen Miller Band and the Canadian band of the Allied Expeditionary Forces led by Robert Farnon. He sang and produced more than 400 shows with the BBC Forces Network and as the war ended he sang with big bands such as Geraldo’s.
After the war he returned to Canada and had his own radio show in Toronto in which he played leading roles in operas such as Don Giovanni, La bohème and Peter Grimes as well as Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
His unexpected break came in 1951 when he returned to Britain and was invited to take over from Stephen Douglass as Billy Bigelow in Carousel at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The reviews were sensational, and audiences warmed to his larger-than-life stage prescence.
“Carousel was my favourite show,” he said. “You couldn’t sing that score for three years and not love it. It was a marvellous show and all the better because I met my future wife, Jackie, in it.”
He appeared in Carousel for 1,300 performances, and when the run ended he took over from Jerry Wayne as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls at the London Coliseum.
“Liz Webb and I were the only two non-Americans in Guys and Dolls,” Hockridge recalled. “We felt very privileged to be in the production. Unfortunately, Sid James, the comic actor, later joined the run and he was a nightmare to work with. He ad-libbed everything and put in new comic business every night. I never knew what was going to happen. He was eccentric.”
Hockridge stayed at the Coliseum for two more shows, playing Judge Forestier in Can Can, and Sid Sorokin in The Pajama Game, the latter being a favourite show with the Royal Family.

Calvinism changing the world

Have you seen this item at Time mag here putting Calvinism at 3 in a list of ideas changing the world right now?

Great minds

"Nothing could be more eternally important than Christian people knowing what the Bible teaches about the new birth and knowing that they have experienced it. One wonders why it’s taken so long for a book on the new birth to be written! But now it has and I pray every reader rejoices in God for the rich beauties of Christ Jesus so compellingly shared in its pages."
Thabiti Anyabwile, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

"Regeneration, or new birth, meaning simply the new you through, with, in, and under Christ, is a largely neglected theme today, but this fine set of sermons, criss-crossing the New Testament data with great precision, goes far to fill the gap. Highly recommended."
J . I. Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

"I cannot too strongly celebrate the publication of this book. Owing in part to several decades of dispute over justification and how a person is set right with God, we have tended to neglect another component of conversion no less important. Conversion under the terms of the new covenant is more than a matter of position and status in Christ, though never less: it includes miraculous Spirit-given transformation, something immeasurably beyond mere human resolution. It is new birth; it makes us new creatures; it demonstrates that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. All the creedal orthodoxy in the world cannot replace it. The reason why “You must be born again” is so important is that you must be born again."
D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois

"For those curious about the Christian faith to those deeply committed to Christ and his ways, come read and behold the glory of any and every sinner’s only hope — the miracle of the new birth that brings forth new life in Christ that will never end."
Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

"Theologically thorough and yet heart-warmingly pastoral and practical, this important book should help God’s people to value the remarkable status and responsibility of being ‘born again.’" Richard Cunningham, Director of UCCF, UK

"Expository and practical, this rich survey of New Testament teaching explores the nature of the new birth and the life which flows from it. Full of refreshment and encouragement, it reveals more deeply the glory of Christ and the gospel and motivates a renewed commitment to live out this good news and share it with others."
David Jackman, President of The Proclamation Trust, London

"When I was a boy my grandmother asked me, ‘Have you been born again?’ Though I didn’t understand what she meant at the time, that question led to my conversion to Christ. In this wonderful book, Pastor John Piper rescues the term ‘born again’ from the abuse and overuse to which it is subject in our culture today. This is a fresh presentation of the evangelical doctrine of the new birth, a work filled with theological insight and pastoral wisdom."
Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama

"Many will be thankful that John Piper is here addressing the key need of our times. Every awakening begins with the renewed discovery of Christ's teaching on the new birth. Here is that amazing teaching in lucid yet comprehensive form; with a relevance to readers worldwide."
Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth

"Have I been born again? is not a question to be answered hastily. In this book, Piper strips away our complacency, arguing that many people falsely believe they are Christians. By examining the Bible’s teaching on the new birth, he shows us how to be certain our faith is genuine. Because no issue could be more critical, I believe this is the most important book Piper has written."
Adrian Warnock, blogger

"Classic Piper—crystal clear exposition and a must read."
Alistair Begg, Parkside Church, Chagrin Falls, Ohio

This is just a reminder about my book What the Bible teaches about being born again. The above comments refer, of course, to John Piper's new book on regeneration Finally Alive. I've not seen a copy but he looks to be covering similar ground. I was aware of it but it was Jeremy Walker who drew my attention to the interesting comment by Thabiti Anyabwile.
Note - must seek more endorsements next time I write something.

Big News John Owen Centre

I've been sitting on the exciting news of this possibility for a few weeks but it's now official. Garry Williams has just been appointed as the first full-time Director of the LTS's John Owen Centre. This is quite a coup I would say and I guess it alters significantly the face of theological education in the UK.
An Oxford graduate, Dr Williams takes up his appointment on July 1, 2009. Since 1999 he has served as Tutor in Church History and Doctrine at Oak Hill Theological College in London. He has published popular and academic works on subjects ranging from The Da Vinci Code to the doctrine of the atonement.
The John Owen Centre is the brainchild of the Board of London Theological Seminary and aims to help equip evangelical churches in the UK to address contemporary theological issues. It provides high-level theological teaching for gospel ministers and others, as well as giving opportunities for in-depth theological study. Its aim is to refresh and enrich ministries for the nourishment and strengthening of God's people. Its distinctives include a consistently Reformed theology, nonconformist identity, international connections, commitment to working with men already in ministry and the offering of both demanding formal academic programmes and more easily accessed shorter blocks of high level teaching and study.
Since its inception it has offered a two year part-time Master’s programme from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) in Historical Theology (I'm a graduate myself) and has organised a number of conferences on significant theological issues of the day. It runs a theological study group as well as advanced classes in Hebrew and Greek.
Dr Williams will continue this work and seek to develop new activities, including guided study-leave periods for ministers. These will provide an opportunity for ministers to spend time in private study at LTS. Guidance will be given on a programme of reading, together with one-to-one or small group tutorials. There will also be study days on particular theological topics. These will involve one day intensive lectures and seminars with small groups of ministers on important and currently live theological topics.
In the official publicity Robert Strivens, new Principal of LTS, comments: ‘This is a very exciting development for the John Owen Centre. We have for some time wanted to find a full-time Director for the Centre, to lead and develop the work to its full potential. We are delighted that Garry will be taking up this post in the summer. His learning and experience make him admirably qualified for the role and we look forward enormously to his joining the team here.’
Garry Williams says ‘I am hugely excited about directing and developing the already excellent work of the John Owen Centre. The role of the Westminster faculty in teaching the ThM places its formal academic programme among the best in the world. And yet alongside that, the JOC has the flexibility to offer high level theological teaching that does not require registration on a long-term programme. This gives it an unusual agility in meeting the needs of ministers who are already serving churches. I am praying that the work of the JOC will glorify the Lord Jesus Christ as His under-shepherds are strengthened in their care for His flock.’


Okay not perfect by any means but a win nevertheless and with two tries. So 3 out of 4 and Ireland to come for the Triple Crown and championship. it will be interesting to see how Scotland Ireland goes. Nice to see Sotland 6-3 up as I write.

LTS etc

I'm just back from a morning in LTS. I went with Rhodri to the open day which had been arranged, chiefly for possible students. About 50 were present and I guess half or more were people thinking of studying there perhaps. We began with coffee and then the new principal, Robert Strivens, introduced things and then the new Vice-Principal, David Green, also spoke. It was possible then to see around the premises. After that, a number of lecturers and students spoke giving an outline of the course. A number of changes are being implemented at present. There was also opportunity for questions. It all sounded very positive and interesting. One hopes that it will encourage those thinking of the ministry to study there.
I count it a great blessing to have LTS on the doorstep. Its proximity means I can reasonably be there quite often. This was my second trip over this last week as I was present last Tuesday when about a dozen of us gathered to study Habakkuk in the Hebrew under the capable leadership of David Green. My Hebrew is still not great but I have enough to see that there are things in the book that are simply not possible to see without reading the Hebrew. A very profitable time.
Afterwards I was able to join one of the students and read a little more from Lloyd-Jones's Preachers and preaching. For me it was a refreshing change from the Hebrew whereas he had been listening to Stuart Olyott all afternoon on homiletics. He seemed eager for more, nevertheless.
On Monday I was lecturing at EMF, chiefly on Catholicism - a rather hot Prot approach I guess. No problem for the Pole or the Ulsterman or the East Europeans I guess but one student found my stance difficult to accept but we talked about it and hopefully he'll come to see that I'm right!
Wednesday was mostly meetings with services at my two homes for older folk and the midweek meeting in the evening.
Yesterday and Thursday were easier, though I was present for the children's meeting and the young people's, which went off okay.

Famous faces

I was walking down Oxford Street this week and I saw Lionel Blair. (Looking very well for a man in his late 70s - I have his autograph somewhere). I smiled to him and he smiled back. It's part of London life I guess. You do see people whose faces you recognise. I got on a bus with former Mayor Ken Livingstone the other day and sold Twmpath tickets to Cerys Matthews last week. A few weeks back on Hampstead Heath I spotted local girl Lynsey de Paul who I see about from time to time. In the past I've knocked the doors of the late Alan Coren, actor George Layton and others. I once gave a tract to Sue Perkins, who used to live in the next street. What is most difficult is the many character actors who live around here - faces you know but can't usually put a name to (eg Janine Duvitski - I looked her up, there are others and I don't even know what they were in).
Anyway my point is that it's a weird thing, one pretty much the result of TV and beyond. You know who they are but they don't know who you are. When I smile in recognition, they look back and think 'do I know this person?' It must be unnerving if you're not sure.
(I notice that all the people I mention are quite old. Am I just walking past the young and famous?)


I have recently completed a series of sermons on Ezekiel and have begun to put them on my preached sermons blog here (4 there so far of about 30).


The whole family was at a twmpath in the London Welsh Centre near Kings Cross last Saturday - the last element in our St David's Day celebrations. It was a fundraiser for the London Welsh School. Twmpath is Welsh for a hump and was once applied to the mound or village green upon which the musicians sat and played for the community to dance. It is used today to mean a Welsh version of a barn dance or ceilidh. Eleri had organised this one and so we felt obliged to support her. About a hundred came. I actually took money on the door which is not my forte. Lots of children were present so the dancing was centred on them, which was unusual. Eleri had great trouble finding a caller. She eventually found a man willing to stand in but he was unwell and couldn't really do it so the headmistress did it instead. We had a nice evening of cawl cennyn (leek soup), bara brith and chat and were home not too late.

Martian life

I don't want to go on about this but this video about the inimitable Julie Fowlis is quite short, in English (mostly), to the point and very informative so might be appreciated by some. (You'll have to listen to the very end to know why I've called this Martian life. [May be she says mar sin leit?] The title also reflects the Mark Radcliffe quotation about music from another world).

52 JC No 10

On God's repentance
What, therefore, does the word 'repentance' mean? Surely its meaning is like that of all other modes of speaking that describe God to us in human terms. For because our weakness does not attain to his exalted state, the description of him that is given to us must be accommodated to our capacity so that we may understand it. Now the mode of accommodation is for him to represent himself to us not as he is in himself, but as he seems to us. Although he is beyond all disturbance of mind, yet he testifies that he is angry towards sinners. Therefore whenever we hear that God is angered, we ought not to imagine any emotion in him but rather to consider that this expression has been taken from our own human experience; because God, whenever he is exercising judgment, exhibits the appearance of one kindled and angered. So we ought not to understand anything else under the word 'repentance' than change of action, because men are wont by changing their action to testify that they are displeased with themselves. Therefore, since every change among men is a correction of what displeases them, but that correction arises out of repentance, then by the word 'repentance' is meant the fact that God changes with respect to his actions. Meanwhile neither God's plan nor his will is reversed, nor his volition altered; but what he had from eternity foreseen, approved and decreed, he pursues in uninterrupted tenor, however sudden the variation may appear in men's eyes.
Institutes I.17.13

This and that

The younger boys were dressed up for school again today. Last Friday it was St David's Day waistcoats and breeches and today they were Sirius Black and Dennis the Menace for World Book Day.
As for me this week has included rare visits to the hospital and (even rarer) the magistrates court. Someone I know had got in trouble with the law and wanted some moral support as he faced the magistrates. That went off as well as could be expected. One of the ladies I visit fortnightly at Spring Court had fallen and broken her hip when a motorised contraption had hit her while in the bank on Monday. They seem to be looking after her very well in the Royal Free.
There's plenty to complain about in this country but certainly some things work as they should. In the first case the detection and justice seemed to work well and in the second the doctors, nurses and therapists seemed to be working well to aid recovery. We have a lot to be thankful for in the UK.

Westminster Emergency

I was at the Westminster Fellowship on Monday to hear Chris Hand from Crich speak on the Emerging or Emergent Church. I have read Don Carson's helpful book but this was a useful presentation too. Chris began by suggesting that the EC is threatening to put into reverse what Paul preached at Athens. They are shifting us from the clear light of Scripture back into a twilight zone.
Much of this thinking has come from the US but is found in the UK also. A diverse grouping, it is impossible to categorise all the various elements. One of the difficulties is that they consider it a virtue to be unclear.
Chris spoke of how man involved are students of cultural trends. The very word emergent refers to culture – emerging out of modernism. He quoted a lot from Dan Kimball who is anti-modernism but pro-postmodernism. They have a low view of Systematic Theology. They see immense changes now coming in – new emphases, etc - an the church, they say, needs to change in the light of this and rethink everything. People are not asking the questions they once asked and so the old answers will not do. The EC seems happy about this.
Spencer Burke and the Ooze online community was also mentioned. He says that meanings shift and change. We must not make Scripture static. Multiple interpretations are always there. Evangelism is telling a story not something propositional. He is not keen on precision.
Candles, prayer stations and the gothic hold an attraction as does the more interactive, more flexible approach. Interruptions are good. More individualism and less structure is advocated. The use of lighting and art is encouraged and an openness to the past.
Brian McLaren (Generous Orthodoxy) is their chief spokesman. he appears keen to learn from anyone and everyone. he likes the idea of an uncertain destination. Incarnational, missional - these are key words. They are against evangelism as sales pitch, war, etc. Authenticity is another key word.
Dave Tomlinson and his book The Post evangelical (1994) is very much in this mode. Congregations include Sanctus One (Manchester); Holy Joes (we rejected the hymn sandwich and tried anything – didn't all work); Visions (York) 'A church for people who don't like church'; Broken (E Barnet); Fresh Visions(Sheffield); The Boiler Room.
Steve Chalke is also pushing this sort of thing as are others in the denominations such as Pete Gregg.

By way of critique Chris spoke of the being Rebels with a cause. They are reacting against modern ministry. We can feel quite sympathetic to some of these concerns. Burke reacted against the rat race mentality and shallow careerism. Kimball reacted to commercialism. They are against seeker sensitive services and unhappy with some of the music scene. We can sympathise with their desire for authenticity.
However, Chris was much less happy with other things.
Rejection of the truth
Because of their approach they end up doing this. There is a mischievous and misleading anti-Paul emphasis. Here and now seem more important than eternity. They have an Osmosis idea of learning from Christ. Was Christ's ministry not about establishing the truth?
Is there no truth in the Bible? Jesus was very much interested in eternal issues (John 3). He was eager to impart truth. He explained the parables. He also speaks of more to come – truth for all generations. Chalke's book is selective in its texts and interpretation. His message is adapted to the age. The parables are not what it is claimed they are. They teach doctrine. Very often two sorts idea and definite teaching. Paul not the aunt sally he is made out to be. He is not adequately explored.
Caricature of evangelicalism
We share much of their displeasure with shallow evangelicalism but there are other sorts. The problem is not propositionalism. It is a caricature to present evangelicalism as just that. There is an absence of Puritan input.
Culturally led
Too much credit is given to sociology, etc, rather than being Scripture driven. The Bible is rarely quoted. Its place as a secure foundation is ignored. They all seem to be reading the same secular books.
Uncritical of culture
They do not critique the secular materials they use. They give no warnings against false teaching, worldliness, etc. There is an idea of orthodoxy in Scripture. They muzzle the Bible so that it cannot speak as it ought to.
What kind of mission?
Given its scaling down of the truth it is difficult to see how it can make the impact Paul made in Athens. McLaren is doubtful of the message of personal salvation and more keen on a social type gospel. They have no place for penal substitution. The cross is redefined and robbed of its power.
Emphasis on experience
All are saved it seems unless they opt out.
The EC is not emerging out of or into a sound evangelical church.

Coffee and theology

The poll about coffee and theology was not quite conclusive. More people (46%) said that coffee was essential than said anything else but it was not the majority view. Some 15% were only willing to say coffee was helpful and twice that number (30%) were willing to remain neutral on the subject. Perhaps they were seeking to acknowledge coffee's relatively late arrival on the theological scene. Augustine and the church fathers and the Reformers and Puritans with their beer did some great work without coffee I guess and so these people have a point. It must have been a lone tea drinker or something similar who stuck his neck out to say that coffee was unhelpful for theology.

52 JC No 9

On preaching and on death
Verily, verily, I say to you. Christ unquestionably knew that some persons in that multitude were curable, and that others of them were not opposed to his doctrine. For this reason, he intended to terrify the wicked whose malice was desperate, but to do so in such a manner as to leave ground of consolation for the good, or to draw to him those who were not yet ruined. Whatever dislike of the word of God, therefore, may be entertained by the greatest part of men, yet the faithful teacher ought not to be wholly employed in reproving the wicked, but ought also to impart the doctrine of salvation to the children of God, and endeavor to bring them to sound views, if there be any of them who are not perfectly incurable. In this passage, therefore, Christ promises eternal life to his disciples, but demands disciples who shall not only prick up their ears, like asses, or profess with the mouth that they approve of his doctrine, but who shall keep his doctrine as a precious treasure. He says that they shall never see death; for, when faith quickens the soul of a man, death already has its sting extracted and its venom removed, and so cannot inflict a deadly wound.
(Commentary on John 8:51)

Beatles degree

I read that it is now going to be possible to do an MA in the Beatles at Hope University, Liverpool. The first-ever qualification of its kind has been announced on the website of the city's Hope University.
"The Beatles, Popular Music & Society" consists of four 12-week taught modules and a dissertation. The institution's senior lecturer in popular music, Mike Brocken, said it was about time such serious academy was introduced on The Fab Four. "Forty years on from their break-up, now is the right time and Liverpool is the right place to study The Beatles", he explained. "This MA is expected to attract a great deal of attention, not just locally but nationally and we have already had enquiries from abroad, particularly the United States."
I wouldn't mind doing it myself. Dissertation? The Christian influence in the music of the Beatles. I did write religious at first but then thought of all that effort reading up on Hinduism. (Did you know that Lennon's grandfather was a Welsh Calvinistic Methodist preacher?)