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.

If I fell

I heard this on the radio this morning. Great song.

Spurgeon on Calvin

This is from Commenting and Commentaries
It would not be possible for me too earnestly to press upon you the importance of reading the expositions of that prince among men, John Calvin! I am afraid that scant purses may debar you from their purchase, but if it be possible procure them, and meanwhile, since they are in the College library, use them diligently. I have often felt inclined to cry out with Father Simon, a Roman Catholic, Calvin possessed a sublime genius, and with Scaliger, Oh! how well has Calvin reached the meaning of the prophets--no one better. You will find forty two or more goodly volumes worth their weight in gold. Of all commentators I believe John Calvin to be the most candid. In his expositions he is not always what moderns would call Calvinistic; that is to say, where Scripture maintains the doctrine of predestination and grace he flinches in no degree, but inasmuch as some Scriptures bear the impress of human free action and responsibility, he does not shun to expound their meaning in all fairness and integrity. He was no trimmer and pruner of texts. He gave their meaning as far as he knew it. His honest intention was to translate the Hebrew and the Greek originals as accurately as he possibly could, and then to give the meaning which would naturally be conveyed by such Greek and Hebrew words: he laboured, in fact, to declare, not his own mind upon the Spirit's words, but the mind of the Spirit as couched in those words. Dr. King very truly says of him:
No writer ever dealt more fairly and honestly by the Word of God. He is scrupulously careful to let it speak for itself, and to guard against every tendency of his own mind to put upon it a questionable meaning for the sake of establishing some doctrine which he feels to be important, or some theory which he is anxious to uphold. This is one of his prime excellences. He will not maintain any doctrine, however orthodox and essential, by a text of Scripture which to him appears of doubtful application, or of inadequate force. For instance, firmly as he believed the doctrine of the Trinity, he refuses to derive an argument in its favour from the plural form of the name of God in the first chapter of Genesis. It were easy to multiply examples of this kind, which, whether we agree in his conclusion or not, cannot fail to produce the conviction that he is at least an honest commentator, and will not make any passage of Scripture speak more or less than, according to his view, its divine Author intended it to speak.

The edition of John Calvin's works which was issued by the Calvin Translation Society, is greatly enriched by the remarks of the editors, consisting not merely of notes on the Latin of Calvin, and the French translation, or on the text of the original Scriptures, but also of weighty opinions of eminent critics, illustrative manners and customs, and observations of travellers. By the way, gentlemen, what a pity it is that people do not, as a rule, read the notes in the old Puritan books! If you purchase old copies of such writers as Brooks, you will find that the notes in the margin are almost as rich as the books themselves. They are dust of gold, of the same metal as the ingots in the centre of the page. But to return to Calvin. If you needed any confirmatory evidence as to the value of his writings, I might summon a cloud of witnesses, but it will suffice to quote one or two. Here is the opinion of one who is looked upon as his great enemy, namely, Arminius:
Next to the perusal of the Scriptures, which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin's commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the Library of the Fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent gift of prophecy.

Quaint Robert Robinson said of him, There is no abridging this sententious commentator, and the more I read him, the more does he become a favourite expositor with me. Holy Baxter wrote, I know no man since the apostles' days, whom I value and honour more than Calvin, and whose judgment in all things, one with another, I more esteem and come nearer to.

Visiting Dad 06

Last week was so busy, I didn't have chance to report on my last visit to Cwmbran. This was quite different again as I went up in the car and we had specific tasks. I arrived around 10.30 am after a straightforward journey in the sunshine. The care support worker was ready to leave when I arrived. The nurse was expected to change a dressing but when she had not arrived by 11 we pushed off.
My dad has this new apparatus he is getting used to. I find from the net that it is called a rollator. It is an excellent help.
We headed off to Newport, found a parking space eventually and did the building society then the quite impressive Natwest bank, where we were treated to a cuppa and a chat about finance. My dad can be a little frustrating with some of his ideas about money.
Before heading home we popped into Marks & Spencer's to spend a voucher my dad had for his eightieth. That didn't take long. He bought a long sleeved one for some reason. Marks is remarkably unchanged though it needs some attention. Its marble steps are among my earliest memories.
Back home we had a bite to eat - a ham sandwich and a Tesco value pork pie which is cheap but has no taste. We actually saw a bird on the bird table.
A bonus on this trip was that my best friend Chris was also in town to visit his mother and so we were able to meet up for a cuppa and cake in the Nine yards.
The journey home was uneventful. We had our church members meeting the same evening. We were a small number as ever.
My dad seems well. He now goes to the hospice every Monday and is being well looked after by home visitors.

52 JC No 24

This from a work against the Libertines

Therefore let this be a means of recognizing them. For when you hear them speak in this way, you will only be hearing high German (I think he means what we'd call Double Dutch). For God created the tongue for the purpose of expressing thought in order that we might be able to communicate with each other. Consequently, it is a perversion of God's order to pommel the air with a confused sound that cannot be understood, or to try by subtle means to go around one's elbow to get to one's thumb in order to awaken one's hearers and then leave them in such a state.
Besides, the Scriptures ought to be our guide with respect to how God's mysteries are handled. Therefore let us adopt the language that it uses without being lightheaded. For the Lord knows quite well that if He were to speak to us in a manner befitting His majesty, our intelligence would be incapable of reaching that high. Thus He accommodates Himself to our smallness. And as a wet nurse coos to her baby, so He uses toward us an unrefined way of speaking in order to be understood.
Whoever, therefore, reverses this order only succeeds in burying God's truth, which can only be known in the manner that He wills to reveal it to us. That is why we must labour to unravel their obscurities in order to drag them if necessary by force into the light, so that their abominations, which they make a point of hiding, might be known to all the world.
Similarly, every Christian must be warned that when he hears them garbling as they do he must cut them off immediately at the spigot and say to them, "Either speak the language that the Lord has taught us and which He uses in His Scriptures, or go speak to the rocks and trees!"

Evangelical Ministry Assembly

It was good yesterday to be at the third and final day of the Evangelical Ministry Assembly at St Helen's, Bishopsgate. I enjoy seeing many familiar faces and many (probably more) unfamiliar ones.
The pattern for each day was similar. Again David Jackman began. He has looked at Psalms 44, 86 and, today, turned to Psalm 108, an interesting composite Psalm that uses Psalms 57 and 60 to form a new work Kidner called a psalm for new initiatives or adventures of faith. Jackman's approach was to give a lot of background then seek to apply it to us. As ever the application seemed weakest.
He is soon to retire from his role with Cornhill after 19 years so Dick Lucas (who seems now to have gone into reverse on the aging front) gave a brief but warm valedictory. Later Adrian Reynolds was introduced. He has a new role too along with Vaughan Roberts (though he will remain at St Ebbe's). Adrian told me he hopes to be involved at East London Tabernacle.
The second session each day has been taken by Don Carson, who I'd not heard for a while. It was refreshing him to hear him again. He spoke on prayer. He made the following basic but important points:
1. We need our prayer to be steeped in the Word of God (illustrated from Nehemiah 9)
2. We need our prayer to be steeped in biblical theology (illustrated obliquely by pointing out the connections between Exodus 32-34, which he said turns on at least five things [the end of divine revelation regarding the tabernacle; the play on glory and goodness; God's covenant love, his grace and truth; the giving of the law; the fact that no-one has ever seen God] and John 1.
3. We need our prayer steeped in the authority of Scripture (ie its examples, its eschatological vision, its ultimate goal
4. We need our prayer to frankly acknowledge its ignorance of God's will
In the afternoon we had the second of two sessions from Richard Coekin looking at Jonah and this time considering God the evangelist. It was good to have Jonathan Edwards quoted, Andrew Fuller referenced and Sandemaianism condemned but one is uneasy when repentance is said to be a matter of will and church growth techniques are commended.
The final session from Vaughan Roberts turned out to be an address (of sorts) on Charles Simeon (born 250 years ago this year).
The new leader of the PT made the following points in the light of Simeon's story.
1. Let the Bible speak
2. Make sure you get your message across (Simeon called for unity in design, perspicuity in diction and simplicity in delivery).
3. Expect opposition
4. Think strategically (He may not have used such a term but he was committed to bringing the gospel to the nation. He was keen to recruit Cambridge men to the ministry. A recent biographer mentions 600 won to the work by Simeon. He set up a trust to get men appointed)
5. Have a global vision
6. Be Bible Christians (Avoid being system Christians we were warned).
7. Stick at it
So basically no change at PT then. We sung two lovely hymns by Chris Idle (who was present) and Timothy Dudley-Smith and two collections of unconnected phrases about God. We were accompanied by the organ and a praise band (sometimes together!) but just now and again we were allowed to sing a capella. Brilliant! These are good people but I despair of their movement ever getting to grips with experiential Calvinism, Puritanism or the idea of preaching to the conscience.

Billie Jean

Billie Jean was written by the late Michael Jackson and inspired the above jam in Holland by Jan Akkerman and Gareth Pearson last May. The orginal has been described as revolutionary for its time. See here. I remember reading once that Michael Jackson sat enthralled at Focus concerts in the seventies.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson and I are the same age. I've been aware of him since we were twelve and news of his death inevitably makes you ponder grace, providence, false religion and true, the media, fame, heaven and hell, talent, music. This is a great track with a simple message.

Stapleford again

I fly to the Philippines July 1 but there's a lot to do before then and this week is looking pretty busy. I had a little bit of a groundhog day yesterday. About a year ago I blogged this. I've used part of that entry as a template for this one (snag is I don't think the old links work - oh perhaps they do).
I was out all day Tuesday. Bright and early Eleri took me to the London Gateway Services near the bottom of the M1 (did you know that the M1 has no Junction 3?) where I met up with Jeremy Walker (Maidenbower Baptist) to travel to Stapleford, just off the M1 between Derby and Nottingham. In a chapel there I was at my (first) second full committee organising upcoming Westminster Conferences. It was good to be amongst august company.
The next Westminster Conference (2009) is all set. It will again be at the American Church in Tottenham Court Road. We have two on Calvin (from Don Carson and Garry Williams), one on the 1859 Revival (Stephen Clark), one concerning Darwin and Darwinism (Ken Brownell), one on the Elizabethan settlement of 1559 (Robert Oliver) and, to round off, one on the Moravians (Bruce Jenkins). It looks like it will be a very good conference. Do come along.
As for 2010 (December 7, 8) things are shaping up well. We are hoping to have papers on Puritans and preparationism, the KJV, properly understanding the Reformation and the opposition to Rome and on Andrew Bonar.
A lady in the church kindly made us hot drinks and gave us a light lunch again. We were again invited to have a meal at the nearby home of a former committee member now retired. We again had a lovely time chatting and enjoying hospitality there, sharing news and anecdotes, etc.
We then headed home. I was back by 9 pm but Jeremy would have taken rather longer. Kind man. He avoided the city this time.

Steve Jeffery on Calvin

On Beyond Belief the presenter Ernie Rea closed with the question "If we should, why do you think we should remember John Calvin?" Steve Jeffery answered last with this fine summary: "Calvin paints a picture of God as magnificent and glorious and gracious beyond our wildest dreams, before whom we're humbled, loved more than we could possibly have imagined and for many people today their problem is their God is too small and if we would listen to Calvin and people like him we would learn what we need."

Calvin on the BBC

The BBC are not exactly celebrating the approaching Calvin 500 anniversary but there was a fairly good piece on Radio Ulster, which can be downloaded from here until 8:02pm Thursday 25th June 2009. Much less satisfactory was a discussion on Radio 4 available here until 12:00am Thursday 1st January 2099 Beyond Belief. At least Steve Jeffery, a Calvinist who met for the first time recently, was there to argue against the other two. There was also a nice interview with a young woman from Inverness in the middle.

52 JC No 23

In his commentary on Luke 10:38 Calvin writes:

Luke relates that, having been hospitably received by Martha, as soon as he entered the house, he began to teach and exhort. As this passage has been basely distorted into the commendation of what is called a Contemplative life, we must inquire into its true meaning, from which it will appear, that nothing was farther from the design of Christ, than to encourage his disciples to indulge in indolence, or in useless speculations. It is, no doubt, an old error, that those who withdraw from business, and devote themselves entirely to a contemplative, lead an Angelical life. For the absurdities which the Sorbonnists utter on this subject they appear to have been indebted to Aristotle, who places the highest good, and ultimate end, of human life in contemplation, which, according to him, is the enjoyment of virtue. When some men were driven by ambition to withdraw from the ordinary intercourse of life, or when peevish men gave themselves up to solitude and indolence, the resolution to adopt that course was followed by such pride, that they imagined themselves to be like the angels, because they did nothing; for they entertained as great a contempt for active life, as if it had kept them back from heaven. On the contrary, we know that men were created for the express purpose of being employed in labour of various kinds, and that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God, than when every man applies diligently to his own calling, and endeavours to live in such a manner as to contribute to the general advantage.

My Brother Jake (again)

Free's My Brother Jake. This wasn't on Youtube when I looked the other week.

Seremoni Bryn Briallu

Eleri took myself and some of the boys off this morning to nearby Primrose Hill to see the unveiling of a plaque. The plaque is to commemorate the fact that on June 21, 1792, the first modern eisteddfod took place there. The BBC's Huw Edwards introduced proceedings and various others, led by the deputy archdruid took part, including Rhian Medi who unveiled the memorial plaque to the founder of the modern eisteddfod Iolo Morganwg that is now a permanent feature of the site. It has taken the work of many people to get this organised and thankfulness was expressed for all their efforts. One of Iolo's descendants was present as a guest of honour. Things bardic look a bit strange but then so do most such ceremonies and it was nice to be in on one and understand most of what was going on.

RnR03 Nutrocker

I suppose messing around with the classics is just what people do. This version of Tchaikovsky's ballet piece The nutcracker appeared in 1962 and was performed by Kim Fawley and other session musicians. It is one of several attempts at this sort of thing, of which this is the best. The track gained a new lease of life in the seventies when Emerson, Lake and Palmer (whose whole career was based on this sort of thing) so appropriately used it as an encore to their famous live rendition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

Daily Devotions 02

Earlier this year I tried to combine some devotional reading with my Bible reading and prayer. I found a puritan work here and tried to read a bit each day but that didn't work out. I just found this site and may be that will help in future. This site may also be of interest but has very limited content.
To help with prayer I use GBM's Prayer Diary and the Operation World Prayer Diary (there should be a button for this in my sidebar). More recently in a desire to pray for persecuted Christians with better intelligence I have tried using the prayer guides here and here. I've also turned my own personal prayer diary into an html file for easy access at the same time.
While still in a prayerful spirit I then try and make quick visits to my online bank, my facebook and twitter accounts and one or two other things sometimes eg Youtube.

Daily Devotions 01

Like me, I guess most readers of this blog try to start the day with a time of reading and prayer. Since the beginning of the year I have been using my little netbook to start the day most days and it has been a real help, with things going better and for longer than ever before. I try to follow the M'Cheyne reading scheme, which is quite demanding, especially as I endeavour to do all four readings at once. (I find if they are left they are less likely to get done). So I start with the Interactive M'Cheyne Daily Bible Reading Calendar (there is a button you can click on my sidebar) which takes you to the correct place on Bible Gateway. Sometimes (though there is rarely time) I'll read from more than one version. Sometimes to help me concentrate I'll use the audio facility there.
Users of the M'Cheyne system will be aware of Don Carson's helpful two books (For the love of God) offering a daily page of devotional comment. I have both volumes but it occurred to me that it must be available somewhere online and I found that Crossway have put the two volumes here and here. The snag here is that you have to go searching through to find the page you want. Further, obviously Crossway don't want to lose sales on this and so eventually they will not allow you to access all pages, which rather spoils the fun. However, the other day I was looking for a quote from Carson to lump across to here and discovered this very helpful blog. The way this is set up is that if you come to the main page you will have the text from one of the books for that day. To get the text for the other two readings you need to go through the archives (indeed today I had to do that in both cases as the current reading was not up - at least it's all there somewhere by now so you can find what you want eventually).
Obviously over reliance on technology can have its drawbacks but I have found these few sites a real help. I'll say more in a further post I hope.

Visiting Dad 05

I had a nice day with my dad today in Cwmbran. I caught a coach at Victoria at 9.30 am and was with my dad in time for some ham sandwiches around 1 pm. I went and got his pension from the Post Office nearby and changed the bed and did a wash. We had thought of going up to Abergavenny but that didn't work out, which was a pity on such a nice day. Instead we had a good dose of daytime TV – Loose Women, Deal or no deal, Divided, etc. The usual fare was curtailed, rather, due to racing from Ascot on the BBC. I long ago ceased to be a Royalist but despite that and the very worldly focus of everything it was at least mildly interesting for a novice like myself. I had not taken in the fact that the Queen actually owns Ascot! Anyway the afternoon soon went with various things to do, including trying to get the squirrel off the bird table just outside my dad's window and fiddling with the computerised photo frame (which he won't keep on as it's a waste of electricity!). Around 5 pm he made us chops and chips and then Gail came from work and after a brief time with her I was back on the coach heading home. My dad seems very well and has put a little weight back on. Conversation was all rather light, I'm afraid. It's bound to be like that sometimes.

Carson on Scripture

I came across this from Don Carson today talking about Psalm 108 which is made up of parts of other psalms in a different context. He says

For although all of Scripture is true and important, deserving study, reflection, and carefully applied thought, the Lord God in his wisdom did not give us a Bible of abstract principles, but highly diverse texts woven into highly diverse situations. Despite the diversity, of course, there is still only one sweeping storyline, and only one Mind ultimately behind it. But the rich tapestry of varied human experience reflected in the different biblical books and passages - not least in the different psalms - enables the Bible to speak to us with peculiar force and power when the “fit” between the experience of the human author and our experience is especially intimate.

For this astonishing wealth, God deserves reverent praise. What mind but his, what compass of understanding but his, what providential oversight over the production of Scripture but his, could produce a work so unified yet so profoundly diverse? Here, too, is reason to join our “Amen” to the words of 108:5: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth.”

LTS End of Term

It's been a beautifully sunny day today, a sun day on a Saturday we might say. Some old friends from the school joined us with their three girls for lunch in the garden. Sian taught some of our kids in the Welsh School before becoming a parent herself and then more recently moving back to North Wales. Ian's a Londoner and they typify my contention that opposites attract (and so why do dating agencies try matching by finding common interests?). For example, last night she was watching Bryn Fon while he was at a 25th anniversary Billy Bragg concert! (What do you mean 25th anniversary of what?)
Anyway, after that it was straight up to Finchley for the annual LTS end of year get together. Graham Harrison chaired and retiring Principal Philip Eveson read and prayed while the new Principal Robert Strivens reported and briefly interviewed each of the 14 leaving students, leaving Welshman Will Powell to do the thank yous that are usually covered in a more bitty way.
Besides Will there were three British leavers (Simon Hook Crowborough, Philip Jones Welwyn Gdn City and Craig Whale Hadleigh, Suffolk) plus South African Evan King, now based in Burwell, Cambridgeshire.
From overseas there were two Africans, two Koreans, and one each from Burma, Nagaland in India, the Philippines, Poland and Honduras.
La Nu Mawng has been attending with us throughout his time and leaves Monday to return to his family and the extensive ministry of his church at home in Myanmar. You can see him above with Principal Strivens and with several (though not all) of the people present from Childs Hill.
The preacher was an ex-LTS man Edward Malcolm, chairman of the PTS's Kensit Memorial Trust, who have paid for the new library and lecture rooms on site, which were open for inspection on the day. He spoke very helpfully from the parable of the talents on being a servant, calling especially for zeal to do Christ's will and to persevere in it.
It is always good to meet old friends on the lawn over food and drink afterwards, even if you can't immediately remember who they all are. A perverse part of me also enjoys the way as the day wears on they begin announcing the registration numbers of cars blocking others in. It always reminds me of the calling out of raffle numbers at more secular gatherings of the sort.
Several of the men had a good idea of what is next. Others are unsure. We should pray for them all and for the ongoing work of the seminary.

Seekers Pop Genius


I was reading this morning from Operation World about Nagaland, the mountainous Indian state bordering on Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar, home to some 1.5 million people of 50 different types, the main group being the Naga themselves (87.7%).
The good news is that the state is 87.5% Christian and more than 60% of those are Baptist. Indeed it has the highest percentage of Baptists of any state in the world. Revivals in 1956, 1966 and 1972 have brought new life, fervour and a surge of evangelistic and missions outreach and thousands of Nagas have served the Lord in other parts of India and beyond. Few Christian areas in the world have such a high density of theological colleges – there are at least eight.
However, the effectiveness of Christian witness is compromised by inter-ethnic feuding, a long Naga independence guerrilla war, the insidious effects of corruption, denominational fragmentation (there are 21 Baptist groupings and a growing number of newer, independent churches) and growing nominalism.

52 JC No 22

Those in the know will have enjoyed dipping into Calvin's lesser known and brief work Admonition Showing the Advantages Which Christendom Might Derive From An Inventory of Relics. Anyone who doubts whether Calvin had a sense of humour will be disabused here. In response to the apparent existence of the very broiled fish Jesus ate with his disciples after the resurrection, he says "It must have been wondrously well salted if it has kept for such a long series of ages!" The book has a serious point but it is full of such things. Here's an example.

There is a similar fiction with regard to the steps of Pilate’s judgment-seat. These exist at Rome, in the church of Joannes Lateranensis, together with the holes into which they say that drops of blood fell from our Saviour’s body. In like manner, in the church of Praxed is shown the pillar to which he was bound when he was scourged, and three other pillars in the church of Santa Croce, round which he was led when taken away to die. I know not how they came to dream of all these pillars. This much, at least, is certain, that they are the offspring of their own brain; for we read not a word of them in the whole Gospel history. We read, no doubt, that Christ was scourged; but that he was bound to a pillar is their own invention. It must be obvious, therefore, that these impostors have done nothing else than attempt to rear up a huge pile of lies. In doing this, they have carried their license to such a length that they have not hesitated to make a relic of the tail of the ass on which our Savior rode, and which is exhibited at Genoa. But it is not so much their impudence that astonishes us as the infatuation and stupidity of men, in religiously embracing such absurdities. Here, perhaps, some one will allege it to be improbable that the relics which I have now named would be exhibited with so much pomp if they were not able to show whence they came, and by whose hands they were received. I answer, in one word, that nothing like probability is employed to cloak these transparent lies. For how much soever they may shelter
themselves under the name of Constantine, or King Louis, or some of the Popes, all this avails them not when they have to prove that 14 nails were used in fixing our Savior to the cross, that a whole hedge was plaited in making his crown of thorns, that the spear’s point produced three other points, that his robe was so multiplied as to be converted into three, or that it changed its form so as to be metamorphosed into a robe for mass, to which it had not the least resemblance, or that one napkin produced as many other napkins as a hen does chickens, or that our Saviour was buried after a different fashion from that which the Evangelists relate. Were I to take a lump of lead, and pointing to it, to say, “This gold was given me by such a prince,” I would deservedly be thought mad. At all events, my assertion would make no change upon the colour or the nature of the lead, so as to convert it into gold. In the same way, when it is said, “See what
Godfrey of Boulogne sent into these quarters after he had subdued Judea,” though the lie is obviously repugnant to reason, will we allow ourselves to take the account without using our eyes to see what lies plain before them?

Catch the vision 3

As intimated we met yesterday a sthe Theological Study Group at the John Owen Centre/LTS for our study of Catch the Vision. Seven of us gathered including one man new to the rest of us - Steve Jeffery, pastor of a new church in North London. I hope he felt at home with us. he writes about it here. It was inevitably a wide ranging discussion. While appreciating John J's efforts, there were lots of things we felt that were missing and some questionable conclusions. It was good to have Austin Walker present whose memory goes back even further than mine. He was able to confirm some of things in the book that seemed not quite right to some of the more sceptical among us.
We were not able to use the Library as the work on the new Library and lecture rooms is almost complete and they were busy ferrying books in. The new rooms are state of the art and very impressive and everything seems to have gione to plan. As a student who likes distractions I found it perturbing to see that the lecture rooms ar pretty much without windows!

Preaching Portsmouth

I was preaching last Lord's Day to the Grace Baptist Church down in Portsmouth. I can't remember exactly how this date came about and the church there wasn't really on my mental map before. They are a small largely elderly congregation that formed about 8 years ago and use the above building. They are actively pursuing the call of a pastor and who ever comes there will find a faithful people willing to reach out.
I have met Donald Cox and his wife, a retired minister, before and I had a lovely day with them. I have met them before and they remember the wife of one of my deacons. She was a teenager in an FIEC church in Portsmouth that Mr Cox used to pastor. He is now 83 and has held several pastorates as well as doing other Christian work so he was fascinating to talk to.
There were other links with people in the congregation but I'd not met anyone else before. It was good to feel so at home therefore. I preached on the rich young ruler from Mark 10 and that fascinating passage in Hebrew 12:18-24 about Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Richard Raven from LTS preached here. They had a good day too I understand.
Oh yes, the sunny day began and ended with rain and on the way home God was reminded of his promise never to flood the earth again and I was glad to see the sign in the sky!

Catch the vision 2

Study questions part 2
4. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones: the recovery of the vision II: The multiplying of his influence (59-74)
IVF: The theologian of the IVF How do the statements at the bottom of p 61 about IVF fit in with earlier statements about it being one way the Reformed vision was being recaptured? Was Lloyd-Jones right to spend so much time on para-church student work? Would we encourage it today?
EMW: The people of the magazine Are campaigns typically Reformed? Why did Lloyd-Jones write on “Evangelical faith” not “Reformed faith”? (p 67) Was all this para church activity an entirely healthy thing? In what sense was there unparallelled liveliness in the witness in Aberystwyth in the sixties? (p 70) Is the significance of Packer's Knowing God underplayed here?
Westminster Fellowship: The pastor's pastor Why is the Westminster Fellowship so poorly attended today? Is there in the Lloyd-Jones story an argument for bishops?

5. Geoffrey Williams: 'the storehouse' (77-89)
Encouraged to read good books/Meeting Lloyd-Jones/The Library moves to London/Library Expansion Does the Library deserve a separate chapter? Again why 'Evangelical' and not Reformed? Is the story told in a rather romantic manner?

6. James I Packer: 'among God's giants' (93-105)
Early life/Student at Oxford What if Packer had come from Lincolnshire not Gloucestershire?
Discovering John Owen Why were the pages of the Owen set uncut?
Puritan Conference Do preachers today teach the greatness of God and the greatness of the soul? Why 'Puritan and Reformed' and not 'Evangelical'?

7. Iain Murray: 'the new dress' (109-125)
Discovering the true Gospel Why have we never heard of William Blatchley and F J Hobbs?
Preparing for the ministry/Discovering the English Reformers/Making history live Why would Lloyd-Jones have had reservations about starting the Banner? Was he right?
Launching the books Why start with Burrowes on Song of Solomon??

8. John Murray: 'the old school piety' (129-146)
Was Scotland different to England and Wales in the fifties because Reformed truths were more often kept alive?
Highland heritage How important is Murray's interesting statement about his father? (p 133)
Studying for the ministry And what do we make of his impression regarding his son? (p 133)
Call to Princeton and Westminster How important is the Machen link?
Reformed resurgence in England/Banner work and the Leicester Conference Wales was not represented at the first Banner Conference – any significance in that? Why did the conference not meet more regularly in the earlier years? Did Lloyd-Jones come more than once, if not then why not?
His contribution What do we make of the list of events here? And does the statement 'before a Puritan reprint had appeared!' make any sense? Does JJM contradict Iain Murray's statement? (p 150) Were the late fifties under Lloyd-Jones really anything like the days of John Knox?
9. Maintaining the vision (149-167)
Is there spontaneity in the events listed? (p 149)
Expecting revival Is revival related to a rediscovery of Calvinistic truths? Has God kept a remnant or raised an army of ambassadors? Have things 'gone wrong'?
A vision fulfilled
1 A leader How does this section square with the warning against man-centredness at the end of it?
2 Abiding armoury What can be done to mine the gold today?
3 Worldwide spread
A vision unfulfilled Is the impression is given that the Carey conference was a bad thing?
1 Full-orbed witness Would Lloyd-Jones have taken this line?
2 Maintaining zeal Was there an expectation of new church life and order?
3 Family Is this last point valid?
Why no mention or hardly any in the book for Francis Schaeffer, John Stott, Dick Lucas, Al Martin and maybe others? What about LTS or WEST and its predecessors? Are there other omissions?
Is a book aiming to do what this one does really possible to do?

Catch the vision 1

With others I have been re-reading John J Murray's Catch the Vision recently. I am leading a discussion at the John Owen Centre on Moday June 8. These are the questions I have raised to help our study (part 2 to follow).
1. Losing the vision 1900-1950 (15-25)
Why the word vision? Is that the best choice? Does it need more explanation? (Cf p 144)
The rise of liberalism in the 19th Century Was the story of the 19th Century so very different to the 18th Century as far as downgrade in the churches is concerned?
The influence of liberalism in the universities and colleges Was the lack of conservative evangelicals teaching in the universities really a new thing?
Effect of liberalism in the churches JJM says that “the people in the pews did not apprehend the dangers”. Is it not more accurate to say that they were kept in ignorance? He says Reformers and Puritans were practically forgotten – why? Why (if so) was there more and more man-centredness?
Scarcity of evangelical literature Is the rise of C S Lewis and his writings genuinely significant in the recovery of the Reformed faith?
Resistance to liberalism Why was the story of resistance in the USA so different to the story here?Should the Welsh revival of 1904 (see p 153) have been mentioned in this first chapter? Are there other events or people who should have been mentioned?

2. Recovering the vision: the forerunners (27-44)
The year 1919 and the IVF In what way is what we read here of the Keswick men significant in the recovery of the Reformed faith?
E J Poole-Connor and contending for the faithfully What happened to others who heard both Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones? Is the founding of FIEC and BEC important in the history of recovering the Reformed faith?
A W Pink and Studies in the Scriptures Is it correct to see A W Pink as an early influence given that Search the Scriptures always had a very small circulation?
Jay Green and the Sovereign Grace Book Club Why has Jay Green and the SGU been forgotten? Does it matter?
Ernie Reisinger and Carlisle USA/W J Grier and the Evangelical bookshop, Belfast Was there anyone else who heard both Machen and Lloyd-Jones? What is the significance of the fact that something similar was happening both in Ireland and the USA?
Other influences Are there other things that should have been mentioned? (eg The Bible League Trust, Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony, the denominational revival fellowships, changes among SBs, area Bible rallies [though see p 71], etc) Should there be more about I C Herendeen and shouldn't he have been highlighted in his own right?

3. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones: the recovery of the vision I: Preparation of the man (47-56)
Are the statements on p 48 correct that God often raises up individuals to forward his work and that Lloyd-Jones was almost alone as 'a champion of true biblical faith' in the fifties?
Introduction to Calvinistic Methodism What can we do to keep the history of the Reformed faith alive? What does this section tell us about the power of Christian biography?
Discovering the English Puritans Is there such a thing as a call to the ministry that precedes conversion? Why would God do that? How is it that Baxter is so often the most prominent of the Puritans despite his unorthodoxies? What might have happened if Lloyd-Jones had studied for the ministry in Bala?
Discovering Edwards and Warfield What does the doctrine of providence have to teach us about books and when they are read? Was Lloyd-Jones' move to Westminster the 20th Century's 'most far-reaching and consequential development ... in the history of the evangelical cause in Britain'?
A link with A W Pink What do we make of Lloyd-Jones's experience? Did the word glory have to come from a book by Pink or would a copy of Tambourines to glory by Langston Hughes serve the purpose just as well? Is the experience really important in the recovery of the Reformed faith?

What would Calvin do?

Following the question time at the Library lecture my son was wondering where he could get the above merchandise. I have tracked it down - mainly for him but other enquirers are welcome. Spread the word.
PS What is that on Calvin's wrist?
PPS The serious point here is not to go too far when praising our heroes.

Calvin Link

Philippines Trip

On July 1 I intend to travel to The Philippines and to be there for the next 10 days or so. How come?
1. Some years ago we became aware of the work of Brian Ellis and Cubao RB Church, Manila.
2. For some years we've supported the work among the street children they do and one or two members have travelled to see the work. We also sometimes have Filipinos in the congregation.
3. We are also aware of the Grace Ministerial Academy and its current need of help.
4. Since my last overseas trip (to Nigeria) we've put regularly put aside half a per cent from the general fund for another (the amount covered my air fare). There's an idea for some of you!
5. Having thought about this for some while and tried to pass on my thought of going I finally got to see Brian a month or two back and broached the idea of lecturing on the wisdom literature. He and Principal Noel Espinosa seemed keen for me to come in July, August or September.
6. Meanwhile my dad's situation has not been good so I've been much in prayer and consultation on what to do. Reminders of the Philippines are never far away in London (see pic). At one point I was in a MacDonalds using the netbook when I heard on the radio - "Don’t matter if I step on the scene Or sneak away to the Philippines". I thought I was so obsessed with the subject I was hearing things but these are genuine words from Britney Spears' "Piece of me". Thankfully I try not to get my guidance from such Providences. What I really wanted was some assurance from God about how long my dad will live. I don't think I'll be getting that and so there could still be problems ahead for this project but I just need to step out in faith.
7. So I decided that sooner rather than later was better from the point of view of my dad's health (who's fine at present and has been told to stay healthy at least until I'm back and then for the wedding at least). It turns out Noel was planning a special day of Calvin seminars on July 10 so I can do that too - although he's given me Calvin's Theology, which will be a tall order for me.
8. Tickets no doubt go up the longer you leave it so I was glad to get a good price last Monday (Malaysia Airlines). I did it on the laptop watching the news about this Air France tragedy. Sobering thought. For some reason it was cheaper to travel July 1 than July 2, which is not a problem. The bigger decision was choosing to be away 2 Sundays, which I didn't want but it's been unavoidable (one factor was the need to be back to see Dylan perform in Westside Story!). Getting preachers didn't prove difficult - further Providences. Also no problem updating my injections at the doctor's - and nothing to pay, which was good.
9. So imagine that, God willing on July 10th, Calvin's birthday, I'll be not in Wales or London, which would be fine, not in Geneva - a great idea I toyed with but couldn't afford - but in Manila and talking about the man himself! Could he possibly have imagined that 500 years on they'd be talking about him in such a far flung place?
10. There's lots of preparation to be done then - going through my notes on Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes and working on the Calvin but what a privilege. There are always reasons to pray.

Bloggy Man 51

No Superman

I came across Batman first as a kid and always preferred him to Superman. The idea of not having super powers and yet being a super hero appealed. I liked the tongue in cheek American TV series too. I don't like the way they've developed Batman in more recent years.

A good method?

A website I came across here suggests that such a picture can help you learn Welsh. May be.

Evangelical Library Lecture 2009

It was good to be at the Evangelical Library Lecture last Monday which took place at Bethesda Baptist Church, Kensington Place, Notting Hill Gate. The kindness of the minister Jared Smith and the church in making their premises available is really appreciated. About 40 were present to hear Dr Derek Thomas give an excellent message on The majesty of God in the preaching of John Calvin. Dr Thomas is Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at RTS, Jackson, Mississippi. I had my father-in-law read and pray as he and Derek go right back.
He began by pointing out that Calvin can be looked at from many angles - as theologian, controversialist, letter writer or Bible commentator, for example. He was, however, also a preacher and in his sermons there is a wealth to be mined - a wealth that has rather been ignored until the last 30 or 40 years.
Dr Thomas explained Calvin's regular routine with regard to preaching, which involved preaching not only twice on Sundays but on week nights too - every other week on every night - so that for the last 15 years of his life he was preaching 10 (50-60 minute) sermons a fortnight. During that period 2, 300 sermons were taken down by Denis Rageurier using a shorthand method. These filled 44 volumes, some of which were sadly neglected and sold off in the 19th Century. Some 870 transcribed sermons remain with 680 currently being reduced to long hand. There are also printed sermons and 8 volumes of these have been printed in French in the last 20 years (on 2 Samuel, Genesis, etc). Very few were published in Calvin's time as he felt they lacked the necessary polish for that. Calvin would preach with little preparation from the Hebrew or Greek text without notes.
He then came to a four point analysis noting
1. His commitment to the lectio continua method of preaching
Although Calvin would break from series at Christmas and Easter (and sometimes Pentecost) he was preaching through books of the Bible most of the time. He learned to do this from Zwingli (who began to do this in 1519) and probably from Chrysostom back in the 4th Century. This led to long series of sermons on Deuteronomy (200) Ezekiel (174) Acts (189) Ephesians (48), etc.

2. His commitment to expository preaching
Rejecting Mediaeval methods he sought to expound Scripture in its grammatico-historical context. He believed in a self-authenticating Bible that is to be expounded. Preaching on Galatians he once said "I who speak now, I should not bring in anything of my own, and also should not raise myself above others. For I say this to the whole company, that this doctrine must be addressed to me in the first place but must govern all without any exception whatsoever."

3. The simplicity of his preaching
He was committed to the perspicuity of Scripture. he avoids technical words and uses oft repeated and common phrases. He would not bog people down with variant readings or translation issues, though well versed in them. He almost never uses Hebrew, Greek or Latin words. He refers to other authors but not by name. He often attacks the Papists. Although he never uses illustrations as we think of them he would sometimes illustrate with a Scripture reference.

4. The God-centredness of his preaching
For this last point Dr Thomas took us to sermon 147 (of 159) on Job which he summarised with one or two quotations showing how Calvin filled his preaching with a sense of God and meeting with God.
While recognising that we cannot simply ape Calvin, Dr Thomas closed by urging a continued commitment to expository preaching through books of the Bible and a belief in the ordinary means of grace which is chiefly in the preaching of the Word.

John J in Westminster

It was good to be at the Westminster Fellowship last Monday. An added bonus was being accompanied by my father-in-law who had been preaching in London the day before. About 20 or so gathered to hear a fine paper from John J Murray on evangelism and then to discuss it. Mr Murray made the following points:

1. Reformed preaching before the 1870s was generally
God-centred, Word-centred, Doctrine driven, God exalting, preaching a supernatural salvation, the importance of piety and was corporate or church-centred.
2. What caused the change?
Three causes were identified - The 18th Century Enlightenment, the 19th Century rise of liberalism in Germany, the 19th Century rise of Finneyism in America.
3. The changes that D L Moody brought in
Mr Murray began by giving us a brief overview of Moody's visits to Britain and suggested his success came through:
His sincerity, humility and zeal; the obvious moving of the Spirit; the godly homes converts came from and Moody's ability to attract the untouched masses.
However, Moody's gospel was an Arminian one and although he adapted it in Britain his altar call method and use of music can also be questioned. The involvement of Henry Drummond rings alarm bells too. Seven points were then made highlighting the detrimental changes that went with all this:
A loss of the idea of the sovereignty of God; a lack of seriousness about sin; a lack of resultant piety (many professors fell away); a loss of doctrinal purity and a lack of interest in doctrine; a shift to individualism, which probably goes back much further; a loss of the old view of revival; a lack of historical continuity or desire for it.
In conclusion he made a number of applications including our need to get back to emphasising God, the need to recall our glorious heritage, the need to recover the art of biblical instruction, the need for fresh militancy and the need for revival and to see that need.

Visiting Dad 04

My dad was 80 last Friday and so we were in Cwmbran to celebrate with him. Eleri and some of the boys were in Cardiff already with her sister then Dylan and I travelled up the day before to join them. Rhodri came on the day. We had a nice time together in the morning and then in the evening we had a sort of surprise party for my dad with about a hundred people present. Gail had done most of the organising and had invited family, friends and old neighbours including people my dad knows from the club where he dances and the choir he belonged to. It was wonderful that so many came. I was especially glad that my dad's brother Peter was there from Canada (see pic with my dad's cousin Janet from Bristol). It was good to see all four brothers in the same room. Gail had hired a local sort of ceilidh band "Close call". They did the calling for the barn dancing, which is always a good idea as some people like to dance at these things. They finished with a grand okey cokey. The family are Christians with various links to people we know. My dad looks remarkably well considering he had a major op not long ago. The prognosis is not good but we're glad he is well for the present.

52 JC No 21

From a sermon on Galatians 1:11-14 (partly quoted by Derek Thomas from a different transaltion recently)
Let us call to mind what we have already noted before; that is to say, that all men, both great and small must bow, and the Son of God must have the pre-eminence and the mastery. He alone should be the Shepherd, and we the sheep. It is true that those who are charged with preaching the gospel may well be called shepherds, but this does not mean that they can act in their own name or by their own power, nor must they undermine the sovereignty of the Son of God. As for myself, as I speak to you now, I must not bring anything of my own, nor elevate myself above other people. In this I am addressing the whole congregation, and therefore the message applies to myself first of all and next to everyone else here without exception. Not even the most noble person in the world may exempt himself from the submission which is due to the Son of God.

Beltane 5

This won't appeal to all but someone may like this pleasant rendition of a great Marc Bolan song. It is part of a series of such arrangements over on Youtube.

Book Buys May

The main bit of book buying in May was at the Assembly bookstall where I got the following:
I also bought the Dan Walker thing from Day One. They sent me a free copy so I gave mine to a boy in the congregation. I'd already bought 10 of the Jonathan Holdt one mentioned here, which we are reading on Sundays as a family bit by bit. I notice that a member of the congregation who bought a copy has started to come Sunday evenings. Yes, I also got the John Blanchard travel guide I mentioned here for reference.
In May I also bought these two online:
Then there were three secular books. I love the Thames Hudson New Horizon series (translated from the French) and have several volumes. It is quite an old series now so you sometimes see them going cheap. I saw the one on jazz somewhere and bought it and the one on Shakespeare in the NPG. Then at some other point I was in a charity shop and saw the Neil Gaiman book Coraline. I rarely read children's books but as it's out as a film I thought I'd buy it and read it. It's well written but not really my cup of tea now nor would it have been as a child. Fantasy/horror is not really my thing.