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.

Calvin on humility

This quote from is Calvin and is from the close of his sermon on Luke 1:49-51 in Songs of the Nativity which contains sermons translated by Robert White and was published by Banner of Truth in 2008.

For the rest, let us all beware of the thoughts of our heart and of whatever far exceeds our powers. Such things are thoroughly deceitful. On the contrary, whenever we are tempted to think inflated thoughts – for the devil loves to dazzle us with our own conceits – we must quickly head them off, and in all modesty to declare: “To serve my God is work enough. Supposing I had a much greater store of holiness, I could never fulfil a hundredth part of my duty. So I will aim no higher than God permits: he knows my capacity and my strength. From now on I'll strive to walk in the fear of my God better than before. My life is short and I am still far from the goal he has set. Though I try hard to reach it, the road is long and difficult.”

Maybe this Christmas

Ron Sexmith's "Maybe this Christmas" with some recent footage

Mechanical Santa

We normally go to Wales at Christmas but this year we're at home except for a quick trip to see my sister in her new house last Tuesday. While there I took opportunity to get a clip of the family Santa Claus - another memory of my mother. Someone was noisy as I filmed which prompted me to shush them (another memory) in the noisy manner of a drunk - one of my mother's favourite jokes. The next day my sister had got on a bus and the kids were happy to sit over the wheel - a definite "no, no" for us (makes you sick) and yet one more reminder of my mother and her advice.

AHOCIA 100 Objects 25

Famous Brady 10

Karren Brady (born 4 April 1969) is a British sporting executive and TV broadcaster. Currently she appears on The Apprentice as an assistant to Alan Sugar. She is the former managing director of Birmingham City Football Club. She was appointed in March 1993, when only 23 years old, and in 2002 became the first woman to hold such a post in the top flight of English football when the team was promoted. She was responsible for the company's flotation in 1997, thus becoming the youngest managing director of a UK plc, and left following the takeover of the club in October 2009. In January 2010 she was appointed vice-chairman of West Ham United following a change of ownership of the club. More here.
(This seems like a good place to end this short series - not that there aren't many more out there).

VSP6 They might not need me

They might not need me but; they might.
I'll let my Head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.

Emily Dickinson

Let it snow

I took these shots a few hours ago on the Finchley Road and in Childs Hill

Third Photo Series 08

An umbrella is useless in the snow

Third Photo Series 07

Red wine in the white snow

Cyngerdd Nadolig 2010

We enjoyed the Christmas concert in the Welsh School last Thursday - Christmas from the animals point of view.
Owain was a dog - a ci role!


This can be the last - for now at least

VSP5 A sum

I give thee all, I can no more,
Though small thy share may be:
Two halves, three thirds, and quarters four,
Is all I bring to thee!
Lewis Carroll

The wrath of God

It was good to have Sam Waldron preaching with us Sunday morning. He spoke on the wrath of God from Psalm 90:11. It was theological but from the heart - logic on fire. he began by remarking that wrath is really a tertiary attribute in God, something nto manifest until after the creation. He also pointed out that it is not like a human passion. He then spoke of the context, the content and the consequences from his text.
The context is, of course, death in the wilderness - the constant deaths of the generation that left Egypt  and entered the wilderness but did not see Canaan.
The text speaks of God's anger and fury and the impossibility of understanding the power of it. People object, of course, and say how can finite people suffer infinitely but the sin never stops and is against an infinite God.
The text shoudl wake us to reality and lead us to pray for a heart of wisdom - to understand how to be saved, to see the shortness of life and the need to use time well, to make our consciences tender, etc. His final powerful point was that the one person who can answer the question affirmatively is Jesus Christ, who suffered damnation on the cross - the wrath of God -  to save his people.

Famous Brady 09

Paul Joseph Brady (born 19 May 1947, Strabane, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland) is an Irish singer-songwriter, whose work straddles folk and pop. He was interested in a wide variety of music from an early age. During his career he has passed through several major bands, including Planxty, and on to a successful solo phase. More here.

Third Photo Series 06

Sunset Childs Hill Dec 2010

AHOCIA 100 Objects 24

We're on a roll now but I'm nowhere near a hundred yet. Ideas?


Only a few more of these okay?

VSP4 Radish

The radish
is the only dish
that isn't flat
but spherical.

Eating small
green peas off it
could make you quite

N M Bodecker

Our mortality

This recent story struck me as a reminder of our mortality. I came across it because the 16 year old victim shares the name of a past Puritan who I like to research. The report here says

The tragedy that took the life of a young baseball catcher from Garfield, N.J. on Friday may not have been preventable no matter what kind of protective gear he was wearing, doctors and sports equipment experts agreed Monday.
Thomas Adams probably succumbed to commotio cordis, a sudden, usually fatal condition that occurs when a blow to the chest wall at a specific point between beats disrupts the electrical activity in the heart, medical experts said. The heart stops beating and instead just shakes and quivers.
"We know it’s underreported because there is no mandatory reporting," said Dr Barry Maron, a commotio cardis expert with the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, which keeps the registry. "We just don’t know how much." Read the full story at

Narnia Film

We headed off to the cinema on Saturday afternoon to see the new Chronicles of Narnia film Voyage of the Dawn treader, based on the fourth (third published) in the original series of books by C S Lewis from the fifties. We went for the 3D option - costly but a great way to see a film.
It's a while since I read it so I can't tell you about how close the film is to the book. (If that is your bag try here). What I can say is that as a film it scores very well in all respects.
Obviously there are moments of 'mild peril' as I think they call it but there are no questionable scenes or language as one would expect with C S Lewis. The whole thing is done very well with special effects at an optimum level. The acting is all fine too and the presentation as a whole excellent. We start off in wartime Oxford and spend just long enough there to establish how normal these children are before heading into Narnia by means of an amazing water scene.
Once in Narnia, the story rapidly unfolds rarely losing pace. The boy playing Eustace is brilliant. I would guess Lewis is describing himself as he once was. I was slightly disappointed with the dragon turning into the boy again scene as I seem to remember more about layers coming off one after the other. However, as a starting point for discussing conversion it is still excellent. Temptation and death are among the other vital subjects opened up in this treatment - the temptations faced by Edmund and Lucy, and the passing over of Reepicheep (a fascinating character - perhaps Lewis's ideal of a true Christian - a mouse of great modesty but very brave).
Towards the end of the film we get what someone has called the John 3:16 of the books "arguably the most succinct and precise evidence of a possible parallel between Narnia and The Bible". When asked by Edmund whether or not Aslan exists in their world, Aslan replies:
"I am ... but there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."
Hopefully this film will also help some in finding the true Aslan and the true Narnia.

Death of Roger Nicole

Justin Taylor wrote on Saturday:

Yesterday, December 10, 2010, was the 95th birthday of Roger Nicole, the great Reformed-Baptist theologian.
This evening was his homegoing to be with his Lord. He has completed his earthly race. Having fought the good fight of faith, he entered into the joy of his Master. And undoubtedly he heard the words we all long to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
He was, by common consent, a theological giant. (See these brief reflections by Don Carson, Tim Keller, and Mark Dever.) But because he never wrote a book and didn’t travel the conference circuit, many evangelicals have not heard of him, to our detriment. As Timothy George has written:
"Roger Nicole is one of European Christianity’s greatest gifts to the American church. His role in the shaping of American evangelical theology in the latter half of the twentieth century was enormous and deserves to be better known."
J I Packer has a gift not only for summarizing theological truth in a concise, compact way, but also for getting to the heart of a friend’s character and legacy. A few years ago he was able to summarize Roger Nicole in a sentence:
"Awesome for brain power, learning, and wisdom; endlessly patient and courteous in his gentle geniality; and beloved by a multitude as pastor, mentor, and friend."
In his introduction to a biography of Dr Nicole, Packer expands the tribute with regard to the man’s graciousness:
"For a man of such power of mind, clarity of thought, range of knowledge and strength in argument, Roger’s patience and courtesy toward the less well favored is a marvel that has become a legend. He was said when first I knew him to have learned to greet people in something like fifty different languages so that he could always welcome overseas students and make them feel at home. Such sweet pastoral care in the conventional coolness of academia is also the stuff of legend, and deservedly so. No one could ever accuse Roger of throwing his weight about; very much a Swiss gentlemen in style, he is also a gentle man and a great encourager, overflowing with goodwill at all times. He has been a model for me in this, as in so much more. Roger stands at the head of my private list of persons worth celebrating, and I am sure I am not the only one who would say that."

AHOCIA 100 Objects 23


This was the armchair crooner's 19th album and my mother played it to death. He got a number one from the Don McClean title track. It's very good actually.

VSP3 When I was three

When I was three, I had a friend

Who asked me why bananas bend,
I told him why, but now I'm four
I'm not so sure ...

Richard Edwards

AHOCIA 100 Objects 22


Every year my dad would by my mam Tweed talcum powder with the wooden top and the tweed design tin.

AHOCIA 100 Objects 21

VSP2 Thaw

This second poem is a little premature in that winter is surely far from over. There is a thaw going on, however. My wife's side of the family are distantly related to Edward Thomas. He originally wrote under the name Eastaway, which was Eleri's grandfather's middle name.

Over the land half freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed,
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as a flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.

Carson on Christmas

On John 1:1 Don Carson says
The one who is eventually said to become flesh, the Lord Jesus himself, is called the “Word.” The label is not only intrinsically peculiar, but at first glance is especially odd because it is not taken up in the rest of the Gospel of John. But perhaps that is the first clue. If in this first verse John had used one of the titles ascribed to Christ throughout the book (son of God, Son of Man, King of Israel, Messiah, and so forth), that title would have been elevated to the place of first importance. Instead, John uses an expression that encompasses all of them. He recalls that in the Old Testament God’s “word” is regularly the means by which he discloses himself in creation, redemption, and revelation. “The word of the Lord” comes to prophets; by the word of the Lord the heavens were made; God sends forth his word and heals the people. John finds it wonderfully appropriate: in the eternal “Word” that becomes flesh, God discloses himself in creation, revelation, and redemption. Even the word Word is evocative. We might paraphrase, “In the beginning God disclosed himself, and that self-disclosure was with God, and that self-disclosure was God.”

VSP1 Winter wise

I've had a series of short poems in the past. I came across a book of Very short poems recently. See here.
I thought we could reproduce some of these here.
First, a seasonal one, a bit of traditional advice.

Walk fast in Snow, in frost walk slow
And still as you go, tread on your toe.
When frost and snow are both together
Sit by the fire and spare shoe leather.


Thinking about it, it's not just apple pie or jam turnovers for that matter but pastry itself. My son Dewi is doing GCSE food tech (cookery!) and has to prepare a meal. He was sorting it out last night and asked what does "trim and pinch" mean. I was immediately able to tell him as I've watched my mother a thousand times place the rolled out pastry over the plate (she used to use a pyrex one), trim off the excess, then having added the apple (always very mushy - just like this series I guess) and the top layer of pastry, she would pinch around before putting those all important two leaves in the centre. Ah, nostalgia. It's just not what it used to be.


Apple pies are a bit obvious and twee but it's the leaves on top really

John Lennon 02

"John Lennon's heart looked like everybody else's heart".
The main line that struck me in the documentary was that of the doctor who fought to revive Lennon after he was shot. Dr Steven Lynn’s was director of emergency services at New York’s Roosevelt Hospital that night. He recounted how he suddenly found himself commanding the race to save Lennon after a police officer staggered through the doors carrying his bleeding body. Lennon had been shot four times, one of the bullets rupturing his aorta.
'Two police officers came around the corner, one with the body on his shoulder. He was holding him, just like a fireman’s hold, and the other one yelled: "Gunshot wound, no vital signs,”' said Lynn.
'He was lifeless, he had no pulse, no blood pressure, he was unresponsive.'
Desperate to do what he could, despite the odds being apparently stacked against success, he opened up Lennon’s chest, closed his hand around his non-beating heart and attempted to massage it back to life. As fast as new blood was being pumped into his body, he says, it was simply pouring back out.
'After trying for about 10, 15, 20 minutes, it was clear that nothing could be done and John Lennon was pronounced dead,' he adds.
The bit that really struck me came at the very end when he said "John Lennon's heart looked like everybody else's heart". I suppose you somehow imagine that your hero is different but he is not. Lynn added "unfortunately, at the moment I found it, it was empty and devoid of blood and lifeless and not beating. But it was a good heart." (I got the impression that he meant it was in working order but he may have been being metaphorical - if so he was wrong, as Lennon's heart was indeed like everybody else's).

John Lennon 01

We let the anniversary of John Lennon slip by unmentioned here. Although Lennon was one of my earliest heroes (sticking your tongue out o live TV seemed dangerous in those days) he has long been replaced by others. The date of his death (December 8) we never forget because it is our oldest son's birthday (born nine years later, he is 21 this year).
As with few other deaths, one remembers the moment one heard. I was in the staff room at Llanfrechfa Comprehensive School doing my teacher training year. I remember a regular staff member saying "now which one was John?" which annoyed me a bit. "If you don't know now you never will" I felt.
I did watch a documentary this week on the death. It was quite well put together, though strictly taking the Yoko Ono line. I went looking for a statement that struck me and found this more interesting bit in the Mail online, which I place here.

The murderer Mark Chapman, now 55, was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life and was denied parole for a sixth time at a hearing at Attica Correctional Facility, New York, in September, when he told officials considering his fate that he killed Mr Lennon on a quest for instant notoriety.

'I made a horrible decision to end another human being’s life, for reasons of selfishness … I felt that by killing John Lennon I would become somebody and instead of that I became a murderer, and murderers are not somebodies,' he said, revealing that he had also considered shooting other celebrities including actress Elizabeth Taylor before settling on Mr Lennon because he was more easily accessible.
His wife of 28 years, Gloria – who is still married to him and visits him in jail at least once a year – discusses in a rare and chilling interview with CNN why she did not report her husband’s killer instincts to authorities, despite having known that he had been considering shooting Mr Lennon, and tells how he subjected her to years of violent domestic abuse.
Chapman himself tells the documentary that he believes his mental troubles are behind him, despite parole board members deeming him unfit for release at his hearing in September. He told the hearing: 'My life has changed because of Jesus Christ. That is what has gotten me through this and to me, everything else is secondary.'
The thought that he could have killed Elizabeth Taylor instead is tantalising in all sorts of ways. Whether he has come to Christ or not is impossible for us to discern. I hope he has. It is the only answer. Whether he should be released on that basis is a difficult one. If he had been put to death for his murder then the dilemma would not be there.

Mae Nadolig yn dod

Took this yesterday

AHOCIA 100 Objects 20

Famous Brady 08

Thomas Edward "Tom" Brady, Jr. (born August 3, 1977) is an American football quarterback for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). After playing college football at Michigan, Brady was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.
Not being a fan of American Football I had not realised we had this famous cousin. More here.

Why dream

Things that remind me of my mother 04

Cracks in the pavements (to be avoided)


Part of the conference of course is meeting up with people. Lots of nice chats I'm glad to say. it was also nice to have my father-in-law round. We lunched in KFC the one day and then a Japanese fast fod place called Itsu the next. I really enjoyed my rice bowl with king prawns. I'll go there again I think. More here.

Westminster Conference 2010/2011

So another conference over. It seemed pretty good to me. The only major faults are really ones that involve hindsight or just the way things are. About 130 attended. It is a little on the older side, I guess. Clearly many people who got the bug for it years back are continuing to come. Others no doubt are not sure if they can spare two days in December and £50 plus to cover costs. The Amerian Church has its drawbacks and next year we are off to a new venue, Regent Hall, Oxford Street.
The programme is

1. Christian Liberty and the Westminster Assembly
2. The covenanting experience
3. Obadiah Holmes
4. Socinianism then and now
5. Puritanism - where did it all go wrong?
6. John Eliot

Westminster Conference 2010 06

The final session of the conference was the usual biographical paper with no discussion. Malcolm MacLean gave an excellent paper on Andrew Bonar. He took us through the salient biographical detail and then focused on five areas - his preaching, prayer life, love of Christian literature, loyalty to the church and heart for evangelism. His prayer life came as something of a challenge to me.
Mr MacLean concluded with four further points, highlighting Bonar's
1. Realism about himself
2. Deep humility
3. His eagerness to make progress and his use of self-examination to that end
4. His great love for Christ, a love that made him like his Master
(PS The paper is available online here)

Westminster Conference 2010 05

The fifth paper was perhaps the most difficult. This was not the fault of the speaker, Daniel Webber, but of the subject - the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910, something about which we knew very little and which was a depressing event from an evangelical point of view.
Led by John Mott, an American Methodist layman, supported by Joseph Oldham, a Brit who had worked in India the conference believed with a naive optimism that the world was on "the threshold of a global expansion of millennial proportions" and could be won for Christ in that generation. 
It really was the precursor of the World Council of Churches and only not called ecumenical because at that point there were no Romanists or Orthodox involved, though Anglo-Catholics were and they had a disproportionate influence (such as getting evangelisation of the world changed to evangelisation of the non-christian world). Leaning on Brian Stanley's book Mr Webber took us through the events of the time (1215 delegates with some 6 or 7000 present all told) and then pointed out how the conference was doomed from the start in that it included Anglo-Catholics, was resolute in avoiding doctrinal issues, had no appetite for the fourth self (self-theologising), was not really Protestant and was pre-occupied with unity rather than mission. Instead of being an outward looking missionary conference it was an inward looking group dominated by liberalism.

Daniel Webber in the discussion time

Stephen Clark chaired. Discussion was curtailed by the length of the paper.

Westminster Conference 2010 04

The opening paper on day 2 of this year's Westminster Conference was given by Sam Waldron on "The Uneasy Relationship of Repentance and Sola Fide in the Reformed Tradition"
He began provocatively by speaking of how he had noticed similarities between Calvin and Norman Shepherd, the successor to John Murray at Westminster Seminary, eventually dismissed from his post because of the division his views on salvation were causing. We were given an outline of the paper which I have reproduced here.

Introduction: Method of Treatment
I. Reactions to Legalism
A. Sofa Fide and Repentance in Calvin
See diagram above 
B. Faith and Then Repentance in the Marrow Men
1. The Marrow Controversy and the Marrow Men
2. The Distinctive View of Faith and Repentance of the Marrow Men
C. Faith and Then Repentance in the Sandemanians
II. Reactions to Easy-Believism
A. Repentance and Then Faith in R. L. Dabney, A. W. Pink, and D M Lloyd-Jones*
B. Repentance and Sola Fide in Norman Shepherd
III. Resolution: Repentant Faith and Believing Repentance
A. Historical Representation: Spurgeon, Ryle, Gerstner, and John Murray
B. Relational Considerations
1. Response to Calvin
2. Response to the Marrow Men
3. Response to the Sandemanians (and Easy-Believism)
4. Response to Dabney, Pink, and Lloyd-Jones
5. Response to Shepherd
*It was suggested in the discussion that Lloyd-Jones shifted on this one to putting faith first.
This was a very thorough, sometimes difficult, paper helping us to think this issue through. Perhaps John Murray spoke best when he said
 “Repentance is the twin sister of faith - we cannot think of the one without the other, and so repentance would be cojoined with faith.”

Westminster Conference 2010 03

The final session of the day was David Gregson on The 1611 English Bible an unlikely masterpiece

1. A thousand years of the Bible in Latin in England
An abundance of translations from the original into English from Tyndale on but only after a thousand years of Latin. Draconian laws existed against reading the Bible in English when it was available. With the Renaissance, the invention of printing and the Reformation things began to change.

2. The revolution brought about by Tyndale's work of translating the Bible into English

3. Other 16th century translations into English
1537 Miles Coverdale completed Tyndale's task and produced a complete English version.
1538 John Rogers and Mathew's Bible
1539 The great Bible
1560 The Puritan Geneva Bible
1568 The Bishops Bible by Matthew Parker was an attempt to usurp the Geneva Bible's place - no great fans

4. The Hampton Court Conference of 1604
The Puritan millenary petition lobbied James for reforms in the church that they felt were unbiblical. James and the Puritans were on a collision course and so a conference was arranged in order to seek peace under the chairmanship of James. For most of the time it looked as though there was nothing for the four Puritans as against the 18 others present. For some reason John Reynolds suggested a new translation and James seized on this as a way forward. This was the only positive outcome from the conference. What a bizarre origin.

5. The six companies of translators and the instructions they were to follow
Each company was to be based in Cambridge, Oxford and Westminster, each company taking a portion of the Bible and apocrypha. James with Archbishop Bancroft set out 15 instructions for the 47 translators. The idea was to revise the Bishops Bible and make use of the existing translations where necessary. James was very keen that marginal notes should not appear. Old ecclesiastical terms were to be kept (eg church not congregation). There is no suggestion that inspiration or holiness was needed.

6. Some individual translators
Lancelot Andrewes is typical of those who were simply on their way up the career ladder. An absentee minister, the interrogator of separatist Henry Barrow who was executed, he was not someone who we would be sympathetic too.
Laurence Chaderton is typical of others who were truly godly. A faithful preacher and an educator of Puritan ministers he is the exception rather than the norm.

7. The final touches to complete the work
The companies began in 1604 and ended between 1608 and 1610. Further committee work was then done and some further revisions made. A eulogy to James was added and then the epistle dedicatory (translators to the reader) by Miles Smith. Oddly when he quotes Scripture he quotes the Geneva!

8. The use of the Textus Receptus
This is the 1550 text of Etienne in Paris an is largely based on Erasmus. This is the majority text from Byzantine manuscripts. We should be grateful fo the TR but there is no biblical argument for this text being anything special of itself.

9. The English used by the translators of the 1611 Bible
One problem confronting the translators was that the Greek of the New Testament is common or koine not classical. The translators appear to have been unaware of this. As Alister McGrath points out that many comment on the rarefied and grand language of the AV but it is often the language of the translators not the original. For Daniell and others the AV is a step down from Tyndale's rugged English. Latinisms and High church language abound. It would seem that the use of thee and thou is an attempt to create a solemnity.

10. How the 1611 version replaced the Geneva Bible
Success did no come overnight but great efforts were made to promote the KJV. Even in the 1750s it was still being criticised. In America it was taken up by the settlers and has been treasured ever since.

11. The 1611 version was never authorised
There is no authorisation. It could have been burned in the Whitehall fire of 1618. "Appointed to be read in churches" means suitable for that purpose. The phrase AV is apparently not used until 1824.

12. The 1611 English Bible an unlikely masterpiece
Many great passages. It has been stated that 83% of the NT and 76% of the OT in the KJV is actually Tyndale. We give thanks for the KJV. Hallelujah!

Westminster Conference 2010 02

I chaired the second session - Guy Davies on Puritan attitudes to Rome. I think it went well. Guy focussed on John Owen and gave us the background to his writings, spoke of his his reformed Catholic approach and focussed on Scripture, justification, the Pope and worship. He spoke too of the modern compromise with Rome.
He concluded with a section on engaging with Roman Catholicism today

1) We should not think that the controversy between Evangelicals and Rome has ceased to be a live issue
i. The attraction of Rome for Evangelicals
In 2007 Francis Beckwith caused something of a stir when he resigned his post as President of the Evangelical Theological Society to return to the Roman Catholic Church. In his book Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic, Beckwith gives his reasons for his return to the Church of his youth. A key factor was his growing sense of unease with sola scriptura. He became convinced this Protestant distinctive as set out in The Westminster Confession involved a disregard for the theological heritage of the Church. But this is not the case. As we have seen, for all its Puritan distinctives, at heart the confession is a work of Catholic theology.
Once Beckwith had jettisoned the principle of sola scriptura (at least as he understood it), he then felt free to accept Roman Catholic practices such as penance and confession, prayers for the dead and purgatory. No doubt Beckwith was misguided in his rejection of sola scriptura, but what he says should give us pause for thought. Worship in some Evangelical congregations seems to consist mainly of songs and choruses composed in the last decade. Often scant regard is paid for the theological heritage of the church. You can understand why some Evangelicals begin to look longingly at Rome with its claims of centuries old unchanging continuity.
The Puritans, with their self-consciously Catholic outlook provide a welcome corrective to the collective amnesia of contemporary Evangelicals. We need to emphasise afresh that the ecumenical creeds and the teachings of the doctors of the church like Athanasius, Augustine and Aquinas are not the sole possession of the Roman Catholic Church. They belong to the whole people of God. The Reformed churches, of whatever ecclesiological stamp are fully paid up members of the Catholic Church - the true people of God of all nations and times. We hold to the historic Christian faith without the divisive accretions of the Rome. The Roman Church and its distinctive dogmas didn’t even begin exist until the middle ages.
Ironically, in returning to Rome, Beckwith and his fellow travellers became less rather than more Catholic.
ii. Rome and the Ecumenical Movement
The Roman Catholic Church is a founding member of the UK’s leading ecumenical body, Churches Together. Involvement in Churches Together activities implies that the differences between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics are relatively unimportant and that we share a common understanding of the truth. We must be prepared to separate from false expressions of ecumenism for the sake of the integrity of our witness to the gospel. But that does not mean we should adopt an isolationist mentality. The gospel that calls us apart from error also unites us in fellowship. Over and against false ecumenism, we must stand alone, together.
2) We must be clear on where we stand
The Puritans were clear on where they stood in relation to Roman Catholic teaching. They knew what was at stake – nothing less than the gospel as revealed in Holy Scripture and understood by the church in all ages.
3) We should engage in theological dialogue with Roman Catholics
While we might deprecate the Evangelicals and Catholics Together initiative, we should not in principle be against dialogue with Roman Catholics. Proper dialogue demands both personal graciousness and honesty on the issues that still divide Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. John Owen ably demonstrated that it was possible to dialogue with a representative of Rome without losing his theological integrity. He was Catholic and critical in his stance towards Roman teachings and yet commendably charitable in his attitude towards Roman Catholic people, whom he wished to see come to a knowledge of salvation. Owen was also willing to learn from Roman Catholic theologians and use their insights in his own work. How might we benefit from critically engaging with contemporary Roman scholarship?
4) We may make common cause with Rome on moral issues, but not co-operate in mission and evangelism
Unlike our Protestant forefathers, few contemporary Evangelicals seem to regard Rome as a threat to our national identity. If anything we tend to see the Roman Catholic Church as an ally in the fight against moral relativism and the culture of death. I believe in what Francis Schaeffer called co-belligerency. But we must be clear that while we might share common ground with Rome with regard to abortion and euthanasia, and heterosexual marriage, we do not share a common understanding of the gospel of salvation. However, co-belligerency with Rome is complicated by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is a political as well as a religious institution. Rome has not abandoned its claim that the pope as “Vicar of Christ” is ruler of the nations as well as head of the church.
5) A never ending battle against error for the sake of the truth
The Puritans fought on two main fronts. They battled against Socinian rationalism and Roman Catholicism. We also need to fight on more than one front. Yes, we must do battle against modern and postmodern attacks on the gospel. But we must never forget that Rome remains a powerful enemy of genuine Christianity. As long as we value the truth as it is in Jesus we cannot afford to give up the fight against the false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In this conflict we do not take to the field in a position of weakness as if Rome has church history on her side and we Evangelical Protestants are the “Johnny-come-latelys”. We enter the fray not as sectarians, but Reformed Catholics, contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Westminster Conference 2010 01

It was good to be at the Westminster Conference today at the American Church in Tottenham Court Road. Our first session, chaired by Phil Arthur, was taken by Garry Williams from the John Owen Centre on the subject The English Reformation - Revise, reverse or revert1 Revise

Historians like Christopher Haigh (english Reformations) want to revise our view of the Reformation. They say that
1. People were less anticlerical and pro-reformation than has been thought
2. People were slower to embrace change than has been thought
3. Mary was more successful than has been thought
There is no biblical reason for rejecting this reasoning. Haigh points out that the Reformation came in by the merest whisker and there is something in that. At a number of points the revisionists misrepresent previous views to enhance their own position. They do make some good points nevertheless.

1. The revisionists argue that there were pockets of anticlericalism in England but not universally so as was more so the case on the continent. It is also important to note that anti-clericalism is not the same as Protestantism. We cannot dismiss either the enthusiasm for Romanism outlined by Eamon Duffy (The stripping of the altars). He probably exaggerates but he has good evidence. The truth is that there was a mixed scene.

2. As for the speed with which the Reformation came about, there are a number of things to say. A lot of conclusions have been drawn from wills. Christopher Haigh has argued that this gives a distorted view as it focuses on the older and richer citizens. However, this would suggest rather that the Reformation was stronger with younger people.
The impact of the Bible in English is also overlooked as David Daniell has pointed out. Exposure to the Bible is not the same as conversion but now for the first time the Bible itself was available to people. Daniell does overstate his case (England did not become Protestant under Henry VIII) but his points stand.
We must not underestimate the impact of preaching either. The numbers of graduate preachers significantly grew. Certain colleges became Puritan seminaries.
The lack of opposition, the increasingly Protestant character of the nation, the later resistance to Romanising to the point of beheading the king also points in the same direction.

3. Eamon Duffy has written a revisionist account of Mary and Pole and others defending them from charges of incompetence. It may well be that there was greater efficiency. However, the book appears to downplay the fact that all this opposition was against something not nothing. Duffy does not defend the killings although he points out that the idea was widely accepted. He does recognise the uniqueness of it, however - including the fact that it was very different to what happened in Elizabeth's reign. In fact the more one learns about Mary the more horrifying and disturbing she appears. Duffy's revision makes things worse rather than better.
The underlying theological issue is that what Mary did is not only unattractive but wrong. Elizabeth was not perfect bt she did not take the stand against the truth that Mary did.
To sum up, the revisionists are right and helpful in some respects but they do not lessen the horror of Mary's acivity.

2 Reverse
Is the Reformation over? by Noll and Lystrom suggests that Rome has changed and that opposition is not what we need now. The book is quite descriptive. It does seem to have in mind the red neck approach rather than any traditional Protestant approach. They are aware of many differences and seem to think that fraternal relations are possible. They basically say that we can agree with two thirds of the 1994 Catechism and try to work on the positives. However, theology cannot be done in this atomisitic way.
On the crucial issue of justification they point out that we agree that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ through God's grace. Notice the lack of 'alones'. Unlike some they do not suppose we will agree on such matters but follow Jim Packer's idea that "what brings salvation is not any theory ... but faith itself and Christ himself". But this is to confuse things. Just because people can believe one thing and say something else does not mean that we can take an ecumenical approach to doctrinal issues. We must remember that we cannot map what we may believe about an individual onto what we say about Romanism and the truth.
Noll and Nystrom acknowledge that what they say is not new. What has made it relevant is the advance of secularism and the need for (what Timothy George calls) "an ecumenism of the trenches". We need to hold our nerve rather, however few we may be.
One final note - Noll and Nystrom see the mass as irrelevant rather than the idolatry that it is.

3. Reversion
To revert to the Reformation is no easy task. We must bear in mind that it was
1. Established by Parliament
2. An authoritarian movement that allowed little room for manouevre
3. It was only a partial Reformation anyway. It is Elizabeth's opposition that froze it where it was.
4. In the 16th century England was still "Christianised" - not the situation today.
5. We must not be antiquarian either
Positively, we must learn to be pro-active in identifying and training up preachers of the Word of God. This is a challenge to us today.

A decent discusion followed. 

Things that remind me of my mother 03

Sam Waldron quoting Dods

Sam Waldron had some good quotes. This he said was his favourite.

A man may accept as the rule of his faith the same inspired books as yourself, while he rejects every important article of the faith you find in these books.
If, therefore, we are to know who believe as we do, and who dissent from our faith, we must state our creed in language explicitly rejecting such interpretations of Scripture as we deem to be false. Papists, Unitarians, Arminians, all profess to find their doctrines in Scripture; but they do not find them in the Westminster Confession.
No one calling himself a Christian will deny that 'Christ died for our sins;' but out of these words of Scripture a Socinian will bring a meaning which is utterly subversive of what we hold as essential to salvation.
The Church, therefore, gathers her symbol, and utters her Confession, in order that the truth contained in Scripture may be recognised and held in opposition to, or in distinction from, the errors which some have maintained, and which, while they claim to be found in Scripture, are really subversive of the truth therein delivered.
Marcus Dods (of all people) quoted by James Bannerman, The Church of Christ Volume 1, p. 298

Sam Waldron at LTS

It was good to be present this afternoon with around 20 others at the LTS to hear Dr Sam Waldron on confessions and creeds. Dr Waldron travelled from Leeds and was delayed by half an hour which was a pity but we all coped. He ably led two sessions, the first dealing with objections to a local church having a cofession and the second dealing with how the confession should be used - that is, not expecting every member to sign up to the confession but teaching it in the church. You can get a flavour of these sessions from similar material Dr Waldron has written up elsewhere. See here for the first session and here for the second. I thought it was most helpful the way that he sought to explain biblical subordination which is different to absolute obedience.

Things that remind me of my mother 02

Bananas in milk (with lots of sugar)

Dr Sam Waldron

Dr Sam Waldron is in town this week. He has been in pastoral ministry since 1977 and currently serves as one of the pastors at Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, and is Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic Theology at Midwest Center for Theological Studies. His many publications include The Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession.
On Monday he speaks at London Theological Seminary on Creeds an Confessions. The Monday Seminar begins at 2:30 pm. Dr Waldron will be discussing the use of creeds and confessions in the local church. In his first session, he will address the legitimacy and necessity of confessions. Confessions and creeds are widely despised as infringements on soul liberty or sola scriptura. In fact, he will argue that they are both legitimate and necessary to the nature of the church.
His second session is described on the LTS website as follows. The extensive creeds of the Reformation are widely seen as hindering the ministry of the church by restricting membership in the church to mature believers and excluding even some of them. In fact, this is a misunderstanding and properly utilised extensive creeds like those of the Reformation are a great blessing and have wonderful utility in the local church. More here.
On Tuesday and Wednesday he will be at the Westminster Conference. He is the first speaker on the second day, on repentance and sola fide. More here. He is also preaching for us next Sunday morning.

Schooldays 2

This one is from my final year in Junior School. It is actually less than 5 months after the previous one for some reason. It is similar to the previous one except for the reference to hard work and very good conduct in class. I was a little bit afraid of Mr Rees and it was only later that my true colours showed. I think Mrs Clark in the previous one was probably more perceptive.

Schooldays 1

I came across this junior school report the other day. I was pleased to find it, as they lost my senior school reports at some point. So "very intelligent" (this is Cwmbran) and "easily distracted and does not put enough effort into his work ... has done some pleasing art work". Not too much change there, perhaps. "Keen participant in sporting activities and is very interested in science" looks distinctly off the radar but I assure you that it was true then even if it is not immediately apparent now I'm in my fifties.

Things that remind me of my mother 01

01 Sheepskin mittens.
This may be a very short series. We'll see.