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.

Fontella Bass 1940-2012

I posted this video here back in January 2010. I post it again to mark the death of Fontella Bass on Boxing Day. The priceless recording is from 1965 and remains an exciting performance of a great song. 

Black and white Alphabet 02

Black and white Alphabet 01

Novelists 22 Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope (1815–1882) was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Some of his best-loved works, collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around the imaginary county of Barsetshire. He also apparently wrote perceptive novels on political, social, and gender issues and on other topical matters. I must admit he remains untouched by me but noted fans have included Sir Alec Guinness, Harold Macmillan, Sir John Major, John Kenneth Galbraith and Lord Denning. Trollope's literary reputation dipped somewhat during the last years of his life, but he regained the esteem of critics by the mid-twentieth century.

Eschatology in Christmas Carols

I have noticed this Christmas how several carols close with a reference to the world to come. It is a pattern in other hymns, of course.
Thee, dear Lord, with heed I’ll cherish;
Live to Thee and with Thee, dying, shall not perish;
But shall dwell with Thee for ever,
Far on high, in the joy that can alter never.
(Paul Gerhardt, All my heart this night rejoices)

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!
(William Dix, As with gladness)

Then may we hope, the angelic thrones among
To sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song
He that was born upon this joyful day
Around us all His glory shall display
Saved by His love, incessant we shall sing
Of angels and of angel-men the King.
(John Byrom, Christians awake!)

Made perfect first in love,
And sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove,
And see His glorious face:
His love shall then be fully showed,
man shall all be lost in God.
(Let earth and heaven combine, Charles Wesley)
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

(Once in Royal David's City, C F Alexander)
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there
(Away in a manger, Anonymous)
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall
Christ was born to save
Christ was born to save
(Good Christian men rejoice)

Jan Akkerman 66

Jan Akkerman is 66 today so I thought this bit of recent footage of him with Andy Summers might be approrpiate here. Happy birthday Jan!

Lord's Day December 23 2012

So it was Christmas themes again yesterday and another 10 carols (that's twenty we've sung so far). In the morning we considered Joseph and lessons from his life, especially leading up to the birth of Jesus as described in Matthew 1 and in the evening we focused just on Matthew 1:21 and the naming of Jesus by Joseph. We had decent congregations morning and evening but no newcomers.

Seven Good Joys

There are various versions of this pre-Reformation hymn. Here's an acceptable one

The first good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of one,
To see the blessed Jesus Christ
When he was first her son,
When he was first her son, good man,
And blessed may he be,
Both father, son, and Holy Ghost
Through all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of two,
To see her own son Jesus Christ
To make the lame to go.
To make the lame to go, good man,
And blessed may he be, etc

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of three,
To see her own son Jesus Christ
To make the blind to see. ...

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of four,
To see her own son Jesus Christ
To read the Bible o'er. ...

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of five,
To see her own son Jesus Christ
To bring the dead alive. ...

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of six,
To see her own son Jesus Christ
Upon the crucifix. ...

The last good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of seven,
To see her own son Jesus Christ
To wear the crown of heaven. ...

Various folk singers have tackled it. I like the Kate Rusby version.

Spurgeon on Christmas

Spurgeon towards the end of his 1857 sermon on Luke 2:14 says
Now, I have one more lesson for you, and I have done. That lesson is PRECEPTIVE. I wish everybody that keeps Christmas this year, would keep it as the angels kept it. There are many persons who, when they talk about keeping Christmas, mean by that the cutting of the bands of their religion for one day in the year, as if Christ were the Lord of misrule, as if the birth of Christ should be celebrated like the orgies of Bacchus. There are some very religious people, that on Christmas would never forget to go to church in the morning; they believe Christmas to be nearly as holy as Sunday, for they reverence the tradition of the elders. Yet their way of spending the rest of the day is very remarkable; for if they see their way straight up stairs to their bed at night, it must be by accident. They would not consider they had kept Christmas in a proper manner, if they did not verge on gluttony and drunkenness. They are many who think Christmas cannot possibly be kept, except there be a great shout of merriment and mirth in the house, and added to that the boisterousness of sin. Now, my brethren, although we, as successors of the Puritans, will not keep the day in any religious sense whatever, attaching nothing more to it than to any other day: believing that every day may be a Christmas for ought we know, and wishing to make every day Christmas, if we can, yet we must try to set an example to others how to behave on that day; and especially since the angels gave glory to God: let us do the same.
He ends
What more shall I say? May God give you peace with yourselves; may he give you good will towards all your friends, your enemies, and your neighbors; and may he give you grace to give glory to God in the highest. I will say no more, except at the close of this sermon to wish every one of you, when the day shall come, the happiest Christmas you ever had in your lives.

Spurgeon on the Christmas Angels

These quotations are from a sermon by Spurgeon on Luke 2:14 called The first Christmas carol
What is the instructive lesson to be learned from this first syllable of the angels' song? Why this, that salvation is God's highest glory.
The angels were no Arminians, they sang, "Glory to God in the highest."
But, now, when the newborn King made his appearance, the swaddling band with which he was wrapped up was the white flag of peace.
I do long to see in the midst of the church more of a singing Christianity.

Was Marconi mad?

I was quoting my late mother just now, as I do from time to time. She used sometimes to say
"They said Marconi was mad".
Guglielmo Marconi is often thought of as the inventor off radio and shared the 1903 Nobel prize for physics due to his work in this area. The point of the saying is that general opinion is not always right.
I'm not sure how common a saying it was or is but the phrase did feature in a Marx brothers skit.
Groucho: "They said Edison was mad! They said Einstein was mad! They said Marconi was mad! They said my uncle Herbert was mad!-"
Chico: "Your uncle Herbert? Nobody ever hoid of your Uncle Herbert!"
Groucho: "That's because he was mad!"

The term applies especially to Marconi as after inventing his wireless telegraph he wrote to the ministry of Post and Telegraphs, which at the time was under the direction of the honorable Pietro Lacava, explaining how the machine worked and asking for funding. He never received a response to his letter which was eventually dismissed by the minister who wrote "to the Longara" on the document, referring to the insane asylum on via della Lungara in Rome.

Eternal Gifts

The Venerable Bede on Christmas

He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities (Is 53:5). It should be carefully noted that the sign given of the Saviour’s birth is not a child enfolded in Tyrian purple, but one wrapped round with rough pieces of cloth: he is not to be found in an ornate golden bed, but in a manger. The meaning of this is that he did not merely take upon himself our lowly mortality, but for our sakes took upon himself the clothing of the poor. Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that by his poverty we might become rich (cf. 2 Cor 8:9); though he was Lord of heaven, he became a poor man on earth, to teach those who lived on earth that by poverty of spirit they might win the kingdom of heaven.

Lord's Day December 16 2012

We started on our Christmas themes this week with Luke 2:7 (the manger) and Matthew 1 (the women in the family tree). We didn't manage to tempt any newcomers in but it was good to have the students back, swelling the cpongregation. We had communion before the evening service. 2 Corinthians 8:9 was a great text for the occasion.

More from the census

Norwich had the highest proportion of people reporting no religion with 42.5 %, closely followed by Brighton and Hove with 42.4 %.
Some local authorities in Wales also reported some of the highest levels of no religion. Caerphilly had the largest percentage point increase since 2001 of 16.7 to 41.0 %! Blaenau Gwent, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen also saw large increases of no religion with 16.0, 15.5 and 15.4 percentage points respectively.
In London, the boroughs of Newham, Harrow, Brent and Redbridge had the lowest proportions of the population reporting no religion. Other areas under 15 % included Slough in the South East (with many Hindus and Sikhs) and Knowsley, Blackburn with Darwen, Copeland, Ribble Valley and St Helens in the North West.
Tower Hamlets has the most Muslims (34.5 %) Harrow has the most Hindus (25.3 %) Slough has the most Sikhs (10.6 %) Barnet has the most Jews (15.2 %) Rushmoor in Hampshire has the most Buddhists (3.3 %).

Godless Wales and Norwich

The results of the 2011 census are appearing. The main points on religion are as follows:
Despite falling numbers Christianity remains the largest religion in England and Wales in 2011. Muslims are the next biggest religious group and have grown in the last decade. Meanwhile the proportion of the population who reported they have no religion has now reached a quarter of the population.
  • Christianity was the largest religion, with 33.2 million people (59.3 % of the population). The second largest religious group were Muslims with 2.7 million people (4.8 % of the population).
  • 14.1 million people, around a quarter of the population in England and Wales, reported they have no religion in 2011.
  • The religion question was the only voluntary question on the 2011 census and 7.2 % of people did not answer the question.
  • Between 2001 and 2011 there has been a decrease in people who identify as Christian (from 71.7 % to 59.3 %) and an increase in those reporting no religion (from 14.8 % to 25.1 %). There were increases in the other main religious group categories, with the number of Muslims increasing the most (from 3.0 % to 4.8 %) which sounds like it is lower than the Muslim birth rate.
  • In 2011, London was the most diverse region with the highest proportion of people identifying themselves as Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish. The North East and North West had the highest proportion of Christians and Wales had the highest proportion of people reporting no religion.
  • Knowsley on Merseyside was the local authority with the highest proportion of people reporting to be Christians at 80.9 % and Tower Hamlets had the highest proportion of Muslims at 34.5 % (over 7 times the England and Wales figure). Norwich had the highest proportion of the population reporting no religion at 42.5 %.

Unusual words 10 Termagant

A Termagant is a quarrelsome, scolding woman; a shrew. Interestingly, the word is from Middle English Termagaunt, an imaginary Muslim deity portrayed as a violent and overbearing character in medieval mystery plays.
I came across the word in Tyerman's Life and Times of Samuel Wesley ("This lawless mob was headed by a furious, termagant woman,called Popplewell")
It comes up in The Two Destinies by Wilkie Collins "The magic of money transformed this termagant and terrible person into a docile and attentive nurse--so eager to follow my instructions exactly that she begged me to commit them to writing before I went away."
PS Not to be confused with the game bird the Ptarmigan.

Death of Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar has died at the age of 92. Perhaps he was most famous as George Harrison's sitar teacher but he had his own career in the west and is also the father of Norah Jones. I remember buying Transmigration Macabre in my teens or early twenties. This track has always been my favourite. It is truly beautiful. As for metempsychosis, as Mr Shankar now knows, it is not so.

Novelists 21 Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens 1812-1870 Easily the most famous of all English novelists and pretty prolific. I must confess to having read only a handful of them. Many have remained unfiinshed. They are rather long. Anyway most of them are on my kindle and any day now ....

Plaque to Lloyd-Jones unveiled

According to the Cambrian News a plaque has been unveiled at the former home of a famous preacher, in Llangeitho, Ceredigion. Dr Martyn Lloyd- Jones, lived in Albion House, in the centre of the village, between 1904 and 1914.
Dr Jones moved to the village with his family when he was six, and attended the village primary school and later Tregaron County School. The plaque was unveiled by his great granddaughter Angharad Marshall. Pictured with her is Dr Gwyn Davies, of Aberystwyth, a lecturer in church history at the Welsh Evengelical School of Theology in Bridgend.
Afterwards, Dr Davies gave a short address on the life of Dr Lloyd-Jones.
My father-in-law tells me it was a shop  in Lloyd-Jones day (there was a famous fire from which he was rescued) and it is a café today. The owners were delighted to have the plaque unveiled. The people planning and organising the event were a couple of local folk, quite unknown to the Welsh evangelical world, just conscious of this famous preacher who had once lived here. He thinks they have been rather naïve in not letting local churches know. The Lloyd-Jones Recordings Trust (who to be fair did announce it on Facebook) gave money for a tea and then the Doctor’s great grand-daughter, Angharad, a final year student in Swansea University, came along with a Christian friend and spoke briefly on behalf of the family (she is one of Bethan Catherwood’s children).
It was a Sunday afternoon in December so only 18 people turned up. If they had planned it for August and the week of the Aber. Conference hundreds would have come there and there would have been some preaching.
I understand that it is part of the Ceredigion Faith Trail although that fact has not been noted on the site yet. In fact if you look up people there, only three are mentioned. Daniel Rowland one expects but Dafydd ap Gwilym and Dylan Thomas are in a rather different category.

Unusual words 09 Batrachised

In Surprised by Joy by C S Lewis again he writes of how in his childhood fictional world Boxen there was an office

held at that time by a man - or to speak more accurately, a Frog - of powerful personality. Lord Big brought to his task one rather unfair advantage; he had been the tutor of the two young kings and continued to hold over them a quasi-parental authority. Their spasmodic efforts to break his yoke were, unhappily, more directed to the evasion of his inquiry into their private pleasures than to any serious political end. As a result Lord Big, immense in size, resonant of voice, chivalrous (he was the hero of innumerable duels), stormy, eloquent, and impulsive, almost was the state. The reader will divine a certain resemblance between the life of the two kings under Lord Big and our own life under our father. He will be right. But Big was not, in origin, simply our father first batrachised and then caricatured in some directions and glorified in others.

Batrachised means to make into a frog!

Guess the parcel 1

A parcel arrived today. Can you guess what was in it?

Guess the parcel 2

When you get the plastic off its clear there are four of them but four what?

Guess the parcel 3

Guessed it yet?

Guess the parcel 4

It was four egg cups!

Lord's Day December 9 2012

We had lunch together in church yesterday, as we do from time to time. We are always well fed. In the morning I completed the first chapter of 2 Peter looking at verses 12-21 (about remembering truths and abouit Scripture). We will get back to the other chapters some time in the future. In the evening I completed a brief series on Habakkuk, which has been okay. We had a few visitors but quite a few missing. We'll start on something more Christmassy next week.

10 more unusual seasonal tracks

I love to play my holiday music at this time of the year. If you are getting fed up of the same old same old, here are 10 more unusual tracks worth checking out.

1. Eternal gifts by Leigh Nash

2. Maybe this Christmas by Ron Sexsmith

3. The River by Joni Mitchell

4. The Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne and the Chieftains

5. I have a dream by Thijs Van Leer and family

6. Easier said than done by Jon Anderson

7. Run with the fox by Chris Squire

8. Er Is Een Kindeke Geboren Op Aard' by Rogier Van Otterloo, Thijs Van Leer, etc

9. Rug Muire Mac do Dhia by Horslips

10. Birthday card at Christmas by Jethro Tull

Unusual words 08 Cantle

In Surprised by Joy C S Lewis talks about how much he hated going to parties at a certain age. He says
To me it was all inexplicable, unprovoked persecution; and when, as often happened, such engagements fell in the last week of the holidays and wrested from us a huge cantle of hours in which every minute was worth gold, I positively felt that I could have torn my hostess limb from limb.
A cantle can be part of a saddle but here it is a corner, segment, or portion; a piece.
AnoOher example
They are here set down, most holy father, upon a cantle of sheep-skin Conan Doyle in The White Company

How many ejected?

One of the things that arose in Lee Gatiss's paper on 1662 is a question of how many were ejected. In my book on 1662 I say this
Estimates vary but it seems that, including those ejected before 1662 and some who jumped rather than waiting to be pushed, nearly two thousand ministers and others were silenced or ejected. There will always be some vagueness about the figure as some changed their minds. A G Matthews says that some 210 later conformed. A contemporary writer, John Walker, says of an Evan Griffiths of Oxwich in South Wales, who was ejected but then conformed, that he became as violent against dissenters as he had once been against royalists. Also, the ejection included not only ministers but also lecturers and even private tutors. Further, some such as Cornishman Francis Howell 1625-1679 present anomalies. Howell, “a man mighty in the scriptures” according to Calamy, was expelled both as Principal of Jesus College, Oxford in 1660 and as incumbent of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in North Wales in 1662.
In his Nonconformist Memorial Calamy deals with some 2,465 people altogether. Matthews and Watts say that the number unwilling to conform in 1662 was 2029, around 936* in England and 120 in Wales. Some 200 of these were university lecturers. Matthews points out that a further 129 were deprived at an uncertain date between 1660 and 1663 and with the ejections of 1660 as well, he gives a total of 1760 ministers (which is about 20% of the clergy) thrust out of the Church of England, silenced from preaching or teaching because they could no longer conform by law and so deprived of a livelihood.
Gerald Bray comments that “almost all of these were Puritans, and so the Act may be said to represent the expulsion of Puritanism from the national Church.” On the other hand, John Spurr points out that Puritans remained within the state church and others, like Quakers and General Baptists, were ejected. He quotes John Corbet 1620-1680, saying, "it is a palpable injury to burden us with the various parties with whom we are now herded by our ejection in the general state of dissenters."
*I seem to have that figure wrong. Perhaps it should be 1,936

Geffrye Museum

We had a very nice family day out last Saturday at the Geffrye Museum of the home in East London. The free museum presents a series of home scenes from 1630 to the present day and at this time of the year has a Christmas theme although that hardly kicks in until the Vicorian period. It was a very interesting set up and would be worth a second visit I'm sure. There is a nice gallery here.

Westminster Conference 2012 06

We appropriately closed the conference with a paper by Peter Law on the great missionary and translator Henry Martyn 1781-1812. It was appropriate in following on from the paper on Islam and this being the two hundredth anniversary of his death. Perhaps his being an Anglican fitted in somehow and even the fact that the paper was given by a graduate of the very Anglican Bash camps for public schoolboys but who is a Baptist but also an Arabic speaker who makes regular trips to the Middle East. Like Pascal, Martyn also died young yet did so much - what a challenge he is! Consciously or unconsciously this paper was no exercise in hagiography but a very human portrait of a man who was a sinner yet whom God greatly used.
Next year's conference is set for December 3, 4 and includes papers on C S Lewis, Isaac Ambrose, Henry Havelock and Edward Irving.

Westminster Conference 2012 05

The graveyard slot on the second day went to Roger Welch whose task was to survey 1400 years of history looking for patterns in Christian response to Islam and so we went through the various areas mentioning dhimmitude, John of Damascus, the crusades, Ramon Lull, Nicholas de Susa, Luther, Calvin, Samuel Zwemer, etc and modern contextualisation. It was a helpful survey and led into a tame but fairly well informed discussion of reaching Muslims today. It was good to have at least looked at the subject even if we were at a very general level. As ever the need to befriend people rather than read books about their religion came over strongly. Stephen Clark chaired.

Westminster Conference 2012 04

We made a good start to the second day at the Westminster Conference with a very good paper by David Gregson on Blaise Pascal. Most of us were fairly ignorant of Pascal beforehand so it was good to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Pascal lived 1623-1662 and so was only 39 when he died. David Gregson summed him up as a genius whose life God touched. He made significant strides forward in mathematics, science and other areas and in his twenties met Jansenists who while remaining within Romanism had an Augustinian view of grace. He was converted firstly intellectually (in 1646) and then to new birth (in 1654). It was good to have the view that his conversion stunted his scientific interests refuted. We also had a summary of the famous Pensees, including reference to something we have touched on in this blog before ie Cleopatra's nose. See here. The memorial describing his conversion that he sewed into his coat and that was discovered after his death can be found here. A useful discussion on conversion and what we need to know followed.

Westminster Conference 2012 03

Perhaps the most interesting paper of the day was that given by Andrew Atherstone - another Anglican as it turns out. He was looking at the whole matter of the writing of Christian biography and history. It is a subject most germane to the conference. He outlined the more recent resurgence of evangelical history writing within academia (by Marsden, Noll, Bebbington and others) and then noted the uneasiness about this expressed in the pages of the Banner of Truth, especially by Iain Murray. Andrew Atherstone's plea was for both as he felt that both forms have their place. The rest of us were not so sure although we were broadly in agreement  guess. The fear is that is academia dictates the ground rules something will be lost. The other area covered more briefly was the danger of hagiography. On the way home I was reading Luke Tyerman's biography of Samuel Wesley and I was interested to come across this line "The extract is inserted with reluctance; but, in delineating character, faults as well as virtues must be noted". So a good day. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as good.

Westminster Conference 2012 02

I chaired the second session and once again we were looking at 1662, this time with my old LTS church history teacher Andrew Davies whose brief was to give us some biogrpahies of ejectees. Being a Welshman he plumped for Philip Henry who ministered in North Wales and the lesser known Samuel Jones who ministered in South Wales. We also had a snippet on Thomas Gouge which will appear in the published paper. It was an excellent paper. The discusiion wasn't too bad although we weren't very good at sticking to the subject of what authority we are obliged to submit to and on what issues. All the message are being recorded and will be available on CD. The published papers usually appear in six months time.

Westminster Conference 2012 01

The Westminster Conference began today. The opening paper was on 1662 and all that and the speaker was Lee Gatiss, perhaps controversially, an Anglican. Being an Anglican he was a little afraid that we would be bored and so we began with 15 minutes of introduction that included some audience participation as we were examined on a range of beliefs such as what we thought about keeping pistols ready at home or the Queen as head of the church. The serious point behind this apparent frivolity was to demonstrate that things have changed a great deal since 1662 and few of us hold to a range of views quite acceptable in days gone by. We then had half an hour on 1662 itself, which included what I thought was a controversial attempt to get the numbers of the ejected as low as 900 and to claim that even these were not all Puritans. The rest of the time was spent defending Anglicanism - quite understandable from an Anglican I guess.
Dr Robert Oliver chaired and some good points were made from the floor, especially Iain Murray's about the need to recognise spiritual movements and political movements, which sometimes coalesce but inevitably oppose each other. We were probably far too gentle with Lee I guess whose view seems to be that 1662 was a massive mistake but the Anglican church hasn't been all bad since and indeed has improved in some ways. Certainly there was no sign that 1662 gives him any pause to consider leaving.

Novelists 20 W M Thackeray

1811-1863 Born in Calcutta, he was the son of a servant of the East India Company who was of an old and respectable Yorkshire family. In 1816 his father died and he was sent home to England. Educated at Charterhouse, he went on to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1829 but spent only a year there. After travelling on the continent, he tried first the legal profession and then journalism but these came to nothing. By this time bad investments and other mistakes had divested him of his fortune and he needed a profession. Art was his next project, which involved studying in Paris and Rome. In 1836 he had married in Paris, returning to England the following year. He wrote for several magazines but his contributions to Punch were the hat first to gain public attention. The major turning point was the publication in monthly numbers of his best known novel Vanity Fair (1847–48). Pendennis, largely autobiographical, followed in 1848–50. Esmond (1852) is considered by some his masterpiece. It was followed by The Newcomes (1853) and the less successful The Virginians, a sequel to Esmond (1857–59). For some years he suffered spasms of the heart then suddenly died suddenly during the night of December 23, 1863. His wife had also been suffering ill health for some years. It has been written of him that “he was master of a style of great distinction and individuality, and ranks as one of the very greatest of English novelists”.

Lord's Day December 2 2012

This first Lord's Day of the final month of 2012 began with communion where we read again from John 16. We had a good congregation in the morning supplemented by visitors and a nice bunch of young people here for dinner. We looked at 2 Peter 1:10, 11 on making your calling and election sure. In the evening we looked at the rest of Habakkuk 2. We were a smaller number by that point.