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.

Lord's Day January 27 2013

Red letter day in Childs Hill last Sunday as we baptised two young men in the evening. One has been coming along since he was eight years old, the other, from Portsmouth, is a student nearby at Middlesex University. Both were able to bring along friends and family. Both gave their testimony. Three kids from our Friday night club also came. So the congregations were slightly swollen both morning and evening. I preached on the Ethiopian eunuch in the evening and against false teachers in the morning. Baptisms have been rare in my time at Childs Hill. Perhaps about one a year on average.

150 Sermons

I've just uploaded my 150th sermon to my sermon blog Preached Sermons here. There are plenty of audio sermons available on the Internet but nit so many sermon scripts. I began the blog about four years ago and since then there have been over 30,000 hits. Some sermons have had more than a thousand hits. Check it out.

Library Lecture on Richard Bernard

I gave a lunchtime lecture last Monday on "Richard Bernard and his book on conscience". We weren't a great number mainly due to the snow but the lecture can be downloaded here on the Library's website.

Ray Davies on The Sixties

I watched an old documentary on Ray Davies of the Kinks last night. On the sixties he said, quite astutely I think,
"The sixties to me were kind of not as fun politically, sometimes style and fashion and pop culture camouflages what's really happening ... the music culture was great, the fashion was great .... it was a liberating time, there's no doubt, but, but I think it was a facade, a cover up for a lot of nasty things that were happening in the world ..."

Greatest Try of All Time?

Even if your interest in rugby is only mild you have to admire this try scored 40 years ago today. (I must admit that the involvement of so many Welsh men adds to it for me, including the commentary from Cliff Morgan) PS Thanks Martin Downes for reminding me.

Preaching and Preachers

I missed the fact that last year was the fortieth anniversary of Dr Lloyd-Jones' brilliant book. This is from the Amazon site:
For over 30 years, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ministered at Westminster Chapel in London. Today, he is widely considered one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. Based on a series of lectures originally given by Lloyd-Jones to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary in the spring of 1969, this collection of essays on the essence of powerful preaching has become a modern classic. Lloyd-Jones defends the primacy of preaching, showing that there is no substitute, and he challenges preachers to take their calling seriously: 'The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching.' He also provides practical direction on the task of preparing a sermon, sharing insights on the shape and form of a message as well as covering such topics as the use of humor, giving invitations in a message and the preacher's relationship to the congregation. If you can own only one book on preaching, make this the one you read. This 40th anniversary edition includes the original text of Preaching and Preachers along with essays by Bryan Chapell, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Timothy Keller and John Piper reflecting on the impact this book and the ministry of Lloyd-Jones had on their preaching. This is a book that will continue to speak to a new generation of preachers and teachers for years to come.

Life of Pi

This review of the movie is in the February ET along with lots of interesting articles on Anne Bronte, etc.

At the end of 2012 the feature film Life of Pi hit the cinema screens. The film is based on the prize winning 2001 book by Yann Martel first published in Canada in 2001, after a series of rejections. The film and the book tell the unlikely story of Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, an Indian boy who suffers shipwreck and survives 227 days on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger. The film's director is Ang Lee. It is beautifully shot and a cinematic triumph.

In 2010 Barack Obama wrote to the author of the novel calling his book “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling”. On one level the book is very positive. In one place for example the question is asked quite reasonably “If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?” There is a recognition that as attractive as doubt may seem “to choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” The film creates interest on several levels and evangelical Christians will find many topics to discuss among themselves or with unbelievers who have read the book or seen the film.

The narrative itself can be divided into three parts. The central and dominating part of the film is the shipwreck and Pi's experiences at sea. This is in turns gripping, shocking and thought provoking. Man's instinct for survival and our utter dependence on God come to the fore here. It is to God that Pi apparently cries in the midst of his desperate need and where else could he have turned?

At the beginning, Pi describes his early life, growing up in Pondicherry, French India, where his father owned a zoo. Of particular interest is the way he is raised as a Hindu by his mother, while constantly being challenged by his agnostic father. In his teens he is introduced first to Catholic Christianity and then Islam. Despite his father's scepticism, he claims to follow all three religions as he “just wants to love God”. Typical of many today, he wants to accept all the religions and reject none, an utter impossibility in reality.

In the closing part of the film, officials speak to Pi about why the ship sank. They are sceptical about his story so he gives them an alternative, an altogether more prosaic and much less attractive version of events. He asks which of the stories they prefer and claims that the truth does not matter, given that he was clearly been shipwrecked and survived. Thinking Christians will immediately baulk at his statement “and so it goes with God”.

Crafting stories is a difficult and serious business. Authors are always trying to push the envelope. However, to have any credibility they have to deal with reality and that is, perhaps, what makes the film most interesting. Despite the author's postmodern outlook, which he projects on to the protagonist, he has to deal with reality. Bananas do float, for example, but a carnivorous island seems less likely. The role of the tiger is particularly interesting in this respect. He is utterly realistic and so is both a great help and a disappointment to Pi in the end. At the same time there is a measure of sleight of hand at play and we must be alert to that. In the book Martel actually confesses that he believes that fiction is “the selective transforming of reality” and “the twisting of it to bring out its essence”. So when he says, “I challenge anyone to understand Islam, its spirit, and not to love it. It is a beautiful religion of brotherhood and devotion” we know that as well structured statement as it may be, it is simply false.

Lord's Day January 20 2013

A busy two days means I've not been able to report on last Sunday until now. I preached on 2 Peter in the morning, having looked at the first three verses on false teachers the week before. I began by remarking that if anyone was unsure whether we needed to be warned about false teachers they have only to consider what has been reported about Steve Chalke, a professedly Evangelical Baptist, saying that in certain cases homosexual relationships are perfectly biblical. It would be unfair to label Chalke a heretic quite at this point (even though he has already given cause for concern with his denial of penal substitutionary atonement) but one begins to wonder where this will all end. The morning message was a wide ranging but solemn one on judgement and salvation. In the evening I preached on secret sins, leaning heavily on the work of Puritan Obadiah Sedgwick, I trust, dealing with the people before me. Numbers were down rather, especially in the morning, as the older folk weren't out due to the snow on the ground. We hope to have baptisms next Sunday evening.

Affinity 2013 Paper 6

The snow has begun to fall and so we are going to finish our conference here in High Leigh slightly early by dropping the final plenary session and ending with the presentation of the last paper. Once again the written paper was summarised and we then went to our groups to discuss before coming together again for a plenary session.
This was the most controversial of the papers, pleading as it did for a new approach to the subject of abortion.

The New Bioethical Wine in the Old Moral Wineskins?

Exploring the Issues When Human Life Begins:

Dr Leonardo De Chirico, Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione


1. A polarized field
2. The Dead-Ends of Biolatry and Egolatry
ie the pro-life absolutising of the sacredness of an aspect of life life and the pro-choice absolutising of the individual and his or her choice
3. The shortcomings of evangelical bioethics
4. The anthropology of the womb
Arguing that the beginnings of life are always linked with the womb in Scripture
5. The beginning of life of the first and last Adam
6. The bioethical implications of being created in the image of God
7. A relational bioethics of the beginning of life


1) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the pro-life position?
2) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the pro-choice position?
3) How can life become an idol in the biblical sense? Find examples.
4) How can individual choice can become an idol in the biblical sense? Find examples.
5) What does Psalm 139 say about the beginning of life? What does it not say?
6) What does the typology of the first and last Adam say about the beginning of life?
7) In what sense the ‘relational’ aspect of the Trinity has a bearing on the bioethics of the beginning of life?
8) What can be done in society in order to overcome the polarized debate between pro-life and pro-choice?

Affinity 2013 Paper 5

War and New Testament Ethics
Prof Paul Helm Teaching Fellow, Regent College, Canada
I have been invited to say something about how Scripture is to be interpreted in respect of war, and especially aspects of warfare that are not new, but have come to prominence in our current situation, particularly torture and the various terms, perhaps in some cases euphemistic terms, that are used for it. We shall come to that, but not before we say something about what I shall offer as a framework for interpretation, a variant of the Reformers’ doctrine of the two kingdoms. And then, secondly, to look at how the Apostolic writings view moral reasoning and some peculiarities of our present political situation. It is not my intention, nor is it my brief, to offer a set of first-­order rules to guide conduct under the matters to be discussed, but rather to look at the methods and approaches that Christians who take the authority of the Bible seriously ought to adopt.
The Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms (Scripture)
The Two Kingdoms (Luther and Calvin)
The Two Kingdoms and Waging of War
The Two Kingdoms and the Lordship of Christ
Differences Between our Situation and that of the Reformers
New Testament Data about Military Service and War (The lack of it)
Reasoning About Morality, According to the New Testament
A Case Study–Torture (Looking at Grudem, Mohler, etc)
I have attempted to argue that in important respects New Testament ethics for Christians is different from Old Testament ethics for Israelites. Its governing question is not‘What commands or rules should we obey or follow?’but‘What sort of people ought we to be?’The centre of gravity of New Testament ethics lies in virtue, gift, grace, just as regeneration issues in a new“man”,a new person, a new nature. The ethics is from the inside out. I also suggest that such an ethic is congruent with the internationalising of the people of God in the New Testament era. Congregations of Christians may well find themselves in a wide variety of circumstances which call for different applications or emphases of the virtues of the Spirit. Christians in a time of just war may be called to act differently from when their country is engaged in what is widely regarded as an unjust war, or during a time of peace. In a similar way a Christians congregation which is socially deprived and low in attainment will need to have certain emphases made in the character of their Christian graces, while another which is affluent and fairly insulated will need others. Or, to bring this Conclusion nearer to what we have just been discussing, congregations in garrison towns may be under different pressures from run of the mill‘civilian’local churches. Finally, recognising the legitimacy of such differences among churches is one way in which Christian liberty and diversity may legitimately be expressed.
1) Is an evangelical church that held to conscientious objection/pacifism consistent with the New Testament?
2) Given the absence of teaching about war and peace, bearing arms etc. in the NT, are views about such matters simply a matter of Christian freedom?
3) Could a Christian consistently have a career as a spy, in MI6 say?
4) Is the decision to torture prisoners for a possible greater good just one more of the many hard choices that Christians may face, or is it in some way ‘special’?
5) ‘It is difficult to exaggerate the difference between OT Israel and the NT church on the question of the connection between the commands of God and waging war’. How fair is this?
6) ‘Christian churches which disavow the establishment principle are often as captive to the culture as an established church’. How far would you agree?
7) ‘The NT endorses/connives at slavery but is silent about issues of war and peace’. Is this true? If so, what is the significance of this?
8) Should churches pray corporately for e.g. the solution of the ‘Middle East crisis’? Is there NT warrant for this?
9) ‘The armed forces, the police and the prison service – they’re all in the same boat together’. Is this fair? If not, why not?
10)What bearing, if any, does 1 Cor 5:10 (‘then you would need to go out of the world’) have on whether a Christian should take up a career in the armed force?

Steve Chalke Reaction

In the midst of a conference on ethics I notice this subject in the news here 

Affinity 2013 Paper 4

The third paper “It’s a Rich Man’s World?”Exploring the Biblical Material on Money, Wealth and Economic Justice was given by Revd Dr Andy Hartropp Research Tutor, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.
1. A Framework for Using the Bible Ethically – With Economics in Mind
Creation – Fall – Redemption – Eschatology
Eight biblical principles for economic life: human beings as stewards of God’s world
Principle 1 : Human beings must use the resources of creation to provide for their existence, but they must not waste or destroy the created order (e.g. Gen. 1:26‐30; 2:15).
Principle 2 : Every person has a calling to exercise stewardship of resources and talents (e.g. Num. 26:52‐56; Lev. 25:8‐10).
Principle 3 : Stewardship implies responsibility to determine the disposition of resources. Each person is accountable to God for his/her stewardship (e.g. Lev. 25:23--‐24).
Principle 4 : People have a right and an obligation to work (Gen. 2:15; Ps. 104:23; 2 Th. 3:6‐13). Note that work existed before the Fall! (Gen. 3:17 cf. 2:15): work is a creation principle.
Principle 5 : Work is the means of exercising stewardship. In their work people should have access to resources and control over them (Deut. 24:14‐15).
Principle 6 : Work is a social activity in which people cooperate as stewards of their individual talents, and as joint stewards of resources (e.g. Neh. 2:17‐18; 1 Cor. 12:12‐31).
Principle 7 : Every person has a right to share in God’s provision for human beings for their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. These needs are to be met primarily by productive work. See Leviticus chapter 25, especially the sections beginning at v 25, v 35 and v 39. See also Lev. 19:9‐10/Deut. 24:19‐22.
Principle 8 : Personal stewardship of resources does not imply the right to consume the entire product of those resources. The rich have an obligation to help the poor who cannot provide for themselves by work, e.g. Deut 26:1‐12. This was partly by means of loans , at zero interest: see Deut 15:1‐11. In the NT we find similar principles at work: Lk 12:32‐34; Acts 4:32‐35; 5:1‐11; 1 Tim 6:6‐10, 17‐19.
2. Righteousness and Justice - With Economic Life in Mind
Two main aspects of righteousness: (a) there is a relational context/meaning; and (b) conforming to a norm/standard
“Righteousness”and“justice”in the OT
Righteousness and the GospelThe righteousness of believers in response to God’s righteousnessJustice is part of the outworking of righteousness
3. A Biblical Understanding of Economic Justice
(a) Economic justice means appropriate treatment, according to the norms commanded by God
(b) God’s justice involves justice to the needy
(c) Justice is not only about allocation, but also concerns the quality of relationships
(d) Justice in the allocation of resources means that everyone participates in God’s blessing
4. Meeting Challenges to Biblical Economic Justice in Today’s World
Rights, need or desert?
Justice in production and justice in distribution
Global challenges
Justice in production and distribution: the contribution enterprise can make to help overcome poverty
We need a fuller conception of “social justice”
Challenges posed by the recent financial and economic crisis
This paper has presented a biblical understanding of economic justice, and it has shown that the Bible has much to say about economic justice in today’s world. Clearly this is not, ultimately, a matter for academic analysis only. Justice and righteousness involve action. God’s own example demonstrates this plainly. Christian believers–both as individuals and as church communities–should be demonstrating economic justice in their lives and relationships, from Sunday through to Saturday.
1) Can you think of ways in which Christians in the UK underplay the importance of Creation and New Creation? (See my paper on this point.)
2) The paper claims that the impact of Christians in the City of London has - in terms of the City’s values, culture and ’greed’ - been close to zero. To what extent do you agree? If you do agree, why do you think the impact has been so small?
3) In your church(es), how big a problem is the ‘love of money’?
4) What more help do your congregations need in living as disciples of Christ in the workplace?
5) ‘The righteousness of God clearly does have a relational meaning” (my paper). To what extent are you familiar with this idea, and do you agree?
6) The paper says: “Thus we have the following definition: justice is appropriate treatment, especially of human beings, and usually in a relational setting, according to the norms commanded and set by God in each particular case.” To what extent is this different from how you think of justice?
7) What are your reactions to the paper’s claims about four main aspects of a biblical understanding of economic justice?
8) The paper criticises the currently-prevailing sense of ‘social justice’. What do you think about this?
9) What can Christians say, from the Bible, about bankers’ bonuses?

Athanasius on Psalms

Writing to Marcellus Athansius wrote
Let each one, therefore, who recites the Psalms have a sure hope that through them God will speedily give ear to those who are in need. For if a man be in trouble when he says them, great comfort will he find in them; if he be tempted or persecuted, he will find himself abler to stand the test and will experience the protection of the Lord, Who always defends those who say these words. By them too a man will overthrow the devil and put the fiends to flight. If he have sinned, when he uses them he will repent; if he have not sinned, he will find himself rejoicing that he is stretching out towards the things that are before and, so wrestling, in the power of the Psalms he will prevail. Never will such a man be shaken from the truth, but those who try to trick and lead him into error he will refute; and it is no human teacher who promises us this, but the Divine Scripture itself.

Affinity 2013 Paper 3

The third paper on the Psalms was given by Gordon Wenham (Old Testament Tutor, Trinity College,
Bristol). He used no headings so here is his conclusion and the questions we discussed.
In this paper I have tried to sum up some of the key arguments in my book Psalms as Torah. I have drawn attention to the power of song to imprint on the mind and be memorable. This in itself would give the Psalms great influence in moulding the ethic of those who pray and sing them. But I applied the insights of Donald Evans on the performative power of liturgical texts to the Psalter to develop this argument. In that most scholars agree that the Psalms originate as texts for worship, and were certainly used later by Jews and Christians in their worship, this use gives them peculiar potency. Reciters of the psalms are making both a public commitment to their sentiments and affirming to God these same truths. If the worshipper does not assent to the ideology of the psalm, he has the choice of offending his fellow worshippers by his silence, or insulting God by his hypocrisy by mouthing words he does not mean. Thus liturgy compels assent more powerfully than sermons or laws, stories or proverbs. This is the reason why the ethic taught by the psalms has been so influential and why biblical scholars should have paid more attention to it. In the rest of the paper I have tried to pick out some of the distinctive emphases of the psalms’ ethical teaching. Of course most of the fundamentals are shared with the rest of Scripture, but a comparison with the Ten Commandments proved instructive. We noted the very strong emphasis on the misuse of the tongue on the one hand and on the other the absence of commands to observe the Sabbath or other great festivals despite the fact that a goodly number of psalms would be suited to such occasions. Other leading emphases include the appeal to justice, especially its formulation in the lex talionis. Worshippers pray that God will prove his just sovereignty by punishing the guilty in a way that matches their crime. Those who suffer at the hands of the mighty and find no redress are often the poorer and weaker members of society, so like the Pentateuch the Psalter especially advocates care for the poor as well as praying for divine intervention on their behalf. In this way the righteous are taught to imitate their creator in his concern for the oppressed and their plight.
  1. Does your church use the Psalms in worship? Why?
  2. Have you considered the power of liturgical texts as a means of teaching?
  3. Do you agree with Griffiths about the performative value of the Psalms?
  4. What do you see as distinctive about the Psalter’s ethical teaching?
  5. Is the principle of the lex talionis, exact retribution, defensible today?
  6. Should the imprecatory psalms be used in Christian worship?
  7. Do we highlight the last judgment in preaching? Can it be made palatable and believable?
The format was again for the writer to presnet his paper which Gorodn Wenham did firstly drily adn then with some emotion as he came to the imprecatory psalms.

At High Leigh

This was the scene from my window yesterday

Strange Dream

I seldom have strange dreams or I seldom remember them anyway. Last night, among other things, I dreamt I was in a church that had the sword that was used to behead the apostle Paul. No idea where that came from or even if such an item is claimed to exist.

Affinity 2013 Paper 2

Using the Bible Ethically
Paper 2 The Ethical Teaching of Jesus and the New Testament
Continuity, discontinuity and context in the moral theology of the New Testament
Dr Joshua Hordern, University Lecturer in Christian Ethics, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford


Affinity 2013 Paper 1

The opening paper should have been given by Jonathan Burndside. In his absence Stephen Clark prepared a paper outlined below with the question s that were discussed in the six discussion groups. I am sorry I can't give any more than that.
Paper 1
Using the Bible Ethically: An Introduction to Contemporary Challenges
Stephen Clark, Minister, Freeschool Court Evangelical Church, Bridgend
I Using the Bible ethically in a multicultural world: identifying the issues
1. Evangelism
2. Christian living in the world
3. Matters of public and/or government policy
4. The ethical use of the Bible
II General principles
1. The importance of general revelation
2. The purposes and ends of government or ‘the powers that be’
3. On ‘reading the Bible 'ethically’

III Application of general principles
1. Evangelism
2. Christian living in the world
(i) Freedom of moral choice
(ii) Work and issues of conscience
(iii) Law and public policy
3. The ethical use of the Bible
1) How does one give a biblical account and explanation of the following:
a) that most people have a sense of good and evil, of right and wrong;
b) that people’s ideas of right and wrong, and good and evil, may differ so widely,
c) that some people appear to be devoid of all moral sense?

2) Is it the task of the church to pronounce upon moral issues to the world without reference to the gospel? Support your answer from Scripture and explain the implications of your view.

3) Can you identify any issues which some Christians regard as moral but upon which Scripture is either silent or says less than some claim? [Stephen has in mind post-1967 understandings of when life begins according to the Bible - not sure about this]

4) Some Christians believe remarriage after divorce is not permissible; other Christians believe that in certain circumstances scripture does allow remarriage.
a) What issues might arise, and how can they be resolved, where those in pastoral oversight in a church take differing views on this?
b) What issues might arise and how should they be resolved where neighbouring churches take a different view?

5) Is there a ‘one size fits all’ approach to evangelising those who espouse moral relativism? (i.e. Is the Tim Keller approach referred to in the paper the only approach to such people?) Support your answer from Scripture.

6) How should pastors approach the subject of preaching on passages which raise profound ethical questions and dilemmas? (e.g. Abraham offering Isaac; the wiping out of the Canaanites)?

7) Advise a church member in the following situations:
a) the member is a Sunday School teacher who works in a law firm in your town. His boss has told him to do the necessary legal work to apply for a licence for an ‘adult shop’. What principles will guide you in your counsel? [In answering this Stephen saw no problem with the work but continuing as  a Sunday School teacher may be an issue]
b) A member as an employment lawyer who is instructed by a longstanding client of the firm, who is gay, to represent him in a ‘gay rights’ case against a Christian charity. What principles will guide you in your counsel?
c) A member is a tax lawyer who had been instructed by someone in the entertainment industry wither respect to a claim by HMRC for considerable underpayment of income tax. During the consultation with the client the member discovers that her ‘profession’ is the oldest one in the world – prostitution. What principles should guide the church member in this situation?

Conferences, conferences

I have ended up attending two conferences in two weeks which has put some pressure on and I didn't really round off what I had to say about the Carey Conference last week. The numbers were down a little from last year but over a hundred were present (about 30 women I think). Hugh Collier who hosts with his wife Lois had to go home sick. I hope he's well again soon. Bill James was his usual efficient and enthusiastic self and a real asset. It was good to renew fellowship with Ed Collier, Steven and Gail Curry, Steve Ruegg and Steve Nowak from Stowmarket, etc, etc. We had an excellent question session on the second evening. Some 14 questions were asked but there is no time or space to describe what was covered. A highlight for me was to hear Mike Reeves defend the traditional view of the interpretation of Song of Solomon. Indeed Mike Reeves contributions were a highlight of the whole conference.

Lookalikes 2

It was while being miserable at Les Miserables that thoughts I've nearly had before came together. It was good to see Paul Gamston at the Carey last week. I'm sure others have noticed the Russell Crowe similarity.

Lookalikes 1

My friend John Kilpatrick has recently pointed out my likeness to the outdoors man Cameron McNeish. Difficult to demonstrate but I think he is on to something.

Cinema Trips

I've been in the cinema twice recently. First I went to see Life of Pi in 3D on my own then I went to see Les Miserables with my wife.
I enjoyed the first but not the second (apart from the presence of my wife).
I began reading Life of Pi some years ago but abandoned it half way through not that gripped. The film was a much better experience. It's much more concise and brilliantly presented, the 3D only enhancing the experience. I liked the fact it is very different, thought provoking and positive. I ahve written a review which I hope will appear in ET next month.
As for the appropriately named Les Miserables, well that's another book I never finsihed for starters. It is again filmed well and is an amazing effort but it was mostly lost on me I'm afraid. We were so close to the imax screen that it hindered rather than helped and I'm not a fan of musicals anyway. After Anne Hathaway's demise I grew increasingly bored with this film and it took all my effort not to urge Jean Valjean to get on with it as hids final demise approached. I went in a very positive frame but just didn't get it. Everyone else was clearly moved by the sad bits and laughed at the funny bits (take it from me Sacha Baron Cohen was not funny and Helena B-C can't sing). Some even clapped at the end. At least I won't have to sit through the stageplay.

Lord's Day January 13 2013

I preached yesterday in the morning on false teachers from 2 Peter 2:1-3. This was a return to the series that I began towards the end of last year. I had thought of returning to Numbers in the evening but the point we have come to covers too simialr ground to the morning sermon and so we  had a one off from a text I found in 2 Kings 18:3, 4 which is really about dealing with idols. We had tea together before the evening service, which is always a nice time. Numbers were quite good even though most of the students are back in college. A number of others were away for various reasons. Last Sunday I was preaching Aberystwyth. I'd meant to write p some sort of report but with the Carey Conference I was too busy.

Carey Conference 2013 08

The final session was a conference sermon from Steven Curry. He spoke from 2 Corinthians 12 and made the following points.
1. The Reluctance in Paul's boasting
Paul recognises that boasting is foolish, unspiritual and worldly but still boasts.
2. The Necessity of Paul's boasting
It was prompted by the Super apostles abuse of the Corinthians who were so drawn to them and so were in danger.
3. The Content of Paul's boasting
1 Effort he made 2 Persecutions he experienced 3 Hardships he faced 4 Burden he carried
4. The irony of Paul's boasting
5. The experience that shaped Paul's boasting
From the beginning his experience in the fish basket at Damascus convinced him that weakness was vital.
6. The conviction behind Paul's boasting
When the Christian is weak then he is strong. Our weaknesses are an advantage. God's power is made perfect in weakness.

Carey Conference 2013 07

Mike Reeves took us finally to that towering figure Jonathan Edwards. After a passing reference to Edwards History of the work of redemption he focused on two books by Edwards The Religious Affections and The End for which the world was created. This paper was again full of rich nuggets. I especially liked his reference to God's grace, which too often is thought as a thing (as when Romanists think of Mary as Full of grace in the sense that she is topped up with it and can dispense it rather than as the recipient of God's love and favour). He also recommended skipping over the first part of The End for which and going straight to the second part. The whole presentation was again marked by a mastery of the subject, infectious enthusiasm and attractive presentation.
Some sample quotations from Edwards
The Devil once seemed to be religious from fear of torment: Luke 8:28 - "When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not." Here is external worship. The Devil is religious; he prays - he prays in a humble posture; he falls down before Christ, he lies prostrate; he prays earnestly, he cries with a loud voice; he uses humble expressions - "I beseech Thee, torment me not;" he uses respectful, honourable, adoring expressions - "Jesus, Thou Son of God most high." Nothing was wanting but LOVE.”
True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections, love for Christ and joy in him.”
He that is once brought to see, or rather to taste, the superlative loveliness of the Divine Being, will need no more to make him long after the enjoyment of God, to make him rejoice in the happiness of God, and to desire that this supremely excellent Being may be pleased and glorified And if this be true, then the main ground of true love to God is the excellency of His own nature, and not any benefit we have received, or hope to receive, by His goodness to us.”

Carey Conference 2013 06

Mike Reeves' second session was on the Puritan Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He gave some brief biographical background, pointing out that Sibbes saw that big problem not just outward sins but matters of the heart (see The Tender Heart). He gave us some great quotations
“There is more grace in Christ, than there is sin in us!” “When we are drawn therefore to duties … with foreign motives, for fear, or out of custom, with extrinsic motives, and not from a new nature, this is not from the Spirit. This performance is not from the true liberty of the Spirit. For the liberty of the Spirit is, when actions come off naturally without force of fear or hope, or any extrinsic motive. A child needs not extrinsic motives to please his father. When he knows he is the child of a loving father, it is natural.”
“Many say that an adamant cannot be melted with fire, but by blood. I cannot tell whether this be true or no; but I am sure nothing will melt the hard heart of man but the blood of Christ.”
“As when things are cold we bring them to the fire to heat and melt, so bring we our cold hearts to the fire of the love of Christ; consider we of our sins against Christ, and of Christ’s love towards us; dwell upon this meditation. Think what great love Christ hath shown unto us, and how little we have deserved, and this will make our hearts to melt, and be as pliable as wax before the sun … If thou wilt have this tender and melting heart, then … be always under the sunshine of the gospel.”
“The papists, after they have been at their superstitious devotion, are fittest for powder-plots and treasons, because their hearts are so much more hardened.”
“What will come of it if Christ be set in the highest place in our heart? If we crown him there, and make him 'King of kings and Lord of lords,' in a hearty submitting of all the affections of the soul to him? While the soul continues in that frame it cannot be drawn to sin, discomfort, and despair. The honours, pleasures, and profits that are got by base engagements to the humours of men, what are these to Christ? When the soul is rightly possessed of Christ and of his excellency, it disdains that anything should come in competition with him.”

Carey Conference 2013 05

Our second session today was led by David Skull and was on The call to holiness in a hostile society. Focusing on 1 Peter 1:14-16 but drawing on verses throughout the letter, he gave a clear well thought through call to progressive sanctification.

Carey Conference 2013 04

The first session this morning was John Stevens of FIEC on Light for our nation
1. The spiritual state of our nation

formally Christian but functionally atheist 
  • Decline of Christian belief
  • Collective failure of church to stand firm for the gospel
  • Irrelevance of the historical Constitutional Settlement
  • Impact of empirical pluralism
  • Implausibility of Christian sexual immorality
  • Lack of belief in eternal judgement
  • Influence of the media
  • Collapse of Christian cultural influence
  • Rise of secularism as an ideology
  • Marginalisation and privatisation of the church
  • Subtle persecution of Christians and the church

2. Theological Models for the Mission of the Church in Relation to the State

Tim Keller (Centre Church) common approaches

  • Transformationist (Presbyterian)
  • Relevance (Anglican)
  • Counterculturalist (Baptist)
  • Two Kingdoms (Stevens – in modified form)

3. How is God at work in his World?

  • Purpose in creation (Gn 1:28)
  • Two kingdoms (Ac 26:18, Ep 2:2, 6:10-20, Col 1:13)
  • Absolutely sovereign over government and rulers (Dan 4:25, Jn 19:11, Ex 9:16, Isa 45:13)
  • Judges people by handing them over to sin (Rom 1:24-28)
  • Jesus victorious over sin, Satan and death
  • Jesus establishing his kingdom as he reigns in glory (1 Cor 15:25)
  • Entrance into Kingdom by redemption/regeneration (Jn 3:5-8, Col 1:12-14, 1 Co 15:50)
  • Kingdom not present simply because justice is practised
  • Attitude of government to God's people varies (supportive, benign, hostile, oppressive)
  • What is the place of our work in the world? (Gn 1:28, Mt 28:16-20, 1 Cor 15:58)

4. What is the Purpose of Civil Government in the Plan of God?

  • Maximalist, minimalist views of the state
  • Government to maintain civil peace and permit gospel freedom (1 Tim 2:1-7)
  • Government to restrain evil and do good (Rom 13:1-7)
  • Government to enforce justice/Shalom in all dimensions
  • Relationship between state and church
  • Is the state the kingdom or the place of exile?
  • Does the state exist to promote true religion? (Contrast Westminster Confession/1689)
  • Don't put your hope in civil government to bring salvation
  • Function of the state in a plural society (Neutrality between communities? Privilege one and limit freedom for others?)

5. What is our Mission to Our Nation?

  • Distinction between mission and effect
  • Not to regain former national glory
  • Not to impose mere morality or Christian values (1 Cor 5:9-13)
  • Not to secure our own comfort
  • Not to secure psychological support for our faith
  • But to make disciples who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and live in obedience to him

6. How Can We Accomplish Our Mission?

  • Plural approaches
  • Persistent Prayer
  • Plausibility of the gospel
  • Prophetic Proclamation
  • Persuasive Influence
  • Practice Civil Disobedience
  • Persevere in the face of Persecution
  • Political Activism?
  • Prioritisation
  • Poportionate Reaction

7. What is The Task of Church Leaders?

  • Eph 4:11-13, Tit 2:1-15
  • Enable people to understand the times
  • Encourage realistic expectations
  • Equip to serve God in ordinary vocations
  • Empower to be faithful witnesses
8. Approaching the Next Fifty Years
  • Don't be like Hezekiah!
  • Take the klong view
  • Take heart from church history
  • Is our culture on the cusp of a major shift?
  • Beware of a revived Romanism
  • Be encouraged that churches are growing

9. Conclusion

Romans 1:16
Further reading:
Keller, Centre Church; Grudem, Politics according to the Bible; De Young & Gilbert, WHat is the Mission of the Church?; VanDrunen, Living in God's Two Kingdoms; J D Hunter, To Change the world; Spencer & Chaplin, God and government; Carson, Christ and CUlture Revisited; Pearcy, Total Truth.


Carey Conference 2013 03

Mike Reeves spoke tonight on the church father Athanasius. His main point was that “Athansius shows us why we cannot be abstract in our God talk”. Athanasius says “Therefore it is more pious and more accurate to signify God from the Son and call Him Father, than to name Him from His works only and call Him Unoriginate.”
Mike also quoted others
“We ought in the very order of things [in creation] diligently to contemplate God’s fatherly love… [for as] a foreseeing and diligent father of the family he shows his wonderful goodness toward us…. To conclude once for all, whenever we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, let us at the same time bear in mind that… we are indeed his children, whom he has received into his faithful protection to nourish and educate…. So, invited by the great sweetness of his beneficence and goodness, let us study to love and serve him with all our heart.”
"I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners. And secretly if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly I was angry with God". Because not knowing God as a kind and loving Father, as a God who brings us close, he found he could not love God. This was an unlovely god. But do you know what he did? Who did he love instead? He had to love someone, we all do. Mary. The saints. He turned anywhere but God. He prayed to them, and actually felt real warm affection for St. Anne and Mary, those were the only ones he could be close to. They seemed kind, unlike God. That all changed when he began to see the fatherhood of God. And looking back later in life he said that as a monk he had not been worshipping the right God. For he said it is not enough to know God as the Creator and the Judge, only when God is known as a loving Father is he known aright.
"In these three articles God himself has revealed and opened to us the most profound depths of his fatherly heart, his sheer, unutterable love. He created us for this very purpose, to redeem and sanctify us. Moreover, having bestowed upon us everything in heaven and on earth, he has given us his Son and his Holy Spirit, through whom he brings us to himself. As we explained before, we could never come to recognise the Father’s favour and grace were it not for the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the Father’s heart. Apart from him we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But neither could we know anything of Christ, had it not been revealed by the Holy Spirit.”
If God had not a communicative, spreading goodness, he would never have created the world. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were happy in themselves, and enjoyed one another before the world was. But that God delights to communicate and spread his goodness, there had never boon a creation nor a redemption. God useth his creatures, not for defect of power, that he can do nothing without them, but for the spreading of his goodness; and thereupon comes all the subordination of one creature to another, and all to him.

Carey Conference 2013 02

Our second paper at Carey this year was from Professor Andy McIntosh who spoke on reaching people today on the matter of creation.
He had three points
1. What is 21st Century culture?
He spoke of postmodernism and atheism and all the other aspects of the general culture around us. He highlighted two quotations from scientists, for it is on scientists that postmoderns ironically lean to bolster their case.
“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.” Lawrence M Krauss
(Lawrence Maxwell Krauss is a Canadian-American theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is a professor of physics, Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University.)
"Evolution is unique amongst the sciences because it strikes people in the solar plexus of their faith; it strikes them in the idea that they are specially created by God, because evolution says you're not. It says that there is no special purpose for your life, because it's a naturalistic philosophy, we have no more extrinsic purpose than a squirrel or an armadillo. And it says that morality does not come from God, it's an evolved phenomenon. And those are three things that are really hard for humans to accept, particularly those brought up in a religious tradition." Jerry Coyne
(Jerry Allen Coyne is an American professor of biology, known for his commentary on the intelligent design debate. A prolific scientist, he has published dozens of papers, elucidating on the theory of evolution.)
Having established the basic anti-biblical mindset that prevails today he went on to deal with the particular subject of
2. Where do you put death and suffering?
He began by speaking about theistic evolutionists attempt to avoid this issue but by quotation of several Scriptures was able to demonstrate that there is both a spiritual and a physical death and that sin comes first. He ended this section with a quotation from Al Mohler
"What is most lacking in the evangelical movement today is a consideration of the theological cost of holding to an old earth position. The position seems to be at an insoluble collision with the redemptive historical narrative of the Gospel. The cost to the Christian church, in terms of ignoring this question or abandoning the discussion, is just too high. The cost of confronting this question is also costly. It can be very expensive because it can create intensity and conflict and controversy, but I would suggest that the avoidance of this will be at the cost of our own credibility."
3. Authority and true history
Dr McIntosh closed with more biblical material, underlining the biblical truth of creation. He began with New Testament references to creation being through Christ and moved on to the resurrection and nature miracles to remind us of the power of God in Christ. He also went directly to the whole issue of 24 hour days and the old chestnuts about the sun being created on the fourth day and 2 Peter 3:8.
He closed with charts on the Bible's chronology, the only religious text with a coherent chronology.
This worthwhile session focused only on biblical matters rather than science. Although Dr McIntosh was very thorough and said nothing objectionable, I wonder if it might be better for him to speak about science rather than the Bible, although his scientific background does give him a certain leverage and it was good to hear him.