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.

Painting at the National Gallery

I saw this sign at the National Gallery recently (double click)

EMA 2013 Day 3

A combination of events today meant that I only caught the session with Garry Williams. So I missed both main Mark Dever sessions somehow and only caught his seminar, which I now see is all pretty much written out here. The irony is that it was Dever's presence that helped me decide to come. That and the opportunity to meet people. I particularly enjoyed spending an hour with my friend Paul Pease from Hook. What a good bloke.
So, Garry Williams. He was given the history slot and looked at Augustine's City of God by briefly surveying Augustine's life and background then giving us an anatomy of the cities of God and earth and three applications. Garry is not as hip as Mike Reeves (no dead white guys here, rather references to amateur dramatics and secondary authors) but he is able to read big books and succinctly synthesise and summarise them and that is quite a skill. Simply to hear someone in this context say that we need theologians not pragmatists is a breath of fresh air. It would be interesting to know what members of the state church (half the people there were Anglicans) thought of his contention that the state is not neutral.
The anatomy
1. Only unfallen angels and saved people are in the City of God. All others are outside of it.
2. Both cities manifest themselves in different ways down the years of history.
3. Satan is behind the earthly city.
4. Both cities are driven by love - love for God or love for self.
5. You can, therefore, rightly understand the earthly city as being dominated by disordered love. He added that Augustine believed that all created things are innately good. Satan creates nothing he only destroys. By nature it is as if man is hanging upside down.
6. The earthly city is divided against itself. Self-idolisation means everyone wants to be God and so the lust for dominion means peace is impossible.
7. The earthly city ends in eternal death.
The application
1. There is no neutral ground and so we must expect conflict.
2. Don't pin your hopes on this world.
3. Where is the earthly city? Out there but we are not without sin and the need for grace and repentance is constant.
So a good conference on the whole. The venue just about works. I'd hate to think what they are paying for it (they charged us £82 more than you will pay for next week at the Met Tab). It is all set for next year too and you can book now. I've already forgotten the memorable title they've chosen. (I can't see many people paying £6 for the lunches next year if they are not improved). Dominated by non-Anglicans and in a neutral venue, the claim that this is not an Anglican conference looked stronger than ever this year. As with all conferences, the best thing about it is the chance to meet old friends and new which I very much enjoyed.

EMA 2013 Day 2

I only got three of the four sessions yesterday, having to leave early and so missing Mark Dever at the end of the day. I was there for the other sessions, though. Vaughan Roberts started the day again from 1 Peter on submission, service and a little bit again on suffering. Thoroughly prepared and eager to be a blessing Vaughan Roberts' expositions have been one of the best streams and I am sorry to be missing his final session this morning. I liked his retelling of how it is when you ask men and women how their marriages are doing. Men usually say "fine" but then you ask the wife she says "well ...". I'm sure that is true to life.
The second session was Rico Tice (vying with Dan Strange for the worst dressed speaker award). One can't help liking Rico's enthusiasm and passion for evangelism and his self-dismissiveness is attractive, though it can be overdone. It is especially good to hear an evangelist saying we must speak about the wrath of God. Also, last time I heard Rico he was emphasising the need for the Sunday morning preacher to advertise the small groups whereas this time he said preachers must preach Christ crucified. Most fun confession: I was so miffed I went and bought a Magnum. Silliest statement: Shepherds don't give birth to sheep, sheep do. What?!! Rico is well known for his enthusiasm for small group work. His latest craze is one to one work. Apparently Uncovered has gone down a storm in UCCF circles and among the cognoscenti is seen as the new way forward. It was a bit of a deja vu moment for me as I remember being told that small group was the panacea for all ills. My fear is that unintentionally or not this just further demotes preaching as commonly understood. For that to happen at a conference organised by a group that says it is "unashamed to recall ministers to the work of Biblical preaching and teaching, believing that this alone will equip the saints for the work of ministry" may well be out of place.
In the afternoon we had our seminar stream. Jago Wynne, a former management consultant (no, nor me), who has written on the subject, spoke about Christianity in the work place. This was okay, although I was sorry to hear that old mistake repeated that work is worship. He may have been misled by a desire for alliteration (with work and witness) but one fears a deeper theological misunderstanding. On the whole it was fine though. The idea that pastors could spend a week "workshadowing" members did make me laugh a bit. It is amazing what ideas people can come up with. I think the problem is not beginning with the Bible, which never suggests to ministers to go to the work place of their flock (though it might well have happened anyway).

EMA 2013 Day 1

This year's Proclamation Trust Evangelical Ministry Assembly is in the Barbican for the first time. There are some disadvantages to the venue besides its unfamiliarity but the idea of getting 1250 people in one room is attractive and as we get used to it I'm sure it will grow on us. The EMA tried to break out a few years ago to Westminster Central Hall but then retrenched to St Helen's where only 850 can be catered for.
Day 1 included three plenary sessions and an afternoon seminar stream. Vaughan Roberts was the token Anglican for the day (how things change) kicking us off with  the first 12 verses of 1 Peter.
Dan Strange then took us to the strange world of cultural studies and how we engage with m modern man. One sometimes fears a lot of work is being done to get to some fairly obvious points but it overall it is pretty stimulating. His enter, explore, expose, evangelise paradigm is good and the need for subversion and fulfilment in preaching was most interesting.
In the afternoon I chose to hear Mark Dever on ministry in  changing world. That was very good. He gave us the option of Q & A or coffee next. I was one of only two who voted for coffee and so we had an okay bit of interaction to close.
The final session was Paul Mallard on Colossians 1:9-14, which like the rest of the day was okay. Indeed okay sums it up for me. Being a grumpy old man, lots of things annoyed me (having a singer with a microphone to lead the singing, out of sync videos, students reading the Scriptures badly instead of letting the man who was about to preach on it, the lack of EP books on the bookstall, etc) but I am wise enough to let those go.
What is sad, however, is firstly the way conferences lose their edge. I remember the early days of EMA when you had Dick Lucas, Australians we had never heard and, above all, an eagerness to carefully expound Scripture. Obviously things move on but one can't help feeling that, like most conferences, it is now a matter of filling slots with good material rather than anything more inspired.
More disturbing is the whole matter of preaching. There was a moment at the end of Vaughan Roberts address where a strange thing happened. First, he quoted Lloyd-Jones (that's rare enough at EMA). Then, he actually preached (from the heart as he would say). I have heard him say before that he is unhappy with being called a Bible teacher. He wants to preach. And for those few minutes, and to some extent before,  that is what he did. As the Lloyd-Jones quote goes, the man gave me an idea of the glory of God and that was worth the whole of the rest of the day.
I should add that a conference is always more then the sessions. It was good to see many people. With some there was time for just a wave but it was good to chat at some length with others, including two people in particular who have faced recent deaths in the family.
So we'll see what we get today and hopefully I'll share it later.

Old Technology 03

Two things came together rather well last week. I managed to track down a copy of a 1985 vinyl record by a German guitar duo called Les Deux Amis playing Focus classics recently and it arrived the day after I brought my son home from Cardiff Uni with his little record player. So last week there I was doing something I haven't done in a while - playing an LP.
It soon came back to me. Carefully remove piece of plastic from its cardboard cover and paper sleeve, making sure not to touch the surface. Pop the record on the turntable place the needle and out comes the music.
There's quite a bit of crackle and the listening experience is not as good as CD and mp3 I think. You have no pause button so interruptions are a pain. I do like that thought - when side one finishes I'll make a cuppa. You also feel reluctant to skip tracks for fear of causing damage.
The album itself is very satisfactory. All the early Focus classics are given the classical guitar treatment with a little bit of Bach thrown in for good measure at one point.

Old Technology 02

My wife drew my attention to this ( I think it's quite old)

Old Technology 01

It is common to mock older people struggling with modern technology but I came across two examples recently of young people who just don't quite understand old technology.
The first example was a teenager using a cassette tape and not realising that such an item needs to be rewound to the beginning in order to record onto it.
In the second example I may be being unfair but a teenager I know was not only trying to drink a hot drink straight from a vacuum flask but he also didn't know quite where the liquid would come out and so got tea all over him.

That George North try

I was sorry that the Lions match wasn't on terrestrial TV. That George North try was worth seeing!

Old Baptist Chapel Bradford on Avon

I was in Bradford on Avon preaching yesterday. Eleri's sister and her family are members there and over the years we've got to know some members a little and so when I go to preach there it's pretty much home from home. These things are difficult to gauge but I always feel that much prayer has gone up for the preaching and that is such a blessing to know. We left here around eight and had a straight forward journey there, arriving in time for the 11 O'clock service. I preached from 1 Corinthians 2. We had a lovely time with Catrin and Ian in the afternoon and then I preached again at 6.30 pm from Romans 3:23. We were home by 11 pm. Good day.

Lord's Day June 16 2013

We had communion yesterday evening. About 20 were present in the main evening meeting. Having come to the end of Numbers, I thought it would be good to look at a single text in a more evangelistic way. We considered John 12:48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. In the morning we were looking at the next part of 1 Corinthians, bringing us into the early part of Chapter 6 and the part about not taking brothers to the law courts. One feature of the day was the arrival of two quite different women. Let's call them Fatima and Linda (not their names). Fatima is not a professing believer. She arrived early to the morning service and was in deep distress about her spiritual state. It is not clear what was at the root of this. We spoke to her as best we could. Linda is a professing believer but I am sure we were not what she was looking for. Indeed, in conversation it was quite a surprise to learn how unorthodox she is on some things. I am assuming that we will not see either next Lord's Day but who knows? What a joy if we do.

Life in Bible Times Conference

We had an encouraging get together in church this morning. David Green and Robert Strivens spoke on Bible background from the Old and New Testaments respectively. We must have had around 25 there - our own folk and visitors from other churches. We are very thankful to both speakers and all who came and all who helped organise.

Masculine Mandate

It's Father's Day tomorrow and I notice that The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips is downloadable for free until the end of the month. See here.

10 Groups of five

1. Five digits (thumb, index, middle, ring and little fingers)
2. Five senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing)
3. Five oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, Antarctic)
4. Five great lakes (“HOMES” - Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)
5. Five books of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
6. Five Marx brothers (Chico [Leonard], Harpo [Adolph which he changed to Arthur], Groucho [Julius Henry], Gummo [Milton], Zeppo [Herbert])
7. Five reigning monarchs of the House of Tudor (Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward, Elizabeth, Mary)
8. Five Halogens (Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine, Astatine)
9. Traditional Cinque Ports (Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover, Sandwich)
10. Five basketball positions (Point guard, Shooting guard, Small forward, Power forward, Centre Forward)

Living in God's Two Kingdoms

If you think I'm not reading Christian books any more, that is not the case. I'm just finishing David VanDrunen's Living in God's Two Kingdoms. On Monday we will be discussing it at the Theological Study Group at the John Owen Centre. This is a rewrite of the professor of systematic theology and ethics at Westminster Seminary California's thesis and makes for interesting and persuasive reading. As he suggest many Christians probably work on the basis he advocates. I found it quite persuasive, although being ignorant of some of the issues I'm sure there are flaws with some of his arguments.
The “two kingdoms” approach to Christianity and culture is grounded in creation and what believers hold in common with unbelievers, not to do with eschatology as transformationists prefer.
After a survey of the current scene VanDrunen divides his book into three parts. First, in First Things and Last Things he expounds biblical teaching on Adam’s role in God’s plan and how Jesus fulfils that role as the last Adam. Redemption is not “creation regained” but “re-creation gained”. Believers do not now take up Adam’s task and do it right but celebrate the fact Christ has accomplished the task.
Next in Living in Babylon we look at sojourning in the Old and New Testaments. We live in both the “common kingdom” of the Noahic covenant and the “redemptive kingdom” established through the Abrahamic covenant.
Part Three, Christian Life in Two Kingdoms explores the practical application of his theological vision. Chapter 6 discusses the role of the church in the Christian life (corporate worship, ethics, ministerial authority, etc). Chapter 7 looks at the two kingdoms idea in the areas of education, vocation and politics.

The Portrait

Having read one of Iain Pears' novels recently I popped along to my local library to see what they had and took out a paperback of The Portrait which was okay, though Mr Pears doesn't make it easy for himself by giving the whole narrative in the first person soliloquy of an artist as he paints a portrait of an art critic. There's a nice twist towards the end although when you think about an artist painting a critic there can only be one likely ending. By the way I should urge caution on anyone deciding to read it. My main difficulty I guess with reading it was not knowing enough about art. When Mr Pears mixes fact and fiction I'm not sure which is which. Anyway he hasn't put me off and I'll probably read another of his novels some time. 

The Etymologicon

When I saw a hardback copy of Mark Forsyth's book on etymology going half price last Christmas in Aber I couldn't resist. Etymology is one of those subjects that I find irresistible. Forsyth has found his own persona (not one that is always appreciated by this reader) and that makes for easy reading as he leaps from subject to subject.
The book is written in such a ways that the last section brings you back to the very first. I couldn't really remember where we had come in to be honest by the end of the book but that is my poor recall rather than Forsyth's poor writing. Because of the way the book is written, however, there is no way of finding a half remembered reference, sadly. Forsyth's blog is here and if etymology is your thing also check this out.

Pop goes the weasel

I enjoyed reading the other week Albert Jack's 2010 paperback Pop Goes the Weasel, which explores interesting histories behind some 189 nursery rhymes, most of which I had heard of before. he also has a final section on traditional songs and anthems, for good measure.
I'm in my element with a book like this so I'm always surprised at how little I know. I suppose things are being discovered from time to time and take a while to get into books. So if you want to know who is Mary Quite Contrary or Georgie Porgie, why the cow jumped over the moon, this is the book for you.
So many of these rhymes refer back to the Wars of the roses and the Tudor and Stuart periods that I wondered if they could have been arranged chronologically but there is always some other theory on most of the rhymes and so that is not possible. Full of interest for the curious.

10 Groups of Four

1. Four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

2. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Famine, Pestilence, Death)

3. Four Rivers in connection with Eden (Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, Euphrates)

4. Four Points of the compass (N, S, E, W)

5. Four seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter)

6. Four Suits of playing cards (Hearts, Diamonds, Spades, Clubs)

7. Four UK home nations (Wales, England, Scotland, N Ireland)

8. Four States of matter (Solid, Gas, Liquid, Plasma)

9. Four main blood types (A, B, AB, 0)

10. The Beatles (John, Paul, George, Ringo)

10 Shortest Psalms

1. Psalm 117 (2 verses)

2. Psalm 134 (3 verses, 49 words AV)

3. Psalm 131 (3 verses, 66 words AV)

4. Psalm 133 (3 verses, 75 words AV)

5. Psalm 123 (4 verses)

6. Psalm 93 (5 verses, 92 words AV)

7. Psalm 15 (5 verses, 103 words AV)

8. Psalm 125 (5 verses, 112 words AV)

9. Psalm 70 (5 verses, 114 words AV)

10. Psalm 127 (5 verses, 116 words AV)

[Psalm 43 has 5 verses and 130 words]

10 Shortest Chapters in the New Testament

1. Revelation 15 (8)

2. 1 Thessalonians 1 (10 [387])

3. 1 John 1 (10 [500])

4. Revelation 4 (11 [338])

5. Revelation 10 (11 [343])

6. 2 Thessalonians 1 (12)

7. 1 Corinthians 13 (13 [258])

8. 1 Corinthians 8 (13 [297])

9. 2 Corinthians 13 (13 [302])

10. 1 Corinthians 5 (13 [309])

10 Shortest Chapters in the Old Testament

1. Psalm 117 (2 vv)

2. Esther 10 (3 vv)

3. Psalm 131, 133, 134 (3 vv each)

4. Psalm 123 (4 vv)

5. Psalm 15, 43, 70, 93, 125, 127 (5 vv each)

6. Jeremiah 45, Hosea 3 (5 vv each)

7. Job 25, Psalm 1,13, 23, 53, 126, 128, 150 (6 vv each)

8. Isaiah 4, 12, 20, Malachi 4 (6 vv each)

9. Psalm 11, 14, 54, 67, 87, 110, 120, 142 (7 vv each)

10. Isaiah 18, Jeremiah 47 (7 vv each)

10 Shortest Books in the Bible

l. 3 John --- 1 chapter, 14 verses, 299 words 
2. 2 John --- 1 chapter, 13 verses, 303 words
3. Philemon --- 1 chapter, 25 verses, 445 words
4. Jude --- 1 chapter, 25 verses, 613 words
5. Obadiah --- 1 chapter, 21 verses, 670 words
6. Titus --- 3 chapters, 46 verses, 921 words
7. 2 Thessalonians ---3 chapters, 47 verses, 1042 words
8. Haggai --- 2 chapters, 38 verses, 1131 words
9. Nahum --- 3 chapters, 47 verses, 1285 words
10. Jonah --- 4 chapters, 48 verses, 1321 words

NT Hapax Legomena List

Hapax legomena are words that only occur once.
Ranked in order it goes (
according to this source)

1. Acts 326

2. Luke 221

3. Hebrews 126

4. Romans 113

5. 1 Corinthians 110

6. 2 Corinthians 99

7. Matthew 89

8. 2 Timothy 82

9. Revelation 74

10. John 68

(A second ten:
Mark 67; I Pet. 62; II Pet. 54; II Tim./James both 53; Eph. 43; Phil. 41; Col. 38; Gal. 34, Tit. 33;
The other seven:
I Thess. 23, Jude 14, II Thess. 11, Philem. 5, 3 John 2; 1 John/2 John 1 each)
You might also enjoy this YouTube clip

Etymology and the Psalms

1. Placebo (n) Early 13c., name given to the rite of Vespers of the Office of the Dead, so called from the opening of the first antiphon, "I will please the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 114:9), from Latin placebo "I shall please," future indicative of placere "to please". Medical sense first recorded 1785 "a medicine given more to please than to benefit the patient." Placebo effect attested from 1950.

2. Pony (v) 1824, in pony up "to pay," of uncertain origin. OED says from pony (n.), but not clear how. Other sources suggest from slang use of Latin legem pone to mean "money" (first recorded 16c.), because this was the title of the Psalm for March 25, a Quarter Day and the first payday of the year. Psalm 119:3 begins Legem pone michi domine viam iustificacionum "Teach me, O Lord, the ways of thy statutes".

3. Dirge (n) early 13c., dirige (current contracted form is from c.1400), from Latin dirige "direct!" imperative of dirigere "to direct," probably from antiphon Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam, "Direct, O Lord, my God, my way in thy sight," from Psalm 5:9, which opened the Matins service in the Office of the Dead. Transferred sense of "any funeral song" is from c.1500.

4. Golem (n) "artificial man, automaton," 1897, from Hebrew golem [Psalm 139:16] "shapeless mass, embryo," from galam "he wrapped up, folded."

5. Memento (n) c.1400, "Psalm 131 in the Canon of the Mass" (which begins with the Latin word Memento and in which the dead are commemorated), from Latin memento "remember," imperative of meminisse "to remember, recollect, think of, bear in mind," a reduplicated form, related to mens "mind". Meaning "reminder, object serving as a warning" is from 1580s; sense of "keepsake" is first recorded 1768.

6. Asperges (n) 1550s, from Latin asperges, 2nd person singular future indicative of aspergere "to scatter, strew upon, sprinkle," from ad "to" + spargere "to sprinkle". The word is taken from the phrase Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo et mundabor, from Psalm 51 (Vulgate), sung during the rite of sprinkling a congregation with holy water.

7. Brouhaha (n) 1890, from French brouhaha (1550s), said by Gamillscheg to have been, in medieval theatre, "the cry of the devil disguised as clergy." Perhaps from Hebrew barukh habba' "blessed be the one who comes," used on public occasions (eg Psalm 118).

8. Miserere (n) 13c., from Miserere mei Deus "Have mercy upon me, O God," opening line of Psalm 51, from Latin miserere "feel pity, have compassion, commiserate," imperative of misereri "to have mercy," from miser. From 15c.-17c. used as an informal measure of time, "the time it takes to recite the Miserere." Also in miserere mei "kind of severe colic ('iliac passion') accompanied by excruciating cramps and vomiting of excrement" (1610s), literally "have mercy on me."

9. Overjoy (v) late 14c., "to rejoice over," from over + joy; translating Latin supergaudere (in Psalms 34, etc.). Transitive sense of "to fill with gladness" is first recorded 1570s (now usually in past participle overjoyed).

10. Iron entered his soul - this is from Miles Coverdale's mistranslation of the Psalm 105, which includes But he had sent a man before them: even Joseph, who was sold to be a bond-servant Whose feet they hurt in the stocks : the iron entered into his soul. It is beautiful but wrong. It should be his neck was put in irons. The Hebrew word nefesh can mean breath or neck, because that's where you do most of your breathing. Metaphorically it can mean soul because your breath is your soul.

Lord's Day June 9 2013

We had lunch together yesterday as we do from time to time. Always a good time, although numbers were down rather on this occasion. Some were unwell and one or two were away and although the were some visitors not all stayed. In the morning I preached chiefly on church disciplines from 1 Corinthians  5 and then in the evening some 16 were present to hear the last of the series on Numbers 36, considering our heritage in Christ. One unusual thing was four little girls in the Sunday School. I can't remember when we had so many girls around.

The nervous nineties

In the news today were two separate items about famous men in their nineties currently in hospital. We wish them well.

I went by

Being in that part of Newport again the other day reminded me of the Jools Holland/Louise Marshall song of a few years ago. I took photos and intended to make a video like this one but never got round to it. Holland apparently wrote it after a concert one night in Newport and hearing a couple arguing.

Novelists 28 George Meredith

George Meredith (1828-1909) is not a popular writer today and I certainly have not read anything by him. He was born in Portsmouth. His mother died when he was five and at 14 he was sent to a Moravian School in Germany for two years. He read law and was articled as a solicitor but abandoned that for journalism and poetry. He collaborated with Edward Peacock (son of Thomas Love Peacock) on a privately circulated literary magazine and married Peacock's 28 year old widowed sister Mary Ellen Nicolls (1849). He collected his early writings, first published in periodicals, into Poems, published to some acclaim 1851. In 1856 he posed as the model for The Death of Chatterton by Pre-Raphaelite Henry Wallis. His wife ran off with Wallis, 1858, and died three years later. His collection of "sonnets" Modern Love came of this experience as did his first major novel The Ordeal of Richard Feverel.
He married Marie Vulliamy (1864) and settled in Surrey, continuing to write novels and poetry. He had a keen understanding of comedy and his Essay on Comedy (1877) is still quoted in discussions of the history of comic theory. In The Egoist (1879) he applies some of his theories of comedy. This work and others also highlight the subjugation of women during the Victorian period. During most of his career, he had difficulty achieving popular success. His first truly successful novel was Diana of the Crossways (1885).
He supplemented his often uncertain writer's income with a job as a publisher's reader and had many friends in the literary world. He succeeded Tennyson as president of the Society of Authors (1905) and was appointed OM by King Edward VII.

Marshall Lytle

I thought the death of Marshall Lytle, bass player with Bill Haley and the Comets, at the end of May (he was 79) was a good excuse to put this up from 1955. The bassist developed a lively stage presence, throwing his bass into the air, lifting it over his shoulder and riding it like a horse. The group landed their biggest hit in 1955 after a version of their classic recording of "Rock Around the Clock" appeared in the opening credits of the movie Blackboard Jungle.

Truth at any cost

Truth at all costs or Truth at any cost is the printed version of the Westminster Conference for last year. It contains all six papers. It can be obtained for £7.50. This year's conferences is on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th December 2013.
1662 and All That
Lee Gatiss
Wales and Three Eminent Ejectees
Andrew A Davies
Hagiography and History
Andrew Atherstone
Blaise Pascal: Truth through the Mind and the Heart
David Gregson
Christian Attitudes to Islam: an Historical Survey
Roger W Welch
Henry Martyn: Pioneer Missionary
Peter Law

National Gallery Seurat

We've reached the Post-impressionists and last Tuesday we headed again to the National Gallery. We looked at a Van Gogh chair and Cezanne's bathers but the bulk of the time was spent looking at Bathers at Asnieres by Georges Seurat. The first thing you notice about it is its size. It is a massive picture. By now we are used to pictures of all sorts of things but in 1884 this was not an expected subject - a bunch of workers enjoying a rest on the river bank. It apparently took two years to paint and was not greeted with great enthusiasm, never being sold in Seurat's short life time. It is undoubtedly a great painting, however, and to hear an expert talk about it and to spend some time just looking at it was a joy and an education. The boy in the water appears to be whistling or making a duck call. Is that aimed at some creature in the water but out of shot. The dog and the other human figures seem to be looking that way. In the distance a boat can be seen with a lady and gentleman being rowed by a man. The woman appears to be hiding from her view the working class types in the main picture by strategic use of a white parasol. Factories can be seen in the distance. Seurat had a colour theory that involved placing colours next to each other so that the paint is not mixed on the palette, rather the eye does the mixing. He went on to develop pointillism. That is what gives the picture its incredible sunniness. As I looked at the picture the geometric shapes began to stand out - straight lines, circles and triangles. The more one looks the more one sees.

The Docrines of Grace in an Unexpected Place

It was a great joy to be at the Evangelical Library in London last Monday for the 2013 Annual Lecture. It was very encouraging on all fronts. A crowd of may be as many as fifty gathered. The lecture was a blessing in that it was given not only by an expert in his field (the speaker Mark Stevenson completes his PhD in this very subject shortly) but one with the rare ability to give his material in a popular format of just the right length. Given that Brethrenism and especially their Calvinistic leanings is pretty much untrodden ground for most of us, this lecture was something special indeed. Even the question time was excellent with good questions and precise and informative answers. We are so glad that Canadian Mr Stevenson was willing and able to come from the States mainly to give this lecture.
So what was said? Audio CDs are available from the Library and I hope to put the lecture on the website in written form in due time. Meanwhile, to summarise, although the Brethren are not know for their Calvinism there was a distinct Calvinistic bent in their early leaders. Mr Stevenson highlighted this for us by showing firstly their view of the condition of fallen humanity and secondly their view of election or predestination. He focused chiefly on J N Darby but quoted others.
Mark Knoll has described the early Brethren as "unrelentingly Calvinistic". This is seen in Darby's references to the total ruin of man. Man is free to will but not free in his will. See here for a letter from 1872 full of Calvinistic elements. Mr Stevenson also related the fascinating story of a dispute over this matter with D L Moody where Darby came out the more Calvinistic. (Try here for that). William Kelly, commenting of Ephesians 1:3 wrote that " It is when Christ has begun to dawn on the soul that you begin to realise that you have been lying in all that is dark and loathsome, though a glimmer of hope may break through the clouds. You are seriously conscious of evil things to which you were insensible before. This is an effect of God's mighty and gracious operation The thing that was most interesting was the way Darby's Calvinism (if we may call it that) sprang out of his dispensationalism. Darby and others would say they got their doctrines from the Bible but the probably root is in Anglicanism, the 39 Articles being fundamentally Reformed, not Lutheran or Arminian. Arminianism began to eat into Brethrenism in the 1920s.
Perhaps we can finish with a great quote from George Muller (found here)
"Before this period I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption, and final persevering grace; so much so that, a few days after my arrival at Teignmouth, I called election a devilish doctrine. I did not believe that I had brought myself to the Lord, for that was too manifestly false; but yet I held, that I might have resisted finally. And further, I knew nothing about the choice of God's people, and did not believe that the child of God, when once made so, was safe for ever. In my fleshly mind I had repeatedly said, If once I could prove that I am a child of God for ever, I might go back into the world for a year or two, and then return to the Lord, and at last be saved. But now I was brought to examine these precious truths by the word of God. Being made willing to have no glory of my own in the conversion of sinners, but to consider myself merely as an instrument; and being made willing to receive what the Scriptures said; I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths. To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace, were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.
"As to the effect which my belief in these doctrines had on me, I am constrained to state, for God's glory, that though I am still exceedingly weak, and by no means so dead to the lusts of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, as I might and as I ought to be, yet, by the grace of God, I have walked more closely with Him since that period. My life has not been so variable, and I may say that I have lived much more for God than before. And for this have I been strengthened by the Lord, in a great measure, through the instrumentality of these truths. For in the time of temptation, I have been repeatedly led to say: Should I thus sin? I should only bring misery into my soul for a time, and dishonour God; for, being a son of God for ever, I should have to be brought back again, though it might be in the way of severe chastisement. Thus, I say, the electing love of God in Christ (when I have been able to realise it) has often been the means of producing holiness, instead of leading me into sin. It is only the notional apprehension of such truths, the want of having them in the heart, whilst they are in the head, which is dangerous."

Sex Chromosome List

Nearly every cell in the normal human body has 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 in total). One copy of each pair is inherited from the mother, the other from the father. The first 22 pairs (autosomes) are numbered 1 to 22. The 23rd pair are the sex chromosomes. Aneuploidy (chromosome abnormalities) occur in 1 of 160 live births and Down's syndrome is the best known of these. Here is a list of recognised chromosomal arrangements. The list was prompted by discovering that one of our sons is XXY and is drawn from Wikipedia. Many of the conditions are quite rare and knowledge about them is in its infancy. They are not hereditary but happen in the early stages of pregnancy. Numbers 3 and 5 in my list are the normal, expected combinations, which most of us have.

1. YY - such babies never survive to term
2. X - a female with Turner syndrome (c 1 in 2000 live births)
XX - a female (homogametic sex)
4. XXX - a female with a syndrome (c 1 in 1000 live births)
5. XY - a male (heterogametic sex)

6. XXY - a male with Klinefelter syndrome (c 1 in 500 live births)
7. XYY - a male with a syndrome (c 1 in 1000 live births)
8. XXXY - a male with a form of Klinefelter syndrome (c 1 in 50,000 live births)
9. XXYY - a male with a syndrome (1 in 18-40,000)
10. XX/XY - a very rare condition that often leads to intersex problems

Funeral of Graham Harrison

I was in South Wales yesterday for the funeral of Graham Harrison at Emmanuel Church, Newport. I stayed at my sister's in Cwmbran the night before and she accompanied me to the funeral. She was a member of the congregation there for six months many years ago. I was surprised that Emmanuel was big enough to accommodate everyone but there is extra room available and so the 200-250 filled the place but not to overflowing. I was not able to stay for refreshments but it was good to be at the service in the church sat next to Mark Thomas and at the committal at St Woolo's cemetery. Bernard Lewis, the present minister, led the service. It was good to see him and his wife Linda and Ken Brownell and John Palmer present. We were all exact contemporaries at LTS. Robert Strivens read, Wyn Hughes prayed, Trevor McMillen, an elder, gave thanks and Stephen Clark preached. It was all very helpful. Geoff and Iola, my in-laws, gave us a lift to the grave, where, in the sunshine, Neville Rees read, Hywel Jones prayed and Bernard did the committal to the grave where Mr Harrison's father had been buried in 1989. There is something solemn and reassuring about a Christian burial.
There must have been around fifty ministers present all told. It was not possible to speak to everyone I would like to have. It was good to be reminded of Mr Harrison's faithfulness (he was referred to as Mr Harrison throughout). We were reminded of his lack of small talk, his preaching, his sense of humour, his pastoral abilities, his very practical bent and his solidity in a crisis. Digby Williams and John Edmonds, both ministers, grew up at different times in the church. John recalled the day when the old Alma Street was being knocked down and they were meeting in the YMCA. Great days they sounded.
I always find a trip to Newport strange. I was born there but I do not know my way around well. I noticed my Auntie Mavis's grave among the hundreds there in that cemetery. I don't know where the graves of other family members are found.

Lord's Day June 2 2013

Bit late with this because it's been so busy this week. Paul Levy complained somewhere because those he knows who report on their Sundays never seem to have bad ones. I know what he means but for me it's the week days that are bad not the Lord's days. So in the morning we began with communion and that was followed by a sermon on the closing verses of 1 Corinthians 4. My two main points were about "You and your fathers in Christ" and "The danger of arrogance in God's kingdom and how God deals with it". In the evening we came to the penultimate chapter of Numbers and thought about Christ and the cities of refuge.

Prison work

I did something I'd never done before last week - I went into a prison. For many years Gerard Chrispin of CPR has worked with others to reach prisoners and he is currently seeking to hand over some of his responsibilities to others and it was thought possible that I may be involved. This initial visit was an exploratory one. As expected there was an understandable lot of rigmarole with keys and security but once we were all sat down in a circle in the very nice chapel they have in our nearest prison things were pretty straightforward. About 10 of a possible 15 or 20 prisoners turned up and we carried on through the book on Mark's Gospel Mark Time that Gerard has skilfully put together. Brad Franklin led and Gerard and his wife Phillippa were also present on this occasion. We spent much of the morning on the end of Mark 7 to much profit I trust and then adjourned to the Breakout CafĂ© across the road for a post mortem and lunch on Gerard, which can't be bad. So once this art history course is over perhaps this will be taking up my time in future. Watch this space.