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.

Evangelical Times Review of 1662 The Great Ejection

I notice the positive review in ET for October by church historian Dr Robert Oliver
Who governs the church, Jesus Christ or the state? In practical terms, what determines the doctrine and practice of the church? Is it the Bible or is it public opinion? Throughout the long history of the church, Christians have had to face and answer such questions. Once again they have been thrown up by the debate about the nature and character of marriage. It is good to be able to consider the way in which our fathers approached such issues. The record of the legislation of 1660-1662 and its aftermath provides us with such an opportunity. The year 2012 was the 350th anniversary of what has become known as the ‘Great Ejection’, when almost 2000 Puritan pastors and their flocks were forced out of the Church of England because they were unable to submit to unbiblical conditions of service. The theses included acceptance of the divine right and authority of diocesan bishops and an allegiance to the Prayer Book in terms which could only be given to the Bible. Hundreds of men, unable to bow to parliament’s decisions on these issues, were deprived of their charges and compelled to accept the prospect of poverty in a social and political wilderness. Gary Brady has given us a fine account of these events. He explains the issues and discusses the reasons why Puritans, who had only recently seemed so secure in their ministries, were suddenly plunged into a crisis of conscience after 1660. The story moves from the high politics of Charles II’s reign to the very human story of the sacrifices and triumphs of hundreds of Christian people. Lists of excluded ministers are included and may be useful for reference purposes, but the great value is the inspiring way in which the experiences of local churches and their members and ministers are described. This inspiring record should be widely read and studied by Christians today. It is very highly recommended.
Robert W. Oliver

Macbeth at the Globe

Grabbed what was almost the last chance to see Macbeth at The Globe. This was a bog standard Globe production (excellent leads, less sure minor parts) but the play is so powerful in and of itself it didn't need much help. It's the play I know best and for much of it I was mouthing along with the actors. My one lacunae is the important scene between Malcolm and MacDuff before the final denouement. The play and its scenes are endlessly interesting and having read the programme beforehand I picked up on the bird references and the exploration of a marriage that the play includes. Shakespeare's skills with words and in presenting characters with real depth is phenomenal. I felt like I knew Macbeth better than ever. There seemed to be a lot of German young people among the groundlings, some were a little chatty but not so as to spoil the evening. What I was more ambivalent about was the crowd's eagerness to laugh. The porter scene is the only funny one in it although some lines were delivered to comic effect. Probably just me. I noticed that the funniest line in the play (when MacDuff's son says Mother he has killed me) was quietly dropped. So great stuff again at the Globe.


I'm getting back to going to the fraternal that meets in Finchley on Tuesday mornings so it was good to be there with about 14 others to hear Ken Brownell speak on multicultural churches. We were all in broad agreement that churches should be formed of all sorts nor necessarily homogeneous. I was keen to face up to the real difficulties this entails. I thought we were a little na├»ve perhaps. There we are, stimulating to talk. I think we are to meet again in November. 

Novelists 30 Mark Twain

Mark Twain or Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 – 1910) to use his real name (Mark Twain is a clever reference to soundings taken on the Mississippi River) has been a favourite of mine since childhood, even after discovering that he denied many of the things I hold dear. I've still only read Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and a few shorter pieces but cherish the idea of getting on to The Prince and the Pauper (1881)  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894) and some of the short stories.


I was walking along the Kilburn High Road when a man from South India asked me if I would like a palm reading. I told him I didn't and that I didn't believe that such things were true although no doubt he was a very good reader of people and could tell me things about myself that others may not be able to. So as a test I asked him to guess my age. He looked at me for a moment and said 54. Spot on! My point is that he didn't get that from looking at my palm but just being a discerning fellow with a  gift from God. I suppose the difficulty is how you make money out of telling people their age.

Geiriau Cymraeg

On our journey to Swansea (Abertawe) I noted car registration numbers with Welsh words hidden in them. I found 10.

1. TWF Growth
2. CWN Dogs
3. MAB Son
4. SUO Lull
5. WYR Grandson
6. UWD Porridge
7. BYW Living
8. FOD To be (mutated)
9. HWY Them
10. CAN Song

Skip Hire

I saw a sign, it said skip hire
So I did a hop, a step, then tried again
To make it that much higher.

The wonders of modern technology

Wales, The Evangelical Library, Cranford

Last week was very busy chiefly because I was busy ferrying my sons to their respective universities in Wales.
Firstly, on Monday I spent much of the day at the Evangelical Library, first to hear Jeremy Walker give and excellent lunch time paper on Andrew Fuller. We struggled up to double figures once again and so it was a worthwhile affair. There was a committee in the afternoon and then in the evening Jeremy led six of us in the first of our Between the Lines discussion groups (on culture and whether it exists). This is a difficult thing to pull off but at least we've made a start.
On Tuesday I took Dylan (along with Rosie from the church, also a student in the same institution) back to Cardiff. He has new digs further up the same street. The rain was pelting down but we managed to unload quickly enough. I couldn't hang about as there was a church officers meeting that night. Then on Friday Eleri and I took Dewi to Swansea for the first time. That's 50 miles further on and less explored territory for us though Dewi is living in the student village which borders on Gower Road, where Eleri spent the first six weeks of her life. He seems to be settling in. Having been relieved from our normal Friday night duties with children and young people we were able to pop in and see my sister and he children in Cwmbran. We were able to give Charlie and boy friend Dave a lift back here.
On Saturday I chaired the annual meeting over at Cranford where Basil Howlett was the preacher. I was able to join Robin, Muno and the children for lunch beforehand in the manse. That was really good. We were a decent number at the meeting. The Nairobi bombing was dominating thoughts when I first arrived as Muno's parents nearly always go to that mall - but not this time! It was the next day that we heard of the atrocity in Pakistan. What a wicked world this is but one where the Word continues to go out.

Lord's Day September 22 2013

I thought our numbers may be down a bit yesterday with people off to college but it wasn't bad morning or evening with a few visitors as well as regulars. One new thing yesterday was that we church officers and families made a fresh effort to be there early and that made a difference. I completed 1 Corinthians 9 in the morning - the famous by all means to save some section. In the evening I was comparing Jonah overboard with the death of Christ. I now have an assistant (Andrew Lolley) and I had him read from Scripture I the morning and lead in prayer in the evening.

Lord's Day September 15 2013

Another good day yesterday with decent congregations morning and evening. I preached on 1 Corinthians 9:1-5 and Jonah 1:3-10. We had communion before the evening service. Both sermons were very well structured but that's not everything. What we do about the messages is what matters most. The morning sermon explained that ministers should be paid but its thrust, I trust, was towards more living behaviour to one another. The evening sermon bewailed our poor witness and hopefully made us more ready to reach out. Lots missing but nice to have some surprise turn outs and visitors - including a lovely American family and friends from Wales.

Tom Conti Unbeliever

Tom Conti the actor must live somewhere round here. We see him around from time to time. I guess he's quite an intelligent man yet what nonsense he can talk. In an interview in the Daily Mail Weekend magazine I notice he is asked what figure from history he'd most like to buy a pie and a pint for. His answer?
"St Paul. He started Christianity by creating the myth of Jesus. I don't believe any of it, so I'd ask him why he made it up."
Yet at the same time he says he has a curiosity about quantum physics. "I'm deeply fascinated by how things work on a microscopic level - these things will lead us to extraordinary revelations."
So he presumably has access to Paul's letters but pins his hopes on quantum physics. If he just read the New Testament he'd surely see that what he says is nonsense. Or perhaps not.

Death of Oliver Barclay

I notice Oliver Barclay has died. If you're not sure who he is see here.

More again on the Geoff Thomas Festschrift

We are now due to print I understand. The final contents list looks like this

Table of Contents:

Part I: Geoff Thomas: A Faithful Instrument of the Spirit

1. Hugh Geoffrey Thomas: A Biographical Appreciation — Gary Brady
2. A Minister Who Has Produced Ministers — Paul Levy

Part II: Salvation and the Spirit of Christ
3. The Spirit and the Word Incarnate: John Owen’s Trinitarian Christology — Carl Trueman
4. The Relation of the Righteousness of God and the Spirit of God in Romans 1–8 — Sam Waldron
5. The Illumination of the Holy Spirit — Joel Beeke
6. The Holy Spirit and Human Responsibility — Fred Malone

Part III: Growth and the Spirit of Holiness
7. A Gracious Willing Guest: The Indwelling Holy Spirit — David Jones
8. John Owen on the Spirit’s Ministry in Guarding the Believer’s Heart — Michael Haykin
9. Professor John Murray and the Godly Life — John J. Murray
10. Living by the Spirit’s Sanctifying Ministry — Ian Hamilton
11. John Owen and Spiritual-Mindedness: A Reflection on Reformed Spirituality — Derek Thomas
12. The Spirit of God in the People of God: A Celtic Spirituality — Iain D. Campbell

Part IV: Ministry and the Spirit of Counsel and Might
13. The Holy Spirit and the Call to the Ministry of the Gospel — Stephen Turner
14. The Empowering Work of the Holy Spirit — Conrad Mbewe
15. The Supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ and Apostolic Ministry — Austin Walker
16. An Elizabethan Cameo: The Ministry of Edward Dering — Robert Oliver
17. Passion and the Spirit’s Sovereignty in the Thinking and Evangelistic Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones — Gary Benfold

CYSK 10 William Carey

William Carey (1761 – 1834) was an English Particular Baptist pioneer missionary, known as the "father of modern missions." He was one of the founders of what became the Baptist Missionary Society. As a missionary in Serampore, India, he translated the Bible into Sanskrit, Bengali and numerous other languages and dialects. His sermon calling for overseas mission work has become famous through its two heads - Expect great things from God, Attempt great things for God (note the order). Carey was an amazing phenomenon. He left school at 14 to be apprenticed as a cobbler but today at least nine schools are named after him.

Novelists 29 Samuel Butler

Samuel Butler (1835 – 1902) is just a name to me I'm afraid. I am aware of his two most famous novels, the Utopian satire Erewhon and the semi-autobiographical novel published posthumously, The Way of All Flesh but have never thought about reading them. He is also known, they say, for examining Christian orthodoxy, substantive studies of evolutionary thought, studies of Italian art and works of literary history and criticism. Butler also made prose translations of the Iliad and Odyssey which remain in use today. He spent some years in New Zealand and led a somewhat complicated private life. He never married.

AM The new album

I came  home yesterday to find the boys playing a new vinyl LP. It was AM by the Arctic Monkeys. They've heard it all before, of course, thanks to the internet, but clearly the pleasure of taking the vinyl record out of the square cardboard sleeve and putting first side one and then side two on the turntable is such a brilliant experience that they want to do what I was doing all those years ago when it was T Rex and Focus et al. The very tactile process is clearly more desirable than simply downloading. I probably wouldn't have even noticed the very clever cover design in other formats. AM is Arctic Monkeys but there's fund to be had by trying other suggestions - Against machines, Average mediocre, Aging males, Amateur mature, Atheist Muslim, Alliterative Malapropism, etc, etc.

Dawkins at a loss to explain

Atheist Richard Dawkins' autobiography is out Part 1. See here. An extract from it contains observations on prep school and these interesting lines.
"I cannot even begin to imagine how human beings could be so cruel, but to a greater or lesser extent we were, if only through failing to stop it. How could we be so devoid of empathy? I didn’t lift a finger to stop the grotesque bullying. ... I don’t recall feeling even secret pity for the victim of the bullying at Chafyn Grove. How is that possible?
These contradictions trouble me to this day, together with a strong feeling of retrospective guilt. I am struggling to reconcile the child with the adult that he became; and the same struggle, I suspect, arises with most people. This is no place for a philosophical disquisition, so I will content myself with the observation that continuity of memory makes me feel as though my identity has remained continuous during my whole life, while I simultaneously feel incredulous that I am the same person as the young empathy-failure."
A right understanding of total depravity would no doubt help but Dawkins has rejected such thinking.

Noah Conference at the John Owen Centre

I haven't been able to report until now on the John Owen Centre conference on Noah, partly because I have been suffering with toothache (I actually missed Stephen Clark's Lloyd-Jones lecture on Noah and the future on the Monday night, though I hear it was good).
On day one we had Steffen Jenkins and Garry Williams looking at Noah in a biblical theological way. Steffen simply looked at the text in Genesis 6-9 and spoke of the context in Genesis 1-5, the ruin of creation while God remained steadfast in purpose (6:1-8), Noah the new Adam and Noah's new world the global foundation of all future salvation. Garry looked at the Noahic Covenant dissenting from VanDrunen (see elsewhere on this blog) and arguing that it is redemptive.
On day two we had Ian Hamilton on the faith of Noah, Mark Garcia in America (by the wonders of modern technology) on Noah, the church and the sacraments (on ravens, doves and rainbows) and Geoff Gobbett on Noah the preacher for preachers.
It was all very interesting and stimulating. I'm sure most of us are not as well thougt through as we ought to be on Noah and his covenant. Steffen Jenkins (a new name to me) was perhaps the most stimulating with his very thorough exegesis of the Scriptures in Genesis regarding Noah. Garry Williams and Mark Garcia were also very interesting. The conference as whole was a blessing and the discussion of a good standard. Around fifty were there. The recordings are worth looking out for.
Here are some quotations that struck me
Steffen Jenkins quoted Gordon Wenham saying "The call of Abraham is the answer to the problems of the world" (See Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey)
Ian Hamilton quoted Bavinck saying, in his Dogmatics (III) “common grace and special grace…flow in a single channel” and Calvin on Romans 4:20 " Let us also remember, that the condition of us all is the same with that of Abraham. All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: He promises immortality; we are surrounded with mortality and corruption: He declares that he counts us just; we are covered with sins: He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgements threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true."
Geoff Gobbett quoted George Orwell (in the novel 1984) "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act." and Boris Johnson writing several years ago in response to a horrible crime
"Bourgeois Britain is going through a bit of a panic about the role of God in society, largely fuelled by nervousness of Islam. Attacks are made on faith schools, or on BA staff who wear the cross, and the idea seems to be that we can only voice reservations about one religion if we bash them all impartially.
That is why Richard Dawkins is having such a soaraway success with an atheist tract called The God Delusion, ...
Alert readers of this column will know that my own faith is a very feeble tinsel object. I sometimes think there might be some kind of celestial radio signal, but it is about as intelligible as Radio Tirana. ... My only thought, as I stare at the faces of Carty and Brown, is that, if we throw out religion, then we lose a useful tool in changing lives. You and I lead comfortable existences, full of pleasure and interest, and generally so heavily regulated that we do not face that many moral challenges. We may feel that we do not have much of a spiritual void to fill.
But look at these creeps, the shambles of "sperm fathers" and gang warfare and violence. It's not so much that they have been deprived of love, but that they have been deprived of authority of any kind, and our feminised paedophile-obsessed culture means there is less and less chance that they will find a male role model in the classroom.
However ludicrous it may seem, religion sets boundaries; it suggests to bad and loveless people that they are loved. It provides a framework.
Of course it would be nice if Carty and Brown were not recruited to some militant Islamic group; it would be nice if they turned to the good old milquetoast Church of England. But it doesn't really matter. We can't just string these people up. We can't flog them. We are forced to incarcerate and hope for the best.
Before we go all the way with Dawkins and chuck out religion, we should look at the savage and remorseless faces of Carty and Brown, and reflect that, if we are to have any hope of changing them for the better, then God is a useful card for society to keep up its sleeve." (See article here)

Lord's Day September 8 2013

Our college students were all around yesterday before heading off and there were visitors too so the morning congregation was quite full and the evening one not too bad. I preached from 1 Corinthians 8 (part of the series I'm doing). I think I was as clear on that as I have ever been. It boiled down to three questions we all have to ask - Is it right? Is it in line with my conscience? Will it cause my brother to stumble? We also had lunch together which we always enjoy. In the evening I started a new series on Jonah, always a great book. Toothache developed again through the day but I guess it's mind over matter and didn't bother me much while preaching.

Special Meeting

Noah Conference

Hoping to be at the Noah Conference at the John Owen Centre Monday and Tuesday. More here. A little bird told me one of the sessions will be on Skype.

About Time

We went to see About Time at the cinema last night, the new Richard Curtis film. I am aware of Curtis but have never properly seen Notting Hill or Love actually or any of the other films in this genre but Eleri was keen so I thought why not. As we were warned there was mild nudity and a few places where the foulest words were used, etc. The current mores of middle class Londoners is taken for granted, of course. Otherwise it was (for me) a pleasant, sometimes moving and funny film that middle class people like ourselves could identify with and even appreciate. (I understand that there is a lot of recycling and trips down memory lane and even I thought the male protagonist sounded like Hugh Grant). The film's premise (time travel) was not intrusive but served merely as a vehicle to get over the essentially optimistic humanist view it espouses. The message is that we must take one day at a time and do our best and savour it. This is a borrowing from Christianity but without any basis in reality. Absolutely hopeless. The film's final scene is a beautiful one but utterly devoid of any connection with reality outside of Christ. (My wife says I over analyse but really ...).

Summer reading Christian books

I was glad to see the new book Engaging with Keller a book of essays by mainly British based Presbyterians giving a critique of the popular preacher. I was glad to see it as I have read and heard Keller with profit but am still a little nervous about him. This book which is irenic throughout gives chapter and verse on a number of issues - ie Keller's views on sin (I D Campbell) hell (Bill Schweitzer) the Trinity (Kevin Bidwell) the church's mission (Peter Naylor) hermeneutics (Richard Holst) evolution (Schweitzer again) the church ( D G Hart). The authors have done us all a favour by setting out exactly where they think Keller might be wrong. The book is also useful for all pastors as however orthodox we may endeavour to be, it is very easy to fall into an error of one sort or another and here is a gentle warning and, if necessary, a corrective. Well done EP for publishing it and to all the contributors for putting in the work necessary.
I also read Packer's latest Weakness is the Way which is written out of long experience, well informed theological thought and with thorough and careful exegesis (of 2 Corinthians) but in a gentle and well written style. I fell in love with the book from the start, had a brief struggle when we got onto the subject of money, which didn't make me feel quite so warm inside and then was just moved with thankfulness for the book as a whole which is such a good one. (My one slight criticism, observation really, would be that it is a very short book, the texts expounded also being reproduced in its pages). May be this video will whet your appetite.

Summer Reading 2 Fiction

Among the fiction this summer has been the novella The Kreutzer Sonata by Tolstoy and Stoner by John Williams. Both are high classics, a little demanding but worth the little effort needed. The Tolstoy was hard to get into - too many characters. (It would be easier in a film). Once you were into it though it became gripping. Tolstoy clearly knew human nature well. Apparently, it is a manifesto for celibacy and works on that level but is surely a rallying call to biblical views of marriage and a warning against many dangers. The reason for the title only comes out towards the end, which is well done. It might have been good to have the Beethoven piece playing as I read. I might have cried.
Stoner is a 1965 novel by an American John Williams that has been rediscovered and touted by Waterstones and others. I heard about it on Radio 4 and then read the first page in store and was hooked. It really is a brilliant novel with several purple passages of great beauty. It tells the very ordinary 20th century life story of an English lecturer (the writer's own occupation). Morris Dickstein (nor me) wrote that Stoner is "a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving that it takes your breath away." I enjoyed it but only in cathartic way. Utterly bleak, almost the only moments of joy allowed to the protagonist come illicitly. You could easily get depressed on this stuff and I'm glad it was not a set text when I was in school. One has to feel sorry for humanists some time. They have very little going for them. Where would I be without the love of God in Christ and the hope of a glorious and joyful heaven?

Summer Reading 1 A Classical Primer

I was in The Works and I saw this little hardback covering Greek and Latin language, history, literature, philosophy. architecture and science and technology and fancied it for myself and hopefully for one of my sons who likes this sort of thing. I did a course on most of it in my first year in Uni and even toyed with the idea of learning Latin from scratch for half my degree. I suppose the Lack of Latin and the poor Greek is a bit of a regret but books like this do make so much accessible even for ignoramuses* like me. (* that is correct, I checked years ago).

Steven Lawson

It was good to have the opportunity to hear Steven Lawson yesterday over at the Woodbridge Street Chapel over in Clerkenwell. I went for a number of reasons - to hear Dr Lawson who I have read but not heard. He was rightly basic but very good on expository preaching, perhaps best in answering the eager questions. I wanted to say hello to Tom Drion who is working hard church planting with others in a difficult area. I was sorry not to get to say hello to his wife Donna also. I was also curious to see who might be drawn to such a conference. Well, there were a lot of them (over a hundred), mostly under 40, ethnically diverse and 80% or more unknown to me. (Perhaps a large number were not pastors). I guess these are the new Calvinists we hear so much about (no slur on Jeremy Walker intended) . Most people I spoke to were aware of the event in connection with the Shepherd's Conference. The event was earmarked as a Ligonier and Good Book company event. That was my last motive - to get an eye at the books. I bought the Saving Eutychus, more as a souvenir than anything but I hope I'll read it. I notice that Dr Lawson now has a number of biographies out (I've only read the Calvin one). It was good to catch up with Ashley Jones from Caterham, a mere boy when I saw him last and (to this old man) not much more than that now. I had hoped to return in the evening but the exigencies of a hospital in North Acton visit meant it was not possible to get back in time. It was all duly recorded and will get to me at some point no doubt.

Lord's Day September 1 2013

It was a little disappointing not to really have any fresh faces in yesterday after the week of mission. I preached two evangelistic sermons nevertheless (Matthew 11:28-30 and Acts 16:29-31). The time of communion and both services were a blessing, especially still with so many young people present. Some three Romanians turned up through the day, two with no English. There is very little we can do to help such people. The other feature of the day was a lovely presentation to Eleri and myself after the morning service marking our 25th anniversary, which was last week. What kindness!

Week of Mission

Last week was our week of special mission activities. We were able to assemble a team of about 15 mostly students of our own and some from elsewhere to assist us in door to door, tracting and doing a holiday Bible club for kids. We also studied Romans 1-8 and prayed together. A number of meetings were organised for locals to come to. The week was not an amazing success in terms of people coming in, although at least 50 different ones who are not normally with us came in over the week. The best benefits were in seeing how well the young people responded to task and gelled together. Very encouraging.