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.

10 Fictional Locomotives

1. The Hogwarts Express
2. The Polar Express
3. Ivor the Engine
4. Thomas the Tank Engine
5. The Flockton Flyer
6. Tootle
7. Percy the small engine
8. The Titfield Thunderbolt
9. The Wabash Cannonball
10. The Gilderfluke Locomotive

10 Locomotives

With all this fuss about the Flying Scotsman I thought we might have a list of locomotives (all steam ones, I believe)
1. The Flying Scotsman
2. Stephenson's Rocket
3. Mallard
4. Puffing Billy
5. The Elizabethan
6. The Cannonball Express
7. Sierra No 3
8. The General
9. King George V
10. Papyrus

Lord's Day February 28 2016

t was quite an encouraging day yesterday. I was dealing with two difficult passages (Revelation 12 and Judges 17, 18) but with the Lord's help I was able to preach the Word and I think it was appreciated by those at various levels of understanding. We were potentially down in numbers in the morning with our two LTS men preaching elsewhere and others visiting relatives and so on. There were some visitors, however, including an enthusiastic Bengali-American visitor we'd not met before and a local woman who has been promising to come for quite a while and final made it this Sunday. I hope we see them both again. Others who have shown an interest recently were also there. My wife was away in Wales but the boys and I were kindly asked to join one of the families in the church. So all in all a good Sunday and much to be thankful for.

Six nations continues

I'm not going to be able to watch any more of the England Ireland game. It looks evenly poised at present. I enjoyed what I saw of the Italy Scotland game. It was pretty close much of the time, even though the 20-36 score line in Scotland's favour does not suggest that. Sadly, the Friday night Welsh game (they beat France 19-10) was not a great game to watch. I found myself saying with everyone else "a win's a win". Indeed, Wales are still unbeaten and technically top of the table. So, as ever, it's all on the England game in Twickenham (on the 12th). There is no real reason why Wales can't do it.

Week of Prayer

I'm just back from a prayer breakfast of the church. Six of us gathered for a time of prayer followed by a cuppa and doughnuts. It is the traditional final meeting of our week of prayer which we try and hold in early Spring and early Autumn. When I get it right we have an early morning prayer meeting, a mid morning one, two evening ones, often an extra early morning one and then the prayer breakfast. It helps to focus again on prayer. This time round a notional 35 or so people attended six prayer meetings (some 21 or so individuals in reality who came to at least one meeting).

Go Now Moody Blues

A promo video from the days before promo videos

Review of my book by Paul Wells

This review is in the February Evangelical Times and first appeared here last November
I enjoyed everything about this book. It is a great read on an issue seldom addressed in recent years. Perhaps the absence of books (as well as preaching) on this subject is the reason why some evangelicals have a superficial view of the uses of conscience, and are reticent regarding the function of divine law in the Christian life.
Be that as it may, reading Gary Brady’s book will do anyone the world of good. It is a page-turner; a mine of information, filled with wisdom from the Puritans and beyond, as well as being biblical and pastoral, to boot.
Behind the apparent simplicity of the presentation lies Brady’s deep reflection. He is never unclear. I found myself enjoying pages that I thought I would flip through quickly, such as the chapter on children and the conscience. It’s so easy to forget that ‘the child’s controversy is always with God’ (p.161).
When ‘correcting’, we need to get beyond outward issues to heart concerns. Questions of conscience do not ultimately deal with inbred values or social disciplines; rather, we are facing our ultimate moral regulator, God himself.
Brady examines his subject from every angle, beginning with some general biblical definitions. ‘When we speak of conscience, we are really speaking of an aspect of the heart or the soul, though the word is useful for speaking of a specific function of the soul, namely its moral workings’ (p.24).
Chapters present: the biblical background; the conscience bound by sin; conversion as a conscience awakening, convicting and enlightening work; and the connection with true faith and assurance.
Then follow questions concerning the function of conscience in the Christian life, good, bad or weak. If you did not know that a weak conscience is more likely to accuse you than a strong one (p.120), you had better read Brady. Light will also be shed on those chapters in 1 Corinthians about the weak and strong in relation to idol-meat.
There is a useful chapter regarding the development of conscience in the civil sphere. Perhaps a little more could have been made here of the theoretical impact of Luther and Calvin’s two reigns, and the right of private judgement in, say, Charles Hodge.
Finally, Brady correctly argues that, because conscience is a function of the soul, it is the accuser even down in hell. Moreover, its peaceful disposition will be enjoyed in heaven.
Overall, I enjoyed this book except for one thing: the title. Why did an evangelical publisher inflict this on me? Every time I saw it on my desk, I had horrible images of Elton John behind a piano! ‘Candle of the Lord’ (p.184) would have been more fitting.
Paul Wells Eastbourne
Author Gary Brady
Publisher EP Books ISBN 978-1-78397-042-1
PS The publishers are not to be blamed for the title. I did insist. I wanted to redeem the title1
Pages 242

Lord's Day February 21 2016

I was preaching in Dunstable Baptist Church last Lord's Day. I have preached there once before (September 2013) and it was good to be back. Despite all their best efforts they have been without a pastor for nine years now. Part of the problem is that they don't feel they want someone young and fresh from college, which may be right. I preached two simple textual sermons half an hour each (see here and here) on Romans 6:23 and 2 Timothy 1:12 and I hope those messages were appreciated. It was a very enjoyable day, meeting people old and new. I recognised one lady and was not sure from where. When I enquired it turned out that she had worked in the Post Office in Golders Green some years ago but she and her family had moved out to Dunstable where they were converted. In its own way that was an encouragement to me.

Midweek Meeting February 17 2016

We were a select few who gathered on Wednesday, a combination of colds, holidays and traffic jams having scythed down our numbers. This select few included the Principal of the LTS and a Moldovan working in his third language and having nor previous knowledge of evangelical teaching. Mixed ability, whahey! We pressed on with 2 Timothy, nevertheless, and almost reached the end of the first chapter, focusing on 2 Timothy 1:13, 14 and making two broad points - that we need to follow and guard the pattern of apostolic teaching we have in Scripture. Everyone prayed in the prayer time, which is always good. A blessing to be there!

B B Warfield

It is the ninetieth anniversary of the death of BB Warfield. I thought we could mark it with a repeat of Lloyd-Jones's introduction to a selection of his works in 1958, designed to introduce him to British readers. Taken from here.
Biblical Foundations by B B Warfield (Tyndale Press) 1958
It would probably be true to say of all conservative evangelicals who take a lively interest in theology that no works have proved to be of more practical help to them and a greater stimulus than those of B. B. Warfield. For myself I shall never forget my discovery of them in a library in Toronto in 1932. My feelings were similar to those of ‘stout Cortez’ as described by Keats. Before me stood the ten sizeable volumes published by Oxford University Press. But, alas, it was the OUP of New York only and not of this country also. Friends and pupils of Warfield had arranged the publication of the volumes. The fact that they were not published in this country is a sad commentary on the state and condition of theological thinking here at that time. The volumes were collections of various articles written by Warfield in journals and encyclopaedias, classified under various headings. Here are some of the titles: Biblical Doctrine; Studies in Theology; Christology and Criticism; Calvin and Calvinism; two volumes on Perfectionism.
Warfield had never written text books on theology in a large and systematic manner, but had contented himself with the publication of a few small works. (This I was given to understand by the late Principal John Macleod of the Free Church College, Edinburgh, was due to his loyalty to his friends and teachers, the Hodges of Princeton, and his fear that anything he might publish might affect the sale of their works.) The ten volumes, however, published about ten years after his death which took place in 1921, have served to compensate us for that loss and to give us the essence of his teaching.
There is even a positive advantage in having his teaching in this form rather than in a more systematic one. Warfield was first and foremost a defender of the faith. The title of his chair in the old Princeton Theological Seminary was "Professor of didactic and polemic theology" and the writing of articles and reviews of books, rather than formal treatises, gives greater scope for the display of this polemical element. Warfield lived and taught and wrote in this period (1880-1921) when what was then called Modernism was virtually in control. It was the age of the 'liberal Jesus' and 'the Jesus of history' who was contrasted with the 'Christ of Paul'. The Bible had been subjected to such drastic criticism that not only was its divine inspiration and unique authority denied but the whole idea of revelation was in question. The Lord Jesus Christ was but a man, 'the greatest religious genius of all time', miracles had never happened because miracles cannot happen, our Lord's mission was a failure, and His death on the cross but a tragedy. The great truths proclaimed in the historic Creeds of the Church, and especially in the great Confessions of Faith drawn up after the Protestant Reformation, concerning the Bible as the Word of God and the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ were being questioned and rejected by the vast majority of 'scholars'.
While there were many who fought valiantly to stem this tide and to refute the errors which were being propagated, it can be said without any fear of contradiction that B. B. Warfield stood out pre-eminently and incomparably the greatest of all. He was peculiarly gifted for such a task. He had a mathematical mind and had at one time considered the possibility of a career as a mathematician. His precision and logical thinking appear everywhere. Added to this he was a first class New Testament scholar and a superb exegete and expositor. Furthermore, he had received the best training that was available at the time, and not only in his own country. He thus could meet the liberal scholarship on its own grounds and did so.
His method was not to meet criticisms of the traditional theology with mere general philosophical and theological arguments, though he could and did do that also. It was rather along the following lines. He would first state the case as presented by the critic in a fair and clear manner. Then he would proceed to analyse it and deal with it clause by clause and word by word. He was thoroughly familiar with all the literature but for him the test always was "to the law and to the testimony". For him the question was, Was this a true exegesis and interpretation of what the Scripture said? Was it consistent and compatible with what the Scripture said elsewhere? What were the implications of this statement? and so on. It was really the method of the advocate in the law courts who obtains his verdict, not by passionate and emotional appeals to an unlearned jury, but rather as the result of a masterly analysis and patient dissection and refutation of the case of the opponent, followed by a crystal clear and positive exposition of the truth addressed to the 'learned judge on the bench'.
No theological writings are so intellectually satisfying and so strengthening to faith as those of Warfield. He shirks no issue and evades no problems and never stoops to the use of subterfuge. One is impressed by his honesty and integrity as much as by his profound scholarship and learning. The result is that there is a finality and authority about all he wrote. Those who disagreed with him seemed to recognise this. They did so by simply ignoring him. This has continued to be his fate since his death and since the publication of the ten volumes. It is quite amazing to note the way in which this massive theologian is persistently ignored and seems to be unknown. A 'conspiracy of silence' is perhaps the only weapon with which to deal with such a protagonist.
Some may wonder why the writings of such a man who died nearly forty years ago should be republished and may feel that they are of necessity out of date. The answer is that the writings of Warfield are, as indicated above, not merely polemical and designed to expose error, but also positive expositions of truths which are eternal and which are as vital today as they ever have been. This can be said of the subjects dealt with in each chapter of this present volume, the contents of which have been culled from the ten volumes of his writings. Never have they been more urgent than today and the reader will find, thanks to Warfield's particular method, that he will be helped to face and to answer criticisms of the historic evangelical faith in their most modern form and guise.
A final word. While Warfield was such an outstanding scholar and theologian that the most learned can profit by reading him, it is also true to say that any intelligent lay person though lacking in technical knowledge, can be greatly helped by reading him. His mind was so clear and his literary style so chaste and pellucid that it is a real joy to read his works and one derives pleasure and profit at the same time. The selection of subjects for this volume is most judicious and representative and should serve as a perfect introduction to the works of the greatest exponent, expounder and defender of the classic Reformed faith in the 20th Century.
D Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Lord's Day February 14 2016

We had lunch together yesterday, which we do more or less every other month. Always a good time. We finished off with two brief testimonies - one from my wife and one from my fellow elder Robert (I had actually forgotten that we had started doing this and so my choices were partly to do with who I could lean on easiest). These fellowship lunches don't usually fall on half term as this time. The only snag with that was that more were away than might have been otherwise, although there were also visitors we know. One good thing was that we finally persuaded our Filipino contingent to join us for lunch, which was good.
Anyway in the morning we looked at Revelation 11 in the morning. It was quite demanding and I thought afterwards that I perhaps should have divided it up but there is no obvious way to do that except by covering the beginning and end first and then the material on the two witnesses but that brings its own problems. There we are.
In the evening we completed our study of the Judge Samson. Now matter how often you come back to it there are some real mysteries there. What a choice! Samson makes a strange choice for Valentine's day I guess. Five of the 25 with us Sunday evening are planning to get married this year so I made a point of praying for them at least, and I'm sure they will take warning from Samson foolishness.
It was one of those Sundays when having thought for a few weeks we were making progress I began to think again that we are actually not. That may well be just due to the make up of the congregation that Sunday but sometimes I do fear we are making less and less progress.

Not too bad a start from Wales

So a draw with Ireland and a win over Scotland (27-23) today. They don't fill you with absolute confidence but they remain undefeated. Next game, home to France (Friday evening, Feb 26) will be a real crunch game.

Midweek Meeting February 10 2016

There were 13 of us present last Wednesday. We were looking at one of the big texts of Scripture - 2 Timothy 1:12. As it turned out we had sung the Daniel Whittle hymn with the chorus taken from there - I know not why ... But I know whom I have believed, etc - on Sunday but I had us use the same tune and chorus (changing But to for) with the Isaac Watts hymn also based on the same verse  - I'm not ashamed to own my Lord (often sung with the chorus At the cross, at the cross). It worked well. I still use my kindle to preach from and somehow had downloaded an earlier version with one or two good stories missing. Thankfully, some interaction at the end drew them out of me. There were a hundred things to pray for and we spent a little long on gathering that material so our prayer time was a little shorter than I would have liked but there was plenty of praying, which is good.

Stott and Lloyd-Jones on preaching

Chairman Mostyn Roberts and speaker Tim Ward
It must have been busy last week as I have been meaning to write up my trip to the Westminster Fellowship last Monday. Tim Ward from the Proc Trust was the speaker and he spoke on Stott and Lloyd-Jones and their understanding of preaching. He felt a little like Daniel entering the lions' den I think as he is really living his life in a John Stott world and the Westminster Fellowship was founded by Dr Lloyd-Jones. In truth Lloyd-Jones died 30 years ago and his influence is not what it once was. I'm sure I would not be the only one there who would say that while sympathetic to Lloyd-Jones I don't really want to go all the way with him quite.
Anyway, there was a good number present (around 30) which was gratifying and good papers from Tim. There could have been more discussion perhaps. What he did was to show the many ways in which Stott and Lloyd-Jones are in agreement and then where they differed. He astutely highlighted the title of their main books on the subject of preaching and suggested they are worth pondering. Stott's book is simply called I believe in preaching whereas Lloyd-Jones's tome is called Preaching and preachers and that may subtly hint at Lloyd-Jones teaching on anointing of the man and so on.
It was very good to think through this matter and I have bought Ralph Cunnington's book Preaching with spiritual power mentioned en passant in order to further explore. I do wonder if Lloyd-Jones were both simply reacting in different ways to the Charismatic Movement, in its heyday in the sixties and seventies. Good to be there.

Lord's Day February 7 2016

It felt a little odd being at the front of the chapel today as it is three weeks since I was stood there having been away last week and in the parlour then the hall before that owing to our gas problem, now well and truly sorted. Being the first Sunday in the month we began with communion. I read from Exodus 11 and 12 about the first Passover, as I like to do from time to time. For various reasons there were only ten of us at that point so not a large number. I preached on Revelation 10 in the morning meeting. As ever there were people missing but one or two new ones had returned.
While we were having a cuppa still at chapel an interesting man turned up. His conversational style, which I warmed to, was using long words and then checking if you understood them. I was doing well until we came to neurosis. I had a bad stab at it with "mania" (wrong!) and so he suggested we ask someone else. My son went at it by contrasting it with psychosis, which was helpful but he then committed the exegetical fallacy of supposing a neurosis affects the brain whereas a psychosis affects the psyche, which almost gets you there but not quite. Anyway this gentleman wanted to say that neurosis is a general term used to refer to mental distress, an illness that does not prevent rational thought or affect daily functioning. I also stumbled on latrogenesis, which can be defined as any effect on a person, resulting from any activity of one or more persons acting as healthcare professionals or promoting products or services as beneficial to health, that does not support a goal of the person affected. He had a Welsh mother and some interaction with evangelicals in the past but had formed his own rather materialist view of life. I hope we see him again.
I also had a good chat with someone from the congregation in the afternoon at our house. He is not converted but came to both services. I wish professed believers were as enthusiastic. We looked at Judges 15 and the enigmatic Samson again in the evening. I have found it difficult to preach on him this time around. Not sure quite why.

Midweek Meeting February 3 2016

Some 11 of us gathered in the parlour last Wednesday, glad to be though our troubles with gas leaks. We carried on looking at 2 Timothy 1, chiefly in verses 10 and 11, considering God's grace, as it began before creation, with the appearing of Christ and then as declared by the apostle Paul, a herald and a teacher from God. We had a good prayer time too. May be we needed slightly longer. Lots to pray about.

Tyndale New Testament - from Matthew 26, 27, 28

He went away once more, and prayed, saying: O my father, if this cup cannot pass away from me, but that I drink of it, thy will be fulfilled. ... When the petty captain, and they that were with him watching Iesus, saw the earthquake and those things which happened, they feared greatly saying, Of a surety this was the son of God. ... All power is given unto me in heaven, and in earth. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy ghost: Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you. And lo, I am with you alway even until the end of the world.

Preaching in Hilperton Lord's Day January 31 2016

I preached for the first time at Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Hilperton near Trowbridge last Sunday. The people who have formed the church were church officers and members at Bradford on Avon. Although there have been disagreements at Bradford that have caused this new plant, they were released with Bradford's blessing and are beginning to bear testimony to the village, meeting in the local C of E Primary School. As the website makes clear (see here) there was a Baptist Church in the village as recently as the sixties and so this is not a merely random church plant. About thirty gathered last Sunday and I preached on Matthew 11:28-30 and Ezekiel 37:1-14. I hope it was a blessing to them. The recordings are again at the website. Back here we were able to meet in the chapel I understand. Robert Strivens preached.