Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dismal Prospect

I reckon this version of Once In Royal David's City could do with a rather better eschatological finale than some endless cosmic bus queue:

Not in that poor lowly stable,
with the oxen standing round,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
set at God's right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned,
all in white shall wait around.

Mission Praise has the rather better: "there His children gathered round, / bright like stars, with glory crowned."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Uncomfortable Words

Today we knelt in chapel for the Confession and afterwards so that the Comfortable words were actually quite uncomfortable.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vanhoozer on Word & Sacrament

The church participates in and continues Jesus’ communicative actions through the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments.

The anologia communication [analogy of communication] need not always be verbal: To the extent that the liturgy as a whole unfolds the narrative which identifies Jesus, the whole liturgy is ‘gospel.’” [Marshall, Bruce D., Trinity and Truth (Cambridge, CUP, 2000), p31] The sacraments are verba visibilia (visible words), a felicitous phrase that rightly signals the continuity between words and acts…. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper represent key scenes in the theo-drama. They, too, are communicative actions, less speech-acts than acts that speak, but acts that communicate something all the same…. The sacraments, like the spoken word, have prepositional content (e.g., both refer to the death of Jesus), yet they also require to be performed (embodied, enacted) ever anew….

… the sharing of the body and blood of Jesus draws us into the theodrama. The Last Supper is a complex communicative act whose similarities with the Passover blend the story of Israel (looking back to the exodus and forward to the return from exile) into the story of Jesus (the lamb whose death would redeem not only Israel but the whole world). The supper also hints at the future messianic banquet in heaven – a complex communicative action indeed! Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are deliberate "double dramas” [Wright, N. T., Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1996) 2:554 – referring to the Lord’s Supper] whose purpose is not merely to convey information but to draw us into the action. Indeed, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are means of grace precisely because they are able to draw us into the pattern of Jesus’ own communicative action.

The ministry of the Word and sacrament: each contributes in its own way to the transmissio of the gospel, and thus to the mission of the church.

(Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine, pp74-75)

Vanhoozer on Scripture as Sacramental

The question to be asked of Barth concerns the relationship of the Bible’s quasi-sacramental mediation of Jesus’ real presence to the verbal meaning of the text itself. While some of his early critics accused Barth of emphasizing the subjective event of revelation to the detriment of the objective text, it is surely significant that Barth expected the Spirit to use just these words to disclose Jesus Christ. Just as propositionalists would not want to deny the personal element in revelation, so Barth would not want to deny the role of propositions. (The Drama of Doctrine, p5)

I’m more nervous about Barth’s doctrine of the Bible than Vanhoozer sounds here.

Many acknowledge Scripture’s life-giving, sacramental power… : “[T]he church must come to understand Scripture as a sacramental, poetic-like word, not as proposition truths, an expression of human experience, or mere information for practical living.” [Burgess, John, Why Scripture Matters: Reading the Bible in a Time of Church Conflict (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), xvi.] An even happier scenario would be one in which we did not have to choose between the Bible’s truth and its affective power! (p12, 'God's Mighty Speech Acts')

Vanhoozer also notes Donald G. Bloesch’s attempt at a more dynamic spiritual evangelical view of revelation with the Bible as “the divinely prepared medium or channel of divine revelation rather than revelation itself”. [Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration & Interpretation (Carlisle, Paternoster, 1994), p18 – quoted p158.]

Vanhoozer says:

Blosech espouses a sacramental model which sees revelation as God in action and Scripture as the means for encountering God. (p159)

Vanhoozer, Kevin, ‘God’s Mighty Speech-Acts: The Doctrine of Scripture Today’ Chapter 6, pp143-181 in Satterthwaite, Philip E. & Wright, David F. (ed.s), A Pathway into the Holy Scripture (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1994)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What we need is Doctrine

I'm very excited by the prospect of Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine: A canonical linguistic approach to Christian theology (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 2005) .

Here's a taste of the agenda:

The Drama of Doctrine argues that there is no more urgent task in the church than to demonstrate faith’s understanding by living truthfully with others before God. ... doctrine is an indispensable aid to understanding and to truthful living. Doctrine is a vital ingredient in the well-being of the church, a vital aid to its public witness. ... doctrine, far from being unrelated to life, serves the church by directing its members in the project of wise living, to the glory of God. It [this book] sets out to convince ministers and laypeople alike not to dismiss doctrine as irrelevant, and to encourage theologians not to neglect the needs of the church. It aims to make the pastoral lamb lie down with the theological lion. Its goal is to refute, once and for all, the all-too-common dichotomy between doctrine and real life. Christian doctrine directs us in the way of truth and life and is therefore no less than a prescription for reality. (p xii)

… he who is tired of doctrine is tired of life, for doctrine is the stuff of life. Christian doctrine is necessary for human flourishing: only doctrine shows us who we are, why we are here, and what we are to do. The stereotype of doctrine as dry and dusty cuts a flimsy caricature next to the real thing, which is brave and bracing. Doctrine deals with energies and events that are as real and powerful as anything known in chemistry or physics, energies and events that can turn the world we know upside down, energies and events into which we are grafted as participants with speaking and acting parts. (p xiii)


I’ve just finished reading George Yule’s little book, Pragmatics Oxford Introductions to Language Study (Oxford, OUP, 1996).

Useful, clear survey, readings, glossary, further reading.

It’s been quite interesting – if not always strictly relevant to The Great Task.

Yule describes pragmatics thus:

“Pragmatics is concerned with the study of meaning as communicated by a speaker (or writer) and interpreted by a listener (or reader)…. Pragmatics is the study of speaker meaning…. Pragmatics is the study of contextual meaning…. We might say that it is the investigation of invisible meaning. Pragmatics is the study of how more gets communicated than is said…. Pragmatics is the study of the expression of relative distance.” (p3)

At times I’ve felt, “yeah, yeah… this is just stating the obvious” – and giving it a fancy label - but there’ve been some insights and it’s raised a few smiles. It’s the kind of book where the author can have some fun with making up the examples. And Yule hasn’t gone too mad on all the p&q (+>p) business.

I particularly liked the diagram on p66, Figure 7.1, How to get a pen from someone else [if you’ve forgotten to bring one to a lecture] (following Brown and Levison 1987) which distinguishes: (a) saying something or saying nothing (and looking in bag); (b) on record or off record (‘I forgot my pen’); (c) face saving act or bald request (d) positive politeness or negative politeness. These stratergies are not meant to be exhaustive: creating a diversion and making a grab for it is an option this short introduction overlooks.

The conversational maxims (p37) aren’t rocket science and might be quibbleable but I shall be on the lookout for offenders:

The cooperative principle: Make your conversational contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

The maxims


1. Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).

2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

Quality Try to make your contribution one that is true.

1. Do not say what you believe to be false.

2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

Relation Be relevant.

Manner Be perspicuous.

1. Avoid obscurity of expression.

2. Avoid ambiguity.

3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).

4. Be orderly.

Following Grice 1975

There’s also some good stuff on politeness and a table showing ‘how to do a disprefered’, that is, how to say something people wont want or expect to hear, such as saying “no” to a request (p81).

Friday, December 01, 2006

Speech Act Theory Bibliography

Though it probably wont be of interest or use to anyone, I thought I'd post this bibliography of speech act theory (especially including some works that might possibly have some vague relevance to the doctrines of scripture and the Lord's Supper) I've been working on. I probably wont consult many of these 40 odd titles but having made a list creates some illusion of work achieved.

ATLA reveals there are further articles and books on speech act and particular biblical texts (e.g. Botha on John 4; Neufeld on 1 John) I haven't bothered too include.

Those who can't get enough of this stuff may want to consult:

Nuyts, Jan and Verschurenen (eds.), A Comprehensive Bibliography of Pragmatics volumes 1-4 (John Benjamins, 1987)

Or perhaps even more useful (!):

Dufon, Kasper, Takahashi, Yoshinaga, 'Bibliography on Linguistic Politeness' in Journal of Pragmatics 21, 1994, pp527-78

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Present crisis? What crisis?

Mr Neil G. T. Jeffers has suggested the possibility of a preterist reading of 1 Corinthians 7:26-31, which was new to me and seems well worth perusing.

The view of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 seems rather more negative than in other passages in Paul (e.g. Ephesians 5) and the rest of the Bible and some of this might be explained if “the present crisis” is the events caught up with the covenant transition and the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Despite a flick through Bruce, Fee and Thiselton, and a bit of Googling, I’ve not been able to find any discussion of this option.

The cosmic eschatological language of time being short(ened) and the present form of the world passing away would be a suitable Bible-way of talking about the coming of the new order in Christ.

Paul could call the event “present” even if it’s a few years off as Jesus had said it was coming in that generation and the fall of Jerusalem is really of a piece with his death and resurrection. Perhaps the birth pangs could already be felt as he wrote.

The fall of Jerusalem would have been of concern to the Corinthian Christians as Jesus had spoken of it in such cataclysmic terms. Any diaspora Jews in the church at Corinth may have been particularly concerned. Though it seems likely that Christians would have been subject to increased persecution by Romans around the time of the Jewish uprising too since it seems that the boundaries between Judaism and Christianity were somewhat fluid to begin with and the Romans may not have bothered to distinguish too much between the church and some Jewish reform movement.

The advice not to marry as the old world is in its death throws fits well with Jesus’ concern for how dreadful it will be pregnant women and nursing mothers when Jerusalem falls (Mark 13:17)

* * *

Speaking of the “present crisis” in 1 Cor 7, Thiselton argues that:

Since Paul cites “present circumstances” or some impending event as that which tips the scales if all other things are equal, clearly nothing in the teaching of Jesus corresponds to the contingent event, to which Paul, in a personal and pastoral capacity, gives considerable weight. (c.f. v25) (p571)

Maybe there’s something in this but it does not rule out a preterist reading since it would still be true that Jesus did not command people not to marry in the run up to the fall of Jerusalem and Paul could reasonably make this wise application on the basis of Jesus’ prediction.

* * *

In a typically idealist sort of way Thiselton does also mentions that: “Thus, arguably the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 might be a concrete symptom or sign of the eschatological anagke_.” (p575)

I also thought these other bits of Thiselton were noteworthy:

Caird’s contribution is to explain in linguistic terms how early Christian writers, including Paul, “regularly used end-of-the-world language metaphorically to refer to that which they knew well was not the end of the world” ([Thisleton’s] italics) [Language and Imagery, 256]. This is not because the world will continue as it is indefinitely. Quite the reverse: events such as the fall of Jerusalem, violent attacks on the church by evil forces, and the relativizing question marks which hang over the world order which has no future all constitute partial “end-of-the-world” experiences which come about because the present world order does indeed stand under judgement and does indeed face a cosmic End. (p581)

[From her “participant” persepective] Israel’s “world” (arguably) collapsed with the fall of Jersualem (cf. Mark 13), but the “observer” world is the universal, intersubjective cosmos. “My” world collapses at death; “the” world, at the End. (p583)

It would be a mistake, however, to ignore the possibility (even probability) that certain specific circumstances instantiated the eschatological question mark over supposed present securities and stability…. Such concrete circumstances bring home the crumbling insecurity of a world order which stands under the apocalyptic judgement of the cross. (p583)

Thiselton, Anthony C., NIGTC The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2000)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Warfield on Scripture

Here's what I hope this the first vaguely hand-in-able part of my dissassertation. Its a 6000 ish word Word document on B. B. Warfield's doctrine of Scripture as a standard Reformed Evangelical doctrine of Scripture.

The next bit of toil is to be on how the philosophy of language, literary theory and so on (especially speech act theory and probably semiotics too) might contribute to the Reformed Evangelical doctrine of the Bible.

My overall project is called Edible Words & Legible Sacraments and is to think about the doctrines of the Lord's Supper and the Bible in the light of one another and consider their relationships.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sounding Post-Millennial

Although he concedes that “postmillennialism has undergone much systemization in the post-Reformation era”, Kenneth Gentry quotes a number of eminent theologians sounding optimistic about the triumph of the gospel before the final return of Christ.

Here are some highlights:


It is evident that even the barbarians, when they yield obedience to the word of God, will become most obedient to the law, and most humane; and every form of worship will be destroyed except the religion of Christ, which will alone prevail. And indeed it will one day triumph, as its principles take possession of the minds of men more and more each day.

Against Celsus 8:68


… [I]t is right for you to realize, and to take as the sum of what we have already stated, and to marvel at exceedingly; namely, that since the Saviour has come among us, idolatry not only has no longer increased, but what there was is diminishing and gradually coming to an end: and not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer advance, but what there is is now fading away…. And to sum the matter up: behold how the Saviour’s doctrine is everywhere increasing, while all idolatry and everything opposed to the faith of Christ is daily dwindling, and losing power, and failing…. For as, when the sun is come, darkness no longer prevails, but if any be still left anywhere it is driven away; so, now that the divine Appearing of the Word of God is come, the darkness of idols prevails no more, and all parts of the world in every direction are illuminated by His teaching.

Incarnation 55:1-3

Gentry also cites Eusebius (AD 260-340) Ecclesiastical History.


Our doctrine must tower unvanquished above all the glory and above all the might of the world, for it is not of us, but of the living God and his Christ whom the Father has appointed King to rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth…. And he is so to rule as to smite the whole earth with the rod of his mouth as an earthen vessel, just as the prophets have prophesied concerning the magnificence of his reign.

Institutes 1:12, Address to King Francis I of France

Gentry also points to post-millennialism in Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, Thomas Brooks, John Howe, William Perkins, John Cotton, and the Westminster Standards.

The Savoy Declaration (1658):

in the latter days, antichrist being destroyed, the Jews called, and the adversaries of the kingdom of His dear Son broken, the churches of Christ being enlarged and edified through the free and plentiful communication of light and grace, shall enjoy in this world a more quiet, peaceable, and glorious condition that they have enjoyed.

Among the noteworthy adherents to post-millennialism, Gentry also lists: J. A. Alexander, Robert L. Dabney, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, Gresham Machen, Iain Murray, John Murray, W. G. T. Shedd, Augustus H. Strong, B. B. Warfield.

Gentry Jr., Kenneth L, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillenial Eschatology (Tyler, Institute for Christian Economics, 1992) pp 79-93

Friday, November 24, 2006

Colossians 2:6-7

God willing I’m going to be speaking at our camp (CPAS Romsey 2 for Pathfinders) re-union tomorrow on Colossians 2:6-7,

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (NIV)

These are often thought to be the key verses of the letter.

To be honest I haven’t done too much work on whether I should be warning the 11-14 year olds against the dangers of Judaizers, Legalists, proto-Gnostics, hyper-Charismatics, all of the above or something different. I’m going to say something about the importance of having Jesus the Christ as your Lord and sticking with him.

Though N. T. Wright says its debatable how much the metaphors in the verses are still ‘live’ for Paul (Tyndale Commentary on Col & Phil, p99), I thought I might go to town on the following. I might even spend the rest of the day looking for suitable images on the inter-web and see if the wife can put them in a power-point presentation we can take with us on a memory stick. How down with the yuff is that? I don’t know how the apostle Paul managed!

  • Walking (NIV: live) the straight way with Jesus as Lord, not turning into promising looking blind allies
  • well rooted like a tree, securely planted once for all
  • and continually built up in Christ, like a house under construction with solid foundations
  • confirmed and settled (NIV: strengthened) in the faith, like a properly established legal document
  • overflowing like a full jug of wine, with thankfulness

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Stirred-Up over Christ The King

This comming Sunday (26th Nov) is designated as the Feast of Christ The King by the Church of England (following the Roman Catholics).

This last Sunday after Trinity, the one before Advent used to be popularly known as "Stir up Sunday", from the Collect for that Sunday:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
BCP Collect for the 25th Sunday after Trinity

It is traditionally the day for making Christmas pudding.

Tom Wright argues that the new fangled Feast of Christ the King is misleading and badly distorts the drama of the Christian year.

Here's a taster:

This story [of the Biblical gospel reflected in the traditional church year] ... speaks unequivocally of the Kingship of Jesus Christ as a past achievement, and hence as a present reality; and it describes the still-future hope of God's final act of new creation. That's the story we tell in the great sequence of the church's year. Placing the 'Feast of Christ the King' on the Sunday before Advent, especially as the climax of 'Kingdom Season', simply unweaves this narrative. It questions the presence of Christ's Kingdom from Ascension onwards; it implies that maybe Christ is only King of heaven, not of earth as well; and it belittles the hope that is set before us in Advent itself. The sooner we get back to the real, robust story, instead of pulling it out of shape, the better.

For All The Saints?: Remembering the Christian Departed (London, SPCK, 2003), p70

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why didn't God make it clearer?

According to Gerlad Bray, "Augustine explained the hard parts of Scripture by saying that God deliberately put them there in order to keep us awake and attentive to his voice.”

No-one disputes that it is much more pleasant to learn lessons presented through imagery, and much more rewarding to discover meanings that are won only with difficulty. Those who fail to discover what they are looking for suffer from hunger, whereas those who do not look, because they have it in front of them, often die of boredom. In both situations the danger is lethargy. It is a wonderful and beneficial thing that the Holy Spirit organized the Holy Scriptures so as to satisfy hunger by means of the plainer passages and remove boredom by means of its obscurer ones.

Gerald Bray, ‘The Church Fathers and Their Use of Scripture’ in Helm, Paul and Trueman, Carl, (ed.s) The Trustworthiness of God: Perspectives on the nature of Scripture (Leicester, Apollos, 2002) p165 quoting Augustine, On Christian Teaching II, 13-15.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How Often To Eat?

Here are some jottings on the frequency of the Lord's Supper:

Some Scripture passages

Acts 2:42 – they devoted themselves to the breaking of the bread

Acts 20:7 - the church at Troas met on the 1st day of the week to break bread

1 Cor 11:17-22 on coming together as a church to eat the Lord’s Supper with 1 Cor 16:2. meeting on the first day of the week

Some voices from church history

Didache 14:1 (ca. 50-150) and Justin Martyr, 1st Apology, 67, (ca. 100-165) indicate weekly Communion (Mathison, p292)

Calvin, Short Treatise on the Holy Supper of Our Lord etc. (1540): “If we have careful regard to the end for which our Lord intended it, we should realise that the use of it ought to be more frequent than many make it…. Therefore the custom ought to be well established, in all the churches, of celebrating the Supper as frequently as the capacity of the people will allow…. Though we have no express command defining the time and the day, it should be enough for us to know that the intention of our Lord is that we use it often; otherwise we shall no know well the benefits which it offers us.” (Reid, ed., Calvin: Theological Treatises (Philadelphia, Westminster, 1954) p153)

Calvin, Institutes 4.17.43, “The Supper could have been administered most becomingly if it were set before the church very often, at least once a week.”

Institutes 4.16.45, "we ought always to provide that no meeting of the Church is held without the Word, prayer, the dispensation of the Supper, and alms"

Calvin, Articles Concerning the Organization of the Church and Worship in Geneva (1541): “it would be well to require that the Communion of the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ be held every Sunday at least as a rule.” (Reid p49)

John Owen says:

Q40: How often is that ordinance [the Lord’s Supper] to be administered?

A: Every first day of the week, or at least as often as opportunity and conveniency may be obtained – 1 Cor. Xi. 26; Acts xx. 7

“A Brief Instruction in the Worship of God”, Owen, John, The Works of John Owen
ed. William Gould (London, Banner of Truth, 1968), volume XV, p512

Martin Bucer (Mathison, p293) and Thomas Cranmer (Letham, p58f) also favoured weekly communion.

Letham, Robert, The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word In Broken Bread (Phillipsburg, P & R Publishing, 2001)
Mathison, Keith A., Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine Of The Lord’s Supper (Phillipsburg, P & R Publishing, 2002)

Revd Dr Michael Horton's adult catechism of talk on the frequency of the Lord's Supper (related to its purpose) can be heard at:


Monday, November 13, 2006

John Bradford on Bible & Supper

John Bradford seems to think the Bible offers us the body and blood of Christ:

Now to that part of the objection with saith, that we teach Christ to be no more otherwise present in the sacrament than in the word. I would that the objectors would well consider, what a presence of Christ is in his word…. St Jerome, in the third book upon Ecclesiasties, affirmeth that ‘we are fed with the body of Christ, and we drink his blood, not only in mystery, but also in knowledge of holy scripture:’ where he plainly sheweth that the same meat is offered in the words of the scriptures, which is offered in the sacraments; so that no less is Christ’s body and blood offered by the scriptures, than by the sacraments…. [As Jerome says:] ‘Christ’s flesh and blood is poured into our ears by hearing the word’…

And the Supper offers us edible words:

Not that Christ is not so much present in his word preached, as he is in or with his sacrament; but because there are in the perception of the sacrament more windows open for Christ to enter into us, than by his word preached or heard. For there (I mean in his word) he hath an entrance into our hearts, but only by the ears through the voice and sound of words; but there in the sacrament he hath an entrance by all our senses, by our eyes, by our nose, by our taste, and by our handling also: and therefore the sacrament full well may be called seeable, sensible, tasteable, and touchable words.

Writings of John Bradford I, ed. A. Townsend, Cambridge (Parker Society), 1848, pp99-101. Quoted in Rowell, Stevenson and Williams, Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest For Holiness (Oxford, OUP, 2001), pp58-60

Lord's Supper Covenant Renewal

… thou callest the cup ‘the testament (or covenant) in thy blood;’ for the covenant which thou once hast stricken with us in thy blood, thou dost as it were renew the same as concerning the confirmation of our faith, so often as thou reach unto us this holy cup to drink of.

Writings of John Bradford I, ed. A. Townsend, Cambridge (Parker Society), 1848, p260f. Quoted in Rowell, Stevenson and Williams, Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest For HolinessOxford, OUP, 2001), pp58-60

The Feast of St. Charles Simeon

It was good to be told today in chapel that the 13th November is the day on which the Church of England celebrates the Lesser Festival of Charles Simeon, Priest, Evangelical Divine, who died on 13th November 1836.

Here’s the Collect:

Eternal God,
who raised up Charles Simeon to preach the good news of Jesus Christ
and to inspire your people in service and mission:
grant that we with all your Church may worship the Saviour,
turn in sorrow from our sins and walk in the way of holiness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Daily Prayer, p516)

Isaac Watts gets a Commemoration in the C of E calendar on Saturday 25th November, but perhaps the experimental character of Friday chapel services at Oak Hill may allow it to be celebrated a day early this year?

Memorable Remembrance

An extraordinary array of organisations took part in yesterday's remembrance parade. I think my favourite group name was the 'Memorable Order of the Tin Hats'.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Theological Index

Search on-line for details of theological articles at:


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Children's & Youthwork Resources

Show&Tell are offering free resources for Bible centred children's and youth work.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Psalm 1 & Matthew 5-7

God-willing, I’m going to preach Psalm 1 to the good people of Emmanuel, Hastings on Sunday 29th October.

They’ve asked me to choose a NT reading and, although this is forward planning gone mad, I thought I might go for Matthew 7:13-29.

It seemed to me there are some interesting parallels between Matthew 5-7 and Psalm 1:

  • Mt 5v3ff – “Blessed…”
  • 5v17ff – “the Law” – fulfilment in Jesus
  • 7v13ff – 2 ways, righteous and wicked, leading to life or death
  • 7v15ff – trees, fruit and judgement
  • 7v24ff – Wise and foolish builders (righteous and wicked ways again), ruin or safety – depending on hearing Jesus’ words and putting them into practice

Now maybe this is parallelomania. And I’m not sure what the cash value might be.

Preaching group today seemed to think that Mt 7 would make a suitable reading but that it would be best to let it speak for itself and not try to make any links in the sermon. A bit of a shame?

Suggestions for a different NT reading that I could profitably use would be most welcome. Indeed, please email your talks on Psalm 1! I’ve been asked to produce power point slides, of all things, too. I've never before ventured beyond an OHP or a handout, so if you have any power point presentations on your memorey stick…. Though I think my more highly skilled wife is looking forward to the fun of showing me how to make my points waltz across the screen and so on. Sounds like another first dance embarrassment could ensue.

And wouldn’t it be good if we could find a catchy version of Ps 1 to sing that we might easily meditate on it all week?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Paper & ink; bread & wine

Here is Douglas Wilson comparing the fact that the Bible is nothing but paper and ink to the fact that the elements we recieve in the Lord's Supper are nothing but bread and wine, though both Bible and Supper are far more than the physical elements.

What are the conventions for footnoting blog posts, I wonder? The college will probably producing a supplamentary booklet to set out the regulations, I imagine.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Suitable Ordinand

Cranmer Hall apparently recommended that Nick Howard should not be ordained because of his supposed “unwillingness to listen” to other points of view. Though if these press reports are to be believed, the real offence was caused by Nick’s standing by the Bible’s teaching that homosexual sex is a sin and that Jesus is the only way to God.

The Mail on Sunday:

Michael Howard's son tells how liberal Anglicans have thwarted his ambition

By Elizabeth Day

Last updated at 22:00pm on 30th September 2006


Or likewise,

This is London – Evening Standard

Michael Howard's son tells how liberal Anglicans have thwarted his ambition | News | This is London


* * *

From the little I know of Nick Howard, it seems to me he would be an eminently able minister and a faithful servant of the gospel. He seems to me a gentle and sensible sort. A great shame. Isn’t there some bishop somewhere who’d like to ordain him despite this report from Cranmer?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Top Bible Command

What's the most frequently repeated commandment in the Bible?

"Do not be afraid!"

(Tom Wright, Matthew For Everyone, p118)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A theological put down


as in "Karl Barth's exegesis is".

Oak Hill Blogs

Welcome to Daniel Roe - http://capreol.us/didyktile/

And have you seen?

Dave Williams - http://davewilliams-random-thoughts.blogspot.com/

Helen Morrow - http://helenmorrow.blogspot.com/

Rachel Warwick, a former member of staff at Oak Hill, has a blog entitled Not "where next?" but "where now?" at: http://rachwarwick.blogspot.com/

Here’s a list of all the vaguely Oak Hill related more or less used blogs I’ve spotted:

Revd Dr David Field - http://davidpfield.blogspot.com/

Ros Clark – I have a question - http://www.ihaveaquestion.blog.co.uk/

Revd Matthew Mason – Mother Kirk - http://motherkirk.blogspot.com/

Revd James Oakley http://www.oakleys.org.uk/blog/

Celal Baker http://www.icarusredeemed.blogspot.com/

Mandy Curley – Safety Girl - http://www.mandycurley.blogspot.com/

Chris Thomson - http://www.christhomson.blogspot.com

Tim Gough - http://www.timothygough.blogspot.com/

Paul Kerry – Freedom is Coming - http://www.freedomiscoming.blogspot.com/

Pete Matthew – Big Pete - http://big-pete.blogspot.com/

Andrew Towner - Towner's Thoughts - www.townersthoughts.blogspot.com

Dawn Evans - www.sisterdawn.blogspot.com

Pete Jackson - http://peteatcollege.blogspot.com/

Dan Green - http://dan-ycm.blogspot.com/

Nick Cornell - http://my.opera.com/nsc21/blog/

Ruth Field - http://www.pickledonion.blogspot.com/

Revd Chris Green - http://www.chris-green.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Psalms & Covenant Festivity

My jottings on a Psalms lecture handout alledge that Artur Weiser argued that the Psalms were used in the Autumn / New Year covenant festival of the LORD.

I wonder if this might fit happily with the view that we should use the Psalms rather more in the Lord's Day service of covenantal renewal?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In Praise of Warfield

I’ve read a fair amount of criticism of B. B. Warfield over the last couple of months so I’ve collected some of the nice things people have said about him too:

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said:

His mind was so clear and his literary style so chaste and lucid that it is a real joy to read his works and one derives pleasure and profit at the same time.


J. Gresham Machen said:

When I returned from Germany in 1906, I entered, as instructor in the New Testament department, into the teaching staff of Princeton Theological Seminary....Warfield was Professor of Systematic Theology (or "Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology," as the chair was then more sonorously and vigorously called). And what a wonderful man he was! His learning was prodigious. No adequate notion of its breadth can be obtained even from his voluminous collected works. Consult him on the most out-of-the-way subjects, and you would find him with the "literature" of each subject at his tongue's end and able to give you just the guidance of which you had need. Now and then, in wonderfully generous fashion, he would go out of his way to give a word of encouragement to a younger man. The old Princeton was an environment in which a man felt encouraged to do his very best.


Warfield’s student F. T. McGill wrote:

Dr. Warfield possessed the most perfect combination of faculties of mind and heart that I have ever known in any person … the most Christ-like man I have ever known.

http://www.evangelical-times.org/Articles/Nov01/nov01a11.htm - quoted by Thomas G. Reid Jr in Warfield Commemoration Issue, 1921-1971, Banner of Truth, 89 (Feb. 1971) p.18.

John De Witt (1842-1923), Professor of Church History at the Seminary, who had known three other notable systematic theologians of the time (Charles Hodge; W. G. T. Shedd, 1820-1894; and Henry B. Smith, 1815-1877) was ‘not only certain that Warfield knew a great deal more than any one of them, but … disposed to think that he knew more than all three of them put together’.

R. W. Cousar, Benjamin Warfield: His Christology and Soteriology, PhD thesis, Edinburgh University, 1954, p.7.

Thomas G. Reid Jr called him: “the last of the great Princeton systematic theologians.”

Henry Krabbendam said:

Warfield, undoubtedly the most distinguished representative of the Old Princeton position on Scripture, never grew weary in his extensive writings on the subject to defend the plenary, verbal inspiration, and therefore the inerrency, of the Bible. His repeated and thorough preoccupation with the inspiration of Scripture has not only placed a stamp on American Reformed and Presbyterian thought but has even gained him the accolade of being the greatest contributor ever to this theme.

‘B. B. Warfield Versus G. C. Berkouwer on Scripture’ (pp413-446) in Geisler, Norman L. (ed) Inerrancy (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1979) p413, citing God’s Inerrant Word, ed. J. W. Montgomery, (Minneapolis, Bethany Fellowship, 1974, p115

Dr Casper Wister Hodge Jr (Warfield’s successor in the chair of Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary) said in 1921:

We think today of Archibald Alexander, that man of God, the first professor in this seminary; of Charles Hodge, whose Systematic Theology today remains as probably the greatest exposition of the Reformed theology in the English language; of Archibald Alexander Hodge, a man of rare popular gifts and an unusual metaphysical ability; and last but not least, excelling them all in erudition, of Dr. Warfield…. At the time of his death he was, I think, without an equal as a theologian in the English-speaking world. With Drs. Kuyper and Bavinck of the Netherlands he made up a great trio of outstanding exponents of the Reformed faith.

Dr George L. Robinson said:

Dr Warfield was the best teacher I ever had either in America or Germany. I took notes under him assiduously; and the notes I took I have used more than those of all other professors together. He taught us with rare clarity and persuasiveness. He combined quizzing and lecturing in the most marvellous way. He kept a man on his feet from twenty to thirty minutes, interrogating him and in Socratic style informing him.

Quoted in Warfield, B. B., Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 1, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), p.viii, ix

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Christian Navel

They have a striking way of putting things and great spelling these Puritans:

God hath tyed us to the Scriptures onely: so that as the child in the womb liveth upon nourishment conveighed by the Navel cleaving to it, so doth the Church live onely upon Christ by the Navel of the Scripture, through which all nourishment is conveyed.

A. Burgess, “Spiritual Refining, etc.” London, 1652, p132 quoted in Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge, The Westminster Assembly and Its Work (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 2000) The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Volume VI (New York, Oxford University Press, 1932), p208

Saturday, September 16, 2006

James Oakley's blog

I'm very excited to see that the clever Revd James Oakley (a former Oak Hill student) has been blogging since April:


A quick glance reveals there's good stuff on a number Bible passages and fascinating looking post on bringing together some of Platt's insights into how we read Old Testament stories and Frame's perspectives.

On his website at:


are links to some of his sermons and essays, which I'm sure are excellent.

The Sacrificial Meal

In a typical Reformed way, Doug Wilson wants to emphasise that the Supper is a meal God offers us not a sacrifice we offer to Him. It is a blessing that flows from the sacrifice of Christ, distinct from it but not separate from it. Some Old Testament sacrifical meals or sacrifices where the stuff offered is eaten presumably provide a pretty close parallel for this, especially perhaps when we recall the (hightened?) priesthood of all believers under the new covenant. In response to the Supper we God our sacrifice of thanks and praise, having eaten with gratitude.

Here's the text of Wilson's post stolen from Blog and Mablog at:


The Lord’s Supper is a sacrificial meal, which is not the same thing as a sacrifice. The Lord Jesus offered Himself on the cross two thousand years ago, and when He ascended into heaven some weeks afterward, at that time He presented His sacrifice in the heavenly places, in the ultimate Holy of Holies. His sacrifice was a once for all atonement. But in the Bible, sacrifices have blessings that flow from them—which are distinct from the sacrifice, but not separable from it.

Because this is a sacrificial meal, it has to be understood as something God is giving to us. If we do not understand it this way, then we will of necessity turn it into something that we are rendering to God. Of course, the Roman church thinks of this table as an altar, and the bread and wine and a sacrifice proper. But most of the modern evangelical world thinks of it in the same way. The offering of man to God in this case is a testimony, or a dedication, or a confession, or something offered up to Him. The thing they share in common is the view that man is somehow a priest in this, and offers a sacrifice of some sort to God.

But this is a sacrificial meal, not a sacrifice, and this means that the initiative is the other way. God feeds us, God nourishes us, God welcomes us, God sheds His love abroad in our hearts. We do not offer this meal; He offers this meal.

Our response to this may be described as a sacrifice—but it is a sacrifice of response, specifically the response of praise and thanksgiving. This keeps the order as it ought to be. The Table is God’s gift to humanity as He makes us into His new humanity, built up into Jesus Christ, the perfect man. At this Table, we submit to His grace, and are most thankful.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Jesus the Proper Jonah

Its obvious really, when you think about it, but it took Tom Wright in Matthew for Everyone on Matthew 8:23-27 (pp88-91) to get me to consider Jesus as the True / Proper / Faithful Prophet-Greater-Than Jonah, from the calming of the storm incident (c.f. Mt 12:38-41).

The prophet is asleep in the boat while the sailors are terrified by a storm, so they wake up the prophet and it all gets sorted out. Unfaithful Jonah has to be thrown overboard. Faithful Jesus just tells the wind and the waves to behave themselves. The prophet brings a message of judgement and forgiveness.

A few points on the Sabbath

I was trying to post this on Daniel Newman's blog but couldn't get the comments thingy to work for some reason, so I thought I'd give up and put it here instead. I'm afraid I've not read every word of the discussion at Christ and Covenant and some of this is plagarised from Garry but for what its worth:

I certainly imagine Abraham celebrating the Sabbath. Presumably God told Adam about it as they chatted in the Garden.

Exodus 16 implies the Sabbath is already known.

Maybe the WCF will help us out on the switch to Sunday:

VII. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him:[34] which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week,[35] which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's Day,[36] and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.[37]

VIII. This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their wordly employments and recreations,[38] but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.[39]

Those in striking distance of Oak Hill may be interested in James Packman’s BA Short Dissertation: An Evaluation of the Arguments Used in Mainstream Puritanism that the Change of Day from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day was Theologically Warranted and Biblically Demanded (2004).

Could we not take Col 2:16 and similar NT references to be to the Jewish Sabbath (Sat.), as Owen does?

Owen warns against a novel rejection of the consensus of the Church on the Christian Sabbath: “persons truly fearing the Lord ought to be very careful and jealous over their understanding, before they embrace an opinion and practice which will shut them out from all visible communion with the generality of the saints of God in this world.” (Works, Volume 18; (?) 33; 434)

On Hebrews 4:

The verb used for rest is katapauo. The noun is also used, katapausis.

But then in verse 9 the writer, when he says that a rest remains, uses a new word which he does not use elsewhere, sabbatismos. Interestingly, Aland in the brief dictionary gives this as 'a Sabbath day's rest'. It is a term coined from the verb sabbatizo in the LXX, and the Aland translation rightly picks up on how it is used in the LXX.

Gramcord gives 4 uses:

Ex 16:30, for rest on the seventh day

Lev 23:32 for day of atonement as a sabbath day.

26:34, 35 sabbath rest/years for land.

Hence each OT use indicates an actual observance of a period of rest by people/land.

Lane says that the only non-Christian use is in Plutarch and refers to Sabbath observance, as do the 4 patristic uses.

So, the argument runs, there is here a pointed use of a term distinct from the term used for eschatological rest in the chapter, a term describing actual periods of resting while on this earth. The use of apoleipo for 'remains' may also be interesting - in the NT it seems to mean something remaining where it has been. Hence the Sabbath rest remains as it has been, implying a continuation of a previously existing thing. If that thing is earthly observance, then...

Dr Williams has some recommended reading on this (which I've not looked at):

Jonathan Edwards, Perpetuity and Change of the Sabbath

On the eschatological argument (that our rest is wholly future in Christ) see Richard Gaffin, 'Westminster and the Sabbath' in The WC into the 21st C ed. Lingon Duncan III (Mentor, 2003) and on Heb 4, 'A Sabbath Still Awaits the People of God' in Pressing Towards the Mark ed., Dennison & Gamble (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986)

The Christ of the Word & The Word of Christ

Warfield said:

“It [the Westminster Confession of Faith] states, in a word, moderately and justly, the same doctrine of the necessity of Scripture which Edmund Calamy, one of its framers, states somewhat immoderately in the words: “There are two great Gifts that God hath given to his people: The Word Christ and the Word of Christ. Both are unspeakably great; but the first will do us no good without the second.” (The Godly Man’s Ark, 7th edition, 1672, p55f) Yet even Calamy was not a bibliolater,” but means just what Paul does in Romans x.14.” (p564)

Warfield anticipates that his Westminster doctrine of Scripture will produce a charge of bibliolatry but says: “Such a reverence for God’s Word as God’s Word is no doubt an act of worship; but whom shall we worship if not the God of the Bible?” (p570)

Warfield, B. B., Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 2, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Warfield's Autograph Hunting

B. B. Warfield welcomed the Westcott and Hort (i.e. an ecclectic version) edition of the Greek New Testament as a real improvement and was extraordinarily enthusiastic about what might be hoped for from Lower or Textual Criticism. He said:

“The inerrant autographs were a fact once; they may possibly be a fact again, when textual criticism has said its last word on the Bible text. In proportion as they approach in the processes of textual criticism, do we have an even better and better Bible than the one we have now.” (Selected Shorter Writings, p557)

He was also confident that the text available in his day was highly accurate:

“We already have practically the autographic text in the New Testament in nine hundred and ninety-nine words out of every thousand;” (p558)

PhD notes

My notes on the Lord's Supper and Scripture have now passed the 80 000 word mark, which is the Middlesex University word limit for a PhD.

Its a shame that an original and significant contribution to scholarship is needed - though some of my notes have a waxky enough flavour not to be thought too derivative, I guess.

I expect the examiners'll want an argument too, rather than a scrapbook - or a blog.

If only PhDs were a bit more like Cert Min (in a way) or Christians in the Modern World (in another way).

Right, back to Warfield...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Never Heard of Her

Despite Douglas Jones' enthusiasm for Flannery O'Connor I must admit that I've never heard of her. Is he right to be this keen and should I be ordering all her stuff?

Flannery O'Connor is easily the most important and talented and self-consciously Christian short story author of the twentieth century. Nobody else is close. I've seen her stories revolutionize people's lives, and yet most Christians have never even heard her name. Sure, many Christian academics and writers sing her praises, especially of late. But we should all know her stories inside and out; they should be easy allusions in conversation; they should be common parables in our teens' mouths. And we need to master her style and absorb her insights before the next generation can build upon her gifts.


Person or Book? Christ or Bible?

Although it’s a very wrong-headed way of thinking, it sometimes seems to be supposed that we must choose between a Christianity that is focused on a person or a book, Christ or the Bible.

Tim Ward describes the way in which the orthodox Evangelical doctrine of Scripture might sometimes be seen to represent an implicit challenge to the supremacy of Jesus Christ, the subject-matter of Scripture, who is actually present in its reading and proclamation. Ultimately it might be thought, one cannot serve two masters; one must choose between Christ and Scripture, between Christology and the doctrine of Scripture as the content of God’s speech.

John Barton puts it simply:

‘Christians are not those who believe in the Bible, but those who believe in Christ.’

People of the Book? The Authority of the Bible in Christianity (London, SPCK, 1988), p83

Ward, Timothy, Word and Supplement: Speech Acts, Biblical Texts, and the Sufficiency of Scripture (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002) p289

This is a false dilemma. Jesus rules his people by his word. The Bible is God speaking. God's people believe the speaking God and trust in the real Jesus who is the Christ of history and of Scripture.

Warfield seems to have anticipated the sort of criticism Barton seems to be making and which Ward is describing. Warfield’s response is convincing:

Christianity is often called a book-religion. It would be more exact to say that it is a religion which has a book. Its foundations are laid by apostles and prophets, upon which its courses are built up in the sanctified lives of men; but Jesus Christ alone is the chief corner-stone. He is its only basis; he, its only head; and he alone has authority in his Church. But he has chosen to found his Church not directly by his own hands, speaking the word of God, say for instance, in thunder-tones from heaven; but through the instrumentality of a body of apostles, chosen and trained by himself, endowed with gifts and graces from the Holy Ghost, and sent forth into the world as his authoritative agents for proclaiming a gospel which he placed within their lips and which is none the less his authoritative word, that it is through them that he speaks.

Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 2, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973) p537

Table Seating Plans

Stand Up, Sit Down

According to Warfield in ‘The Posture of Recipients at the Lord’s Supper: A Footnote to the History of Reformed Usages’ in Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 2, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973) pp351-369):

Our Lord administered the Supper to recumbent recipients. In antiquity the elements were usually received standing, the typical posture for prayer and praise. Remarkably, the Leeuwaarden church in Frisia receive elements walking, to suggest readiness for service! It is usual for the Reformed to receive the Supper seated, and this is most appropriate since it is fundamentally a feast or meal. Kneeling is customary amongst Romanists, many German Protestants, the Church of England and Bohemians (!). It is not wrong in itself and might be a sign of humility but is in danger of suggesting idolatrous adoration of the created elements.

Keep Moving

The Anglican practice of going up to the railed off altar / table is a Laudian innovation. Anglican used to receive the Supper in the pews as many non-conformists now do.

Ideally the whole congregation would sit at the table, but this is often not convenient when there are large numbers of communicants or an awkward space.

The Lord’s Table, Not The Lord’s Cupboard

Gillespie said that “the nature of a feast requireth that the guests be set at table, and that all the guests be set about it, for the use of a table is not for some, but for all the guests, else no table is necessary but a cupboard.” (Sub-committee of Westminster Assembly on Directory of Public Worship, Miscellany Questions, XVIII; Works II, p956)

The debate on communicating at the table at the Assembly took three weeks.

Exaggerating the Gift of Tongues

Writing in 1915, B. B. Warfield said:

… the Bible is accessible today to three-quarters of the human race in its own mother speech. It is only natural that, in the presence of this stupendous fact of the transfusion of the Bible into the languages of the earth, men should think of the miracle of Pentecost and see that miracle projecting itself through the ages…. The miracle has been accomplished, and now it is but a slight exaggeration to say that every man may hear the mighty things of God in his own language in which he was born.

Warfield, B. B., Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 1, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), pp6f

Warfield on The Sacrificial Feast

Reformed Evangelicals are clear that the Lord's Supper is not a propitiatory sacrifice, but many of the best writers are willing to use language of sacrifice to speak of the Supper.

Here is B. B. Warfield on the fundamental significance of the Lord's Supper as a perpetual sacrificial Passover feast (with a new symbol of Christ, the True Passover Lamb). He's more nuanced than we might expect and gives a positive account of the meal, rather than merely anti-Papist polemic:

All who partake of this bread and wine, the appointed symbols of his body and blood, therefore, are symbolically partaking of the victim offered on the altar of the cross, and are by this act professing themselves offerers of the sacrifice and seeking to become benificiaries of it. This is the fundamental significance of the Lord’s Supper. Whenever the Lord’s Supper is spread before us we are invited to take our place at the sacrificial feast, the substance of which is the flesh and blood of the victim which has been sacrificed once for all at Calvary; and as we eat of these in their symbols, we are – certainly not repeating his sacrifice, nor yet prolonging it – but continuing that solemn festival upon it instituted by Christ, by which we testify our “participation in the altar” and claim our part in the benefits bought by the offering immolated on it. The sacrificial feast is not the sacrifice, in the sense of the thing offered, that is eaten in it: and therefore it is presuppositive of the sacrifice in the sense of the act of offering and implies that this offering has already been performed. The Lord’s Supper as a sacrificial feast is accordingly not the sacrifice, that is, the act of offering up Christ’s body and blood: it is however, the sacrifice, that is the body and blood of Christ that were offered, which is eaten in it: and therefore it is presuppositive of the sacrifice as an act of offering and implies that this act has already been performed once for all.

'The Fundamental Significance of the Lord’s Supper' in Warfield, B. B., Selected Shorter Writings, ed. Meeter, John E., vol 1, (Nutley, NJ, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), p336f

Useful Theological Studies Sites

There seems to be lots of useful bibliographical information and links as well as some hosted articles at these sites by Robert Bardshaw:





Our wedding snaps

I've put 6 photos from our wedding (for which many thanks to Hutch) at:


Rowan's Repentance?

I’d not noticed for days that Archbishop Rowan Williams may have repented of some of his previous statements on homosexuality.

Reproduced below is some of Virtue Online's discussion of what’s happened, which can be followed up here:


A Telegraph article by Jonathan Wynne-Jone on 27th August available at


seems to have picked up comments Rowan made to a Dutch journalist. A strange way to announce your repentance, perhaps. Reform have welcomed it and the gay lobby are in a tizzy.

Williams has told homosexuals that they need to change their behavior if they are to be welcomed into the church. The church, he said, must be a welcoming community but is not an inclusive one.

Rowan Williams has distanced himself from his one-time liberal support of gay relationships and stressed that the tradition and teaching of the Church has in no way been altered by the Anglican Communion's consecration of its first openly homosexual bishop.

"I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself. Welcome is. We don't say 'Come in and we ask no questions'. I do believe conversion means conversion of habits, behaviours, ideas, emotions," he said.

At the same time he tried to distance himself from a controversial essay, ‘The Body’s Grace’, he wrote 20 years ago, in which he defended same-sex love. "That was when I was a professor, to stimulate debate," he claimed. "It did not generate much support and a lot of criticism - quite fairly on a number of points."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Noble Army of Martyrs

According to The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity run by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary:

70 million Christians have been martyred since Christ, over half of these in the 20th century alone.

Revd Ray Porter drew our attention today to all sorts of statistics available at:


How To Write Better Fiction

The Revd Dr Peter Leithart argues at:


that if Protestants are to write good fiction, they need a better understanding of the sacraments. It’s a little while since I hastily read the article, but the gist is that modern evangelicals tend to have a Zwinglian approach to the sacraments, seeing them as mere (empty) symbols, pointing to something rather unrelated to themselves. In contrast, a richly sacramental view of the world allows for the idea that actual things in the creation (or in stories) can be truly themselves but also have a real significance beyond themselves. Evangelical authors are thus prone to fall into flat literalism or unreal allegory rather than seeing the meaning in, with, under and beyond things in the world (or in the stories they write).

So, to write better fiction, get a better grasp of the sacraments, signs and the things signified.

Somewhat related, no doubt, is stuff about affirming creation and incarnation, and not separating the sacred and the secular, or the physical and the spiritual, nature and grace.

We might also think that great fiction requires at least a quasi-sacramental view of the power of words: we have to allow for words to have real meaning beyond themselves, to have genuine significance and to effectually work on the reader so that he is moved and changed by what he reads.

Bible Reading Principles - in big words

When we come to the Bible we pray for a virtuous hermeneutical spiral (not a vicious circle) in which our theological frameworks are brought to texts of Scripture and repeatedly refined by them. We cannot avoid bringing our presuppositions, but God knew that when he wrote this book for us and his Spirit is our teacher.

A hermeneutic of suspicion is required when we come to the Bible, but we are to be self-suspicious, not sceptical or closed to God or his Word but seeking to be transformed.

Something of what N. T. Wright calls broadly an epistemology of critical realism and narrowly a ‘hermeneutic of love’ is required.

Each satge of the process [of reading] becomes a conversation, in which misunderstanding is likely, perhaps even inevitable, but in which, through patient listening, real understanding (and real access to external reality) is actually possible and attainable.

(The New Testament and the People of God, London, SPCK, 1992, p64, indebted to Ben F. Meyer on ‘critical realism’.)

Our Canonical reading and use of the whole Bible must be multi-perspectival. As Ward says:

In sum, a principle of ‘canonically limited polyphony’ is proposed, which would establish three necessary conditions, collectively forming a sufficient condition, for the ‘naming’ of the God of revelation. [1] God must be named polyphonically. To name him in only one way would be to view and know his reality in only one dimension. [2] And God must be named by a limited polyphony. To name him in limitless ways is not to name him at all. [3] And to seek to delimit the polyphony by any other criterion than by the canon of Scripture is to risk naming a God after our own image…. Since no one can ever grasp the full polyphonic self-revelation of God at one time, no one can ever succeed in fully nailing God down. (Only idols are susceptible to nailing down; they even require it, sometimes (see Isa. 41:7).

(Word and Supplement: Speech Acts, Biblical Texts, and the Sufficiency of Scripture, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, p296)

Trust that’s perspicuous!

The 'Literal Sense' of Prawns - in Context

We Bible-believers often want to appeal to something like the ‘plain’, ‘natural’ or ‘literal’ meaning of the text of Scripture, but without making naive or simplistic claims to some kind of neutral presuppositionless reading.

There seem to be lots of helpful things in Tim Ward’s sometimes hard to understand book, Word and Supplement: Speech Acts, Biblical Texts, and the Sufficiency of Scripture (OUP, 2002).

He’s careful on this point. A (Warfieldian) orthodox Protestant confession of the sufficiency of Scripture with Christ as the centre of the canon:

is not intended as an argument for a ‘flattening’ literalistic interpretation of Scripture, particularly of those parts of the Old Testament which, in the course of progressive revelation, do not have a ‘literal’ authority over believers today. ‘Literal’, though, is here in scarce-quotes because… the Old Testament itself refers to what for it is an [partly?] unnamed coming reality. For Christian believers, obedience to the ‘literal’ sense of e.g. Old Testament food laws in the context of the canon would therefore mean adherence to Christ’s warning that it is not what goes into us that makes us unclean but what comes out of us (Mark 7:15). Literal sense, which is always contextually defined, is therefore to be distinguished from literalistic sense, which is not. See Vanhoozer’s comment that ‘the literal sense – the sense of the literary act – may, at times, be indeterminate or open-ended’ (Is There A Meaning In This Text? p313). Nor is it to deny the necessity of recognizing tropes in Scripture; as has long been acknowledged, the ‘literal sense’ of a text can be metaphorical, if that is its intended meaning. (p292)

I guess too that all this would be part of a scholarly defence of interpretative maximalism?

The term “scarce-quotes” is new to me, by the way, and I think I might make more use of them. Along with lots of carefully chosen “m-” and “n-” “dashes”- which Miss Bell informs us was originally a printing term - based on “m” being twice the width of an “n”.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Research Breakthrough

I had the unusual happy experience this morning of typing out a quotation that I'm pretty sure might actually make it into the final cut of the Dissasertation I hand in.

In a book which looks pretty problematic, Kern Robert Trethbath suggests that some of the problems with B B Warfield's doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible would be alleviated if he thought of the Bible as a sacrament. I'm not terribly convinced by what Trethbath says here but I think it could be helpful to speak of the Bible as sacramental.

“Warfield presents an equivocal doctrine of inspiration. His account cannot determine whether inspiration is finally a mediate or immediate activity, yet he believes that a decision must be made between the two alternatives. He is unwilling to accept a doctrine of Scripture in which genuine human participation is allowed, both because such a doctrine does not explain the divine effects that the Bible exercises upon and within the church and because the (salvific) necessity of the Bible does not allow the patient to provide the remedy. But Warfield equally cannot accept a doctrine of Scripture which requires the immediate activity of God, because such a doctrine entails some form of mechanical dictation theory and the consequent utter passivity of the human instrument…. Warfield is caught between what were for him two empirical poles: the inerrancy and authority of the Bible on the one hand and the results of anthropological and psychological observations on the other…. he was unable finally to decide between them because he never considered the possibility of divine activity working through nondivine, and therefore fallible, means. That is, he did not consider the Bible itself as a sacrament, a genuine creaturely product which is at the same time genuinely able to convey the divine initiative.”

Trembath, Kern Robert, Evangelical Theories of Biblical Inspiration: A Review and Proposal (New York, Oxford University Press, 1987) p24