Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The View From Nowhere.

Thomas Nagel's phrase for supposed objectivity in his 1986 OUP book of that name.

So many books to read

Having been trying to think about speech act theory and Scripture, I'm worried by this telling off from Richard Briggs:

… many biblical interpreters seem to suppose that speech act theory is constituted in its entirety by How To Do Things with Words, or at least that nothing is lost by adding to this only some footnoted appeals to the work of John Searle. (p5)

Words in Action: Speech Act Theory and Biblical Interpretation – towards a hermeneutic of self-involvement (Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 2001)

Burning question

Do you reckon that putting the bodies of the Christian dead to sleep in the earth is a more appropriate testimony to the hope of the resurrection of the body than cremating them?

Monday, January 22, 2007


We're off to the Cotswolds for a few days of huddeling in "Stow-on-the-Wold where the wind blows cold."

I think Mrs Lloyd is expecting some walking so the location has been specially chosen by me in the hope that it offers a few small pimples we can easily conquor but not challenging summits.

I intend to make a special study of tea rooms, real ales and fine meals to offset my mud footprint.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Edible Words Website

This is a promising new resourse with a great name.

Edible Words is a living resource to help the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper play their fullest role in the life of reformed churches.

Edible Words is a community website containing meditations written to prepare a congregation to welcome new members by Baptism, or to share together in the Lord's Supper.

EdibleWords has been devised with busy elders / pastors / teachers in mind.

Such people may wish to lead a congregation in a short meditation before celebrating the Lord's Supper or administering Baptism. But time to prepare such meditations may well be less than the desire to give them.

EdibleWords provides a forum for such people to share the meditations that they have prepared, to the benefit of other reformed church leaders.

EdibleWords will also be a resource for those who would value such meditations, but they are not used in the church they attend.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fianl Helping of Lusk on Supper

Some jottings arising from Rich Lusk’s fourth and final Auburn Avenue Media lecture on the Lord’s Supper:

The Lord’s Supper is training in mission, hence the end of the old Latin service, “You are sent out” and the title “Mass”. The Supper prepares the church to die for the life of the world and take the way of servant-sacrifice, transforming the creation into the Kingdom. As we eat the body of Christ we become more and more like the body of Christ, scars and all. See Peter Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power, ‘After the Supper’ on the cultural effects of the Eucharist.

A eucharistic life shows hospitality. Show grace as God has invited us into his home and life and fed us. God’s life is a life of openness, generous welcome, joy, sharing, regardless of worthiness and merit. God feeds us lavishly, undeserving as we are. God’s incarnational ministry patterns our own word and deed ministry. (Mt 11) Words and deeds belong together and are mutually interpreting.

The upper room of Jn 13ff is a heavenly mountain top experience with a new law. Wash feet and fill bellies: that is our calling.

The Supper incarnated the love of Christ, as should we.

The Supper affirms the intrinsic goodness of creation, culture and dominion. William Temple rightly said that Christianity is the most materialistic of all religions – the most earthy and oriented towards creation. Cultural transformation is brought into the kingdom in subordination to Christ. Salvation is an escape from sin, not from the creation.

The supper shows us the sacramental possibility of the whole of life.

The supper calls us to responsible stewardship as we eat and drink to the glory of God.

The supper tells us that Christian life is fundamentally one of joy and victory. We are satisfied in God who feeds us with the best of things (his Son). Week after week God sets before us glorious excess. The supper is the most uncommon common meal. It is about a table not a tomb.

The supper promotes grace consciousness. If you feel unworthy to come, good: that’s why you need to come. The Supper is for weak sinners to feed on. It is in Jesus we have access to this holy food. Holy things for holy people. Those who are in Christ eat Christ. The table is not something you attain to. It is a gift from the beginning. The liturgy imposes gratitude on us.

A wrong view of the supper is a wrong view of the supper.

The Supper must be open to all baptised non-excommunicate Christians.

The Supper is the high point of the Lord’s Day, which is the high point of the weak: feasting & rejoicing.

The supper cries out to God in hope. We do this until he comes. Christ is both really present and really absent so there is a longing. We are fed and satisfied but still hungry. Like the people who have not yet entered the land we eat the fruit ahead of time. The Supper is a foretaste in the present of the future. The future has occupied the present. In blessing or curse the supper leaves its indelible mark on the world. Definitive and future eschatology. The supper shows us where history is going.

We supper empowers us for the wilderness journey and the conquest of the whole world.

The Bible is a food test, like Gen 2-3. Israel in the wilderness grumbling, Ex 32, Num 5, Christ’s temptation in the wilderness (Mt 4), 1 Cor 11. Adam in the garden is in the best of all conditions in a garden with all food to eat and fails the test; Christ is in the worst of all conditions in the wilderness with nothing to eat and passes the test.

Just as Scripture does not explicitly command a weekly sermon, it does not command a weekly supper but both are fitting. The Supper marks out the Lord’s Day as covenant renewal worship.

Biblical order of service: Lev 9: Summons, call to worship; Sin offering / confession & absolution; Whole burnt offering – the ascension / going up offering (as smoke in the cloud into the heavenly glory cloud) – consecration, praise, Word; Tribute offering – tithes and offerings; Peace offerings – eat; benediction and dismissal.

The temple show bread / face bread / bread of the presence was eaten by the priests every week.

Jesus abrogates animal sacrifices but not sacrifice.

The Bible does not say much about worship because it presupposes the OT liturgy.

Acts 20 – an upper room again.

Churches that have cut off the Lord’s Supper have usually invented some other way of responding to the word, such as an altar call.

The sermon is table talk, not an academic lecture but a father talking to his household.

Spontinaity is not the essence of sincerity.

Worship forms like dance steps must be learned. We need to feel at home in them. The Lord’s supper should be habitual virtue that becomes part of who we are and what we characteristically do.

An infrequent communion can make it more of a superstitious bid deal.

Bible Translation Project

If we really buy Doug Wilson’s arguments in Mother Kirk and repeated on his blog (which I think have much in them, though I’m not sure) for a Church Authorised translation based on the providentially preserved textus receptus majority version, then it must be a high priority to get together as many churches as possible to sponsor a modern language English translation? What could be more important than access to God’s true Word.

The team could work from the KJV and it wouldn’t be too hard, would it? All those clever Oak Hill graduates could give it 20 mins a day?

This would have the added benefit that this version would neither be in hock to the academy nor the publishing companies. The version could be copyright free and cheap copies could be multiplied, there could be free versions on the web and lots of new audio Bibles, and so on.

Superstituous Ritual

By a superstitous ritual I mean doing something non-Biblical I don't like, in an organized way.

But surely this, from the BBC website, must be a great example.

Thanks to Neil Jeffers, who has yet to join the blogging revolution, for pointing it out.

Friday marks the most important day for Hindu pilgrims in the enormous Ardh Kumbh festival taking place in the northern Indian town of Allahabad.

The new moon night, or Mauni Amavasya, is celebrated on Friday, making it the most auspicious day in the six-week-long Hindu bathing festival. Millions of pilgrims are there.

A particularly choice quote is:

"I don't know the significance of this day but my Guru knows it"

This reminds me of a conversation I had with Brother Andrew (not the Brother Andrew). He is an Anglican monk in a silent enclosed vegitarian order! But I happened to be there on a feast day so we could have wine and conversation in few well chosen words.

I asked him why he crossed himself, which he must usually do at least 30 times a day.

He said, "Do you know, I've never really thought about it. I don't know. I suppose I do it because the Father Superior and the other members of the Community do it. If I really wanted to know why I do it I'd ask the Abbot".

Now I'm all for tradition, ritual, community and church authority but this seems like "I don't know but my Guru knows".

Thursday, January 18, 2007


That's the Regulative Principle (of Public Worship), not recieved pronunciation.

If anybody knows the first English use of the phrase in this way (or a foreign language equivalent) by the way, I'd love to know. The great Miss Wendy Bell, the college librarian, Revd Michael Del Rio MTh and the ABTABL emailers and I tried to find out once but didn't get very far.

There's been some discussion of RP on Daniel Newman's blog but as the trail is quite old, here are some expanded thoughts:

Reading John Frame on the Regulative Principle of Public Worship seems pretty essantial to me.


So properly understood we're saying that the regluative principle of the whole of life is valid and bibliacal though the reformed scholastics may have erred by (1) applying it in a special narrow sense to public worship and not to other things (e.g how we dress and what we eat) and (2) treating what the Bible taught too narrowly (e.g. not taking into account what the Old Testament tells us about public worship and God's love of special feast days, neglecting examples and images in favour only of explicit NT commands).

Also, the Westminster Confession and Directory are useful on all this, aren't they, in suggesting a kind of distinction about accidence (e.g. what time on Sunday morning we meet) and essence (we must meet on the Lord's Day morning, ideally early). I forget if those are their terms. The church has authority to make semi-binding rules for a time on the accidents but not to change the essence (e.g. she can't abolish Bible reading or sermons in favour of meditation on poetry but she can say that people who read the Bible in oublic must not wear shorts).

Frame has a further distinction between elements (e.g Bible reading and singing) and mode (e.g. how loud and what instruments) which all helps.

Pure Relationship with Jesus

I hope you all have a regular look at it anyway, but just in case, I thought this was perseptive and provocing from Revd Dr Peter Leithart:

Unbearable Burden of Evangelicalism

Anti-sacramental, anti-ritual evangelicalism emphasizes a personal relationship with God, but tends to encourage what Anthony Giddens calls "pure relationship," a relationship that is not tacked down with external anchors and supports. A live-in relationship, without benefit of the rites and legalities of marriage, is a pure relationship. Evangelicalism tends to encourage a live-in relationship with Jesus.

This is wrong, a departure from Christian tradition, and unbiblical. It also places unbearable burdens on the soul. Tempted by the devil, Luther slapped his forehead to remind himself of his baptism. His standing before God was anchored in Christ, to whom he had been joined by baptism.

For evangelicals, assurance cannot be grounded in anything so external and objective. Spontaneous enthusiasm is the test of sincerity, and the source of assurance. But eternal, self-scrutinizing vigilance is necessary to ensure that the enthusiasm is really spontaneous.

Enthusiasm was supposed to liberate the soul from all the dead forms, but it comes with its own set of chains.

posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 06:55 PM

More Productive...

Thanks to Alistair (link to blog on right) for pointing to http://www.lifehacker.com/

Perhaps "close down the blog" might have been one suggestion!

Theres some stuff there about how to turn your blog into a book, but unfortunately nothing baout how to turn it into a PhD.

Cross-Shaped Creation

I think it was James Jordan (it usually is!) who pointed out that the cross was right at the heart of the original creation, since the four rivers flowing out of Eden must have formed a cross.

Which is interesting theologically when one considers the relationship between creation, fall and redemption. There is the cross prior to and without reference to the fall.

I guess one could also say that the four rivers / the cross suggest universality and the whole world since they represent the four points of the compass.

Where does Jordan get all this stuff? Yes, the Bible, I know. And surely the man is a brillant genius. But this particular point looks like the kind of thing the Fathers would have said? Might go and see if the Ancient Christian Commentary on Genesis mentions it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Supper with Lusk

Some jottings arising from Rich Lusk’s third Auburn Avenue Media lecture on the Lord’s Supper:

Bread was used extensively in Old Covenant worship: grain offerings and the show offerings.

Baptism is a sacrament which speaks of pure grace. Water is not made by men and they contribute nothing to it. It is “nothing in my hand I bring”.

Bread is part of the good creation but it also requires human work transforming nature. Bread shows that God welcomes our efforts and works into the kingdom: human cultures are taken up into the kingdom. Bread is symbolic of our cultural endeavours as stewards and our faithful exercising of dominion over the world. The sacred – secular divide is shown to be a false dichotomy.

We receive the sacrament as gift but we also offer the bread back to God, grateful for his blessing on our work.

As Warfield and Kuyper point out, God’s original purposes for creation are fulfilled. Redemption brings creation to its goal. Kuyper can even call redemption accidental. There is an eschatology already built into Genesis 1 and 2: to bring the garden to a city, to bring humanity to maturity as a son, to make her a bride for Christ.

Samuel Johnson said animals take and eat but no beast is a cook. Man becomes human (civilised) with the breaking of bread.

We may decide to use leavened and unleavened bread at different seasons of the church’s year. Yeast speaks of the secret transforming growth of the kingdom, of hope. Unleavened bread speaks of Passover and of purity and may be appropriate to Lent.

A Biblical theology of wine: feasting and rejoicing, especially in victory and redemption and accompanying the coming of the Messiah. In the Old covenant worship no-one could drink: drink was poured out before the Lord. Worshippers always left the Old cult thirsty, but now with the promise fulfilled, God shares his cup with his people. Is 62: drinking wine in the courts of the sanctuary in the New Covenant. Old Testament priests could not drink wine while on the job but now we can rejoice in the work of the High Priest fulfilled. Jesus refuses to drink on the cross until his work is completed (just before in Jn, he says, “it is finished”) – Jesus will not drink the fruit of the vine until he drinks it again in the Kingdom. It is as if Jesus has taken a Nazarite holiness war vow as he does his special work.

The Supper is a wedding feast not a funeral ceremony. We are not just toasting a departed friend.

The vine is a picture of the people of God. Christ is the vine and his people are the branches.

Dt 14: drink wine in celebration of God’s goodness. New Testament worship should be even more festive than Old Testament worship since the OT saints only celebrated shadows whereas we celebrate the reality.

Gen 14: Abraham gives Melchizadek his tithe and Melchizadek gives Abraham the bread and wine – eating and drinking after victory.

Judges 9 even says that wine makes God glad!

Psalm 78: the holy warrior drinks a cup of wine and is ready to go into battle.

Wine is powerful stuff. Drinking it is a dangerous business. Drunkenness is a terrible wickedness that must be avoided. At the Supper we are trained in the right use of God’s gifts. The Lord’s Supper too is dangerous and must be used worthily if it is not to be the cup of wrath from which people drink condemnation on themselves.

The early Protestants were accused of being drunk with the joy of the forgiveness of sins.

Eating and drinking shows that the kingdom is here.

Just like the yeast, fermentation speaks of maturing, progress and transformation. The Old wineskins are burst. The gospel is no longer bottled up in Palestine. The cork is out and the Word is flooding the world.

Wine speaks of the blood of Christ. Wine is the blood of grapes according to Genesis.

The one food law in the New Testament is that we must do this: eat and drink bread and wine. We are not at liberty not to do this or to change the menu (e.g. to grape juice).


The supper belongs to the baptised. It is for the whole covenant community: men, women and children. 1 Cor 12 – baptism and cup linked.

A new humanity must include every stage of human life. The whole creation (including children) is redeemable.

Covenant promises and practices always include children. Covenant succession is built in with the next generation sharing in the gifts / signs of the covenant.

Covenant children are regarded as believers, having faith in the Bible.

Jesus invited children into his presence. He surely wants them at his table.

Children are members of the body and we must rightly discern the body at the Supper. Presbyterian: examine yourself! We should not divide the body at the Supper. As Robert Rayburn says, peado-communion is fitting with a Reformed ecclesiology.

Peado-communion is the majority position in church history and dropped out because of transubstantiation. The Reformers failed to reintroduce it and did not really consider the arguments put forward today. We would not look to Calvin to find out whether or not we should use a PC or a Mac.

Anabaptists used the Reformed rejection of peado-communion as an argument against peado-baptism.

In 1 Cor when Paul speaks of examining oneself, he is clearly speaking to adult problems (such as drunkenness at the supper). If this text rules out children from the supper, by the same logic, children who do not work should not eat.

* * *

The supper not only expresses faith but is formative of faith. Doing the supper remoulds us as our faith is embodied. The Supper norms covenant life and shapes the church.

The supper manifests gratitude for a gift. C.f. Rm 1.A restored human life is eucharistic.

The habit of thanksgiving spills over to our common meals.

The Supper is intrinsically social and irreducibly corporate – an antidote to individualism. Gathered worship with the Eucharist as its culmination is the centre of our life. There are no private communions. This is a family meal, a fellowship, communion with Christ and with one another. We manifest and learn our community life at the table and are trained in the manners of the kingdom here. We wait for one another and serve one another. We learn the culture of the New Jerusalem. Our unity is celebrated. Kingdom justice and economics are worked out.

The Supper is a sacrifice and meal of covenant renewal with God and with one another,

We become friends with God at the supper, his companions, those with whom he shares the bread.

The table is about peacemaking and reconciliation.

Do not excommunicate yourself. You are summoned to do this. We must not amputate the body of Christ, depriving it of one of its members.

What's in a name?

Thanks to Ruth Field for pointing to the Times OnLine thingy about names.

Sadly there was no entry for "Marc", which no doubt would be entirely different from "Mark". Cruel discrimination against the Welsh by the nasty English yet once again.

But it turns out "Mark" is in the doldrums.

So Jeffers, if you need a baby name in the next few days, you may like to consider doing the decent thing. Additional middle name perfectly acceptable. (Marcia doesnt get a look in either, by the way, should the baby be of the other genre).

From Times Online here:


From the Latin name Marcus, which is based on Mars, the Roman god of war;

Average age: 37.
Average income £30,000.

Most likely to live in the East of England.
Marks are twice as likely as most people to be directors or managers.
Marks are the most likely to have unsecured loans.
The name Mark has had a dramatic change in fortunes. After being in the Top Ten throughout the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties, it had dropped to 44th place by 1994, and is not now in the Top 100.

I have some growing up and some wage earning to do if I am to avoid being below average marks, it would seem.

PhD proposal

Some negative sorts might say that its perhaps a bit late to change - as by September I theoretically ought to be half way through my research (time-wise) - but I reckon the PhD I'd really like to be working on at the moment would be:

(1) An account of Auburn Avenue, Federal Vision, James Jordan, Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, Rich Lusk and their pals doctrines of the Lord's Supper with footnotes

(2) An assessment of continuity and discontinuity between (1) and (a) the Bible, (b) the Fathers and (c) the Reformed Tradition

Unfortunately the C of E are kindly supporting a slightly different project, but I'm open to a bidding war? It might be debatable which project I've so far been working most on. :)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Lusk on Lord's Supper

Some jottings arising from Rich Lusk’s second Auburn Avenue Media lecture on the Lord’s Supper:

Rich Lusk notes that the classic Reformed view asserts that the Lord’s Supper is an offering or sacrifice in a sense, although it is not a re-offering of Christ or propitiatory. In the Supper Christ is offered to us and just like the Old Testaments saints, we eat the sacrifice. The fact that the bread and wine are separated, as the animal was, shows that it is a sacrifice. The Biblical way is always a way of sacrifice and the Christian life is one of sacrifice. Like the peace offering of the Old Testament we participate in eating in God’s presence.

The Supper is our sacrificial thank offering towards God. That is what Eucharist means. It is a time for joyful thankful feasting together with the risen Christ, not private introspection about sin.

Calvin says that as in the Supper God offers us Christ, so we offer Christ to God. The movement is primarily from God to us, but also from us to God. We offer ourselves in union with Christ, the only way in which we can offer anything to God.

In response to Christ’s once for all propitiatory offering, we offer our thank offering of Christ and we in him.

The Supper is a re-humanizing reversal of the fall. Our lives are to be eucharistic thank offerings to God. Gratitude is at the heart of it. If Adam and Eve had stopped to give thanks before eating the forbidden fruit, they would surely have realised they should not eat.

Jesus tells us to do this as Jesus’ memorial, not as an individualistic remembrance. Like the rainbow and the Old Testament sacrifices, the memorial calls on God to keep his covenant, renew the world. They plead the blood of Christ and claim the promises of God. The proclamation of the Lord’s Supper is primarily to God himself.

The supper is an objective, true, real, means of grace. It is a cup of blessing. God’s promise makes a blessing intrinsic to it. But the Supper must be received worthily, with a living faith. We may face chastisement if we eat unworthily or even judgement and curse if we eat unbelievingly. Jesus may be really present to judge.

Calvin quotes Augustine as saying that in the elect alone the sacraments effect what they promise. Our faith does not constitute or trigger the means of grace. Faith receives what God has firmly promises. Calvin says that the symbol consecrated by the word keeps its own force and nothing can prevent it from being what it is but its blessing is received only by believers. The flesh and blood of Christ are truly given to the unworthy and unbelievers but not received by them. The supper is a faithful pledge not a bare sign even to unbelievers though it becomes a curse to them. Something powerful and efficacious happens every time we come to the supper. There is no neutrality, as when the gospel is preached.

The Supper is the sacrament of the Church’s unity.

The Supper is an administration of the Word and Promise of God.

The Supper is the Gospel in edible form, it is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for us.

The Supper must not become a theological puzzle to be solved but a gracious offer to be received. We must not be so caught up with metaphysics that we miss what the Supper essentially is. The mystery is that the Spirit unites us to Christ in heaven in this meal.

The Bible is all about eating from garden, to Abraham receiving bread and wine with Melchizedek, Passover, Manna, water from the rock, testing with food and drink in the wilderness, feast days, Is 25, Jesus eating and drinking, wedding at Canna, banquet parables, feeding miracles, Levi’s party, Last Supper, Lord’s Suppers, resurrection meals, Acts 20 – bread breaking, the wedding Supper of the Lamb.

As C. S. Lewis says, God is the ultimate materialist – he created matter. The Kingdom of God comes from another world, but it enters this world and transforms it.

The Supper and the incarnation are the ultimate affirmation of this world.

Ecclesiasties 2:24-25 – working, eating and drinking. 10:19 – feasting and laughter, wine makes merry. Psalm 104 – wine is to gladden men’s hearts. We are to enjoy bread and wine lawfully to God’s glory. Bread and wine are God’s good gifts and the fruit of human labour. They are the most basic of human food, created on the 3rd day – wheat and fruit. Bread is 1st, alpha food – basic substance which you need to subdue creation. Wine is last, omega drink – rest, celebration. You don’t start your day with wine but you end it that way. Bread and wine encompass all of life, just as the Lord’s Day is the last (8th) and the first day of the week.

We are sensible creatures – we are to feel the benefits of the Supper to us as we do this. The crucial doing is the eating and drinking.

The Old Covenant contains 80 feast days (including Sabbaths) and one fast. That’s my kind of religion!

In the Old Testament sacrifices, the Spirit is God’s fire. The sacrificial animal is both Jesus and the people. God is eating you and you are eating Jesus. As the smoke ascends, the sacrifice (representing the worshipper) is incorporated into God, the glory cloud: you participate in and communicate with God. “You are what you eat” is good theology. God’s eating the offering is a sign of his grace and openness, not his neediness.

Jesus’ body: (1) the physical incarnational body of the historical Jesus (2) the bread, “this is my body, given for you”(3) the church is the body of Christ.

As Luther says, we are not only eating Christ, we are eating one another – incorporated into one another. In the words of the ancient slogan, “the Eucharist makes the church”. We eat Christ’s body (the church) and become Christ’s body.

Calvin was a receptionist rather than a consecrationist. It is in eating the supper that it becomes the body of Christ, not in an abstracted consecration. There is no localised presence and no epiclesis. We pray a prayer of thanks not of consecration.

The doctrine of transubstantiation tended to exclude children from the Supper as kids are likely to spill the holy blood of Jesus.

"Adult Cereal" Protests Called Off

I was surprised to see that our local Sainsbury's supermarket has a whole section of shelveds labeled "Adult Cereal".

Fortunately, there seems to be nothing sexually explicit about said cereal products and as far as I could see they would be perfectly suitable for the under 18s.

The labelling is odd, but does not require a co-ordinated campaign of letter writing, boycouts and chaining of oneself to railings. I will not be lying down in front of trollies.

On the subject of protests, did you know that Most Revd Dr Archbishop Rowan was once arrested while celebrating the Eucharist at a Green-And-Comman Woman's Protest, I believe. I guess this puts him in a noble company of arrested prelates, although perhaps Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer had more important causes?

Keyboard instruments

It turns out that the piano makes its noise by hammers hitting strings. It is therefore from one point of view a procussion instrument.

The harpsicord (as the harp like name suggests) somehow makes its noise by plucking strings - like a string instrument.

The organ is all about wind - so is it more like wood wind or brass and has this changed throuh history?

Pianists can be a bit snobby about organists since how hard you hit the keys on the organ makes no difference, where as "touch" is vital for playing the piano well.

You do have all the stops and pedals and more than one keyboard to worry about on the organ but it only takes the same ammount of co-ordination as playing a drum kit and most people can make a sound on that.

Is that all correct, musos?

I played twinckle twinckle little star (first line only) twice badly in front of 4 musicians and 3 examiners yesyerday, and they were all very impressed - or at least they smiled and said nice things...

More Food Anyone?

More foodie insights from Doug Wilson's marvelous My Life For Yours: A Walk Through the Christian Home (Canon Press, Moscow ID, 2004) - which you really should get - good, quick, easy reading, well put, Biblical, insights on most pages, different from some of his other books (if basically saying the same thing!), a nice conceit.

God is clearly not a strict pragmatist or narrowly utilitarian. He has made lots of unnecessary things for the shear joy of it. Our cooking should be likewise. Many of the things God has made taste good sauted in butter.

We should not think of the dinning room as if it is a gas filling station. Eating is far more than topping up the tank.

We must avoid gluttony and idolatory as well as fussiness as the doctrine of demons ascetisism. Gluttony is not an extra roast potato or chocolate at Christmas: it is part of the disolute rioutous lifestyle that was a capital offence in ancient Israel. Dt 21:20 see also Prov 23:19-21; Lk 15:13

In the Bible fat is often a good thing. God likes the fat parts and gives us fat to eat. See Gen 27:28; 45:18; 49:20; Num 13:20; dt 31:20; 1 Chr 4:40; Ps 22:29; 36:8; 65:11; 92:12-14; Prov 11:25; 13:4; 28:25; Is 10:16; 25:6; 55:2; 58:11 esp. Neh 9:25 on the blessing of becoming fat. Wilson points out however that we must not eat to unhealthy excess: it is good to be able to tie one's own shoelaces.

Manners at the table are the liturgy of dinning. We must be careful to show good manners in correcting the manners of our children. Remeber that you live (wherever) rather than at the court of Louis XIV. If your son licks his knife, which I believe is not done in the better circles, remeber it is not done to climb down another's throat.

The Father should act as the moderator at the table so that all can eat and speak - but that doenst mean he has to be the talkative one or have the biggest helpings.

"Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" is emphatically not an argument against smoking or for exercise or healty eating or not mainlining heroin or anything like that. Ironically, give the way so many evangelicals use the text, the context of 1 Cor 6:18-20 clearly shows that Paul is speaking specifically only of sexual sin. All the other sins listed above come from outside the body and nothing that goes into a man can make him unclean, as I believe the Lord Jesus Christ mentioned in Mark 7:18f.

Eating the Gospel

As Doug Wilson points out, almost all food has died because of man's sin and for our sake that we might enjoy the gift of new life. Every meal speaks to us of the gospel, as does each grain of wheat that dies and falls to the ground and comes to life again and bears much fruit, just like the Son of Man.

Monday, January 15, 2007

How New is New?

With both the New Creation and the New Covenant it is worth asking just how New is New?

In both cases the answer is the same and is found in Jesus.

Just as the new covenant is the old covenant (the one covenant of grace) renewed in a different manifestation (not the Adamic, Abrahamic, Mosaic adminstration but the Christian administration) so the New Creation is the one old creation made new, not abolished but renewed, fulfilled.

Jesus Christ's physical body provides the prototype or firstfruits of the world (creation) and the people of God (elect covenant): it is the one same old body renewed, transformed and glorified.

It is great good news that God has given up neither on his creation nor his covenant but is bringing both to the most marvelous maturity and fullness in Christ.

Shepherd's Pie and Cwassons

Cooked the Shepherd's Pie with spicey parsnip mash from Nigel Slater's Real Cooking yesterday. Cooked it in about half the time it said, having just come back from church and having hungry guests waiting, and it was still yummy. No signs of food poisoning yet. Could have got it ready to go in the oven the day before actually. And could have managed with half the ingredients too, I reckon. The mash was quite rich and sweet and I wonder if 50-50 potatos and parsnips might have been better?

For pudding my domestic goddess of a wife conjoured up warm cwassons with a hot chocoloate sauce and cold vanilla ice cream from Nigel Slater's Real Food. Quick, easy, fun and delicious. Cwassons are going to be a pudding in our house often now, d.v..

Cwassons, by the way, are a French pastry served for breakfast, if my gifted spelling was too much for you on this occasion.

John Buchan

What a guy! A good BBC4 (didgy box Xams gift from the olds!) documentary last night a reminder of his amazing achievements despite gut trouble: son of a dreamy Scottish presbyterian minster, hard work, sense of sin from mother, grammar school scholarship, Oxford, over 100 books, including founding a genre (more or less), a few biographies and an autobiography, husband, father of four, war reporter, director of Ministry of Information, editor of the Spectator, Tory MP (remind you of anyone?), pro-Israel not anti-semitic, Governor General of Canada, elevated to the peerage, slipped getting out the the bath, whacked his head and died a few days later in 1940. Not bad. 39 Steps has been made into at least 3 films (including one by Hitchcock of which Buchan approved, despite its liberties with the story) and continues to sell 10 000 copies a year.


Another great sermon yesterday from Pastor Charles Dobbie, in my humble opinion, which can be heard from the Holy Trinity, Lyonsdown website, d.v..

1 Samuel 1: Hannah.

Pastorally sensitive comments about the problems and pain of childlessness, both for married and singles.

The Bible as theological history.

Hannah as a type of Israel at the time of the Judges - a new thought for me. (I guess it also makes sense to think of Hannah as a type of Elizabeth and Mary because of her miraculous baby and her role in the coming of the Messiah).

God's mercy and power in using Hannah's humble and helpless weakness in his salvation purposes.

Left me wanting more - which is good, as it was the start of a Sunday morning series.

"Sorry, Kids, I..."

Dough Wilson argues that a father must make a point of apologising to his wife and children and seeking their forgiveness as publicly as he sins against them. Whenever he has lost his temper, he must humble himself and say sorry, no matter what the pleas in mitigation. Seems to me this would have a great affect on family life and would lead the others into a posture of grace giving and recieving too. Might even try it.


Since incense smells lovely and looks so good (if not overdone) and is biblical (being refered to in the NT and used in heaven) I don't understand why we evangelicals don't use it as a sign of our prayers ascending to the Father and being sweet to him? Experimental Friday chapel, anyone? Or we could get some way-up-the-candle-stick bishop in to do it on a Thursday, I guess? Or perhaps the next free church communion?

Sabbath tips

Doug Wilson suggests starting your sabbath celebrations at 6pm on Saturday, like the first century Jewish practice. This has the advantage that a great big feast can be prepared without too much work on the Lord's Day.

Fasting on the sabbath, by the way, is a "pious" form of sabbath breaking since the weekly Easter is commanded as a feast and a delight, not a penitential season.

Gospel Music

We've had this discussion before and I reckon at least one eminent musician (ED, not my wife) was right to argue that not all music is as programatic as I (and it seemed Kevin Vanhoozer) were suggesting. But I still reckon that all music (and indeed all art) corresponds more or less to the gospel and is therefore more or less godly and pleasing to God.

The basic shape of the gospel (and of all stories) is a tick: good creation, crisis fall / tension, redemption, glorification / resolution, better end.

It is legitimate for a piece of music to sound any note(s) in the whole symphony (you could have thrash metal that rages against sin) and all this could be more or less conscious in the mind of the composers.

I guess Jonathan Edwards might be right when he speaks of communal singing as very close to the highest glory - though I don't see why there shouldn't be a huge orchestra too.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Supper a good work

Rich Lusk observes that the mere memorialist (whom he terms a 'mentalist') is as in danger of making the Lord's Supper a human work as the medieval Roman Catholic. An empty symbol cannot do anything except cast you back on yourself and your own works, your abilities to remember and conjour up religious sentiment.

A Calvinistic ('symbolic instrumentalist') view emphasises dependance on the Spirit and promise of God with the Lord’s Supper as God’s gift to us (in which he offers us the whole Chrits, the glorified God-Man), not a work which we do for God but a work which God does for us.

Faith in Christ

We are united to Christ by faith (in the Spirit).

But faith is also a gift of God. Persumably a gift which we recieve from and in Christ. On the basis of our union with and participation in Christ, Christ's faith (and faithfullness) are ours.

No doubt I ought to know this, and I look forward to kicking myself, but just remind me again how all that works: faith in Christ - basis or consequence of our union with Christ, or both?

Did Matthew Mason's dissertation (on faith union in Owen etc. ish.) tell us everything we need to know about this?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Female Headship

Doug Wilson writes:

We need order and hierarchy in order to live together, and it’s important to note that while the Bible teaches the husband is the head of the wife, and the head of the household, in a very real sense the wife is the head of the house…. 1 Tim 5:14… Tit 2:4f…

The idea of a wife as live-in maid and all-purpose drudge is antithetical to the scriptural pattern. The woman of the house is the mistress of her domain (and it is her domain); she has authority that can and should be exercised over members of her household. This extends to issues great and small: The laundry goes here, shoes come off at the door, rinse the dishes before they go in the dishwasher…..

A husband as the head of his wife is an honoured and permanent guest, but he should learn to see himself as a guest…. one of the husbands central duties is that of providing his wife with a domain where she exercises the kind of authority you see throughout … Proverbs 31…. That woman, whose price is above rubies, works in real estate, manages a vineyard, manufactures textiles, labours as a seamstress, works as a philanthropist, and directs all the servant girls. In short, she is the very model of an oikodespotes. (p13f)

Wilson, Douglas, My Life For Yours: A Walk Through The Christian Home (Moscow ID, Canon Press, 2004)

Gobbledygook apologies

Sorry if some of my blog posts have been showing gobbledygook other than that of my own intentional making. I think its due to writing stuff in Word and then copying it into Blogger. All the garbage seems to be invisible if you use Mozilla Firefox, not Microsoft's Internet Explorer, and I didn't know it was doing it.

I shall try to do better.

Do any techy types know if I can copy things from Word without importing all this unwanted stuff? I tried hitting the Remove Formatting button but it got rid of my line breaks too.

Wright's Sacraments Soundbites

N. T. Wright’s Jan ’07 Calvin College lectures on Space, Time, Matter, New Creation and the Sacraments, which can be heard here, contain lots of good, stimulating things – and some stretching stuff:

Here are some paraphrased jottings arising:

Being immersed in the sacramental life of the church, talking about the sacraments is a bit like talking about eating or breathing. We are able to feed on the Supper without understanding everything that’s going on, just as we benefit from our breakfast without having a full understanding of the medical processes involved in its digestion.

Isaiah 54-55, pattern of new covenant, new creation and memorial offering

From the New Testament point of view, heaven is very important, but it’s not the end of the world. The goal of this creation is its fulfilment not its abolition: all things are to be made new in Christ, renewed, transformed and glorified.

The New Creation will not be some kind of atemporal eternality. God made time good and he made plenty of it.

Even the New Creation will be a project / programme (a growing tree with the leaves for the healing of the nations) – there will be work to be done.

What would it look like for time and matter to be redeemed?

If you can’t imagine what a non-corruptible physicality that’s a problem with your imagination, not with the concept.

[Wright spoke briefly about hell and denied being a universalist]

Since we have an embodied salvation we have embodied signs of it in the sacraments.

Good Friday is the 6th day of the week, the day of the creation of mankind and Pilate says, “Behold the man” [an interpretive maximalist moment!].

When you hear someone say, “in a very real sense” they probably mean, “I really want to assert this but I’m not sure how”. Likewise to say something is “mysterious” or “mystical” can just be a way of saying we don’t understand it.

In the Supper we eat food that comes to us from God’s future as the people of Israel ate grapes in the wilderness from the promised land, before entering it.

Isaiah 6; 11; Hab 2: Is the earth full of the glory of God or is it yet to be filled with it?

In our attitude to matter we need to avoid on the one hand superstition, magic and idolatory and on the other dualism, gnosticism and escapism.

Sacraments are in a way the opposite of speech acts (which do things by speaking). These actions (like a handshake or a kiss) do and say more than can be said in words.

The speech acts or acted speech of the sacraments prepare us for action.

In theological discussion you always have to say everything you believe or someone will accuse you of deliberately missing something out.

Luke 24 – word and sacrament go together. Sacraments without words would have no defined meaning. The sacrament is the word / story brought to action.

Churches with the pulpit only in the centre are like mosques where the word alone matters and sacraments have no place in the cultural life.

Though we must avoid errors like panentheism and pantheism, with the eastern orthodox we may learn to see the whole world is sacramental, or at least full of sacramental possibility for the Christian.

I am not a panentheist but because of 1 Cor 15; Rom 8 I am an eschatological the-en-panist – God will be all in all.

In the Anglican tradition we say of confession to an authorised minister that all may, none must, some should.

Some kind of penance, confirmation and ordination could be seen as a drawing out of what is implicit in baptism and the supper.

I would be happy to use sacramental language with a small ‘s’ of marriage, eating a meal and saying grace, and washing.

Baptism reminds us the watery creation narrative.

As the Lord’s Supper is a new Passover, Baptism is a new Exodus – through the waters of the Jordan into the Land of the New Covenant.

Paul talks about things happening through the sacraments. He dosen’t say its as if things happen or that we should keep something in mind.

I once heard a Roman Catholic cardinal say that world is full of baptized non-Christians.

Even in the first generation there were people in the church who were baptized and participating in the eucharist without a living faith (1 Cor 10-11) and they were courting disaster. They must be warned that God is not mocked.

Its not that someone has to have their Christianity all sorted out before they can be baptized but that there are times when Paul appeals for faith on the basis of baptism.

God welcomes us as we are but God’s welcome never leaves us as we are. Baptism is a call to holiness.

We sometimes talk about “baptizing” an idea as a superficial incorporation of an idea into the church – but that is not a proper baptism. Baptism is a call to die and rise, to be deeply transformed.

Martin Luther: when all else fails and the world seems dark I say to myself: “I have been baptized”.

Baptism is not a bare ritual. We must avoid ritualism and anti-ritualism.

Some Protestants are tempted to think that doing anything at all smacks of works / merit righteousness but we are to be embodied Christians. We must embrace creation.

The natural focal range of a new-born baby is the distance between its mother’s breast and its mother’s eyes.

I suspect that some children have a deeper and fuller faith than many who say the creed every week. Just as a small balloon and a big balloon can both be full, so a small child and an adult can both be full of the love of God, even though the adult needs to have a greater grasp of the love of God to be full.

In the eucharist we taste the new creation so that we can be agents of new creation in the world. That needs more than political and social activism. It needs the power of the Spirit.

The eucharist is not sympathetic magic so that the clock-work under the altar works properly.

Augustine: believe and you have eaten

We must avoid Western dualism between spirituality and action in the world.

As Torrance has suggested, some of the new Thomists like Eric Maskill might not be far off what Calvin is trying to say about the Eucharist.

Love is the highest and richest way of knowing – respecting the one being loved and entering into appropriate relationships with it

Maybe protestants can talk about eucharistic sacrifice since from in Bible, from a human point of view, sacrifice is always a response of gratitude, love and praise to grace.

I’m not saying there aren’t serious disagreements between Roman Catholics and Protestants on the Eucharist and that if we thought about it we’d see we all agree after all.

Roman Catholic polemicists sometimes accuse Protestants of adding something else to Christ’s sacrifice by the Eucharist since Protestants insist that the Supper is not a repetition of Jesus’ sacrifice.

In the eucharist sacramental time takes us back to the crucifixion and forward to the new creation in the present.

The Orthodox allow little children to participate in the eucharist and even give them a morsel of bread at their baptism.

Restricting admission to the Lord’s Supper to the confirmed was a medieval innovation by a bishop who wanted to boost numbers of confirmation candidates.

You can celebrate the eucharist anywhere (on a beech or in a hospital) but it is worth doing it in a wisely designed worship space, just as it is best to drink a fine wine from the best glasses rather than from plastic coffee cups.

The eucharist and baptism are narratives, stories: God’s story, Israel’s story, Jesus’ story, the world’s story, our story. The liturgy must tell this story.

Unity is central to the Lord’s Supper. All those who believe in the Lord Jesus and are justified by faith (Gal 2) belong at the same table.

Since the eucharist is a public event proclaiming the unity of the whole church, it is desirable that in normal circumstances authorised ministers should preside. Lay presidency (like a common law marriage) might lead those who preside over time to be thought of as “common law” ministers.

The minister wears a robe to preside at the eucharist not to say how important he is but to show that he doesn’t do it as a private individual but as an authorised representative.

If you don’t leave yourself open to the charge of antinomianism you probably haven’t preached grace quite loudly enough.

We baptise once and celebrate the eucharist regularly because you can only be born once but you need many meals, as the people of Israel came through the Red Sea once and received the Manna daily. Rebaptism is a theological nonsense though pastoral rededication may be helpful for some.

The union of complementary unlikes is one of God’s most fundamental laws. It is not possible to have gay marriages.

Sacraments are to the Christian life as sex is to a good marriage: they colour and give life to the whole, although they are not going on all the time. The whole Christian life is sacramental as a marriage is sexual.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What would Jesus Eat?!

Its quite amazing some of the stuff Christianbook.com is promoting (ie. emailing me about, for some reason):

"Christian" Diet Books

The Makers Diet Book & Day-by-Day Journal,
CBD Price: $19.99

The Hallelujah Diet,
CBD Price: $11.99

What Would Jesus Eat?, Paperback Edition,
CBD Price: $7.99

"Christian" Exercise Helps

Sweating in the Spirit DVD,

CBD Price: $15.99

PraiseMoves: The Christian Alternative to Yoga, DVD,
CBD Price: $12.99

Fit 4 Life: Gospel Workout, Compact Disc [CD],
CBD Price: $8.99

Thursday, January 04, 2007

J L Austin's Sacramental Language

Its striking that J. L. Austin, the founder of speech act theory, used language borrowed from the sacraments when arguing that words actually do things.

Speaking of the need for words to be spoken and taken seriously if they are to be operative (e.g. name a ship or make a bet) he says:

… we are apt to have a feeling that their [the performative utterances] being serious consists in their being uttered as (merely) the outward and visible sign, for convenience or record or for information, of an inward and spiritual act: from which it is but a short step to go on to believe or to assume without realizing that for many purposes the outward utterance is a description, true or false, of the occurrence of the inward performance.

Criticising this way of thinking he argues rather that:

Thus ‘I promise…’ obliges me – puts on record my spiritual assumption of a spiritual shackle…. Accuracy and morality alike are on the side of the plain saying that our word is our bond.

(How To Do Things With Words: the William James Lectures delivered at Harvard University in 1955
(Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1962) ed. Urmoson, J. O. pp9-10)


… one thing that we must not suppose is that what is needed in addition to the saying of the words in such cases is the performance of some internal spiritual act, of which the words then are to be the report…. In the case of promising… it is very easy to think that the utterance is simply the outward and visible (that is, verbal) sign of the performance of some inward spiritual act of promising…. Now it is clear from this sort of example that, if we slip into thinking that such utterances are reports, true or false, of the performance of inward and spiritual acts, we open a loophole to perjurers and welshers and bigamists and so on, so that there are disadvantages in being excessively solemn in this way. It is better, perhaps, to stick to the old saying that our word is our bond.

(Philosophical Papers, second edition (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1970) edited by J. Urmson and G. J. Warnock p223)
A speech act understanding of the sacraments might thus point towards an account of the objective aspect of the sacraments and their powerful efficacious nature that goes beyond mere memorialism and a focus on the private inner state of the individual communicant.