Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!

1st March is, of course, the Lesser Festival (White) of David, Bishop of Menevia, Patron of Wales, c.601

At the synod at Llanddewi Brefi, 42 miles north east of Cardigan, David is said to have stood on a cloth on the ground which then rose up as a white dove came to sit on his shoulder. A real crowd pleaser. He was then made an Archbishop, which is one way to high office. We Reformed types should note that Saint David denounced the Pelagian heresy.

Those seeking alternative Episcopal oversight may wish to recall that in the Celtic tradition Bishops had the freedom to roam across borders.


Almighty God,
Who called your servant David
To be a faithful and wise steward of your mysteries for the people of Wales:
In your mercy, grant that,
following his purity of life and zeal for the gospel of Christ, we may with him receive the crown of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

On 2nd March the Church remembers Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, Missionary, 627.

All these feasts in Lent are proving helpful in making me feel less guilty about my Lenten “Aspirations”. Unfortunately David would probably not approve of a pint of SA in his honour. He was allegedly a teetotaler, hence the alternative title of 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' meaning ‘David the water drinker’. In the 10 monasteries he is said to have founded he wanted the monks to eat a strict diet of bread and herbs and harness themselves to the plough rather than using oxen. He liked a nice cold bath.

Doubts in the British Library - a poem

Why are they all here?

Row on row of intellectual battery hens;

Each alone in his own square meter,

The cages invisible.

Each alone with his own fixation.

Why are they all here, under their lamps,

with their piles of books

and sharpened pencils,

their regulation carrier bags

and their little pass-cards to prove that they are Readers?

Reading for Truth? or truths?

Turning pages

To prove a point?

To score in some Great Debate?

Seeking? Searching? Scribbling in the shush.

And tap, tap, tapping as they stare at their screens.

Coughing and spluttering, fidgeting.

Shuffling papers.

From curiosity?

For advancement? Preferment?

For glory? Immortality?

Because they couldn’t get a proper job?

From habit?


No where else to go.

Safe in here, with the barricades of books,

Away from the world

And the wind and the rain out there.

Who will read what they write?

And who will know if they’re right?

And why am I here?

Am I a chicken?

Incarnation and the possibility of meaning, speaking etc.

By the time you have thought with Paul Ricoeur (Interpretation Theroy, p25) of “… the kind of intentional exteriorization that writing exhibits….” and “… Plato’s critique of writing as a kind of alienation…” you have to say that the incarnation of the Word is the precondition of the possibility of all successful speaking, writing and meaning.

The Son is “the kind of intentional exteriorization” of the Father: he is begotten.

The Son is made even more “external” in his incarnation as he wills to become Man in a meaningful way that speaks to men.

In the inter-Trinitarian relations and the incarnation there is no alienation required or implied. Plato’s “problem” is solved since the Word does not change in becoming: he remains entirely himself. The Father’s eternal begetting of the Son is not a “loss” to him but a gain in meaning as he knows Himself in a new way in the Son.

Real Presence / Absence of Authors & Jesus

Is writing something down the elimination or preservation of the human messenger-author?

Both, surely. The author is both absent (probably distant in space and time from the readers and very likely dead and gone) but present in, with, through, by or behind his words.

Now compare the Lord’s Supper in which Jesus is really absent (bodily in heaven) and really present (by His Word and Spirit).

What a difference writing a word makes

Paul Ricoeur says in Interpretation Theory, p26:

The most obvious change from speaking to writing concerns the relation between the message and its medium or channel. At first glance, it concerns only this relation, but upon closer examination, the first alteration irradiates in every direction, affecting in a diverse manner all the factors and functions. Our task, therefore, will be to proceed from this central change toward its various peripheral effects….

The inscription, substituted for the immediate vocal, physiognomic, or gestural expression, is in itself a tremendous cultural achievement. The human fact disappears. Now material “marks” convey the message.

Langue and Parole in Scripture, Human and Divine

I should have mentioned yesterday when blogging about the usefulness of Saussure’s categories of Langue (language as system) and Parole (language in use) and the Supper as a word or language, that the distinction is worth applying to Scripture too.

Claims to special inspiration of Scripture apply properly and fully to the parole of the Bible: these words in use in their situations (addressed by God to his people, both the original hearers and all subsequent generations), not to the Langue of the Bible.

No claim is being made that the words of Scripture as Langue are uniquely inspired. God did not use a whole new language (called Bibline or Scripturish) or a special set of vocabulary (though neologisms in Scripture, especially in prophetic oracles) would be an interesting case). The words of the Bible are really and fully are human words.

Having said that, of course, God is the creator (we might say, the author) and Lord of human language. The language (langue) is “divine” in the sense that God made it and governs it (providentially) but this would really be an abuse of the term: a similar claim could be made for every created thing. We thus distinguish the special inspiration of these words of Scripture for these purposes from the creation, sustaining and providential governing of these and all other words alike.

The Bible is then human words (and grammatical constructions and so on) used by God such that they are divine words (and syntax). The inspired word is the product of creation, providence and special inspiration.

Far too big for his RC robes

Revd Richard Perkins (Pastor of the Co-Mission church, Christ Church, Balham) has had a few Doctrine Slot blogposts on Roman Catholicism and quotes this amazingly overblown statement of official Roman Catholic teaching about the Pope:

The Pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth …. By divine right the Pope has supreme and full power in faith and morals over each and every pastor and his flock. He is the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the entire church, the father and teacher of all Christians. He is the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and judge of councils; the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by no one, God himself on earth
Now, I'm all for the authority of pastors as under-shepherds of Christ, even as his representatives (not substitute) on earth, and I could live with "Father" and "arbitrator" and stuff, but this is surely too much?

Does anyone happen to know the precise source? Is it Vatican I? Presumably the RC church can never change or repediate such authoritative teaching but has there been an attempt to "reinterpet" or soften this?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What I read today

Today I left for the library before 10am and left for home after 7pm and all I managed to read was:

The back of Stanley Fish, Is There A Meaning In This Text? and about 5pp of it, on the tube

The contents page of 3 books (Derrida, Saussure and Ricoeur)

Preface, Introduction and 24pp of Paul Ricouer, Interpretation Theory

That’s about 4 proper pages an hour. At that rate…

Not very good, eh?

Ruddy note taking. And ruddy blogging and email and cafĂ© and day dreaming and even texting and …

Who am "I"?

According to Paul Ricoeur in Interpretation Theory (p13):

“I” is a shifter: “I” is the one who in speaking applies to himself the word “I” which appears in the sentence as the logical subject.

Good. So I hope that's clear? That's alright then. QED.

Obviously, of course

But isn’t that just stating the obvious?

Yes, probably. But somehow it only seems really obvious once you’ve stated it. The obvious is too easily overlooked. And your “obvious” is sometimes my obscure(d).

This comment from Paul Ricoeur (Interpretation Theory, p15) is pertinent and would be relevant to postmodern claims that we can't get at an author's original intended meaning:

For the linguist, communication is a fact, even a most obvious fact. People do actually speak to one another. But for an existential investigation [i.e. to the philosopher] communication is an enigma, even a wonder.

Obvious, really.

Taking Note of Note Taking

I often find myself typing in most of a chapter or article that I’m reading or cutting and pasting like mad with very little commenting, highlighting or the like.

Maybe I would be a better student if notes were a bit harder to take, say with a pencil rather than a laptop. I might be driven to be more salient and concise, more judicious and active in my reading, summarising and evaluating rather than reguretatting: more scholar than typewriter.

When I was at university first time round I did everything with pen and paper and would get through a stack of books tolerably (i.e. intro, conclusion, contents page & index) each week and end up with some notes in a file and an essay. I’m not sure my work rate has increased or my essays got much better for all the rearranging blocks of text and the footnote fuss. “Driver argued that” or “As Westermann comment” seemed perfectly good citations then. There is certainly a law of diminishing returns here.

I dread to think what voice recognition software might do to my notes. Sections might often begin: “And d’y know, in a funny sort a’ way, maybe…”. It is likely, however, that a naturally speaking Dragon would have better spelling than me.

What's the Supper saying?

At least ever since the Church Father, Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Christians have spoken of the Lord’s Supper as a visible word. In this meal we hear and look at, and touch and eat the Word.

So if the Supper is a word, what is it saying? Who is saying what to whom?

First and above all, the Supper is God’s Word to us. It is the promise of the gospel. God says “Jesus Christ” to us. It is a word of favour and grace. The word of Life and Truth. God is renewing his covenant with us here, pledging himself to be faithful to the gospel for us.

But second, and less importantly, the Supper is also our word to God. We say “thank you” to God here, we ask for his help and we pledge again our loyalty to Him and his covenant.

Perhaps we might even ask what words, what documents, the Supper is like.

Its most like the Bible: it is God’s word and man’s word. A truthfull and unfailing word of promise about Jesus.

It is also a love letter.

And a treaty.

And a Father’s instruction.

It is the Word made flesh made bread.

Let us now eat the Word.

Its all semiotics now

Ricoeur, Paul, Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning (Fort Worth, Texas Christian University, 1976) p4 says:

As concerns the extension of the structural model to non-linguistic entities, the application may be less spectacular – including, as it does, road signals, cultural codes such as table manners, costume, building and dwelling codes, decorative patterns, etc. – but it is theoretically interesting in that it gives an empirical content to the concept of semiology or general semantics, which was developed independently by Saussure and Charles S. Pierce. Linguistics here becomes one province of the general theory of signs, albeit a province that has the privilege of being both one species and the paradigmatic example of a sign-system.

Langue and Parole in the Supper

Given (once again) that the Supper is a word, I wonder if (using F. de Saussure’s categories from Course In General Lingusitics) you could have a langue and parole understanding of the Supper.

The Langue is the language as system or grid, the fixed meaning that prevails across time and place, the collective code, the shared framework or common linguistic world. This would have a special connection to Christ’s institution of the Supper. We might say that in instituting the Lord's Supper, Jesus coined new (tangible) words, even that he created a whole new way of speaking, a new language.

The Parole is language as event or transaction, a personal, specific individualisation in use, a message given and received between persons in a particular place and time. This would have a special connection to each celebration of the Supper, even to the individual giving and receiving of the elements.

Language, Meaning and Time

Paul Ricoeur’s Interpretation Theory argues that meaning and speech (or even thought) requires a noun and a verb and that verbs always bring an element of time to the predication which is essential to meaning.

Do you buy that?

Are there any true aorists, utterly undifferentiated as to time [c.f. Porter]? Is that a gnomic aorist?

And is this just to do with English or all languages?

As I may have mentioned before, we’ve talked in doctrine of God classes about the fact that some kind of eternal atemporal predication is needed for God, though not easily available in English.

Good Questions

I guess its very obvious (but it took Stanley Fish to "remind me") that the answers you get depend on the questions you ask. When you begin to think about it, the significance of our assumptions, questions and agenda are very far reaching. They shape meaning and direction for us.

So generating good questions must be a very important activity.

Which is good, cos asking questions is easier than giving answers, perhaps.

But what are the good questions? And the questions behind the questions? The unanswered or unasked questions? The questionable questions?

Good questions, eh?

* * *

When I “taught” RE I started all my year 7 and year 9 lessons with some “Fundamental Questions”:

(1) Identity? Who am I?

(2) Purpose? Why am I here?

(3) Destiny: Where am I going?

They still seem some good questions to me.

* * *

I always taught the same thing to Years 7 & 9. It made life much easier. And it worked fine. Though there was a sticky moment as one boy in year 9 had a cousin in year 7 and for some reason they had been comparing their RE exercise books.

Obviously on this approach one can only teach the same year groups for two years, but it gives you a bit of thinking time.

I believe this is known in the trade (sorry, profession) as the Spiral Curriculum Principle.

We seemed to use when I was being taught history in school: it was always the Nazis.

Translating Bread and Wine

Since the bread and wine of The Lord’s Supper are (visible or tangible) words, given in what one might call the particular “language” of one situated culture, that of Israel in the first century, one might argue that what is needed is a dynamic equivalence “translation” of the elements into all the different cultural languages of human societies over time and around the world.

On this view, one would isolate the essential meaning of the word-signs (perhaps a staple food and a red drink used in festivity) and render it in meaningful ways: say, rice and red tea might be used China.

For my self I am a literalist. Let’s always and consistently have bread and wine. The most important meaning given to bread and wine is that found in the Scriptures, where bread (or its constituents, such as grain) and wine are presented very frequently.

Behind all this is are question of whether all cultures and languages are equal or whether we should seek to learn the Bible’s language and conform to its culture and whether the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper is natural (general) or conventional (special).

No doubt one could use other elements if bread and wine really weren’t ever going to be available to you, but would it really be The Lord’s Supper in gold capital letters? Similarly, one might use the Good News Bible or The Message, but we wouldn’t want to confuse them with the Word of God, would we?

No burger and coke eucharists for us and perhaps some time with James Jordan’s Through New Eyes (on biblical symbolism / worldview).

Barth on Scripture smelling Fishy

I’ve been reading Stanley Fish, Is There A Text In This Class? and it strikes me that he shares with Barth a desire to hold on to the objectivity of the text (at least at times) but an emphasis on the moment of reception of the text by readers as the really meaningful moment, almost the time when the text “becomes” a Text. Barth could say something like that about the written Word of God.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Inventing Holy Days is a good thing

I'm sure you all read Revd Dr Peter Leithart's blog, but just in case, here he is very briefly making the Biblical case for holy days and adding extra ones without a special command of God. If you don't you're probably a gnostic who thinks nothing much of church history and forgets that God is winning the victory day to day, though you might not know it! Or something like that.

Where to put your Koran

I noticed today that the Korans in the Oak Hill library are not on the highest shelf: they were next to Stanley Fish's Is There A Text In This Class? for some reason, which for some reason seemed kinda appropriate.

Theology is for lovers

Citing the popular US adverts, "Virginia is for lovers", Richard N. Longenecker argues in his preface to Studies In Paul, Exegetical and Theological that "theology is for lovers" and speaks of the loves of an academic.


Prefaces are sometimes the best bit of books, and I love a good dedication.

My favourite might be that of Father Dr Thomas Weinandy in Does God Change? (nicely situated opposite the Nihil Obstat!).

Today I saw this in Ian Green's The Christian's ABC on Chatechisms and rather liked it:

Q. To whom is this book dedicated, with love and gratitude?

A. Judith (Prov. 18:22)

The Scripture proof is a nice touch, I think, even if it doesnt quite prove the point - but then the same is true of many Scripture proofs. The Westminster Divines did not want to include them, I understand, but parliament insisted.

I think Peter Leithart is dedicating his books to each of his children in turn: he is both very fruitful and prolific, so that's happy.

Theses on faith, law, works, justification etc. (v3)

See also Tuesday, February 06, 2007: Law, Faith, Works, Obedience & Justification (version 2)

Somewhat repetiously, perhaps, and in no great order:

1. No one has ever been or will every be justified by what they do on the basis of merit (with the possible exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, though even in his case we may distinguish).

2. Justification is only ever in union with Christ alone, in the Spirit, through faith alone.

3. The Old Testament law could be kept in the sense that one could be a faithful covenant keeping member of the people of God and blameless because of the grace of God and forgiveness of sin under the terms of the covenant (sacrifice etc).

4. The Old Testament law could never be kept by human sinners in the sense that once could attain sinless perfection and merit salvation.

5. The Old Testament law always had 3 purposes:
(a) Mirror / sword - to reveal sin and condemn
(b) Telescope / signpost - to point to salvation by the sacrifice of Christ
(c) Light / blueprint - to show God's people how to live
and continues to fulfill each of those functions today.

6. Present justification is God's verdict of the future announced in the present on the basis of trust in Christ; future justification will be according to works as a genuine (evidential) non-meritorious ground on the basis of a whole life fundamentally lived on God's side.

7. The Old Testament law is not abolished or abrogated by Christ but fulfilled, transformed and renewed.

8. The (propitiatory) sacrificial and Aaronic priesthood ends with Christ (and AD70) in the sense that it is not to be set up again today in the Jerusalem temple.

9. The Mosaic administration is ended and the Covenant is now in its (re)newed administration.

10. All God's laws have lasting force but must be applied according to local circumstances and in a manner appropriate to the stage of salvation history.

11. Attempting to be justified by supposedly meritorious human works legalistic righteousness was always and is an abuse of the law.

12. Christians are not under the Mosaic law in the same sense that Mosaic believers where; Christians are under the law of Christ which is the Mosaic law renewed.

13. Christian believers keep the law / terms of the new covenant by a faithful life empowered by the Spirit.

George Herbert Day tip

I feel slightly ashamed (though it might be thought a good thing by some around here) that Revd Dr David Field (independat pastor) just had to inform me (Anglican ordinand) that tommorow is George Herbert day. Or rather, the lesser festival of George Herbert, Priest, Poet, 1633 (White) according to the Church of England.

Dr Field had to further tell me that this prayer can be found on p456 of the red Common Worship: Daily Prayer.

(What do they teach you at theological college? What is Cert Min for? Sorry, Marrian, you probbaly did teach me this. I may have been trying to learn Hebrew from flash cards at the time.)


King of glory, king of peace,
who called your servant George Herbert
from the pursuit of worldly honours
to be a priest in the temple of his God and king:
grant us also the grace to offer ourselves
with singleness of heart in humble obedience to your service;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Apparently the optional canticles and refrains: Common of Bishops and other pastors (page 530) may also be used, but I don't think we'll bother. How's that for Reformed and free from the law and under grace and all that? Sausages for supper.

What does one do if a lesser festival falls in Lent, by the way? Which takes priority: the fast or the feast? Can we get off the fasting by observing the feast? What colour alb should David be wearing?

This must call for an outbreak of Herbert poems in the blogosphere from the erudite, please?

Frame on Wright on Scripture

John Frame’s Review of N. T. Wright, The Last Word (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2005) [US; = UK: Scripture and the Authority of God] is available online.

Here are some of my favourate bits and the guts of John Frame's evaluation, which seems fair enough to me. Frame's review ammounts to a devistating critique if this is Wright's statement on the authority of the Bible, though of course Wright has rightly pointed out that one could always be criticised for not saying everything. As I may have said before, if Wright said on p1, "I total 'yes' to infallibility and inerrancy and all that and..." conservatives would find it much easier to hear him. And I guess libos would not...

Frame says:

The book is full of insight, but there are many questions that it omits—questions many readers will consider important.

those who are wrestling with issues like inerrancy and infallibility will find it [this book] unsatisfying. Wright may hope that his approach will keep people from raising these issues, but I think that hope is unrealistic.

The idea that Scripture “points away from itself” reminds us of the theologies of Barth and Brunner. For their followers, this implies that we should look at the Bible only as a human text, erring as humans do. But inerrantists also believe that Scripture “points away:” to the God who saves and who speaks to us the word of Scripture. This is to say that the metaphor of “pointing away from itself” is a truism that theologians of very different views appeal to.

He [Wright] poses the question:Which is the bottom line: “proving the Bible to be true” (often with the effect of saying, “so we can go on thinking what we’ve always thought”), or taking it so seriously that we allow it to tell us things we’d never heard before and didn’t particularly want to hear? (95)”. This question challenges the complacent Christian, but it does pose an apples/oranges alternative. Cannot we take an interest in proving the Bible true without curbing its freedom to challenge us?

By way of evaluation: So far as I am aware, there is no statement in the book that I simply disagree with. And the book contains some excellent insights about Scripture, on its kingdom context, the canon, and Scripture’s relations with tradition, reason, and experience. Wright also has valuable things to say here about biblical interpretation: on how the New Testament fulfills the Old, and on what a “literal” interpretation ought to mean.

But there is a major problem of omission. If one is to deal seriously with the “Bible wars,” even somehow to transcend them, one must ask whether and how inspiration affects the text of Scripture. Wright defines inspiration by saying that “by his Spirit God guided the very different writers and editors, so that the books they produced were the books God intended his people to have” (37). But the same can be said about the books in my library: that God moved writers, editors, publishers, et al., so that the books in my library are the ones God wants me to have. Nevertheless, there are some horrible books in my library (which I keep for various good reasons). So it is important to ask whether inspiration is simply divine providence, or whether it carries God’s endorsement. Is God, in any sense, the author of inspired books?

Wright doesn’t discuss this question, but Scripture itself does. The Decalogue was the writing of God’s finger (Ex. 31:18). The prophets identified the source of their preaching by the phrase “thus says the Lord.” Jesus attributes David’s words to the Spirit (Matt. 22:43). Paul says that the Old Testament Scriptures were God-breathed, i.e., spoken by God (2 Tim. 3:16). And Paul connects this God-breathed quality with the authority of Scripture, indicating that biblical authority is not only the authority of divine power, but also of divine speech.

Or look at it this way: “Word of God” in Scripture, is not merely “a strange personal presence, creating, judging, healing, recreating” (38).” It is all of these things, but it is also, obviously, divine speech (as Wright himself recognizes on 34). When God creates, for example, he creates by speech, by commanding the world to exist. Prophecy and Scripture are “word of God,” not only in their power, but also as speech and language: not only power, but also meaning.

Wright is right to say that God’s word, and specifically Scripture, is more than doctrines and commands. But if inspiration confers divine authorship, and if God’s word is true speech, then it becomes very important, within the context of the kingdom narrative, to believe God’s doctrines and to obey God’s commands. Indeed, as Wright notes, the very nature of narrative poses the question of whether the events described “really happened:” that is, what should we believe about them, and how should we act in response. But then narrative itself implies doctrines to be believed and commandments to obey.

That is what the Bible wars are about. One can believe everything Wright says about the narrative context of biblical authority and still ask responsibly whether the words of Scripture are God’s words to us. Wright’s book does not speak helpfully to this question, nor does it succeed (if this was Wright’s purpose) in persuading us not to ask it…. The Last Word does not discuss what is most relevant to the controversy. It proposes a context, but a context is not enough. Two people who accept Wright’s proposal may nevertheless differ radically on the question of whether the Bible is the word of God.

Many of us would like to get away from the debates of the liberal/fundamentalist controversy. But if Scripture is God’s very word, then we cannot be indifferent to its doctrinal and ethical authority, or silent against attacks on that authority. Wright has done some great work in defending the truth of Scripture, and it is evident in the present volume that he has scant regard for the scholarship of enlightenment skeptics like those of the Jesus Seminar. So he has himself entered into the Bible wars. But are these wars merely contests to see who is the better scholar, or is the word of God itself at issue? If the latter, much more must be said and done.

Trinity / Triads?

I guess every time one sees 3 things (a traid) its tempting for the Christian to think this is somehow related to or reflects the Trinity. Of course in a way everything is related to the Trinity and reflects the glory of the Triune God, but that’s another (related) story.

On this, see John Frame, The Doctrine of God, (P&R, 2002) Appendix A: “More Triads”, p743ff.

He gives, Frame says:

a list of triads… that have sometimes been thought to reflect or illumine the Trinity in some way…. I have tried to weed out those that seem to me to be obviously arbitary, contrived, or uninteresting…. I do not place any theological weight on these examples…. These triads are of some interest and they may in some measure reflect, illumine, or provide evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity…. I have been building up this list for many years, and I have lost track of many sources….

Frame cites locution, illocution and perlocution from Austin, How To Do Things With Words, as example 64 and meaning, author’s intention and hearer’s understanding as example 66 on p747.


To pastors and hypnotists everywhere, NLP is Neuro-linguistic programming.

But it is apparently also Natural language processing, which is a computer geek / linguistic term for something rather different, according to Wikipedia:

Natural language processing (NLP) is a subfield of artificial intelligence and linguistics. It studies the problems of automated generation and understanding of natural human languages. Natural language generation systems convert information from computer databases into normal-sounding human language, and natural language understanding systems convert samples of human language into more formal representations that are easier for computer programs to manipulate.

Fitting Words to Worlds

One of the categories of speech act theory is to ask whether the “direction of fit” in an utterance is “world to words” or “words to world”; that is, is the speaker trying to conform his words to some realities in the world or is he trying to conform some realities in the world to his words.

This is a useful analytical tool, but the realities are rather more complex and if pressed the distinctions begin to break down.

Assuming we don’t simply think in the words of our utterance, a speaker will almost always be trying to conform his words to something that’s going on in the world, in his brain: his thoughts.

One of the basic insights of speech act theory is that we are always doing things with our words. When we speak we are usually trying to do something in the world, else there would be no point in speaking. As soon as our words are out there (even if they are “only” seeking to say something truthful about the world) they become a new fact in the world and have changed the world.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Questions for Doug Wilson

Pastor Wilson is coming to Oak Hill in March and there's "an evening with Doug Wilson" planned.

What would you like to ask him or hear him talk about?

I'd like to know, if one basically buys his vision (and I'm not sure what to call it, Federal Vision, High Church Evangelicalism?) what difference would it make in practice and what might your practical programme be in the UK? For example, might you turn up on your first Sunday as pastor with your cassock alb, stole and incense and sit down on your throne to preach TULIPPPP?

I'd also love to know how they are doing on evangelism and reaching their city. What about church planting?

And more on their ministerial training. What does he make of apprenticeships?

What are his thoughts on the C of E?

2 versions of "Christianity"

Archbishop Greg Venables argued today on Radio 4's Sunday that we have two different irreconcilable versions of Christianity in the Anglican church: a Biblical Christian version and a post-modern version.

It was amazing to hear the ECUSA guy squirm: oh, we havent been asked to change - only to clarify what we did. We havent authorised any same sex blessings - we just do them without authorisation! I'm happy to go on talking [because like Republican terrorists in Ireland I've nothing to lose by it], if others wont want to talk to me and walk away, that's a matter for them.

It seems to me ECUSA has already wandered off.

Will the Bishops of the global communion actually do anything decisive or will the re-drafting, re-interpretation drift to compromise always win out?


On the Sunday programme on Radio 4 this morning Professor Bernard Carr argued that some people would say that "the theory of a multiverse is the last refuge of desperate atheists".

Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for (human) life, which implies a creator.

But if you imagine a huge number of universes, you can explain this universe by blind chance and so you don't need God.

Desperate indeed. In our universe there appears to be a God. In other universes, a God may not be necessary. Mmmm.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Reading log

What I’m reading:

Peter Leithart, A Great Mystery – slowly! - 14 sermons from weddings – surprising stuff – short homolies, more philosophical / theological than from a biblical text, interesting ideas and good stuff, not very plagerisable

For fun:

C. S. Forester’s Adniral Horblower omnibus – good fun, undemanding, heroic. I devoured all (20 odd is it?) the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey novels in a couple of years – I think they’re better literature. I don’t know why I seem to have liking for seafaring yarns. I’ve never sailed properly. I cant always tell what’s going on, but its often very exciting.

I’ve nearly finished these so I’d be gratfeul for suggestions for what next: no more sea for a while - something not too too trashy but not too much like doing your homework. Maybe some Morse or Cadfeal? Or some not too worthy 99p Penguin Classic?

Wodehouse, Jeeves and Wooster omnibus has sat by my bed for a while – fun enough and mildly diverting but I’m not compellingly gripped. Can I be bothered with more, what oh?


Still speech act stuff, mainly Vanhoozer. Time to move on!

What I might read next:

Greg Bahnsen, Always Ready: directions for defending the faith – theory and practice of presuppositional apologetics and a few chapters on specific issues such as the problem of evil

I’ve just ordered:

Robert Alter, The Pleasures of Reading in an ideological age – a plea for reading great literature – highly recommended by Ros Clark who’s been arguing that Bible teachers need to be better readers

David Allen, Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity – I’m a sucker for self-help / management books – I guess I’m lazy and hoping for a magical quick fix – this one seems to be much esteemed by computer geeks

Academic (though not till Monday, of course):

Those few "good" (i.e. significant) books (on language and literary theory)

Stuff on semiotics, words as signs and the Bible

* * *

Cataloguing some of my books on Library Thing has reminded me that I’m better at buying books than I am at reading them. But I don’t think I’m very good at buying them either: I can’t resist a “bargin” which turns out to be cheap because its junk.

Problem of Evil (cont)

Here are some assorted further thoughts on the problem of evil in response to a response to a previous post:

Of course the problem of evil is not really a problem to the atheist.

In a way this commends his system: stuff happens, that's just life, we have to pull ourselves together and get on with it. Everything's random and meaningless so hey, ho.

What might give the athiest pause for thought, however, is that his system seems to have little or nothing to say in the face of the rape of a little girl or the carnage of the consentration camps. Whilst "evil" might not be an intellectual problem for his system, it is a problem that he still feels in his gut that certain things are evil and that something in the way he is hardwired cries out for justice.

Thankfully, most atheists are inconsistent and don't live as if survival of the fittest is all there is - but they can't give me a good reason why I shouldn't torture babies if I want too. They have abolished the problem of evil, which is a big problem.

* * *

Satan, the serpent, was created good and fell away from that good.

* * *

Natural evils (such as hurricane Katrina) are not God’s original intention for the pre-fall world considered without sin. They are the result of God’s just curse on sin. Even these God uses for good: I think as C. S. Lewis said, “suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a sleeping world”. For the Christian, all things work together for good. Suffering and evil provide opportunities for courage and fortitude which would not be possible in a “perfect” world.

* * *

Jesus bore the penalty of sin for all those who would trust in him and decisievely broke its power, though its presence will not be fully and finally removed until he comes again to judge the world and put it to rights.

Falsification of Christianity

My non-Christian correspondent responded to my 10 points on the problem of evil (9th Feb), arguing that: for a proposition to be intellectually respectable, it must be in principle falsifiable.

Of course, its worth pausing to note that a true proposition wont in fact be properly falsifiable since it is true and not false.

The Christian faith is in principle falsifiable: if you could prove that you’d dug up Jesus’ body you would have disproved the physical resurrection of Jesus and hence the historic Christian faith. You would have shown that the Christian faith did not correspond to reality.

One could also show that the Christian faith were nonsense if it contained a logical contradiction. You would have shown that the Christian faith was incoherent.

A great deal of ink could be spilt on how one would know that one had demonstrated that the Christian faith erred.

Much of the work of the Christian apologist will be to show how he makes sense of Christianity as a system. It is not narrow minded, but perfectly reasonable for the Christian to say “since I am convinced on good grounds that God is loving and omnipotent I reason that he must have some morally sufficient reason for allowing suffering and evil”.

Many of the claims of Christianity concern special or even unique historical events such as miracles and so are not susceptible to scientific experimental dis-proof since you can’t go to a lab and repeat something to see if it wont work.

If I had the time and inclination to think about this more, I’d head for John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 1987), esp. parts 2 and 3 on the justification and methods of knowledge.

Speaking of God (apologetically): yes and no

My non-Christian correspondent responded to my 10 points on the problem of evil, so here are some more thoughts arising:

I stand by what I said in point 1.

(1) We cannot hope to completely "solve" the "problem" of evil. God is infitely above and beyond us so he will always remain the great Incomprehensible Mystery to us. Yet we can describe the Mystery: we can say what is not so and mark out the area where the truth lies. If you like, we can know God like a sketch (an outline with features and shading) not a photograph (in every detail).

I didn’t mean it to be an endorsement of strong / thorough-going apophaticism.

A soft kind of apophatic theology / via negativa, which says what God is not (immortal, immutable, impassible, independent, uncreated, immense, incomprehensible, infallible, atemporal, aspacial, incorporeal etc.) is extremely helpful.

But we can also make true statements about God because he has clearly revealed himself in human words in the Bible. Our statements about God can be true and adequate but not exhaustive or entirely precise.

God’s revelation involves accommodation: he graciously condescends to describe himself to us in “creaturely” language that we creatures might understand something of the creator, rather as we might explain something to a 5 year old.

All language about God is analogical not univocal. God is a rock (he is strong, stable and reliable) but he is not a rock (he is not an inanimate lump of minerals). God is a lion, but not in the same way that Leo the Lion is a lion. God’s power is not exactly like human power (e.g. he is never tyrannical) and his power is one perspective on the simple God (considered from God's point of view his power is his love, wisdom, goodness, pity etc).

The fact that God is three persons (the Son reflects the Father but is not the Father) and has made us in his image gives a deep theological basis for analogical knowledge of God.

To predicate anything of God is less than straightforward. For example, to say “God is…” sounds like a statement about the present tense, whereas God is atemporal and eternal, so he has all his attributes in that mode, something that its not easy to capture in English.

Deuteronmoy 29:29 is a helpful verse: “The secret things belong to God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Its worth noticing that the verse implies that God’s revelation is given that we might obey it and live in the light of it, rather than to answer all our questions, to satisfy our intellectual curiosity or for the sake of argument.

God is the creator (the potter) and we are the creatures (lumps of clay). Though he has graciously revealed himself to us, accommodated himself to our weakness and bears with us, he is not ultimately answerable to us. We need to remember our place and watch our words when it come to questioning God. God is and will be the just judge of all the earth. We are not!

The Christian approach is “faith seeking understanding”, not, “God, answer all my questions and then I’ll (condescend to) believe in you (if I reckon you’ve done a good enough job to convince me)”.

Nevertheless, the Christian should explain and defend the faith to non-Christians. The aim here is to show the coherence of the Christian faith and ways in which it can be seen to correspond to reality as we experience it, while showing the incoherence of other world views and their lack of ability to explain the world. If the non-Christian is to accept the reasonable revealed faith of the Christian, God must open his eyes and change his heart.

Why I am Not a Christian

I am a Christian, but I wanted to say something about Bertrand Russel’s essay, Why I’m Not a Christian.

I think I remember GW saying that he found the arguments so bad he thought it could almost be used by Christians as an evangelistic tract: if this is the best the atheists can do…

Whty I Believe In God

One of the blessings of often keeping my study door open is the useful things that can be gleened from the fellow inhabitants of my corridor at Oak Hill. Today there was high praise for ‘Why I Believe In God’ by Revd Dr Cornelius Van Til. It was billed as a beautiful read, properly presuppositionalist unapologetic apologetics. In fact it contains an apology to unbelievers that Chritsians have not been as forthright and clear as they should have been. The piece takes the form of an imagined (one-sided) Sunday afternoon discussion between Van Til and an atheist or agnostic conversation partner.

Here are some of my favourite bits (much of the article!):

… as a person of intelligence, having a sense of responsibility, you have from time to time asked yourself some questions about the foundation of your thought and action. You have looked into, or at least been concerned about, what the philosophers call your theory of reality [evil, life after death etc.] . So… I suggest that you spend a Sunday afternoon with me discussing my reasons for believing in God…

Perhaps you think that the only real reason I have for believing in God is the fact that I was taught to do so in my early days. Of course I don't think that is really so. I don't deny that I was taught to believe in God when I was a child, but I do affirm that since I have grown up I have heard a pretty full statement of the argument against belief in God. And it is after having heard that argument that I am more than ever ready to believe in God. Now, in fact, I feel that the whole of history and civilization would be unintelligible to me if it were not for my belief in God. So true is this, that I propose to argue that unless God is back of everything, you cannot find meaning in anything. I cannot even argue for belief in Him, without already having taken Him for granted. And similarly I contend that you cannot argue against belief in Him unless you also first take Him for granted. Arguing about God's existence, I hold, is like arguing about air. You may affirm that air exists, and I that it does not. But as we debate the point, we are both breathing air all the time. Or to use another illustration, God is like the emplacement on which must stand the very guns that are supposed to shoot Him out of existence.

…there is no sense in talking about the existence of God, without knowing what kind of God it is who may or may not exist.

…You, of course, do not expect me to bring God into the room here so that you may see Him. If I were able to do that, He would not be the God of Christianity. All that you expect me to do is to make it reasonable for you to believe in God. And I should like to respond quickly by saying that that is just what I am trying to do. But a moment's thought makes me hesitate. If you really do not believe in God, then you naturally do not believe that you are his creature. I, on the other hand, who do believe in God also believe, naturally, that it is reasonable for God's creature to believe in God. So I can only undertake to show that, even if it does not appear reasonable to you, it is reasonable for you, to believe in God.

Shall we say then that in my early life I was conditioned to believe in God, while you were left free to develop your own judgment as you pleased? But that will hardly do. You know as well as I that every child is conditioned by its environment. You were as thoroughly conditioned not to believe in God as I was to believe in God. So let us not call each other names. If you want to say that belief was poured down my throat, I shall retort by saying that unbelief was poured down your throat. That will get us set for our argument.

To be "without bias" is only to have a particular kind of bias. The idea of "neutrality" is simply a colorless suit that covers a negative attitude toward God. At least it ought to be plain that he who is not for the God of Christianity is against Him. You see, the world belongs to Him, and that you are His creature, and as such are to own up to that fact by honoring Him whether you eat or drink or do anything else. God says that you live, as it were, on His estate. And His estate has large ownership signs placed everywhere, so that he who goes by even at seventy miles an hour cannot but read them. Every fact in this world, the God of the Bible claims, has His stamp indelibly engraved upon it. How then could you be neutral with respect to such a God? Do you walk about leisurely on a Fourth of July in Washington wondering whether the Lincoln Memorial belongs to anyone? Do you look at "Old Glory" waving from a high flagpole and wonder whether she stands for anything? Does she require anything of you, born an American citizen as you are? You would deserve to suffer the fate of the "man without a country" if as an American you were neutral to America. Well, in a much deeper sense you deserve to live forever without God if you do not own and glorify Him as your Creator. You dare not manipulate God's world and least of all yourself as His image-bearer, for you own final purposes. When Eve became neutral as between God and the Devil, weighing the contentions of each as though they were inherently on the face of them of equal value, she was in reality already on the side of the devil!

If the God of Christianity exists, the evidence for His existence is abundant and plain so that it is both unscientific and sinful not to believe in Him. When Dr. Joad, for example says: "The evidence for God is far from plain," on the ground that if it were plain everybody would believe in Him, he is begging the question. If the God of Christianity does exist, the evidence for Him must be plain. And the reason, therefore, why "everybody" does not believe in Him must be that "everybody" is blinded by sin. Everybody wears colored glasses. You have heard the story of the valley of the blind. A young man who was out hunting fell over a precipice into the valley of the blind. There was no escape. The blind men did not understand him when he spoke of seeing the sun and the colors of the rainbow, but a fine young lady did understand him when he spoke the language of love. The father of the girl would not consent to the marriage of his daughter to a lunatic who spoke so often of things that did not exist. But the great psychologists of the blind men's university offered to cure him of his lunacy by sewing up his eyelids. Then, they assured him, he would be normal like "everybody" else. But the simple seer went on protesting that he did see the sun.

I am just mildly suggesting that you are perhaps dead, and perhaps blind, leaving you to think the matter over for yourself. If an operation is to be performed it must be performed by God Himself.

Imagine teaching not only religion but algebra from the Christian point of view! But it was done. We were told that all facts in all their relations, numerical as well as others, are what they are because of God's all comprehensive plan with respect to them. Thus the very definitions of things would not merely be incomplete but basically wrong if God were left out of the picture.

If my God exists it was He who was back of my parents and teachers. It was He who conditioned all that conditioned me in my early life. But then it was He also who conditioned everything that conditioned you in your early life. God, the God of Christianity, is the All-Conditioner!

As the All-Conditioner, God is the All-Conscious One. A God Who is to control all things must control them "by the counsel of His will." If He did not do this, He would himself be conditioned. So then I hold that my belief in Him and your disbelief in Him are alike meaningless except for Him.

Not believing in God… you do not think yourself to be God's creature. And not believing in God you do not think the universe has been created by God. That is to say, you think of yourself and the world as just being there. Now if you actually are God's creature, then your present attitude is very unfair to Him. In that case it is even an insult to Him. And having insulted God, His displeasure rests upon you. God and you are not on "speaking terms." And you have very good reasons for trying to prove that He does not exist. If He does exist, He will punish you for your disregard of Him. You are therefore wearing colored glasses. And this determines everything you say about the facts and reasons for not believing in Him. You have had your picnics and hunting parties there without asking His permission. You have taken the grapes of God's vineyard without paying Him any rent and you have insulted His representatives who asked you for it.

I must make an apology to you at this point. We who believe in God have not always made this position plain. Often enough we have talked with you about facts and sound reasons as though we agreed with you on what these really are. In our arguments for the existence of God we have frequently assumed that you and we together have an area of knowledge on which we agree. But we really do not grant that you see any fact in any dimension of life truly. We really think you have colored glasses on your nose when you talk about chickens and cows, as well as when you talk about the life hereafter. We should have told you this more plainly than we did. But we were really a little ashamed of what would appear to you as a very odd or extreme position. We were so anxious not to offend you that we offended our own God. But we dare no longer present our God to you as smaller or less exacting than He really is. He wants to be presented as the All-Conditioner, as the emplacement on which even those who deny Him must stand.

Now in presenting all your facts and reasons to me, you have assumed that such a God does not exist. You have taken for granted that you need no emplacement of any sort outside of yourself. You have assumed the autonomy of your own experience. Consequently you are unable -- that is, unwilling -- to accept as a fact any fact that would challenge your self-sufficiency. And you are bound to call that contradictory which does not fit into the reach of your intellectual powers. You remember what old Procrustes did. If his visitors were too long, he cut off a few slices at each end; if they were too short, he used the curtain stretcher on them. It is that sort of thing I feel that you have done with every fact of human experience. And I am asking you to be critical of this your own most basic assumption. Will you not go into the basement of your own experience to see what has been gathering there while you were busy here and there with the surface inspection of life? You may be greatly surprised at what you find there.

…if miracles want to have scientific standing, that is be recognized as genuine facts, they must sue for admittance at the port of entry to the mainland of scientific endeavor. And admission will be given as soon as they submit to the little process of generalization which deprives them of their uniqueness. Miracles must take out naturalization papers if they wish to vote in the republic of science and have any influence there.

… creation, providence, prophecy, and miracle. Together they represent the whole of Christian theism. Together they include what is involved in the idea of God and what He has done round about and for us. Many times over and in many ways the evidence for all these has been presented. But you have an always available and effective answer at hand. It is impossible! It is impossible! You act like a postmaster who has received a great many letters addressed in foreign languages. He says he will deliver them as soon as they are addressed in the King's English by the people who sent them. Till then they must wait in the dead letter department. Basic to all the objections the average philosopher and scientist raises against the evidence for the existence of God is the assertion or the assumption that to accept such evidence would be to break the rules of logic.

… I must again make apologies. The fact that so many people are placed before a full exposition of the evidence for God's existence and yet do not believe in Him has greatly discouraged us. We have therefore adopted measures of despair. Anxious to win your good will, we have again compromised our God. Noting the fact that men do not see, we have conceded that what they ought to see is hard to see. In our great concern to win men we have allowed that the evidence for God's existence is only probably compelling. And from that fatal confession we have gone one step further down to the point where we have admitted or virtually admitted that it is not really compelling at all. And so we fall back upon testimony instead of argument. After all, we say, God is not found at the end of an argument; He is found in our hearts. So we simply testify to men that once we were dead, and now we are alive, that once we were blind and that now we see, and give up all intellectual argument.

The God who claims to have made all facts and to have placed His stamp upon them will not grant that there is really some excuse for those who refuse to see.

… what you have really done in your handling of the evidence for belief in God, is to set yourself up as God. You have made the reach of your intellect, the standard of what is possible or not possible. You have thereby virtually determined that you intend never to meet a fact that points to God. Facts, to be facts at all -- facts, that is, with decent scientific and philosophic standing -- must have your stamp instead of that of God upon them as their virtual creator.

Nor do I pretend, of course, that once you have been brought face to face with this condition, you can change your attitude. No more than the Ethiopian can change his skin or the leopard his spots can you change your attitude. You have cemented your colored glasses to your face so firmly that you cannot even take them off when you sleep. Freud has not even had a glimpse of the sinfulness of sin as it controls the human heart. Only the great Physician through His blood atonement on the Cross and by the gift of His Spirit can take those colored glasses off and make you see facts as they are, facts as evidence, as inherently compelling evidence, for the existence of God.

Deep down in your heart you know very well that what I have said about you is true. You know there is no unity in your life. You want no God who by His counsel provides for the unity you need.

I readily grant that there are some "difficulties" with respect to belief in God and His revelation in nature and Scripture that I cannot solve. In fact there is mystery in every relationship with respect to every fact that faces me, for the reason that all facts have their final explanation in God Whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and Whose ways are higher than my ways. And it is exactly that sort of God that I need. Without such a God, without the God of the Bible, the God of authority, the God who is self-contained and therefore incomprehensible to men, there would be no reason in anything. No human being can explain in the sense of seeing through all things, but only he who believes in God has the right to hold that there is an explanation at all.

I hold that belief in God is not merely as reasonable as other belief, or even a little or infinitely more probably true than other belief; I hold rather that unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else. But since I believe in such a God, a God who has conditioned you as well as me, I know that you can to your own satisfaction, by the help of the biologists, the psychologists, the logicians, and the Bible critics reduce everything I have said this afternoon and evening to the circular meanderings of a hopeless authoritarian. Well, my meanderings have, to be sure, been circular; they have made everything turn on God. So now I shall leave you with Him, and with His mercy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A book to look out for (updated)

I'm very much looking forward to seeing Pierced for our transgressions: rediscovering the glory of penal substitution by Drs Jeffery, Ovey and Sach (IVP).

I can't remember seeing any other book lavished with such praise from a comparably diverse and eminent set of evangelical luminaries. Good old Oak Hill.

The book even has a group on Facebook, with 83 members so far. I can almost hear the buzz mounting.

Illegal War?

I've heard a number of politicians say that we are engaged in an illegal war in Iraq.

But I've not heard any of them take the next step that seems to me to be a logical consequence of such a view: urging British service personel to refuse to obey what must be an illegal order to serve in an illegal war?

Mission & Evangelism

For what its worth, here's an essay I wrote for the Missions in the Contemporary World course here at college entitled: "How are 'mission' and 'evangelism' related?".

There are some thoughts on the relationship between creation and the new creation, and a post-millenial hope. I conclude:

If mission is all that God sends his people into the world to do, then the Christian prayer and task is to look to God for the transformation of the all the nations and every aspect of individual and community life by the proclaimed gospel. Evangelism is thus the indispensable core and priority of the Christian mission, which involves bringing everything in conformity to that gospel. The gospel that Jesus Christ is Lord which the church proclaims implies the whole of her mission to live under Christ’s Lordship.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sticks and Stones...

One of the potentially useful things about speech act theory, what I have been trying to think about, is that it emphasises the fact that words are things that persons use which establish personal relationships.

I quite liked this from Vanhoozer:

We can say of meaning what has been said of guns: words don’t kill (or state, or question, or promise, etc.); people do.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J., Is there a meaning in this text? The Bible, the reader and the morality of literary knowledge (Leicester, Apollos, 1998) p202

Citizens of Language

Vanhoozer suggests that we condiser,

… the author as citizen of language, with all the rights and responsibilities attaching thereto. Language is indeed our environment, but it is neither open field nor prison house. Language is like a city in which there is both overall structure and diverse neighborhoods, a city in which speakers have freedom of movement within (city) limits.
Vanhoozer, Kevin J., Is there a meaning in this text? The Bible, the reader and the morality of literary knowledge (Leicester, Apollos, 1998) , p202

Monday, February 12, 2007

Jesus' Nakedness

Over supper in the Oak Hill dinning hall today, SJ suggested an idea that was new to me: that on the cross Jesus took upon himself Adam's nakedness.

Bongo Bongo Recital

I'm very sorry that despite ED's clever advertising campaign, and growing rumours, I have to disappoint my public: I will not be performing in the Oak Hill College Namagongo Recital this Friday at 5:30pm in the chapel.

And despite the title, I'm afraid the event is not an extravaganza of African drumming. The concert so named after Uganda Martyrs' Seminary, Namagongo, whom we at Oak Hill support.

Depsite my absence from the billing, Mrs Lloyd will be dazzling all comers with whizzy renditions of two fantastic works: Debuessy Pour Le (La?) Piano and Chopin Impromtu (planned).

I am especially looking forward to the Field / Towner duet. Is there no end to their talents?

EROS, 3 Rs & Carbon Off-setting (updated)

Neil Jeffers suggested to me that carbon off-setting is surprisingly like medieval indulgences, though we couldn't remember where the idea had presented itself.

Damaging Mother Earth is one of the few sins left in our culture.

The idea of medieval indulgences (or at least their popular abuse) is that you can go on sinning as long as you pay to tap into someone elses store of merit which they have accumulated through righteous acts (such as planting trees) and avoiding vice (such as airline travel).

Perhaps we could run an online competition to update Tetzel's famous advertising jingle for carbon off-setting by completing the sentance:

When a coin in the coffer rings...

Extra points for submissions that also rhyme in German.

I hasten to add that this guilt by association is not necesserily the best argument in the world as such, but I still think its rather pleasing.

By the way, I was talking to Gerv who said that if one bought all this carbon footprint stuff, you should follow the EROS stratergy:

Eliminate the carbon use that you can
Reduce the carbon use that you can
Off-Set your remaining carbon use.

Gerv argued that we all need to do our bit, however small, since there is no magic switch (no big win corporate solutions). I'm not so sure about that, especially when we have such big states, but that's another argument I'm not likely to win any time soon, so there you go.

He also argued that recycling aluminium cans, glass, and I imagine also plastics is worthwhile. Driving to the recycling centre especially is a bad idea. And I guess if the council are going to collect ordinary rubbish and recyclables seperately they really need to make sure most "bins" of both sorts are mostly full if its not to be counterproductive.


I believe that reading, writing and arithmetic have now been replaced in our schools by the 3 "R"s of rubbish:


I know there aren't 3 but at least they all start with "R" this time.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Library Thing (updated)

Now this looks really good. (HT: John Barach)

You can automatically import and export bibliographical details. Click on a book in Amazon and Library thing downloads all the details. It can check Library of Congress for you. Quite amazing.

You can even use your mobile when in a bookshop to check if you already own a book.

The wonders of modern technology.


Mrs Lloyd and I have very much enjoyed adding over 200 of our books (by typing in their ISBN numbers) today.

Its amazing what can be fun when its not PhD work!

If you live in the States they'll send you a bar code scanner for $20, I think, which would make the whole thing much easier and more fun.

We've done all the books in our tiny flat and all of the books on one of my small black book shelvs in the study. One more book shelf, 2 more walls of books and the remaining stash in Wales to be done.

I look forward to working out what the benifits are and reaping them.

In the mean time, you can look at some of my books (6 random ones on the right) or all of the entered so far ones on Library Thing. We can discuss the books and see who else owns them or has a library like mine, I believe.

If you'd like to borrow anying and vaguely know me, do ask. I think I can record that you've got it on-line so the world will know if you default - not that you would, of course.

Tomb & Womb

I trust all my readers read, mark, learn and inwardly digest Revd Dr Peter Leithart's blog, so you already will have seen this one-liner from Rosenstock-Huessy, but I wanted to remember it:

If the tomb of Jesus is not the womb of the Christian era, we had better forget his whole story as a fairy tale.

Men and Ministry

Thanks to Pete Jackson at college for linking to these survey results on men and ministry. I believe "HT" is the correct term?

The survey (by Affinity), the results of which are presented excellently, questioned both Anglicans and Independent Evnagelicals and the survey doesn't go into the differences but I imagine they are very important.

Free church people of a certain type are much more likely to have a theology of special sensed call to the Ministry than more pragmatic anti-Charismatic Anglicans of another type. One even hears people quote Spurgeon's saying that one should do all one can to avoid entering the ministry, with approval, and no doubt many will sucseed!

Its great to see 9:38 apprenticeships and Cornhill growing in popularity with Independent Evangelicals but its not a substitute for 3 or 4 years full time at an excellent Biblical college.

The Anglicans are also much better at providing funding, training (at Oak Hill!) and assistant's jobs. Unfortunately the right people aren't always selected!

Something does need to be done for those Anglican Evangelicals who for the moment on consciencious grounds have repudiated the ecclesiastical oversight of their heterodox Bishops, since it is very difficult for such congregations to put their candidates through the central system successfully, even if they thought it permisible to do so in the present circumstances.
Maybe a council of reference and a big pile of cash are what is called for. Could the local church, other Elders from the area (presbytery / the Gospel Partnership?) and the college together select and fund the best people?

Homogenous Unit Principle

Over the years I reckon quite a few Oak Hill students must have written some top drawer essays on the Homogenous Unit Principle (HUP) for the Missions in the Modern World course. It would be great to see lots of these up on-line. Happy to host!

I guess it would also come up in a big way in the newish Race & Religion course?

I thought Dean Jensen spoke a lot of sense on the subject:

Some homogenaity is inevitable once you decide to have church at a particular time and place in a certain language and so on.

We must keep Eph 3:10 in mind: the church is intended to display the manifold (variagated, multi-coloured) wisdon of God.

Remember that there are different types of homogeneity: race, class, education, wealth, language etc. A congregation that is homogenous in one way may be very diverse in another.

A firm principle is that there should be no Christianized aparthied: any congregation should always be open to all.

Having said all that, just because some homogeneity may be inevitable, that doesn't mean that one should give up on the fight for a diverse represntative church.

I think there is much more of a case for homogenous units as a temporary evangelistic stratergy with converts eventually being potted-on into a more deliberately diverse proper Sunday Morning Church.

Friday, February 09, 2007

PhD progress report

I topped 100 000 words on my PhD notes today, so I thought a progress report on Edible Sacraments and Legible Words: an examination of relationships between the doctrines of the Lord’s Supper and the Scriptures with particular reference to the Reformed Evangelical tradition and to the Church of England, may be in order.

I have:

8 246 words on Warfield's doctrine of Scripture which I think are ready to hand in.
24 646 words of continuous prose, but much work needed (some just headings, some cancerous and gone to seed)
101 694 words of notes, mainly on books and articles filed by author.

I need 80 000 words, including footnotes, which make an original and significant contribution to scholarship and which are in principle worthy of publication.

I've supposedly spent 25% of my working time on this project for the previous 2 years and all of my time since September.

I get ordained on 30th June, d.v., and from then on I'll try to spend a day a week on it till its done.

The Church of England have kindly been paying for it all.

The next stage is to write up the contribution of speech act theory to the doctrine of Scripture. Then maybe semiotics. Then the Lord's Supper (perhaps interacting with Calvin).

You can see the 5 pasges of handouts to accompany a presentation I gave about the project this time last year. Nothing much has changed! :)

But hum ho. Its nearly the weekend and it'll be time to watch Wales thrashing Scotland (actually) soon this week!