Saturday, March 31, 2007

The word is not the thing

One of the most basic principles of semiotics is that “the word is not the thing”, that is, that the verbal signifier is not the thing signified (see e.g. Chandler, Semiotics p64ff citing Korzybski 1933).

I wonder how this fits with an ancient Hebrew understanding of signification where the word “dabar” means word or thing.

Dr Leithart has some thoughts on his blog entitled Hebrew Hermeneutics (Thurs 29th March) drawing on Rhonda Wauhkonen discussion of Nicholas of Lyra's "Hebraic" semiotics in a 1992 article on Chaucer contrasting Augustine's signum / res distinction. (Unfortunately I can’t get the continue reading or recent entries links to work).

According to Chandler, Foucault makes the big claim that “only in the early modern period did scholars come to see words and other signifiers as representations which were subject to conventions rather than copies (Foucault 1970). By the seventeenth century, clear distinctions were being made between representations (signifiers), ideas (signifieds) and things (referents).” (p71) I’m not sure I entirely follow or am persuaded by that, but anyway…

I wonder how historical developments in the understanding of signification might map onto understandings of what’s going on in the Lord’s Supper? Is transubstantiation maybe something to do with some larger cultural difficulty with distinguishing the signifier and the thing signified, with Zwingli over-reacting by separating signifier and signified? Or something like that?


In the context of a Frame-esque perspectival account of assurance, Dr Field claims that 1+1+1=1.

This obviously has explanatory usefulness when thinking about things Trinitarian, but it seems to me to have the disadvantage that, as far as I know and not to put too fine a point on it, it’s not true.

Why not say 1x1x1=1, which I believe is true?

Of course this still has the disadvantage that 1x1 and 1x1x1x1 also equal 1, but then there are similar difficulties for 1+1 and 1+1+1+1, aren’t there?

Can a mathmo tell is something boffiny about this?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Semiotics: an assessment

Paddy Whannel says that:

semiotics tells us things we already know in language we will never understand
Chandler, Daniel, Semiotics: The Basics (London, Routledge, 2002) p14 citing Seiter, 1992, 1

Daniel Chandler goes on to say:

At worst, what passes for ‘semiotic analysis’ is little more than a pretentious form of literary criticism applied beyond the bounds of literature and based merely on subjective interpretation and grand assertions. This kind of abuse has earned semiotics an unenviable reputation in some quarters as a last refuge for academic charlatans. (p207)

I hope semiotics has something more positive to offer and that my last 3 days in the library with it weren't entirely wasted!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

World / Text / Sign / Sacrament

Sorry if I’m boring you on this subject, but here goes (again, perhaps):

Roland Barthes speaks of the world as a text: a system of signs that we read as meaningful.

Eastern Orthodox theologians speak of the world as a sacrament or sacramental.

Reformed theologians have spoken of the sacraments as words. Semiotics tells us that words are signs. May we call the sacraments texts, signifying systems, meaningful discourses, sermons (rather than isolated words)?

Could we also call the sacraments a world, a system, a social space, a microcosm, an epitome or re-making of a world or a renewal of the world?

Please do let me know if this is either gobbledygook or dangerous heresy, wont you?

A taste of semiology

I’ve spent the last 2 days with Jonathan Culler’s introductions to Ferdinand de Saussure and Roland Barthes, with a view to thinking about how semiotics (the science of signs, born out of linguistics) might be applied to the Bible and the Lord’s Supper, considered as a (visible) sign.

Semiotics is now used to analyse the significations of any meaningful human activities or systems (codes, art, music, literature, fashion, etiquette etc), and so as a taste of it, here are a couple of its key ideas applied to food:

For a semiologist studying the food system of a culture… parole consists of all the events of eating and langue is the system of rules underlying these events, rules that define what is edible, what dishes go with or contrast with one another, how they are combined to form meals; in short, all the rules and prescriptions that enable meals to be culturally orthodox or unorthodox. A restaurant menu represents a sample of a society’s ‘food grammar’. There are ‘syntactic’ slots (soups, appetizers; entrees, salads, deserts) and paradigm classes of contrasting items that can fill the same slot (the soups among which one chooses). There are conventions governing the syntactic ordering of items within a meal (soup, main course, desert is orthodox, while desert, main course, soup is ungrammatical). And the contrasts between dishes within classes, such as main course or desert, bear meaning: hamburger and roast pheasant have different second-order meanings. Approaching such material with the linguistic model, the semiologist has a clear task: to reconstruct the system of distinctions and conventions that enable a group of phenomena to have the meaning they do for members of a culture.

Culler, Barthes: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 1983, 2002) p59

Reading this stuff makes me hungry!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Newman, Packer & Owen on Cessationism

There’s a lively discussion going on over at Christ and Covenant on prophecy and tongues.

I’ve commented that I'd quite like to be a cessationist. It seems more conservative (and therefore sound) and less crazy charismaniac to me.

I'm confused about how we fit together the sufficiency of scripture and continuation of prophecy (if there be any). Do we say to people "live according to the Bible and you can be sure you'll live a life according to God's will for you" or do we say "part of living according to the Bible is to listen out for the voice of God telling you his will for your life in a way that you couldn't have worked out with precision or confidence by thinking about the Bible and circumstances"? It seems to me like a question that matters.

I guess unless we think 2 Tim is the last bit of the Bible to be written and 3:16f needs to be read especially in the light of that, the sufficiency of Scripture (for the recipients of 2 Timothy) certainly does not rule out God giving extra additional (Scriptural) revelation later on that could not have been inferred from the previously given but then sufficient Scriptural revelation?

* * *

Though it wouldn't prove anything conclusively, of course, it would be interesting to know the history of tongues and prophesy (with footnotes!).

In his work on John Owen on spiritual gifts, Packer comments that:

"Seventeenth-century England did not, to my knowledge, produce anyone who claimed the gift of tongues, and though claimants to prophetic and healing powers were not unknown, particularly in the wild days of the forties and fifties, the signs of 'enthusiasm' (fanatical delusion) and mental unbalance were all too evident." (Among God's Giants, p290)

For John Owen "gifts which in their own nature exceed the whole power of all our faculties" [tongues, prophecy, healing powers] belong to "that dispensation of the Spirit [which] is long since ceased, and where it is now pretended unto by any, it may justly be suspected as an enthusiastical delusion" (Owen, Works, IV:518)

If New Testament gifts of prophecy, healing-powers and tongues are for today it is weird (though I grant not impossible) that they went away for so long in so many places and that so many otherwise fairly biblical Christians fail to receive them today.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Extempore Eucharistic Prayers

Geoffrey Wainwright tells us that:

According to Justin Martyr (c. 150) the liturgical president extemporized the great eucharistic prayer (hose dunamis autoi, 1 Apol. 67), but various North African councils around AD 400 document the fact that the later moves towards complete fixity were due in part to the need to ensure the doctrinal orthodoxy of new prayers even when written down.... The Apostolic Tradition Of Hippolytus proposes prayers as ‘models’.

The Language of Worship’ pp519-528 in Jones, Wainwright, Yarnold, Bradshaw (ed.s) The Study of Liturgy revised edition (London, SPCK, 1992) pp526
Evangelicals have always seen the Word as essential to the sacraments, but I'm not quite sure what words need to be or ought to be included in the celebration of the Lord's Supper. I reckon something along the lines of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 would be an irreducible minimum and that it would be good to have some kind of fencing of the table (see the following verses) and a sermon.

The eucharistic meditations at Edible Words seem like a good attempt to me to enrich our understandings of what we are doing in the supper. The Eucharistic Prayers in Common Worship don't seem like the be all and end all to me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Psalm Practice

I'm straying into territory here of which I am ignorant, but if I only stuck to things I knew about.... I hope readers will correct me if I've erred.

Today in Oak Hill chapel we chanted / sang Psalm 98 using a score that seems to be called 'Joseph Barnby', though that sounds more like the name of a fella than a tune to me.

I think the method we used is called Anglican Chant? I've got a CD that does something similar and we did some chanting in our Psalms lectures, but I've never tried it in worship before.

The system is that each word is sung on the notes indicated in the score repeating as necessary untill you get to one of the vertical lines in the text which indicates that you should move onto the next bar. Sometimes a syllable has to be drawn out accross more than one note. A dot in the text indicates a change of note within a bar (i.e. the next sylabble takes a seperate note) and the * indicates that one ought to take a breath.

I found it extremely hard to follow.

But the Bible commands us to sing Psalms. How much better to sing God's Word than the mere words of men.

Metrical psalm paraphrases are good and can be sung like ordinary hymns but the great advantage of such a chanting system is that it allows for the use of any text, so that the Psalm can be chanted in as near to the original form as possible (there is no need for a metrical paraphrase).

The advantage of the music is that it makes it more affecting and beautiful - especially now that I've realised with the help of Mrs Lloyd that there are four vocal parts!

One could have a number of different settings that accord to the genre or mood of the Psalms. Obviously its easier if there aren't too many different settings to master but I guess we might want different music for a lament and a praise psalm.

I'm not sure how much this kind of musical chanting serves memorisation if a number of different Psalms use the same setting but I guess its still more memorable than just speaking? Through composed music might be better for memorisation in the sense of not confusing Psalms, but there'd be 150 pieces to learn! Maybe an individual chant setting for each psalm is the answer?

Surely for those who can read music, singing a through composed Psalm would be pretty easy as the words could be printed below the notes. One of the things I found tricky about the way we sang it was needing to know where we were both in the text and in the score.

But for me it was jolly hard. I need lots of practice.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say was, why doesn't one of you musos hold a weekly 20 mins. Psalm chanting / singing session in chapel? Presumably it would require next to no preparation for you and we could try to get some of God's word into our thick skulls as we praise him and edify one another. I'd come. And I bet I wouldn't be the only one. If there were only 5 of us, that would be okay, wouldn't it?


Do you ever have the experience when reading of understanding every single word but not quite getting what the sentances mean and coming away from the paragraph after the second slow reading none the wise?

That was my experience with Ladriere, Jean ‘The Performativity of Liturgical Language’, trans. John Griffiths Concillium volume 2 number 9, February 1973, pp50-62 yesterday.

Admitedly it was an English translation, but nevertheless.

I resorted to typing out most of the article and I'm far from seeing how my notes are usable for anything more enlighteningl than a faux learned footnote.

The problem is: how do I know if this is profound and important theological reflection which I am too dim to get but should persevere with, or complete gobbledygook nonsense I can safely ignore?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jordan's Song Suggestions

Next time you're planning a service, how about picking some of these songs:

We can use a psalm as a call to worship (e.g. 20, 24, 27, 29), another for confession (6, 25, 38, 51), another for praise for our deliverance into the kingdom (5, 8, 9, 11, 18), another as an exhortation to hear the Word or as a preaching text (1, 14, 15, 19, 37), another as a communion meditation (16, 23, 36, 45, 48), and another as a commissioning dismissal at the end of worship (2, 47, 72, 82, 110, 149). (p77)

Beyond the 150 psalms, there are many other songs in the Bible that we can chant and that should become part of the warp and woof of our being, such as the Song of the Red Sea (Exodus 15), the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32), the Song of Deborah (Judges 5), the Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2), the Prayer of Jonah (Jonah 2), the Song of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3), several songs in Isaiah, the Song of Mary, the Song of Simeon, the Song of Zechariah, several songs in Paul (Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 3:16), and the songs in Revelation. (p80)

[At the end of the service:] The appropriate response of the congregation is a psalm of dismissal, such as the Nunc Dimittis (“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace”) or the Benedictus (“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people”).” (p93)

Theses on Worship: Notes Towards the Reformation of Worship second edition, slightly revised (Niceville, Transfiguration Press, 1st ed. 1994, 1998)

In fact, maybe we should stick to biblical songs till we've got them memorised and then we can worry about mastering Spring Harvest 27, or whatever?

Jim Jordan's Sermon Class

There's a lot of concern in my circles for getting the one main point of a Bible passage and working out your sermon to serve a simple aim sentance that encapsulates the intended response of your conrgegation.

Part of it might be laziness in me, but I found this from Revd Dr James Jordan refreshing:

When I was in seminary, a few (not all) of my professors told us that laymen cannot really learn the Bible, and that it was pointless to try and teach it to them. Just give them one-point sermons (pabulum), they advised us. I have never found that to be true, and I think it is absolutely horrible advice. Jesus warned us not to lock up the heaven of God from men (Matthew 23:13). The way the Word is hidden in modern Presbyterian and evangelical churches, we can be sure that judgement is coming!

For my money, I'd rather forget all homoletics and rhetoric, and do away with three-point sermons, one-point sermons, analytic-synthetic sermons, etc. Just get up and read the passage and explain it, verse by verse, and make applications. Keep it simple, and filled with content. We need content, not rhetoric. I'm exaggerating somewhat, but I hope you get the point. We need saturation in the Word. Nothing else will do.

Theses on Worship: Notes Towards the Reformation of Worship second edition, slightly revised (Niceville, Transfiguration Press, 1st ed. 1994, 1998), p33

Monday, March 19, 2007


I've worked on nothing else for a week now but the wrteched Cert Min file. For what they're worth, here are some reflections which I hope will be acceptable to the C of E assessor:

My Myers Briggs type was returned as ENTJ. The test results (see enclosed) showed that I am very strongly extrovert (E), rather than introverted (I), have a strong preference for intuition (N) over sensing (S), some preference for thinking (T) over feeling and a slight preference for judging (J) over perceiving (P).

Though I sometimes felt through the process that the profile summaries were a bit like horoscopes, where everyone can see something relevant to them, I think the ENTJ summary is probably appropriate for me.

I certainly enjoy a good argument and like a lively conversation. It is fair to say I am often energised by interaction with others. I like to work out ideas by talking and am happy with theory / abstract ideas or a certain amount of speculation. I think I am easily frustrated by things that I think are illogical or inefficient and would be inclined to try to change them. I value being analytical and objective. I have a preference for order and organisation, though my desk can sometimes be messy and I can be a bit last minute at times. I like thinking about things and enjoy both the big picture and practical changes when I think they make a difference, but I can be dismissive of what I might regard as irrelevant or unimportant details or boring tasks. I tend to be quite task / outcome / “bottom line” oriented.

Some of the potential weaknesses of ENTJs rang bells too: I think I can sometimes be inclined to be critical of others and a bit too pushy, overpowering or impatient. I sometimes feel someone needs to take charge and I might risk being dictatorial in some situations over some issues with some people and not taking sufficient account of their feelings. I need to work hard at listening to others and being heard / seen to listen too.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Music of Marriage

Though completely unmusical myself, since marrying a musician, I’ve been particularly attuned to musical analogies in theological writing; and its surprising how often they crop up. Tom Wright seems particularly fond of them.

I’ve read a few out to Mrs Lloyd, and she’s not always been terribly impressed. This one got a better response than most:

From Peter Leithart’s wedding sermons in A Great Mystery (Moscow, Canon Press, 2006).

Leithart is taking about Christ’s promise to build his church and the duties of mutual edification in the Body of Christ and in marriage. He says:

To capture the complex beauty of this picture, the metaphor of building eventually becomes unwieldy. We are not accustomed to buildings that build themselves, much less to buildings that turn around and somehow build their builder. We need something more supple to capture the whole biblical truth, and when we need something more supple we turn, naturally, to music. Christ and His bride are fugally related: Christ the Head is the theme, but the bride follows as a melody of her own, which keeps in step with the melody of her husband. Christ’s song blazes the path for the song of the bride and provides the aural space in which the bride’s song is song; the bride’s song is always to harmonize with Christ’s and never to drown out His voice. But responsive and secondary though it is, the song of the bride also builds up and adorns the song of the husband. The duet is miraculously richer than the solo. This is a great mystery, but I speak of Christ and his church.

So too, marriage is harmonics, the lifelong fugal dance in which the husband’s song calls for the bride, and the bride’s song adorns her husband’s, so that they are together a single song. Marriage is designed to be truly a Song of Songs.

None of this is within the range of human possibility. We are not capable of building another human being. In our sin and folly, we are instead like the foolish woman who tears down her house with her own hands. Nor are we capable of the kind of harmonizing required for two lives to become a single song, for discord rather than harmony is the fundamental condition of sinful human existence. Marital harmony is not within human possibility, but it is possible. It is possible by the power of the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, the Spirit who gives us the freedom to become and to be what we, in ourselves, could never become or be.

Otto and Bethany, this is our prayer for you on your wedding day: that you may build one another in the power of the Spirit, and that your lives may harmonize as you both harmonize of the melody of the Spirit, the melody that is the Spirit.

… the Spirit who is the Eternal Musician, whose movement is the eternal rhythm of triune life, who is the Eternal Music of the Eternal God. (pp62-64)

Or again:

… creation, according to David Hart’s summary of Gregory of Nyssa [in The Beauty of the Infinite, Eerdmans, 2003], “is a symphonic and rhythmic complication of diversity, motion and rest, a song praising God, [who is] the true, primordial, archetypal music, in which human nature can glimpse itself as in a mirror.” We are, in short, “music moved to music.” Faith means trusting God to play His infinite fugue through our finite lives, to sing His eternal song in our temporality, to transpose the harmonious polyphony that is His uncreated life into the key of created existence….

Joshua and Sara: Live in faith, trusting God to play out His eternal song with ever-increasing vibrancy through the harmony of your marriage. (p95)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How can a loving God allow suffering?

I spoke today for the Middlesex Christian Union Mission on How Can a loving God allow suffering? In case its of any use or interest to anyone, here's the handout I prepared. Those in the know may recognise something of a resembalence to the 6 points of the Two Ways To Live gospel outline.

How can a loving God allow suffering?

An intellectual problem
Can God prevent suffering? – God’s power?
Does God want to prevent suffering? – God’s love?

A personally painful problem

Not all the answers
We are not God…
But God has clearly revealed himself (Bible & Jesus)
Trusting God, who has good reasons

Intellectually - coherent
- makes sense of our experience
Emotionally satisfying

No problem for the atheist – which is a problem!

Some Christian responses:

(1) God created a good world

(2) People rebelled against God

(3) The world is under God’s judgement

(4) Jesus’ death is God’s loving answer to suffering

Humans are responsible for evil

God is in control

Jesus experiences suffering

Jesus bore the judgement of God for all who will trust him

God brings good out of suffering

(5) Jesus defeated suffering and death and rose from the dead

(6) Jesus will put the world to rights

Baxter sounding Covenantal Objectivist

We had a fascinating time today in the post-graduate seminar on George Crowder’s paper on Anglican Church Membership, church discipline and Confirmation.

Here’s a quotation courtesy of George Crowder with Richard Baxter sounding at least a bit like a Covenantal Objectivist:

The essential union is that relation of a head and members, which is between Christ and all the visible members of his church: the foundation of it is the mutual covenant between Christ and them considered on their part as made externally, whether sincerely or not: this is usually done in baptism… the baptismal covenant doth constitute us as members of the visible church.

Christian Ecclesiastics, 596

And for good measure here’s the suggestion of the Lord’s Supper as Covenantal Renewal:

The covenant made, solemnised by baptism, owned at age, must frequently be renewed through the course of your lives… virtually renewed in every act of worship before God, actually in prayer and meditation, especially after a fall, and the Lord’s Supper is instituted for this very end.

Christian Ecclesiastics, 562

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Doctor on the English on the Welsh

I've just noticed from an Exiled Preacher's blog that Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones apparently said:

The Englishman looks upon the Welshman as a rebel, an awkward individualist, as a man who always wants his own way and is perpetually creating totally uncalled for difficulties.

Does anyone know where he said that and if he discusses Welshness at greater length in print somewhere?

The Class of 2000

Well, in the absence of any decent copy around here, and as a distraction from my work on the Cert Min file...

A couple of 6th form students from the school I taught in for a year have left comments on the blog asking for a contribution to their leavers' Year Book.

Not quite feeling like Mr Chips, beyond "best wishes from Mr Lloyd", I was a bit stumped. I'm afraid I've not included Two Ways To Live, but I did get them all to write it in their exercise books at the time. Perhaps you can suggest improvements on what follows:

* * *

Dear James & James,

Thanks for your comments on my blog. You show the kind of persistence that my year at the school suggested is typical of Westcliff Boy! :)

I don't think I actually taught either of you, did I? Your names are vagualey familiar, but I must admit that the names of some of my students were only vaguely familiar too!

I'm sure you'll end up with an excellent year book. Perhaps you'd send me a copy when its done?

A broad grin spreads accross my face as I think back to that now far-off-seeming year at Westcliff.

The Year 8 boy is a paradoxical creature but your year group, and indeed the school as a whole, seemed brimming with enthusiasm (for some things!) and talent and I'm sure you've flourished into civilised human beings.

You may recall that my lessons where not always unmitigated centres of industry or marked by unbroken clam, but I remember, for example, the school play and sportsday revealing that even the most delinquent Religious Studies pupils were capable of their own juvenile greatness.

As far as comments for the year book, words fail me: which never seemed to be a problem for you lot. Spelling, punctuation, grammar and homework, yes, but words, no: they could always be muttered to your neighbour or called out as I attempted to wax lyrical about the life of Our Lord!

What could I say about the class of 2000? A couple of names and a few more faces have stuck with me. No longer stuck to my dartboard. But it would be unfair to pick out any particular individuals, for an after school detention, perhaps; and sadly I'm no longer in a position to get the whole class back together at lunchtime to practice being quiet or entering a room, though that wasn't always entirely successful at the time.

I certainly remember some tallented conversationalist in Year 8 and some spirited discussion, sometimes even of matters related to RE.

I also taught PSE to a year 8 class as well and I remember a number of ambitious students who will no doubt go on to great things. I look forward to stumbling accross your names in the Telegraph as I breakfast in the Vicarage in my dottage, and I trust it wont always be in association with some international crime syndicate.

I'm grateful for this opportunity to wish you all well as many of you begin to explore more of life beyond Southend.

Not sure exactly what tone of comments you were after but perhaps something of the above might be editable into something that would suit you?

I would be grateful if you could email me back with an exact version of what you plan to include in the year book, if anything, before going ahead? You could always suggest a form of words and I could tell you whether or not that's what I wanted to say!



Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cert Min File

We have this thing at Oak Hill called the "Cert. Min. [Certificate of Ministry] File" what we've got to complete as part of our training in preparation for ordained ministry in the C of E, full of reports and assignments and all that.

Okay, the truth is that mine should be basically complete and its not quite there yet. Understatement.

But, come on! Is this really what we want? Is this what the pastoral epistles envisage? Did Titus issue prospective deacons with a ring binder and some plastic wallets and tell them that they's get a distinction if, for example, they'd included a fully cross referenced index? Was Augustine dragged to his ordination with an assessment form from his residential block placement in a churchmanship of another tradition?

I admit there may be an element of personal bias here, but wouldn't a reccomendation from some elders be better?

Anway, back to how my community survey project in Dagenham '05 might inform my future ministry and the implications of my Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator. Perhaps ENTJ's just aren't suited to Cert Min, though lets pray that doesn't enirely disqualify them from all Min.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hermeneutics & The Communion of Saints

I’ve very much enjoyed dipping into Stanley Fish’s provocative and engagingly written essays in Is There A Text In This Class?

Fish is asking whether author, text or reader determines meaning and concludes that all three are shaped by and shape authoritative interpretive communities.

This seems to me a valuable insight – especially if we think a bit more about our interpretive community.

If my interpretive community is just me, or me and my mates, or me and the academy (the bigger books on my shelves), it seems to me that we’re going to go badly wrong.

Our interpretive community must be the church. And not just 234th strict and peculiar ana-Baptist church continuing, but the church down the centuries and across the world, the Communion of Saints.

Which of course includes those saints who will come after us, as we trust the church will mature and grow in her understanding. Which gives our readings an element of provisionality. And suggests an eschatological horizon: only in the New Creation together with all God’s people will our reading be perfected.

And our community, of course, includes the human authors of the Bible and their original intended audience.

But ultimately our reading goes beyond Fish soup, for our fellowship is also with the Father, Son and Spirit: the divine originator, centre and judge of the church, the ultimate author of the Bible and our interpretive community, in whom we live and move and have our being.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Cross in a bag

Mrs Lloyd and I attended a concert at Christ Church, Southgate on Saturday. We were surprised to see that they had put six prominently displayed items, mainly on big sticks, but some fastned to the wall or on tables, in upside-down purple bags, tied up at the bottom.

It later occoured to us that these mysteriously concealed items were probably crosses.

We think this is unlikely to be some multi-faith / secularist move but may refer to the ecclesiastical season of Lent, what we are in. But we are not sure about the purpose of it all? Presumably Lent is an appropriate season to be reminded of the cross? Presumably there will be a great unveiling on Good Friday?

This is one of the things I have not learnt at theological college. I will have no idea what to do if a kindly parishoner presents me with a range of bags on Ash Wednesday. Is this a gospel issue?

We have not covered up the cross in our sitting room, but I think some kind of drape coloured appropriatly to the season might be rather good. No doubt Wipples can offer some wierd and wonderful stuff at sky high prices. Maybe next time the ecclesiastical outfitters visit college I might enquire.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Marriage Enrichment for Lent

There's a marriage enrichment weekend going on at Oak Hill this weekend where I believe men are being told to listen to their wives, and so on. Obviously I was far too busy blogging to attend.

Here are a couple of marriage enrichment tips:

  • make sure the wife has an extremely lucrative skill that can be put to good use from home while being pregnant and looking after the kids
  • jobs for the kids (chimney sweeps etc.)
  • pay the wife a salary for all the stuff she does at home so that she's tax deductable (the C of E provides a guide booklet on this for clergy)

As its lent, I thought people might enjoy this excerpt from a wedding sermon preached in Lent by Revd Dr Peter Leithart:

During the forty days of Lent, Christians have traditionally meditated on the isolation, betrayal, passion, and death of Jesus. The liturgical colors of Lent are subdued, and fasting is the rule. This somber season might seem an inappropriate setting for a wedding, but in fact it is not. Marital love is all about imitating Christ in His self-giving, the very act we are remembering during Lent. Marital love is about the daily practice of Lent - not the practice of self-affliction and fasting, but the practice of self-giving love. More importantly, Lent is a good time for a wedding because Lent is never the end of the story; it is always, every year, followed by Easter - the greatest example of an event that cannot be adequately explained by what went before, the Event of events, the Surprise of surprises.

Josh and Abby, I urge you to devote yourselves to practicing Lent throughout your marriage - that is, to devote yourselves to mutual self-giving. And when you do, you can expect the Easter sun to rise again and again. The surprise of love which has overtaken you will be followed by the surprise of love returned. You are embarking on a voyage of self-sacrfice and self-giving. You cannot know where the voyage will lead; you cannot know the depths of self-sacrifice that may be required of you. But you can embark in faith, confident in God's promise that every embarking becomes a journey home, that everyone who gives his life gains his life, that every Lent is followed by Easter, and that for every death, God, the Ever-Living and Eternally Loving God, promises the surprise of resurrection.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Great Mystery: Fourteen Wedding Sermons (Moscow, Canon Press, 2006), ch 7, Surprising Love (texts from Song of Songs 1, 2, 8), p52

God angrily punished the Son

There's been some discussion over on Revd Michael Jensen's blog (27th Feb, arising from Pierced For Our Transgressions) about whether or not we should say that God was angry with the Son and punished him. Michael denies, but I think we must affirm if we are to have penal substitution, the justice and mercy of God and the gospel.

I would say:

The triune God was angry at the elect in the Son, and hence both at us and at the Son-in-his-union-with-sinners (who are joined to him by faith in the Spirit) and rightly therefore God punished us in the Son and the Son in his union with us.

Obviously God the Father was always well pleased with his Son as Son and one might almost say the Son's obedience to death especially pleased the Father. It would be wrong for God to punish the innocent Son but not for God to punish the Son in his union with sinners, since they really are one.

This is at the heart of the gospel: that I and my sins are punished in the Son so that I do not have to experience the penalty for sin in myself (only in the Son). God's wrath is poured out, I am punished, my sin is paid for but I go free.

I reckon some people might have a difficulty with this which tracks back to a suspicion of rationality and logical inference / distinctions that can't always be read off the surface of a particular biblical text?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Preaching as Sacramental

In addition to lots of people comparing / contrasting sermon / preaching and Supper / sacraments here are some people saying that preaching / sermon is sacramental:

* * *

Gerrish, B. A., Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin (Eugene, Wimpf and Stock Publishers, 1993)

John H. Leith (1990): “For Calvin, preaching is sacramental in the context of the order of salvation and as a means of grace, and not in the more general sense by which all creation may be sacramental.” (“Calvin’s Doctrine of the Proclamation of the Word and It’s Significance for Today”, p211) (p76)

* * *

George Pattison on Preaching as sacrament

Oxford Professor of Divinity George Pattison writes in his 'Short Course in Christian Doctrine':
'...if we no longer live in a golden age of Christian preaching, few Christians will not at some point have experienced something of the sacramental dimension of preaching- that preaching, no less than the sacraments more narrowly understood, is a way of God becoming present in time to the believing community. Preaching too can be a way of making-present the 'conversation in heaven' to which God is constantly drawing us. Seeing preaching as sacramental in this way goes against the widespread assumption by both preachers and congregations that preaching is primarily a form of teaching, the aim of which is simply to offer an explanation or application of the biblical text, or to demonstrate the logical, historical or psychological grounds for accepting Christian belief. On such a view the purpose of preaching will primarily be to persuade, convince or, simply to argue a point...' p. 108

* * *

Jordan, James B., Through New Eyes: Developing A Biblical View of the World (Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1999)

Ch 10: Breaking Bread: The Rite of Transformation

“The performance of this weekly rite in worship is the heart of liturgical piety, and this is seen in both major sections of the worship service. The six-fold performance in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, is obvious; but it is also performed in the Synaxis, the service of the Word….”

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Ryken, Leland, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1986)

“This emphasis on the word (broadly defined to include the Bible but much besides) provides the context for understanding why the Puritans made the reading and exposition of Scripture the primary event in the worship service. There can be no doubt that for these worshipers the Word became a verbal sacrament (even though they would not have used that term to describe it). A sacrament is a means of grace in which the individual believer encounters the real presence of God in a uniquely powerful way. In the public worship of the Puritans, “the Word is made flesh – not to sight, as in images; not to taste, as in the bread and wine; not to smell, as in the fumes of incense; but to the hearing, and dwells among us. Preaching is a sacrament.” [Maclure, Millar, The Paul’s Cross Sermons, 1534-1642 (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1958), p165] (p125)

* * *

Wright, Stephen, Guest Editorial: The Bible as Sacrament (Anvil, Volume 19 No. 2 2002)

“In worship, the sacramental character of the Scriptures is discerned in the creative tension between the reading and preaching. The particular words of Scripture itself must be heard, but equally they must not be heard in the flat, as if they did not point beyond themselves to the mystery of the gospel. It is the task of the sermon to explore this pointing-beyond, to allow the words on the page to speak of the mystery as a living, present reality. The reading is a necessary anchor and focus for the preaching, but the preaching is a necessary reminder of the sacramental quality of the text.” (p82f)

c.f. also ? Wright, ‘An Experiment in Biblical Criticism: Aesthetic Encounter in Reading and Preaching Scripture’ pp240-267 in Bartholomew et. al. Renewing Biblical (2000)

* * *

Donald Coggan, A New Day For Preaching: The Sacrament of the Word (London, SPCK, 1996)

“Put at its simplest, sacraments are means by which God brings home to us the reality of his redeeming love. In the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, the appeal is to the eye – these sacraments are God’s verbal visibilia. In the sacrament of the word [preaching], the appeal is to the ear – sermons are God’s verba audibilia. Water, bread and wine are the stuff of baptism and eucharist. Words are the stuff of preaching.” (p77) [Bible God’s word written]

P. T. Forsyth, Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind, p83, “… every true sermon… is a sacramental time and act. It is God’s Gospel act re-asserting itself in detail…. It is a sacramental act, done together with the community in the name and power of Christ’s redeeming act and our common faith.” (p79)

* * *

Burgess, John P., “Scripture as Sacramental Word: Rediscovering Scripture’s Compelling Power” Interpretation volume 52 (1998) pp 380-391

Preaching sacramental too (p389)

* * *

Wright, N. T., Scripture and the Authority of God (London, SPCK, 2005)

“It is also important to remind preachers that just as some of the Reformers spoke of the sacraments as God’s ‘visible words’, so sermons are supposed to be ‘audible sacraments’.” (p102)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

RC views of justification (updated!?)

Dr Williams argued today that we must never get bored of making the distinction that our works are the non-meritorious (evidential) grounds of our future justification or we will find ourselves in Ratzinger's lap through ennui.

Apparently our RC non-brothers really do officially believe that we merit our salvation (in part ? and through God's grace ? or something blah, blah). This must be a different gospel and damnable heresy (depending on the relationship between nature, creation, and grace and the type of merit) and we must say that the Reformation was worth it after all. If Justification is the article by which the church stands or falls (as Luther argued) then we would have to say that the Roman Catholic church is not a Church although many of it members may be converted and it has the form of Christian Baptism. The sacraments alone cannot make a church: there must be the Word of the gospel of the Bible.

The RC church has apparently explicitly repudiated the work of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) and has made no fully official authoritative statements on justification since The Canons and Decrees of the Council Trent except the Joint Declaration on Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ).

The official (presented by the Pope to the Church, though I think not infalible ex cathedra?) teaching of the present day Roman Catholic church can be found in its Catechism.

The Catechism, by the way, is dedicated "To The Immaculate"!:

At the conclusion of this document presenting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I beseech the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word and Mother of the Church, to support with her powerful intercession the catechetical work of the entire Church on every level, at this time when she is called to a new effort of evangelization. May the light of the true faith free humanity from the ignorance and slavery of sin in order to lead it to the only freedom worthy of the name (cf. Jn 8:32): that of life in Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, here below and in the Kingdom of heaven, in the fullness of the blessed vision of God face to face (cf. I Cor 13:12; 2 Cor 5:6-8)!

Ovey, Sach & Jeffery

It has been suggested in the bloggosphere that the great doctors, Oak Hill authors of Pierced For Our Transgressions would make a very good law firm, which given Dr Ovey's BCL etc and the legal arguments of their book may well be the case.

I wonder if they might not go down in history as The Oak Hill Three when the Liberals and Openness types get hold of the book.


So, are Anglican evangelical (ministers) meant to belong to:

Church Society
Fellowship of Word and Spirit
Anglican Mainstream
Church Pastoral Aid Society
Diocesian Evangelical Fellowship
Church of England Evangelical Council
Evangelical Alliance
Latimer Trust
Proclamation Trust
Local Gospel Partnership
Reagonal Gospel Partnership

I'm sure I've missed out other vital groups?

And its good to take a full part in the local ministers' fraternal, diocese, keep up with their old college etc.

It seems one could spend all one's time reading mailings and going to meetings (or more likely throwing away mailings and apologising for not going to meetings).

Which are the most essential, what don't I need to be involved in and what should be abolished?

The closest thing we've got to a Bishop

Is Revd Richard Coekin the closest thing we've got to a NT kind of Bishop since he is an ordained Elder, the pastor of a congregation, with some oversight of other congregations, in a context of mission and church planting and with the aim of identifying, recuiting, training and deploying other elders?

He Is Coming Soon!

Doug Wilson - one week today - Oak Hill College

The Lord Jesus Christ as Judge of the Living and the Dead - probably a thousand generations or so

27 Theses on law, faith, works, obedience, covenants etc.

(v6) Updated: 5/3/07 - Nos 33 - new today

Fascinating discussion in post-graduate seminar today of some of these issues.

There seemed to be a growing consensus of insights from the New Perspectives on Paul, Covenantal Objectivism and Biblical Theology but an unwillingness to re-join Rome just yet.

So another look at the perhaps somewhat repetitious, numbered for convenience not logical order theses:

See also Tuesday, February 06, 2007 and Monday, Feb 26th: Law, Faith, Works, Obedience & Justification (versions 1 & 2); (v5) Updated: 2/3/07 - Nos 28- new today

1. No one has ever been or will ever 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 fulfil 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.

14. Mosaic saints were marked out by visible obedience to the law (e.g. circumcision); New Testament believers are defined and marked out more obviously by baptism and allegiance to Jesus as the badge of New Covenant membership.

15. The active and explicit command to the all nations to repent and trust in Jesus is a new element of the New Covenant since the risen Jesus is now enthroned as king of the world in a new way, though this is anticipated in the Old Covenant.

16. Under the Old covenant everyone of all nations ought to have attached themselves as much as they could to God and his people. People could participate e.g. in the Davidic covenant without being fully under the Mosaic law as full Israelites.

17. Being grounded in the nature and will of God, the Torah is a manifestation of God’s Law which applies more generally, a particular instance from which we may generalise.

18. “Being under the law” (of Moses) can be a particular technical term for having the law of Moses promulgated to you at Sinai.

19. “Law” in the Bible almost always means something like Torah, God’s Fatherly instruction to his people, especially as in the law of Moses of the Pentateuch.

20. Faith is true covenant loyalty, submissive obedience. All real faith is obedient faithfulness which perseveres in good works.

21. Good works function as evidence of faith(fullness) for God in a rather different way than they would for a finite human judge, but part of their character is as public legal vindication of God’s accurate assessment that these are his people who are in the right and should be declared so.

22. Deuteronomy is primarily concerned with the national life of Israel and prophesies the inevitable death of the nation as covenant breakers.

23. The covenants should be understood in both individual and corporate terms: a corporate view tends to include individuals and individuals tend to make up a body.

24. Inability to keep a law does not show a law to be deficient in itself. Israel’s inability to keep the covenant does not mean that the New Israel cannot keep the covenant since the Spirit is now poured out in a new way to ensure that it is kept by God’s elect.

25. Christ keeps the law perfectly for his people but they also keep it truly in him and adequately though not perfectly in their own experience, through the strength that he gives.

26. We may distinguish civil, ceremonial and moral aspects of the law and of many individual laws but the Law does not easily divide up in this way.

27. Both Old and New covenants have inner and outer, visible and invisible, subjective and objective aspects. One can participate in the covenant (in some senses and degree) without finally saving faith / election.

28. It seems historically doubtful that the law of Moses was every strictly applied "as is" or that it was ever intended to be so. It is not statute law or even quite case law in our modern sense. Much of it is story. It embodies principles which need to be applied in differing contexts in different ways. Some of the stipulations are culture specific, though easily transferable: we need not fence our roofs but we might fence our swimmin pools.

29. The law of Moses probably give maximum penalties.

30. We must destinguish crimes with legal and/or divine covenantal sanctions from sins, which may result in loss of blessing but not criminal or civil disabilities or the status of covenant breaker. The law gives the floor (minimum requirements for life in the covenant, e.g. no murder) and ceiling of full perfection (love the Lord your God with all your heart etc. and love your neighbour as yourself).

31. The law is a present standard and a future aspiration (e.g. there shall be no poor among you...)

32. The law is given for an imperfect sinful context to tell you what to do in the situation of sin and in reaction to it (e.g. sacrificial system, crimial codes esp. e.g. rape laws). The law does not always lay out an ideal but takes account of hardness of heart (e.g. write her a certificate of divorce).

33. Under both old and new covenants, those professing faith and having duly recieved the sacrament of initiation into the covenant (circumcision in the Old Covenant and baptism in the New) must be treated as members of the covenant in a full, objective, real, legal way, unless they are covenant breakers under legal church discipline. They enjoy all the genuine rights and privileges of outward membership of the covenant including participation in the sacraments though they may not be believers and may be damned at last.

34. Under both Old and New Covevants, any child of a believer is entitled to covenant membership and to the sacraments and is to be treated as a believer, unless they prove to be a covenant breaker.

35. Under both Old and New Covenants the sacraments have a real objective significance and affect those who participate in them, though they are always to be recieved with faith if benifit rather than condemnation is to be recieved.

36. It is never possible to tell with certainty whether or not someone is a believer and it is not our business to judge the servants of the Lord in that way. We must proceed on the basis of a person's profession and his visible legal status with regard to the covenant. If someone commits covenant breaking crimes, he should be subject to a public legal process of church discipline.

Israel's Empire Policy

For understanding Biblical Theology, it is worth thinking about Israel's Empire policy (e.g. under David).

Was it more like the British system where you might have dominions, dependencies and a commonwealth or France where foreign states are incorporated into France and become little parts of France abroad? No doubt there are other options such as EU style federations.

This helps us to think about the relationship between Jew and Gentile and the nature and extent of covenant membership. For example, could one be heir of the promises to Abraham but not under the Mosaic covenant as an Israelite and yet in covenant loyalty to King David: in this case the conquored peoples of the world sound much more like New Testament believers who are not incorporated into national Israel but become part of Abraham's law-governed Jesus defining seed.

Lay Presidency at the Supper

Next you'll be saying that you don't want Father to say grace or Mother to pour the tea!

Possible, yes. Appropriate, not really.

Why I Am An Anglican

I'm very much looking forward to reading this new booklet (Orthos 23, 2006) from The Fellowship of the Word and Spirit: Biblical Theology for the 21st Century (President: Bishop Wallace Benn; Chairman: Revd Dr Simon Vibert (editor); Secretary: Revd soon to be Dr James Hughes).

The booklet gives 12 contributions from today's leaders of conservative evangelicalism:

Donald Alistair, archdeacon of Chester
Simon Austen, vicar
David Banting, vicar, chairman of Reform
Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes
Dr Mark Burkhill, vicar, Latimer Trust
Jonathan Fletcher, vicar
Clare Hendry, deacon
Dr Gavin McGarth, Co-mission staff member
Rob Munro, vicar
Jim Rushton, vicar
Mike Smith, vicar
Dr Richard Turnbull, Principal, Wycliffe Hall, Chairman of Church of England Evangelical Council