Monday, April 30, 2007

Jesus the Scapegoat?

Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1vv9-11) foreshadows his death on the cross (see 10v39) where, though perfect and spotless, he will identify with sinful humanity and take their place by dying a death he doesn’t deserve: he will be the innocent in place of the guilty.

As Jesus is sent out into the desert after his baptism (Mark 1v12), maybe one of the things Mark would have us recall is the scapegoat (Leviticus 16v21) who would bear all the iniquities of God’s people away into a remote place in the wilderness.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tips for Family Worship

I didn’t know that as well as a Directory for Public Worship there was also a Directory for Family Worship, approved by the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland in 1647. A modernised version by Graham Nicholson is available at the Haylett’s website (which also has lots of links about Christian home schooling and other family stuff.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

UCCF / Spring Harvest Split

Here's UCCF's statement about the spilt with Spring Harvest (issued on 23rd):

FOR the past 14 years, the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and Keswick Ministries have been delighted to partner Spring Harvest in organising Word Alive, one of Europe's top Bible Study weeks with a vibrant student track aimed at young people. Widely recognised, orthodox Bible teaching has been the hallmark of the event.

In 2003, the Revd Steve Chalke, one of the Spring Harvest Event Leadership Team, and a member of their Council of Management (trustees), wrote The Lost Message of Jesus. In it, he promoted unorthodox views over the nature of the Atonement, and hit national media headlines over his controversial and graphic description of Penal Substitution.

The Word Alive committee, of which UCCF is a part, believed such views to be contrary to orthodox Biblical teaching and as such, decided that the Revd Steve Chalke could not teach from a Word Alive platform.

The Evangelical Alliance (EA) held a Theological Forum at which various theologians debated with the Revd Steve Chalke. As a result, that organisation decided to change its constitution to clarify where the EA Council of Management stood on the issue. In May 2006 Spring Harvest advised the leadership of Word Alive that the Revd Steve Chalke was able to sign up to the new and revised EA constitution and therefore requested he be allowed to preach from the Word Alive platform in 2007. This request was refused as Mr Chalke had publicly confirmed he had not changed his personal theological views.

In September 2007 the Word Alive Committee were called to a meeting by Spring Harvest and told that as they would not include the Revd Steve Chalke, the 14-year partnership was at an end. Spring Harvest said they regretted they were putting a personality ahead of partnership. Spring Harvest announced it would be promoting its own student-based week at Minehead in 'week one', resourced by Fusion, of which the Revd Steve Chalke is on the Council of Reference.

Our decision to allow only orthodox Christian teaching from Word Alive platforms, and Spring Harvest's subsequent decision has caused enormous pain and regret. However, UCCF believes it can no longer work with those whose understanding of the nature of the gospel and the distinctive of the atonement is so different to theirs, and mainstream evangelicals in the UK and across the world.

There comes a point when loyalty to the gospel, as we believe it to be clearly set out
in Scripture, and the drive for unity with others can come into conflict, and we have reached that point.

Meanwhile, a new 'Word Alive' event, organised jointly by Keswick Ministries and UCCF has been planned for 7-11 April 2008 at Pwllheli, where speakers already confirmed include John Piper, Terry Virgo and Don Carson. There will be an increased capacity and further details will be released shortly.

Rumours circulating that the break-up of the partnership was down to Word Alive's refusal to accept women speakers is totally refuted. UCCF regularly has women speakers on its platforms, and it is a matter of public fact that Keswick does too. The key issue is Spring Harvest's corporate support for one of its own trustees, the Revd Steve Chalke, over Biblical orthodoxy on such a central issue as Atonement


Donald T. Williams is against it. He says:

deconstruction… is… the ultimate form of epistemological rebellion against the meaning structure built into the universe by God. It is hermeneutical lawlessness, the refusal of all restraint that is the essence of sin applied to texts.

from Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dec 1998 available here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Oak Hill" blogs list update

Time for an update on the old "Oak Hill" blog list, which is reproduced here below 5 new mentions:

Jason Roach, Esther Moment...

Aneirin Glyn’s Resources

Nick Gowers

Jason Hamshaw, Divine Passion

Olly J Elliott

Beckie A, My Life and I

From the old list:

Daniel Roe -

Helen Morrow -

Rachel Warick - Not "where next?" but "where now?"

Revd Dr David Field -

Ros Clark – I have a question -

Revd Matthew Mason – Mother Kirk -

Revd James Oakley

Celal Baker

Mandy Curley – Safety Girl -

Chris Thomson -

Tim Gough -

Paul Kerry – Freedom is Coming -

Andrew Towner - Towner's Thoughts -

Dawn Evans -

Pete Jackson -

Dan Green -

Nick Cornell -

Ruth Field -

Revd Chris Green -

Sing Psalms

Another successful 20 mins of Psalm singing today.

Thanks to Dr Thomas Renz for pointing out Crown and Covenant Publications: The resource for psalm singing and serious scripture study under the oversight of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

There are lots of Psalters, downloads and CDs to buy. All sorts of other handy items are available such as a “ruling elder ordination certificate” and a baseball cap with a “For Christ’s Crown and Covenant” banner logo. I guess it’s a good time to buy with the pound giving you a couple of dollars just now.

There’s a Free Psalm of the Month MP3 file to download. Psalms 23 and 9 are currently available.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Wright on Chalke & Pierced (updated links)

The Rt Revd Dr N. T. Wright’s The Cross and the Caricatures: a response to Robert Jenson, Jeffrey John, and a new volume entitled Pierced for Our Transgressions (Eastertide, 2007), on the Fulcrum website, seems to me extremely ill-judged in its comments on PfOT.

I sympathise with Revd John Richardson’s reflections.

There seems to be a very charitable reading of Revd Steve Chalke’s position in Wright’s article and a lumping together of Drs Jeffrey, Ovey and Sach with a lot of other bad stuff Wright has come across.

It seems from Wright’s discussion that The Lost Message of Jesus wasn’t as “clear” as Wright’s initial endorsement suggested. However, from Chalke’s subsequent writings and from the Evangelical Alliance symposium at London School of Theology, it seemed clear to me that Chalke was repudiating any doctrine of penal substitution, not just a caricature of it.

If Steve Chalke really believes in (the well-defined, carefully stated, classic, orthodox, biblical doctrine of) Penal Substitution, why doesn’t he just say so in print in clear unambiguous terms?

I have heard Tom Wright complain that people often criticize him for what he is not saying, which is exactly what he does to J, O and S.

Some of Wright’s discussion has the feel of “I wouldn’t have written the book this way and their book should be more like my books (like Chalke’s is).”

Pierced for Our Transgressions is already a long book and criticisms which suggest that it should amount to a commentary on Romans, Galatians and the Gospels, or which treat it as if it claimed to be a comprehensive statement of everything one might want to say about Jesus, the gospel or even the cross are obviously unfair.

It is patronising and, I’m sure just plain wrong, to say that “the authors have scarcely begun to grasp” the foundational fact that “the cross means what it means as the climax of the entire story of Jesus – and that the story of Jesus means what it means as the climax of the entire narrative to which the gospels offer themselves as the climactic and decisive moment, namely, the story of Israel from Abraham to Jesus… , and thus the story of Israel seen as the divine answer to the problem of Adam.” – an account which I’m sure J O and S would endorse.

I’m sad to say I thought that Wright fell into what he laments: “political labelling and dismissal of people on the basis of either flimsy evidence or ‘guilt by association’” in his characterization of “the new right-wing (so-called ‘conservative’) evangelicals.”


Jeffrey, Ovey and Sach's reponse to Tom Wright seems spot on to me.

See also comments by Revd Dr David Field, Revd Matthew Mason, Ros Clarke, Revd Doug Wilson.

Let’s pray for love and unity in the truth, repentance where it is due and the confounding of error.

George & Diocletian: What I Learnt Today (Updated)

Though I’m Welsh, I’d like to wish my readers a happy St George’s Day.

One of the few things we know about George is that he wasn’t English. According to Wikipedia he was from Anatolia, now modern day Turkey.

He was probably a soldier martyred under the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian in c. 304 AD.

George was made Patron Saint of England in 1347 by Edward II in preference to Edward the Confessor. He is also the patron saint of Canada, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, the cities of Istanbul, Ljubljana and Moscow, as well as a wide range of professions, organisations and disease sufferers.

George merits a Festival, not only a lesser festival in the C of E calendar.

The Collect:

God of hosts,

Who so kindled the flame of love

In the heart of your servant George

That he bore witness to the risen Lord

By his life and by his death:

Give us the same faith and power of love

That we who rejoice in his triumphs

May come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection;

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Common Worship Daily Prayer p464

Update: Thanks to LG for pointing out this alternative prayer on Revd John Richardson's blog:

Almighty God,

We have been taught by the legend of St George

to fight against dragons and to rescue the helpless.

Deliver us by the truth of the gospel

from that great dragon who leads the whole world astray.

Free us from our slavery to sin and death.

And grant that your light may dawn again on this nation of England.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,


NJ was telling me all sorts of fascinating stuff over coffee today.

Apparently Diocletian pioneered modern bureaucracy and split the Empire into East and West.

One of the new semi-HQs was in York, where the Emperor Constantine was born – so he was English, in a way.

Diocletian also divided the Empire into dioceses with a vicar representing the Emperor in each.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Camp Talks & Bible Studies From Mark

This year on our newly planted CPAS Pathfinder Camp / Venture for 11-14 year olds, we're thinking of teaching Mark's gospel:

Here’s out draft teaching scheme for the main evening talk and group Bible studies on camp:

----------- Talk -------- Bible Study

(1) Sat -- Mark 1:1-8 --- 1:9-20

(2) Sun -- 2:1-12 ------ 2:13-17

(3) Mon -- 4:35-41 ----- 6:30-52

(4) Tues -- 7:1-23 ------ 7:24-37

(5) Wed -- 8:22-9:1 --- 9:2-32

(6) Thurs 15:1-15 ----- 15:16-32

(7) Fri ---- 15:33-39 --- 15:40-47

(8) Sat --- 16:1-8 ------ On your own at home!

We are expecting perhaps more un-churched members than in previous years, so we thought we’d go for a gospel and aim to be quite evangelistic.

We’d like to focus on 3 key themes in Mark’s gospel: who is Jesus, why did he come and what does it mean to follow him? We should see, among other things, that he’s the Christ, the Son of God (the long awaited rescuer-King) who came to die as a ransom for many. Discipleship means repenting and believing the good news of the kingdom and following Jesus, taking up our cross, denying ourselves, and losing our life that we might save it.

In the Bible studies we aim to model how to read the Bible for ourselves by asking good questions of the text – not giving another talk! Feel free not to use the whole text if you think its long and time is short. And you may want to spend some time discussing the preceding talk and looking back at that passage.

Notes will be provided for the Bible Studies but you should do your own preparation on the text too.

You may find some of the following helpful (I’ve not used all of them):

Paul Barnet, The Servant King: Reading Mark Today (Aquila Press, 1991)

Tim Chester, Mark 1-8: The Coming King 10 studies for individuals or groups (The Good Book Company)

Tim Chester, Mark 9-16: The Servant King 7 studies for individuals or groups (The Good Book Company)

P. Bolt & T. Payne, Mark: News of the Hour 10 studies (Matthias Media)

Phil Crowter, Preaching Mark - Book 1 (The Good Book Company) – esp. Mark 1-8 – designed for the developing world

R. Alan Cole, Mark: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Eerdmans / IVP, 1961 2nd ed. 1989)

Tom Wright, Mark For Everyone (SPCK, 2001)

Dick (=R. T.) France, Mark: The People’s Bible Commentary (The Bible Reading Fellowship, 1996 / 1998)

Donald English, The Message of Mark: The Mystery of Faith The Bible Speaks Today Series (IVP, 1992)

The Christianity Explored and CY (Youth version) available from The Good Book Company also use Mark’s gospel.

More technical fatter commentaries are:

James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark Pillar Commentary Series (Eerdmans, 2001)

R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: New International Commentary on the Greek Testament (Eerdmans, 2002)

William Lane, The Gospel According to Mark New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1974)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wisdom of the Corridor

By keeping my study door open today I learnt that: "Christian books are a ministers booze and fags"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Speech Acts and Scripture

In the morning we're going to discuss Speech Act Theory & Scripture in the post-graduate seminar.

If you're really interested in this stuff, here are some Word documents:

My draft / work in progress (about 7000 words) on Speech Acts and Scripture.

And a bibliography on Speech Acts (Theology, Scripture etc.)

These are part of my research project on Scripture and the Lord Supper, which this old doucument introduces.

The stuff on speech acts and Scripture is intended to follow on from a statement of a standard Reformed Evangelical doctrine of Scripture as taught by Warfield. There's a section on semiotics underway and then I'm going to attempt a speech act and semiotic account of the Supper. d.v.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Preaching Plans

The system at Holy Trinity, Eastbourne, (where d.v., I am to be the curate from July) is that the vicar and I will both preach series or topics of our own choice. I think the plan is that I should preach every couple of weeks. Our series will be interspersed with each others sermons.

I need to come up with passages and titles for the termcard a fair while in advance, which of course is something of a challenge without having done lots of preparation on the text before hand!

So what might I preach on?

I guess its good if the mainstay is sequential expositions through books of the Bible, trying to give the “melodic line” / main thrust of the books, with a balanced diet of different books (genres, Old and New Testament and so on).

I once preached a series of 8 on highlights from Mark’s gospel and I’d be tempted to re-visit it especially as Mark is used for Christianity Explored and we’re using Mark on camp this year, but the current curate has just preached a long series from Mark so I guess that’s out.

I’ve preached my way through the whole of Ephesians a couple of times too, and there are a great many more riches there I’d like to mine, but the vicar has been preaching his way through Ephesians!

I couldn’t really decide what I wanted to do, so for my first few sermons I’ve decided to go for:

8th July AM – Colossians 1:28-99 – How To Pray For The New Curate, or, Apostolic Priorities for Ministry

29th July PM – Psalm 1 – An Invitation to The Good Life

5th August AM – Psalm 2 – Why Do The Nations Rage?

26th August PM – Psalm 3 – Salvation to Sing About

Maybe I might think of trying to climb mount Romans (which I studied a couple of times for Focus at St Ebbe’s). Or perhaps the whole of John’s gospel. Or I should have learned Hebrews here at Oak Hill last year.

I reckon we’re probably a bit too shy of long series. I think Zwingli started his ministry at Zurich with Matthew 1:1 and kept going through the New Testament till his death.

I’ll want to preach some Old Testament stuff too. I might re-visit a series of 8 I preached from Genesis 1-11. Or maybe some sermons (4?) from Jonah.

Maybe a couple of talks on the Bible, partly because of some tie in with the PhD: perhaps 2 Tim 3:16, ‘The Nature of the Bible’ and Psalm 19, ‘The Benefits of the Bible’.

I could plagiarise Matthew Mason’s sermons on the Lord’s Prayer that we listened to over a couple of Sundays.

Maybe a Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom / Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture style Bible overview sometime.

I think we’ll need to pick something to do in home groups too. (I think Philippians is being studied at the moment).

Any suggestions?

Psalm Singing

Our Psalms singing in Oak Hill Chapel got off to an excellent start this week with Psalm 24 to music by J Barnby and Psalm 95 to music by S Stanford.

Many thanks to Towner for guiding us, and to Dr Renz for a sentence of exegesis.

Another opportunity on Tuesday 4:30-4:50pm. What could be better?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Scripture & Supper as Boundary Markers

George Aichele says:

The question of canon arises in the form of disputes over which are (or who possesses) the genuine scriptures…. Finally, however, they are also disputes over the identity of the reading community. Canon arises from the need to distinguish Jews from Christians, Ebionites from Marcionites, and so forth. (Sign, Text, Scripture: Semiotics and the Bible, Sheffield Academic Press, 1997, p128)

This is clearly not all that is going on, but perhaps there's some truth in saying that confession of the canonical Scriptures, like being baptized and recieving the Lord's Supper, serves as a boundary marker of the Christian community. Indeed, believing the Word of God and duly recieving the sacraments are marks of the Church. Israel at Sinai might be taken as a prototypical picture of the church marked out by being gathered around the Word of God.

Friday, April 13, 2007

In praise of Interlinear Bibles

Maybe there's some sort of comfort here for those of us who haven't really progressed beyond inter-linear Bibles:

For Benjamin, the optimal confrontation of source and target text takes the form of an interlinear version of the scriptures, ‘in which literalness and freedom are united’ (Benjamin, Illuminations, 1968:82). … In the space between the parallel lines of the two texts, the translation and its original are united in a ‘true langauge’ without the mediation of meaning (Benjamin 1968:77)…. Yet this space of the interlinear text is utopian and uninhabitable; it is a sacred space, untouchable (Derrida, The Ear of the Other,1985:115)…. For Benjamin, the literal, interlinear juxtaposition of texts reveals a ‘pure’ or ‘true’ language lying behind or within all actual languages… (1968:79)

Aichele, George, Sign, Text, Scripture: Semiotics and the Bible (Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press, 1997) pp44-45

Theological Plain Speaking Campaign

Is this the kind of pseudo-intellectual theologising (from Aichele, Sign, Text, Scripture, p19) up with which we should not put:

"In this book I continue the ‘reading from outside’ … which I first described in The Limits of Story as ‘concrete theology’:

Concrete theology as a deconstructive theology must reveal its proper non-presence in the dispersed materiality and violence of inscription, in a dissemination beyond historical univocity or structural polysemy, in a fundamental (but never original) undecidability… In order to exceed the limits, theology must uncover the not-itself which lies unnamed at its center, its hidden eccentricity and non-identity: it must become concrete (Aichele, 1985: 138-39.)

If I may venture a rather hasty conclusion, Concrete theology seems like Brick-wall theology – as in “banging your head against a” - to me!

Mr Aichele is no doubt very clever and terribly eminent, and I’m probably just being stupid and childish and impatient and terribly unscholarly, not to say a little uncharitable, but that's a paragraph that makes me want to give up! Or maybe, perhaps, to try to do better.

A reminder of the need for theological plain speaking in the service of the church? A theology you could pray and preach and sing? And understand.

A definition of Postmodernism

George Aichele says: “there is no single, widely accepted definition of postmodernism. Nor is there a single postmodern standpoint on any given topic…. [T]hat particular discussion [of the meanings of postmodernism] … is itself in some ways highly symptomatic of postmodernism.” (Sign, Text, Scripture: Semiotics and the Bible, Sheffield Academic Press, 1997, p15)

Aichele goes on: “I somewhat arbitrarily adopt for my purposes the well-known definition of the French Philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard:

The postmodern would be that which, in the modern, puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself; that which denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable; that which searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable.

Lyotard, J-F., The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge trans. Bennington & Massumi (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota, 1984) p81

Well, from my no doubt culture bound perspective, this seems to me to deny itself the solaces of making sense and saying what it means. Its more like hints at descriptions than a useful definition, because, really, what is it on about? Unpresentable? Impenetrable.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Jesus' right and left

James and John come to Jesus [in Mark 10:37] and ask that they may sit, one at his right and the other on his left, when he comes in his kingdom…. For Mark, Jesus becomes King when he is crucified, publicly placarded as ‘King of the Jews’. And on his right and his left there hand two brigands, two insurrectionists [Mark 15:26-27]. No wonder Jesus told James and John they didn’t know what they were asking for.

N. T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (London, SPCK, 1994) p35

New Creation in John

N.T. Wright suggests some new creation motifs in John’s gospel:

The opening words, “In the beginning…”, echo Genesis 1:1.

The 7 signs in John might correspond to the 7 days in creation.

The climax of John’s signs and the days of creation is focus on a man: Adam and Christ. Pilate’s words encourage us to “Behold the man!” (John 19:5). Mary is not so wrong when she mistakes the New Adam for the gardener (John 20:15).

As God’s work of creation was completed (Genesis 2:1-3), so “it is finished” on the cross (John 19:30).

The rivers of living water that flow out of the hearts of those who believe in Jesus (John 7:38) recall the rivers that flow out of Eden (Genesis 2:10-14)

As God breathed the spirit of life into man, so Jesus breathes his Spirit onto the disciples (John 20:21).

Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (London, SPCK, 1994) p32f

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Louis-Marie Chauvet follows J. J. Von Allmen in arguing that it is appropriate to have an epiclesis (an invocation of the Holy Spirit, as in some Eucharistic prayers) before the reading of Scripture.

Of course there’s all sorts of mumbo-jumbo about transubstantiation to be avoided here (as if the Spirit comes to “change” the bread and the wine or somehow make the Bible the Word of God to us, as if it weren’t already that).

Yet, when Scripture is read and preached, as when we partake of the Supper, we pray that the Spirit will minister Christ the Word to us as we receive him by faith.

Chauvet, Louis-Marie, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence translated by Patrick Madigan and Madeleine Beaumont (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1995) p226 citing J. J. Von Allmen, Celebrer le salut: Doctrine et pratique du culte chretien (Paris, Cerf-Labor et Fides, 1984) p140.

Readers may also care to peruse Towner’s slight rant about prayers before sermons.

Fathers on Scripture as Sacramental

Louis-Marie Chauvet argues that the view that the Bible is sacramental has “a long tradition within the Church” and indeed “is obviously one of the strongest of Church traditions” but his quotations are disappointing.

The first, from Origen, is only a parallel between how we ought to treat Jesus’ body (wrongly thought to be locally present) in the Eucharistic bread and the written Word of God with equal reverence:

You who participate regularly in the divine mysteries, you know with what respectful precautions you keep the body of the Lord once it is given to you, lest a few crumbs fall and some part of the consecrated treasure be lost… But if you justly take such precautions with regard to the Body of our Lord, can you expect that neglect of the Word of God deserves a lesser punishment than neglect of his Body? (Homily 13 on Exodus)

Taken in isolation, Tertullian claim that in John 6: “The bread is the living Word of God, come down from heaven.” (De Or. 6) refers more obviously to Jesus than to the Bible and is hardly controversial. Some evangelicals would want persuading that John 6 should be connected to the sacraments at all, so even a bread-Bible link need not amount to a sacramental account of the Lord’s Supper here.

Ambrose says apropos Scripture:

Eat this food first, to be able to come later to the food of Christ, to the food of the Body of the Lord, to the sacramental feast, to this cup where the love of the faithful becomes inebriated. (Expos. Ps. 118 vv15, 25)

This is parallelism similar to that in Tertullian, but the metaphor of the Bible as food can hardly be called a strong statement of its sacramentality.

In Origen the metaphorical parallelism is more developed. Chauvet says:

For him the Eucharistic body of the Lord can be understood only in relation to his scriptural “body,” the whole constituting the symbolic mediation of the body of our Lord Jesus, historical and glorious. This is why for him the broken bread refers as much to Scripture as to the Eucharist: “If these loaves had not been divided, if they had not been broken into pieces by the disciples – in other words, if the letter had not been broken piece by piece – its message could not have reached everyone” and the assembly would not have been satisfied. (Homily on Genesis 12:5)

Chauvet says: “We could multiply quotations from the Fathers supporting this position.” We could wish he had done so.

Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence translated by Patrick Madigan and Madeleine Beaumont (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1995), pp213f

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NT in blood and book

The close connection between Scripture and the Lord’s Supper is suggested by the fact that we refer to the Old and New “Testaments” of the Bible and the cup of the New “Testament” in Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20, KJV).

Theologically, Bible and Supper function as covenant document or constitution and seal or ratification. The Bible is the announcement of the covenant, the Supper its reception and celebration.


I’ve noticed that despite Psalm 95:6, Ephesians 3:14, Acts 20:36; 21:5, most people (myself included) hardly ever kneel in chapel. I wonder why this might possibly be:

It’s a hassle and a faff and a bit uncomfortable

We’re sharing prayer books so it wouldn’t be very convenient for the person next to me if he didn’t want to kneel

I’ll be embarrassed because very few other people are doing it

I don’t want people to think that I think that I’m super spiritual

I don’t kneel at home so it’d be hypocrisy to kneel in chapel

It’s not strictly necessary to kneel so I wont do it: not kneeling is a sign of Christian freedom!

I don’t like the prayer book or the worship leader telling me what to do

The service leader doesn’t want to tell us to kneel as it might seem weird or bossy

Kneeling is doing something and we aren’t saved by doing things: kneeling is one step away from turning worship services into legalistic supposedly meritorious works righteousness offered to appease God who for some reason likes us to do things that we don’t really want to do (like kneeling on hard floors)

Lots of dodgy heretics such as Roman Catholics kneel so we better not associate with them by doing it

Non-Christian outsiders might think it’s weird and be put off the gospel because some people who believe the gospel sometimes kneel

Maybe there’s something in some of these, but they’re not the greatest reasons, are they? Perhaps someone has better explanations?

Given that we’re creation-affirming embodied creatures and not nasty Gnostic dualists, it seems to me that some bodily movements would be helpful in public worship.

To steal some words from Leithart, they may even help to “inscribe a Christian choreography, training the worshiper to dance life virtuously” (Priesthood of the Plebs, p28).

Kneeling might be appropriate for confession of sin and intercession as we symbolically bow before the king of kings and ask for his mercy and help.

Better if we all did it, though, ‘cos I don’t want to feel an idiot…

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Au revoir

The wife and I are off to Durham for a few days to stay with her parents and little brother. We thought it was the least we could do as we’re soon to move about as far away as possible without leaving the mainland.

On the way we’re stopping off in Harogate for tea with Mrs Lloyd’s grandmother. Tea is a meal served at 5pm in the north which substitutes for all other meals thereafter, I’m told. I’m fearful of feeling rather faint by breakfast, so we might take some emergency rations.

In Durham we’re going to be pretty busy celebrating my birthday (6th – that is, on the 6th, not, I’m going to be six). But we might just find time to go to Lindisfarne. Apparently its not just an old monastry on a dinky island but a castle and a number of pubs and cafes too.

We’re not quite sure where we’ll go to church on Sunday. We might accompany Mrs Lloyd’s mother to Durham City Baptist Church. Though Mrs Lloyd’s father is apparently opening a new church somewhere, so if he’s up for having groupies we might tag along. I’d like to hear the good Bishop, who is preaching and presiding at the Sung Eucharist and Baptism at 11:15am in the Cathedral. There seems to be a 5am Easter vigil for the super holy. I hope to be soundly asleep. Alternatively, there’s Christ Church, Durham. Or maybe a jaunt to Jesmond Parish Church.

Happy easter!

PhD "progress" report

Ros asked for a progress report on my research project.

I’ve written 6500 words on a Reformed Evangelical doctrine of Scripture as classically expounded by Warfield, which I think are hand-in-able.

And 4000 words on speech act theory and its application to the doctrine of Scripture, which probably need a bit of tweaking.

The next section is on semiotics (the study of signs) with a view to considering its application to scripture and the Lord’s Supper (as words / visible signs).

Then its the Reformed doctrine of the Supper (probably mainly in Calvin and his successors, maybe as mediated through Charles Hodge and Old Princeton?).

And I’ve got about another 20 000 words of prose which varies between quite spare outline sketchiness and rambling cancerous gone to seedness.

And I’ve 127 000 words of notes in alphabetical order by author.

I reckon if you locked me in a room for a couple of weeks and forbade me to look at any more books I could have a fair stab at some prose to work up into a very early draft of the overall thesis.

In the end I need 80 000 words including footnotes.

Theoretically I’ve been working on this project full time this academic year and 25% of my time in the previous two years, so I ought to be roughly half way through by the end of the summer.

I get ordained on 30th June, d.v., and the deal is that I’ll spend a day a week on this in the parish till its done.

Just in case anyone’s forgotten, the overall working title is:

Edible Words & Legible Sacraments?
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

And the chapter headings might go like this:

Chapter 1: Opening Words
Introductory, preliminary and methodological considerations

Chapter 2: God’s Words on God’s Word Written
The scriptural doctrine of scripture

Chapter 3: God’s Words on the Supper
The scriptural doctrine of the Supper

Chapter 4: Edible Words
The Supper in the light of the scriptures

Chapter 5: Sacramental Words
The scriptures in the light of the Supper

Chapter 6: Special Words
The “sacramental” model in relation to the whole created order

Chapter 7: Closing Words
Summary of conclusions and suggested practical applications

Book deals, advance subscription payments, offers of proof reading, suggestions for examiners all most welcome. Suggestions for further reading may be greeted with a slight inner groan.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Its not big and its not clever - its just wierd

Now it could just be that I'm very thick, but I've just turned the pages on Fountain, J. Stephen, ‘Postmodernism, A/Theology, and the Possibility of Language as Universal Eucharist’ pp131-147 in Porter, Stanley E., (ed.) The Nature of Religious Language: A Colloqium (Roehampton Institute London Papers 1), Sheffield Academic Press, 1996 and I'm none the wiser.

We get all sorts of wierd and wonderful stuff about, Thomas Altizer, the death of God, Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being (1991) and Joyce, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake then this quotation from Raschke, Theological Thinking: An In-quiry (Atlanta, Scholar’s Press, 1988), p134):

'Book’ is etymologically connected to ‘beech’, an ‘edible tree’ (c.f. the Greek root phago-). Thus the book is the tree, the symbol of life, that is ingested as a sacrament. Reading in the classical context is akin to the celebration of the ‘mass’, the assimilation of meanings, the consumption of a god, the transfer of presence (p140)

If you thought interpretive maximalism was sometimes a bit on the creative side, how's this for left-field?

In the absence of the Father, the Author(ity), the reading of such writing enacts the presence of the (M)other... (p141)

When you start putting bits of words in brackets, I think it's all going to end it tears.

And the grand conclusion?

An understanding of the self-kenotic God, the God who is other-than-God, requires theology which is other-than-theology, a writing which is the total presence of apocalyspse, the embodiment of the God who is Word, a universal eucharist. (p146)

Why do people write this stuff? Does he know what he means? Does he think we will? Or perhaps we're not meant to?

Right, that's better.

Is French such a rubbish language?

In arguing for the arbitrariness of words, the concepts they signify and the connection between the two, Jonathan Culler claims that:

The English concepts of a “wicked” man and of a “pet” have no real counterparts in French. (Culler, Jonathan, Ferdinand de Saussure (New York, Penguin, 1976) p13)

Is that really so?

No doubt Culler would just tell me how much it shows that I'm shaped by my language and culture but it seems to me that "wicked" and "pet" are pretty basic ideas. Are the Frenchies really that different from us that they have no morally depraved individuals and no domesticated animals they treat as members of the family?

Barthes Soundbites

Here are a few soundbites from Jonathan Culler’s Barthes: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2002):

In his inaugural lecture at College de France on forgetting and unlearning Barthes defined “Sapientia [wisdom]: no power, a little knowledge, a little wisdom, and as much flavour as possible” (Lecon, p46/478)

In 1971 Barthes claimed his historical position was “in the rearguard of the avant-garde(Responses, p102)

“any biography is a novel that dare not speak its name” (Responses, p89)

In Lecon Barthes jokes that he hopes to make his Chair of Literary Semiology into a wheelchair, always on the move, “the wildcard [joker] of contemporary knowledge” (p38 / 474)

Or more seriously:

“the birth of the reader must be requited by the death of the Author” (Le Bruissement de la langue, p69/55)

literature (it would be better from now on to say writing), by refusing to assign a ‘secret’, an ultimate meaning, to the text (and to the world-as-text), liberates an activity we may call counter-theological, an activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meanings is, the end, to refuse God and his hypostases – reason, science, law. (Le Bruissement de la langue, p68/53f)

We now know that a text is not a line of words releasing a Single “theological” meaning (the “message” of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable sources of culture (Le Bruissement de la langue, p67; pp52-3)

Jesus the Sign of God

That link to the Leithart post I mentioned before worked for me today! He's drawing on Rhonda Wauhkonen discussion Nicholas of Lyra's "Hebraic" semiotics and hermeneutics in a 1992 article on Chaucer:

Jesus was also presented as the semeion (or the 'ot) [sign] of the New Covenant. As such, He assumed a peculiarly 'literary' role: being both the Sign and the Signified, the Revealer and the Revealed, He paralleled and surpassed in Himself the sign theory of the Hebrew Scriptures…. He brought together in Himself the 'ot (the sign), what it signifies, and the right reading of it. In effect, He became the Author, the Narrator, and the Participant in the 'Text' of the world and of Scripture." Hermeneutically as in every other way, "all things hold together" in Christ - sign, thing, author, text, reader.