Tuesday, September 29, 2009

10 Commandments Resources

One day I might get around to posting a list of some useful things on the 10 Commandments, which I'm preaching through. For now, I wanted to remember the existence of this:


Thanks, Dan Green.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Christianity Triumphant

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch writes:

In 2009 it [Christianity] has more than two billion adherents, almost four times its numbers in 1900, a third of the world's population, and more than half a billion more than its current nearest rival, Isalm.

in A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (Allen Lane) citing The International Bulletin of Missionary Research. Quoted in a review in The Spectator for 26th Sept 2009 p32.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Music Meeting Handout

Here's some possible text for the handout for the meeting we're having about Church Music on Saturday. It gives some issues to think about and discuss.

Introduction / some biblical considerations

Eph 4:15 – (1) Speak the truth (2) in love!

Worship in the Bible: (1) all of life – Rom 12:1-2 (2) special corporate gathered Lord’s Day public worship

Music in the Bible – Psalms e.g. 33:1-3; 47:1, 7; 98; 150

(1) Worship God - Heb 12:28; 1 Cor 14:40

(2) Mutual edification / building up / encouragement – 1 Cor 14:26

Ps 103-104

Col 3:12-15; Phil 2:2-4

Eph 5:19-20; Col 3:16

Some questions / issues to discuss…

How can our music better serve the Biblical purposes of worship and conform to what the Bible says about congregational music?

In the light of what the Bible says, what would we ideally like the music to be like?

What might we pray / plan for?

What are (a) the strengths and (b) the weaknesses of what we currently do?

How does our music affect the mood / atmosphere / feel / emotions of the service? Is that what we want?

What next steps might we take?

How could we make our music more attractive to newcomers?

Are there any skills, gifts, resources, people we are not currently using?

What do you think of the current choice of songs? Mix of old and new? Range? Repetition? Content? Music?

Is the music the right speed?

Amount of music in services?

Incidental / background music (before, after, during, communion etc.)?

Are the music practices helpful?


Congregational singing? Clear when to come in?

Instruments? Organ? Keyboard? (Alone or together?) Guitars? Drums? Other?

Does the sound system serve the music? Sound check? Volumes / levels / mix?

Music for children and young people?

Use of CDs / MP3s?

Morning Service?

Evening Service?

Family Services? (Harvest, Christmas, Easter, Holiday Club, Summer)

Special services / events?

How could you serve / help?

Do you have particular songs to recommend?

Any song books / CDs / websites etc. to recommend?

Music Meeting

Here are some jottings towards the Church Music Meeting we're having on Saturday.

Thank you to all those who already give generously of their time, effort and talents in the music ministry of the church.

We appreciate what you do and we’re grateful for it.

What we’re about today:

Not about taking decisions at this meeting.

I’m going to give a little bit of input at the beginning, but basically this is a chance to hear what people have to say.

A listening exercise.

So speak up!

The Vicar and I will talk about this some time, maybe with the rest of the staff meeting, PCC, musicians and singers or whatever seems appropriate.

General or specific points welcome – request a particular song.

I have some thoughts and ideas about the music, but I’m going to try to hold back and facilitate!

Everyone is entitled to their point of view, even if they’re wrong!

We might ask people to expand on what they’re saying or explain why they think that, but we don’t want to necessarily have a big argument about every point.

Let’s hear what people think, even if we disagree with it.

It may be that we’re already doing the best we can.

Talk about the ideal – dreams, visions, aspirations – inform our prayers.

Next steps – where can we realistically go from here with the people, time, energy, equipment we’ve got.

Eph 4:15 - Speak the truth in love!

(1) Speak the truth – be honest, open, frank, speak your mind, say your piece, feel free to say things that are negative or appropriately critical if need be, let’s not pretend

(2) in love – listen, respect one another’s’ opinions, be kind and gracious, gentle, avoid blame, be positive and constructive, let’s not impute wicked motives to one another unless there’s very good evidence!

The purpose of sung worship in the Bible:

(1) Worship God

We worship God with our whole lives, every day, not just with our lips on a Sunday.

Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual {Or reasonable} act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

But we do meet on a the Lord’s Day for special corporate gathered public worship.

Hebrews 12:28 – “let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”

What does the Bible say about music?

Lots of music in the Bible!

Psalms - Loudness, joy, variety of instruments.

We want what we do to be honouring to God – orderly, reverence, awe, greatness and majesty of God, minds and hearts engaged, joy, wholehearted, passionately, intelligently, sincerely.

God-centred songs, objective truth about what God has done.

Music has the ability to engage our emotions for good or ill.

We want songs that express and encourage appropriate responses to what God has done and said.

Song lyrics can be very memorable.

We want to stock our minds with good biblical stuff.

We want substantial biblical content to what we sing.

Biblical songs can help us to have the words of Christ dwell in us richly. (Col 3:16)

Songs that preach to ourselves / to one another. (Ps 103-104)

1 Corinthians 14:40 – “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

(2) Mutual edification / building up / encouragement

God alone is the object and recipient of our worship.

We worship the audience of one!

We’re not performing.

The congregation is not the audience.

But we are to be concerned for others in our worship.

1 Cor 14:26 – “Let all things be done for building up.”

We need to ask what will edify, encourage and strengthen others?

This is after all our corporate public worship.

We are worshiping together as a body.

Sunday worship is not just about me and Jesus – we can do what we like in the privacy of our own homes with a CD player and headphones!

We worship and serve God by serving one another.

Song: Servant King - “Each others’ needs to prefer, for it is Christ we’re serving”

You can’t please all the people all the time!

Some things are matters of taste and we’ll differ on them, that’s fine.

Let’s think not only of our personal preferences.

Bear with one another (Col 3:13)

Philippians 2:3 - “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

Our Sunday services are something of a shop front.

We need to consider not only our existing congregation but those who don’t yet come to church.

Music and singing can be very important in setting a mood and atmosphere.

If people come to church and they don’t like the music, they may not come back.

There are more important things to a church than the music, but it does really matter.

Especially in a place where there are other conservative Evangelical churches with good Bible teaching to choose from, attractive music could determine someone’s choice of church.

You might not think it should be that way, but I reckon it probably is.

We neglect the command to sing Psalms (Col 3:16). We rarely use the faultless hymnbook that God has given us.

Eph 5:19-20 – “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”


Keith Mathison, Given For You, pp279-280:

Calvin’s doctrine of the presence of Christ [in the Eucharist] was never given a similar sounding name [to the Roman Catholic transubstantiation and the Lutheran consubstantiation], but I would suggest the term suprasubstantiation might be an appropriate and accurate designation. The prefix supra means “above,” “beyond,” or “transcending.” According to Calvin, Christ’s body is present in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, but the mode of his presence is not specifically connected with the substance of the elements. The elements of bread and wine are a necessary part of the sacrament, but they are not the primary focus. Christ is present by virtue of the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, not by the transformation or combination of material substances.

Because Calvin taught that Christ’s body is made present in the sacrament by the working of the Holy Spirit, his view of Christ’s sacramental presence has sometimes been referred to as a doctrine of “spiritual presence.” Unfortunately, this term is often misunderstood to mean that only Christ’s Spirit or divine nature is present in the sacrament. Calvin explicitly denied any such idea. The term suprasubstantiation might avoid some of these misunderstandings because it communicates the idea that there is a real participation in the substance of Christ’s body and blood, as Calvin taught, but that this participation occurs on a plane that transcends and parallels the plane on which the physical sign exists. It communicates Calvin’s focus on the presence of Christ in the sacrament, not the presence of Christ in the substance of the elements.

Top 33 Preaching Topics

I wonder how our preaching priorities compare to the topics covered in the sermon in The Books of Homilies?

This nicked from Wikipedia:

The 'Former Book' of homilies contains twelve sermons and was mainly written by Cranmer. They focus strongly upon the character of God and Justification by Faith and were fully published by 1547.

The homilies are:

I. A Fruitful exhortation to the reading of holy Scripture.

II. Of the misery of all mankind.

III. Of the salvation of all mankind.

IV. Of the true and lively faith.

V. Of good works.

VI. Of Christian love and charity.

VII. Against swearing and perjury.

VIII. Of the declining from GOD.

IX. An exhortation against the fear of death.

X. An exhortation to obedience.

XI. Against whoredom and adultery.

XII. Against strife and contention.

The 'Second Book' contains twenty-one sermons and was mainly written by Bishop John Jewel. It was fully published by 1571. These are more practical in their application and focus more on living the Christian life.

This volume includes:

I. Of the right use of the Church.

II. Against peril of Idolatry.

III. For repairing and keeping clean the Church.

IIII. Of good works. And first of Fasting.

V. Against gluttony and drunkenness.

VI. Against excess of apparel.

VII. An homily of Prayer.

VIII. Of the place and time of Prayer.

IX. Of Common Prayer and Sacraments

X. An information of them which take offence at certain places of holy Scripture.

XI. Of alms deeds.

XII. Of the Nativity.

XIII. Of the Passion for good Friday.

XIIII. Of the Resurrection for Easter day.

XV. Of the worthy receiving of the Sacrament.

XVI. An Homily concerning the coming down of the holy Ghost, for Whitsunday.

XVII. An Homily for Rogation week.

XVIII. Of the state of Matrimony.

XIX. Against Idleness.

XX. Of Repentance and true Reconciliation unto God.

XXI. An Homily against disobedience and wilful rebellion.

Strange New Teaching

Keith A. Mathison writes:

"Of all the various concepts of the Lord's Supper that exist today, symbolic memorialism is the only view that is in complete and total discontinuity with the teaching of the historic Christian church. When we look at the doctrine of the Lord's Supper from the first centuries of the church onward, it becomes abundantly clear that although Christ's presence in the Supper was explained in different ways, there was no disagreement over the fact of that presence. The doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the sacrament was not denied by Luther or Calvin during the sixteenth-century Reformation. In fact, Luther argued that the universal testimony of the historic church proved the validity of this doctrine:

This article moreover, has been clearly believed and held from the beginning of the Christian Church to this hour - a testimony of the entire holy Christian Church, which, if we had nothing besides, should be sufficient for us. For it is dangerous and terrible to hear or believe anything against the united testimony, faith, and doctrine, of the entire holy Christian Church, as this hath been held now 1,500 years, from the beginning, unanimously in all the world. Whoso now doubteth thereon, it is even the same as though he believed in no Christian Church, and he condemeth thus not only the entire holy Christian Church as damnable heresy, but also Christ himself and all the apostles and prophets, who have established and powerfully attested this article where we say, "I believe in a holy Christian Church", Christ namely, Matthew 28:20: "Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world"; and Paul, 1 Timothy 3:15: "The Church of God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth."

Cited in Philip Schaff, The Principle of Protestantism, ed., Thompson & Bricker, 116-7

"Luther, the great exponent of sola Scriptura, was not a slave to the traditions of men. But he recognized an important point. He realized that when the Holy Spirit bore witness to the truth of a doctrine across all boundaries (geographical, chronological, ecclesiastical, etc.), a denial of that doctrine was essentially a denial of the perspicuity of Scripture. He and Calvin disagreed with each other concerning the exact mode of Christ's presence, but they agreed with the historic Christian church on the fact of that presence. Proponents of symbolic memorialism have adopted a doctrine that is a novelty in the history of the Christian church and an implicit denial of the perspicuity of Scripture."

Given for You pp266-7

Later Mathison continues:

The doctrine of symbolic memorialism is the dominant position within modern evangelicalism, but it is a historical novelty within the Christian church. Turning the historic doctrine of the Supper on its head, proponents of this view advocate a doctrine of the real absence of Christ from the Supper. Rather than being an objective means of grace, the sacrament is said to be a subjective act of mental recollection. Instead of being something that God gives to us, the sacrament becomes something that we give to God.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sing Psalms

I just don't understand why we, the conservative Evangelical, really Bible-believing Christians, don't sing the Psalms (Col 3:16). It might be hard and difficult and unpopular, but we would usually say that we don't want to give up on the Bible and go for the easy popular sold out to our culture approach.

I know there are lots of lovely excellent hymns and songs out there, and I'm all for singing them, but what about the 150 God-breathed perfect songs we have in the Scriptures? Shouldn't we prioritise them? Or at least give them a regular place?

How many Psalms do you know by heart? And how many hymns or contemporary worship songs do you know? Is that good and right and helpful? Wouldn't singing the Psalms be an great way to have the Word of Christ dwell in us richly?

So what are we going to do about it? And when?

Unworldly thoughts for tomorrow

Some jottings towards the BCP Communion service tomorrow, in which we use the provision for the 15th Sunday after Trinity.

Both of our readings show us that the Christian has a radically different point of view from the non-Christian, the pagan, the world, the flesh.

Gal 6:11-end

Just as our Gospel reading warns us that we cannot serve 2 masters, God and Money, the Epistle challenges us: will we choose God or “a fair show in the flesh”, popularity, conformity, acceptance and ease?

Are we willing to face persecution for the sake of the cross of Christ?

Will we say with Paul, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”?

It’s amazing to boast or glory in the cross, which was, after all, an instrument of brutal execution.

On the face of it, nothing could be more shameful and less glorious than a cross.

But the cross is the true means to life and glory: it is our guarantee that we are loved and forgiven.

Paul has undergone a death and resurrection with Christ, so that now he has a whole new way of looking at the cross, the world and himself.

“By the cross of Jesus, the world was crucified to me and I to the world”, he says.

The world is dead to Paul, and Paul to the world – that’s how radically removed Paul is from the world and its concerns, loves and so-called glories.

How foolish, then, if we continue to be caught up with worldly concerns – all that should be dead and gone.

Some things which others think matter a great deal (circumcision, in our passage) don’t matter at all to the Christian in his right mind.

What matters is the New Creature – God’s transforming life-giving work in us.

As we come to the Lord’s table, let us glory in the cross.

Let us celebrate Christ’s victory and thank him for his sacrifice.

Mt 6:24-end

Like the Epistle, the gospel reading should put an end to all false boasting.

In this meal, we look to the Lord, our heavenly Father, who knows our needs, to feed us because of his undeserved love for us.

We express our trust in him.

We recognise our total dependence on him.

We pledge ourselves anew to serve God alone as our master, loving him.

We commit ourselves to seeking first his Kingdom and his righteousness, knowing that we have no righteousness of our own.

Our Father gives us our daily bread.

We might even say he gives us the bread of tomorrow today, for in this meal he promises to feed us.

Here and now this meal is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

If we eat here in faith, we can be sure we will be at that glorious Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

Our Father has provided for our Tomorrow and no amount of anxious worrying on our part can do that.

God will take care of it!

Calvin and Music

You even get to hear James Jordan sing in this lecture!

Sung Worship / Music Resources

D.v. on Saturday morning I'm leading a meeting at church about our music. Here are a few resources (not all of which I've looked at in any detail). Anything else to recommend?

Don Carson, Worship by the Book (Zondervan)

John M. Frame, ‘A Fresh Look at the Regulative Principle’


John Frame, ‘Some Questions about the Regulative Principle’


John Frame, Contemporary Worship Music (P&R, 1997)

John Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth (P & R, 1996)

Christopher Idle, Sally Trethewey, and Rosalie Milne, Church Musicians’ Handbook (Matthias Media) available from Good Book Company

Paxson Jeancake, The Art of Worship (Wimpf and Stock, 2006)

Reggie Kidd, With One Voice (Baker, 2005)

David Peterson, Engaging With God

http://philippercival.com/blog/blog.html - Philip Percival’s blog – Director of Music at St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford

Vaughan Roberts, True Worship

Terry Virgo – Worship in Spirit and in Truth – (John 4:23-24) 31/1/2009 Worship School Conference, Brighton

http://www.cck.org.uk/Articles/158720/Church_of_Christ/Worship/Worship_School/Resources/MP3s/Terry_Virgo_Worship.aspx - charismatic

http://www.resoundworship.org/ - new songs

http://www.songsfortoday.com/ - biblical songs for today’s church




Hands together, eyes closed

How would you support that practice of putting your hands together and closing your eyes in prayer from the Bible? Are there any biblical examples of it?

I can see a common sense argument that such things may help us to avoid fidgeting and distraction. Which is one of the things that reminds us we don't want a very rigid (caricatured?) view of the Regulative Principle of Public Worship as if "everything that is not [explicitly?] commanded [in the Bible / NT] is forbidden" in worship. Surely no one thinks closing your eyes to pray is always and necessarily wrong? (See John Frame's questions and thoughts about the Regulative Principle).

I'm all for reverence for God, of course, and so bowing down in prayer seems appropriate, but personally I also like to look up to pray from time to time - it feels more elevating, expansive, joyful, hopeful, expectant, open, almost, somehow.

On a rainy day, I'm sure a Bible study on postures for prayer (kneeling, standing, bowing, hand-raising) would be rewarding. But at the moment the sun is shinning (ish) and there's more pressing things for me to be doing...

Monday, September 21, 2009


New students can find their Christian Union and link up with them using the UCCF website.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Some jottings towards my sermon tonight on John 6:60-71.

John 6:68.

To whom else could we possibly go?

Who could be better than Jesus?

What are the alternatives?

How could you ever upgrade from Jesus?

What does the world really have to offer that is ultimately meaningful or lastingly satisfying?

In Jesus alone are free and full forgiveness, friendship with God, peace that the world cannot give or take away, sure hope, purpose, meaning, destiny, truth, indestructible life, security.

If Jesus is a spiritual Rolls Royce, why would you trade him in for a beaten up old Fiat Punto?

No one ever taught with the authority and insight of this man.

No one ever did the miracles that he was doing.

No one ever showed self-sacrificial love like this man.

No one ever rose from the dead as this man did.

Peter understood that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (Jn 14:6)

Later, Peter would say of Jesus “Salvation is found in no-one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

In Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). The riches of Christ are inexhaustible and sufficient for all.

Jesus really is the only show in town.

Everything else is spiritual junk food – Jesus is the bread of life

Everything else is a leaky bucket, whereas Jesus gives us a fountain of living water within us (Jn 4; 7:37-38)

We are constantly bombarded by words

There is a cacophony of voices

If the internet is to be believed, we speak about 7000 words a day and we hear about 50 000 words a day.

Wave after wave of words rushes upon us. There’s a great sea of words.

Words pour forth from our TVs and radios, online, from the printing presses.

They shout at us from signs and posters.

Words are everywhere.

Many of those words are wrong or manipulative or pointless - lies or frivolous nonsense.

Jesus alone speaks the words of eternal life

Not Buddha or Mohamed.

Not the self-help or pop-psychology books in W H Smiths – not pseudo-philosophy

Not the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins – theirs is a bleak world-view with no life to offer

Jesus’ voice is uniquely one of truth, authority, power, life.

We must go to Jesus!

We must listen to and believe his words – even the hard words.

Go to the Scriptures often.

Come to church to hear the Words of Jesus

Hard Teaching

Some of my jottings towards tonight's sermon on John 7:60-71.

One reason why some of Jesus’ so-called disciples want to leave him comes in v60.

“60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"”

Jesus’ teaching seems hard to them.

Jesus does say some things that seem hard to us.

There’s no point pretending otherwise.

Some of the things Jesus says are hard to understand.

In the Bible, Peter tells us that that are some things in Paul’s letters that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16).

The main things in the Bible are clear and obvious, but there is enough to keep the brightest professor of theology going for more than a lifetime!

It may be that some of Jesus’ hearers couldn’t get their heads round all this stuff about eating his flesh that he’d said, for example, in vv51 onwards.

See their question in v52:

“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Perhaps they took Jesus too literally and it just seemed like disgusting cannibalism to them.

If that’s the case, v63 might be part of an answer to them.

They need not to be fixated only on the flesh, but to think about the Spirit too.

Jesus was speaking not physically and literally, but spiritually.

But I don’t think that’s the main issue.

It’s true that some of Jesus’ words are hard to understand.

But the real problem is that some of them hard to accept or believe.

Some of them hard to do.

The word translated “hard” (skle_ros) here in v60 is not so much about something being hard to understand.

It can mean harsh, rough, unpleasant to feel, strong, offensive.

Jesus asks if they find his words offensive in v61, and it seems they do.

They find Jesus’ word intolerable.

“I just can’t accept that!”, they might say.

The problem is not so much that Jesus is speaking over their heads, that what Jesus is saying is too intellectually demanding, too confusing.

It’s not as if Jesus’ teaching is like some complicated differential calculus or some impenetrable piece of algebra that’s beyond most of the class.

Rather, they find Jesus’ teaching too challenging, too difficult to live by, too demanding, too black and white, too full on, too all or nothing, too uncompromising, too uncomfortable.

Jesus’ hearers’ problem is not their lack of intellectual equipment but their lack of spiritual devotion.

The problem is in their hearts more than their heads.

Jesus’ teaching calls for a whole new way of seeing the world, ourselves, God.

Jesus’ teaching is supremely radical, revolutionary, it can seem earth-shattering.

Jesus’ teaching calls for a personal revolution, what the Bible calls repentance, a change of mind.

We need to stop going my own way and start going Jesus’ way.

Daily repentance is needed.

We constantly need to say “no” to self, “yes” to Jesus.

You have to die to self every moment of every day and live for Jesus.

Jesus’ teaching calls on us to put him at the centre, and not ourselves, not to please ourselves but to please him.

Remember what Jesus has claimed for himself.

He said v35: “I am the bread of life”.

That was a very humbling teaching because it shows us that we are hungry beggars in need of bread.

We are as completely dependant on Jesus as we are on our food.

When the people say this is a hard teaching they may well be refering back to the teaching of v58.

V58 – The people of Israel ate manna but eventually they died.

Jesus’ flesh is a mana, a bread, that people can eat and live for ever.

Jesus is saying, in effect, that he is greater than Moses.

Moses gave the people bread that kept them alive for a while.

Jesus can give them life for all eternity.

“I am the bread of life” is a staggering claim.

It’s not a claim any of us could make for ourselves without being candidates for the loony bin.

Jesus is claiming to be the bread of life, that he alone can give true satisfaction.

And it is hard to believe that.

Wont I be missing out if I live as a committed Christian?

E.g. my friends are going out and getting drunk, wont I be missing out on the fun if I don’t go along with it all?

E.g. Maybe you’re unmarried and there seem to be no suitable Christians on the scene and you feel time is ticking by.

What if I die a virgin, sad and alone and lonely?

How can I be satisfied without a sexual relationship?

E.g. can I really afford to give 10% of my income to the church? Wouldn’t I rather spend that on myself?

Is it worth living as a Christian?

Jesus says that he alone can give true satisfaction.

It’s hard to do some of the things that Jesus says:

e.g. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mt 22:37)

love your neighbour as yourself (Mt 22:39)

Do to others as you would have them do to you (Mt 7:12)

Seek first the Kingdom of God (Mt 6:33)

We must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ (Mt 16:24)

Go the extra mile (Mt 5:41)

Turn the other cheek (Mt 5:39)

We must hate our father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even our own lives if we are to follow Christ (Lk 14:26) – not literally, in comparison to X, put him 1st

Someone once said, “it’s not the bits of the Bible that I don’t understand that trouble me. It’s the bits that I do!”

There is plenty there to be going on with, isn’t there?

If you love a challenge, the Christian life is for you!

There could be no more wonderful or demanding way of life.

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” (G. K. Chesterton)

We want a convenient, entertaining, interesting, helpful Christ – a divine comfort blanket, a cosmic-vending machine, a genie in the bottle, there in case of emergency at the end of a prayer, a diverting conversation topic – not a Jesus who is Lord.

Jesus is Lord and we can only have him at all if we have him as Lord.

We must have the real Jesus as he really is, as Lord.

Will we believe God’s word even when it says things that we find hard to understand or difficult to accept?

After all, it’s nothing to believe God’s word when we happen to agree with it anyway!

The Bible is there not just to confirm our prejudices, but to renew our minds and transform us (Rm 12:2).

Are we willing to be rebuked and corrected by the Bible when necessary? (2 Tim 3:16)

Are you willing to believe that homosexual behaviour is offensive to God, even though our culture celebrates it?

Are you willing to believe that woman shouldn’t preach to men or lead churches if that’s what the Bible says, even if our culture thinks that’s out-dated male-chauvanist nonsense?

Are you willing to believe that the world was made in 6 days, if that’s what the Bible teaches?

Or do we want an intellectually respectable Bible accommodated to our culture? – a Bible with all the difficult bits left out?

In our passage, v66, many deserted Jesus.

It would seem that over the last century or so, thousands in this country have deserted Christ – will we remain faithful to him?

Sometimes sticking with Jesus means we will be in a minority.

The true disciples were in this passage.

We are today in our culture.

It will be costly to follow Jesus.

There may be persecution.

Many times in the history of the church, Jesus’ true disciples have been called on to lay down their lives for him.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Psychologist

Also quoted by David Jackman in his sermon on John 6:60-71 mentioned below, here is a poem by Revd G. A. Studdert Kennedy, MC, 'Woodbine Willie'. His collected poetry, The Unutterable Beauty (1927) is available here.


HE takes the saints to pieces,
And labels all the parts,
He tabulates the secrets
Of loyal loving hearts.
He probes their selfless passion,
And shows exactly why
The martyr goes out singing,
To suffer and to die.
The beatific vision
That brings them to their knees
He smilingly reduces
To infant phantasies.
The Freudian unconscious
Quite easily explains
The splendour of their sorrows,
The pageant of their pains.
The manifold temptations,
Wherewith the flesh can vex
The saintly soul, are samples
Of Ĺ’dipus complex.
The subtle sex perversion,
His eagle glance can tell,
That makes their joyous heaven
The horror of their hell.
His reasoning is perfect,
His proofs as plain as paint,
He has but one small weakness,
He cannot make a saint.

More than we bargained for

This passage from C. S. Lewis (which I nicked from here) was quoted by David Jackman in his sermon on John 6:60-71 Progressive Discipleship available for free on the Proc Trust Media website.

It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. 'Look out!' we cry, 'it's alive'. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back--I would have done so myself if I could--and proceed no further with Christianity. An 'impersonal God'--well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads--better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap--best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband--that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion ('Man's search for God!') suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us? --from Miracles

Calvin's preaching style

As I recall Revd Dr Joel Beeke describing Calvin's preaching style (at JOC / LTS Calvin Conference) it went something like this:

Continuous sequential exposition of the text of the Bible.

Begin with a reminder of where we got to last time.

Exegesis and application. Repeat till time runs out. Stop. Resume next time!

Normallt Calvin's sermons would last maybe 40-60 mins and would cover 4 or 5 verses from the OT or 2 or 3 of the NT.

Beeke said we may have a sense that Calvin rushes to application and short-circuits some of the exegetical / theological / hermeneutical work we might want to see. Calvin wanted to get to the point!

No set piece introduction, funny stories or "illustrations" as such. Not usually a well worked out structure or honed points, just following the text - sometimes a main theme would be stated.

(Calvin did, however, make an effort to use lively vivid language).

Now, it is another question to what extent Calvin was a model in all this, but it did make me feel a bit better about my preaching which I sometimes feel should have more of a single purpose, tighter structure, honed points that make a pleasing whole, more brilliant introductions, illustrations and conclusions etc.! There is something to be said for here are some things I wanted to say from God's word this week. The flexibility to cover more or less in one go is very appealing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

John Piper on Doug Wilson (& N T Wright)

Here is John Piper on You Tube responding to a question about whether so-called The Federal Vision is "Another Gospel". Although he is concerned about some of the trajectory of Doug Wilson's theology and critical of some of his circle, Piper says very emphatically that Wilson does not teach a False Gospel or heresy. Wilson is careful and very bright, wrong on many things in the kind of ways you’d expect a Presbyterian [or peudobaptist] to be wrong. The Federal Vision is very complicated. It legitimately stresses some objective aspects of the covenant in a way that any Reformed person might want to do - there are objective sides to church membership that give real privileges. Don’t write Doug Wilson off very easily.

Piper also mentions that he does not think Wright preaches a false gospel, though he thinks he preaches a very confused gospel.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Praise of Packer

Do you agree that Packer is

perhaps the most well-known / important / influential Reformed Evangelical (Anglican) scholar of our day.

You don't remember seeing such a judgement in print anywhere, do you?

Where's my nearest postbox?

What a useful idea. You'd think it'd be simple, but apparently not quite so! HT: AD on FB.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

So why did Calvin matter?

As I journeyed home from the John Owen Centre Calvin Conference yesterday, my taxi driver (who had also mentioned he could never really get on with books / wasn't much of a reader) asked me who Calvin was. I explained he was a preacher and theologian who lived in Geneva 500 years ago. And then he asked: "So why did he matter?". I can only plead that I was pretty tired but I'm sure I didn't make the most of the opportunity. I said something about Calvin rediscovering how great God was, his glory.

Does anyone want to offer a short response suitable for such everyday situations?

Calvin's Illnesses

According to Sinclair Ferguson, Calvin's ailments included malaria, tuberculosis, heart problems, migraine, kidney stones, asthma, digestive problems and sleeplessness. Sometimes the "cures" could be worse than the initial conditions.

John Owen Centre Calvin Conference

Over at Heavenly Worldliness Rev'd Gary Brady (who seemed a nice chap, had a sense of humour and so on and also happens to be from God's Own Country) has blogged some jottings from the excellent Calvin conference (see "JOC Calvin 01" etc. and some other little goodies) I attended on Monday and Tuesday, so that's saved me a job and given a bit more time for sermon prep.! :)

The papers were:

Calvin the Revolutionary: Christian living in a fallen world (Joel Beeke)

Calvin’s Way of Doing Theology: Exploring the Institutes (Tony Lane)

Calvin and Union with Christ: The Heart of Christian Doctrine (Paul Wells)

Lloyd-Jones Memorial Lecture: Calvin the Man: A Heart Aflame (Sinclair Ferguson)

Calvin the Reformer (Ian Hamilton)

Calvin and Christian Experience: The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Christian (Sinclair Ferguson)

Calvin and Preaching: The Power of the Word (Joel Beeke)

CDs are available from the John Owen Centre, I believe.

Christians in Media Conference

If you're a Christian working in the media, you'll probably want to get The Blueprint Annual Gathering organised by the CoMission Media Forum in your diary.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Boris on Sam

I very much enjoyed Radio 4's Great Lives on with Boris Johnson on Samuel Johnson on BBC i player.

This post is one long spoiler!

The programme begins with Matthew Paris re-telling an anecdote about Sam’s yabber-dabber-do sense of fun, rolling down a hill as a colossal middle-aged man.

Boris describes Sam as Paul Merton mixed with Jeremy Paxman, the Regis Professor of Greek and a first-rate poet.

If the programme can be believed, the Doctor was complicated man, a deeply humane realistic minimalist Conservative who took the part of the poor, the mad and those on the margins of society. Sensitive and compassionate, he abominated slavery with violence. He was angry, impatient, insightful, generous, intense, courageous and sincere. A tormented genius he hated cant, flim-flam, hypocrisy and idle nonsense. He combined Anglo-Saxon gruffness with massive erudition and specialised in rudeness. He was always resentful of those who were successful with less mental equipment than he had! He was afflicted with constitutional melancholia, very severe clinical depression and mental crises. He is often thought to have suffered from Turret’s Syndrome. He disliked talking about himself yet he was fantastically competitive. He feasted on guilt that consumed him. Longing for recognition, he always performed. He was hyperbolic, earnest and serious with a great sometimes bizarre sense of humour. He had an auto-flaggalent streak, obsessive compulsive, driven, he feared his own behaviour, feeling lazy, thinking he was indolent, not honouring God. His application and concentration were fantastic though wasted lots of time, eventually he worked very fast, driven by deadlines. He died in terror of hell and in very great pain.

Hodge v. Nevin on Calvin & Supper

I've enjoyed reading Mathison's account in Given For You (pp148-156) of the debate between Charles Hodge and John Nevin on what Calvin taught about the Lord's Supper and whether or not he was right.

Hodge wrote a blisting review of Nevin's Mystical Presence ("The Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord's Supper", Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 20 (1848): 227-78) in which, amongst other things, he argued that the classic Reformed view is that Christ’s presence in the sacrament is only “to the mind” and is only a presence of “virtue and efficacy". He dismissed Calvin’s distinction between eating as faith and eating as a consequence of faith. He argued that there is no “vivifying efficacy” from the sacrament but only a “sacrificial efficacy”. Calvin’s view of the believer receiving life from the divinity of Christ via the body of Christ by the Spirit in the sacrament was rejected by Hodge as an “uncongenial foreign element” that “had no root in the system and could not live.” The believer has no union with Christ’s human nature. There is no efficacy or objective power in the sacrament but soley in the “attending operation or influence of the Holy Spirit, precisely as in the case of the Word.”

Hodge charged that Nevin’s doctrine leads to Eutychianism and either Socinianism or Pantheism. Hodge thought Nevin’s doctrine involved an abandonment of justification by faith alone. He could not abide the High Church tone. For Hodge, Nevin’s view entails a denial of the Trinity akin to Seballianism.

Nevin’s responsed with an article with the same title (“Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord’s Supper” in The Mercersburg Review 2 (1850): 421-548 reprinted in Nevin, The Mystical Presence and Other Writings on the Eucharist, ed. Brad Thompson and George H. Bricker, Lancaster Series on the Mercersburg Theology, no 4 (Philadelphia, United Church Press, 1966)).

Nevin argues that Calvin and the Reformed taught not only a mental presence of Christ but “asserted always a real presence, not simply as an object of thought or intelligence on the part of men, but in the way of actual communication on the part of Christ – a presence not conditioned by the relations of space, but transcending these altogether in a higher sphere of life; a presence, not material, but dynamic, like that of the root in its branches, and only the more intimate and deep by its distance from all that belongs to the experiment of sense.” (Nevin in Thompson, p292, p153)

According to Mathison, “Nevin effectively counters all of Hodges arguments” and shows that the relevant historical documents demonstrate that Clavin’s doctrine was the accepted doctrine of the 16th century Reformed church. (p155)

Nevin argues that “the modern Reformed doctrine of the Eucharist … has departed from the doctrine of the sixteenth-century Reformation and of the whole ancient church and fallen into the arms of rationalism.” (p155)

Mathison says: “As Peter Wallace observes, most historians agree that Nevin clearly won the historical argument with Hodge. (Wallace, “History and Sacrament”, 199) Nevin’s reply was so thorough, in fact, that it remained the standard historical work on the Reformed doctrine of the Eucharist for over a century. The historian James Hastings Nichols wrote, “As a historical monograph, it remained without rival in English until the twentieth century.” (Cited in Gerrish, Tradition and the Modern World, 66) Gerrish wonders whether it has a rival even today.” (p156)

Mathison continues: “However, even though Nevin won the historical battle, he lost the theological war. Hodge had the greater influence on his own generation, and through the publication of his massive Systematic Theology, he extended his influence into future generations. Hodge’s sacramental doctrine continued to have many adherents to this day, while few Reformed Christians have even heard of Nevin, and even fewer are aware of his debate with Hodge.” (p156)

Letham summarizes: “When, in the 1840s, John Nevin of Mercersberg expounded the classic Reformed teaching on the Lord’s Supper, he was trenchantly opposed by some of the appointed guardians of that very theology, such as Charles Hodge. The verdict of history has been that Nevin was right and that Hodge had failed to grasp his own theological tradition.” (Lord’s Supper, p2)

Good Commentaries

The folk at The Good Book Company have come up with a list of what they regard as the best non-technical commentary on each book of the Bible and they'll flog 'em to you.

For much more detailed reviews see www.BestCommentaries.com who also try to list the two best commentaries on each book.

The Imputation of Adam's Sin

When I was at Oak Hill I took a class reading some Augustine for which I did some work comparing the position of Augustine and John Murray on issues concerning original sin and the nature of our union with Adam: how did we sin in Adam?

Had I known about them at the time, I would have added these to my bibliography (which Mathison mentions, Given For You, p147, n59).

George P. Hutchinson, The Problem of Original Sin in American Presbyterian Theology (Nutley, NJ, P & R, 1972) which includes discussion of Archibald Alexander & Charles Hodge, the realistic view of William G. T. Shedd, Samuel Bird and James H. Thornwell; and Robert Dabney and John Murray.

Mark Horne has written on “Real Union or Legal Fiction? John Williamson Nevin’s Controversy with Charles Hodge over the Imputation of Adam’s Sin (with a Comparison to Robert L. Dabney)” 1997, which won the Aiken Taylor Church History Award of the Presbyterian Church in America..

From the original Bibliography:

Augustine, The Problem of Free Choice translated and annotated by Pontifex, Mark (New York, Newman Press)

Murray, John, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin (Phillipsburg, P&R, 1959)

Shedd, William G. T., Dogmatic Theology, volume 2