Monday, October 12, 2009

AWOL Exploits

This afternoon I'm off to a Proclamation Trust Practical Ministry Seminar (Mon-Thurs) led by David Jackman at The Oast Houses, Northiam, East Sussex. We'll be preaching recent sermons to one another (mine is on John 6:60-71) and getting feedback, working through Galatians and discussing pastoral and church issues.

Next week, Mon 19th - Fri 23rd I'm off to Tyndale House in Cambridge where I hope to write up as much as possible of my research on Calvin's doctrine of the sacraments in general and the Lord's Supper in particular.

Dinner invitations in Cambridge are welcome!

On Sat 24th, I'm off to a study day-conference on 'The Poetry of Paradise' on The Song of Songs in London. Spaces are still available.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hardest passage in Galatians

At the Proclamation Trust conference I'm off to tomorrow, I have to hold forth about Galatians 4:24-31.

I was kinda consoled by the fact that John Stott says of 4:21-31, “Many people regard this as the most difficult passage in the Epistle to the Galatians”. (BST, p121)

Here are a couple of other jottings on that section:

From Tom Wright Paul for Everyone:

Isaac / Ishmael

Promise / flesh

Free / slave

Sinai /

Jerusalem above / present Jerusalem

Bereft, but now fruitful / in slavery with her children

Galatian Christians / Jerusalem-based ‘agitators’

Trusting in God by the spirit / trusting in fleshly identity

Persecuted / persecutors

Will inherit / will be cast out

And because I know you always love a chiasm, this from Longenecker (Word Biblical Commentary, p213) on vv25-26:

A Hagar

B Mt Sinai

C Slavery

D the present city of Jerusalem

D’ the Jerusalem that is above

C' Freedom

B’ (Mt Zion)

A our mother

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Most persecuted man ever

According to Channel 4 news, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi has claimed to be the most persecuted man in the history of the world! He also complained that with legal challenges, he has already "had to spend millions of Euros on judges", before correcting himself, "I mean, lawyers".

Friday, October 09, 2009

An Evening of Eschatology

You can hear & watch Sam Storms, Jim Hamilton and Doug Wilson discussing the Millenium with John Piper here. They spend quite a bit of time in Rev 20.

Some of my favourite lines were:

Two ministers were talking and one said to the other: “we both serve God, you in your way and mine in his!”

The Millenium, a thousand years of peace that Christians love to fight about!

Not “earth is not my home, I’m just passing through” but “heaven is not my home, I’m just passing through” – heaven is an intermediate state between death and the Final Resurrection consummation of all things.

There are 2 main arguments for postmillennialism: (1) it is a lot of fun (2) Jonathan Edwards believed it

(HT: Dan Green)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What I learnt at IME yesterday

IME = initial ministerial education, training for newer clergy.

Good news: spelling doesn't matter.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Parker on Calvin on Sacraments

From T H L Parker, John Calvin (1975):

The sole office of the sacraments is to turn our eyes to beholding God’s promises; that is, they make the Word perceptible to other senses than the ears. (p50)

Calvin’s theology is, from this first statement of it throughout his life, a theology of the sacrament. God will not encounter man directly but by means of that which is already a human term of reference, the human means of communication and visible symbols. (p50)

Infants ought to be baptized. We should not be so sure that they have no faith. It is clear from Mark 10:13ff. that the Lord calls some from among them to be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Why then can he not give some foretaste of his blessing? Why can they not see him in a glass darkly? It is arrogant to say that they have no faith. They have a right to baptism, for they have a common faith with adults. (p50-51)

Pastoral Duties - The Calvin Model!

Calvin was much in demand for suggesting brides for young men. Only a couple of months before he had been writing to Farel himself on behalf of such a young man and saying that he could think off-hand of only three girls who are beautiful, virtuous, and well-dowried, although there are certainly two very pretty girls living near him, but their dowries are not large.

T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin (1975) p178

Calvin, Doctor of the Catholic Church

T. H. L. Parker said this of Calvin:

As I have been writing the book he has more and more taken on the character and stature of a doctor of the Catholic church. A 'Reformer'? Yes, certainly, for it is the office of the doctors of the church to reform the church - and ecclesia semper reformanda. But not just 'Reformer' in its historical sense; not just the first of the Calvinists or the Calvinians or the 'Reformed' or the Presbyterians. Rather, at a time when the western church had become provincial, he was a doctor of the Catholic church.

John Calvin (1975) p.viii

Calvin & Barth

T. H. L. Parker said:

... to treat of Calvin now without taking into account both Barth's criticisms of Calvin and also the new light he has shed on many of Calvin's doctrines would be to label oneself as hopelessly archaic.

John Calvin (1975), p.viif

Oh well. "Hopelessly archaic", it is, then.

Like, "Whatever"?

From UPI website:

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Nearly half of Americans surveyed for a new poll said "whatever" was the most annoying word that could be used in a conversation.

The Marist Poll received votes for "You know" and "anyway," but they weren't even close to the 47 percent that pegged "whatever" as something that had definitely run its course.

The breakdown found "whatever" to be particularly tiresome among respondents in the Midwest, Latinos and people under 45 years old.

Phrases that bug Americans include "it is what it is" and "at the end of the day."

The poll, based on 938 responses, had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

HT: Today Programme.

Then there are also incorrect uses of literally and less to get irked by, of course...

Happy National Poetry Day

18 000 votes cast on the Poetry Society website suggest the Nation's Favourite Poets are:

(1) T S Eliot

(2) John Donne

(3) Benjamin Zephaniah

(4) Wilfred Owen

(5) Philip Larkin

(6) William Blake

(7) W B Yeats

(8) John Betjeman

(9) John Keats

(10) Dylan Thomas

HT: Today Programme. BBC Poetry Season website

Nice idea

Marc Lloyd is totally ignorant of all this and hasn't read the article (or indeed Nahum 1 recently!) but likes this idea which he thinks was a little long for a Facebook Status Update. He also likes theological journals free on the interweb.

Thomas Renz, 'A Perfectly Broken Acrostic in Nahum 1?' Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Volume 9: Article 23 (2009)


Responding to recent scholarship which discounts apparent traces of an alphabetic acrostic in Nahum 1 as purely coincidental, this essay argues that earlier scholarship was right to detect a tendency towards an alphabetic acrostic in Nahum 1. But while previously the disruptions to the alphabetic sequence were considered an imperfection caused by lack of concern on the part of the poet or a later redactor or as the result of copying mistakes in the transmission of the text, I suggest that the tendency towards an acrostic and the irregularities belong to a single purposeful design. This design communicates a message of disrupted order and fits well with the remainder of the book of Nahum.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

William Tyndale

The Common Worship collect for the Lesser Festival of William Tyndale, translator of the Scriptures, Reformation Martyr, 1536.

Lord, give to your people grace to hear and keep your word
that, after the example of your servant William Tyndale,
we may not only profess your gospel
but also be ready to suffer and die for it,
to the honour of your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

CW Daily Prayer, p505

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Harvest jokes

By the wonders of Facebook and Google:

As it's harvest, we can expect the jokes to be corny!

Did you hear about the magic tractor?

It went up the road and turned into a field!

Buttercup and Daisy were chatting as they chewed the cud.
"'Ere, have you heard about this mad-cow disease?"
"Yes, sounds nasty."
"I'm glad I'm a chicken."

Q. What do you call someone who used to be really keen on farm yard vehicles?
A. An ex-tractor fan!

What's the motto of * (insert name of a dodgy airline company)?

'We plough the fields and scatter.'

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Where to start

Warfield once said:

All subsequent attempts to state and defend that [truly evangelical] theology necessarily go back to it [The Institutes] as their starting-point, and its impress upon the history of evangelical thinking is ineffaceable.

"On the Literary History of Calvin's 'Institutes'", Works V, 373-4 quoted in Reymond, Calvin, p15f

Praise for Calvin & The Institutes

The Sorbonne had the Institutes burnt in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in 1542 and 1544.

The RC Florimond de Raemond called it "the Koran or rather the Talmud of heresy, being, as it is, a mass of all errors that have ever existed in the past, or ever will exist, I verily believe, in the future." (1605).

Will Durant, a 20th C American historian called it "the most eloquent, fervent, lucid, logical, influential, and terribe... in all the literature of the religious revolution... developing the thought of [its author's] predecessors to ruinously logical conclusions," whose author, because of his doctrine of predestination, "darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense".

Jacques Desmay called Calvin "the author of a religion of the table, the stomach, the fat, the flesh, the kitchen" in whom the whole Reformation tended to "establish the reign of wine, women, and song." (1621).

Robert Raymond, John Calvin, p14, 136

Calvin's literary output

59 large volumes in the Corpus Reformatorum and 12 more under the title Supplementa Calviniana.

Robert Raymond, John Calvin p13

A big prayer

Some jottings for a sermon in a BCP Communion service using the provision for the 16th Sunday after Trinity.

Eph 3:13-end

Lk 7:11-17

Do you ever think that perhaps at times we settle for too little in our Christian lives?

Our Christianity can be a bit hum drum, comfortable, domesticated.

We can have a so-so “Yeah, okay, fine, thanks”, “plodding along”, mediocre kind of faith.

In the Epistle, we have Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians.

It teaches us the kind of gospel-shaped, gospel-centred, gospel-driven prayers we can pray for ourselves and for others.

And these are big prayers.

Paul has a vast, limitless vision for his readers.

This is a prayer that can lift our sights and re-focus our aims.

Here are spiritual heights to press on towards.

This is a prayer to open our eyes to new spiritual possibilities.

Here is something of the fullness of Christian experience that should be our goal.

It’s a prayer for strength, love and knowledge.

Just notice the resources available to the Christian in prayer:

The riches of God’s glory

God’s riches are greater than the combined wealth of the Times Rich List.

The multi-millionaires in Dragons’ Den have nothing on the living God.

As we come up to Harvest time, we remember that “The world is his for he made it.”

The cattle on a thousand hills are his.

We are enabled by the mighty strength of the Spirit.

The same Spirit of life by whom the world was made, who raised Christ from the dead.

And the goal of this strengthening?

“that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith”

Christ lives in the hearts of all believers by his Spirit

This is a prayer that Jesus might be at home in our lives

That he’d make himself comfortable and have the run of the house

That he would be the Land Lord, the honoured guest, the true Owner occupier, not the live-in-help, or a temporary lodger, camped out on a sofa-bed in the corner.

Is Jesus allowed into every room of our lives?

Can he rearrange the furniture and throw out the old rubbish?

Paul prays … that they “may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge”

It’s the children’s chorus, isn’t it:

“Jesus’ love is very wonderful! So high, you can’t get over it; so low you can’t get under it; so wide, you can’t get round it.”

Love for young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, black and white, respectable and disreputable.

It reaches down to the worst sinner.

It goes on for ever.

We know this love “with all saints”

Saints = believers, holy ones, set apart / sanctified by God

We do this not on our own, but in communion with one another, indeed, in fellowship with all God’s people around the world and down the centuries.

We celebrate our unity and common participation in Christ in this Holy Communion.

Did you notice Paul wants them to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge?

You can know it really and truly, but only in part.

You can never know it fully, because it passes knowledge – it’s inexhaustible.

Our little minds and hearts can’t take in the vast dimensions of it.

There’s always more to know.

Paul prays that “we might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

We might think that a blasphemous prayer, if it weren’t in the Bible.

Think of God’s infinite love, power, wisdom, goodness, beauty, truth, glory.

That’s what Paul wants us to be filled with.

We want to offer ourselves fully to God so that God will pour into us all of himself that we are able to hold.

Our cup with be pressed down and overflowing with the fullness of the inexhaustible God.

Streams of Jesus’ living water will flow out from us and give life to others.

All this is not too much to hope for.

Jesus “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us”

As our gospel reading showed us, Jesus is even able to raise the dead!

That’s the miracle that Jesus has done in us, spiritually speaking.

We were dead in our transgressions and sins and Jesus has made us alive with his almighty power.

Jesus has compassion on the weak, despairing and helpless.

In the midst of the ongoing tribulations, a touch and a word from Jesus can transform us with his new life, to the glory of God.

Let’s never settle for anything less.