Friday, February 19, 2010

Hebrew for Beginners (Eastbourne)

I noticed a notice on the Community Wise / Old Town Community Church, Eastbourne, notice board round the corner from us today offering Hebrew lessons. Wonder if I should enroll the boy? Or even myself (waste of time, effort, money etc.). Mrs Lloyd, perhaps? It was claimed that these lessons would be useful for Biblical or modern Hebrew. Is that likely? Or maybe we should put the boy's name down at the nearest synagogue?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Did Jesus die for the doggy, Daddy?

The boy knows that Jesus loves him and died for him because he is sometimes naughty. He knows that Jesus loves Mummy and Daddy and died for them because they are sometimes naughty. He knows that the dog is often naughty. So he would like to know if Jesus died for the dog?

P.S. The dog has not been baptised and is not making a credible profession of faith. We believe in Limited Atonement / Particular Redemption / Effectual Salvation around 'ere.

This our sacrifice of thanks and praise

The communicants are to receive (rather than offer) the consecrated bread and the wine “with thanksgiving”[1] (Eucharist) and it is after the Communion that they ask the Father “mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of thanks and praise.”[2] Again, as with Calvin, this is a non-propitiatory sacrifice. It might be debated whether or not the Supper itself or the elements in it are included. The statement could refer only to the prayer which now expresses praise or to the whole service, or to something in between. If, properly considered, all of life is a sacrifice of thanks and praise to God, it would be bizzaire to think that the Lord’s Supper alone is excluded. Whether or not it is in any sense a special sacrifice of thanks and praise is another question. Perhaps it might be seen as a focal point for offering all of life to God in grateful thanks for all that has been received from him. The believer would be giving back to God what God has given. The Prayer Book and Articles do not decisively adjudicate on such questions.

[1] BCP, Holy Communion, words of administration, p256.

[2] BCP, Holy Communion, p257.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Medieval mental Model of the Universe

C S Lewis argues that the medieval mental model of the universe was a work of genius comperable to Aquinas' Summa or Dante's Divine Comedy. The medieval synthesis included "the whole organisation of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental model of the universe" (Discarded Image, p11) that would include all truth in a tidy manner. For the medievals, "All the aparent contradictions must be harmonised. A Model must be built which will get everything in without a clash; and it can do this only by becoming intricate, by mediating its unity through a great, and finely ordered multiplicity." (p11) Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoical, Pagan and Christian elements were all included. "Everything links up with everything else; at one, not in a flat equality, but in a hierarchical ladder" (p12) of great beauty.

The medieval character: tidiness

C. S. Lewis (again):

At his most characteristic, medieval man was not a dreamer nor a wanderer [as in Ballads and Romances]. He was an organiser, a codifier, a builder of systems. He wanted 'a place for everything and everything in the right place'. Distinction, definition, tabulation were his delight. Though full of turbulent activities, he was equally full of the impulse to formalise them. War was (in intention) formalised by the art of heraldry and the rules of chivalry; sexual passion (in inetention), by an elaborate code of love. Highly original and soaring philosophical speculation squeezes itself into a rigid dialectical pattern copied from Aristotle. Studies like Law and Moral Theology, which demand the ordering of diverse particulars, especially flourish. Every way in which a poet can write (including some in which he had much better not) is classified in the Arts of Rhetoric. There was nothing which medieval people liked better, or did better, than sorting out and tidying up. Of all our modern inventions I suspect they would most have admired the card index. (Discarded Image, p10)

The importance of language

C S Lewis claimed:

Nothing about a literature can be more essential than the language it uses. A language has its own personality; implies an outlook, reveals a mental activity, and has a resonance, not quite the same as those of any other. Not only the vocabulary - heaven can never mean quite the same as ciel - but the very shape of the syntax is sui generis. (Discarded Image, p6)

A language shapes "the tone and rhythm and the very 'feel' of every sentence" (p7).

Medieval Bookishness

Lewis argued "the overwhelmingly bookish or clerkly character of medieval culture." They loved their authorities, their manuscripts.

Every [medieval] writer, if he possibly can, bases himself on an earlier writer, following an auctour: preferably a Latin one. This is one of the things that differentiate the period almost equally from savagery [with its oral culture] and from our modern civilisation [where knowledge depends, in the last resort, on observation].... But the Middle Ages depend predominantly on books. Though literacy was of course far rarer then than now, reading was in one way a more important ingredient of the total culture. (Discarded Image, p5)

Since Lewis wrote that, books have no doubt seen a greater decline at the expence of TV and the interweb. Knowledge now depends on Google.

They [medievals] are bookish. They are indeed very credulous of books. They find it hard to believe that anything an old auctour has said is simply untrue. (p11)

Ritual & belief

ritual and belief beget and support one another.

A rather obvious thought, perhaps, from C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image p1

How to use a map

C. S. Lewis' very brief Preface in The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature is suggestive.

He complains of a certain kind of scholarship that can tend to lead people out of the texts themselves rather than into them.

There can be a similar problem with commentaries, theological works, Bible reading notes and sermons. The aim must be to open up the text and let it speak.

Lewis warns that we must not be like a traveler who is so absorbed with the map that he fails to enjoy the scenery before him. In other words, the text itself must be primary: it is the goal, the destination, the real object of attention. Any other helps should be just that: helps, not ends in themselves. We do not want to stumble into lamp-posts because our noses are stuck in some A to Z.

Yet, Lewis suggest, there can be usefulness in consulting a map or guidebook before a journey. It may lead us to admire and appreciate the landscape more easily or fully and we may notice some prospects that we might have ignored if we simply followed our noses.

If we tend to consult a commentary only when we come to an apparent problem, we may not notice depths in that which is deceptively simple.

A synthesis of British Puritan theology for the reform of the Church of England

Randall J. Pederson:

In 1643, it [The Long Parliament] gathered a company of theologians to propose reforms for the Church of Engalnd. Known as the Westminster Assembly because it met in Westminster Abbey over the next decade, this group drafted three major documents, The Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Westminster Confession, and Directory of Public Worship. While predominantly Presbyterian, the Assembly did allow Erastians, Episcopalians, and Independents to voice their opinions. Its final documents stand as a synthesis of British Puritan theology.

from the Introduction to Day by Day with the English Puritans (Hendrickson, 2004) p2


Rev'd Prof James I. Packer:

Historically, the influence of the English Puritans extended over a century and a half, approximately 1560 - 1710. Publicly and politically they campaigned for many reforms in church and state, and ended up losing every battle they fought. During that time, however, by preaching, teaching, personal lifestyle and patience under persecution, they crystalized and communicated a glorious ideal of heart-holiness expressed in conscientious, well-ordered, doxological behavior - the authentic biblical ideal of a godly life, which in due course became basic to the Great Awakening and to Britain's Evangelical Revival. Clear-headed about biblical authority, justification by faith, and the covenantal framework of God's grace, they were equally clear on the realities of the Christian life - communion with the triune God, biblical morality, and the pilgrim perspective. In spiritually decadent days like ours they can help us to recover the wisdom and power of this ideal, as we all surely need to do.

Foreword to Day By Day with the English Puritans: Selected Readings for Daily Reflection compiled and edited by Randall J. Pederson (Hendrickson, 2004) - which the Vicar kindly gave me for Christmas. The Puritans may not have approved, of course! :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I want to go with the one who set me free

An old story about Abraham Lincoln and a girl at the slave market.

Family Likenesses

In John chapter 8:

The Father and the Son
Satan and his children
Abraham and his true spiritual children

Who do you think you are?


John Stott quoting Peter Marshall who as the chaplain to the United States Senate once opened a session by praying: teach us to see that,

Liberty is not the right to do as I please

but the liberty to be pleased to do what is right

From a talk available on the All Souls Langham Place website (1 Jan 1971 Freedom from the slavery of self John 8:31-36)

Economics in One Sentence

From this aspect, therefore, the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The act of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not only for one group but for all groups.

Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson (p17). You can read ch 1 using Amazon UK's Look Inside thingy.

Rev'd Tim Ambrose has been blogging his way through Hazlitt from time to time.

Defined by Jesus

Some rough and not quite ready headings for exploring some themes in John 8:31-59 (on which I will be preaching on Sunday night, God willing):

Jesus redefines true faith - as continuing to hold to his teaching not just believism

Jesus redefines true freedom – from sin and death for Jesus not to please ourselves

Jesus redefines relationship with God – sonship not slavery

Jesus redefines non-Christian spirituality – satanic not seeking the truth

Jesus redefined true religion – loving trust in Jesus not Abrahamic DNA

Jesus redefines Old Testament theology – Jesus not law

Jesus redefines true greatness – glorifying God not self

Jesus redefines himself - not as a religious genius but as the LORD

I like the idea of preaching this not that as it allows the preaching to be obviously aimed towards transformation and applications suggest themselves.

Erik Satie

Seems to have been a bit of a character. If you can believe what you hear on Classic FM when driving home from Morning Prayers and what you can find out on the interweb in 5 mins., he was a troubled soul who drank too much and died of cerosis of the liver. No one had been into his room for years, but after his death they found there 100 umbrellas, most of them unused. He also had 6 identical grey velvet suits. He had bought 10 at the same time and was wearing them untill they wore out. He is reputed to have had 2 pianos, one on top of the other with the pedals interconnected. A little eccentric.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Grandparents make you fat

Perhaps because they indulge you more and are less active.

Is Health & Safety Giving British Farmers AIDS?

For Daily Mail type headlines:

Ignore, Inform, Involve, Decide, Delegate

I must admit to being slightly unclear what exactly the role of Wardens, Standing Committee, PCC, church council, diaconate, eldership, church meeting, AGM etc. should be.

When should you:

(1) Ignore them!

(2) Inform them

(3) Involve them

(4) Decide with them

(5) Delegate a decision to them

What exactly are their rights, powers and responsibilities?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Church Preaches Bible Shock! (version 4)

The Today Programme this morning mentioned this article from the Daily Mail. A similar article appeared in the Telegraph. A couple of people from St Nick's, Seven Oaks are apparently outraged that their vicar and curate should preach that women should be silent in church and that wives should submit to their husbands (1 Cor 14; Eph 5; Col 3). It turns out the sermons in question were two from the curate from 1 Peter 3 which can be heard on the church website and there has been some misunderstanding over some leaflet or other supposedly written by the Rector.

The Mail article is an extraordinary example of making a story out of nothing. No doubt there is a great deal of selective reporting and spin. I'm sure, for example, that the ministers had no intention of saying that women's disobedience to their husbands is the only or even the chief cause of family break up. As the article points out, the church would want to emphasise that men have a primary responsibility to love their wives. It is incontrovertible that marriages and families in Britain are not generally working brilliantly and confusion about the roles of men and women is an important factor.

It's come to something when quoting the Bible outrages that bastion of traditional conservative values, the Daily Mail.

It's interesting that a number of people have apparently said they have cancelled their direct debits / are leaving the church.

I would have thought that people might have expected this kind of teaching from a conservative Evangelical church. Similar things would be taught in many other churches and it is hardly newsworthy. Or rather, its sad that apparently it is!

Angus Mclay the rector of said church describes the events under a very similar headline: Church believes the Bible! Shock! Horror! He does a good job of supporting his curate and highlighting how careful the preacher was to avoid misunderstanding and stress the equality of men and women. He also denied wearing a kilt to church, for the record!

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Nationalist faith changed my life

Chanel 4's Young, Angry and White tonight had very interesting momemts. The 19 year old featured, Kieren, thinks the world is badly wrong and that Nationalism has good news. In a way he came across as quite intelligent, articulate and unagressive. He is unashamed of his views, which he thinks of as moral and does not want to compromise. The creed is inspiring to him and he is encouraged by the history of the movement and that some have been believers for 40 years. He is keen to live in accordance with his faith. He spoke explicitly about going to some BNP weekend as if it were like going to a Christian camp and finding an intense new faith. He spoke of Nationalists as a family that gave him purpose, optimism and hope. He spoke of comfort and belonging and the warm welcome that he received. The BNP does seem to have changed his life and made him take responsibility. He is studying for his A-levels, wants to go to university, succeed, have a good career and be the bread-winner of his future family.

Of course, his views are stupid and poisonous. They amount to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all.

Jovial Communion?

C. S. Lewis argued that modern people and Christians particularly need to regain Joviality (and Mercuriality).

It may be that the Lord's Table is a place we can particularly re-learn Jupiter's strange combination of serious kingly dignity with laughter, joy , happiness and pleasure - a proper solemnity that is not dower.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The great barrier of entering a church

We often think going into a church will be hard for people, but 85% of people entered a church last year.

"Bread! Me!"

The boy is repeatedly asking to be admitted to the Lord's Table.

Piper on Lewis

I know he's a bit kinda trendy in some Christian circles, and a bit of a charismatic, and American, and baptistic!, and wrong on the Millenium and... but I must say I very much like John Piper. I've been enjoying half listening to and 1/3 watching his talk from The Desiring God Conference on Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul - Joy, Absolute Truth and what Lewis did for Piper.

The manuscript and audio of John Piper's "Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul: Learning from the Mind and Heart of C. S. Lewis" are now up.

Towards the end of his message, Piper lists 8 lessons—apart from the major lesson on joy—that Lewis has taught him. They are, as titled,

  1. Liberation from False Dichotomies
  2. Liberation from Chronological Snobbery
  3. The Wakening of Wonder at What Is Really There
  4. The Perils of Introspection
  5. The Incompleteness of Duty Without Delight
  6. The Painful Value of Self-Knowledge
  7. Story Is Great—But Not Everything
  8. The Glory of Simply Being Human

Ministry of Truth?

Now, I'm against all government funding for education and so on, but don't you find it extraordinary that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is responsible for Universities? What happened to an Education Department? Oh, they abolished that so as to make the Government in charge of Children and Families! Are universities just about skills and economic competitiveness? Grump grump.

And doesn't the Department for Innovation and Skills begin to sound just a bit 1984 to you?

The purpose (of word) and sacrament

It seems to me that Calvin's description of the purpose of the sacraments could pretty much be applied to the purpose of the Bible too.

Calvin strikingly asserts that of the ordinary sacraments of the Old Testament that these “ancient sacraments looked to the same purpose to which ours now tend: to direct and almost lead men by the hand to Christ, or rather, as images, to represent him and show him forth to be known. We have already taught that they are seals by which God’s promises are sealed, and, moreover, it is very clear that no promise has ever been offered to men except in Christ [2 Cor 1:20]. Consequently, to teach us any promise of God, they must show forth Christ.” He adds that the only difference between the sacraments of the Old and New Testament is that “the former foreshadowed Christ promised while he was as yet awaited; the latter attest him as already given and revealed.” (Institutes 4.14.20)

Now, I fully admit that there is a danger of theological confusion here. We often tend to describe the sacraments in contrast to the Word, and some of that may be going on here. You could say that the Scriptures are the promises of God and that the sacraments seal them. But I think you could equally say the scriptures present (and seal?) the promises of God, could you not?

That the sacraments are images need not trouble us too much since words are symbols or signs too.

Sacramental Objectivism

In the Institutes, Calvin classifies the sacraments as among “the external means or aids by which God invites us into the society of Christ and holds is therein” - the title of book 4. This could fit with an objective account of what the sacraments do and achieve. Like the preaching of the gospel, God really uses the, to invite us into the church and hold us therein.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thank goodness for Mrs Lloyd!

I said: Right, I better go [to church, for morning prayers]

She said: You better get dressed first.

Good advice, as ever!


Love is in the air
Love is all you need
Love is giving someone your last Rolo

1 Corinthians 13

John Oxenham = William Arthur Dunkerley (November 12, 1852 - January 23, 1941):

Love ever gives. Forgives outlives. And ever stands with open hands. And while it lives, it gives. For this is love's prerogatives -- to give, and give, and give.
Other stuff?

God is love

D.v. I'm preaching on 1 Jn 4 on Sunday AM.

I remember thinking about this once but I can't remember what I thought!

Is God's love more essential to him than his other attributes (virtues or dispositions)?

John also tells us that "God is light", of course.

Could we say "God is holiness", "God is justice", "God is wisdom", "God is wrath" etc.?

I guess we need to dig out our notes on the essence and attributes of God, eternality and divine simplicity and so on.

God's love is clearly fundamental to his Trinitarian life in a way that wrath is not.

Talking love, sex, relationships and God with the teenagers

God willing on Saturday evening I'm going to talk to and with the teenagers at church about love, sex, relationships and God - it being St Valentine's Day the next day.

What would you say?

Any pointers, tips, resources etc. most welcome.

I might have a look at the Love Wise website later.

True Love

God willing I'm preaching on Sunday morning, which is, of course, St Valentine's Day. I've published the title "True Love" and decided on 1 John 4:7-21 as the reading.

It might go something like:

The Bible as the greatest love story ever: the romance of God and his people

(1) God's love
(2) Our love for God
(3) Our love for one another

Any pointers, tips, resources, links to sermons, quotes, gags, illustrations etc. most welcome.

Narrow, nasty and negative

The same kind of charges could no doubt have been made (quite wrongly!) against the Apostle Paul. Galatians 1:6-9.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

How do you like your Christianity?

C. S. Lewis apparently once commented that he liked his Christianity as he liked his whisky: straight, undiluted.