Wednesday, 31 January 2007


Amid all the hype, debate and hatred being tossed around, Andy Weatherley gives a most helpful answer to what would Jesus say to Jade?

Monday, 29 January 2007

A week of reading

1. At least he isn't 'nice'. Nietzsche makes me laugh with his sheer arrogance - but Ecce Homo contains a gem of a passage against libres penseurs in which he calls them incorrigible blockheads and clowns of "modern ideas" - which you'd know why I chuckled at if you've spent time in any of the libre pensé-ed Belgian or French universities; and a hilarious passage in which he curses Luther for having restored the Church: "an impossible monk who, thanks to his own "impossibility," attacked the Church, and in so doing restored it!" Nietzsche isn't impressed. Amusing passages aside, I'm puzzled because he seems to aspire to the destruction of ideals - an anti-platonist, if you will. The world is all there is - there is no higher, purer, or more true, thus "the moral man is no closer to the metaphysical world than the physical man, for there is no metaphysical world." Yet it seems that Nietzsche does profess an ideal - expressed in his Zarathustra, the one who is Yea and Amen. Indeed he seems to portray, in a passage that rings similar to C.S.Lewis on heaven(!), an ideal world and man much more real than the "most lifelike and unconscious parody" of these things which we know now. This ideal he sees Christ as denying, so sets up "Dionysus versus Christ." But does Christ truly supress the grand ideals to which he aspires? In as much as Nietzsche's ideal denies the image of God in man, and that the route to glory and the consummation of reality lies through vicarious suffering, yes, he rails against it in a Genesis 3 / 11 repeat which he seems to think is brilliantly novel. But I wonder if Nietzsche had read Lewis, who found an interesting place for Bacchus (Dionysus) under Christ's Lordship (e.g., seen figuratively towards the end of Prince Caspian), what would have been... 'But no one is ever told what would have been.'

It struck me with greater force how much Nietzsche's thought permeates our society. Now there is one with whom one can really engage - quite a joy after Dawkins! And as if I can sum it up in 1 point!

2. Fun with the fathers: 2000 years of Christ's power vol 1: The age of the early Church fathers. Needham sparked off this post on things worth fighting for, but has also made my head hurt with many Greek-named divisions in the church which I'm not quite sure were worth fighting for, as I don't really have my head round Christology yet. Thus the reading list expands...

3. When people are big and God is small is clear, challenging and gospel-soaked. What struck me most was the argument that we don't 'need people / relationships' so much as we lust after idols. That is, created to reflect God's glory, our goal is to love people more than we 'need' them. Selfserving needs are not meant to be satisfied; they are meant to be put to death. Others are not there to fulfill my needs; I am to serve others. (He spends much time putting this carefully and showing it Biblically: read the book.)

4. Keep in step with the Spirit - only 1st chapter so far. Small print not easy to concentrate on, as I tend to read either with meals or in the 30min-hour between the evening & bed.

5. Brahms, Mendelssohn & Dvořák. As I read these I was playing my violin. Namely, Festival Overture, Violin Concerto in Em, and the 9th ('New World') Symphony. My orchestra, the South Birmingham Sinfonia, had a concert, and another one this Saturday in Bournville. I'm loving being back in an orchestra giving concerts.
6. John 17 with Aston CU small group leaders - Jesus' glory!

7. John 20 with BUECU small group leaders - see, through the eye-witness testimony of the apostles, that Jesus is the Son of God, and believe!

P.S. I got my bike fixed. Oh, the joy of cycling!

Book recommendations

Trueman's at it again, with his "book review section of Reformed Man Today" listing "the following three must reads for all cutting-edge confessional types out there:" - the first caught my eye because studying for a Biblical view of state, politics, and church is currently somewhere on my radar of interest...
The Christian's Guide to Voting by Brad Sikorski. Sikorski, a doyen of pro-life causes such as the NRA, `The Hang Hillary Now Campaign' and `The Committee to Bring Back Old Smokey' writes with his customary light wit, disarming modesty, mischievous sense of humour and penetrating insight. A must-read guide which will take you through the complexities and nuances of the moral and intellectual maze of the contemporary political scene and tell you which Republican candidates the Bible requires you to vote for and which ones are simply paid agents of Hugo Chavez bent on destroying civilisation as we know it. A 700 Club `Book of the Decade' selection.

Reformed Eye for the Evangelical Guy by Derek Delboy-Thomas and Liggy Ligon-Duncan. Coffee table book based on the hit TV series. If your idea of style is Thomas Kinkade paintings, Inspirational Choir of the Tabernacle albums, and Benny-Hinn style Nehru jackets, then this is the book for you. Let A-list Reformed celebs, Del and Liggy, lead you to a more confessional approach to style. Comes with free charcoal-grey double-breasted suit, white shirt and J Crew tie.
[Read more.] Reminds me of a certain 2 ladies at Word Alive doing 'What Not to Wear' to a certain evangelist.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Worth fighting for

In reading a bit of early church history (Needham's vol 1, and looking forward to getting Ivor J Davidson's 2 vols too), especially on the Nicene creed, Athanasius and surrounding controversy on Christology, I've been struck by just how much these people cared about truth. It wasn't just political power-play, although that was undoubtedly involved.

Often I hear church workers say, on some area of concern in doctrine and unity, "Oh, I don't do church politics." I want to say, "Do you care for God's people? Do you care for teaching them all that fits with godliness so that they'll be completely kitted out for everything good God has for them to do? Do you care for Christ's body, his bride, showing the unity his Spirit has given us so that others would see that Jesus was sent from God and is one with him? Do you care for the flock over which God has given you responsibility, that it not be ravaged and torn apart by wolves? Do you care for the global family into which God has called you, of which Christ is head, that it declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into his glorious light?" There might be division - we're not yet in glory - it might not be 'nice' - but is Christ? It might be hard work - we're each sinfully proud - it might be painful - how do you fight a wolf without getting hurt? The people we're serving might not appreciate it - and we might not exactly enjoy it either. But as long as we care for building up the church of God through his Word by his Spirit, we dare not 'not do church politics'. We care for truth.

A student recently objected to me that we didn't need to know the exact ins & outs of how we could be forgiven by God (his justice, how Jesus' death & resurrection related to it, etc.) - our friends never ask us those sort of questions, and if they did, God would help us answer. Yet God's truth is what sets us apart as his people. And it is belief in his word that makes us one, that the world might believe that the Father sent the Son. Compare then with the attitude of a group of women (not church leaders, just believing women) in the 4th century, who lived & died for the ins & outs of how Jesus was both God & man - specifically, that the Son was uncreated:
One Sunday, when a group of orthodox virgin women had gathered for prayer in a graveyard (those who said Jesus was created had taken over the church buildings), imperial troops seized them and kindled a great fire. They then tried to force the women to convert to [the view that Jesus was created] or else be thrown in the flames. When the women refused to abandon the Nicene faith, the soldiers stripped off all their clothes and beat their faces to a bloody pulp. [Needham, p.214]
How can we not care about truth?

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Ha ha ha... ah.

Carl Trueman (in the Ref21 blog) writes the most hilarious stuff I've read on the web. Made all the more pointedly humourous (and humourously pointed) by being contentful. That is, I simultaneously find his posts some of the most insightful / nail-on-the-head about theology, church & life, as well as frequently bursting into laughter.

He's recently been speaking through alter ego Jeremy Plectrum-Smith, who's made some insightful comments...
From the Campaign for Real Thoughtfulness - a slight dig at those who complain about his sense of humour. It seems that many (Americans?) don't appreciate it, take him seriously (at the wrong points), and complain. Oh dear. I didn't quite believe this, but it's true.
The introduction of interviews with Reformed innercity cab drivers - on Ref21
Catholicus Sardonicus - on Rodney Trotter, another of his personae. Yes, they interact!
The View From the Cab - has the contemporary church embraced relativism at the expense of truth?

A spoof reformed magazine agony column exchange between a concerned reader and Rev.Dr. Nicky Mauss on the several apologetic schools of thought regarding rock music. His other characters to date include Tony 'the Gent' Pinnochio (Open Theist), Rt Rev Sanc T Monious, and Gareth Baudrillard-Jones. Sometimes he's even known to post as himself. Scandalous.

The only trouble with Carl's posts is that he invariably gets me wanting to read something more. P T Forsyth is the latest. Before that, it was the early church fathers, and I'm behind on that - studying some patristic history and reading Athanasius this term. Ah, it's dangerous to get advice on books from a helpful person.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Friday, 19 January 2007

It's been a while...

so I'm going to take a leaf out of Bish's blog and post a 7-days:

1. UCCF Staff Conference last week
Great to meet all the other staff whom I hadn't met before then or had only 'met' online before. The best bit had to be the theologising over (lovely) meals, real coffee or interesting tea, in between the training sessions. Runners up in the 'best bit' appreciation category were playing Settlers of Catan, being generously allowed to play in the band and participating in the Christian Persuaders track: hearing all the different styles of talk from various staff workers and receiving helpful feedback on my own. It was worth trawling through Dawkins in prep after all.

2. Hudson Taylor at Hillfields, Cov
A most enjoyable evening: John Newton-Webb - fellow member of the unofficial Warwick Maths Graduates Avoiding Using Mathematics in Work club - and founding member of the EverAfter Theatre company, performed his one-man show, Hudson Taylor, which rather rocks. Check out the website for bookings near you.

3. Midlands Gospel Partnership day on Growing Churches
With Graham Beynon on Eph.4 and Peter Jensen on, well, growing churches. Interesting stuff to think about, and lots of meeting of friends working in churches in Beeston, across Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Duffield, Leamington Spa, Leicester and Warwick. Don't think I've missed anyone there! It did strike me that I've made my way round the Midlands a little!

4. UCCF Mighty Midlands Staff Day, Cov
Ahhh, time with the other Midlands staff is always a joy. Time spent together in Colossians 1, and reviewing, planning, encouraging one another in ministering the gospel of this superlative Christ.

5. Wolverhampton CU
Encouragement & challenge as we looked together at Colossians 4.2-6 and ideas & plans for evangelism on campus! W00t!!

6. Sitting in cafés drinking coffee /& tea.
It's with this that they say you really qualify as a CU staff worker, I gather. Encouraging & helpful late lunch meeting with a local church worker, hot chocolate with a CU committee member to chat about BUECU Focus week coming up (good 'ol Selly Sausage), lunch (EAT) & filter coffee (Druckers) supervision with my lovely boss, non-drinks meeting in Starbucks (should we not do that?) with the wonderful Aston CU president to plan a certain course on sex & relationships, caramel hot chocolate with the Wolverhampton CU leadership duo on a day of crazy train disruption (Borders' Starbucks - a winner, cos if someone doesn't have a Bible, you can borrow a Borders one!), & a cuppa tea in Cakes' CU meeting... I think all that café drinking & meeting means I'm a Real Live CUSW, doesn't it? Or at least a Real Tired But Caffeinated CUSW?

7. I'm going to IFES World Assembly!
It's in Canada, in July, and it's now official that I'm going: announced at Staff Conf and all that, so I can now let the excitement out a little: wooHOOO! Check it out on the World Assembly website.

And if you haven't read it yet, catch the vision for what God's doing all over the world through his students by reading Lindsay Brown's "Shining Like Stars". As I said in Staff Conf, Lindsay's retiring, so his firey Welsh tones will no longer be heard to resound as IFES Gen Sec preaching the word with many illustrations of mission, grace, hardship, joy, gospel unity, courageous evangelism and counter cultural living, in Christian students across the world. I doubt anyone could stop him doing that, really, but as IFES Gen Sec he's handing over to Daniel Bourdanné, who'll do a grand job albeit with a fab Chadian francophone accent rather than a Welsh anglophone one. (Incidentally, Daniel's a world expert on millipedes. Yes. He's that cool.) Anyway, irrespective of this change of IFES Gen Sec, you can have Lindsay Brown constantly to hand in book form to remind you of what God's doing with his gospel through Christ by his Spirit amongst students worldwide!

Friday, 5 January 2007

More fun & games

Latest news on Exeter CU's situation with their Guild is found on the UCCF website here. The BBC have also reported it here and BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show featured it quite well - for a week, it can be listened to here (forward to 36min for the relevant part).

Trueman: Wright is right on right (& left)

On one shoulder, an angel, on the other, a demon? Wright proposes [reported by Trueman], rather, that we have a new paganism in this form: on the right, Mars & Mammon, and on the left, Aphrodite! Idols which hold sway, which, if you don't follow them, cause observers to mentally commit you to the asylum or at least stare at you in baffled silence. Read the rest of the quote here.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Accented apologetics

I often hear surprised tones when I say I'm from Belfast. Of course, there are also those cunning or musical people who detect something odd in my accent and ask where I'm from. But for a more famous accent from Belfast, try Alister McGrath. Oh yes. [Like this, on Dawkins, to which I've been listening.] Born there 30 years before me, he went to the rival school to mine. Now when my accent gets like McGrath's, you'll have cause to question. He's got a book coming out, The Dawkins Delusion, in response to Dawkins' The God Delusion.

Monday, 1 January 2007


Crawford Gribben has an article in this month's Reformation 21 on John Owen in Ireland. It makes for sad reading.

I'd rather Owen hadn't written Death of Death if instead he had gone north with Cromwell and seen the death which had been encouraged by his preaching. I know he was a scholar, but could he not have ventured out at least in Dublin, in the Pale, to speak to the natives of the glory Christ, and the very atonement about which he took so much care to study and write?

The syncretism of 'Christian' nationalism makes my blood boil, but more - it is frightening how such a godly man with such a passion for God's glory, who had a vision for reforming education, could nevertheless do nothing for making God's glory known among the people next to him, and do nothing for the college he was called to reform. It is frightening because I recognise the danger in myself: to have Godly and biblical vision, yet fail to act on it.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. - 2 Thess 1.11-12

Future grace

Faithful and gracious Father, give us grace in this year that we may

forget - what lies behind,
strain forward - to what lies ahead;
holding true - to what we have already attained.

May we press on toward the goal
for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

May we count whatever gain we had in the world's eyes (or in our own)
as loss for the sake of Christ.
In fact, may we count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth
of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For his sake may we be ready to suffer the loss of all things
- and count them as rubbish!

In order that we may
gain Christ and be found in him

because we don't have any righteousness of our own before you,
but that which comes from you through trust in Christ to all who trust.

May this be, so that we may
know him and the power of his resurrection,
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
that by any means possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead.

For we pray in Jesus' name.