Sunday, December 31, 2006


Friends, we are not our own. We belong to our families. As part of this church we belong to one another. We have obligations and commitments beside these two.

But above them all, God in Christ has claimed us for life and service in this world and the next. Jesus Christ is fulfilling the kingdom promises of God!

So lift your hearts to receive his benediction – may his love, his grace, and the fellowship of his Spirit be with you all now and forever, Amen.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Not sure I've got what it takes. Fascinating site all the same.

HT: Gadget Vicar

Sid Waddell

I'm going to miss the Lakeside World Professional Darts Championship this year. When I was younger, before the PDC/BDO split, I used to watch every January, even when I was in hospital in 1994.

One attraction was Sid Waddell, a legend in TV sports commentary. As his official website puts it, Sid IS Darts.

Here are some Sid quotes (if you don't know of Sid, read them with a Geordie accent in mind):

"He's got a heart as big as Moby Dick!"

"Bristow reasons ... Bristow quickens ... Aaahhhhh, Bristow."

"Jocky Wilson ... what an athlete."

Jocky Wilson - all the psychology of a claymore.

"When Alexander of Macedonia was 33 he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer - Bristow is only 27"

"This lad has more checkouts than Tescos."

"Eat your heart out Harold Pinter, we've got drama with a capital D in Essex."

"That was like throwing three pickled onions into a thimble!"

"He's about as predictable as a wasp on speed."


Bruce Willis. How come he always ends up in really really cool movies? What's his last clanger? I can't think of one.

Just finished watching Unbreakable. I'm real dull, I didn't see the twist before it was revealed. Same as I didn't foresee the twist in The Sixth Sense.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Occasionally I change the links published on I to the hills.

Mark Driscoll et al got dropped a while back for being too manly. I can't live up to all that male ego driven stuff.

Riddleblog was just becoming too negative. I don't remember reading a positive post about anyone outside of a peculiarly narrow set.

Behold, good news! CG has taken Riddleblog's place in my blogging world. Hail to the university teacher of English Lit!

Princeton Shed's Post Christmas Message

I hope all the readers of I to the hills... had a great Christmas.

This was my first Christmas away from family. The only thing I missed was a turkey Christmas dinner. Beef and ham were on offer at the Christmas dinner I was invited to by Muriel Burrows. As you can read Muriel has a rather interesting life story. Conversation around the dinner table was interesting. There were four nationalities represented in a dinner party of eight. James Fowler was present too, he's a member at Witherspoon and a final year MDiv student at the PTS.

As well as two Christmas Eve services at Witherspoon Street church, I also attended a late night Christmas Eve service at Westerly Road Church. This was one of my best church experiences so far in the US. The church building felt like a typical independent evangelical, or open brethern, hall in the UK, so I didn't feel out of place. But the service contained the most interesting collection of readings I've ever heard in such a church. As well as the usual New Testament readings, there were readings from Anselm's Proslogion, Christmas by Augustine, (get this!) Charnock's Existence and Attributes of God, C.S. Lewis's 'The Grand Miracle', and Herbert's Love (III).

I think the service worked, although the Charnock reading was a little too ambitious. But, there was no sermon. I attended the service with my friend, Benjamin. Benjamin is a young RC scholar preparing for ministry in the RC church while completing his PhD. He and I have enjoyed several meals together over the Christmas period. Benjamin felt there was no explanation of the readings during the service.

I thought this was an interesting observation. How much do we rely upon the 'givenness' of the Christmas story? I could appreciate the readings because I knew the territory, I knew the language of Westerly Road's tradition. Benjamin's understanding of the church and of the gospel is really quite different. His persistent comment was that he couldn't understand how the readings were related to each other. For him, they didn't represent a coherent tradition of interpreting the incarnation. For Benjamin, there was no proclamation of the meaning of Christmas in the service.

Over the next few days I need to: write a sermon based on Luke 4:14-30; re-read Sandeen's The Roots of Fundamentalism (PTS library has recalled it); finish some draft papers on W.G.T. Shedd. I travel to Lancaster, PA, on the 31st Dec and return the next day to begin work on another paper and on notes for a Sunday School class I'm about to start teaching for 5 to 7 year olds. 5 to 7 year olds - help!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

No beard

I shaved my beard off Monday morning. Now that it's gone some people are suggesting that it suited me.

Before this, folks tended to react against it: for example, this fantastical comment "...the foulest thing I've seen all day."

To be fair that quote came my way a day or so after Burt Reynolds Day. I was wearing a moustache Fu Mancho style.

The beard may return in 2007.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Respect to Malcolm Chisholm. No matter how much I try, I just don't understand the political world. But Chisholm's actions remind me of Robin Cook's stand against the Iraq War

(I'd recommend Cook's diaries of that whole period running up to the war - one of the finest political journals I've read. And, I'm slowly reading Bob Woodward's State of Denial - the impression given is that the US government was all over the place in preparation for the war.)

Over the last year I've had to rethink my understanding of the rights and wrongs of war. I'm more or less a pacifist now - my hesitancy remains because of the WWII question (national self defence is difficult to argue against). And, I think that states do have justifiable powers of force to maintain law, justice, and good order within their borders.

Still, I do not believe the UK has any reason to retain nuclear weapons. We should never have developed them. They are just wrong.

Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound
till the spear and rod can be crushed by God
who is turing the world around.

From, Canticle of Turning by Rory Cooney

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


This is the last week of semester. Today I'll sit in on the last lecture of James Moorhead's 19thC American church history class. Dr Moorhead is also supervising my thesis/dissertation on premillennialism and the Presbyterian Review (the editors didn't like premillennialism, but they disliked each other even more... :-)

I've got rough drafts for two of my three papers due in January. Christmas week will be relatively quiet, so I'll be able to get a substantial amount of work done. Not least I'll need to write a sermon for 31st December, to be preached at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church. The text will be Luke 4:14-30.

On Sunday, I travelled to NYC to meet Johnny and Judith Keefe. We attended one of the evening services at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, but the main thing was simply catching up and sharing stories about life in the US. Oh, and we had a drink in the coolest bar ever, a few stories up, overlooking Central Park. The skyline of upper East Side is breath taking for an Ayrshire country bumpkin. New York is just soooo cool.

Over Christmas and New Year I will have real responsbility. Jenny wants me to look after her amaryllis. I think the deal is I get to use her car in return during the holiday. I passed her driving test, but shifting gear with your right hand is just wrong.

Lots of students house sit for rich Princeton people. This afternoon a couple of us are going to watch a DVD in a very big house. Very nice!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Up the Status Quo?

Here, here and here.

I'm not sure what to make of these results. My previous blogs on this issue illustrate how history makes fools of us all. The outcome appears to be a victory for Forward Together. Many of my leaders, colleagues and friends support Forward Together. Its basis of faith is something I could sign.

But I'm still concerned. The majority of presbyteries voting against the report in question is not a surprise. But the totals for individual votes cast suggest a 2 to 1 majority.

This worries me. I don't believe that there is a 2 to 1 majority of evangelical Christians in the total number of presbytery members. And, I don't care for a 'conservative moral message' as much as I long for a radical gospel message to influence church practice. The problem with the Church of Scotland is that for the last 100 years it has held on to a 'conservative moral message' with one hand, while holding a liberal anaemic gospel in the other.

What remains is the status quo, which, the report argued, was liberty of conscience for ministers. Hmm...


Isn't technology amazing! I'm about to watch High Fidelity on my lap top computer. What a great film, based on a pretty good novel.

On the train back from NYC last night we pondered on the teleportation question. What is taking them so long to bring us teleportation technology? It must be a conspiracy to safeguard the current transport infrastructure, with its economic powers and vested interests. Teleportation would kill all that off in one sweep, and it would save the planet from ecological disaster.

Who are they, anyway? All I know is that they are not us, and I'm not one of them.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Helm on Warfield

Here's an interesting article - interesting for me, at least, because I read a lot of Warfield's stuff for a dissertation this year. Interesting, too, because I'm thinking about all this stuff again having indulged myself in the big KB for a couple of months.

Here are some general thoughts:

Why do current Reformed thinkers insist on defining Christ's humanity in terms of our own humanity? I think we need to start defining humanity in terms of divinity, while retaining the creature/creator distinction. So, most talk of divine impassibility seems silly to me, if, as I suspect, the definitions of human and divine nature are skewed from the outset by extra-biblical concepts.

Helm refers to a lecture by Carl Trueman, and he mentions John Murray's criticism of Warfield. I think this criticism is fascinating. It fascinated me when I came across it, because I'd always assumed that Warfield and Murray were singing from the same psalm book. I believe that Warfield tried to do as much justice as he could to Philippians 2 within a strict confessional christology (Chalcedon). I'm not sure Murray really understood Philippians 2, hence his criticism of Warfield. Warfield's exegesis of John 3:16 also pushes the edges of his Reformed orthodoxy - Warfield was an eschatological universalist - he believed that God really did love the world - the world is, however, defined eschatologically.

If I have a problem with the Chalcedon formula, can I reformulate my christology without denying the Christian faith? It strikes me that Chalcedon is actually a problem for faithful Bible readers - they've got to read the Bible with a Chalcedonian lens, otherwise they are anathema.

Finally, Shedd has some interesting ideas on divine impassibility. While claiming to retain the doctrine of impassibility, he writes about the 'inward suffering' of God in the work of atonement. Shedd also puts some emphasis on the unity of God at this point, something that I rarely read much about in contemporary (evangelical) discussion.

One of my current professors, Bruce McCormack, is really forcing me to think about all this kind of stuff. His class on the atonement is probably my first proper course in dogmatics. His articles in Justification in Perspective, and, The Glory of the Atonement, are really useful - but, then again, I've heard him teach these ideas in class - that makes a huge difference to your understanding as you read them from the page.

Back to NYC

Four things on the agenda today:

I'm about to register for spring semester classes. It's been a tricky choice, mostly because there is so much to choose from, and Th.M. studs can do whatever they want (I hope). Registration for classes is online and provisional, so if I change my mind over the first week or two, switching classes is possible.

My overall experience here first term means my choice is totally different to what I'd planned in September. (I'd anticipated choosing classes for the whole year in October.)

I will now not be taking the Jonathan Edwards class. One reason for this is simple - I find Edwards difficult reading. I know he's the bees knees, and all that, I just struggle with him, more than I struggle with Owen and some of the Puritans. I've also decided to drop the idea of Scottish Philosophical Tradition - too niche, and too close to home.

I've realised that I'm on track to be a pastor/minister, and the day looms when that's what I'll be about - so...

Here are my choices: The Devotional Lives of Great Saints of the Church; Pastor as Person; and, The Minister and Mental Illness. All these themes are important in themselves, regardless of the quality of the teaching. And, I will have 3 days a week off! 3 days to work on my thesis, do occasional things at Witherspoon church, and explore parts of the East coast.

So, no theology in my second semester of a Th.M. Controversial!

Today, I'm also giving a short presentation (5 mins) on the state of the church in Scotland. I'll try not to be too pessimistic... Later in the day I head to NYC to hear Damien Rice in concert.

Between times I'm working on my paper on Shedd and the atonement. Shedd, with his traducianism, believed that Christ's human nature existed in an unindividualised form all the way back to Adam and Eve. I might reflect on what, if anything, this means for the atonement - I doubt Shedd takes it anywhere, because he argued that the Holy Spirit effectively justified and sanctified Christ as an Old Testament believer in the moment of his (human) conception.

Taxing stuff for a no brain-er like me to think about - these days, I'm glad if I remember the basics of grace. Why do we forget so easily?

Monday, December 11, 2006

...for the time is near.

I've just started reading through Revelation in my daily Bible study. This might tie in with a paper I plan to write in the next two or three weeks. The paper is for a class called The Reign of God. Stacy Johnson is the professor. SJ is a seriously smart operator, a man with a legal training before his entry to things theological and ecclesiastical. He was a member of the PC(USA)'s high profile Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church, known as PUP.

The class had a great reading schedule: Augustine City of God; Wright Jesus and the Victory of God; Rauschenbusch A Theology of the Social Gospel; Moltmann The Coming of God. We also enjoyed an hour with Pete Rollins, founding member of the Ikon community in Belfast.

A common theme in that mixed bag of reading is God's presence in history. Class discussion was wonderfully broad, our foibles were displayed as we shared our frustrations with the world. America in Iraq and the post 9/11 thing hung over every word that was spoken.

In my paper I hope to argue and reflect on the need for an apocalyptic and eschatological understanding of God's reign. Defining my terms, especially 'apocalyptic', will be tricky. I am amazed by the attempts of liberal Christian theologians to retain the kingdom or reign of God as a motif in their work. They appear to do this while shunning the texts that feed their hopes and ideas. 'See, I am making all things new', Rev 20:5. Everyone loves this verse - but few love its context.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Spent the day in DC with Jenny. It was fascinating to see so many famous sites. First stop was the Lincoln Memorial. It's mighty impressive. I thought about the final scene from Planet of the Apes (2001) Then I read the inscription above Lincoln: 'In this temple... the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.' Temple? Enshrined? The more I see and learn about the US the more intriguing it becomes. I now understand why the conspiracy theories about the founding of the nation seem plausible. I'm also more confused about the relationship between Christians and the state here... but that's another blog post for another day.

As usual, check out my bebo page for pictures of the day - and, check out 'Burt Reynolds Day 2006 at PTS' too

The war memorials (Vietnam, Korea, WWII) are very sad.

The Washington Memorial is very tall.

Saw the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives building. Bought the posters, and they are now hanging on my wall in Alex Hall.

Spent 45 mins in the National Gallery, but was strangely unmoved by the stuff I saw. Bought an Andy Warhol print. It's hanging on my wall now too: 'I think everybody should like everybody' Not sure if the founding fathers would have bought into that or not. The cashier complimented me on my glasses. This is becoming a regular occurence. What is it about Americans and fashion? Can't they see I'm an uncool dude?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

How to blog at seminary

All the faculty members at PTS are really great. They're sound, orthodox, liberal, progressive, radical, thoughtful, kind and professional. They get on with each other really well. In fact, there are no problems at all. I like all the students too. They're all really kind to foreigners. They are good, moral, upstanding people - even when they are drunk, disorderly and high on pot!

In case of confusion, here is the context of my slightly outrageous and exaggerated remarks above.

It reads like a sad time for WTS. But, in Presbyterian history, these kind of situations tend to come around again sooner or later. The problem, in part, is that seminaries are dangerous. They are a bad idea. I've said this in a PTS precept, and I'm not afraid to publish that view publicly. The effective disconnect between seminary and church compounds the whole discussion. And, the discussions in these posts (here and here) illustrate the ambiguous role of seminaries within 'the academy'.

It's ironic that the WTS website is currently advertising its latest inaugural address - Seminary: A Place to Prepare Pastors? Without doubt I think pastors should be trained and prepared in churches. IMHO seminaries are becoming just another grad school option for bright students. You will understand that I do not question the integrity or ability of people who run or teach at seminaries. And, I continue to be amazed at the talents and qualifications of my fellow students.

But even though I'm having a great time here I'm really not sure about the idea of a seminary. PTS really is a great place. But do seminaries really have a purpose or a future?

UN NYC 007

Went to NYC today to visit the UN Headquarters. It was a great visit indeed. Check out some photos by going to my Bebo page, linked in the My world section opposite.

Ended up going here for lunch:

This is what I had to eat: The place was linked to a famous movie.

And the picture below reminds me of another famous movie:

Of course, the picture is the chamber of the UN Security Council. Every time I see the chamber on TV, I think: Bond, James Bond. Being in the chamber really felt like being on the set of an old Bond film.

But there is a new Bond film! I went to see it this evening. With three gorgeous females. Here are my marks out of 10 for various aspects of the film:

Opening credit sequence/Casino Royale theme music: 5/10

First action sequence, chasing the bomber: 8.5/10

Airport sequence: 9/10

Daniel Craig: 9/10

Gadgets: 7.5/10

Cardiac arrest scene: Just too silly to rate. Would Bond fall for such a simple ruse in the first place? Even if he did, and even if you could do a self defib thing (with a little help from your beautiful side kick), how do you then go on to win a game of cards? I'd need a nap first - then I'd go back to the card game.

Baddie: 6/10

Females: 10/10

Overall: 9/10

I thought it was a great film. Lots of action, lots of nice unexpected bits, touchy feely stuff too, but a hard Bond under it all.

Conversation after the film was different from my usual 'new Bond' experience. Usually, I'd engage mates about where the film ranks in the overall Bond list, etc. This time, the conversation turned on blond hair, blue eyes, and well defined muscles.