Saturday, July 28, 2007

'I think I'll leave it there.'

These were the closing words to one of the most inspirational sermons I've ever heard. Funny thing is that, apart from the preacher, and the topic, which was the death of Christ and its significance, I remember next to nothing of the detail. I only retain the sense of being bowled over by a speaker whose message seemed to lift his listeners up into the presence of God.

Ever since then I've wrestled with the content v. style debate. Both things are important, and the best preachers I've heard display excellence in both areas. But the 'I think I'll leave it there' line has always inclined me to emphasise content over style. Donald Macleod's closing line was hardly a classic conclusion to a well crafted speech/sermon. But his content, for me at least, had been so well delivered, and was just so substantial, that I didn't need a clever ending. In fact, I didn't want him to end.

Whatever you think about Tony Blair, the man had style throughout his Westminster political career. His last words to Parliament, 'And that is that, the end.', were perfectly judged and perfectly executed, even if the circumstances of his departure were benign. Most PMs lose that office in a general election before leaving the Commons. Otherwise, they are bundled out of office, like Thatcher. Blair had weeks to prepare for his final few days as an MP and a PM.

I've been wondering about my blog, and how to end it. When I started writing this post, I had in mind the possibility it would be the last post. So many blogs have such good quality content, matched with great style, that I can't compete. And I'm getting tired with sharing dull tawdry snippets of my life.

Online journals are great if you have exciting stuff happening round about you. Some of my thoughts and ideas about my work are now sensitive enough that they will have to remain unpublished. Perhaps a future role will allow me to start publishing blog thoughts again. For the moment, however, this is it, the end.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Canon within the Canon?

Here's my list of important parts of the Bible. This is not intended to undermine other books in the Bible - I could fully subscribe to chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. But the list below will be my guide if and when I take on the task of teaching the Bible as a teaching minister in a church. I would also base most of my preaching on these books too. Possible qualifications to this strategy would arise if: 1) I use the Common Order Lectionary for a year or two 2), I decide thematic preaching is needed at some stage in my ministry.

Any thoughts on the list? I've just noticed that leaving out Matthew is a shocker, and perhaps 1 2 Peter deserve a place too. But I'm happy to defend my choices in public!

1 2 Samuel
1 2 Kings

1 Thessalonians
1 2 Timothy
1 John

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Green Gospel Preacher

I've been reflecting on the remarks of Trueman and Trotter, here and here. It's interesting that no-one from the Reformation 21 blog team has been able to provide answers to the questions. I'm not going to try because I'm not sure I understand the issue, although I think the problem is more to do with the place of tradition within current Reformed and evangelical churches as much as the doctrine of the Trinity.

My reason for mentioning the above is that in the next two or three days I will write a sermon based on Jeremiah 17:5-18. This will be the first sermon I've prepared and preached in six or seven months. And I'm finding it hard to get going. My problem is this: the text is fascinating, but I can't find the gospel in it. I want to say lots of encouraging things to the people of Partick South Church, but my text doesn't allow me to say any of them. And there are lots of interesting things I could share from Jeremiah 17 (e.g. Friends, did you realise you are all dreadfully deceitful and fickle?), but I'm not sure I want to say them! And, given Trueman and Trotter above, I'm beginning to think that being a preacher is an impossible role. You can never fully represent your tradition or your theology in one sermon. It is impossible to say everything you want. And it is difficult to be faithful to Scripture without being brutal.

'I have not run away from being your shepherd; you know I have not desired the day of despair. What passes my lips is open before you. Do not be a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster.'

Green Update: (A new slot on the blog where I share my green credentials.) I'm still holding out against buying a car. This could beome an impossible stand - most of my 'pastoral work' will take place in the wild west of Glasgow, but I live in the inner east end of the city. Better news - today I used Morissons polly bags at Tesco. I've decided to start reusing carrier bags, inspired by seeing someone else do the same thing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kingdom Ethics 2

Notes from Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Glen H. Stassen & David P. Gushee IVP Academic Downers Grove, Illinois 2003

2. The way of Jesus and prophetic authority

Jesus knew the Scriptures well, used them in his ministry, and ‘lived within the narrative horizon’ established by them.

Jesus challenged traditions of his day through his understanding of the Scriptures.

Jesus Christ is alive. Encountering him through the Scriptures, as part of the community of faith, remains a legitimate source of authority for Christian ethics.

Jesus was faithful to the Hebrew Scriptures and to Jewish piety in the same way the great prophets of Israel were. P91 So, Jesus interpreted the Torah as a gracious divine covenant. He put greater emphasis on the moral aspects of the Law over the cultic aspects. He was concerned about the inward, heart, aspect of life.

No moral question or issue can be addressed adequately from a Christian perspective without consideration of the meaning of Jesus Christ. By ‘meaning of Jesus Christ’ the authors include his life and ministry as well as his incarnation, death and resurrection. A whole Christ is needed for a rounded approach to ethics.

There are four levels of moral norms: particular/immediate judgment level, rules level, principles level, basic conviction level.

For Christians, God’s character, actions and will constitute the basic conviction level. P106

The authors draw attention to a ‘tradition of evasion’ within books on Christian ethics. The Sermon on the Mount has been either ignored or qualified in works on Christian ethics.

The Sermon on the Mount is often understood in terms of high moral ideals. The authors suggest that the Sermon is about ‘transforming initiatives’ for genuine kingdom life. They analyse the sermon by identifying 14 triads, e.g. 5:38-42, 5.38 (the traditional righteousness), 5.39 (the vicious cycle), 5:40-42 (the transforming initiative)

Shambo Saved

But the Welsh Assembly Government will probably appeal. How very very strange.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


On returning to life in the East End of Glasgow.

Bridgeton now has a coffee shop. Sucre Coffee Shop only has about 6 seats, and it will have to compete with Greggs next door. But things really are changing if you can find flavoured lattes on Main St, Bridgeton.

My favourite barber shop, which was a mile west of Bridgeton Cross, has turned into a Chinese restaurant/take away.

At least two new barber shops have opened within two hundred yards of my flat.

You can still pick up tea time specials from Indian take aways for a fiver or so. If you are really hungry, large Munchy Boxes start from 7 pounds. A quality Munchy Box will cost you ten pounds, but there will usually be enough food for breakfast or lunch the next day.

Kingdom Ethics 1

Notes from, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Glen H. Stassen & David P. Gushee IVP Academic Downers Grove, Illinois 2003

Section 1 The Reign of God and Christian character.

The authors note that most scholars think that kingdom of God refers to both the present and the future. God’s reign has been inaugurated in Jesus Christ, its completion remains a future event.

But what are the marks and characteristics of the kingdom now? Jesus taught that no one knows when the kingdom will come in its fullness. The point is not to know the timing but to be ready for the event.

The authors argue that the book of Isaiah is the place to discover the background to the teaching of Jesus about the kingdom of God.

Seven key marks of God’s reign are suggested: deliverance or salvation, righteousness/justice, peace, joy, God’s presence, healing, return from exile.

Jesus taught what the kingdom is like, what its characteristics are, and, therefore, the kind of things done by those who participate in the kingdom now and are ready for its final appearing.

Specific practices form character - for good or bad.

There are four important dimensions or variables to Christian ‘character’ ethics - all found in the teaching of Jesus and in biblical ethics in general.

First, a way of reasoning. Second, basic convictions about God, about human nature, about Jesus Christ, and about the mission of (God’s) church. Third, our loyalties and passions influence our ethical conclusions - no human is an autonomous mind free of commitment or trust to something, someone or some other. Fourth, perception - or where our hearts are set (Mt 6:21,22) - shapes how we see things and how we act or react in any (every?) given circumstance.

Christian ethics is continuous learning, transformational repenting, making corrections and growing in Christ. p68

The New Testament speaks more about doing than about virtues.

Evangelism requires first-hand witness to the difference Christian faith makes in actual lives - that is, Christian truth can and should be validated by its historical and experiential fruits. p77

Monday, July 09, 2007


As part of my 15 month probation placement, I’m now starting to get into a routine of work and study.

Work this morning was helping at Partick South’s holiday club for children. We are using Scripture Union material called Waste Watchers. I almost always feel at a loss when helping with this kind of work, but I’m trying to hide that feeling under a perennial smile.

I know that children learn about the gospel through holiday clubs, and I know people who came to faith as children through such work. But recently I read a statistic that, if true, should seriously shake the church up. If a child either starts coming to church, or becomes a Christian, the rest of the family will follow in less than 5% of cases. If a mother…, the rest of the family will follow in less than 20%. If a father…, the statistic claimed a figure over 70%. Reflecting again on this claim I think it might have some value, even if the exact figures are questionable, and even if the context is (Christian?) America.

I can think of at least two families I know where the father came to faith, to be followed by mother and children. None of this denies the power of God in individual cases, or the value of telling children and mothers about the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it seems to me that the church in the UK tends to avoid the hard work of evangelising fathers. Our strategy appears to be to reach and win the parents (the mothers?) through the children. Perhaps this is the reason we reap so little fruit in our mission and outreach. We’ve managed to get things upside down.

Study today included reading some more of Tom Allan’s The Face of my Parish on the train. And I’m just about to read from the book - Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context. Snippets from, and thoughts on, one or both of these soon.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Blest be the everlasting God
the Father of our Lord!
Be his abounding mercy praised,
his majesty adored!

When from the dead he raised his Son,
and called him to the sky,
he gave our souls a lively hope
that they should never die.

None of the rulers of the current age understand this lively hope. If they did, they would not deny the death and resurrection of the Lord of glory. As it is, God has revealed it to us through his Spirit. We have not received the spirit of the age, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we can understand what God has given to us in Jesus Christ. Indeed, we who have the Spirit have the very mind of Christ.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Montana Dave

And on my bebo page you can view a video snippet of my Montana road trip. Prizes for those who are able to identify the soundtrack.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I am now working! I'm three days into my placement as an assistant minister at Partick South Church, Glasgow. Looks like I'm going to be busy. Busyness does not explain my lack of blog posts over the last three weeks. I've had bother with my ISP, and Royal Mail decided I had 'gone away', so none of my snail mail was being delivered. Hoping to get into some kind of regular blogging routine again after this week.

Three rooms in my flat have been redecorated, so I'm in a really nice environment to do lots of reading, thinking, blogging. Initial thoughts on my first three days working include the stark divide between my studies over the last year or so, and the reality of trying to be a Christian pastor/worker/minister in a church in Glasgow. For example, all my idealized plans for changing how the Church of Scotland does funerals have been exploded. As a minister I'm not sure I've got the backbone to say to people, 'No, I'm not going to do your funeral because I've got better things to do.' But I still have a niggle that Christian ministers should have better things to do.

And, I've decided I need a car. Almost impossible to do the amount of visits I would like to do without one. Very few people I will contact over the next year or so will actually live close to the church building. So if you know anyone selling a car...

UPDATE - before anyone mentions it - yes, I know that Arnold Clark is selling a motor at the moment...

Monday, June 18, 2007

DIY Hero

See me? See DIY? See painting and coving? Natural born talent.

Poptastic Lyrics of Pop: No 3

I went to the doctor n'guess what he told me
Guess what he told me
He said girl u better try to have fun
No matter what you'll do
But he's a fool
`Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Home 2

I've been home in Scotland for one week, and I've been ill for most of that time. So I've done very little apart from sleep, browse blogs, visit friends and family. Is the West of Scotland really such an unhealthy place to live? Today is damp and cold, and I don't like it much. I've lived away from the Ayrshire and Glasgow areas twice in the last few years. Each time I have experienced tiredness and ill health on coming home - chronic sinus congestion, and all the associated ailments.

I move back into my flat in Glasgow this weekend. This will allow me to start getting back to normal. Everything over the next two weeks is geared to being ready to start work as a probationary assistant minister at Partick South Church of Scotland on 1st July. Basically I want to tidy and decorate the flat, make study and reading plans for the next 15 months, and rest some too. I put some weight on in America, so that's going to have to go. (I'm not worried about my weight as such, just the consequences of carrying too much fat, and the potential for heart problems ten or so years from now.)

Study plan will include reading through the works of Herman Bavinck, relearning NT Greek, and preparing for mission and church planting work. I read somewhere today that the best context for evangelism is the context of church planting. I'm pretty sure that the only Scottish churches that will survive the next three decades will be those that plant other churches, or at least have a heart for such work.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I am back in Scotland after my academic year in Princeton, New Jersey. The last week or so I travelled to San Antonio, TX, and then on to Missoula, Montana. Spend quality time with some quality people, including a few hours at a Six Flags fun park with Katy F (we went on the Superman rollercoaster, as well as all the other coasters), and a day or so in and around Glacier National Park in north west Montana.

I hope to keep blogging - but I have noticed a real change in the blogging world over the last year. So I may yet decide to stop active blogging, and simply keep the blog online for future historians to use. How will historians research 21st century life two hundred years from now...?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Aren't planes amazing...

...they can fly from places like Newark, NJ, to San Antonio, Texas, to Missoula, Montana, and back again in no time. And then you can do it all over again, or just go back home to live with your Mum and Dad for a few weeks while you recover. Brilliant!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

Guggenheim Redeemer and Famous Dead People

Travelled back to NYC yesterday. Visited the Guggenheim, possibly the second coolest art gallery building I've been in. (I think the Tate Modern in London is the best.) The art works themselves were pretty amazing, but I only recognised the Picasso stuff. Why do I appreciate art work more when I'm familiar with it?

One thing about being in NYC is spotting famous people. Everyone is either famous, or trying to look famous. Yesterday I'm sure I spotted, among others, James Joyce (I know, he's dead, but really this one guy was the spit of James Joyce), Ewan Mcgregor, Kathy Burke.

Early evening I attended Redeemer Presbyterian Church again. I picked up more insights about this phenomenal church. The most impressive thing was recognising David Bixler. Who is David Bixler? Well, I don't know the guy. Last night at 5pm he was saxophonist in the Jazz worship band. A few weeks ago I watched him as part of Chico O'Farrill's Jazz Orchestra.

Cool! But what's cooler - playing at a New York Jazz club, or playing in a church worship band at the coolest church in the city? Part of Redeemer's vision includes building New York into a great city for all people through 'a gospel movement that brings personal conversion, community formation, social justice and cultural renewal'. This link shows another aspect of this big project.

It's interesting how un-Presbyterian all this feels - the opening reflection on the order of service last night was a quote from Bono about Karma and Grace. At the mic Tim Keller looked more like a stand up comedian than a Presbyterian minister. Lots to learn... but what are the Scottish equivalents to New York jazz clubs and multinational CEO business conferences?

Friday, May 11, 2007


Today is Friday, May 11. Bar the (graduation) shouting the academic year at Princeton Theological Seminary is over. Last final exams were yesterday for almost everyone. At least three of my friends have already gone home for the summer. People are leaving the dorms today too, and I guess that by Monday the only people left will be those waiting for commencement. This morning I returned the remaining library books in my room, including J. Stuart Russell's fascinating The Parousia.

My first blogpost from Princeton was fairly lengthy. Reading it again, I'm surprised how accurate some of my first impressions were. I have indeed had a great year. I've received much in almost every way, so that Luke 12:48 is on my mind these days. It's too early to reflect on what I have gained, or to assess how I have changed. At the moment I'd say that many of my thoughts and ideas about church, theology, and modern life in the West have been confirmed by my time here.

Over the last months I've learned that the world is a lot bigger and a lot more complicated, and I remain rather naive in the middle of it all. But I've decided that the Christian gospel is big enough and simple enough to embrace the world in all its complexity. The difficult thing about the gospel is not understanding it, but accepting it. It can appear too good to be true. It can seem too fantastic to be real. It can be attractive and it can be shocking.

Based on Psalm 2, and some verses in Paul's letters to the Corinthians, the truth of Jesus Christ is crisis and consummation. Christ's final appearing will be the most welcome and the most obnoxious of all events. A few people long for it. Others scorn the thought. Many are hopelessly ignorant of the prospect. If Christianity is true, all people will experience this dreadful and glorious day, it will be for all either the most welcome or the most obnoxious of events.

One day Christ's new creation will be manifest for all to see.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Things I didn't know: No 13

The LA Dodgers baseball team used to be the Brooklyn Dodgers, not to be confused with the Brooklyn Dodgers football team. The Dodgers major league baseball franchise moved to LA in the 1950s.

I learned this yesterday evening while watching the New York Yankees destroy the Texas Rangers at Yankee stadium in Bronx, NY.

Jenny Smith also taught me the difference between home and away baseball jerseys. I think the idea is that the home team jersey is always white with stripes. That's something you need to know in the US.

Last night I might just have graduated as a potential resident alien in the US. I sang God Bless America with gusto, ate hot dogs, and almost bought a baseball cap and jersey.

Sunday School art

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Poptastic Lyrics of Pop: No 2

Say if it could be that we once passed like strangers,
Long before the love we ever new

Children of Men

Watched this film for the first time today. Why all the fuss? All the reviews I read, and many of my friends, told me it was a great movie. I fail to understand the enthusiasm, can someone explain it to me?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Managed to watch both 2nd leg Champions League semi-final matches live over the last two days. Just back from an afternoon in Winberies watching AC Milan destroy Man Utd. Utd were very disappointing. Milan looked immense. As for Liverpool and Chelsea, watched that game in NYC. Can't wait to see if Liverpool can do it again against AC. But Chelsea! I don't know what, but something's not right at Stamford Bridge at the moment. One thing I noticed - Lampard looked lost. That must be a worry for England and Chelsea fans.

In my spare time I'm reading some more about eschatology, including G.E. Ladd's The Blessed Hope, and John McDowell's Hope in Barth's Eschatology.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Spot the Difference

Poptastic Lyrics of Pop: No 1

'But you’ve been cold to me so long, I’m crying icicles instead of tears...'

From a Jim Steinman song.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Things I didn't know: Nos 11 & 12

If it hadn't been for the U.S. there would be no modern Europe. (Depends how you define modern I suppose. But Matt Frei is always worth reading. Go for it Gore!)

Jonathan Woodgate has had a rough time with injuries in his career, and never settled at Real Madrid. Another case of just how good could a player have been.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


As of this evening I am finished my work as a Th.M. student at Princeton Theological Seminary. Depending on how far my money stretches the next five weeks will be fun.

Mum and Dad arrive in New Jersey on May 16 for a one week stay. Otherwise I'll be taking things easy.

Monday, April 23, 2007

First Edwards Paper

Just got my first Edwards paper back today, (not this one). I've posted it here. Not sure I really say very much with this paper on Edwards and the incarnation, but I'm still curious about how Edwards manages to be 'at times on the brink of formal heresy' in his understanding. I might also post the complete version of my second paper, which amounts to a summary of The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


This goes out to all my good mates out there. Mates, I don't like to talk about it, but I tend to do a little bit of work for charity every now and again. This morning, took part in a fund raising walk for The Crisis Ministry.

In a day full of excitement, I also discovered that dollar bills can survive a standard wash cycle in a dorm laundry washing machine.

Tonight I'll be listening to some friends sing their little hearts out in Princeton University Chapel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

MLJ 'preached liberation theology' shocker

News is breaking that Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a famous 20thC Calvinistic preacher in the UK, known to readers of this blog, has been shown to be a preacher of liberation theology. An amateur church historian, currently working at Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), claims Lloyd-Jones has been misunderstood for the last fifty years.

'I've been reading through some sermons that MLJ published under the title Spiritual Depression,' said David Shedden, a student coming to the end of a one year course in theology at PTS. 'I couldn't believe what I was reading near the end of the book. I'd always taken MLJ to be radically conservative in everyway.'

Shedden refers to MLJ's sermon, Learning to be Content, a sermon on Phil4:10-12. The sermon series was written for publication in the early 1960s. The following extended quote is at the heart of Shedden's thesis that perhaps MLJ was more radical than we tend to assume:

'It is characteristic of this particular generation in which we live to find a tendency on the part of large numbers of people to feel that the Christian gospel has been a hindrance to the forward march of mankind, that it has been a drag on progress, that it has been nothing but "the dope of the people". They say that it (Godliness with contentment is great gain, 1Tim6:6, cf Matt6:34) is a doctrine which has taught people to put up with all kinds of conditions whatever they may be, and however disgraceful and unjust. There has been a violent political reaction against the gospel of Jesus Christ because people have so misinterpreted this kind of text as to put it in this way:

"The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate, God made them, high or lowly, And order'd their estate"

Now that is just rubbish and a blank denial of what the apostle teaches here... "The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate". Were men meant to be like that and to stay like that for ever? The Bible never teaches that; it does not say than man should be content to remain in poverty, that he should never endeavour to 'better' himself. There is nothing in the Bible that disputes the proposition that all men are equal in the sight of God and that all are entitled to equality of opportunity.'

p 279, Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1965.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


'Happy is he who has learned to expect little from Parliaments or Convocations, from Statesmen or from Bishops, and to look steadily for Christ's appearing! He is the man who will not be disappointed.'

The quote is taken from the 1867 preface to Coming Events and Present Duties. Being Miscellaneous Sermons on Prophetical Subjects. J.C. Ryle

I don't think Ryle's statement should be understood as anti-government, as if Ryle was necessarily a 'small government is good' conservative when it came to political questions. Too many recent conservative governments have squandered the trust that was placed in them by conservative Christians. I doubt there is a conservative political party today that Christians can vote for with a clear conscience, knowing that the party is worthy of trust.

I've got no idea where Ryle placed himself on the political spectrum of his day. I think the good thing about Ryle's statement is that it puts everything in proper perspective. Regardless of how we vote, Christians look forward to an event that will change everything. We should not look for heaven on earth apart from the heavenly reign that Christ will bring about when he chooses. But at the same time we should work for the good of all people, including our politicians and governments.


Spent second half of yesterday in NYC. Despite storms and flooding it was a great time. Ate real chips, had dinner in a French cafe, then ended up in a world famous jazz club - Birdland - which was... wait for it... niceee! Perhaps even... grreeattt. Or, smooth.

Of course, I couldn't help think about The Fast Show's Jazz Club skits. Check out this You Tube link for a reminder.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sounds like...

...the genuine article. This post is closer to the truth than it knows. One standing joke in Alex Hall is that I'm from up-state New York, or Glasgow, Montana! And I've been told, on good authority, that a Scottish accent secures a premium on your basic stipend. Nice work if you can get it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Things I didn't know: Nos 9 & 10

The Moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 4cm per year. The cumulative effect of this is that a few million years from now solar eclipses will not occur. The Moon will be too far away from the Earth to block out light from the Sun getting to the Earth.

Paul McCartney's first name is James. He is Sir James Paul McCartney.

Counterfeit goods

"It may be observed that the more excellent anything is, the more will be the counterfeits of it. Thus there are many more counterfeits of silver and gold than of iron and copper: there are many false diamonds and rubies, but who goes about to counterfeit common stones? Though the more excellent things are, the more difficult it is to make anything that shall be like them in their essential nature and internal virtues; yet the more manifold will the counterfeits be, and the more will art and subtlety be displayed in an exact imitation of the outward appearance. ... So it is with Christian virtues and graces; the subtlety of Satan, and men's deceitful hearts, are wont chiefly to be exercised in counterfeiting those that are in highest repute. So there are perhaps no graces that have more counterfeits than love and humility, these being virtues wherein the beauty of a true Christian does especially appear."

Jonathan Edwards, in this quote taken from Part I, section VII of The Religious Affections, struggles with the problem of discerning good love from bad love, real love from false love, lasting love from passing love. Edwards was writing in a Christian context, and he was in the middle of discussions and debates about identifying real grace, real religion, real marks of the life of God in human individuals. Can the principle Edwards introduces above be applied today? What excellent things are counterfeited in 2007?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Things I didn't know: No 8

Ian McShane, the English actor best known in the UK for playing Lovejoy in the BBC drama series of that name, had a secondary role in the US soap opera Dallas. The last notable role I remember McShane playing is gangster/mob boss in the film Sexy Beast, a gritty movie which includes a remarkable and chilling perfomance by Ben Kingsley as a psychotic mobster.

John Travolta is signed up to play J.R. Ewing in the planned movie version of Dallas.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What do you study?

Yesterday I needed to buy some goodies at Wawa. As I was standing in the cashier queue the woman behind me noticed my PTS sweatshirt:

'Ah, are you from the theological seminary?'

'Emm, yes, ...'

'Oh, wonderful. Good for you. What do you study?'

I've been asked this question before, and I never know the best answer. In this instance I was sure that 'theology' was not the right reply. At a party a few years ago, while chatting to some medical students, I struggled to describe what theology actually was. I didn't think it would be any easier this time round. So, I tried to change the subject, giving the woman the benefit of the doubt that she already knew what theology was:

'Oh, bits and bobs. I'm doing a one year course, doing different courses and modules. I'm from Scotland.'

'Ah, that'll be where you got your accent from.'

Brilliant! I had managed to change the subject using my well tested 'I'm from Scotland...' fall back, always a winner in New Jersey. But I'll need an alternative fall back when I return to Glasgow in June. Although, by then, I'll no longer be a theological student. Instead, I'll be a student assistant minister in the Church of Scotland. 'Eh? What's that all about then?' 'Emm, well, I used to study theology at university...'

This morning I read the first three chapters of Paul's letter to the Corinthians. I think Paul might have experienced something of the same struggle Christians have today in explaining our faith. Paul was not sent to Corinth to administer the sacraments, or to manage the church. He was not sent to help the poor directly, or challenge the powers and authorities directly. Although it was the poor, for the most part, that God called through the gospel proclamation, 1Cor1:26-29. And it was the powers and authorities that were doomed by the revelation of God's wisdom in Jesus Christ, 1Cor2:6-8.

I'm not sure he was sent to teach theology either. He was sent, by Jesus Christ, to proclaim the gospel, to proclaim the foolishness of the cross, 1Cor1:17-25. I once preached from this passage at a midweek bible study in my home church. I got into a real exegetical and homiletical mess. I struggled to explain what Paul was on about. I tried to illustrate the Jewish demand for signs, and the Greek desire for wisdom, in current terms. But I couldn't do it. I still remember the glazed look over the eyes of my audience. I remember giving up, in silent despair, saying, 'I think I'll just leave it there...'

Given my conversation yesterday at Wawa, I'm not sure I'm any better prepared to spread the good news of the cross of Jesus Christ:

'... What do you study?'

'A story about a man born of a virigin, who was crucified at age 33, and who then rose from the dead three days later.'

Who would believe such a thing?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Getting it right second time round

I need to rewrite and resubmit a sermon on Luke 4:21-30 for my Church of Scotland second placement assignment. My first effort was aimless, full of mushy sentences, and it lacked focus. The illustrations didn't work either, apparently. I've been asked to provide a sermon with one theme aimed at a specific need of the congregation I'm in at the moment. My supervisor has 'been to Princeton many times' so he or she must know exactly the kind of sermon that will work.

I'd love any help, by comment or email. Themes I could develop? Illustrations and stories to drive the points home? What kind of sermon does a person living in Princeton, NJ, need to hear?

Hmm... I thought my first attempt was okay. One mistake I made was choosing to include Luke 4, verses 14 to 20 in my reading and in my exposition - I thought that was just setting the context. Another mistake was assuming that notes used for preaching are the same as a written sermon. This is obviously not the case. My supervisor's comments display how badly notes can be misread or misunderstood.

From what I've been told my sermon went down well in Princeton. Perhaps no candidate minister is accepted in the candidate's own church?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Message of Eugene H. Peterson

Eugene Peterson's best known and most popular contribution to the world is his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message. I love to read paraphrases of Bible texts, so I was delighted to receive a copy of The Message as a gift last October.

However Peterson has a substantial back catalogue of books on the nature of pastoral theology. I've decided to read a few of these for a pastoral theology paper I need to write. Although I am pretty close to being set in my ministry ways, Peterson may yet become one of those writers that I read totally and completely. He is currently working on a five volume series of books on spiritual theology. I have yet to read the first three volumes, so I might wait until the series is complete and read the whole series over a year or so.

Peterson is probably not in the same camp, and his emphasis is pastoral and 'spiritual' theology rather than systematic or dogmatic theology, but I think his work is comparable to that of David Wells (who did his Ph.D. at Manchester University!)

Here are two Peterson quotes.

'A sense of hurry in pastoral work disqualifies one for the work of conversation and prayer that develops relationships that meet pastoral needs. There are heavy demands put upon pastoral work, true; there is difficult work to be engaged in, yes. But the pastor must not be 'busy.'
p.61, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, Eerdmans, 1992 edition.

'Despite the unsurpassed academic training that American pastors receive, it looks very much as if no generation of pastors that we know about historically has been so embarrassingly ill-trained in the contemplation of Scripture.'
p109, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Theology, Eerdmans, 1993 edition.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Things I didn't know: No 7

The song, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?, perhaps best known as an Al Green song, was actually written and released as a single by the Bee Gees in 1971. The single did not chart in the UK but it was their first US Billboard No 1. Green covered the song for his 1972 album Let's Stay Together.

Paul Gambaccini is currently hosting a show on BBC Radio 2, You Win Again - The Bee Gees Story, Tuesdays at 8.30pm UK time.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Arrived back yesterday from my week in the UK. It turned out to be a really worthwhile trip. Meeting up with family and friends again was cool. I had no great sentimental feelings about being back in Scotland. But returning to Princeton feels like an exercise in tying up loose ends. I have effectively got four weeks of work left to do here. And this morning I discovered that I have less to hand in than I had anticipated this time last week.

Why encouraged? Well, the Church of Scotland conference I attended was fairly standard. But I got to know one or two colleagues a little better. On top of this I learned, and began to realise, that there is a real melting pot situtation in the church in Scotland at the moment. This may or may not end in some greater uniform good. My optimism comes from believing that I can stir the pot, and add a little seasoning of my own. The plan is to choose an area, perhaps a presbytery, and focus on reforming and reviving that area with the help of colleagues I have got to know in the last year or so.

You read it here first. Wherever I end up late 2008 or early 2009 will indicate the strategic choice for this plan. Chances are this place will not be one of the big cities in Scotland. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and perhaps Dundee are well served by churches. Why duplicate effort?

Preparation for this project will be 15 months probation ministry at Partick South Church of Scotland in Glasgow, working with Rev Dusty Dunnett. I had a great conversation with Dusty last week - the most encouraging chat I have had with a potential supervisor/boss. Bring on July 2007!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Flying Visit

In Scotland this week for a conference I need to attend. The theme is 'Power and Privilege'. One of the sessions is to be on race awareness, which is very interesting given my current placement at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church. WSPC is a mostly black church, and is historically the black church in Princeton. I've learned a lot about my own attitudes over the last few months.
On the plane to Glasgow I skim read Five Views on Law and Gospel. Turns out I'm a Dispensational Modified Lutheran when it comes to the relation between law and gospel.
I did not expect to become more conservative and more fundamentalist after seven months in Princeton reading theology. Someone somewhere has a sense of humor or humour.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Premillennialism 2

It's very interesting that John MacArthur is not novel in his claim that to be Calvinistic or Reformed, when taken to its logical conclusion, implies buying into a millennial view of future history.

Nathaniel West was a Presbyterian minister in America in the second half of the 19th century. He was one of a number of leading premillennialists who were also Calvinistic and Reformed. Well aware that the millennium was not explicitly mentioned in the Westminster Confession of Faith, West still urged that the corollary of the Confession's eschatological statements was the doctrine of the premillennial second advent of Jesus Christ as Lord. West described the Westminster Standards as the strongest pre-millennial symbol ever made because they contained every proposition needed for that conclusion. The rejection of a premillennial advent of Christ was 'an open abandonment of the Reformed ground.' It was also an 'open assault on the Westminster Confession.'

It hardly need be written that many would disagree with West. Preterists, amillennialists, and postmillennialists all subscribe to the Westminster Standards to this day. However to be reminded of the views of MacArthur and West is to be challenged about the meaning and signficance of following the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith today. Will Reformed Christians allow historical studies of the first century to shape their doctrine? W.W.J.D. about the millennial conundrum of our day?

The more I read and study theology the more confused I tend to become about stuff. But more importantly, I'm getting tired of reading and listening to Christians who claim the authority of Scripture, only to preach, teach and do things contrary to Scripture. The question is not WWJD but WDJDADIM (What did Jesus do and does it matter?) Answers to this question that fail to correspond to the New Testament witness are possible. But are they credible? Or faithful?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


More stuff from my dissertation. This time a quote from an article I've had to read:

Antichrist is not a mere principle, nor a myth. If Christ be a real person in human form, so is he. If Christ is declared and spoken of as endowed with all grace and humility and glory, and having a glorious retinue of the saved and glorious ones - Antichrist is the embodied reality of the very opposite principles and their malignant supporters, which shall be utterly destroyed in all their usurped empire, and in the very person of their boastful and and blasphemous king, in that day when the Faithful and True shall ride forth from the opened heaven with His armies to 'judge and make war.'


What, with all the current froth about John MacArthur's 'Calvinists should be premillennialists' speech, I'm glad that my dissertation topic is relevant and bang on the pulse of today's burning issues. I'm surveying premillennialism and responses to it among American Presbyterians in the late 1870s and 1880s. Really quite a narrow topic, but some interesting things are cropping up. For example, I've returned to J.C. Ryle through my background reading. I've just crept onto page 24 of my first draft.

Here's an interesting observation I made, interesting, because it raises the question of what we mean when we quote some source or authority:

Presbyterians contributed several papers or addresses at the New York Prophetic Conference of 1878. Some of the addresses from the conference were collected and published in a book the following year. Introducing the book Nathaniel West cites two recent examples of preterism before quoting at length J.C. Ryle’s ‘expression of the true faith’ in Ryle’s own ‘Pre-Millennian Creed’ published in the preface of his 1867 book Coming Events and Present Duties. Ryle became the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool in 1880, having served as a Church of England vicar in various parishes in the middle years of the 19th century. This reference to Ryle illustrates that J.N. Darby was not the only transatlantic influence on American millennialism. However a comparison of Ryle’s preface and West’s introduction reveals a curious omission in West’s recording of Ryle’s creed. In the second edition of Coming Events and Present Duties, Ryle’s 1867 preface includes the creed that West quotes. But West only records ten of the eleven paragraphs in Ryle’s creed. Ryle’s ninth paragraph is worth quoting fully because it is wholly omitted from West’s introduction:

IX. I do not believe that the preterist scheme of interpreting the Apocalypse, which regards the book as almost entirely fulfilled, or the futurist scheme, which regards it as almost entirely unfulfilled, are either of them to be implicitly followed. The truth, I expect, will be found to lie between the two. (Ryle xi)

West’s introduction omits this paragraph and replaces it with Ryle’s tenth paragraph about the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope. Ryle’s eleventh paragraph, which encourages Christians ‘to expect as little as possible from Churches or Governments under the present dispensation,’ while at the same time holding themselves ready for sudden changes in the established order of things, is quoted. West fails to note the list of things that Ryle refuses to comment on, including the rapture of the saints, the burning up of the earth, and the first resurrection.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


'golf course/cemetery combo'

I googled this phrase while reading a book for a review paper. I was trying to discover if there existed a golf course that also doubled as a cemetery.

This is my first ever unintentional Googlewhack, although, I did not have the patience to read up on whether my potential Googlewhack met the criteria. I suspect the '/' (would you call that a forward slash?) is against the rules.

Update: it's nothing like a real Googlewhack, which is made up of two words only. But I was surprised to see only one hit all the same.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Weather 2

Snow and hail. Just weird, after the summers day we enjoyed here in NJ earlier this week. I know there has been recent debate about the global warming conspiracy theory thing, but can anyone doubt that our weather patterns are changing?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Things I didn't know: No 6

Abraham Lincoln liked popcorn, oysters, and good strong coffee.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Just last week temperatures in New York and New Jersey were in the 25 to 35 degrees farenheit range. Today the temperature in Princeton, NJ, is 75 d.f. It's also the middle of reading week here at the seminary. So I might lie out in the quad and do some reading later this afternoon.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Kirk to run prisons?


I'm not sure we know how to run our nursing homes. And we struggle with our churches. Letting loose OAPs is one thing. Mismanaging Scotland's historic church buildings, not to mention its spiritual heritage, is another.

But losing control of a prison would be bad. We don't need to get involved. Let's keep visiting the people in our prisons. Let's support all who work in them. But let's not try and run them. Prisons are a bad idea, and, instead of touting for business, power and influence, we should be campaigning to close as many of them as possible.

When I leave should I bring back

When I leave should I bring back
Some presents from America?
Have a case on the jumbo
Full of goodies for relatives?
I got a scholarship to seminary
Flew across the ocean
To read about the narrow way
My head was beaten, my heart was torn
I wonder what it means when I leave the promised land?

When I leave should I bring back
Some presents from America?
Have a case on the jumbo
Full of goodies for relatives?

I’ve looked at the classics
Tried hard to envision
The Way they saw the day they knew
That Jesus was their Lord and Saviour
I should’ve worked hard
I should’ve prayed more
But you know my sense of sin, Lord
I always flail too much

When I leave should I bring back
Some presents from America?
Have a case on the jumbo
Full of goodies for relatives?

Princeton no more
McCormack no more
Dykstra no more
Barth no more

I wonder my heart
Will you ever affirm
To give the Kirk a pay back
To fight its cause and win the nation
Do I not owe her?
Does not Christ love her?
Do I have to read the classics
To prove how much God cares?

When I leave should I bring back
Some presents from America?
Have a case on the jumbo
Full of goodies for relatives?

Moorhead no more
Johnson no more
Torrance no more
Capps no more

Moorhead no more
Johnson no more
Torrance no more
Princeton no more

View from the top...

...of the Empire State Building. The picture was taken yesterday evening. I was reminded that I suffer from a form of acrophobia, which causes in me a sense of vertigo.

Vertigo or not, the sad reality is that I am coming to the end of my American adventure.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Things I didn't know: No 5

In antiquity silent reading was uncommon, not unknown. (The reference here is to my reading of Henry Chadwick's translation of Augustine's Confessions, ft 5, p93, commenting on Augustine's observation that Ambrose would sit and read in silence.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

All Gore

This post is partly for my American friends. Check out the article by Matt Frei. I watched the Oscars live on TV on Sunday evening. It was amazing! It reminded me of Team America, but I really thought it could be the beginning of Gore's route to the White House. Amazing how a politician's image can change, especially if he or she takes some time out.


Today I bought 4 CDs at the Princeton Record Exchange for under $9.

The Cranberries, Everbody else is doing it, so why can't we?
George Michael, Older
Razorlight, Up All Night
Fun Lovin Criminals, The Fun Lovin' Criminal (this looks like a CD single, or promotional EP)

How much money have I wasted on CD albums? These CDs would have cost at least $60 new.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Things I didn't know: No 4

The pastor that stands up and documents his pain is a bad pastor.

John Piper, 41mins into this talk.

' sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;...' 2 Cor.6:10

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thoughts on the day before Lent

What's Lent all about? Before reading Danny's post on the subject, I had already pondered the whole thing. Without knowing or caring much about the history of Lent, I've decided that the idea is a nonsense. This may well reflect my Church of Scotland and conservative evangelical background.

Whether or not Luther liked Lent, he did write this line in his famous 95 Theses:

Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be [one of] repentance.

In other words, for the Christian, every day is a Lenten day, just as, simultaneously, every day is resurrection day. This is related to my understanding of various NT passages, which seem to teach that no days, including Sabbath days, remain special days for Christian believers.

In passing, this article by Bob Holman is related to ideas behind modern Lenten views. Holman's books seriously challenged my understanding of the poverty/inequality question.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Reading Calvin

You might have guessed that I'm reading some of Calvin's stuff at the moment. Really just his chapter on prayer in book III of the Institutes. I'm doing this as preparation for a series of studies I'm going to lead soon. But it is an encouraging exercise for me, even though it is work related. I once read that a critical proportion of your work time should be enjoyable and should use your best skills, aptitudes and interests, otherwise you will really struggle in your job. (The assumption was that all jobs include tasks that do not fit these criteria. I can't remember the critical proportion, but it might have been 25 to 30 percent.)
Anyway, here is an interesting section I read today. The context is Calvin's exposition of "Our Father" in the Lord's Prayer. This means a corporate and family love between Christians, because 'all of us in common should call him 'our Father''. For a number of reasons, I'm more and more conscious of the whole inclusive and gender-neutral language debate. Suffice to write that when Calvin writes 'man' or 'brothers' I think he means 'people'. But, when he writes about God as Father, I think he means, well, Father. My christology (seriously modified over the last few months) is actually forcing me to react against gender-neutral language in reference to God. Funny, in coming to Princeton, I am actually becoming more conservative. Hmm.

I've taken this snippet from the Library of Christian Classics/Ford Lewis Battles edition, because it is a far better translation than the 19th century text I have quoted in recent posts:

"Let the Christian man, then, conform his prayers to this rule in order that they may be in common and embrace all who are his brothers in Christ, not only those whom he at present sees and recognizes as such but all men who dwell on earth. For what God has determined concerning them is beyond our knowledge except that it is no less godly than humane to wish and hope the best for them. Yet we ought to be drawn with a special affection to those, above others, of the household of faith, whom the apostle has particularly commended to us in everything [Gal.6.10]. To sum up, all prayers ought to be such as to look to that community which our Lord has established in his Kingdom and his household." Institutes III.XX.38

I hope you will agree this is an interesting and encouraging thought for the day.

Prayer 2

But since no man is worthy to come forward in his own name, and appear in the presence of God, our heavenly Father, to relieve us at once from fear and shame, with which all must feel oppressed, has given us his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to be our Advocate and Mediator, that under his guidance we may approach securely, confiding that with him for our Intercessor nothing which we ask in his name will be denied to us, as there is nothing which the Father can deny to him (1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 2:1). To this it is necessary to refer all that we have previously taught concerning faith; because, as the promise gives us Christ as our Mediator, so, unless our hope of obtaining what we ask is founded on him, it deprives us of the privilege of prayer.

For it is impossible to think of the dread majesty of God without being filled with alarm; and hence the sense of our own unworthiness must keep us far away, until Christ interpose, and convert a throne of dreadful glory into a throne of grace, as the Apostle teaches that thus we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:16). And as a rule has been laid down as to prayer, as a promise has been given that those who pray will be heard, so we are specially enjoined to pray in the name of Christ, the promise being that we shall obtain what we ask in his name. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name,” says our Saviour, “that will I do; that the Father may be glorified in the Son;” “Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full,” (John 14:13; 16:24).

Hence it is incontrovertibly clear that those who pray to God in any other name than that of Christ contumaciously falsify his orders, and regard his will as nothing, while they have no promise that they shall obtain. For, as Paul says “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen;” (2 Cor. 1:20), that is, are confirmed and fulfilled in him.

John Calvin
Institutes III:XX.17

Prayer 1

To prayer, then, are we indebted for penetrating to those riches which are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father. For there is a kind of intercourse between God and men, by which, having entered the upper sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to his promises, that when necessity requires they may learn by experiences that what they believed merely on the authority of his word was not in vain. Accordingly, we see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith.

The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express. Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our only safety is in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest himself to us in all his perfections. Hence, admirable peace and tranquillity are given to our consciences; for the straits by which we were pressed being laid before the Lord, we rest fully satisfied with the assurance that none of our evils are unknown to him, and that he is both able and willing to make the best provision for us.

John Calvin
Institutes III:XX.2

Friday, February 16, 2007

Things I didn't know: Nos 2 & 3

Albert Einstein could play the violin.

My current toothbrush is a revolution in toothbrush technology.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


One of my favourite sports at school was basketball. This semester I'm getting the chance to play and watch. Tonight I'm going with Katy to watch the Spurs play the New Jersey Nets. And I'm on the roster for the Global Trotters, a international team valiantly trying to compete in the PTS Basketball B League. In our first game we lost 35-12. We were playing the second weakest team. Hmm... I hate losing, but I'm learning to live with it.

In other Shed news, I'm slowly working through my list of papers, essays, and reviews that I need to write in the next two to three months. Here's a link to one of those reviews. This week my aim is to complete a short paper on Jonathan Edwards and the incarnation - thesis will be that Edwards was close to being a heretic, but present day Calvinists and Puritans can just about get away with giving him the benefit of the doubt. Phew! At one stage I thought I'd have to choose between Edwards on the one hand, and Owen, Calvin, Aquinas, Augustine, et al, on the other.

One exciting project is a short series of adult Sunday School classes I will teach at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church. Theme will be the Lord's Prayer: our God, our Need, and our Hope.

All this in my daily routine. Most days I just get up, get showered, get dressed, eat breakfast, check email, maybe go to class, try to read and write for PTS work, have dinner, watch TV or DVD, then go to bed. Jenny, how do you make your daily blogs so interesting?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Things I didn't know: No 1

Matt Busby, perhaps the greatest football (soccer) manager in the history of the British game, played for Liverpool FC!

I did know that Busby was Scottish, one of the famous trio of Scottish football managing superstars who escaped from mining backgrounds through the beautiful game. Check out Jock Stein and Bill Shankly for the other two members of that select club.

There are other great Scottish football managers. Kenny Dalglish, Alex Ferguson, and Walter Smith would make my list of the top six.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Country Roads

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
West Virginia, Mountain Momma,
Take me home, country roads.

People here don't believe me when I describe the West of Scotland's love of American country western music.

Denver, Diamond, et al.

Thing is, here, in Princeton at least, they don't dance on tables to Cracklin' Rosie and Sweet Caroline. And I've never heard the supped up version of Country Roads.

Oh, how I miss the Scottish country/western banter...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Jonathan Edwards: Reformed Herotic

No, not that Jonathan Edwards. He won Olympic medals and stuff, and I'm not sure he's Reformed anyway. So, his blog post would just be Jonathan Edwards: Hero.

Yes, I'm writing about this Jonathan Edwards, to which this website is devoted.

Lots of people who study Christian theology love Jonathan Edwards. Lots of Christians hear lots of preachers talking about Edwards as a model preacher, or a model spiritual influence, or whatever.

Here are my questions about all this.

First, can we really take his theological system, or his view of the world, as our own in the 21st century? So far, in light of the reading I've done in the last day or so, my answer would have to be negative, with some qualifications. Edwards, in his philosophy, in his scientific writings, and in his doctrine of creation, is seriously at odds with both modern science and philosophy, and a basic Christian or biblical doctrine of creation. It appears that he was an idealist, and that he believed that God essentially re-created the world all the time in one continuous action of upholding and sustaining the world. Edwards wrote against Newton's mechanical views of the universe, and against deism in general. His idealism, rightly or wrongly, has been compared to the idealism of people like George Berkeley and William Blake. Can it find a place in a credible Christian theology today?

Second, what are the implications of this idealism for Edwards and his understanding of Jesus Christ? Did the humanity of Jesus Christ matter all that much to Edwards? He understood that the incarnation was based on a Spirit Logos model of christology. This will be the theme of a short paper I have to write this semester. John Owen also applied this model of incarnation when he needed it. But, is this a meaningful model of incarnation, or is it just 'the man Jesus was very very full of the Holy Spirit' incarnation? Moreover, if Edwards was such a huge influence in American intellectual development, is his legacy altogether good? Is his legacy responsible for the dualism that affects the evangelical church in the US in so many ways?

Finally, can we separate the theology of Edwards from his spirituality? Edwards is a model for the Christ centred devotional life, and the Spirit filled life of Christian service in preaching and teaching. I think spiritual revival is an important aspect of the Christian life. In fact, to some extent, spiritual revival is the Christian life. Here, I think, Edwards was an important influence for good. But how, then, do his theological quirks matter? Was his style of ministry 'affected' by them? I hope to explore all these things over the next two months.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Shed Swing

I've had a look at the syllabuses for two of my classes this semester. Having done so, I'm dropping a course on the devotional lives of a few great saints. Its syllabus was just too complicated. This means I'll probably take the course on Jonathan Edwards with Sang Hyun Lee after all. I'm hoping that the grade for that course will simply be based on one final paper.

So, any ideas for my paper on Edwards? I could continue my quest for a Reformed philosophy of history by looking at Edwards on history. I suspect this would be quite difficult. Unlike Shedd and Warfield the writings of Edwards are vast. Too vast to select one or two key texts and feel confident that they are representative.

Perhaps a paper on Edwards as pastor - I think I'd be very critical of him in this regard, though. And, how do you actually assess that question anyhow? On top of the fact that I find Edwards difficult to read, I think there is a difference between a history of the life and work of Edwards, and an appreciation of his theology. I find it strange that people often write about Edwards with reference to his sermons and writings - as if those were the measure of his life and work as a pastor. A recent article I read suggested the Edwards failed as a pastor. Even though the article was based on slightly dated research, I think the author (Donald Capps, a prominent pastoral theology professor) was touching on something. Some of the decisions that Edwards made in his pastoral ministry were misguided, if not bizarre. His ecclesiology was also peculiar.

Again, please suggest themes, questions, or topics for my paper. It might be a good exercise for me to write something that I've been asked to research.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Two questions

Questions I've been thinking about:

Were the apostles baptised?

Do sheep drink from moving water?


Devil's Den, location of some of the fighting on July 2.

Looking north from Little Round Top. Union forces managed to hold their flank by defending this position on July 2.

Lutheran Theological Seminary.

You might be able to view the site of Pickett's Charge, the final Southern assault on July 3rd. A disaster for Lee and the South.


Spent first half day of January in Lancaster, Penn. Part of that included recovering from seeing The King in concert.

Handed in three papers, two of these were based on reading Shedd. You will find these papers posted soon over at Shed on Shedd.

Met Ben Myers in a coffee shop in Princeton.

Visited Gettysburg. Watched the movie on DVD too. Thought some more about issues around the Civil War.

Was in NYC two or three times.

Started thinking about post Princeton plans. I'd love to stay in the US, but I can't see it happening. However, I've been invited back to speak in October 2007 at a Kirkin' O' the Tartans.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Burns in Central Park

O, enviable, early days,
When dancing thoughtless pleasure's maze,
To care, to guilt unknown!
How ill exchang'd for riper times,
To feel the follies, or the crimes,
Of others, or my own!
Ye tiny elves that guiltless sport,
Like linnets in the bush,
Ye little know the ills ye court,
When manhood is your wish!
The losses, the crosses,
That active man engage;
The fears all, the tears all,
Of dim declining age!

Folks, I'm taking a blog holiday. i to the hills will return in February.