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.