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.)