Saturday, May 29, 2004


I'm off with my family to see my folks in Ayrshire. Back on Tuesday, DV.

Bloggy Excursion

You will note that I have not been blogging over the last couple of days. This is because I have had a kind of bloggy holiday. What's that, you say? Well, in my various travellings I came across an entry by Messy Christian. I was interested and a bit concerned about the content of one of her posts, so I posted a comment. Well, I got into a couple of rather long conversations which have detained me somewhat, using up all my limited bloggy time - I was camping out contributing to someone else's blog! Now I'm back.

It was interesting. I can't say I came back unscathed. The people I was dealing with have formed/are forming a particular blog-based Christian subculture which seems to have real problems with visible expressions of the church. I have really only, scratched the surface, but the discussion I got into concerned the place and role of elders in a church. For them, there seems to be no concept of elders 'ruling'. Right at the start, on the basis of a few sentences I was called a 'churchianity freak'! Charming.

I notice two problems that immediately stand out, both from the interaction, and from other related articles: firstly that is poor exegesis of scripture to back up views. What there is is exegesis of the English, not the Greek - plenty of scope for anachronistic interpretations. I also notice a lack of interest in church history (well, it's evil and corrupt isn't it?). As a result the primitive church is idealised.

I'll keep my eye on this. It's quite interesting as a sociological development, but of some concern for biblical Christianity. I may review some articles which have emerged if I get the time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Poster Count

Went into Derby for a meeting this afternoon - 6 miles in and 6 back. I made a quick count of the Euro Parliament political posters attached to lampposts on the way in. Here's the result:

UK Independence: 11
Liberal Democrats: 6
Labour: 5
Conservative: 0
Respect: 0
BNP: 0
Greens: 0

UKIP are obviously keen and have some money. They also had the only billboard poster with Say No! to the European Union [cue: raspberry blowing]. Must be all those accountant types. I note that they are getting a lot of interest in my newspaper today.

Lib Dems were in the suburban areas, Labour in the urban areas. Predictable.

Where were the Tories? I saw what I thought was one of theirs - it had the right colours - but when I got close up it was an ad for Freddie's Play Kingdom. Easy mistake to make.

So I make it UKIP out in front for effort. But still 2 weeks to go.

It's Late...

..., I'm hungry and I want toast with butter. But there's not an ounce of butter in the house.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Roundup of Election Propoganda

Like most people, we’re being inundated with fliers for the European elections on June 10th. I'm impressed that we've had so much. They must care! Here's a summary:

Labour:Working Hard for Britain Large, thin glossy paper- looks like a supermarket flier. Not good. Picture of nice family in kiddies’ playground. Very little about Europe. All about Labour’s domestic record. .

Also there are six pictures of Labour people inside. “Which one is the candidate?” I said to Susan.

“All of them!” she said.


It then dawned on me that the system for this election is not what I expected. Susan didn’t know what it was either. I’m still none the wiser. Does anyone know?

Conservative:Putting Britain First. Thick paper, not as glossy. Mmm. Nice. Focus on Britain’s relationship with Europe. Heavy on the need for a referendum on the new constitution. ‘Personal’ message from Michael Howard. (Is that good or bad? Hmm.) Six shiny double-barreled faces smiling at one.

Liberal Democrats:Let’s make Europe work for all of us. (what? for the MEPs or the people?) Smaller sheet in supermarket flier paper – boo – not trying hard enough. Slags off Tories as anti-Europe, and Labour for Iraq. Usual gubbins about cutting waste etc. Six fuzzy out-of-focus faces, holiday snap style, smiling (I think).

Now the little parties:

UK Independence:Say no to European Union. Well that’s clear. Two-colour theme (pink & yellow…mmm, nice). Mug of Kilroy-Silk inside. “Say No” to all sorts of things. Also known as the “Let’s Run Away While Blowing Raspberries at Everyone” Party. Looks like a bunch of old accountant-types.

Respect:Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environment, Community, Trade Unionism. Gorgeous George Galloway’s mob. Apparently run along Stalinist lines. Double plus ungood. Nice leaflet – best design. Nothing about Europe though. All anti-Blair.

British National Party:SAFE – Stop Asylum For Ever. Well that’s clear too. Single issue. This is the funniest. There is one candidate pictured with his family. On top of the picture is a quote, apparently from the little boy (looks aged 2 or 3), which says “My Dad isn’t a racist!” What a clever child! They’re not racist after all! No, no, … er … no?

Well there you have it. Who would you vote for?

Monday, May 24, 2004

Where to look?

Pretty Bauble: Elusive gold fillings
Untold Riches: The universe sustained moment by moment

Pretty Bauble : An impulse
Untold Riches: The gospel faithfully preached

Pretty Bauble : Speaking foreign languages
Untold Riches: Living in the power of the resurrection

Some Thoughts on Sanctification and Preaching

Before I start, I apologise for the lengthy quotes in this post, but I think it is necessary to make a point.

One writer writes that
The normal Christian life is one of spiritual growth toward greater and greater likeness to Jesus Christ.

Sounds good. This is the concern of sanctification: likeness to Christ. This writer goes on to say
God does influence our minds directly, but his primary method of bringing about growth is through what are commonly called the "means of grace," or conduits of divine energy. In these means we are not passive but must participate actively. Even though God indeed works in us both the willing and the doing of His good pleasure, we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13)

Prayer. Through prayer our companionship with God reaches its highest intensity. Not only do we grow more like him through this companionship, but we find that prayer is the great means of victory at the moment of temptation.

Scripture. The Bible is God’s means of revealing his character and thus his will for our thoughts and actions. Therefore, the more we know his word, the higher the potential we have for conforming to his will. It is the milk and bread and meat of the soul. Furthermore, Jesus demonstrated in His hour of temptation that Scripture I is a great weapon in spiritual warfare. As we study it diligently to understand it and as we meditate on it constantly to apply it to life, we will be prepared to use it to overcome temptation.

Church. The congregation of God’s family is indispenpsible for spiritual growth. United worship and observance of the ordinances, teaching fellowship, discipline, service and witness within the responsible structure of the church are God’s ordained means for the growth of each member.

Suffering. Suffering may be God’s great shortcut to spiritual growth. Our response to suffering determines its benefit to us, of course for the same adversity may be destructive or life building. The response of faith, that is, confidence that God has permitted the trial for His glory and our own good, transforms a potentially evil circumstance into a means of making us more like the Suffering Servant Himself.

These four “Tools of the Spirit” are indispensable to Christian growth.

All sounds like useful, practical stuff.

Now, here’s another quote, from a different author. What do you make of this?
While we are constantly dependent on the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit, we must also take account of the fact that sanctification is a process that draws within its scope the conscious life of the believer. The sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. Nothing shows this more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12, 13). The salvation refered to here is not the salvation already in possession but the Eschatological salvation. And not text sets forth more succinctly and clearly the relation of God’s working to our working. God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or coordination of both produced the required result. God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing. And this working of God is directed to the end of enabling us to will and to do that which is well pleasing to him. We have here not only the explanation of all acceptable activity on our part but we have also the incentive to our willing and working. What the apostle is urging is the necessity of working out our own salvation, and the encouragement he supplies is the assurance that it is God himself who works in us. The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.

The writer goes on to say
Sanctification involves the concentration of thought, of interest, of heart, mind, will and purpose upon the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus and the engagement of our whole being with those means which God has instituted for the attainment of that destination. Sanctification is the sanctification of persons, and persons are not machines; it is the sanctification of persons renewed after the image of God in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. The prospect it offers is to know even as we are known and to be holy even as God is holy. Everyone who has this hope in God purifies himself even as he is pure (1 John 3:3).

On first reading the two authors may seem to be saying the same thing about sanctification. The objective is the same (likeness to Christ). The key verse seems to be the same (Phil. 2:12,13). However there is an important difference. Note how the first writer quickly zooms in on certain activities as crucial to the process of sanctification. They are “Tools of the Holy Spirit”, "conduits of divine energy". This is in sharp contrast to the second writer who emphasizes that the key activity is that of God in the believer, working with the whole of his being. It is not that the activities listed by the first writer are excluded by the second: he mentions the “means which God has instituted”. But they do not take centre stage.

It is an observation of some that the modern preoccupation with application of Scripture leads us Christians to want to tear off strips of the sanctification process into bite-sized, manageable chunks that we can do. The view underlying this approach is that a person’s life is dividable into chunks, some sanctified, others not. My task is a Christian is to “take the territory” of my life in little packages and thereby grow in sanctification. Preaching is therefore imperative driven, and my response one of doing doable tasks.

However, what is clear from the second writer is that the whole man needs to be renewed, that he cannot be divided into chunks and that there is no part that is not in need of sanctification. Therefore, in myself I am simply not able to “take territory”. Helpless as I find myself, I must turn to God in faith for the help I need. A preacher who recognizes this has a radically different approach to preaching. His method is to present the indicatives of the faith, in order that the faith of the believer is drawn out. The Christian therefore responds in faith, recognizing that he is utterly helpless, and knowing that his whole self is in need. There is no tendency to smugness here.

Of course, faith results in action. It wouldn’t be faith otherwise, would it?

(BTW The first quote is from J. R. McQuilkin in Five Views on Sanctification (Zondevan) pp. 178, 180, 181. The second is from John Murray Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Banner of Truth) pp. 148-150. )

Friday, May 21, 2004

A Miscellany...

Here's a collection of things I have come across in the blogosphere recently.

Firstly, thanks to Jon here's a site that can waste lots of your time. Type in a word and you get a list of silly words back. I'm afraid this kind of thing sends me into a very unbecoming fit of giggles.

Also, a very useful resource for any Americans wanting to enjoy these pleasant shores. Perhaps slightly more useful than the orientation course some American former Rolls-Royce colleagues told me about. Now that was funny! (BTW thanks Iconoblog.)

Then, on a more serious note, here is a thought on pragmatism in the church (via Jollyblogger). Perhaps it was made more poignant by the post of Messy Christian who is clearly struggling with this form of results-based ministry. The pastoral issue she presents is as a result of bad theology arising from bad biblical study.

Finally, since some others are intimating their favourite preachers, here are a couple who were influential on me during my student days in Glasgow: Eric Alexander, who was the minster at St. George's-Tron church, and Sinclair Ferguson, the then associate minister who was just getting his feet under the table at Westminster. Sound quality is pretty poor, but enjoy!

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Peeping Tom

I haven't got much time to write anything thoughtful , but here's a piccy: Kenneth the cat spying on the neighbours.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Good Morning!

Well, I got fed up with the decor again. I also got fed up with the DIY approach, and since Blogger has come out with a brand new range of stylish off-the-shelf numbers, I thought I would choose one of them. So here it is...

It hasn't stopped my daughter complaining that she liked the orange back ground I once had. Orange? Eh?

Anyway, I've also jettisoned the Haloscan comments in favour of the new fangled Blogger option. This seems to have the advantage of keeping the comments with the original post, which I like. It has the disadvantage that I think commenters have to register with Blogger to 'sign' their comments, otherwise they are anonymous. (This doesn't stop people signing within the comment itself, I suppose.)

We'll give it a couple of weeks and see how it goes.

Have a nice day!

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Physics in Theology

Richard Gaffin says this:
Since these two aspects of the believer's experience [i.e. resurrection in his own experience in the past and anticiplated future bodily resurrection] are integrally related to each other as well as to the past event of Jesus' resurrection, the unity involved may be expressed by saying that the resurrection of Jesus is refracted in the experience of the believer in a twofold fashion. (Resurrection and Redemption, P&R 2nd ed., 1987, p.60)
'Refracted'? I like how theologians use the language of physics to explain theological ideas. Gaffin seems particularly good at it.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Come on Men!

A couple of people have posted on the problem of the feminisation of the church recently. Jollyblogger has written a long article here and a follow up here, while Discoshaman, while reflecting on 5 years in the PCA, has written some interesting comments on feminisation in the charismatic churches.

These are written from an American perspective, but the UK is not insulated from the same problems. In summary of these two gentlemen there are three obvious symptoms, perhaps reflecting three stages of decay (?):

1) Liberal dying churches where the women are in the majority. They are doctinally ruined. This may mean >70% are women. Men are few and far between. I have had experience of this many times. I have found after such a service, some women coming up to me and telling me how wonderful it is to hear a man's voice sing. Now, I don't have a great singing voice or anything, but I can belt it out with the best of them! So I stand out. Most men have taken flight. Mothers bring the children. So the boys learn that church is for girls.

2) Loosely evangelical churches where there is a better balance of men and women. However the active people are the women. Men have simply stepped back from responsibility. As a result there are women place in inappropriate leadership roles. Women will even teach in church. The concept of pastoring is seen as a feminine thing, but is reduced to helping out with practical needs, listening to problems, but lacking the skill to apply biblical doctrine to real life. Women are only too willing to do this work. Men back out.

3) Evangelical churches with good strong teaching ministry, yet are concerned that men bond, share struggles etc. The strong emphasis on the relational however, is causing men difficulties. Some will like this, but frankly many are driven away by it. Here's Jollyblogger:
And, when the Christian faith is expressed in such sentimental and emotional terms, it will be a turn off to men. Along those lines, think of how it plays to men, when we call the Christian life a "love relationship with Jesus." That sure sounds something like a marriage relationship, but does this mean that I, as a man, am to have that kind of relationship with another man?

I have a lot of sympathy with this. And there is the problem: the Christian life is not a "love relationship with Jesus" but a covenant bond to God in Christ. If anyone asks, "What's that?" then at least you're asking the right question. It is the answer to this that needs to proclaimed from the pulpit week by week. What does it mean to be "in Christ"?

I once heard a preacher tell of how he had been to the Urbana conference in the US. He related how, when he was speaking, he had pressed the need for real "manly godliness". When the transcripts were published, for PC reasons they had changed "manly godliness" to "vigorous godliness".

But the preacher was right the first time.

Thursday, May 13, 2004


I've also noticed that some people's conception of God's sanctifying activity is rather like that of a servo motor in power assisted steering.


I've noticed that some people conceive of the guidance of God to be rather like a mouse following a trail of cheese pieces in a lab somewhere.

Gaffin at Oakhill

I went down to Oakhill with a couple of friends to hear Dick Gaffin speak on By Faith, Not By Sight. After a 2.5 hour journey I got back at around 6:45pm. Just enough time to get a bite to eat and out to homegroup. Didn't get back till late.

I will try to summarise what Dick Gaffin said and my reactions to it after I have got through the worst of my assignment schedule. Suffice to say for now that there were periods of hard slog and periods of revelation that brought a smile and an inner, "Yes! Of course..."

Here were the titles of the four lectures:

The Center of Paul's Theology
Eschatology and Ordo Salutis in Paul
Eschatology and Sanctification in Paul
Eschatology and Justification in Paul

Now for that last essay on the Atonement...


Nearly time for bed? Fancy a little munchie something before kipping down? How about making some of this!

Honestly, I wept.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Two down, one to go before Friday lunchtime.

But can't miss Gaffin tomorrow at Oakhill..

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Too Much

I notice Iconoblog hasn't posted for a while. Clearly the Jesus Christ Action Figure was too much for him.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

English? English? ENGLISH??

Just let me calm down a moment…

I have just read this phrase by that respected theologian Louis Berkhof:
…the views of Edward Irving, the great English preacher and contemporary of Thomas Chalmers.
(The History of Christian Doctrines, Banner of Truth, p. 198)

At first I thought, "He’s made an honest mistake. English? No, you meant Scottish, surely?" Because he was Scottish. It says here, look! And I've seen the ugly statue in Annan to prove it.

But then I realized,
a) "He’s too clever to make such a stupid mistake!"
b) "He’s American!"

Countless times I have found my cousins from the US making this simple yet, since I am a Scot, stupendously irritating kind of mistake. Therefore, as part of my one-man, futile crusade to educate the whole of the United States in one blog entry, let me make some simple statements.

Pay attention.

A Scotsman is British.
An Englishman is British.
But, it is not true, necessarily, that a Briton is English.
It therefore also does not follow that a Scotsman, because he is British, is therefore English. That would be stupid.

Let’s be clear. A Scotsman is not, never has been, nor ever will be an Englishman.

Good. Glad we sorted that out. I feel so much better.

Now, where did those chips on my shoulder come from…?

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Forgiveness Fallacy

OK, I didn't claim to be on a fast. I only suggested that my head might be down for a while. But here is a micro-breather from reading.

I came across this quote yesterday from Emil Brunner in The Mediator which I thought was pretty interesting. Discussing the question of God's forgiveness and how He can deal with the difficulty of the great obstacle of sin which bars man from Him, he says
Modern superficiality…evades this difficulty by an appeal to the analogy of human life. Good people forgive one another, how much more then must the good God be ready to forgive! The fallacy is not perceived. Good people forgive because they remember their own sin, because they know they have no right to judge others.(London: Lutterworth, 1934) p. 447

No less true 70 years on, I suggest. The modern (even Christian) mind too readily forgets just how different God is from us.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


It'll be a bit quiet here over the next couple of weeks. Like Al, I too have essay deadlines coming up. More blogging when I come up for air...

Sunday, May 02, 2004

A Tough Day

Spent several hours hacking down a tree in the garden. It was only a 12ft conifer. But it was enough for me. Blood (blisters), sweat, though not quite tears. It wasn’t helped by my daughter Kate muttering, "Murderer" in her best Gollum voice. (She’s pretty good at it now. But then, what do you expect from someone who has watched the DVD 60 zillion times!) She and her friend also decided to conduct worm funerals. Murderer, indeed!

The afternoon finished well with a visit with Kate to Pride Park to see Derby County beat Milwall 2-0 in the final home game of the season, guaranteeing First Division football next year. It had all the ingredients for a classic game: the something at stake, passion, good play, noise, two cracking goals, pitch invasion at the end. Chaos! And the few Milwall fans chipped in with a wee fight with the stewards. Judging by the number of Police with hand-held cameras there will be a few more people not going to Euro 2004.

Now for a sleepless night with a pain-racked body!