Friday, July 27, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The Bible is God's dramatic self-revelation. God himself is the primary actor in this drama. His first act was to speak the universe into being. The universe then becomes, as Calvin put it, "the theatre in which God displays his glory" (Institutes 1:6:2, 2:6:1. Vanhoozer was not the first theodramatist!). If creation is abstracted from the Bible's story for the sake of apologetics, then it is dedramatised, cut off from the great drama of creation, redemption and re-creation.
God's good creation was ruined and cursed as a result of the fall of man into sin (Genesis 3:17-19). The effect of the fall upon creation has to be borne in mind. Man no longer lives in harmony with his Maker. In fact, he is a rebel, dead in trespasses and sins. In his fallenness, he would rather worship anything other than the Creator. A sense of God has not been lost altogether, but that sense is suppressed, and ignored. God still addresses man through creation, but man in sin cannot and will not listen. The created environment has been deeply affected by the fall. Creation is subject to entropy and decay on a universal scale (Romans 8:20). As far as earth is concerned, this present evil age is characterised by natural disaster, disease and death. A vivid example of this can be seen in the floods that have devastated parts of England in recent days. Given all this, the arguments from design can only take us so far. Nature is now "red in tooth and claw". The world is not as it was originally made by God. If we argue from creation in its present state up to a Creator, then we have to say that he made the wasp to sting children at play and the cancer cells that rob people of their lives. There is still enough of God's goodness in creation to testify to his existence, power and care, but that is not the whole story. Even Psalm 104 recognises that creation, resplendent as it is with the glory of God, is marred by the presence of sin, "May sinners be consumed from the earth, and the wicked be no more." (vs. 34). An apologetic that wrests God's creative activity from the drama of the biblical story of creation, fall and redemption is deeply flawed. In terms of Paley's "watch", the timepiece was perfectly designed and constructed, but now it is broken. It still ticks away, but the face has been smashed and the casing is badly damaged. How it was broken and how it can be fixed is a matter not for arguments from design, but the biblical revelation of God's saving purposes in Christ.
God's gracious response to the fall was to announce that a "seed of the woman" will bruise the "serpent's head" (Genesis 3:15). The Creator proclaimed the good news of redemption from sin and its devastating effects. This "seed promise" is central to the Old Testament plot-line. This is made especially clear in the covenant that God made with Abraham, that in his "seed" all nations of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 22:18 cf Galatians 3:16). The covenant is God's dramatic solution to the problem of a sin-cursed creation. The promise of a "seed" from Abraham's line is further narrowed down to a descendant of king David (2 Samuel 7:12&13).
The God who created the universe at the beginning has acted to restore his creation through Christ. Note that Paul deliberately echoes Genesis 1,
Monday, July 23, 2007
When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a
little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
earth below is sweeter green,
something lives in every hue,
Christless eyes have never seen.
Confessions by Augustine of Hippo, translated by Rex Warner, Signet Classics, repr 2001. I have a nice, small sized edition of this classic, which I leave in the car. I tend to read it when waiting to pick the kids up from an after school activity. Also, if I have an appointment with the Doctor or Dentist, I read it in the waiting room rather than old copies of Hello Magazine. With Augustine, waiting time is never wasted time.
The King of Torts by John Grisham, Arrow Books, 2003. I read Grisham's Testament while on holiday last summer and enjoyed it. This one was lent to me by a church member and I've read it intermittently over the last six months or so. Looks like I'll have to finish this one during our holiday too.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
2. Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858, Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth Trust, 1994.
3. Pentecost Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival, Iain H. Murray, Banner of Truth Trust, 1988.
4. Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England, Jonathan Edwards, Works Volume 1, repr Banner of Truth Trust, 1984.
5. Revival: A People saturated with God, Brian H. Edwards, Evangelical Press, 1990.
6. Revival Comes to Wales: The Story of the 1859 Revival in Wales, Eifion Evans, Evangelical Press of Wales, 1986.
7. The Welsh Revival of 1904, Eifion Evans, Evangelical Press of Wales, 1984.
8. Fire on the Altar: A history and evaluation of the 1904-05 Welsh Revival, Noel Gibbard, Bryntirion Press, 2005.
9. Fire in the Thatch, Eifion Evans, Evangelical Press of Wales, 1996.
10. Historical Collections of Accounts of Revivals, John Gillies, repr Banner of Truth Trust, 1981.
O Lord, revive your work
in the midst of the years!
In the midst of the years
make it known;
In wrath remember mercy.
Friday, July 13, 2007
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
* The wishlist suggestion isn't meant to be taken too seriously - but it may help!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
GD: Hello and welcome, Danny. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
DF: Hello Guy! I was born and raised in Liverpool, England, and am an only child. I have been married for the last twenty years, have four children (two of each), and have been in full time pastoral ministry for the last 12 years. Prior to that I spent ten years working in staff management, training, and operating counselling services in Jobcentres in Liverpool, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Manchester, and back again in Liverpool. I first pastored down in Port Talbot in South Wales, at Bethlehem Sandfields for just under six years, and have now been here in South Cheshire at Wheelock Heath Baptist Church for the last six. I am an FIEC Associate, and a convinced Reformed Baptist. I read, listen to music, and support a fine football team.
GD: Your blog is called "Iconoblog". Please explain.
DF: I can’t remember to be honest. I have been saddled with the name for a long time and wish I could easily change it. Unfortunately, people remember it. I would prefer to title it Coram Deo, but someone has that already… I am open to suggestions!
GD: Why did you start blogging?
DF: I sometimes wonder. Originally I began blogging anonymously as an exercise in diary keeping, but that has evolved through several stages over the last couple of years. My blog content has swung between simply being a news vehicle for friends and family to keep in touch, a jotter for theological thinking and practical theological application, some cultural commentary, and in recent times, a Pastor’s Blog attached to our church website. I think it is probably still all of those things.
GD: What have you found most enjoyable about blogging?
DF: The surprising value it has in keeping people in touch with our situation, developing new friendships, and the way that it allows immediate and direct commentary on all sorts of items. When I do write posts that are intended to stimulate and encourage discussion, I have enjoyed the subsequent interaction around God’s word. Some of my postings on Children and Preaching, Harry Potter, and The Passion of the Christ for example have allowed me some very useful conversations.
GD: What are some of the dangers of blogging?
DF: Apart from the obvious potential for self-centeredness, time wasting, posting without adequate thought and then regretting it, unhelpful polemics…? I think one of the dangers I hadn’t anticipated is that you allow people to see you as a person with interests and opinions. Not every reader understands that their pastor is almost as normal as they are – and that can lead to interesting conversations…
GD: Tell us how you became aware of a call to the Ministry of the Word.
DF: I was saved from dead religion when I was just 15. Having been an Anglican choir boy with extreme double standards, I knew lots of religious terminology but had no understanding of the saving work of Christ at the cross. Once I had been born again, I had an almost immediate desire for Christian ministry. At 16 I approached my pastor with that conviction, and he wisely encouraged and counselled me, and in the course of the next 4 years or so, buddied me with several elders who helped define my theological reading and thinking, devotional habits, and channelling of gifts into Christian service. I valued that mentoring process, as it allowed my meaningful contact with men who gave me time, feedback and guidance both in areas of belief and behaviour. In due course, I was encouraged to speak at meetings in my home church, preach at times there, and begin some itinerant preaching opportunity with their recommendation.
GD: Where did you train for the Christian Ministry?
DF: At the age of 23, the elders recommended me to the Evangelical Movement of Wales Theological Training Course. Although learning and studying alongside a full-time job, responsibilities as a church officer in a growing church, and being a young husband and father was difficult, it allowed me to continue to work to support my family while exploring the potential of a call to ministry. I appreciated that, although with hindsight, would have much preferred to study full time. I commenced an MA in Pastoral Theology with ETCW (now WEST) a few years ago that I am now, God willing, about to finally and properly get my teeth into.
GD: Best wishes with your studies. What is the most important lesson that you learned from your ministerial training?
DF: Study full time if you can. I guess that studying in the way that I did was a preparation for the fact that the majority of ministers – particularly in the UK perhaps - have to juggle numerous balls for most of their ministerial lives, with the constant feeling that one is a Jack of All Trades, but Master of very few. I wish I were a better visitor, counsellor, preacher, prayer warrior, church historian, developer of young men, theologian, evangelist, team leader, manager of other pastoral staff, creative thinker and strategist… Doubtless those desires reside in all of us and none would have been solved by my studying full time.
GD: What does your family think of your blogging habit?
DF: Although I do try to blog as often as I can, I’m not sure that my frequency allows such an appellation. I tried for some time to encourage them to develop an interest in posting to our family blog, but to no avail. They accept it as another of my many idiosyncrasies.
GD: You were pastor at Sandfileds Aberavon, where Lloyd-Jones' was the minister in the 1920's & 30's. That must have been interesting. What was it like, being an Englishmen in the heart of Welsh evangelicalism?
DF: When I was in Wales, I would occasionally hear it said that English pastors are not accepted as readily as their Welsh brothers. I have to say that was never my experience. I was welcomed with open arms and with a generous spirit by my ministerial colleagues and by their churches. Despite being an English Reformed Baptist in his first pastoral charge, with firm cessationist convictions and some abiding questions regarding the phenomenon of revival, I was very blessed by the love I was shown. Speaking culturally and theologically, the emphasis in some quarters of Welsh reformed evangelicalism upon tradition, the suspicion of some regarding certain bible translations & movements in hymnody, and the occasional unwillingness to give ground on secondary matters was at times frustrating. I greatly valued my ministry at Sandfields, and also the opportunities I was afforded for much wider involvement.
GD: How do you evaluate Lloyd-Jones' continuing influence over evangelicalism?
DF: I love Lloyd-Jones. I own pretty much all that has been printed and have read a great deal of it. Pastoring the congregation where he began his ministry was quite daunting, as his memory in many ways could still be strongly felt – I asked the church to remove all the photographs of him and his deacons from the vestry when it became my study as it was a little difficult to have him watching me every day! His influence has been very extensive, hasn’t it? He epitomised expository preaching, lifted God before men’s eyes, and modelled a serious and thinking Christianity that was in fellowship with the church of the ages. He was God’s man to raise a significant rallying cry amongst evangelicals. It strikes me that we currently lack a man of his stature in the UK. If you go to the States, there are several men who could fill that role – John Piper, John MacArthur, Al Mohler – but we are without such a figure I think.
I do think that the ongoing ripples from the events at Keele in 1967 have not all been helpful. I love my Anglican friends – I cannot understand why they remain Anglican, but I value them and learn much from them. We must be careful not to be smug or ghettoised (is that a word?) in our independency. Surely Lloyd Jones would never have wanted that. My other concern is that he is at times quoted with undue reverence and imbued by some with excessive weight. Our brother taught us much and we ought to give thanks. He is now in the glory and fresh challenges face us – he was so gifted, but is not our final authority. John Brencher’s little book ‘Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Twentieth Century Evangelicalism’ was not as unhelpful as some have suggested, and brings some balance to our understanding of this tremendous man of God.
GD: I have heard of, but not read the Brencher book. Like you, I owe a huge debt to "The Doctor". But I find it a bit depressing that sometimes when his opinions are cited, all discussion is brought to an end. We need to face the issues of our day is in a way that is faithful to Scripture just as he did in his day. But talking of Lloyd-Jones' infulence, how do you view the Welsh emphasis on revival?
DF: I believe we have a sovereign God who is in complete control. He is the only one who can revive the church of Christ and awaken godless societies to life. We cannot work up revival, and I believe we must reject Finneyism out of hand. I observe in my reading of history that the extraordinary work of God by his Holy Spirit is at times greater than others, and that currently we are in leaner days in the West. I pray and long for God to stir his church and sovereignly send a greater and more manifest expression of his blessing upon us. I think I would share all of those convictions with my Welsh brothers. However, I am sometimes concerned that there is an excessive emphasis upon revival in some circles. If our belief in revival and our anticipation of a greater move of God stirs us to love him more, work for him harder, pray with greater fervour, and evangelise with greater urgency, then I am right behind it! If, however, its absence discourages us to inactivity, leans us toward hyper-calvinism and instils in us an unhealthy historical nostalgia that lauds the past and despises the present, then I am less helped.
GD: Yes, should long and pray for revival and be active for the gospel in our present situation. You are now pastor of Wheelock Heath Baptist Church. What encouragements have you known and what challenges are you facing?
DF: We have known some growth in recent years, for which we are very thankful. Some of that has been through conversions, and some through the arrival of new friends from other parts of the country and believers leaving more Charismatic or liberal causes seeking a Reformed expository ministry that seeks to disciple folk in the Word and creatively reach the communities in which we live. Due to space constraints and other strategic reasons, 18 months ago we left our church building on Sunday mornings and began meeting in a local Secondary School. Since then we have continued to grow – but with growth comes challenges! Maintaining, discipling and mobilising a congregation that is theologically diverse can be a real challenge. We value your prayers. In particular, we would value prayer for our current Asst Pastor Ben Griffin who leaves us for missionary service with UFM in August, and the arrival of our new Asst Pastor Gary Aston who begins in September. We hope to appoint additional elders by the end of the year also.
GD: That's encouraging. What have you found to be most effective in evangelistic outreach?
DF: Having an Evangelistic Action Team that creatively promotes and spearheads our evangelistic outreach! Committed people who love souls and stimulate us to do the same. We have particularly been encouraged by running Men’s Breakfasts and Ladies’ Outreach evenings.
GD: Who was the most influential figure in your theological development?
DF: In person? Stuart Olyott taught me to love the Bible, and my pastor in Liverpool, Bill Bygroves taught me to love people. In print? Hendriksen’s commentaries, and almost everything put out by Banner or Evangelical Press. The first book I ever read was The Sovereignty of God by A W Pink. What a classic!
GD: Who has taught you most about preaching?
DF: In my developmental years, Stuart Olyott and Bill Bygroves. More recently, I have listened a great deal to John Piper, Art Azurdia, and John MacArthur.
GD: Some good role models there. I notice from your blog that you are a John Frame fan. I've just read his Salvation Belongs to the Lord and appreciated it very much. I hope to get into Theology of Lordship series, when I've got enough pocket money. What is it about Frame that you find so helpful.
DF: He writes well, is really incisive, and warms my heart as he fills my mind! He leaves me with a sense of God.
GD: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing evangelicalism today?
DF: I am sure there are many far more qualified than I am to answer that. Some are obvious – the crumbling of so-called evangelicals in the face of challenges over the atonement is troubling. The rush at all costs to adopt seeker-sensitivity or emergent themes bothers me. The retreat of some evangelicals into disputes over secondary matters and the mutual labelling and libelling of Reformed ministers saddens me. The apathy of many Christians in the UK while paganism and secularism are rampant is appalling. I think the UK is faced by the need to express a robustly reformed and confessional Christianity in terms that people can understand, and for us to grasp the nettle of appropriate fellowship and co-operation with those who share almost all of our distinctives, yet who differ in secondary concerns. Reaching lost people – what a challenge that is! The encroachment of Islam, the influx of post-Soviet bloc immigrants… the list is endless.
GD: We do face some huge challenges. How we need God's grace and wisdom to deal with them effectively. Right, what is the most helpful work of theology that you have read in the last twelve months. It is a must read because....
DF: Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics – because he is simply outstanding.
GD: Tell us your top three songs or pieces of music
DF: Far too difficult! I can tell you my top three from this week if you like…
Symphony 6 by Vagn Holmboe
Freedom Fields by Seth Lakeman
Through the Window Pane by The Guillemots
GD: Interesting. My top three would change from week to week too. Lastly, which blogs do you enjoy reading most and why?
DF: Tim Challies and Green Baggins because they are so clear and insightful. Oh, and this one.
GD: Well, thanks very much for this conversation, Danny. It's been great talking to you.
This concludes the present set of interviews. Blogging in the name of the Lord will hopefully return for a new series in early 2008.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
1. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1982) & The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1990) by Iain H. Murray.
Monday, July 09, 2007
MH: Born in England of Irish and Kurdish parents, I am currently the Principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary, Toronto, Ontario. I have just accepted an offer to become Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in January of 2008.
I am the author of a number of books, including: The Spirit of God: The Exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians in the Pneumatomachian Controversy of the Fourth Century (E. J. Brill, 1994); One heart and one soul: John Sutcliff of Olney, his friends, and his times (Evangelical Press, 1994); ‘At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word’: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist (Paternoster Press, 2004), and Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005). Most recently I have been writing some books on spirituality, one on the spirituality of Alexander Whyte, one on that of Edwards, and just recently one on Hercules Collins’ piety. These are published by Reformation Heritage Books in Grand Rapids.
I and my family attend Trinity Baptist Church, Burlington, Ontario, where I am also an elder.
GD: Congratulations on your appointment at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. May the Lord bless you in this new sphere of service. Your blog is called "Historica Ecclesiastica", what made you start blogging?
MH: I read Hugh Hewitt’s Blog which convinced that as a Christian leader I needed to be blogging.
GD: What have you found most enjoyable about blogging?
MH: Being able to share some reflections on church history with a larger audience than my books or speaking.
GD: What are some of the dangers of blogging?
MH: Wasting time—it is so very easy for hours to pass before you know it. I try to be disciplined in my time in this regard.
GD: Why should Christians be interested in Church history?
MH: Our identity is bound up with the past. We cannot know where we are going if we do not know where we have come from.
GD: For evangelicals, it often seems that church history began in the first century and then disappeared for 1500 years, only to re-emerge at the Reformation. What are we missing when we neglect the patristic and medieval periods of church history?
MH: We are missing tons. The early Church Fathers did theology in a pagan environment which ours is increasingly approximating. We can learn much from them. They and those in the fourth century hammered out a theology of the Trinity and addressed canon issues that are so vital to us. And with regard to the Middle Ages, we cannot understand the Reformation if we do not know that era. And there are some gems in it: J Wycliffe, Anselm, Aelred of Rievaulx.
GD: You wrote a book on three key Calvinistic Baptists - Kiffin, Knollys and Keach. What is the main lesson that these Baptist pioneers have to teach us?
MH: Their passion for biblical truth even to the cost of their lives.
GD: What role should historic creeds and confessions play in contemporary theological reflection?
MH: In my mind much. Christianity is not Christianity if it is not confessional. And the creeds of the early church are central to who we are—they are not infallible, but they are normative under Scripture. No creed but the Bible is a failure to understand the doctrinal emphasis of the faith that needs to be encapsulated in a short compass for Christian witness and expression.
GD: I read somewhere that you had a portrait of John Wesley hung in the lobby of Toronto Baptist Seminary. What do you, a Calvinistic Baptist, so admire about Wesley?
MH: His zeal for evangelism, his determination to reach the poor (so much of our evangelicalism is comfortable middle-class religion—and I do not use the word religion as a bad word), his love for souls (even though he admitted he always needed more love). And his love for singing and his publishing his brother’s hymns.
GD: Could you recommend a few books that serve as an introduction to church history?
MH: Timothy Dowley’s Introduction to the History of Christianity is a great starter.
GD: Name your top three songs or pieces of music.
MH: Oh this is very difficult as I have so many I like. Maybe better are composers/musicians: Charles Wesley’s hymns, those of Joseph Hart and John Newton and Robert Robinson’s Come Thou Fount. Trevor Francis’ O the deep love of Jesus. I love the Baroque composers like Bach and Scarlatti and Pachelbel. But I also like blues! Interesting and very eclectic.
GD: Have you seen the Wilberforce biopic, Amazing Grace? If so, did you enjoy it?
MH: Yes. And yes and no. Yes, it was great to see Hollywood deal with such a theme. I was saddened Wilberforces’ Christian faith was not as explicit. But that is Hollywood. And there were some big historical bloopers—like the link of Amazing Grace and the slave trade, which did not exist.
GD: Who was the most influential figure in your theological development?
MH: Martyn Lloyd-Jones. And then: men like Andrew Fuller and Samuel Pearce. And the Puritans and the fourth-century Fathers like Basil and Athanasius.
GD: That sounds interesting. Now, what would you say is the biggest challenge facing evangelicalism today?
MH: Building genuine Christian communities of light and love.
GD: Lastly, which blogs do you enjoy reading most and why?
MH: Another difficult question because I have a quite a number. Love Justin Taylor’s, and Albert Mohler’s and that of Russell Moore—all extremely informative and the latter two also provocative. I like my friend’s Kirk Wellum’s. Free St George’s because of his love of history. But these are only five of about ten or twelve.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Thursday, July 05, 2007
N.T. Wight's ordo salutis here.
Samuel Rutherford and the limits of toleration here.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
by Frederick S. Leahy, Banner of Truth Trust, 2006, 207pp.
This work is packed full of sane, pastoral wisdom and is the product of a passionately God-centred theology. Leahy demonstrates how the sovereignty of God is deeply relevant to every area of life. He makes penetrating application of Biblical teaching to contemporary issues such as the environment and materialism. His main aim is to comfort and strengthen the people of God. Life in this fallen world can sometimes be very difficult and baffling. Leahy deals sensitively with the problem of suffering and evil and assures us that God is in control of all events. The Lord may use suffering to chasten and discipline us, but he always does so in love, for our eternal benefit.
In this book, readers will find robustly Biblical teaching on God’s sovereignty in salvation and good, practical discussion of issues like guidance and Christian service. At a time when many Christians seem to shy away from all talk of hell, Leahy writes honestly and compassionately about the final judgement. The chapter, The Hand That Judges is shot through with urgent, evangelistic appeal, making this book useful to unbelievers as well as Christians.
Fredrick Leahy’s experiences as Minister of the Gospel, theological teacher and popular writer find fine expression in this, his final book. The writer was called to glory in January 2006.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
From Preaching and Preachers p. 324, Hodder and Stoughton, 1985.