Monday, May 31, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Than which nothing greater can be conceived? A Christo-Ontological proposal

The so-called "Ontological Argument" was formulated by Anselm. He reasoned that as human beings have a conception of a perfect divine being than which nothing greater can be conceived, then that perfect divine being must exist, otherwise where would the idea of his existence come from? It is fair to say that his argument is not the most convincing when it comes to persuading sceptics of the existence of God. Indeed, it is deeply problematic in a number of ways. It begins with a human conception of God and reasons up to the actual existence of a divine being. Thus it lays itself open to Feuerbach's objection that belief in God is nothing more than the projection of human consciousness. In that case, theology is simply bigged up anthropology. So also Freud, who posited that belief in God is the expression of the need for father figure.

Even for Christians Anselm's Ontological Argument is less than satisfactory. It starts with man's idea of the divine rather than with God's self-revelation in creation and redemption. Also, while some might find Anselm's argument sufficient to convince them that some kind of supreme being exists, why should that supreme being be necessarily be identified with the the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? The supreme being may be a deist divinity, or Allah, or The Force, or who knows? Only by rather arbitrarily  supplementing his argument with the revelation of God in Holy Scripture could Anselm say that the supreme being greater than whom nothing can be conceived is the Lord God Almighty.

It is far better to begin with the presupposition that God is there and he is not silent. God has revealed himself in creation, providence and redemption. As his image bearers, human beings have an in-built sense of God, although the sensus divinitas may be suppressed and ignored due to the noetic effects of sin. Knowledge of God the Redeemer is revealed in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh for our salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit. Holy Scripture records and interprets the redemptive acts of the God. But the Bible gives us far more than information. In Holy Scripture we have the communicative action of the triune God. Here God the Father speaks through his Son by his Spirit in order to incorporate his people in drama of redemption. The Speaking God is Creator and Redeemer. That is the basic starting point for Christian belief.

Where then does all this leave old Anselm and his Ontological Argument? When used to try and prove the existence of a "bog standard" god it isn't up to much. But when set within the context of God's self presentation in Holy Scripture, it might have some persuasive power. However, this is not because it is possible for the unaided human mind to envision the God of the Gospel. The revelation of God given in the Bible is far greater than could ever be conceived by man. We never would have had an inkling of it apart from God making the mystery of the Gospel known through the prophets and apostles of the Old and New Testaments. Who would have posited that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that we might not perish but have everlasting life? Who could have thought that he who was the form of God would humble himself and take the form of a servant? Who might have imagined that the Lord of glory would willingly lay down his life for our sins, offering himself up to God through the eternal Spirit? Only by divine revelation could we ever come to realise that God is as wonderfully gracious as that, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10.

By his Ontological Argument Anselm hoped to give a reason for belief in a supreme being. As such his argument is scarcely persuasive. But perhaps there is some mileage in a Christo-Ontological Argument that is rooted in the witness of Scripture. God is there and he is not silent.  The God of the Gospel's being is in his communicative act. In these last days he has spoken by his Son.  "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory" (John 1:14). God with us as one of us. He stooped to take the burden of our guilt upon himself to set us free. Such things angels desire to look into and they should never cease to astound us and leave us gasping with amazement. The Gospel is so gloriously divine. You couldn't make it up. Nothing as great as the revelation of God in Christ could ever be conceived unless God had made it known.

O what matchless condescension
The eternal God displays,
Claiming our supreme attention
To his boundless works and ways;
His own glory
He reveals in gospel days.

In the person of the Saviour
All his majesty is seen,
Love and justice shine for ever;
And without a veil between,
We approach him,
And rejoice in his dear name.

Would we view his highest glory,
Here it shines in Jesus' face;
Sing and tell the pleasing story,
O ye sinners saved by grace;
And with pleasure
Bid the guilty him embrace.

In his highest work, redemption,
See his glory in a blaze;
Nor can angels ever mention
Aught that more of God displays.
Grace and justice
Here unite to endless days.

True tis sweet and solemn pleasure,
God to view in Christ the Lord;
Here He smiles and smiles for ever;
May my soul his name record
Praise and bless him,
And his wonders spread abroad.

William Gadsby, 1773-1844

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On my way to heaven by Mark Ashton

On my way to heaven: Facing death with Christ,
Mark Ashton, 10 Publishing, 2010, 26pp

Last Saturday we travelled to Harrow to visit my wife's father. He is dying cancer. It was sad to see him looking so weak and ill, but he is a Christian and is able to face the future with hope. This booklet was written by a man in just such a position. Anglican Vicar, Mark Ashton was diagnosed with inoperable and untreatable gallbladder cancer. He was given six to nine months to live. Here he tells the moving story of how he faced death as Christian believer.

Ashton reflects on his sadness at the thought of being torn from loved ones and the indignity of physical deterioration. With touching honesty he speaks of his character faults and besetting sins. Knowing that he was dying gave the writer a greater urgency in speaking to the lost of Christ and made him more determined to live for the Lord and walk closely with him.

What shines through above all is the way the resurrection of Christ enabled Ashton to confront the grave with hope. Not for him the empty bravado of My Way or the weak sentiment that the dead are "just in the next room". With biblical realism the writer saw death as "the last enemy" that severs body from soul and cuts us off from the land of the living. But this devastating foe has been defeated by Jesus. He  died and rose again so that all who believe in him might be forgiven and have everlasting life. Those who are united to Christ by faith will be raised immortal by the resurrection power of the Saviour.

This is an ideal booklet to give to anyone with a terminal illness. In these pages the non-believer will encounter the reality of the Christian hope. The believer will have his or her faith strengthened as they read the writer's testimony of God's grace to a dying man. I'll be sending my review copy to my father-in-law.

Avaliable from 10ofthose.com at 1 for £1.50 or 10 for £10.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An interview with Oliver Crisp


GD: Hello Oliver Crisp and welcome to Exiled Preacher. Please tell us a little about yourself.

OC: Well, I teach philosophical theology at the University of Bristol in the UK. I'm married to Claire and have three children: Liberty Alice (10), Elliot Anselm (8) and Mathilda Anais (3). Apart from theology and philosophy, I am keen on literature, music, art and walking. In my sparetime (of which there is very little with three children!) I like to paint a little.

GD: What made you want to be a theologian?

OC: Encountering Jesus.

GD: Great answer. How do you see the relationship between your work in academic theology and the Church's task of proclaiming the gospel?

OC: Theology that is not done in the service of the Church is seriously defective, in my view. Although I work in a so-called 'secular' university, I am very conscious of the need to address the Church in what I do. I hope that in some small way my own work may be of use to the Church through the trickle-down effect of students of theology and prospective ministerial candidates getting trained in theology and reading the sort of stuff I write. I have taught in both secular and confessional contexts in the UK and North America, and I think effective theological education is of vital importance for the life of the Church. If we want an educated and effective laity, we need an effective and educated clergy to teach them.

GD: You describe your new book God Incarnate [reviewed here] as a work of 'analytic theology'. What does that entail?

OC: Analytic theology is a way of doing theology using the aims and methods of analytic philosophy. The last quarter century has seen some terrific theology being done - increasingly by analytic philosophers. Analytic theology is about bringing this back into theology departments, using analytical rigor to pursue a properly theological (rather than philosophical) programme. Same method, different ends. Theology is always wedded to some sort of metaphysics. I am keen to see more analytic metaphysics in contemporary theology. It seems to me that such an approach has much in common with the tradition of western Christian theology. If one reads St Thomas or St Anselm or Turretin or Edwards one is quickly struck by how 'analytic' their theology actually is.

GD: How would you configure the relationship between Holy Scripture and the traditions of the Church?

OC: I've recently dealt with this in detail in the first chapter of my book, God Incarnate. I think that Scripture is the norming norm, the bedrock of all Christian theology. The 'tradition' consists in a cluster of different, subordinate norms, such as the catholic creeds, confessional statements (e.g. the Westminster Confession) and the works of particular theologians. But these are all subordinate to the Word of God.

GD: I have sometimes heard Evangelical preachers say that Jesus became a human person at the incarnation. Do you think that Evangelicals are sufficiently aware of the creedal heritage of the Church?

OC: No, I don't. The creedal heritage of the Church is very important. We cast it aside at our peril. Some evangelicals are very much embedded in the tradition (e.g. some Episcopalians or Lutherans or Presbyterians). But evangelicals in what we might loosely term 'non-confessional' traditions, such as some baptistic denominations, and charismatic/Pentecostal traditions tend to be less concerned about confessions, thinking they can simply leap over the tradition to Scripture. This is a mistake. We read Scripture in the household of faith, in company with the saints before us, not in isolation from them. And in so doing, we learn from our forebears (from their triumphs and their mistakes). It is folly and hubris to think one can set this great cloud of witnesses to one side in theologizing. Not that I think the fathers and Reformers of the Church trump Scripture. But they help us to understand Scripture better just as a teacher helps the student to understand matters that might be difficult to grasp were the student to be left alone with the class textbook.

GD: In the chapter on The Election of Christ you give attention to Karl Barth's attempt to reconfigure the doctrine of election. Barth's influence seems to be on the rise these days. Why do you think that may be?

OC: Because he is a theological titan. I am a critical, but I hope appreciative, reader of Barth. In some ways, I am more sympathetic to Barth than I used to be, though it is sometimes a sort of love-hate relationship! But Barth is a profound theologian by anyone's estimate, and someone worth wrestling with. One is unlikely to find any theologian with whom one concurs on every point of doctrine. Yet great theologians like Augustine or Anselm or Thomas or Calvin or Luther or Edwards or Barth are the sort of thinkers with whom we can engage with fruitful results. In some ways, Barth is frustrating and difficult. His language is hard, his way of expressing himself sometimes ponderous and pedantic. But he makes some very interesting and (I think) important contributions to theology. His doctrine of election is one such, although in point of fact, I think that there are several doctrines of election that can be found in his work not one. And although I disagree with the precise form his doctrine of election takes, I have learnt much from thinking through his understanding (or doctrines) of election. It has driven me back to the sources of the Reformed doctrine of election, to think through the precise shape of the doctrine once more. For that I am very grateful.

GD: Some aspects of the book are quite speculative. I'm thinking especially of the discussion of whether Jesus might have become man apart from the virgin birth and the idea of multiple incarnations. How do you square this speculative approach with your emphasis on Christology and the evangelion?

OC: I don't really see any conflict of interest here. Calvin often decries theological speculation in the Institutes. But he does plenty of it when it suits his purposes, as Paul Helm's recent work on Calvin has shown. So I am not convinced that all theological speculation is inappropriate - though some might be. The questions I address in the book which might be called 'speculative' are, I think, pushing at the limits of our understanding of what God reveals to us in Scripture. If we ask, 'What does it mean to say Jesus of Nazareth is God Incarnate?' we are already engaged in the sort of task I am interested in. Could God the Son have become human without a virgin birth? This is a question about the relationship between the fundamental act of God's self-revelation in Christ and the means by which he brings this self-revelation about. I think that is a legitimate theological question. As to multiple incarnations, this is another important matter, because it bears upon the question of the uniqueness of the Incarnation, and, by implication, the Christian gospel. Could there have been more than one such revelation? Could God reveal himself elsewhere, and at other times, in different ways from the way he has revealed himself to us in Christ? These are pressing questions in a world where religious pluralism, syncretism and downright relativism are live options.

GD: In some respects is analytic theology a retrieval of the methods of medieval scholasticism and Reformed Orthodoxy?

OC: Yes, you might think of it in that way. As I have already indicated, I think it is in keeping with much of this tradition of theology. I hope it is a legitimate successor to a scholastic or Reformed Orthodox approach. It seems to me that both the medivals and the Reformed (and Lutheran) orthodox have much to teach us today. There is a theological richness in their work that we have lost. Theirs is also an unapologetically dogmatic approach - what John Webster has recently called 'theological theology'. That is the sort of theology I am interested in. I am not concerned with paddling in the shallows of theology, spending all my time in methodological or apologetic matters. I am not terribly concerned with questions about whether we can do theology or not. I am interested in getting on with the job of doing theology in the service of the Church.

GD: In a footnote you say that there is no good theological reason for believing the zombies exist. What if you are wrong?

OC: That was supposed to be a bit lighthearted. I don't think there are any zombies ... but, you know, I could be wrong! As a matter of fact, I shall be teaching on this subject in the autumn. There are non-trivial issues in the neighbourhood here, which contemporary philosophy of mind has raised. For instance, what is consciousness? How can we tell that an individual is conscious, and not simply fashioned in order to imitate consciousness such as (one might suppose) a zombie does? Consciousness, the image of God and the soul - even, whether we have souls - these are closely related matters which cross the boundaries between neuroscience, philosophy and theology. And such issues are front-and-centre of much cutting edge contemporary research. So there is also a non-trivial aspect to my quip about zombies as well. You might think of zombies as a sort of test-case that makes us think more carefully about these matters.

GD: Zombie theology. Cool! Now, if time travel were possible, which figure from church history would you most like to meet, and what would you say to him/her?

OC: I'm not sure time travel is impossible. Certainly time travel to the future seems physically possible, given a sufficiently advanced technology. It is very difficult to isolate one voice from the great chorus of those who have gone before us as THE person I would like to meet if I had the chance. But in my top five (and in reverse diachronic order) would be Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Thomas Aquinas, Anselm of Canterbury, Augustine of Hippo. Asking me to choose between these would be difficult indeed, but perhaps St Anselm would be ahead by a whisker. As to what I would say to him, I think I would ask him about his idea of ratio fidei (the reason of faith) or about his doctrine of free will, which is very perplexing. But more than that I would love to go to a service of worship with him. Singing the psalms with the Benedictines in Canterbury Cathedral sounds very appealing.

GD: You are an artist and the cover of God Incarnate features your painting, "Jesus of Nazareth". What is the theological reasoning behind your attempt to portray Christ in that way? I mean, isn't it Nestorian to try and depict Jesus' humanity apart from his divine person?

OC: It would only be Nestorian if I said 'this is a picture of a human person called Jesus of Nazareth'. But this is not supposed to be a portrait of a human person; it is supposed to be a portrait of God incarnate. So I'm not really sure why this is Nestorian. I think more Protestants should read St John of Damascus' Three Treatises on the Divine Images. There is much more there to challenge Protestant sensibilities about religious art that one might think. As to the theological reasoning for my portrait of Christ, I wanted to depict Jesus as a Semite (not a white European) and in an aspect that emphasized the seriousness of dealing with the God-man. I was tired of seeing the sort of saccharine, 'Gentle Jesus, meek and mild' portraits of Christ one often sees in popular religious devotion and on the cover of books.

GD: Care to name your top three songs/pieces of music?

OC: That is a tough one, because I really love music of many different sorts. But, for now, these three come to mind:
- Lotti's Crucifixus: short and sublime.
- Bach's St Matthew's Passion: moving and achingly beautiful.
- The medieval pilgrim songs collected in the album ‘On The Way to Bethlehem’, especially Dinerasade, Melvana and Mari Stanko.

GD: What is the most helpful work of theology that you have read in the last twelve months? It is a must read because...

OC: Jonathan Edwards, The End of Creation in Paul Ramsey, ed. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 8, Ethical Writings (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989). To my mind, this is surely the most sublime account of the motivation God has for creating the world ever penned by human hand. It is by turns intellectually stimulating and deeply moving as a piece of spiritual, as well as philosophical theology.

GD: Do you ever read theology blogs, if so which ones do you enjoy and have you ever thought of entering the field? "Crisp Theology" would be a great moniker.

OC: I do read theology blogs. In fact, I was introduced to them by my friend Ben Myers, whose blog, Faith & Theology I check most days. I do enjoy his posts. I also drop in on the Prosblogion sometimes, and on other blogs too, mostly philosophical or theological (e.g. Brian Leiter, Paul Helm's Helm's Deep; Robin Parry's Theological Scribbles; Steve Holmes's Shored Fragments amongst others). I must say I find it a fascinating medium. I have not seriously entertained the notion of entering the field myself, though. I'm not sure that I would not have enough of interest to say!

GD: Not having something of interest to say isn't something that unduly perturbs a lot of theology bloggers. But moving swiftly on, what is the biggest problem facing Evangelicalism today and how should we respond?

OC: What a question! I am not sure I am qualified to answer it. But one considerable problem (perhaps not the greatest, but a large one) is the intellectual torpor of much of evangelicalism. Too much of the time we simply don't know our theology or intellectual heritage well enough. That generates real problems because shallow theology means, more often than not, shallow spirituality. Robin Parry in his book Worshipping Trinity makes this point really well when he says that too many evangelical Christians he speaks to are effectively binitarians, not Trinitarians. Their understanding of the Trinity is borderline heretical. It would be incredible to think that someone might be romantically involved with someone else, and yet not care about finding out who that person was, or what they were like. But too many evangelicals seem to adopt just this sort of attitude to God: we want to worship but we don't want to know about him. Being a Christian involves loving God with heart, soul and mind. The first two are crucial, of course, but the last thing is not an optional extra. I think we need to recover our theological heritage and our sapiential love of God. This is the sort of Christian eudaimonism one finds in so many great theologians from Anselm to Edwards, for whom loving God is a holistic affair, not a matter of separating out heart and mind. If contemporary evangelicals did more of this, we might find ourselves surrounded by a far larger cloud of witnesses than we were expecting. For we will find that St Thomas and St Anselm are standing right alongside Edwards, Luther and Calvin in their adoration of the one Triune God.

GD: Now there's a thought to end on. Thanks for this fascinating conversation, Oliver. All the best! Bye.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology by Oliver Crisp

God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology,  by Oliver Crisp, T&T Clark, 2009, 191pp

The fact that in Jesus Christ we have one who is both God and Man constitutes one of the high mysteries of the Christian faith.  The way in which we describe the relation between the divine and human in the incarnate Son of God requires careful thought and theological sensitivity. What Crisp offers here is a study in important aspects of the doctrine of Christ from the perspective of analytic theology. Analytic theology as defined by the author entails a way of doing theology that employs the tools of analytic philosophy. Basically that means a theological method that utilizes rigorous logical argumentation in order to clarify the truth. This does not mean that human reason may prescribe what is acceptable in  divine revelation. In Crisp's hands analytic theology is an exercise in faith seeking a clearer understanding of the self-revelation of God in Holy Scripture.

It has to be said that Crisp is not attempting to develop anything approaching a complete Christology in these pages (were such a project even possible given the subject). Rather than sketching out the main components of the doctrine of Christ, the scholar has chosen to give detailed attention to selected Christological issues. The current work is a compaion volume to Crisp's earlier foray into Christology, Divinity and Humanity: The Incarnation Reconsidered, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

The book's opening chapter is devoted to Christological Method. Crisp makes it clear that Scripture is the "norming norm" for the theological task. But that does not entail a solo scriptura approach that neglects the rich creedal and theological inheritance of the church. The ecumenical creeds such as the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Definition do not have the same authority as Scripture. But they carry weight as they give expression to the consensus of the Catholic Church as she was led by the Holy Spirit to respond heresies concerning the Trinity and the Person of Christ. The views of key Christian theologians also aught to be taken into account, especially such "Doctors of the Church" as Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and John Calvin. But the opinions of the theologians are subject to the critical authority of Scripture and do not have the same clout as the ecumenical creeds. Also under the heading of method the author wonders whether the categories of Christology from 'above' and  'below', and 'high' and 'low' Christology  are as meaningful as is sometimes assumed. Crisp offers a biblically and creedally orthodox analytic Christology in which aspects of the doctrine of Christ are probed and discussed for the sake of the gospel. At least that is his professed aim. Whether some features of his treatment of the doctrine of Christ, I'm thinking especially of the chapter on Multiple Incarnations strictly have anything to do with the proclamation of the evangelion is a matter to which I will return.

Having set our his basic approach, Crisp then proceeds to give chapter length treatments of a number of Christological themes. Discussing The Election of Jesus Christ, the theologian asks whether it is appropriate to speak of Christ as the ground of the believer's election. In keeping with his 'theology of retrieval' Crisp's handling of the relevant biblical materials is informed by a discussion of what older Reformed writers had to say on this subject. His proposal that Christ is the Elect One in whom the people of God are elected for salvation attempts to take on board some of Karl Barth's concerns with the traditional Reformed doctrine of election. But this does not mean that Crisp succumbs to Barth's problematic reconfiguration of election that tends towards universalism.

In The Pre-Existence of Christ the writer subjects influential systematic theologian Robert Jenson's ideas on Christ's pre-existence to critical scrutiny. Deploying the logical rigour of his analytical theology Crisp exposes the incoherence of Jensen's suggestion that the Logos was never asarkos, that is without flesh. He summarises, "Crucial to what Jenson says here is that God is future to himself and only thereupon past and present. Similarly in the Incarnation it is the futurity of the Son that is somehow 'prior' to the Incarnation and it is in this futurity that the Son is eternally begotten by the Father. But it is difficult indeed to know what to make of this." (p. 74). Quite.

Two chapters are devoted to the virgin birth of Christ. In The 'Fittingness' of the Virgin Birth Crisp posits that the Son could have assumed a sinless human nature apart from virginal conception. But as the writer concludes, the biblical data points to the virgin birth, which was also a fittingly unique way of God becoming man. I would be prepared to argue that the virgin birth was not only fitting, it was also necessary. By virtue of his virginal conception Christ was not born in Adam after whose likeness all naturally generated human beings are begotten, (Genesis 5:3 cf. Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:12). As John Owen put it, "Being not begotten by natural generation, it [Jesus' human nature] derived no taint of original sin or corruption from Adam". (Works III p. 168). Christ's human nature was the product of Mary's ovum plus the genetic material (including the male Y chromosome) miraculously supplied by the Holy Spirit. He was conceived of the 'substance' of the virgin Mary (Westminster Confession of Faith, VIII:2) and so is one with us in his humanity. But in the virginal conception there is also a discontinuity and newness that is needful for Jesus as the last Adam, the head of God's new humanity. Donald Macleod reflects, "Adam did not beget Christ. The Lord’s existence has nothing to do with Adamic desire or Adamic initiative. Christ is new. He is from outside. He is not a derivative from, or branch of Adam." (The Person of Christ p. 410). On that basis, the virginal conception of Christ was more than fitting, it was necessary.

The fascinating relationship between Christology and bioethics is discussed in Christ and the Embryo. If human life (in Christian theology this means ensouled human life, not just biological life) does not begin at conception, then Christ was not fully human from conception. If we hold that ensoulment happens some time after conception, then in Christ's case that would entail an interim Apollinarian account of the incarnation where the divine Logos albeit temporarily took the place of Jesus' human soul. Apollinarianism is a heresy, ruling out this version of the enfleshment of Christ. Of course there is a difference between the humanity of Christ and the humanity of all other human beings. All other humans have a human nature and are human persons. The Son of God did not become a human person. That confuguration was the  error of Nestorianism which was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon. Rather Christ is a divine person with a human nature. Yet just as the Son assumed an ensouled humanity from the moment of the conception of his human nature, so also all other human beings are conceived in an ensouled state. With humans apart from Christ that means all human beings are human persons from conception. All this has obvious ethical implications for IVF, embryonic stem cell research and abortion.

Next up Crisp gives attention to the issue of whether Christ was de facto sinless or whether he was impeccable i.e. that it was impossible for him to sin. It is argued by those who hold to the sinless view that if Christ was impeccable, then his temptations were not genuine, which seems contrary to the biblical witness, e.g. Hebrews 4:15. But Crisp reasons that an impeccable Christ could still feel the 'pull' of temptation without him ever being in danger of sin due to the hypostatic union. The theologian concedes that in his humanity Christ had the 'capacity' to sin while that capacity could never have been realised. But an unrealisable capacity is hardly a capacity at all. It is best to say that while Christ faced genuine temptations, he could not have sinned because he was (and is) a divine person with a human nature.

Historic Christian theology teaches that human beings consist of body and soul or spirit. In terms of the incarnation, Chalcedonian Christology confesses that Christ took a full human nature including a body and  a 'rational soul'. However, some recent theologians have questioned the standard 'substance dualist' view of human nature. While they believe in both spiritual and material realms in respect of God and the rest of creation, they hold to a materialist account of human life. Prima facie this seems to suggest an Appolinarian Christology. But Crisp argues that this need not be so. Even in the case of a materialist conception of human nature, human mental life is not reducible to mere physical impulses in the brain. However, in the end the writer opts for the standard 'substance dualist' view, that human beings including the incarnate Christ have both material bodies and spiritual souls. Crisp reaches this conclusion by a process of analytical reasoning within the parameters of orthodox Christology. That is all well and good, but if Scripture is indeed the 'norming norm', then surely the Bible should be allowed to determine the viability of materialist anthropology and Christology. Little or no attention was given to key biblical texts that speak to this matter such as Matthew 10:28 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Also it should be factored in that according to Scripture conscious human life continues after physical death, 2 Corinthians 5:8, Philippians 1:23. It is hard to see how a materialist anthropology/Christology could be squared with the witness of Scripture.

Finally Crisp reflects on Thomas Aquinas' claim that there could be multiple incarnations, or that Christ could assume more than one human nature. He takes issue with Brian Hebblethwaite's poorly argued objections to Aquinas' view and then concludes that in fact the incarnation was a unique event. I appreciate Crisp's clear reasoning and his repeated insistence that in the incarnation the Son of God did not become a human person, but a divine person with a human nature. Preachers need to be absolutely clear about that point, which isn't always the case [see here]. Earlier in the book Crisp said that if Christology is not about the gospel, then it but sophistry and illusion. But I wonder what this discussion of multiple incarnations has to do with the proclamation of the gospel. If Scripture is taken seriously, then the singularity of the incarnation is self-evident. Why indulge scholastic speculations when the urgent task of the church is to announce the good news that Jesus came into the world to save sinners? A similar complaint could be made against Crisp's theorising on whether Christ could have become sinlessly incarnate apart from the virgin birth. When subjected to the 'preachability test' some aspects of Crisp's Christology fail to pass muster. In other words, for all its strengths, is analytical theology sufficiently attuned to the biblical evangelion?

See here for an interview with the author.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Who Runs Britain? by Robert Peston


Who Runs Britain? by Robert Peston, Hodder, 2008, 360pp.

Robert Peston is the BBC's Business Editor. You'll often see him on the news offering his insightful opinions on the world of business. His distinctive delivery style that has been likened to "a weary machine gun". It was Peston who broke the news on the collapse of Northern Rock back in 2007, signalling the beginning of the "credit crunch" in the the UK. Here he examines the background to the economic crisis that has saddled our country with unprecedented levels of public debt.

Peter Mandelson famously said that he was totally relaxed about people getting filthy rich. True to this sentiment, under New Labour the gap between rich and poor grew ever wider. In the Bair/Brown years more and more wealth and with it political influence has been concentrated in the hands of the super-rich. So much for Labour's promise to govern for the benefit of the "many and not the few". One of Peston's main thesis in this book is that Blair and Brown were overly concerned about being perceived as old style anti-business lefties. Not for them Denis Healey's determination to tax the rich "until the pips squeaked". When he was Chancellor, Gordon Brown  boasted of Labour's "light touch" approach to City regulation that allowed laissez faire capitalism to seemingly triumph. Embarrassingly in the wake of the recent recession, Brown often claimed that under Labour there would be "no more boom and bust." The fact that he was spectacularly wrong on that count is no doubt one of the reasons why he is now an ex-Prime Minister. 

Peston introduces us to some of the movers and shakers of the world of big business such as Philip Green, colourful head of the Arcadia group. Arcadia owns many of the big  high street names including BHS, Burtons, Debenhams and Top Shop. Green bought the retail group in 2002, investing a few million pounds of his own money. The outstanding capital was raised through a private equity deal financed largely by the Bank of Scotland. In 2005 the business magnate (or his wife - a tax exile) pocketed a nice little dividend of £1.2bn. Before the credit crunch put the kibosh on easy credit from the banks private equity deals meant big rewards for the likes of Green. Afraid scaring off the super-rich new capitalists, Labour allowed them to pay relatively little tax on their huge profits. Unlike conventional trading in stocks and shares that benefits pension funds and other investors, private equity deals have simply enriched the fortunate few. What Peston has to say on the fate of the pensions industry during during New Labour's thirteen years in power under the heading Who Stole Our Pensions? makes for rather grim reading.

The writer delves into the world of US sub-prime mortgages and the hedge funds that helped to finance them, thus inflating house prices in the States. The housing bubble burst when low income borrowers defaulted on their mortgages, leaving the banks with a gaping hole in their finances. Hence the credit crunch and with it the need for governments worldwide to invest billions of dollars/euros/pounds in refinancing the banks.

Peston exposes the political influence of the super-rich, exploring the murky "cash for peerages" scandal, where big donors to political parties were allegedly rewarded with seats in the House of Lords. Insidiously, the billionaire class holds governments to ransom, threatening to leave the UK for more tax-friendly countries should it be suggested that they pay their fair share into the public purse. Meanwhile ordinary people face having to pay more taxes and suffer cuts in public services due to the reckless, unregulated capitalism that helped to stuff the pockets of the private equity investors and hedge fund managers.

But perhaps the tide is turning. There are signs that the newly formed Lib-Con coalition is not so relaxed about the growing gap between the richest and poorest members of our society. In the public sector there are moves to ensure that the pay of top managers does not exceed twenty times the income the lowest paid workers. The coalition's deal on banking reform includes proposals on reducing risk, curbing unacceptable bonuses, the promotion of mutuals and tighter regulation of the City by the Bank of England.

More needs to be done to ensure that the most wealthy members of our society pay their fair share of tax, including currently tax exempt "non-doms". This would be more equitable than the suggested increase of VAT to 20%, a regressive form of taxation that  would disproportionately affect the less well off. Our economy needs to be less reliant on the financial whizz-bangery of the City with its ingenious ways of enriching a greedy few whose risky dealings left the taxpayer dangerously exposed when it all went wrong. The pursuit of wealth for its own sake is not a virtue to be rewarded. As the Good Book says, "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). Money should be put to good use, investing in entrepreneurial schemes and research and development projects that will help to rejuvenate British industry, creating highly skilled, meaningful work for ordinary people. We'll have to see if the Lib-Cons will run Britain any better than the Nu-Labs.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Remythologizing politics


Andrew Roycroft offers one final thought on the General Election.
Cranmer thinks that Lib-Con deal is a good thing, here.
Catch up with Anglican theologian Philip Blond, the 'Red Tory' of ResPublica. He's the ideas man behind Cameron's 'Big Society'.  
Paul Helm kicks off his review series on Kevin Vanhoozer's Remythologizing Theology.
Thanks to Cambridge University Press for kindly sending me a review copy of the above.
Have a look at Mostyn Roberts' new blog, Harp from the Willows.
Michel Bird on Music in the Wee Frees.
Garry Williams of the John Owen Centre interviews Dick Gaffin and Ian D. Campbell.
The Protestant Truth Society's website has been revamped.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

EMW Aberystwyth Conference 2010

Check out the Evangelical Movement of Wales Aber Conference, 7-14 August. The main speaker will be Dale Ralph Davis, well known for his excellent commentaries on the historical books of the Old Testament. Other speakers include: Gareth Williams, Martin Downes, Bill James, Steve Brady, Stuart Olyott and Hywel Jones. We'll be there as a family and I'll be representing the PTS at the Missions Exhibition. Here's the brochure.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Jesus You Can't Ignore by John MacArthur

The Jesus You Can't Ignore: What you must learn from the bold confrontations of Christ,
by John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2008, 219pp.

John MacArthur’s main thesis in this book is this: In order to placate postmodern dislike of dispute over truth claims, contemporary Evangelicalism has largely stopped contending for the faith. The writer does not want a return to pugnacious Fundamentalism that fights tooth and nail over the minutiae of theology. He is aware of what the Bible says on correcting error with patience and grace. But he seeks to shock Evangelicalism out of its wishy-washy approach towards false teaching. The author does this by setting before the reader Christ the controversialist.

Jesus did not shy away from confronting error head on. Indeed he often went out of his way to provoke false teachers. He publicly denounced their errors and excoriated them for their vile hypocrisy. Appeasement and accommodation were not options for Jesus. MacArthur walks the reader through Christ’s key confrontations with the Scribes and Pharisees and encourages us to follow in the footsteps of the Master in exposing error and warning of its dangers.

The book is well written in a clear, punchy and engaging style. The biblical materials are handled skilfully, placing the reader in the heat of the controversy between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. MacArthur offers a decidedly “old perspective” reading of the teaching of Jesus’ first century Jewish opponents. The work is none the poorer for that. His premillenial predilections intrude only occasionally and so don’t detract from the value of this volume amongst those who, like me don’t share MacArthur’s eschatological views.

As MacArthur points out in an epilogue, taking their cue from the Lord Jesus the apostles also defended the faith and confronted the false teachers who infiltrated the fledgling Christian Church. Gospel-denying error simply cannot be tolerated amongst the people of God. The letters to the seven Churches recorded in Revelation 2-3 reveal that the risen Christ is still concerned to root out false teaching and ungodly conduct among his people. The battle for truth isn’t over yet. This is no time to place the sword of the Spirit in its scabbard. The Jesus You Can't Ignore is a timely reminder of the constant need to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Soldiers of Christ arise and put your armour on!

Thanks to Forrester McGowan for a complimentary review copy of this book. Order from PTS Christian Bookshop.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Some thoughts on hearing Lloyd-Jones preach (on CD)


Some time ago I read and reviewed Lloyd-Jones Messenger of Grace by Iain H. Murray. But I didn't listen to the audio CD of a sermon on John 8:21-24 that came with the book until tonight. I never got to hear Lloyd-Jones "live", as I was converted a few years after his death. But as a young Christian I frequently used to listen to "the Doctor's" messages on cassette. Indeed, in my first attempts at preaching I found myself trying to ape the preacher. That obviously wasn't a good thing so I stopped listening to his sermons in an attempt to find a style of my own. I carried on reading stuff by and about him in the meantime, but for about twenty years or so Lloyd-Jones' voice fell silent to me.

However, this evening, almost on impulse I found myself reaching for Messenger of Grace, prizing the CD from its jacket attached to the back cover of the book and listening to it on my PC. The message and the manner in which it was delivered blew me away as Lloyd-Jones' distinctive voice boomed out of my PC's speakers. As the sound echoed round the house members of the family filed into the study one by one, strangely drawn by this fifty year old sermon. Here are some thoughts on hearing Lloyd-Jones' preaching once more.

One big idea

That our relationship with Jesus will determine the way we die.

Structure

The message has a clear structure, organised around three main points. 1) People don't think about death. 2) People think wrongly about death. 3) The right view of death.

Logic

Each point was developed with compelling logic, the fallacies of those who don't think about death and who think wrongly about it were clearly exposed. By the end unbeliever  was faced with a stark choice, "Die in your sins or die in the Lord." Preaching that demand a verdict.

Exposition

The message arose from a thoughtful engagement with the text, but its precise structure was not dictated by the shape of the verses in question. Lloyd-Jones grasped the communicative action of the text and preached it.

Theology

The preaching was a declaration of the biblical doctrines of God, sin, death, judgement, salvation and glory.

Illustration

No stories as such, but the sermon was full of references to matters of contemporary concern, such as nuclear war and politics. It was made concrete by the preacher speaking of the things of ordinary life like  marriage, music and drinking. He gave a compelling description of a man dying in sin, all alone and heading for judgement.  Who would want to die like that? And an equally compelling description of a man dying in the Lord, accompanied by the angels and heading for inexpressible joy in the presence of God. Who would not want to die like that? Quotes from several well known hymns and allusions to some Bible characters provided further illustrative materials.

Urgency

No hearer could be in any doubt that the preacher meant business. Eternal issues at stake. Logic on fire for the salvation of the lost.

Noble negligence

One could tell that the preacher was improvising from an outline rather than reading from a script. Some hymns were slightly misquoted. Balaam's saying, "Let me die the death of the righteous" became, "Let me die the death of the godly." Preaching isn't meant to be a polished address, but a living engagement between a man and a congregation in the presence of God.

Eloquence

Lloyd-Jones was an orator-preacher not a chatty conversational speaker. In places he raised his voice and quickened the pace in floods of gospel-inspired, passionate eloquence. Utterly, spine-tinglingly captivating.

Unction

Even listening to a recording of this message it is evident that Lloyd-Jones was preaching in 'demonstration of the Spirit and power.' I once offered this definition of the work of the Spirit in preaching,

"The Spirit’s empowering presence enables preachers to proclaim the Lord Jesus with boldness, liberty and life-transforming effectiveness. His presence makes preaching an event where the God of the gospel is encountered in all the fullness of his grace and power."

If you want to know something of what that feels like, then listen to this sermon included in Lloyd-Jones Messenger of Grace.

Lessons

There are no doubt many things I can learn from hearing from Lloyd-Jones' preaching. But I think the main thing is summed up in the preacher's own words on the Holy Spirit in preaching,
What then are we to do about this? There is only one obvious conclusion. Seek Him! Seek Him! What can we do without Him? Seek Him! Seek Him always. But go beyond seeking Him; expect Him.
I am certain, as I have said several times before, that nothing but a return of this power of the Spirit on our preaching is going to avail us anything. This makes true preaching, and it is the greatest need of all today - never more so. Nothing can substitute for this.
This 'unction', this 'anointing', is the supreme thing. Seek it until you have it; be content with nothing less. Go on until you can say, 'And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power.' He is still able to do 'exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think'. (Preaching and Preachers, Hodder, D. M. Lloyd-Jones,  p. 325)

Friday, May 07, 2010

Shall the last be first?


Deploying the scenario of "stable government for difficult times" looks like Gordon Brown is trying to hold on to power despite losing the election. Will the underachieving Lib Dems jump into bed with Labour, enticed by the promise of voting reform? Labour and the Lib Dems together gained over 50% of popular vote in this election to 36% for the Tories. PR could cement a secularising Lab/Lib Dem coalition in power for years to come. Not a comforting thought.

Good to know that, Psalm 124:8 and a good time to pray, 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Christian Institute: Voting and the Bible in 210 Seconds

I've just returned from the polling station. Have you cast your vote yet? Can't be bothered? Watch this and think again:

If you are a South West Wiltshire constituent, then have a glance at my 2010 Election Q&A's with the three main candidates in this area before you visit the polling booth.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Beyond electioneering: some thoughts on politics in the UK


Some thoughts on the General Election campaign and some wider political concerns. It seems from the opinion polls that no single party is generating enough enthusiasm to win an outright majority.  Perhaps voters are worried by the the scale of proposed Tory cuts, which might explain why it doesn't look like they will win enough seats to form a majority Government. Saddled with the hugely unpopular Gordon Brown, Labour has lost its winning ways. Not to mention the Labour government's role in fomenting the credit crunch and the expenses scandal that erupted while Labour was in power. The Lib Dems capitalised well on Nick Clegg's performance in the Prime Ministerial debates, but some of the party's key policies lack credibility when held up to scrutiny. Certainly no landslide victory of the scale of Blair's 1997 "things can only get better" election is expected. The big question is whether the Lib Dems would prop up an ailing Labour administration in the event of a hung parliament and at what price in terms of Labour acceding to Lib Dem demands. We shall wait and see.

From a Christian point of view it seems that believers in the UK have stopped asking big questions about the role of the State. We tend simply  to focus on a narrow range of issues, namely support for heterosexual marriage, opposition to abortion and euthanasia, and freedom of religion. The Westminster 2010 Declaration and the Christian Institute's election briefing largely concentrate on these three concerns. While not denying the importance of  the issues highlighted, we also need to give thought to the role of the State in relation to the Church and the individual Christian. What are the limits of the Church's obedience to an increasingly secular and hostile State (Romans 13:1-7)? And at which point must we say to the authorities, "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)?  Our Puritan forebears were were not afraid to face such questions.

Given that Jesus is Lord over the whole of life, there are other ares that should concern Christian thinkers:

The over-dependence of our economy on the legalized gambling of the hedge funds and credit derivative markets of the City of London. We need to recover our country's industrial base so that more people are meaningfully employed in R&D and in the skilled manufacture of useful products.

Wise stewardship of the God-given resources of our planet with the development of environmentally friendly technologies and the encouragement of more waste recycling .

How the State can be a force for social justice through fair taxation, the redistribution of wealth, and the provision of high quality public services, while not undermining the importance of personal responsibility.

Given that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely", any changes to the constitution must maintain a balance of powers so that the legislature in the form of the Commons and the House of Lords is still able to hold the executive to account and scrutinise and amend government legislation. The independence of the judiciary.

The roll back of the overly intrusive machinery of the State in the form of CCTV cameras, the DNA database and the introduction of biometric identity cards. The space between the citizen's private life and the State has been steadily narrowing, with the authorities ever more intervening to enforce good behaviour. This trend has coincided with  the widespread collapse Christian values in our society, aided by the Labour government's attempt to further secularise public life.

We should be a country that welcomes immigrants in reasonable numbers, but all citizens must remain subject to the same rule of law. The creeping Islamification of the UK should be guarded against.

Overseas military action should only be undertaken subject to the criterion of a just war. The government has a duty of care towards service men and women who should be afforded the best possible equipment when engaged in armed conflict.

That Christians should not acquiesce in the secularisation of our country, but bear witness to biblical values in public life.

I'm sure that there are more issues that believers  need to think about, but that's enough to be going on with.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

2010 Banner Conference Report #2


Following on from part 1, here is the rest of my report on Banner 2010:

The Sabbath

On Tuesday morning Ian D. Campbell gave an excellent address on the Lord's Day, waxing all theodramatic, or rather theooperatic, he entitled his message "Sabbath the Opera in Seven Acts". 'New Covenant Theology' types often complain that those who hold to a Christian Sabbath view of the Lord's Day do so on the basis of Puritan confessional theology rather than the teaching of the Bible. Ian D. undermined that claim by adopting a rigorous and bracing redemptive-historical approach. I can't hope to capture the power and impact of this message in these brief notes, but here is a little taster.

1. Before the beginning

God's rest in the tranquility of intertrinitarian fellowship prior to the creation. The Lord's  purpose in creation was that human beings might share in his rest.

2. Creation

Creation is a temple in which the glory of God is revealed. God rested from his labours on the 7th day (Genesis 2:1-3). After being created together with Eve on Day Six, Adam and his wife would have awoken to their first full day together on the Sabbath, enjoying rest and fellowship with God.

3. Sinai

After the exodus, Israel was set apart as God's covenant people at Sinai. The Lord gave his redeemed people the Ten Commandments, including the Fourth Commandment, giving Israel a day of rest.

4. The rest of Canaan

The people of God entered their rest in the land after years of wandering in the wilderness (Psalm 95). In accordance with the laws of Moses, life in the Promised Land was punctuated by a multiplicity of Sabbaths. The weekly Sabbath, the Day of Atonement, the 7th year, the 50th year of Jubilee. At the exile, the land enjoyed its Sabbaths.

5. The Word made flesh: the Lord appears on the Stage

Jesus came not to set aside the law, but that its requirements might be fulfilled in his people, Romans 8:3. He is Lord of the Sabbath, Mark 2:28. As Boaz would not rest (Ruth 3:18) until he had redeemed Elimelech's property and married Ruth, so Jesus, the "restless redeemer" would not rest until he had given rest to his people. It is through his finished work that we find rest. The old covenant Sabbath was buried in the grave with Jesus. He rose from the dead bringing in the new and better day of rest, Lord's Day. Also it was on the first day of the week the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church.

6. The church has entered the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God

Hebrews 3 & 4. Our rest on the Lord's day is an anticipation of our eschatological rest. New Testament texts that appear to say that the Sabbath rule no longer applies (Romans 14:5-6, Colossians 2:16) do not refer to the Fourth Commandment/Lord's Day, but to the other Jewish Sabbaths that have now been abolished in Christ. If every day alike is in effect a Lord's Day, then no day is specifically set apart by him as holy

7. The Lord of the Sabbath will return

The coming of Christ will usher in the saint's everlasting rest, Hebrews 4:9.

If as Lloyd-Jones said, "Preaching is theology on fire", then this message was "biblical theology on fire", panoramic redemptive-historical preaching at its very best.

Ian D. gave a second message on Wednesday morning entitled, A Sabbath Rest for the People of God: Will That Be Sufficient?, concentrating on Revelation 1:10.

1. The change John witnessed

As a follower of Jesus John witnessed the change from Old Testament Sabbath to the Lord's Day. On the evening of his first Lord's Day the apostle saw the risen Christ in the upper room.

2. The practice John adopted

Even when in exile on Patmos, John continued to observe the Lord's Day as a special day of rest, noting that he was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day. In 1 John the apostle emphasised that sin is lawlessness and that God has saved us so that his righteous standards as revealed in the Ten Commandments might be fulfilled in us. His commandments are not burdensome, including the observance of a day of rest.

3. The blessing John enjoyed

He was "in the Spirit" on the Lord's Day. This suggests the Spirit's revelatory presence as in Ezekiel. But we can also expect that the risen Jesus will meet with us by the power of the Spirit as we gather in worship on the first day of the week, Matthew 18:20. Where Christ is the Father and the Spirit are also present.

4. The message John received

Christ is coming quickly, Revelation 1:7, 22:20. He is coming to take us to be with him for ever, John 17:24.

In Brief

On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings there were brief 15 minute slots. Bernard Lewis, now of Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Newport reflected on his impressions of the Evangelical scene in the UK since his return to this country after many years on the mission field in Papua New Guinea. Jonathan Watson of the Banner gave a talk on Scottish preacher, John Milne, friend of Andrew Bonar and his stress on the importance of the empowering presence of the Spirit in ministry.

Taffia 

The "Taffia" is a fringe meeting of mostly Welsh ministers, traditionally held on the Wednesday night of the conference. In recent years we have tended to meet in my room and things got a bit crowded last time. Looking for somewhere with a bit more space, Downsie blagged a key for one of the conference side rooms, which made for a more comfortable gathering. Enticed by the promise of a plentiful supply of Iron Bru and Pringles, Ian D. Campbell agreed to come along and field our questions. It was a fine time of fellowship as Ian D reflected on church life in the Highlands and islands of Scotland.

Loving the Lord

Ted Donnelly preached the closing sermon on Loving the Lord from John 21:15-17. He opened by reflection on what contradictory creatures we are. We can be wise and yet stupid, kind yet cruel, selfless yet egocentric. Peter like us was a mass of contradictions. The risen Lord dealt with him most graciously after Peter who boldly protested, "I will not deny you" in fact denied Jesus three times. Jesus dealt with his past. The fire he kindled on the beach was a reminder of the fire that blazed in the courtyard on the chilly evening when Peter denied his Lord. Jesus echoed the triple denial by asking Peter three times, "Do you love me?". Peter's past failures were recalled only to be forgiven. Next our Lord clarified the present. The key question, "Do you love me?" was intended to probe Peter's sense of forgiveness, Luke 7:47. Love for Jesus is an evidence of new life, 1 John. Finally Christ was commissioning Peter for the future. He needed to be publicly restored in order for him to exercise his apostolic ministry. Love for Jesus is the most important qualification for Christian service. Only those who truly love Jesus will be able to faithfully feed his sheep.

So, the conference drew to a close with a reminder of what matters most, love for Jesus, the Jesus who graciously  forgives and restores broken failures. I'm sure we all needed to hear that. I know I did.

Reflections

Conference highlights for me were Liam Goligher's first sermon on Monday evening on the Throne of Heaven, Ian D's first address on the Sabbath, O. Palmer Robertson's three messages, and Ted Donnelly's closing sermon. At its best the preaching was mind-expanding, powerful  and challenging, but perhaps more attention needs to be given to direct application of the Word to our ministries.

It was a joy to renew fellowship with old friends and meet some people for the first time. I don't know whether it's me getting less shy and feeling a bit more comfortable in my own skin as I get older, but the conference seems to be more a friendly gathering now than when I first started attending over 20 years ago. A surprising number of men approached me to say that they were regular readers of this blog. One lunch time fellow-bloggers Gary Brady, Jeremy Walker and I had a wonderfully geeky conversation on the finer points of blogging.  Ah well, that's it for another year. Its back to reality now, fortified and encouraged by the ministry and fellowship of the Banner conference. Oh, and the book featured at the top my Banner reports is one of the titles I purchased, The Imperative of Preaching: A  Theology of Sacred Rhetoric, by John Carrick, Banner of Truth Trust, 2002, 202pp.

Contact the Banner of Truth Trust to order recordings of the conference addresses.