Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
See His glory in a blaze;
Nor can angels ever mention
Aught that more of God displays.
(O What matchless condescension by William Gadsby)
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Biographical details are sketched in, but what drives the book is Piper’s desire to find the key to Wilberforce’s life as a Christian. He finds two main principles. First, Wilberforce’s insistence that Christian living cannot be separated from “the gigantic truths of the gospel”. His A Practical View of Christianity was written to shock the chattering classes out of their nominal Christianity. He knew that lives could only be changed if people wholeheartedly believed in the gospel of justifying grace. A holy life is the inevitable effect on saving faith in Christ. As Don Carson recently put it, Wilberforce was "radical from the centre". His reforming activities were rooted in the gospel of God's grace. The "Social Gospel" movement of the early 20th century turned its back upon the doctrines of historic Christianity and focused almost entirely on changing society. The movement was a spectacular failure. People had little interest in a Christianity devoid of saving power. Instead, they looked to socialism to cure the ills of society. Wilberforce however, whose reforms did change the world was a distinctly evangelical reformer.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Kevin Vanhoozer 30%
Friday, September 14, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Murray was no ivory tower theologian. He was involved in the life of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in America. He liked nothing better than to preach the Word to the people of God. The theologian had a real pastoral heart and many found him to be a wise and discriminating counsellor. He sought to encourage the Church to be active in evangelism and mission. At one point in the book, we are given Murray’s “Rules for the Open Air Meeting”. His gifts as a theologian and discerning Christian leader were deployed with great effect when he acted as Moderator of the Presbytery’s General Assembly. While Murray was no friend of liberal theology, he was also wary of Fundamentalism, which he saw as anti-intellectual and legalistic. Murray was champion of of distinctly Reformed confessional orthodoxy. He helped to guide the fledgling Reformed movement in the UK, acting as an advisor to the Banner of Truth Trust and speaking regularly at the Trust’s Minister’s Conference.
From Murray’s portrait, that adorns the front cover of his Collected Writings, it might be thought that he was a rather stern and forbidding figure. But he embodied the best of Scottish Highland piety, with a commitment to serious godliness wedded to heartfelt experimental Calvinism. Murray was as strict Sabbatarian. He loved to spend the Lord’s Day in uninterrupted worship, prayer and meditation. He once refused to enter into a conversation with Machen about soccer on the Lord's day, "I do not speak of such things on the Sabbath!" Ironically he was barred from entering the Scottish Free Presbyterian ministry because he sided with a minister who would not discipline a women for catching a bus to church on Sundays. (How sad is that?) Iain Murray brings the theologian’s humanity to the fore with examples of his humour and kindly generosity. The biographer also charts the course of Murray’s blossoming friendship with Valerie, whom he was to marry when in his early 60’s. The couple were blessed with two children.
In terms of his life’s work, John Murray was above all a theologian. Although reference is made to some of his key writings, this biography makes little attempt to assess the enduring value of Murray’s theological legacy. He did not write a complete systematic theology. But he made important contributions to the field of systematics. Murray’s theological method was exemplary. He believed that systematic theology should primarily arise from exegesis of the biblical text. He also argued that the discipline should be informed by the riches of past theological discovery and be able to face the challenges of the contemporary world. Murray published important work on ethics and the doctrines of justification by faith and sanctification. He was one of the top Calvin scholars of his day. His greatest scholarly achievement was probably his outstanding commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.
This edition of John Murray’s Life has a new appendix which contains some previously unpublished correspondence, but no index. I hope that the publication of this biography will lead to a fresh appreciation of Murray’s work, much of which is published in his four volume Collected Writings (Banner of Truth Trust).
Monday, September 10, 2007
On Saturday, our children went to a Youth Conference. On the way to pick them up, Sarah and I visited Dyrham Park, a National Trust stately home. A contingent of the Sealed Knot Society, a Civil War reenactment group were performing in the grounds. All were dressed in 17th century garb. They marched back and forth, fired their muskets and wielded their pikes. It was a very enjoyable demonstration. But I wonder if our churches sometimes give the impression that we are the religious arm of the Sealed Knot Society. We put on a good display and speak in impeccable olde English, but are we little better than historical curiosities?
The task of the church is to perform the drama of God's redeeming grace before the contemporary world. In order to do this we must be faithful to the drama's biblical script and speak appropriately to the present day setting. The church cannot afford to alter the drama of redemption to suit the tastes of the moment. Then we would be heralding another gospel that is not another. But we must avoid giving the impression that the Christian faith belongs in some kind of cultural or historical backwater. The gospel is transcultural. Its message speaks to people of every age. Protestants of all people should realise this. Our forefathers translated the Scriptures into the language of the people so that their contemporaries could access the riches of God's Word for themselves. Tyndale's translation was faithful to the text of Scripture and up-to-date in its style. It is important to use version of the Bible that is as accurate as possible in modern English. People today often dismiss the Christian faith as out of date. They do not believe that the gospel has anything meaningful to say in the 21st century. Using a 17th century Bible translation may only serve to reinforce that impression.
A similar point could be made with regard to the use of modern hymns in worship services. The Church is an historic institution in a fast-changing age. Singing the great old hymns of Watts and Wesley reminds of our continuity with the past. But we should not shy away from singing modern compositions as a recognition of what the Lord is doing in the church today.
Matters get worse when praying in olde English, using the Authorised Version of the Bible and not singing contemporary hymns almost become a test of fellowship. Stuart Olyott, a well known preacher in the UK recently revealed that a church invited him to preach on the condition that he prayed in "thees" and "thous". When he refused to do so, the invitation was withdrawn. I was once quizzed about which Bible translation I use before being asked to preach to a certain church. I said that I usually use the New King James version, but would happily read and quote from the AV if that is what they preferred. However, that was not good enough as the church only accepts the ministry of "AV only men". Now, many who on principle use only the AV are not this narrow minded. But it is nothing short of tragic that we are dividing over such issues.
Belief in “Scripture alone” should liberate us from the dead weight of traditionalism. We must continue to reform our practices in the light of Scripture. Tradition can be helpful. But we must not become so “traditional” that we lose touch with the modern or postmodern world. We have been called to the kingdom for such a time as this! We do not belong to the 16th or 17th Centuries, we serve the Lord Christ in the 21st Century. We should not be so enamoured by the Reformers and Puritans that we begin to speak like them. They spoke in the language of their day – and so must we! To be fair I must also say that many who read from the AV in church preach in clear, contemporary English. Lloyd-Jones used the AV in his day, but listen to what he said,
"There is a grave and real danger for many of us to become traditionalists and legalists. There are some people who seem to take delight in using archaic phrases; and if you do not use them they doubt whether you are really preaching the Gospel at all. I have observed that certain young men who have developed a new interest, for instance, in the Puritans, start speaking and writing as if they lived in the seventeenth century. This is quite ludicrous. Let me sum it up in modern terms by asserting that it is always our business to be contemporary; our object is to deal with the living people in front of us who are listening to us".
Friday, September 07, 2007
Blogger has recently added a video clip tool. I thought that I would have a go at blogcasting and here's my first attempt. I'm not entirely sure about it, but here it is anyway. David Sky the "theological monkey" has a bit part. The video quality isn't that great as it was recorded on my mobile phone, but it is mercifully short at just over 3 minutes.
WARNING: THIS BLOGCAST MAY CONTAIN IRONY