Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Wales - what goes wrong

The Times carries an obituary today of R K S Wood a world authority on plant pathology. Wood was born in the Rhondda and loved to sing along with the Welsh anthem when Wales were praying rugby. Like so many, however, he lived most of his life in England. When he decided to apply to study at Imperial in London his school was none too helpful. The news that he had won a place to study botany at Imperial College did not thrill his mother. “Wales not good enough for you, Ronald?” she asked. He never forgave his school for trying to limit his horizons and later refused to return as an honoured old boy at prize-giving. No wonder he quickly lost his Welsh accent once he got to London. The Welsh may not like having a huge and brilliant neighbour always cramping our style but it is surely better to get used to it and show more grace.
Not that Wood himself was much better. On one occasion, seeing waiters bearing salvers filled with flutes of champagne at a smart reception, he insisted on loudly ordering brown ale. He believed that his general rudeness to those in positions of influence was the reason why he was never honoured by the state for his work. The Times article also describes him complaining to his son about a restaurant meal with a leg of lamb at £14! You can take the boy out of the valleys ....

10 Negative adjectives beginning with V

1. Vain
2. Vile
3. Viperous
4. Vicious
5. Violent
6. Villainous
7. Vituperous
8. Venomous
9. Vindictive
10. Vengeful

Pastoral Friendship Walks

I went for the first time today on what my friend Andrew King from Highbury calls a pastoral friendship walk. (I think there have been two before this one). We met at Hampstead Heath Station, walked across the Heath in glorious sunshine, stopping for refreshments at Kenwood House, and ending up at Gospel Oak. There were about seven of us. The idea is that sedentary men who can easily be loners get out in the fresh air, and do a little exercise and talk to each other. It is not aiming incredibly high then but you would be surprised how revolutionary sometimes the simplest ideas can be. I certainly enjoyed the walk (which I try to do anyway) and the chat. Thanks Andrew for getting us organised.

Dr Olivia Doll

I spotted a fascinating story in the paper yesterday. The basic story is how a sceptical scientist got his dog onto the editorial board of various science journals. Eschewing use of the dog's picture he provided this snap of Kylie Minogue in glasses for this one above. Full story here.

10 Writers who knew only posthumous fame

1. Emily Dickinson
The first collection of her poetry appeared in 1890 (four years after she died). While some critics scoffed, her lines received immediate popular acclaim. Later editions followed, then interest faded until 1924, when she was enthusiastically rediscovered. Her work has been praised ever since. Today many critics would agree that her poetry was "perhaps the finest by a woman in the English language."
2. Gerard Manley Hopkins
His posthumous fame was established by Robert Bridges putting him among the leading Victorian poets. His manipulation of prosody (particularly his invention of sprung rhythm) and his use of imagery established him after his death as an innovative writer of verse. Nature and religion were the two major themes in his poetic works.
3. Sylvia Plath
Plath is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best known for her two published collections, The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. She also wrote The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death by suicide in 1963. It was only in 1982 that she won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Poems.
4. Anne Frank
German-born diarist. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously following the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl (originally Het Achterhuis; English: The Secret Annex), in which she documents her life in hiding 1942-1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. It is one of the world's most widely known books and has been the basis for several plays and films.
5. Franz Kafka
Many of his works remained incomplete and unpublished when TB killed him, aged 40, in 1924. After years of tortuous efforts to "begin my real life" and to describe a precise statement of his soul, Kafka considered his efforts a failure. In a last request, he asked his friend Max Brod to burn his papers and manuscripts. Brod refused, saying that if Kafka had really wanted that he would not have given the task to Brod. Thus Kafka's best-known novels, prophetic of the nightmare state of fascism, were first published in Germany 1925-1927. The Nazis soon banned the books but translated editions surfaced elsewhere. Kafka's reputation has steadily grown since the 1940s, and today the works of his critics and interpreters far outnumber his own.
6. Edgar Allan Poe
Associated with Gothic tales of mystery and the macabre, the author of the haunting short-stories "The Raven," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum,” "Murders on the Rue Morgue" and “A Cask of Amontillado” despite his popularity now, Poe's contemporaries better knew him as a literary critic and struggling artist. For much of his life, he tried to make a living through writing but never overcame his financial difficulties or career challenges. His death at the age of 40 is surrounded by mystery.
7. Stieg Larsson
Karl Stig-Erland Larsson was a Swedish journalist and writer. He is best known for writing the Millennium trilogy of crime novels, which were published posthumously and adapted as motion pictures. Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm and worked there in the field of journalism and as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism. In 2008 he was the second best-selling author in the world. The third novel in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, became the most sold book in the USA in 2010.  By March 2015, his series had sold 80 million copies worldwide.
8. John Keats
Keats was an English Romantic poet and one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Byron and Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death. Although his poems were not generally well received by critics during his lifetime, his reputation grew after his death, and by the end of the 19th century he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets. He had a significant influence on a diverse range of poets and writers.
9. Herman Melville
Melville did know some early success but Moby Dick and other works were not commercial successes. His death from cardiovascular disease in 1891 subdued a reviving interest in his work. The 1919 centennial of his birth became the starting point of the "Melville Revival". Critics discovered his work, scholars explored his life, his major novels and stories have become world classics, and his poetry has gradually attracted respect.
10. H P Lovecraft
An American author who achieved posthumous fame through his influential works of horror fiction. He was virtually unknown and published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty, but he is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre. Among his most celebrated tales are "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Shadow over Innsmouth" both canonical to the Cthulhu Mythos. Lovecraft was never able to support himself from earnings as author and editor. He saw commercial success increasingly elude him in this latter period, partly because he lacked the confidence and drive to promote himself.

New Seminary Principal announced

The London Seminary announced today the name of its new principal. Bill James is the fourth principal and immediately follows Dr Robert Strivens. Previous to that Philip Eveson was principal and before that it was Dr Hywel Jones. Before that there was no principal. The annual service will be on June 24 and the speaker (on the fortieth anniversary) will be Al Mohler. The official communique says

Dear Friend
I'm delighted to inform you that the Board of London Seminary has appointed Bill James, Pastor of Emmanuel Church, Leamington Spa, as the next Principal of the Seminary. Bill will take up the post in January 2018. You can find more information about the appointment on our website here. Please pray for Bill, for the church in Leamington Spa, and for the Seminary during this exciting time of change.
Robert Strivens

Steady Blessings at Holbrooks

In the course of preparing last weekend I came across this tremendously encouraging article from Coventry on the FIEC website. I think we can all be encouraged by this. I know Ben Holmes to speak to. He's a lovely bloke. Steady Blessings.

10 religious facial hair decisions

1. Sikh uncut
2. Jewish corners uncut
3. Amish married man should wear a beard but have no moustache (too soldierly)
4. Rastafarian corners uncut (as do the Jews)
5. Greek Orthodox tradition for priests t be bearded
6. Muslim common but not obligatory
7. Muslim henna dyed often to mark having gone on pilgrimage to Mecca
8. Hindu common among sects that take a vow of poverty and so cannot own a razor
9. Pagan a beard can help the look
10. Mormon and JW leaders not a rule but beards are seldom seen

Lord's Day May 21 2017

Although I got back quite late from Cambridge on Saturday night I think considering William Perkins for a day or two before preaching was a good preparation for the Lord's Day and I was able to preach what I hope were two helpful and effective sermons. We were in Acts in the morning and I am glad that rather than simply preaching on Chapter 5:1-13 I began back in Acts 4, focusing on the normal first before the abnormal. A challenging message nevertheless. In the evening we were looking at that great parable, the parable of the weeds. Full of instruction. The evening service was preceded by communion. No new people today and quite a few missing all told but decent numbers. Loved the hymns today.

William Perkins Conference Final Paper

Our final paper was from Greg Salazar, currently studying for his PhD in Cambridge. He had four main points and spoke on
1.The Puritan defence of the sole authority of Scripture as against Roman Catholicism
Here he touched on the centrality of the Bible, the Catholic assault on the sole authority of Scripture and the Puritan response.
2. The Puritan defence of the centrality of preaching against conformists
Here he touched on attempts to supplant the centrality of preaching by emphasising the sacraments and reading Scripture and prayers
3. The Puritan defence of  the pursuit of holiness against antinomianism
Here he spoke of the Puritan pursuit of holiness and the influence of Emmanuel College, prophesyings, lectureships, etc. He also spoke of the assault on this position by Tobias Crisp, John Saltmarsh and others and the counter response from Samuel Rutherford.
He made four final applications
1, Be zealous for the authority of God's Word and on guard against supplemenetal authorities
2. Be convinced of the centrality of preaching and the folly of alternative forms of grace
3. Look for God's smiling face in frowning providences
4. Pursue disciplined holiness in community and be on guard against antinomian tendencies
(Sorry not to have posted this final report earlier) 

William Perkins Conference Penultimate Paper

It was nice to meet J Stephen Yuille today and to hear him give the penultimate paper on Perkins as a Contender for the faith. Observing that although he is called the father of Puritanism Perkins is a Reformer rather than a Puritan, He was an apologist both for the truth and for the Church of England. He gave us 15 reasons why we should read Perkins and these points were something similar to what follows
1. His unwavering commitment to the truth of Scripture in contrast to ancient and modern scepticism
2. His exegetical method which puts the lie to other accepted but flawed methods of interpretation
3. His conviction that the principal work of the Holy Spirit is to illumine what is in Scripture rather than to mystically bring about some immediate knowledge of God within
4. His emphasis on preaching as the thing that we should emphasise - an excellent corrective again to some of the ideas that are prevalent in our present time
5. His plain style of preaching which provides a glimpse into the Reformed conviction that Scripture both informs and transforms and delivers us from ceaseless homiletical innovation
6. His experiential preaching which addresses the matter of Scripture and so provides a paradigm for preachers who want to bring the mind into contact with the real meaning of Scripture. (He was careful to distinguish law and gospel throughout Scripture and to preach both).
7. His detailed description of the doctrine of predestination and his preaching of the gospel which is a corrective to those who say they admire him but fail to show the same balance. (Unlike some of his successors he never lost sight of the free offer)
8. His delight in Christ as an all sufficient Saviour which is a great tonic for those who say that Christ is the answer but do not believe it and offer all sorts of alternatives.
9. His portrayal of Christ our righteousness which provides relief to the sinner aware of his sin and of his need of a Savour.
10. His handling of the doctrine of justification and sanctification which brings light to the current and recurring debates over the relationship between the two.
11. His realism as to the difficulties of the Christian life which is a refreshing cordial to those trapped in the false teaching of a two tier Christianity.
12. His theological acumen provides a great theological, exegetical and philosophical example to us of how to handle doctrine in a balanced way.
13. His repudiation of the Spirit/matter dualistic view which is the answer to the temptation to follow a disembodied pietism.
14. His view of theology as the science of living blessedly forever which is a great antidote to enlightenment ideas that make theology a mere academic exercise. (Perkins quotes Psalm 144:15 again and again)
15. His defence of the wholesome doctrine of love speaks to a church that still struggles to harmonise faith and love, etc.

Emily Dickinson

I have mentioned Emily Dickinson before now and how I discovered her in University. She wrote 1800 poems in her life time but only had ten or eleven published. She has been brought to mind again by two media events. first, I persuaded Eleri to join me in the Phoenix, East Finchley to see A Quiet Passion the other week. I think her comment at the end  "That's two hours we'll never get back again was a trifle harsh but it is fair to say that the life of Emily Dickinson of Amherst, New England is not the stuff of movie blockbusters and so despite valiant efforts the film struggled to keep the interest up. More recently, on Radio 4, Melvyn Bragg has had some exerts in to do an In our time on her. (See here). This was a much better format for looking at this interesting woman. I found the suggestion that not all her first person poems are about her a new angle to explore. Here is an example of her simple genius.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - 
That perches in the soul - 
And sings the tune without the words - 
And never stops - at all - 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard - 
And sore must be the storm - 
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm - 

 I’ve heard it in the chillest land - 
And on the strangest Sea - 
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Rhodri Morgan Anecdote

It has been sad this week to hear of the death of Welsh speaking Welshman Rhodri Morgan, former Welsh first minister. He was the man who gave one of my sons his degree when he graduated (Cledwyn Hughes gave me mine, Cled the Red). I like the anecdote that tells how Tony Blair once stayed at Mr Morgan's house. Apparently Tony Blair was up early in the morning and so was Morgan's mother-in-law. When she came into the kitchen an saw him she blurted out "I know who you are, You're that Lionel Blair"!. Morgan confirmed the truth of the story in an interview with David Frost some time.

William Perkins

The enterprising American Joel Beeke is currently publishing the complete works of William Perkins in 10 volumes (we've reached volume 4 so far). Meanwhile the Library at PRTS has been christened the William Perkins Library (a prize exhibit is apparently a set of Perkins writings owned by Spurgeon then A W Pink who made extensive notes in them). As part of this drive he has brought 55 mainly Americans and Canadians to Britain for a short tour that includes this conference in the historic Round Church in Cambridge to which there has been a general invite (free of charge!).
As it turns out I have a niece who lives in Histon near Cambridge (her husband is a PhD student) so I was able to come and stay with them last night and they have just treated me to a meal out. So not only am I getting to see them but I am also enjoying what so far has been an excellent conference.
On Friday night Sinclair Ferguson spoke on Perkins as a Plain preacher making four points - his influence (including a fascinating anecdote from South Korea in the nineties); his understanding of preaching; his emphasis on the plain style and his grids (as described in the Banner paperback edited by SF The Art of prophesying).
Joel Beeke opened this morning on Perkins the largest case of conscience,which is assurance. Dr Beeke is an authority on this subject and he helpfully told us about what Perkins had written and why.. Like Dr Ferguson he began with some biographical background material stressing Perkins' powerful influence. He then explained his doctrine of assurance, itemising his several writings on this subject and finishing with a summary of Perkins little book A case of conscience, the greatest that ever was: How a man may know whether he be the child of God or no (6 folio pages). You can access this here.
In the second part of the morning my esteemed father-in-law Geoff Thomas spoke on the pursuit of godliness in the ministry of Perkins. He highlighted 1. How Perkins pursued godliness (Through conversion, stud, following providential leadings [for example among prisoners] and by becoming a minister) 2. How preaching encourages godliness 3. Three essential marks of godliness (the faith that saves [knowledge, assent, trust – with which there must be a right beginning, credible fruit and a life of trusting the Lord] the repentance that saves and a new saving obedience, which includes an outward and inward obedience and a seeking to promote better affections).
So good stuff. Numbers have been good too with the 55 swollen to perhaps twice the size.

10 people who died at the age of 58

Around this time of year we like to do this. It keeps us humbled and sane(ish).

1. Machiavelli, Niccolo writer (58 years 50 days, June 22, 1527)
2. Dickens, Charles novelist (58 years 122 days, June 9, 1870)
3. Baker, Chet jazz musician (58 years 142 days, May 13, 1988)
4. Flaubert, Gustave writer (58 years 148 days on May 8, 1880)
5. Warhol, Andy artist (died of complications from gallbladder surgery 58 years 200 days, February 22, 1987)
6. Burton, Richard Welsh actor (died of cerebral haemorrhage 58 years 269 days, August 5, 1984)
7. Harrison, George Beatle (died of cancer 58 years 277 days, November 29, 2001)
8. King James I [VI] (58 years 281 days, March 27, 1625)
9. White, Barry singer (58 years 295 days, July 4, 2003)
10. Kepler, Johannes astronomer (58 years 323 days, November 15, 1630)
[Also, Joyce, James Irish writer (died of a perforated ulcer 58 years 346 days. January 13, 1941)