Tuesday, 24 March 2009


I've had a bit of a book bonanza of late (thanks to a birthday and generous friends). Really enjoying Peter Adam's work on Scripture Written For Us, as well as sinking my teeth the first volume of Kelly's Systematic Theology - it's like the good parts of Barth and TF Torrance together with the some patristics all built on careful exegesis interacting with contemporary issues (I can already hear you Barthians saying 'but the good parts of Barth are the bits where he deals with the patristics and does exegesis'). I've also got Beale's defence of inerrancy lined up for a rainy day (and given that we're going into winter there are going to be a few of those).

I've also just started Driscoll's book Vintage Church. I'm really enjoying it as we come from a similar theological foundation of what church is. But I was really disappointed as I read of his summary of other denominations. I should have expected trouble when I read the subheading: 'Catholics: Roman, Eastern, and Anglican' (pg 41). Driscoll takes a reasonably fair crack at the Roman Catholics in terms of their papal authority, and while it isn't as theological nuanced as say Volf's work on the church, After our Likeness, it isn't wrong. But then he comes to the Anglicans p42).

Our ecclesiology is described in 57 words, 51 of which are a quote from Kevin Giles. This quote is introduced by 5 words ('Anglican theologian Kevin Giles says...'), and the quote itself states that, apart from the claims of the pope, Anglo-Catholics 'conceive of the church in exactly these terms' - these terms being how the Roman Catholic church has been described. The quote then goes on to say how Anglo-Catholics actually ground their ecclesiology in the three-fold order even more so than the Roman Catholics do.

All fine and well - I've no problems with this. What I have a problem with, and am really quite disappointed about given Driscolls' propensity for research, is that after the noun 'Anglo-Catholic' in Giles' quote, Driscoll adds ' [Anglican] '. He is saying that Anglo-Catholic = Anglican, and, therefore, that Anglican ecclesiology = Anglo-Catholic, and therefore Roman Catholic ecclesiology. Kevin Giles, the only 'Anglican Theologian' quoted, makes a comment about Anglo-Catholic Anglicans (which is pretty much true), but which is then applied to all Anglicans. It's a sloppy piece of work, which doesn't do historical Anglicanism any favours (Driscoll could have at least gone to Article 19!), nor does justice to the fine ecclesiological thinking done by evangelical Anglicans such as Stott, Packer, or, more recently, Mark Thompson, which, incidentally, ends up much closer to Driscoll than his readership would be led to believe.

So while I go on to agree with much of what Driscoll writes about church, including his historical work, it's like finishing a good meal after your second mouthful included something rotten. You can still enjoy what follows, but you've got a bad taste in your mouth.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Can you trust the Internet?

I am writing something on Ernst Kasemann (a German NT scholar) and I wanted to find out the date that he died. That is the sort of simple information that the Internet is great at providing - you would think! A quick jump to Wikipedia and I find that it was 17 Feb 1998. Just to be certain I have a look at another site (The Biography Research Guide) which confirms that it was 17 Feb 1998. However, I then come across another article that has his death as 14 Feb 1998. Finally, I find an article on my desk that has his death as 1997.

I guess there are two morals to this story:

Firstly, you can't trust everything you read on the web...but my guess is you knew that already ....

Secondly, you have to be a bit of a Geek to do a Phd...but my guess is you knew that already...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Harris on Cicero on Writing Sermons (sort of)

I have just finished Robert Harris' Imperium - a fantastic historical-fiction account of the life of Cicero. At one point Harris describes the process of speech-writing and it reminded me of sermon-writing:

No one can really claim to know politics properly until he has stayed up all night, writing a speech for delivery the following day. While the world sleeps, the orator paces around by lamplight, wondering what madness ever brought him to this occupation in the first place. Arguments are prepared and discarded. Versions of openings and middle sections and perorations lie in drifts across the floor. The exhausted mind ceases to have any coherent grip upon the purpose of the enterprise, so that often - usually an hour or two after midnight - there comes a point where failing to turn up, feigning illness and hiding at home seem the only realistic options. And then, somehow, under pressure of panic, just as humiliation beckons, the parts cohere, and there it is: a speech. A second-rate orator now retires gratefully to bed. A Cicero stays up and commits it to memory.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Bunyan's Boldness

From the Reformation 21 Blog:

In one of his two sermons on Ecclesiastes 9:10 (about doing things with all your might), Charles Spurgeon refers to the imprisonment of John Bunyan, and to Bunyan's undying commitment to preach the gospel, regardless of persecution. Here is what Bunyan said to his judge: "If I lie in prison until the moss grows on my eyelids, I will never make a promise to withhold from preaching. . . . If you will let me out of prison to-day, I will preach again to-morrow, by the help of God."

Friday, 6 March 2009


Over on the Sydney Anglicans website there is (it seems to me) a very healthy debate on the use of the word ‘worship’ with respect to Christian meetings. This discussion is in response to a (very helpful) article on the subject by David Peterson.

I have no intention of entering into the debate but just to make an observation. The ‘classic’ viewpoint was that worship was what we did in church. The ‘Sydney’ corrective (for want of a better word) was to highlight verses like Romans 12:1 etc which show that worship is concerned with all of life.

At the risk of a massive oversimplification, the problem, as I see it, is the application of this insight. Instead of approaching all of life like we used to approach church (reverently, conscious of God etc), we now approach church like we used to approach the rest of life (casually, without much thought for God etc.) To use a fairly blunt analogy, it is like being told that all sins are the same and then committing murder because it’s just the same as getting angry i.e. no big deal - rather than hating anger as much as murder because they come from the same root.

Those of us who want to stress that all of life is worship need to approach the rest of life the way others used to approach church meeting. In other words, we need to show that this viewpoint does not diminish our reverence for God but heightens it - both in the corporate meeting and out of it.

Better late than never...

Archibald Robertson on Athanasius:

In the whole of our minute knowledge of his life there is a total lack of self-interest. The glory of God and the welfare of the Church absorbed him fully at all times. . . . The Emperors recognized him as a political force of the first order . . . but on no occasion does he yield to the temptation of using the arm of flesh. Almost unconscious of his own power . . . his humility is the more real for never being conspicuously paraded. . . . Courage, self-sacrifice, steadiness of purpose, versatility and resourcefulness, width of ready sympathy, were all harmonized by deep reverence and the discipline of a single-minded lover of Christ