Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Driscoll speaks about Churches Helping Churches with some great footage of what things are like on the ground.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Let us pray

One of the distinctions between public and private prayer is that in public prayer we pray as a community for the community and for the concerns of the community. (p 175)

Taxes don't win matches

Notes on Ch 5 - Taxes Discourage Production

This is the chapter where Hazlitt explains why it is unlikely that the wealth 'created' by government spending (see here) will fully compensate for the wealth destroyed by the taxes imposed to pay for that spending.
The government spenders tell us, for example, that if the national income is $1,500 billion then federal taxes of $360 billion a year would mean that only 24% of the national income is being transfered from private purposes to public purposes. This is to talk as if the country were the same unit of pooled resources as a huge corporation, and as if all that were involved were a mere bookkeeping transaction. The government spenders forget that they are taking money from A in order to pay B. Or rather, they know it very well; but while they dilate upon all the benefits of the process to B, and all the wonderful things he will have which he would not have had if the money had not been transferred to him, they forget the effects of the transaction on A. B is seen; A is forgotten. (p 37)
and the consequence for A goes like this:
taxes inevitably affect the actions and incentives of those from whom they are taken
So, for the company who is taxed (heavily), all it's losses are 100% losses and all it's gains are 40/50/60/70% gains (depending on the rate of tax). So it is hard, if not impossible, for it to offset its losses in bad years in the good years and as a result it will adopt a strategy that will minimise the possibilities of any losses (not expanding so fast, not trying new things, not employing more people, improving machinery and factories happen with less vigour etc.):
The result in the long run is that consumers are prevented from getting better and cheaper products to the extent that they otherwise would, and that real wages are held down, compared with what they might have been.
This effect is also seen for individuals and families:
People begin to ask themselves why they should work six, eight or nine months of the entire year for the government, and only six, four or three months for themselves and their families.
In conclusion:
In brief, capital to provide new private jobs is first prevented from coming into existence, and the part that does come into existence is then discouraged from starting new enterprises. The government spenders create the very problem of unemployment that they profess to solve.
Economics in One Lesson - Henry Hazlitt

Friday, 22 January 2010

There are no 'neutral' teachers

in a free society it is the business of a child's parents to decide if their children's minds are to be opened to the possibility that God, rather than man, rules the universe. To educate them on the assumption that this isn't so is not neutral, but as partisan and committed as it is to teach them about the love of Christ as if it is (as I believe it to be ) a reality.
And I have never seen anyone (in print) unmask universities with such candor:
In a society where university education is basically a scheme for disaffecting the young from the beliefs and customs of the home, many now fall into Godlessness during the extended adolescence provided by these subsidised anti-religious seminaries, whose main function is hedonistic pursuit with a bit of education attached at the back. People of my kidney should be making more of an effort to fight for the existence of overtly Christian universities and colleges.
To follow Peter Hitchens' argument see here.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Medium is the Message

Last night, we watched Frost Nixon and this quote near the end of the film struck me forcibly. 

James Reston Jr says: 

You know the first and greatest sin of the deception of television is that it simplifies; it diminishes great, complex ideas, trenches of time; whole careers become reduced to a single snapshot. At first I couldn't understand why Bob Zelnick was quite as euphoric as he was after the interviews, or why John Birt felt moved to strip naked and rush into the ocean to celebrate. But that was before I really understood the reductive power of the close-up, because David had succeeded on that final day, in getting for a fleeting moment what no investigative journalist, no state prosecutor, no judiciary committee or political enemy had managed to get; Richard Nixon's face swollen and ravaged by loneliness, self-loathing and defeat. The rest of the project and its failings would not only be forgotten, they would totally cease to exist. 
And it reminded me of one of those 'defining' books I read a few years ago and which I want to dust off again. Neil Postman's 'Amusing Ourselves to Death'.

Postman's argument is that how we are obliged to conduct our conversations will have the strongest possible influence on what ideas we can conveniently express. And what ideas are convenient to express inevitably become the important content of culture. (p6)

'To take a simple example of what this means, consider the primitive technology of smoke signals. While I do not know exactly what content was once carried in the smoke signals of American Indians, I can safely guess that it did not include philosophical argument.... You cannot use smoke to do philosophy. Its form excludes the content.' (p7) 


'The shape of a man's body is largely irrelevant to the shape of his ideas when he is addressing a public in writing  or on the radio or, for that matter, in smoke signals. But it is quite relevant on television... For on television , discourse is conducted largely through visual imagery, which is to say that television gives us a  conversation in images, not words.... You cannot do political philosophy on television. Its form works against the content.' (p7)

Of course, there is some irony here. I watched a DVD and these thoughts were all triggered. Doesn't that undermine Postman's thesis? 

Of course, there is an interplay of word and image in the medium of TV/Film and my memory of his book is that it is nuanced on this point. And yet, the quote had force for me because it triggered my memory of an argument I had read in print. So that objection is not as strong as it might seem. 

More potently I have to admit that reflecting on the film, what do I know about Nixon? Not a lot. What do I know about David Frost? Not a lot. What do I know about Watergate and Vietnam? Not a lot. The film did not educate me as much as entertain me. There was much form and not much content.

And perhaps this is where TV is really dangerous. For it gave me the feeling that I know something, when really I do not. And that is both seductive and deadly for me personally.

What effect does it have on a culture that spends so much time consuming this medium?

A Weighty Problem

Apparently 55% of adults in Dudley are overweight or obese.
We do not score well in this department (here).

So I am wondering how the book of Ruth, set in a time of famine for Judah, will be a word in season to us! 
And I am looking forward to finding out.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse,
even though the end may be dark.
(Aragorn on p 41)

The Bread of Life

Ruth 1:22: So Naomi returned and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Ruth begins tragically. Elimelech flees from famine in Bethlehem by taking his wife and sons to Moab, where death assaults them. First Elimelech dies, and Naomi is left with her two sons. Then her sons die, and she is left with only her daughters-in-law.

But the movement of the chapter is not tragic. It begins in famine, but ends in harvest, and the central turning point of the story is verse 6, where Yahweh “visited His people in giving them food.” Because of Yahweh’s visitation, Bethlehem has again become what its name suggests, a “house of bread.”

Yahweh’s visitation brings more than a harvest of barley. At the same time Israel is beginning to reap the barley, Yahweh is beginning to reap in the Moabites – the Moabites who descend from the incestuous eldest daughter of lot, the Moabites who seduced Israel as they came out of Egypt – those Moabites are being gathered in. Because Yahweh has visited His people, they become a house of bread, a land of milk and honey, and the nations begin to stream in.

Ruth 1 is redemptive history in miniature, depicting the movement from wrath to grace, from famine to feast. It all turns on the great visitation that occurred in Bethlehem, in the incarnation. Ruth 1 is the gospel in miniature: In the midst of the divided nations of the world, He has visited His people in gathering the Gentiles into His house. In the midst of the famine of this world, Yahweh has visited His people in by giving His people living bread from heaven.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

How did you become a Calvinist?

'Could you tell me how you became a Calvinist?'
He laughed and said, 'Well, I didn't.'
I must have looked baffled, so he went on.
'The term Calvinist is really misleading. The issue for Christians should always be, 'What does the Bible say?' If the Bible teaches something, then it should be accepted as the biblical position. If the Bible does not, then it shouldn't be accepted at all.'
'Then why do so many Calvinists' use the term?'
'Well, many biblical Christians use the term simply for the sake of convenience. It is for them a term of theological shorthand. They can let someone else know what their position is very quickly. Unfortunately, there are other Christians who adopt the term with the attitude forbidden by Paul - I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, and so forth.'
'So why do you avoid the label?'
'I have found that it only works as a form of shorthand with people who are theologically educated, and it is frequently a problem even with them. With many people, I would have to say, ' I am a Calvinist, but ....'
I must have still looked puzzled, because he went on.
'Look. The church you grew up in defines a Calvinist as anyone who believes in eternal security. But eternal security is only one tiny part of the teaching of what is called 'Calvinism.' There is no way that I could tell someone in that church that I am a Calvinist and be understood.'

Easy Chairs, Hard Words, Wilson (p 9-10)

The LORD gave the word

An amusing, despair inducing, frustrating and encouraging piece about preaching by Ruth Gledhill in the Times today here.

It begins well:
Sermons, history shows, can be among the most revolutionary forms of human speech. From John Calvin to Billy Graham, preaching has had the power to topple princes, to set nation against nation, to inspire campaigners to change the world and impel people to begin life anew.

As for the rest ... well read it and laugh / weep / slap your forehead & cheer as appropriate!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Adam: male & female

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them mankind in the day they were created. (Genesis 5:2)
'In Hebrew, the italicized word translated mankind is Adam. In other words, God created Adam and his wife male and female, He blessed them, and called them Adam. She was, from the beginning, a covenantal partaker in the name of her husband. God does not call her Adam on her own, He calls her Adam with him.' (p15)

'God is the one who called our first parents by the collective name Adam. Now Adam is also a generic term for man or mankind. This shows clearly the biblical practice of including women under such a description. Our English use of the generic man and mankind follows this biblical example exactly. Far from being insulting to women, as feminists want to maintain, it reflects a biblical pattern of thought. The feminist reaction to this, and their rejection of taking a new last name (in order to keep their father's name!), is not just a small bit of modern silliness. It is a fundamental rebellion against God. So when our Susan Miller becomes Mrs. Robert Carter it is not just 'something' we do. It is covenant security.' (p18)

from Reforming Marriage, D Wilson

Weird, woolly or wicked?

I have been thinking about Naomi, especially what she says to Ruth in 1:15: 'your sister in law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.'

Here are some basic notes on Moab and it's gods.

30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father." 33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. 34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, "Last night I lay with my father. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father." 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went and lay with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. 36 So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today. Genesis 19:30-38

Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying,`Give us permission to go through your country,' but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh. Judges 11:17

Numbers 22-24

Numbers 25

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation. 4 For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you. Deuteronomy 23:3-4

On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, 2 because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) 3 When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent. Nehemiah 13:1-3

Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years. 15 Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer--Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. Judges 3:12-15

Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, the people of Chemosh (Numbers 21:29; Jeremiah 48:46). The sacrifice of children as a burnt-offering was part of his worship (2 Kings 3:27). Solomon erected a high place for Chemosh in Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7), but Josiah destroyed this (2 Kings 23:13).

In the beginning was death

Ruth begins with death – the death of the land in famine, the death of exile, the death of Elimelech, the death of Naomi’s sons, the death of Naomi’s future. Naomi goes out full, and comes back empty. Ruth 1 is a perfect tragic story, a story of endings and emptyings.

But it is chapter 1, and the author wants us to realize that this series of deaths is not an end. The end of chapter 1 is a beginning, as Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem “at the beginning of the barley harvest” (v. 22). The author makes his point with a touch so light as to be nearly imperceptible, but the import of that “beginning” is as weighty as anything in Scripture.

“In the beginning” and “once upon a time” make rational sense as the beginning of a story. But recognizing a beginning on the other side of an end is an act of faith.

Friday, 15 January 2010


In both passages where she [Eve/Woman] is named [Gen 2:23 & Gen 3:20], it is clearly stated that her two names reveal truth about her. The first reveals her dependence upon man - she was taken out of man. [Gen 2:23] The second reveals man's dependence upon her - every man since is her son. Millenia later, the apostle Paul teaches us that we are continually to remember these two truths in our marriages. Each wife is an Ishshah, and each wife is a Chavvah. Each is Woman, and each is Eve. [1 Cor 11:11-12] (p17, Reforming Marriage, Wilson, D)

Monday, 11 January 2010

snow worries mate

We had to cancel our edgehill 09 reunion due to snow and ice as I mentioned the other day.
So, by way of some sort of 'compensation', we put together a little video which is both a lament and song of hope!  ;)

A strange thing

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a good deal of telling anyway. (The Hobbit, JRR Tolkein p49)

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Looking forward to July!

I love snow.
But it has been a bit gutting not to be able to hold our camp reunion this weekend.
So watching this has been a nice tonic - reminders of last summer and an appetiser for going 'down under' this July and life to the full (we'll be looking at John's gospel together).

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Help? Yes please!

One of the many great presents that Simeon/we(!) got given for Christmas.
A babygrow with the 'help' function on it! Superb.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

To the naughty step with those pesky American researchers!

Here is an article in one of our broadsheets that is passing on findings in America that don't suprise me, but which I am glad are being 'aired'. I have no problem believing that they would be true of children in the UK too.
The issue for me on smacking (and the broader issue of 'discipline') is not so much what 'works' according to somebody's set of criteria they have drawn up and measured in a sample of the population, but rather we need to answer these questions:

what does God requires of parents?
what does God deem to be damaging in a lasting way?
what God says about the dignity and worth of our children?
what  does God say about our children's capacity for sin? And how should we handle that?
what does God say our children need?
does this vary with that age of the child? if so, how?
does this vary with the sex and/or temperament of the child?

And then, having answered those questions from his authorative word, the Bible, we should do that immediately, thankfully, in faith and by his Spirit. And we should do it with the attitude and demeanor he requires of us.

And given Hebrews 1:7-11, if we don't then we can expect his disciplining of us!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Time to re-think a few things?

If these figures about our use of time here are correct then the UK is heading for no small measure of disaster.

My only comfort is that these statistics are clearly questionable.
1.41 hrs for the average male's average daily housework? 
Surely this can't be right.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

A fine holiday in Wessex

We have just returned from a great holiday with my parents, filled with much fun & joy. A superb break. Amidst a swim, some lovely walks and not inconsiderable amounts of feasting I even got my teeth into King Alfred the Great. I have childhood memories of a history book in which he appeared, but I have never really taken him seriously, or been attracted to him until the last week or two. My loss. Truly is he called 'the Great'.
I enjoyed Ben Merkle's book enormously and I would recommend it to historian and non-historian alike. Ben gives some helpful corrections to the 'tone' and 'bent' of 'professional' historians and is himself that rare thing - a serious minded Christian writing engagingly and (I think) credible Christ-centred history. And he writes without endless footnotes, without getting tangled up with trying to look impressive and without the paralysis that can afflict this period of history due to the sparce nature of the surviving evidence.
So I would say something for everyone!
I also stretched myself to re-read Asser's Life of King Alfred (which can be easily found on the web and is not that long) and in doing so was inspired to go and look round Sherborne Abbey (where he was Bishop and where 2 of Alfred's brothers are buried). Strange to be a tourist where I have sat many hours as a school boy!

All in all a very encouraging holiday.
Oh yes, and my sister introduced me to Farmville. But I will not get sucked into that!

The world turned empty

The Northmen came about our land
A Christless chivalry:
Who knew not of the arch or pen,
Great, beautiful half-witted men
From the sunrise and the sea.

Misshapen ships stood on the deep
Full of strange gold and fire,
And hairy men, as huge as sin
With horned heads, came wading in
Through the long, low sea-mire.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

Their souls were drifting as the sea,
And all good towns and lands
They only saw with heavy eyes,
And broke with heavy hands,

Their gods were sadder than the sea,
Gods of a wandering will,
Who cried for blood like beasts at night,
Sadly, from hill to hill.

They seemed as trees walking the earth,
As witless and as tall,
Yet they took hold upon the heavens
And no help came at all.

They bred like birds in English woods,
They rooted like the rose,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To hide him from their bows

There was not English armour left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

And the great kings of Wessex
Wearied and sank in gore,
And even their ghosts in that great stress
Grew greyer and greyer, less and less,
With the lords that died in Lyonesse
And the king that comes no more.

from The Balad of the White Horse - GK Chesterton