alastair.adversaria » What I’m Doing

Back from Myanmar

I returned from Myanmar yesterday afternoon. I go back to university on Saturday. This blog should become active again over the next couple of weeks.

The Last Few Days

I am presently back in Stoke-on-Trent for the weekend. My brothers Jonathan and Mark stayed with me for the week and we returned, with most of my belongings, on Friday afternoon. I return to St. Andrews first thing tomorrow morning and will be spending most of the rest of this next week there.

At the Aquarium in St. AndrewsI had a great time with my brothers in St. Andrews. We ate a lot, played a number of card and boardgames and watched a few videos. On their first day up, we visited the castle and cathedral in St. Andrews. I had never been around the castle before and enjoyed looking around. We spent much of the afternoon in St. Andrews’ aquarium.

The next day, Wednesday, we went on a long walk along the coast. The rocks on the coast past the East Sands is one of my favourite places to walk in St. Andrews. MarkFortunately the weather was perfect all afternoon and we were able to enjoy a lot of climbing and walking. We even saw a dead seal. On a nice day there are few better places. You can walk for miles and hardly meet another person.

In the evening I was treated to a meal out for my birthday. We spent the rest of the evening playing card games, chatting and playing computer games. I was also treated to a big chocolate cake. I didn’t get to bed until well past 4:30am. On Thursday we took things easy for most of the day. In the evening we had some friends over for a meal, after which we played card games, chatted for a few hours and played Duck Hunt on an old NES.

Back in Stoke-on-Trent, everything is happening. Jonathan and Monika are about to leave for Tenerife, where they will be working for a year. Mark is about to leave to work as George Verwer’s assistant (or gopher) for a year. My good friends Elbert and Annewieke are preparing to return to the Netherlands. Peter was away at an open day in Oxford University when I first came back, but has since returned. I was treated to another wonderful birthday cake when I returned (thanks Henna!). Yesterday evening we had a party to celebrate the various birthdays (Jonathan, Mark and I) and departures (Jonathan & Monika, Elbert & Annewieke, Mark and Henna) that are about to take place. This afternoon we had a fellowship meal at the church.

The next week will probably be very quiet on the blogging front. I am not sure that I will have any access to a computer. I plan to take a couple of days off (one for some walking or a visit to Edinburgh and another to prepare a big Chinese meal with a friend), but the majority of my time will be occupied tidying up our house before we leave it and getting a lot of other odd jobs done. I will also do some studying. If I am lucky I might be able to fit in some reading of Harry Potter alongside everything else.

Links and News, but not in that order

I returned from a few days back in Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday evening. My time back home was full of activity, but very enjoyable. As there was a wedding on, I had the opportunity to meet a lot more friends than I would have met on another weekend. During the few days back home, I watched Spiderman III for the second time (I far prefer Spiderman II) and Pirates of the Caribbean III (none of the later films in the trilogy have lived up to the original). I helped out at a kid’s club, with preparation for the wedding celebration and had to preach at very short notice (I mainly reworked material that I had written and blogged about recently). I also enjoyed following the cricket when I had a few minutes to spare. The West Indies may not be the strongest opponents, but convincingly winning a Test match does provide welcome relief after the mauling of the latest Ashes series and our failure to make much of an impact at the World Cup.

Over the last few days I have read a number of books. On my way down to Stoke-on-Trent on the train, I finished reading L. Charles Jackson’s Faith of our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed. I had the privilege of meeting Charles a couple of months ago and have enjoyed reading his book. It is a very helpful introduction to the Christian faith, following the statements of the Nicene Creed. Each chapter is relatively short and followed by some review questions. It would be a useful book for a study class and also provides the sort of clear and straightforward (but not simplistic) introduction to Christian doctrine that might be of use to a thinking teenager (Ralph Smith’s Trinity and Reality is another work that I would recommend for this).

On the train journey back I finished reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. A friend recommended the book to me when it first came out a few years ago, but I have only just got around to reading it (I bought a secondhand copy of the book from my housemate John a few months ago). Martel is a very gifted storyteller and the book is quite engrossing. Whilst I strongly disagree with the underlying message of the book (about the character of faith and its loose relationship with fact), I greatly enjoyed the book and may well revisit it on some occasion in the future.

I have also been reading a number of other works, including Courtney Anderson’s To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, which a friend lent to me, in preparation for my visit to Myanmar in September. I am also reading Steve Moyise’s The Old Testament in the New, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Children of Hurin and I have been dipping into the second volume of John Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology. On the commentary front, I have been using Goldingay’s recent work on Psalms 1-41 and Craig S. Keener’s commentary on John’s Gospel.

At the moment I am reading up on the subject of the atonement. I am particularly enjoying Hans Boersma’s work, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition. I am also reading Where Wrath & Mercy Meet: Proclaiming the Atonement Today, edited by Oak Hill’s David Peterson (I am still waiting for my copy of Pierced for Our Transgressions to be delivered), Joel Green and Mark Baker’s Recovering the Scandal of the Cross and revisiting Colin Gunton’s The Actuality of Atonement.

Since returning to St. Andrews I have done very little. I spent much of yesterday playing Half-Life 2 (which I am revisiting after a few years) and reading. Today I expect that I will be a little more productive.

The following are some of the sites, stories, posts and videos that have caught my eye over the last few days.

Matt Colvin has an interesting post on ‘Headcoverings as Visible Eschatology’. Within it he argues that Paul’s teaching on the matter in 1 Corinthians 11 was not culturally determined, but informed by redemptive history.

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James Jordan has posted a series on the Biblical Horizons website: ‘How To Do Reformed Theology Nowadays’. As usual, JBJ has many useful and provocative observations. Here is one extended quotation:

The second problem is that since the academy is separated from the world, it is inevitably a gnostic institution. It is a place of ideas, not of life. For that reason it tends to become a haven for homosexuals (as it was in Greece, as Rosenstock-Huessy again points out in his lectures on Greek Philosophy). But apart from that problem, the separation of the academy from life means that the fundamental issues are seen as intellectual, which they in truth and fact are not. Clearly, conservative theological seminaries are not havens for homosexuals. But when what is protected is ideas and not women, then something is not right. Do academistic theologians protect the Bride of Christ, or do they protect a set of pet notions?

Consider: A man might say that when the Bible says that the waters of the “Red Sea” stood as walls and that the Israelites passed through, this is an exaggeration. What really happened is that a wind dried up an area of the “Swamp of Reeds” and the Israelites passed through. Now, this is a typical gnostic academistic way of approaching the text. The physical aspect of the situation is discounted. What is important is the theological idea of passing between waters. Human beings, for the academic gnostic, are not affected and changed by physical forces sent by God, but are changed by notions and ideas only.

The Bible shows us God changing human beings, bringing Adam forward toward maturity, very often by means of striking physical actions, such as floods, plagues, overwhelming sounds, and also warfare. It’s not just a matter of theology, or of “redemptive history” as a series of notions.

Now, some modern academics have indeed devoted themselves to social and economic history, and have seen that human beings are changed by physical forces that are brought upon them (though without saying that the Triune God brings these things upon them). This outlook, however, has not as yet had much impact on the theological academy.

The fact is that God smacks us around and that’s what changes history. Ideas sometimes smack us around, true enough. But the problem of the academy is that it is (rightly) separated from the world of smackings. From the academistic viewpoint, the actions of God in the Bible, His smacking around of Israel to bring them to maturity, are just not terribly important. What matters are the ideas.

This means the chronology is not important, and the events as described can be questioned. Did God really do those plagues in Egypt, smacking around the human race to bring the race forward in maturity? Maybe not. Maybe the stories in Exodus are “mythic enhancements” of what really happened. It’s the stories that matter, not the events. Maybe the Nile became red with algae, not really turned to blood. The blood idea is to remind us of all the Hebrew babies thrown into the Nile eighty years before.

Think about this. For the academistic, it is the idea that is important. Human beings are changed by ideas. And ideas only. Of course, it should be obvious that turning all the water in Egypt to blood (not just the Nile, Exodus 7:19) is a way of bringing back the murder of the Hebrew infants and of calling up the Avenger of Blood, the Angel of Death, because blood cries for vengeance. They had to dig up new water (Ex. 7:24) because all the old water was dead and bloody. An event like this changes people. The theological ideas are important. But the shock and awe of having all the water of the nation turn to blood is also important. It forces people to change.

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Josh, the Fearsome Pirate, puts his finger on one of the reasons why I would find it hard to become a Lutheran and reminds me of one of the reasons I so appreciate the Reformed tradition: ‘The Bible & Lutheranism’.
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Peter Leithart blogs on a subject that has long interested me: the necessity of the Incarnation. The question of the necessity of the Incarnation might strike some as needlessly speculative. However, our answer to this question does have a lot of practical import, not least in our understanding of the relationship between creation and redemption and the manner in which Christ relates to the cosmos. It raises teleological questions very similar to those raised in supra-infra debates, but does so in a far more biblical manner (supra-infra debates that are not grounded in Christology do strike me as unhelpfully speculative).
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Leithart also blogs on the subject of Pentecost on the First Things blog, one of a number to do so over the last few days. NTW sermons on Ascension and Pentecost have also been posted on the N.T. Wright Page. Joel Garver also blogs on Pentecost here. Over the next few months I will be doing a lot of work on the subject of canonical background for the account of Acts 2 (something that I have blogged about in the past). I will probably blog on the subject in more detail in the future.
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There have been a number of engagements with popular atheism in the blogosphere recently, particularly by Doug Wilson. Wilson’s recent debates with Christopher Hitchens can be found on the Christianity Today website: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. It is interesting to see how Hitchens consistently seems to fail to get Wilson’s point about warrant for moral obligation. Macht also has a helpful post in which he observes Richard Dawkins’ tendency to lightly dismiss positions (not just Christian ones) without ever taking the trouble to try to understand them first.
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Joel Garver summarizes the recent PCA report on the NPP/FV and posts a letter raising some questions and concerns on the subject.
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Ben posts an interesting list of recent and forthcoming must read theological books and Kim Fabricius loses all credibility.
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A recent convert to Roman Catholicism argues that FV theology leads Romeward. A recent convert to Eastern Orthodoxy argues that Peter Leithart was instrumental in his conversion. The first post prompted a very lively and rather heated discussion in the comments (which I participated in).

Frankly, while I do not agree with such moves and do not find the slippery slope argument — much beloved of FV critics — at all convincing, I am not surprised that a number of people make such moves and credit the FV with moving them some way towards their current ecclesiatical home. Unlike many movements within the Reformed world, the FV is heading in a (small ‘c’) catholic and principled ecumenical direction. The journey to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism is far shorter from a catholic than a sectarian tradition. The FV is not generally given to overblown polemics against every theological tradition that differs from the Reformed and appreciates reading material produced by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Orthodox. It can open one’s eyes to the fact that there are actually some pretty fine Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians out there and that, despite a number of failings, they are often far better on certain issues than their Reformed counterparts. Differences remain, but they are put into a far more realistic perspective.

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John H on what lies beneath debates about Mary. He also raises the issue of the presence of the Eucharist in John’s gospel for discussion.
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The most blogged passages of Scripture [HT: The Evangelical Outpost].
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Christianity Today has its 2007 book awards.
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Encouraging signs from Dennis Hou’s blog.
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Edward Cook watches LOST with Hebrew subtitles.
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Best selling books of all time [HT: Kim Riddlebarger]
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118 ways to save money in college
Learn a new language with a podcast
Learn the 8 essential tie knots

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New music from The New Pornographers [HT: Macht]
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A third of bloggers risk the sack
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Life as a secret Christian convert
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Global Peace Index Rankings (if you are looking for the US it is down at 96 between Yemen and Iran)
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A wonderful new site where grandmothers share films of some of their favourite recipes.
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Boy kills a ‘monster pig’ [HT: Jon Barlow]
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Some Youtube videos.

George Lucas in Love

Five Hundred Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

Pete Doherty queues for an Oasis album. It is sad to see how messed up he has become since then.

Finally, from my fellow St. Andrews Divinity student, Jon Mackenzie, comes ‘The Barthman’s Deck-laration’

Links

This morning I finished my last exam of the semester. It is a great relief to have finally completed this year at St. Andrews. It has been considerably less productive than the year before (I suspect that there has been a downward trend in my productivity for over three years now, which is rather depressing) and I look forward to really putting my back into the work for my final year. My results haven’t suffered that much, but I would like to have a bit more to show for my time.

In a few days’ time — possibly after I return to St. Andrews next Tuesday — I hope to start posting the subject of the atonement, a subject which will probably dominate this blog over the summer. However, it has been well over a month since I last posted a links post, and I thought that I would mark my return to regular service with a bumper collection of some of the things that have caught my attention over the last month or so.

Matt Colvin’s Fragmenta blog has always been a personal favourite. Matt has been posting some great material recently. Two posts in particular that I have enjoyed: ‘Baptism for Forgiveness in Acts 2:38′ (an analysis of the grammatical arguments put forward by some to avoid a close relationship between Baptism and forgiveness in that passage) and ‘Examine Yourselves: Testing in Corinth and Crete’ (in which Matt challenges the introspective understanding of ‘examine yourselves’ through a careful examination of the Greek). Both posts give a voice to texts that have all too often fallen prey to theological agendas.

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I am not sure that I agree with all of Josh S’s propositions, but Proposition 5 (’If your theology makes you uncomfortable with biblical language, your theology needs to change’) is, in my experience, one of the most important principles that I have ever learned. I seem to remember that my father first taught me this principle over several years’ ago.
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Stephen Carlson links to some helpful posts with advice for honing your academic writing. Such honing is long overdue in my case. Perhaps something to devote some time to over the summer.
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As usual there is a wealth of quality posting on Peter Leithart’s blog. Over the last month Leithart has posted a number of things that may be of interest to NTW fans: ‘Five Points of NT Wright’, ‘Paul and Israel’, ‘Justification and Community’ and a lengthy PDF document: Jesus as Israel: The Typological Structure of Matthew’s Gospel.

Leithart also has a number of other helpful posts that address FV debates, including ‘Perichoretic Imagination’, ‘Theological Imagination’, ‘Grace’, ‘Denying the Gospel’ and a guest post by James Jordan, ‘Justification and Glorification’.

There are also a number of other interesting and thought-provoking posts, including ‘Faith and Grace’ (about different ways of conceiving of the relationship between faith and grace, with particular reference to the practice of infant Baptism), ‘Justification and Purity’ (in which he mentions Chris VanLandingham’s recent work and his argument that justification language has to do more with ’state of being’ than with ’status’ — perhaps a challenging case for the application of Josh’s fifth proposition) and ‘Rites Controversy’ (some thoughts on the relationship between traditional Chinese practices and the Christian faith in the 17th and 18th centuries).

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Mark Goodacre posts on the subject of PhDs in the UK and US (something that is playing on my mind at the moment too). He also links to a Guardian article on recent trouble at Wycliffe Hall.
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Jason Fout posts on the subject of living with questions.
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NTW on Jerry Falwell. There are also a number of new audio lectures linked from the N.T. Wright Page:

Putting the World to Rights
God’s Restorative Program
Godpod 16
Godpod 17

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James White links to a — presumably heavily critical — series on the NPP.
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Mark posts a lengthy grand unifying Lost theory. I must confess to being cheered by recent developments on the show; for a while I was concerned that it may have jumped the shark.
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On Ben Myers blog: ‘Ten Propositions on Being a Minister’ and a plug for Mike Bird’s new book on the NPP (which looks extremely helpful).
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Ben also links to this lecture by Archbishop Rowan Williams, something that I really must read when I have the time.
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Bill Kesatie asked me to respond to this post on the subject of sexual abuse of children within churches. Bill suggests that blogging Christians need to be more vocal about this matter. I suggest that the teaching of Ephesians 5:11-12 is important to keep in mind here:

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

In our day and age there is virtually no sin so evil that it cannot be spoken of and discussed (almost literally) ad nauseum. There is a sort of unhealthy fascination with perversion that can develop in such a manner, a sort of urge to stoop and sniff the faeces. People who spend a lot of time talking and thinking about sin are in a very dangerous position for this reason. Even though they may condemn the sin in the strongest possible language, there is something about it that arouses their interest.

I am a firm believer in the importance of certain taboos. There are certain things that it is unfitting to talk about. Where sexual abuse of children takes place it is healthy to literally feel sick in the pit of your stomach. Our reaction should be one of deep revulsion. Wherever such sin occurs the Scriptures call us to expose it as a work of darkness. Such an approach of exposing sin has, tragically, not always been followed in Christian contexts. Sin has on occasions been covered up, something which is utterly inexcusable.

The biblical command to expose sin should not, however, be confused with the idea of having a public conversation about such sin. I am shocked by the idea that Christian bloggers should be expected to post condemnations of the sin of child abuse within churches; condemnations are the means by which people who fail to live lives of transparent godliness tend to assert their morality. The fact that we are called upon to condemn such appalling sins suggests that such sins are less than unspeakable and unthinkable to the people of God. Biblically, the Church exposes darkness, not chiefly by condemning it with public statements, but by living as the light of the world.

For this reason, rather than post a condemnation of unspeakable sin, I would prefer to post a challenge for us to be the sort of people for whom such sin truly is unspeakable and unthinkable, for us to be people whose utter rejection of such sin is so completely manifested by the way that we deal with it when it occurs that any further words would merely detract from the fulness of its condemnation.

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Jon Barlow posts on Doug Wilson and Christopher Hitchens and their current debate. His thoughts on Doug Wilson are very close to my own.
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A couple of weeks ago, Barbara tagged me in the seven things you didn’t know about me meme. Here goes:

1. In my first school play at the age of five I was an angel. Midway through the play the elastic on my trousers broke and the crowd were amused and distracted by my attempts to hide the fact and hold them up. My teacher was not too impressed.

2. I went on strike for a day in primary school, because I was annoyed that the supply teacher was a smoker. The primary school that I attended was a small Church of Ireland school, with four years to each room. My younger brother Jonathan was in the same room as me for a couple of years. As a rather absent-minded kid, he was constantly getting into trouble with the teacher. On one occasion when he was being lectured to (and pyschoanalyzed) by the teacher at the front of the class I felt so strongly that he was being treated unfairly that I wrote a letter of protest and handed it around my classmates. It was intercepted and my mind has long sought to suppress the memories of the resulting experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson on that occasion and, in secondary school I wrote another letter of protest to a teacher, which led to a session in the principal’s office.

3. The first album I ever bought was (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis. I still enjoy listening to it today, but at the time, I would have probably been better off had I not bought it as it was, to some extent, a means by which I could rebel against my parents.

4. I have never broken a bone, although I have sprained each of my ankles several times. When I injure myself it is usually playing football or riding my bike. The last time it was a badly sprained ankle. The time before, I slipped on dog doo and cracked my forehead on a brick wall. Unfortunately, the manner of my fall was so amusing that, looking up in my dazed state, all I saw were my friends looking down at me and laughing.

5. I have needle phobia. I feel rather annoyed at myself for having such an irrational fear. Whilst I have faced my fear on a number of occasions in having injections or in donating blood, I haven’t been able to shake the fear itself.

6. I started balding at the age of 16. I noticed about 10 years before some other people did. I guess that you don’t see what you don’t expect to see (and some people are not the most observant).

7. Growing up, I always wanted to be an artist, a soldier, a pilot, a missionary or a maths teacher. Frankly, I probably had a better idea then than I do now.

If you want to be tagged, consider yourself tagged.

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Dr Jim West mentions a forthcoming book by Richard Bauckham, which looks very interesting, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John.
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John H has two great posts with thoughts from Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: ‘Surging, hopeful, joyful doubt’ and ‘The puzzling mystery of unbelief’. He also has a post, entitled ‘The gospel “under the papacy”‘, which he begins with the remark: ‘One irony of becoming a Lutheran was that it greatly improved my opinion of the Roman Catholic Church.’ Very interesting.
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Kevin Bywater has a great series of posts on the subject of sinlessness in Second Temple Judaism:

Second Temple Judaism and Sinlessness (Prayer of Manasseh)
Second Temple Judaism and Sinlessness (2 - Gathercole’s Wise Words)
Second Temple Judaism and Sinlessness (3 - D. Falk on Prayer of Manasseh)
Second Temple Judaism and Sinlessness (4 - Other Texts)

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Mercersberg Review articles available online.
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Angie Brennan posts the ‘Screwtape E-mails’.
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Some interesting things from lifehacker:

Top ten sites for free books
Learning the finer points of punctuation
Top 10 body hacks

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A very interesting article on the Bible in the global South.
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A new blog: The Reformed News. Looks interesting.
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Finally, some gleanings from Youtube.

I got myself a copy of the Arcade Fire’s most recent album and have been listening to it incessantly over the last month. Here is a performance of the title track:

If you haven’t seen the Potter Pals before, this is a lot of fun (or you may find it incredibly annoying and stupid):

Finally, a powerful speech by Bono:

Almost Over

At the moment I am sitting in front of a desk with hundreds of Hebrew flashcards laid out in front of me. In three days’ time I will have finished my last exam of this semester. So far, I am satisfied with how things have gone. I received a paper back and took an exam on Johannine literature and was relatively pleased with how both went. Every time exams come around, I am a little less stressed about them. Even when I have been grossly underprepared I have never failed to fall on my feet. I just hope that I don’t get too complacent and trip up at the last moment.

I can’t wait until this exam is over. There are so many things that I am itching to do. My blogging has been sparse and uneven of late and I look forward to posting a bit more consistently over the summer. I am thinking of devoting particular attention to the subject of the atonement in the next few months, reviewing and interacting with a number of books and addressing the issues from a variety of differing perspectives. I intend to have a wide-ranging discussion on the subject. I will attempt to take a constructive approach, engaging with, but moving beyond some of the more familiar debates that we have on the subject, to explore new and potentially fertile territory. I also hope to have a number of participating guest posters, providing a number of differing perspectives on the issues. If anyone is interested, please feel free to e-mail me at 40bicycles-at-gmail-dot-com. I hope to have reviews of various lengths for at least a dozen or more books on the subject of the atonement and to have posts of various lengths discussing various dimensions of the subject.

Next Thursday I will be going to Stoke-on-Trent and spending a few days there, to visit family and attend a friend’s wedding. I will be back in St. Andrews for the entirety of June. I have a large pile of books that I want to get my teeth into and really can’t wait to get started. If the weather is good, I suspect that I will spend a lot of time studying down on the beach.

Anyway, I must return to my Hebrew revision. Lord-willing, I will post again on Tuesday.

Miscellaneous

Tomorrow, and possibly a few other days of this week, will be without guest posts. I will be meeting up with my father in Edinburgh tomorrow and will not have access to my computer. The rest of the week will be exceedingly busy. Apart from regular activities I have a St. Patrick’s Day party to prepare for on Saturday. In addition to this, I am running rather low on guest posts at the moment. A number of people have promised to send me posts that I am still waiting on.

I appreciate that my blogging for the last few weeks (months?) has been rather patchy. I am not sure if this will change any time soon. I have a number of half-completed lengthy posts on my hard drive and dozens of other subjects that I have considered posting on over the last few weeks. The sheer number of things that I have been itching to comment about as I have been reading Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry over the last few days has been simply overwhelming. The problem is that the book has been so utterly appalling (I regret to say that this is not just exaggerated rhetoric) so far that I really wouldn’t know where to start. I am usually a relatively composed reader, not given to strong reactions, but some of the claims made in this book have left me dumbfounded. I just would not know where to begin in a response. Doug Wilson has been responding to the book on his blog, but he is far too kind in his criticisms. This is a book whose claims need to be taken apart stone by stone, each stone pulverized individually and the resultant dust scattered to the four winds of heaven. However, I do not have the time, energy or patience to waste on such a thankless task.

Here are a few links from today:

John H has alerted me to this article from the Scientific American‘Special Report: Has James Cameron Found Jesus’s Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error?’. Mark Goodacre also has more on the tomb story — ‘Talpiot Tomb Various’ and ‘Mariamene and Martha, Stephen Pfann’. Ben Witherington links to an interview he has given on the tomb story.

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Kim Fabricius’ Ten Propositions on Sin. As usual, I don’t agree with a number of Kim’s claims, but the clarity of insight of some of his observations always makes him worth reading.
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David Field explains Aristotle’s Four Causes.
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Jeff Meyers podcasts an old lecture on the Mercersburg Theology’s sacramental conflict with Old School Presbyterianism.
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First Things’ Joseph Bottum on good prose on the Web.
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John H on the altar-calling tendencies of some forms of contemporary atheism.
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Lifehacker alerts us to two potentially useful downloads — Google Image Ripper and Polyglot 3000

News and Links

Prison Break Season 1As I am very bad at keeping up to date with e-mail correspondence with my friends and family, from time to time I will post news updates on this blog. The last few weeks have been relatively uneventful. Last week I started studying Latin with my housemate John, which has been quite an enjoyable experience so far and makes something of a change from the things that we usually do. Last week I also received the DVDs of season 1 of Prison Break, which John and I have been watching compulsively ever since.

Since my Chinese teacher from last semester returned to China I have been unable to find a replacement. I know of a few places where I might possibly find one, but haven’t had any success yet. I have been studying theological German this semester instead (with Jon and a couple of others), which is another first for me. The German is nowhere near as intense as the Chinese was last year and so I have a lot more free time in which to read, play Settlers of Catan, card games, Civilization IV and other such things. I am taking modules in John’s gospel and Hebrew praise and lament this semester. Both have been stimulating so far, particularly the John’s gospel module, for which we have Markus Bockmuehl, who is quite brilliant and a privilege to study under.

Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral MinistryThis morning I received a copy of Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry in the mail. I have only read the first chapter, which does not augur well for my enjoyment of the rest of the book. I fear that my blood pressure might be raised next week, in which I plan to finish reading it. Fortunately I am reading a number of other enjoyable books at the moment, which should help in this respect. Yves Congar’s I Believe in the Holy Spirit is a good read, as are Richard Bauckham’s The Bible in Politics and Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. I also plan to read Jean-Luc Marion’s God Without Being (no, I really haven’t read it yet!) and reread Oliver O’Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations within the next couple of weeks.

At present I am hoping that I will be able to complete my Lenten blogging project. However, I am running dangerously short of posts at the moment. If you want to take part, please send me something as soon as you can.

I will conclude this post will a short list of links fron the last day or two:

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Leithart blogs a thought on turning the cheek as a form of resistance.
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Mark Goodacre blogs some assorted thoughts on the Talpiot tomb. Dr Jim Davila posts some thoughts from Dr Alexander Panayotov.
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Baudrillard is dead. AKMA links to some thoughts on Baudrillard and his work here.
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FV and their critics two sides of the same coin? I suspect that both parties in the present debate will strongly disagree with the way that they are represented here.
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David Field reflects on Galatians 3:12 and Leviticus 18:5 (here and here). I can’t say that I am convinced, but have yet to make up my mind on that passage (the use of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5 seems to make more sense to me). Tim Gallant had some interesting thoughts on this a while back (see under section 5).
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I have just lifted the following Rowan Williams quotation from Ben Myers’ blog.

Scripture and tradition require to be read in a way that brings out their strangeness, their non-obvious and non-contemporary qualities, in order that they may be read both freshly and truthfully from one generation to another. They need to be made more difficult before we can accurately grasp their simplicities…. And this ‘making difficult’, this confession that what the gospel says in Scripture and tradition does not instantly and effortlessly make sense, is perhaps one of the most fundamental tasks for theology.

Sounds quite right to me.

***
Lots of Rich Lusk stuff.
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Movements towards incest. I saw this one coming quite some way off. The sort of arguments being raised against it by people in our society is perhaps one of the most depressing things of this whole matter.
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The Presbyteer observes something about the way that we all tend to read Scripture.
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Kim Riddlebarger comments on the danger of self-appointed theological experts online.
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On a not unrelated subject, Ross Leckie explains how easy it is to bluff knowledge of a book that you have never read. I suspect that many theologians are gifted practitioners of such methods when it comes to the biblical text.
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Danny Foulkes reacts to John MacArthur’s claim that every self-respecting Calvinist is a premillennialist.
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My brother Mark gives a video lesson in constructing an origami star.
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Speed Painting with Ketchup and French Fries
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Hack GoogleMaps to enable you to zoom in further.
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Calvinix tablets: highly recommended for any Arminian readers! Also, denominational Swiss Army knives [HT: Michael Spencer of BHT].

Shrove Tuesday!

John H gives some historical background here.

This evening I plan to have two pancake-making sessions. On Sunday we had a dry run and made a number of wonderful sauces (apple and cinnamon, sticky toffee, brandy and sugar butter, in addition to the regular toppings of lemon and sugar and syrup; we also had my housemate John’s homemade Crunchie bar icecream as a topping). This evening I will probably try making a pineapple sauce topping and a chocolate sauce topping. Right now I will use Shrove Tuesday as an excuse to post one of my favourite Youtube videos.

Life in St. Andrews

Having some time on my hands this afternoon, I decided to put together some of the odd videos of St. Andrews that I had on my hard drive to create the Frankenstein’s monster below. Enjoy.

Today

Certainly an improvement on yesterday, which saw the foundation of my first anti-fan club — ‘I Disagree with Alastair Roberts’ — started by my little brother on Facebook. He obviously has far too much time on his hands.

Meet the PuritansToday I had a brief visit from my sister-in-law and another friend. It is always great to meet up with friends after being away from them for a while and to catch up on news from home. Among other things they delivered some things from home — a computer game and a parcel that had come for me. The parcel contained a book from Joel Beeke. I had the great privilege of working for a month with him in Grand Rapids back in 2003. I spent much of the time researching for a book that Joel Beeke was working on at the time. I had almost forgotten about it, but the book that he sent was a complimentary copy of the work, Meet the Puritans. I even get a mention in the preface, which, unless I am mistaken, is the first time that my name has found its way into a published work. From the brief time that I have taken to look at it, the finished product looks like a very useful reference volume for anyone who is interested in the Puritans.

The evening we had a very tasty Chinese takeaway meal. We hardly ever order takeaway, so it was nice to take a break from cooking for an evening. We followed the meal with a long game of Settlers of Catan, which I spend far too much time playing at the moment. I am feeling like finishing the evening with some knitting, a short DVD and a small glass of port.

Exams

I have two important exams this week, one tomorrow and one on Saturday. Unfortunately, my revision for both exams has been minimal. I haven’t been feeling too great over the last couple of weeks and over the last few days I have found it hard to focus on my studies. There are so many odd jobs that come to one’s attention when one has to prepare for an exam.

I can’t wait until these exams are over and I can enjoy three weeks off. I hope to spend much of those weeks working on my languages: Hebrew, Greek, French and Chinese. I might even start working on some German. I also look forward to doing some more focused reading and prayer, to learning some Chinese cooking and preparing a few special meals, starting to learn how to ride the unicycle, having a few bicycle rides, finishing the jumper that I am presently knitting (I have found lots of time to knit during my revision period; I record my revision notes into the computer and play them back to myself while I knit), making a video or two, getting back into a couple of games of Civilization IV that I started last term with some friends and playing the Seafarers of Catan expansion pack for the first time.

I also hope that the posting on this blog will improve both in quantity and quality during the break. Finishing my N.T. Wright talks is near the top of my to-do list at the moment.

However, all of this must be put to the back of my mind until Saturday afternoon…

Busy

Tonight I am spending my time constructing homemade Christmas cards. Each one takes a considerable amount of time to assemble. This year I have decided to make cascading waterfall cards with pop-up snowflakes inside. A lot of fun.

This morning and afternoon one of my housemates and I made a full Christmas dinner for eleven, which was quite a challenge as I have been feeling under the weather all day. We do quite a lot of entertaining at the moment and so have the opportunity to cook some pretty fancy meals. We had a four-course meal on Sunday; tomorrow I will have to help prepare another Christmas meal, this time for nine. So far we have only had one evening without dessert all semester, which I think is pretty good.

My final lectures before the Christmas break take place tomorrow morning. I will probably have a Chinese test in the evening. I will also have to narrow down my options for accommodation next year. After tomorrow I will collapse on Friday and then travel back on the bus on Saturday.

News Update: Attending a new Church, etc.


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Back in St. Andrews


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Packing

At present I am packing in preparation for my return to St. Andrews tomorrow. There are few things that I hate more than having to choose which books to leave behind.

I won’t have any Internet access in the house that I will be living in in St. Andrews and have no plans at present of setting it up. Consequently, I expect that I will post a lot less frequently.

Things will be quiet around here for the next few days. However, next week I expect to post three or four lengthy talks on N.T. Wright, his understandings of Jesus and of Paul and some of the current debates surrounding his work. At the moment I am getting some material together for these presentations.

Happenings

This morning I went to the book sale and returned a few hours later with over 50 new books for about £50. I didn’t have any amazing finds today, but I was able to pick up a number of titles that I will probably need in the future, for a fraction of the price that I would pay otherwise. I bought important works by Bultmann, Tillich, Fiorenza, Jeremias, Ruether, Moltmann, Cullmann, Aulén and Schweitzer, each for under £1 a volume. I also managed to pick up some other interesting titles at low prices: Gerd Theissen, The Gospels in Context; Keith Ward, God, Chance & Necessity; Richard Horsley & Neil Silberman, The Message and the Kingdom; Robin Gill, A Textbook of Christian Ethics; Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles; John Polkinghorne, Science & Christian Belief; Rowan Williams, Lost Icons; Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Paul and the Stoics; Wayne Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians and a number of others. Given the fact that a copy of Regan’s translation of Aquinas’ De Malo and John Barton’s Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study (set reading for next semester) also arrived in the post this morning, I am a very happy person this evening as I cover and catalogue them. I will probably return to the book sale again some time during the next week (having earned a little more money first…).

This morning Peter left for a week of Beach Missions in Llandudno (and suddenly all is quiet at home!). Llandudno is a seaside town in North Wales and is a popular holiday destination for many people from Stoke-on-Trent. Please pray that the Beach Team will know God’s blessing on their work and that the week will be a very special and memorable time for Peter.

Jonathan and Monika got two dogs this morning, after thinking about getting a dog for a while. The dogs are called Captain and Monty. They are very friendly, but Monty is still a little scared. I will leave you with a picture of Jonathan with the two dogs (unfortunately Monty is hidden behind).

Jonathan with Monty and Captain

Busy

I am going to be very busy until the end of this week, so I won’t post or give any lengthy answers to comments for the next few days. However, since my recent N.T. Wright post has received such a response, I have started to write an extremely lengthy treatment of N.T. Wright’s doctrine of final justification and the criticisms that have been levelled against it. I plan to study the various statements that Wright has made on the subject since before 1980 and unpack exactly what he is teaching on the matter. I also plan to interact with several Reformed and evangelical critics of his position.

China Video

During our time in China I made a number of short videos of Mark dancing in front of some of the places that we visited. They were made into one longer video this evening. Please excuse the gratuitous silliness. The dancing idea is not original, but we thought that it would be funny nonetheless.

David Bentley Hart on the Discipline of Theology

David Bentley Hart writes:—

Now, as it happens, theology is actually a pitilessly demanding discipline concerning an immense, profoundly sophisticated legacy of hermeneutics, dialectics, and logic; it deals in minute detail with a vast variety of concrete historical data; over the centuries, it has incubated speculative systems of extraordinary rigor and intricacy, many of whose questions and methods continue to inform contemporary philosophy; and it does, when all is said and done, constitute the single intellectual, moral, spiritual, and cultural tradition uniting the classical, medieval, and early modern worlds. Even if one entirely avoids considering what metaphysical content one should attach to the word “God,” one can still plausibly argue that theology is no more lacking in a substantial field of inquiry than are history, philosophy, the study of literature, or any of the other genuinely respectable university disciplines.

Moreover, theology requires far greater scholarly range. The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild. And, as Stoner rightly notes, the absence or near-absence of theology from the general curriculum has done incalculable harm to students’ ability to understand their own fields. This is perhaps especially—or at least most obviously—true in the case of literary studies; but, in fact, it would be hard to name a discipline outside the hard sciences or mathematics that can be mastered adequately without some degree of theological literacy.

The more that I study theology, the more aware of my limitations I become. Being persuaded that over-specialization is an especially dangerous tendency within this field (above all others) and seeking to keep my studies as broad as possible, I continually find myself frustrated by my inability to attain to the level of scholarship that I believe that the discipline demands of me. Theology calls for a degree of personal commitment, intensity of focus and dedication and investment of life that I feel utterly incapable of. Occasionally I wonder whether I should be doing something entirely different; Theology demands more than I can give. However, despite my frustration with my incapacity, I know that no other discipline could inspire me in the same way.

The last several months have been particularly unproductive and I have failed to meet a number of the targets that I have set myself. I am firmly persuaded that the coming years will prove crucial in my personal development and for the standard of my continuing studies. Whilst I know that I do not have what is required to be a great theologian, I wish to be the best that I possibly can be. Over the next few months I hope to progress beyond the haphazard and indisciplined character that my studies have had to this point, to cease to be a dabbler and become a true scholar. I must address my deep-seated slothfulness and bring my somewhat mercurial temperament under a greater degree of control. I am uncertain as to the direction that this blog will take and the part, if any, that it will play in my future plans. I would appreciate all of your prayers over the next while.

Pirates of the Caribbean II

Captain Jack Sparrow

I watched it yesterday and feel that the Ninja’s assessment is not too far from the truth.

Going Dark

Whilst I had intended to post a lengthy post on the subject of election and limited atonement, I have been feeling unwell over the last few days and never managed to do it. I have been working less and less effectively over the last few months and over the last couple of weeks I have practically ground to a halt. I no longer have the energy, desire or focus to do anything. Rather than trying to keep on going I have decided to crash. Hopefully after a few days to catch my breath I will be far more effective. My family are away for the next week or so, so things should be pretty quiet around here. It will be nice to take it easy and enjoy a relaxed birthday, before I go to China with my brother later this month. I don’t intend to blog again before I return on July 20th.

…Yawn…


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Exams Update

Two exams down and only one to go. The Hebrew went well. The Ethics went OK. I was relatively pleased with what I was able to write, but felt unsatisfied with the incompleteness of the sort of answers to the questions that I could give with the time that I had to work with. Tomorrow is the hardest of the three exams, on the OT (a bit of a misnomer as it is really about the pseudepigrapha and about using the frameworks provided by biblical criticism as means of reading the OT text against itself). I would appreciate prayer for my revision and for the exam tomorrow morning.

Exams

Last week was revision week. Tomorrow I have my first exam (Hebrew). My last exam (OT) is on Thursday morning. I return home for the holidays on Friday. I probably won’t post again for a few days.

May Dip

Castle Sands
Every year, students of St. Andrews plunge into the freezing cold sea at dawn on May 1. This year I was one of them.

I got no sleep last night. I will be so tired later on today.

News and Stuff

I finished my last term-time exam (Hebrew) on Thursday. Now I only have the final exams left. The last few days have enjoyable, if not very productive. Earlier in the week I had a phone call from my brother Mark, who suggested that I go with him for a month’s holiday in China this summer. I have booked my ticket and can’t wait. I have done relatively little reading over the past week, although I have watched some good films. Crash is the most profoundly thought-provoking film that I have seen in a long time, despite a lot of bad language. I recommend it very highly. Christians could gain much by reflecting on the deep themes raised by such ‘non-Christian’ movies. I also watched Howl’s Moving Castle last night, a fantastic film in every sense of the word. Having loved Spirited Away I thought that I would try Howl’s Moving Castle, which I now feel is probably the better of the two.

Leithart has a very good observation on the canonical relationship between Acts and Romans.

I handed in my final essay today, which is a huge weight off my mind. I have not enjoyed my essays that much this semester. They have all been well over the word limit (this time I relegated 2600 words to footnotes, something that I got away with last time) and I have had to cut sections that I have put a lot of thought into. I have not been satisfied with any of the finished articles.

I found out about next year’s modules today, which was very interesting. We are only supposed to be doing two modules per semester, but I am thinking of asking for a special dispensation and going for four. I really doubt that I will be allowed to, but I would like the challenge. I have been coasting this semester and I would like to push myself a bit more. If I only go for two modules I won’t be able to keep up my Hebrew. Fergus Kerr is also going to be teaching here next semester and I really want to do that module (or, alternatively, I could see if I would be permitted to write a dissertation with Kerr as my supervisor).

Expect some posts on the authority of the Bible, the homosexuality debate and Christian faith and the ecology in the next few days.

I’m Still Here

Blogging has been light of late. I haven’t been feeling especially inspired (I can hardly remember the last time that I did) and have also been working on essays. Today I am going to be spending most of my time in Edinburgh with some friends, which should be enjoyable. Hopefully it will be an enriching cultural experience; I have not had one of those for a while.

Perhaps I will finish my series on the authority of Scripture next week. I might also post something on the subject of Christian faith and the ecology. Good books that I have been reading lately include Douglas Knight’s The Eschatological Economy and Peter Candler’s Theology, Rhetoric, Manuduction, or Reading Scripture Together on the Path to God. Steven Bouma-Prediger’s For the Beauty of the Earth was good (but not as good as it could have been) and Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower was superb, a must-read. I also used deSilva on Hebrews recently and share Leithart’s assessment. Issues that I am planning to revisit and explore in more depth include those of forgiveness and homosexuality (David Greenberg’s The Construction of Homosexuality was a really interesting and thought-provoking read). I am increasingly convinced that we need to re-examine traditional Christian debates about homosexualities and sharpen up our positions considerably in a number of areas.

That is all.

Home Again!

I am back home for the holidays. It is good to see family again.

Last night was a very important night in which I made some important decisions, decisions that may slowly begin to radically change the course of my life (at least I am hoping so). Unfortunately, the process of turning things around will be far from a comfortable one. The first half of this semester has been singularly unproductive. However, I feel that I have been able to put a line under it. Lord-willing, the next half will be very different. I actually am beginning to feel an inkling of a sense of direction for my life now, something that I haven’t really had for at least five years, and which I have never enjoyed for any extended period of time. Even when such direction lasts for only a few months, it is amazing how much it increases and focuses my productivity. I really hope that this lasts and doesn’t prove to be illusory. I have meandered listlessly through life, allowing decisions to make themselves, for far too long. Please pray for me in this respect. Sloth has long been my besetting sin and it is not going to be easy to gain and retain ground in the ongoing battle against it.

There has also been occasion for joy and thanksgiving. Today, just as I arrived back, I received the news that my housing situation for next year has worked out. I will be sharing with two friends from my hall (I couldn’t wish for better housemates). I can hardly wait for September. God has really been gracious in helping me on the housing front so far this semester. He is indeed very good. Thank you to all of you who have prayed!



Back from Myanmar

I returned from Myanmar yesterday afternoon. I go back to university on Saturday. This blog should become active again over the next couple of weeks.

The Last Few Days

I am presently back in Stoke-on-Trent for the weekend. My brothers Jonathan and Mark stayed with me for the week and we returned, with most of my belongings, on Friday afternoon. I return to St. Andrews first thing tomorrow morning and will be spending most of the rest of this next week there.

At the Aquarium in St. AndrewsI had a great time with my brothers in St. Andrews. We ate a lot, played a number of card and boardgames and watched a few videos. On their first day up, we visited the castle and cathedral in St. Andrews. I had never been around the castle before and enjoyed looking around. We spent much of the afternoon in St. Andrews’ aquarium.

The next day, Wednesday, we went on a long walk along the coast. The rocks on the coast past the East Sands is one of my favourite places to walk in St. Andrews. MarkFortunately the weather was perfect all afternoon and we were able to enjoy a lot of climbing and walking. We even saw a dead seal. On a nice day there are few better places. You can walk for miles and hardly meet another person.

In the evening I was treated to a meal out for my birthday. We spent the rest of the evening playing card games, chatting and playing computer games. I was also treated to a big chocolate cake. I didn’t get to bed until well past 4:30am. On Thursday we took things easy for most of the day. In the evening we had some friends over for a meal, after which we played card games, chatted for a few hours and played Duck Hunt on an old NES.

Back in Stoke-on-Trent, everything is happening. Jonathan and Monika are about to leave for Tenerife, where they will be working for a year. Mark is about to leave to work as George Verwer’s assistant (or gopher) for a year. My good friends Elbert and Annewieke are preparing to return to the Netherlands. Peter was away at an open day in Oxford University when I first came back, but has since returned. I was treated to another wonderful birthday cake when I returned (thanks Henna!). Yesterday evening we had a party to celebrate the various birthdays (Jonathan, Mark and I) and departures (Jonathan & Monika, Elbert & Annewieke, Mark and Henna) that are about to take place. This afternoon we had a fellowship meal at the church.

The next week will probably be very quiet on the blogging front. I am not sure that I will have any access to a computer. I plan to take a couple of days off (one for some walking or a visit to Edinburgh and another to prepare a big Chinese meal with a friend), but the majority of my time will be occupied tidying up our house before we leave it and getting a lot of other odd jobs done. I will also do some studying. If I am lucky I might be able to fit in some reading of Harry Potter alongside everything else.

Links and News, but not in that order

I returned from a few days back in Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday evening. My time back home was full of activity, but very enjoyable. As there was a wedding on, I had the opportunity to meet a lot more friends than I would have met on another weekend. During the few days back home, I watched Spiderman III for the second time (I far prefer Spiderman II) and Pirates of the Caribbean III (none of the later films in the trilogy have lived up to the original). I helped out at a kid’s club, with preparation for the wedding celebration and had to preach at very short notice (I mainly reworked material that I had written and blogged about recently). I also enjoyed following the cricket when I had a few minutes to spare. The West Indies may not be the strongest opponents, but convincingly winning a Test match does provide welcome relief after the mauling of the latest Ashes series and our failure to make much of an impact at the World Cup.

Over the last few days I have read a number of books. On my way down to Stoke-on-Trent on the train, I finished reading L. Charles Jackson’s Faith of our Fathers: A Study of the Nicene Creed. I had the privilege of meeting Charles a couple of months ago and have enjoyed reading his book. It is a very helpful introduction to the Christian faith, following the statements of the Nicene Creed. Each chapter is relatively short and followed by some review questions. It would be a useful book for a study class and also provides the sort of clear and straightforward (but not simplistic) introduction to Christian doctrine that might be of use to a thinking teenager (Ralph Smith’s Trinity and Reality is another work that I would recommend for this).

On the train journey back I finished reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. A friend recommended the book to me when it first came out a few years ago, but I have only just got around to reading it (I bought a secondhand copy of the book from my housemate John a few months ago). Martel is a very gifted storyteller and the book is quite engrossing. Whilst I strongly disagree with the underlying message of the book (about the character of faith and its loose relationship with fact), I greatly enjoyed the book and may well revisit it on some occasion in the future.

I have also been reading a number of other works, including Courtney Anderson’s To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson, which a friend lent to me, in preparation for my visit to Myanmar in September. I am also reading Steve Moyise’s The Old Testament in the New, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Children of Hurin and I have been dipping into the second volume of John Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology. On the commentary front, I have been using Goldingay’s recent work on Psalms 1-41 and Craig S. Keener’s commentary on John’s Gospel.

At the moment I am reading up on the subject of the atonement. I am particularly enjoying Hans Boersma’s work, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition. I am also reading Where Wrath & Mercy Meet: Proclaiming the Atonement Today, edited by Oak Hill’s David Peterson (I am still waiting for my copy of Pierced for Our Transgressions to be delivered), Joel Green and Mark Baker’s Recovering the Scandal of the Cross and revisiting Colin Gunton’s The Actuality of Atonement.

Since returning to St. Andrews I have done very little. I spent much of yesterday playing Half-Life 2 (which I am revisiting after a few years) and reading. Today I expect that I will be a little more productive.

The following are some of the sites, stories, posts and videos that have caught my eye over the last few days.

Matt Colvin has an interesting post on ‘Headcoverings as Visible Eschatology’. Within it he argues that Paul’s teaching on the matter in 1 Corinthians 11 was not culturally determined, but informed by redemptive history.

***
James Jordan has posted a series on the Biblical Horizons website: ‘How To Do Reformed Theology Nowadays’. As usual, JBJ has many useful and provocative observations. Here is one extended quotation:

The second problem is that since the academy is separated from the world, it is inevitably a gnostic institution. It is a place of ideas, not of life. For that reason it tends to become a haven for homosexuals (as it was in Greece, as Rosenstock-Huessy again points out in his lectures on Greek Philosophy). But apart from that problem, the separation of the academy from life means that the fundamental issues are seen as intellectual, which they in truth and fact are not. Clearly, conservative theological seminaries are not havens for homosexuals. But when what is protected is ideas and not women, then something is not right. Do academistic theologians protect the Bride of Christ, or do they protect a set of pet notions?

Consider: A man might say that when the Bible says that the waters of the “Red Sea” stood as walls and that the Israelites passed through, this is an exaggeration. What really happened is that a wind dried up an area of the “Swamp of Reeds” and the Israelites passed through. Now, this is a typical gnostic academistic way of approaching the text. The physical aspect of the situation is discounted. What is important is the theological idea of passing between waters. Human beings, for the academic gnostic, are not affected and changed by physical forces sent by God, but are changed by notions and ideas only.

The Bible shows us God changing human beings, bringing Adam forward toward maturity, very often by means of striking physical actions, such as floods, plagues, overwhelming sounds, and also warfare. It’s not just a matter of theology, or of “redemptive history” as a series of notions.

Now, some modern academics have indeed devoted themselves to social and economic history, and have seen that human beings are changed by physical forces that are brought upon them (though without saying that the Triune God brings these things upon them). This outlook, however, has not as yet had much impact on the theological academy.

The fact is that God smacks us around and that’s what changes history. Ideas sometimes smack us around, true enough. But the problem of the academy is that it is (rightly) separated from the world of smackings. From the academistic viewpoint, the actions of God in the Bible, His smacking around of Israel to bring them to maturity, are just not terribly important. What matters are the ideas.

This means the chronology is not important, and the events as described can be questioned. Did God really do those plagues in Egypt, smacking around the human race to bring the race forward in maturity? Maybe not. Maybe the stories in Exodus are “mythic enhancements” of what really happened. It’s the stories that matter, not the events. Maybe the Nile became red with algae, not really turned to blood. The blood idea is to remind us of all the Hebrew babies thrown into the Nile eighty years before.

Think about this. For the academistic, it is the idea that is important. Human beings are changed by ideas. And ideas only. Of course, it should be obvious that turning all the water in Egypt to blood (not just the Nile, Exodus 7:19) is a way of bringing back the murder of the Hebrew infants and of calling up the Avenger of Blood, the Angel of Death, because blood cries for vengeance. They had to dig up new water (Ex. 7:24) because all the old water was dead and bloody. An event like this changes people. The theological ideas are important. But the shock and awe of having all the water of the nation turn to blood is also important. It forces people to change.

***
Josh, the Fearsome Pirate, puts his finger on one of the reasons why I would find it hard to become a Lutheran and reminds me of one of the reasons I so appreciate the Reformed tradition: ‘The Bible & Lutheranism’.
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Peter Leithart blogs on a subject that has long interested me: the necessity of the Incarnation. The question of the necessity of the Incarnation might strike some as needlessly speculative. However, our answer to this question does have a lot of practical import, not least in our understanding of the relationship between creation and redemption and the manner in which Christ relates to the cosmos. It raises teleological questions very similar to those raised in supra-infra debates, but does so in a far more biblical manner (supra-infra debates that are not grounded in Christology do strike me as unhelpfully speculative).
***
Leithart also blogs on the subject of Pentecost on the First Things blog, one of a number to do so over the last few days. NTW sermons on Ascension and Pentecost have also been posted on the N.T. Wright Page. Joel Garver also blogs on Pentecost here. Over the next few months I will be doing a lot of work on the subject of canonical background for the account of Acts 2 (something that I have blogged about in the past). I will probably blog on the subject in more detail in the future.
***
There have been a number of engagements with popular atheism in the blogosphere recently, particularly by Doug Wilson. Wilson’s recent debates with Christopher Hitchens can be found on the Christianity Today website: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. It is interesting to see how Hitchens consistently seems to fail to get Wilson’s point about warrant for moral obligation. Macht also has a helpful post in which he observes Richard Dawkins’ tendency to lightly dismiss positions (not just Christian ones) without ever taking the trouble to try to understand them first.
***
Joel Garver summarizes the recent PCA report on the NPP/FV and posts a letter raising some questions and concerns on the subject.
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Ben posts an interesting list of recent and forthcoming must read theological books and Kim Fabricius loses all credibility.
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A recent convert to Roman Catholicism argues that FV theology leads Romeward. A recent convert to Eastern Orthodoxy argues that Peter Leithart was instrumental in his conversion. The first post prompted a very lively and rather heated discussion in the comments (which I participated in).

Frankly, while I do not agree with such moves and do not find the slippery slope argument — much beloved of FV critics — at all convincing, I am not surprised that a number of people make such moves and credit the FV with moving them some way towards their current ecclesiatical home. Unlike many movements within the Reformed world, the FV is heading in a (small ‘c’) catholic and principled ecumenical direction. The journey to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism is far shorter from a catholic than a sectarian tradition. The FV is not generally given to overblown polemics against every theological tradition that differs from the Reformed and appreciates reading material produced by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Orthodox. It can open one’s eyes to the fact that there are actually some pretty fine Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians out there and that, despite a number of failings, they are often far better on certain issues than their Reformed counterparts. Differences remain, but they are put into a far more realistic perspective.

***
John H on what lies beneath debates about Mary. He also raises the issue of the presence of the Eucharist in John’s gospel for discussion.
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The most blogged passages of Scripture [HT: The Evangelical Outpost].
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Christianity Today has its 2007 book awards.
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Encouraging signs from Dennis Hou’s blog.
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Edward Cook watches LOST with Hebrew subtitles.
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Best selling books of all time [HT: Kim Riddlebarger]
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118 ways to save money in college
Learn a new language with a podcast
Learn the 8 essential tie knots

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New music from The New Pornographers [HT: Macht]
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A third of bloggers risk the sack
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Life as a secret Christian convert
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Global Peace Index Rankings (if you are looking for the US it is down at 96 between Yemen and Iran)
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A wonderful new site where grandmothers share films of some of their favourite recipes.
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Boy kills a ‘monster pig’ [HT: Jon Barlow]
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Some Youtube videos.

George Lucas in Love

Five Hundred Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

Pete Doherty queues for an Oasis album. It is sad to see how messed up he has become since then.

Finally, from my fellow St. Andrews Divinity student, Jon Mackenzie, comes ‘The Barthman’s Deck-laration’

Links

This morning I finished my last exam of the semester. It is a great relief to have finally completed this year at St. Andrews. It has been considerably less productive than the year before (I suspect that there has been a downward trend in my productivity for over three years now, which is rather depressing) and I look forward to really putting my back into the work for my final year. My results haven’t suffered that much, but I would like to have a bit more to show for my time.

In a few days’ time — possibly after I return to St. Andrews next Tuesday — I hope to start posting the subject of the atonement, a subject which will probably dominate this blog over the summer. However, it has been well over a month since I last posted a links post, and I thought that I would mark my return to regular service with a bumper collection of some of the things that have caught my attention over the last month or so.

Matt Colvin’s Fragmenta blog has always been a personal favourite. Matt has been posting some great material recently. Two posts in particular that I have enjoyed: ‘Baptism for Forgiveness in Acts 2:38′ (an analysis of the grammatical arguments put forward by some to avoid a close relationship between Baptism and forgiveness in that passage) and ‘Examine Yourselves: Testing in Corinth and Crete’ (in which Matt challenges the introspective understanding of ‘examine yourselves’ through a careful examination of the Greek). Both posts give a voice to texts that have all too often fallen prey to theological agendas.

***
I am not sure that I agree with all of Josh S’s propositions, but Proposition 5 (’If your theology makes you uncomfortable with biblical language, your theology needs to change’) is, in my experience, one of the most important principles that I have ever learned. I seem to remember that my father first taught me this principle over several years’ ago.
***
Stephen Carlson links to some helpful posts with advice for honing your academic writing. Such honing is long overdue in my case. Perhaps something to devote some time to over the summer.
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As usual there is a wealth of quality posting on Peter Leithart’s blog. Over the last month Leithart has posted a number of things that may be of interest to NTW fans: ‘Five Points of NT Wright’, ‘Paul and Israel’, ‘Justification and Community’ and a lengthy PDF document: Jesus as Israel: The Typological Structure of Matthew’s Gospel.

Leithart also has a number of other helpful posts that address FV debates, including ‘Perichoretic Imagination’, ‘Theological Imagination’, ‘Grace’, ‘Denying the Gospel’ and a guest post by James Jordan, ‘Justification and Glorification’.

There are also a number of other interesting and thought-provoking posts, including ‘Faith and Grace’ (about different ways of conceiving of the relationship between faith and grace, with particular reference to the practice of infant Baptism), ‘Justification and Purity’ (in which he mentions Chris VanLandingham’s recent work and his argument that justification language has to do more with ’state of being’ than with ’status’ — perhaps a challenging case for the application of Josh’s fifth proposition) and ‘Rites Controversy’ (some thoughts on the relationship between traditional Chinese practices and the Christian faith in the 17th and 18th centuries).

***
Mark Goodacre posts on the subject of PhDs in the UK and US (something that is playing on my mind at the moment too). He also links to a Guardian article on recent trouble at Wycliffe Hall.
***
Jason Fout posts on the subject of living with questions.
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NTW on Jerry Falwell. There are also a number of new audio lectures linked from the N.T. Wright Page:

Putting the World to Rights
God’s Restorative Program
Godpod 16
Godpod 17

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James White links to a — presumably heavily critical — series on the NPP.
***
Mark posts a lengthy grand unifying Lost theory. I must confess to being cheered by recent developments on the show; for a while I was concerned that it may have jumped the shark.
***
On Ben Myers blog: ‘Ten Propositions on Being a Minister’ and a plug for Mike Bird’s new book on the NPP (which looks extremely helpful).
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Ben also links to this lecture by Archbishop Rowan Williams, something that I really must read when I have the time.
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Bill Kesatie asked me to respond to this post on the subject of sexual abuse of children within churches. Bill suggests that blogging Christians need to be more vocal about this matter. I suggest that the teaching of Ephesians 5:11-12 is important to keep in mind here:

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

In our day and age there is virtually no sin so evil that it cannot be spoken of and discussed (almost literally) ad nauseum. There is a sort of unhealthy fascination with perversion that can develop in such a manner, a sort of urge to stoop and sniff the faeces. People who spend a lot of time talking and thinking about sin are in a very dangerous position for this reason. Even though they may condemn the sin in the strongest possible language, there is something about it that arouses their interest.

I am a firm believer in the importance of certain taboos. There are certain things that it is unfitting to talk about. Where sexual abuse of children takes place it is healthy to literally feel sick in the pit of your stomach. Our reaction should be one of deep revulsion. Wherever such sin occurs the Scriptures call us to expose it as a work of darkness. Such an approach of exposing sin has, tragically, not always been followed in Christian contexts. Sin has on occasions been covered up, something which is utterly inexcusable.

The biblical command to expose sin should not, however, be confused with the idea of having a public conversation about such sin. I am shocked by the idea that Christian bloggers should be expected to post condemnations of the sin of child abuse within churches; condemnations are the means by which people who fail to live lives of transparent godliness tend to assert their morality. The fact that we are called upon to condemn such appalling sins suggests that such sins are less than unspeakable and unthinkable to the people of God. Biblically, the Church exposes darkness, not chiefly by condemning it with public statements, but by living as the light of the world.

For this reason, rather than post a condemnation of unspeakable sin, I would prefer to post a challenge for us to be the sort of people for whom such sin truly is unspeakable and unthinkable, for us to be people whose utter rejection of such sin is so completely manifested by the way that we deal with it when it occurs that any further words would merely detract from the fulness of its condemnation.

***
Jon Barlow posts on Doug Wilson and Christopher Hitchens and their current debate. His thoughts on Doug Wilson are very close to my own.
***
A couple of weeks ago, Barbara tagged me in the seven things you didn’t know about me meme. Here goes:

1. In my first school play at the age of five I was an angel. Midway through the play the elastic on my trousers broke and the crowd were amused and distracted by my attempts to hide the fact and hold them up. My teacher was not too impressed.

2. I went on strike for a day in primary school, because I was annoyed that the supply teacher was a smoker. The primary school that I attended was a small Church of Ireland school, with four years to each room. My younger brother Jonathan was in the same room as me for a couple of years. As a rather absent-minded kid, he was constantly getting into trouble with the teacher. On one occasion when he was being lectured to (and pyschoanalyzed) by the teacher at the front of the class I felt so strongly that he was being treated unfairly that I wrote a letter of protest and handed it around my classmates. It was intercepted and my mind has long sought to suppress the memories of the resulting experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn my lesson on that occasion and, in secondary school I wrote another letter of protest to a teacher, which led to a session in the principal’s office.

3. The first album I ever bought was (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis. I still enjoy listening to it today, but at the time, I would have probably been better off had I not bought it as it was, to some extent, a means by which I could rebel against my parents.

4. I have never broken a bone, although I have sprained each of my ankles several times. When I injure myself it is usually playing football or riding my bike. The last time it was a badly sprained ankle. The time before, I slipped on dog doo and cracked my forehead on a brick wall. Unfortunately, the manner of my fall was so amusing that, looking up in my dazed state, all I saw were my friends looking down at me and laughing.

5. I have needle phobia. I feel rather annoyed at myself for having such an irrational fear. Whilst I have faced my fear on a number of occasions in having injections or in donating blood, I haven’t been able to shake the fear itself.

6. I started balding at the age of 16. I noticed about 10 years before some other people did. I guess that you don’t see what you don’t expect to see (and some people are not the most observant).

7. Growing up, I always wanted to be an artist, a soldier, a pilot, a missionary or a maths teacher. Frankly, I probably had a better idea then than I do now.

If you want to be tagged, consider yourself tagged.

***
Dr Jim West mentions a forthcoming book by Richard Bauckham, which looks very interesting, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John.
***
John H has two great posts with thoughts from Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: ‘Surging, hopeful, joyful doubt’ and ‘The puzzling mystery of unbelief’. He also has a post, entitled ‘The gospel “under the papacy”‘, which he begins with the remark: ‘One irony of becoming a Lutheran was that it greatly improved my opinion of the Roman Catholic Church.’ Very interesting.
***
Kevin Bywater has a great series of posts on the subject of sinlessness in Second Temple Judaism:

Second Temple Judaism and Sinlessness (Prayer of Manasseh)
Second Temple Judaism and Sinlessness (2 - Gathercole’s Wise Words)
Second Temple Judaism and Sinlessness (3 - D. Falk on Prayer of Manasseh)
Second Temple Judaism and Sinlessness (4 - Other Texts)

***
Mercersberg Review articles available online.
***
Angie Brennan posts the ‘Screwtape E-mails’.
***
Some interesting things from lifehacker:

Top ten sites for free books
Learning the finer points of punctuation
Top 10 body hacks

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A very interesting article on the Bible in the global South.
***
A new blog: The Reformed News. Looks interesting.
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Finally, some gleanings from Youtube.

I got myself a copy of the Arcade Fire’s most recent album and have been listening to it incessantly over the last month. Here is a performance of the title track:

If you haven’t seen the Potter Pals before, this is a lot of fun (or you may find it incredibly annoying and stupid):

Finally, a powerful speech by Bono:

Almost Over

At the moment I am sitting in front of a desk with hundreds of Hebrew flashcards laid out in front of me. In three days’ time I will have finished my last exam of this semester. So far, I am satisfied with how things have gone. I received a paper back and took an exam on Johannine literature and was relatively pleased with how both went. Every time exams come around, I am a little less stressed about them. Even when I have been grossly underprepared I have never failed to fall on my feet. I just hope that I don’t get too complacent and trip up at the last moment.

I can’t wait until this exam is over. There are so many things that I am itching to do. My blogging has been sparse and uneven of late and I look forward to posting a bit more consistently over the summer. I am thinking of devoting particular attention to the subject of the atonement in the next few months, reviewing and interacting with a number of books and addressing the issues from a variety of differing perspectives. I intend to have a wide-ranging discussion on the subject. I will attempt to take a constructive approach, engaging with, but moving beyond some of the more familiar debates that we have on the subject, to explore new and potentially fertile territory. I also hope to have a number of participating guest posters, providing a number of differing perspectives on the issues. If anyone is interested, please feel free to e-mail me at 40bicycles-at-gmail-dot-com. I hope to have reviews of various lengths for at least a dozen or more books on the subject of the atonement and to have posts of various lengths discussing various dimensions of the subject.

Next Thursday I will be going to Stoke-on-Trent and spending a few days there, to visit family and attend a friend’s wedding. I will be back in St. Andrews for the entirety of June. I have a large pile of books that I want to get my teeth into and really can’t wait to get started. If the weather is good, I suspect that I will spend a lot of time studying down on the beach.

Anyway, I must return to my Hebrew revision. Lord-willing, I will post again on Tuesday.

Miscellaneous

Tomorrow, and possibly a few other days of this week, will be without guest posts. I will be meeting up with my father in Edinburgh tomorrow and will not have access to my computer. The rest of the week will be exceedingly busy. Apart from regular activities I have a St. Patrick’s Day party to prepare for on Saturday. In addition to this, I am running rather low on guest posts at the moment. A number of people have promised to send me posts that I am still waiting on.

I appreciate that my blogging for the last few weeks (months?) has been rather patchy. I am not sure if this will change any time soon. I have a number of half-completed lengthy posts on my hard drive and dozens of other subjects that I have considered posting on over the last few weeks. The sheer number of things that I have been itching to comment about as I have been reading Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry over the last few days has been simply overwhelming. The problem is that the book has been so utterly appalling (I regret to say that this is not just exaggerated rhetoric) so far that I really wouldn’t know where to start. I am usually a relatively composed reader, not given to strong reactions, but some of the claims made in this book have left me dumbfounded. I just would not know where to begin in a response. Doug Wilson has been responding to the book on his blog, but he is far too kind in his criticisms. This is a book whose claims need to be taken apart stone by stone, each stone pulverized individually and the resultant dust scattered to the four winds of heaven. However, I do not have the time, energy or patience to waste on such a thankless task.

Here are a few links from today:

John H has alerted me to this article from the Scientific American‘Special Report: Has James Cameron Found Jesus’s Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error?’. Mark Goodacre also has more on the tomb story — ‘Talpiot Tomb Various’ and ‘Mariamene and Martha, Stephen Pfann’. Ben Witherington links to an interview he has given on the tomb story.

***
Kim Fabricius’ Ten Propositions on Sin. As usual, I don’t agree with a number of Kim’s claims, but the clarity of insight of some of his observations always makes him worth reading.
***
David Field explains Aristotle’s Four Causes.
***
Jeff Meyers podcasts an old lecture on the Mercersburg Theology’s sacramental conflict with Old School Presbyterianism.
***
First Things’ Joseph Bottum on good prose on the Web.
***
John H on the altar-calling tendencies of some forms of contemporary atheism.
***
Lifehacker alerts us to two potentially useful downloads — Google Image Ripper and Polyglot 3000

News and Links

Prison Break Season 1As I am very bad at keeping up to date with e-mail correspondence with my friends and family, from time to time I will post news updates on this blog. The last few weeks have been relatively uneventful. Last week I started studying Latin with my housemate John, which has been quite an enjoyable experience so far and makes something of a change from the things that we usually do. Last week I also received the DVDs of season 1 of Prison Break, which John and I have been watching compulsively ever since.

Since my Chinese teacher from last semester returned to China I have been unable to find a replacement. I know of a few places where I might possibly find one, but haven’t had any success yet. I have been studying theological German this semester instead (with Jon and a couple of others), which is another first for me. The German is nowhere near as intense as the Chinese was last year and so I have a lot more free time in which to read, play Settlers of Catan, card games, Civilization IV and other such things. I am taking modules in John’s gospel and Hebrew praise and lament this semester. Both have been stimulating so far, particularly the John’s gospel module, for which we have Markus Bockmuehl, who is quite brilliant and a privilege to study under.

Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral MinistryThis morning I received a copy of Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry in the mail. I have only read the first chapter, which does not augur well for my enjoyment of the rest of the book. I fear that my blood pressure might be raised next week, in which I plan to finish reading it. Fortunately I am reading a number of other enjoyable books at the moment, which should help in this respect. Yves Congar’s I Believe in the Holy Spirit is a good read, as are Richard Bauckham’s The Bible in Politics and Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. I also plan to read Jean-Luc Marion’s God Without Being (no, I really haven’t read it yet!) and reread Oliver O’Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations within the next couple of weeks.

At present I am hoping that I will be able to complete my Lenten blogging project. However, I am running dangerously short of posts at the moment. If you want to take part, please send me something as soon as you can.

I will conclude this post will a short list of links fron the last day or two:

***
Leithart blogs a thought on turning the cheek as a form of resistance.
***
Mark Goodacre blogs some assorted thoughts on the Talpiot tomb. Dr Jim Davila posts some thoughts from Dr Alexander Panayotov.
***
Baudrillard is dead. AKMA links to some thoughts on Baudrillard and his work here.
***
FV and their critics two sides of the same coin? I suspect that both parties in the present debate will strongly disagree with the way that they are represented here.
***
David Field reflects on Galatians 3:12 and Leviticus 18:5 (here and here). I can’t say that I am convinced, but have yet to make up my mind on that passage (the use of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5 seems to make more sense to me). Tim Gallant had some interesting thoughts on this a while back (see under section 5).
***
I have just lifted the following Rowan Williams quotation from Ben Myers’ blog.

Scripture and tradition require to be read in a way that brings out their strangeness, their non-obvious and non-contemporary qualities, in order that they may be read both freshly and truthfully from one generation to another. They need to be made more difficult before we can accurately grasp their simplicities…. And this ‘making difficult’, this confession that what the gospel says in Scripture and tradition does not instantly and effortlessly make sense, is perhaps one of the most fundamental tasks for theology.

Sounds quite right to me.

***
Lots of Rich Lusk stuff.
***
Movements towards incest. I saw this one coming quite some way off. The sort of arguments being raised against it by people in our society is perhaps one of the most depressing things of this whole matter.
***
The Presbyteer observes something about the way that we all tend to read Scripture.
***
Kim Riddlebarger comments on the danger of self-appointed theological experts online.
***
On a not unrelated subject, Ross Leckie explains how easy it is to bluff knowledge of a book that you have never read. I suspect that many theologians are gifted practitioners of such methods when it comes to the biblical text.
***
Danny Foulkes reacts to John MacArthur’s claim that every self-respecting Calvinist is a premillennialist.
***
My brother Mark gives a video lesson in constructing an origami star.
***
Speed Painting with Ketchup and French Fries
***
Hack GoogleMaps to enable you to zoom in further.
***
Calvinix tablets: highly recommended for any Arminian readers! Also, denominational Swiss Army knives [HT: Michael Spencer of BHT].

Shrove Tuesday!

John H gives some historical background here.

This evening I plan to have two pancake-making sessions. On Sunday we had a dry run and made a number of wonderful sauces (apple and cinnamon, sticky toffee, brandy and sugar butter, in addition to the regular toppings of lemon and sugar and syrup; we also had my housemate John’s homemade Crunchie bar icecream as a topping). This evening I will probably try making a pineapple sauce topping and a chocolate sauce topping. Right now I will use Shrove Tuesday as an excuse to post one of my favourite Youtube videos.

Life in St. Andrews

Having some time on my hands this afternoon, I decided to put together some of the odd videos of St. Andrews that I had on my hard drive to create the Frankenstein’s monster below. Enjoy.

Today

Certainly an improvement on yesterday, which saw the foundation of my first anti-fan club — ‘I Disagree with Alastair Roberts’ — started by my little brother on Facebook. He obviously has far too much time on his hands.

Meet the PuritansToday I had a brief visit from my sister-in-law and another friend. It is always great to meet up with friends after being away from them for a while and to catch up on news from home. Among other things they delivered some things from home — a computer game and a parcel that had come for me. The parcel contained a book from Joel Beeke. I had the great privilege of working for a month with him in Grand Rapids back in 2003. I spent much of the time researching for a book that Joel Beeke was working on at the time. I had almost forgotten about it, but the book that he sent was a complimentary copy of the work, Meet the Puritans. I even get a mention in the preface, which, unless I am mistaken, is the first time that my name has found its way into a published work. From the brief time that I have taken to look at it, the finished product looks like a very useful reference volume for anyone who is interested in the Puritans.

The evening we had a very tasty Chinese takeaway meal. We hardly ever order takeaway, so it was nice to take a break from cooking for an evening. We followed the meal with a long game of Settlers of Catan, which I spend far too much time playing at the moment. I am feeling like finishing the evening with some knitting, a short DVD and a small glass of port.

Exams

I have two important exams this week, one tomorrow and one on Saturday. Unfortunately, my revision for both exams has been minimal. I haven’t been feeling too great over the last couple of weeks and over the last few days I have found it hard to focus on my studies. There are so many odd jobs that come to one’s attention when one has to prepare for an exam.

I can’t wait until these exams are over and I can enjoy three weeks off. I hope to spend much of those weeks working on my languages: Hebrew, Greek, French and Chinese. I might even start working on some German. I also look forward to doing some more focused reading and prayer, to learning some Chinese cooking and preparing a few special meals, starting to learn how to ride the unicycle, having a few bicycle rides, finishing the jumper that I am presently knitting (I have found lots of time to knit during my revision period; I record my revision notes into the computer and play them back to myself while I knit), making a video or two, getting back into a couple of games of Civilization IV that I started last term with some friends and playing the Seafarers of Catan expansion pack for the first time.

I also hope that the posting on this blog will improve both in quantity and quality during the break. Finishing my N.T. Wright talks is near the top of my to-do list at the moment.

However, all of this must be put to the back of my mind until Saturday afternoon…

Busy

Tonight I am spending my time constructing homemade Christmas cards. Each one takes a considerable amount of time to assemble. This year I have decided to make cascading waterfall cards with pop-up snowflakes inside. A lot of fun.

This morning and afternoon one of my housemates and I made a full Christmas dinner for eleven, which was quite a challenge as I have been feeling under the weather all day. We do quite a lot of entertaining at the moment and so have the opportunity to cook some pretty fancy meals. We had a four-course meal on Sunday; tomorrow I will have to help prepare another Christmas meal, this time for nine. So far we have only had one evening without dessert all semester, which I think is pretty good.

My final lectures before the Christmas break take place tomorrow morning. I will probably have a Chinese test in the evening. I will also have to narrow down my options for accommodation next year. After tomorrow I will collapse on Friday and then travel back on the bus on Saturday.

News Update: Attending a new Church, etc.


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Back in St. Andrews


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Packing

At present I am packing in preparation for my return to St. Andrews tomorrow. There are few things that I hate more than having to choose which books to leave behind.

I won’t have any Internet access in the house that I will be living in in St. Andrews and have no plans at present of setting it up. Consequently, I expect that I will post a lot less frequently.

Things will be quiet around here for the next few days. However, next week I expect to post three or four lengthy talks on N.T. Wright, his understandings of Jesus and of Paul and some of the current debates surrounding his work. At the moment I am getting some material together for these presentations.

Happenings

This morning I went to the book sale and returned a few hours later with over 50 new books for about £50. I didn’t have any amazing finds today, but I was able to pick up a number of titles that I will probably need in the future, for a fraction of the price that I would pay otherwise. I bought important works by Bultmann, Tillich, Fiorenza, Jeremias, Ruether, Moltmann, Cullmann, Aulén and Schweitzer, each for under £1 a volume. I also managed to pick up some other interesting titles at low prices: Gerd Theissen, The Gospels in Context; Keith Ward, God, Chance & Necessity; Richard Horsley & Neil Silberman, The Message and the Kingdom; Robin Gill, A Textbook of Christian Ethics; Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles; John Polkinghorne, Science & Christian Belief; Rowan Williams, Lost Icons; Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Paul and the Stoics; Wayne Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians and a number of others. Given the fact that a copy of Regan’s translation of Aquinas’ De Malo and John Barton’s Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study (set reading for next semester) also arrived in the post this morning, I am a very happy person this evening as I cover and catalogue them. I will probably return to the book sale again some time during the next week (having earned a little more money first…).

This morning Peter left for a week of Beach Missions in Llandudno (and suddenly all is quiet at home!). Llandudno is a seaside town in North Wales and is a popular holiday destination for many people from Stoke-on-Trent. Please pray that the Beach Team will know God’s blessing on their work and that the week will be a very special and memorable time for Peter.

Jonathan and Monika got two dogs this morning, after thinking about getting a dog for a while. The dogs are called Captain and Monty. They are very friendly, but Monty is still a little scared. I will leave you with a picture of Jonathan with the two dogs (unfortunately Monty is hidden behind).

Jonathan with Monty and Captain

Busy

I am going to be very busy until the end of this week, so I won’t post or give any lengthy answers to comments for the next few days. However, since my recent N.T. Wright post has received such a response, I have started to write an extremely lengthy treatment of N.T. Wright’s doctrine of final justification and the criticisms that have been levelled against it. I plan to study the various statements that Wright has made on the subject since before 1980 and unpack exactly what he is teaching on the matter. I also plan to interact with several Reformed and evangelical critics of his position.

China Video

During our time in China I made a number of short videos of Mark dancing in front of some of the places that we visited. They were made into one longer video this evening. Please excuse the gratuitous silliness. The dancing idea is not original, but we thought that it would be funny nonetheless.

David Bentley Hart on the Discipline of Theology

David Bentley Hart writes:—

Now, as it happens, theology is actually a pitilessly demanding discipline concerning an immense, profoundly sophisticated legacy of hermeneutics, dialectics, and logic; it deals in minute detail with a vast variety of concrete historical data; over the centuries, it has incubated speculative systems of extraordinary rigor and intricacy, many of whose questions and methods continue to inform contemporary philosophy; and it does, when all is said and done, constitute the single intellectual, moral, spiritual, and cultural tradition uniting the classical, medieval, and early modern worlds. Even if one entirely avoids considering what metaphysical content one should attach to the word “God,” one can still plausibly argue that theology is no more lacking in a substantial field of inquiry than are history, philosophy, the study of literature, or any of the other genuinely respectable university disciplines.

Moreover, theology requires far greater scholarly range. The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild. And, as Stoner rightly notes, the absence or near-absence of theology from the general curriculum has done incalculable harm to students’ ability to understand their own fields. This is perhaps especially—or at least most obviously—true in the case of literary studies; but, in fact, it would be hard to name a discipline outside the hard sciences or mathematics that can be mastered adequately without some degree of theological literacy.

The more that I study theology, the more aware of my limitations I become. Being persuaded that over-specialization is an especially dangerous tendency within this field (above all others) and seeking to keep my studies as broad as possible, I continually find myself frustrated by my inability to attain to the level of scholarship that I believe that the discipline demands of me. Theology calls for a degree of personal commitment, intensity of focus and dedication and investment of life that I feel utterly incapable of. Occasionally I wonder whether I should be doing something entirely different; Theology demands more than I can give. However, despite my frustration with my incapacity, I know that no other discipline could inspire me in the same way.

The last several months have been particularly unproductive and I have failed to meet a number of the targets that I have set myself. I am firmly persuaded that the coming years will prove crucial in my personal development and for the standard of my continuing studies. Whilst I know that I do not have what is required to be a great theologian, I wish to be the best that I possibly can be. Over the next few months I hope to progress beyond the haphazard and indisciplined character that my studies have had to this point, to cease to be a dabbler and become a true scholar. I must address my deep-seated slothfulness and bring my somewhat mercurial temperament under a greater degree of control. I am uncertain as to the direction that this blog will take and the part, if any, that it will play in my future plans. I would appreciate all of your prayers over the next while.

Pirates of the Caribbean II

Captain Jack Sparrow

I watched it yesterday and feel that the Ninja’s assessment is not too far from the truth.

Going Dark

Whilst I had intended to post a lengthy post on the subject of election and limited atonement, I have been feeling unwell over the last few days and never managed to do it. I have been working less and less effectively over the last few months and over the last couple of weeks I have practically ground to a halt. I no longer have the energy, desire or focus to do anything. Rather than trying to keep on going I have decided to crash. Hopefully after a few days to catch my breath I will be far more effective. My family are away for the next week or so, so things should be pretty quiet around here. It will be nice to take it easy and enjoy a relaxed birthday, before I go to China with my brother later this month. I don’t intend to blog again before I return on July 20th.

…Yawn…


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Exams Update

Two exams down and only one to go. The Hebrew went well. The Ethics went OK. I was relatively pleased with what I was able to write, but felt unsatisfied with the incompleteness of the sort of answers to the questions that I could give with the time that I had to work with. Tomorrow is the hardest of the three exams, on the OT (a bit of a misnomer as it is really about the pseudepigrapha and about using the frameworks provided by biblical criticism as means of reading the OT text against itself). I would appreciate prayer for my revision and for the exam tomorrow morning.

Exams

Last week was revision week. Tomorrow I have my first exam (Hebrew). My last exam (OT) is on Thursday morning. I return home for the holidays on Friday. I probably won’t post again for a few days.

May Dip

Castle Sands
Every year, students of St. Andrews plunge into the freezing cold sea at dawn on May 1. This year I was one of them.

I got no sleep last night. I will be so tired later on today.

News and Stuff

I finished my last term-time exam (Hebrew) on Thursday. Now I only have the final exams left. The last few days have enjoyable, if not very productive. Earlier in the week I had a phone call from my brother Mark, who suggested that I go with him for a month’s holiday in China this summer. I have booked my ticket and can’t wait. I have done relatively little reading over the past week, although I have watched some good films. Crash is the most profoundly thought-provoking film that I have seen in a long time, despite a lot of bad language. I recommend it very highly. Christians could gain much by reflecting on the deep themes raised by such ‘non-Christian’ movies. I also watched Howl’s Moving Castle last night, a fantastic film in every sense of the word. Having loved Spirited Away I thought that I would try Howl’s Moving Castle, which I now feel is probably the better of the two.

Leithart has a very good observation on the canonical relationship between Acts and Romans.

I handed in my final essay today, which is a huge weight off my mind. I have not enjoyed my essays that much this semester. They have all been well over the word limit (this time I relegated 2600 words to footnotes, something that I got away with last time) and I have had to cut sections that I have put a lot of thought into. I have not been satisfied with any of the finished articles.

I found out about next year’s modules today, which was very interesting. We are only supposed to be doing two modules per semester, but I am thinking of asking for a special dispensation and going for four. I really doubt that I will be allowed to, but I would like the challenge. I have been coasting this semester and I would like to push myself a bit more. If I only go for two modules I won’t be able to keep up my Hebrew. Fergus Kerr is also going to be teaching here next semester and I really want to do that module (or, alternatively, I could see if I would be permitted to write a dissertation with Kerr as my supervisor).

Expect some posts on the authority of the Bible, the homosexuality debate and Christian faith and the ecology in the next few days.

I’m Still Here

Blogging has been light of late. I haven’t been feeling especially inspired (I can hardly remember the last time that I did) and have also been working on essays. Today I am going to be spending most of my time in Edinburgh with some friends, which should be enjoyable. Hopefully it will be an enriching cultural experience; I have not had one of those for a while.

Perhaps I will finish my series on the authority of Scripture next week. I might also post something on the subject of Christian faith and the ecology. Good books that I have been reading lately include Douglas Knight’s The Eschatological Economy and Peter Candler’s Theology, Rhetoric, Manuduction, or Reading Scripture Together on the Path to God. Steven Bouma-Prediger’s For the Beauty of the Earth was good (but not as good as it could have been) and Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower was superb, a must-read. I also used deSilva on Hebrews recently and share Leithart’s assessment. Issues that I am planning to revisit and explore in more depth include those of forgiveness and homosexuality (David Greenberg’s The Construction of Homosexuality was a really interesting and thought-provoking read). I am increasingly convinced that we need to re-examine traditional Christian debates about homosexualities and sharpen up our positions considerably in a number of areas.

That is all.

Home Again!

I am back home for the holidays. It is good to see family again.

Last night was a very important night in which I made some important decisions, decisions that may slowly begin to radically change the course of my life (at least I am hoping so). Unfortunately, the process of turning things around will be far from a comfortable one. The first half of this semester has been singularly unproductive. However, I feel that I have been able to put a line under it. Lord-willing, the next half will be very different. I actually am beginning to feel an inkling of a sense of direction for my life now, something that I haven’t really had for at least five years, and which I have never enjoyed for any extended period of time. Even when such direction lasts for only a few months, it is amazing how much it increases and focuses my productivity. I really hope that this lasts and doesn’t prove to be illusory. I have meandered listlessly through life, allowing decisions to make themselves, for far too long. Please pray for me in this respect. Sloth has long been my besetting sin and it is not going to be easy to gain and retain ground in the ongoing battle against it.

There has also been occasion for joy and thanksgiving. Today, just as I arrived back, I received the news that my housing situation for next year has worked out. I will be sharing with two friends from my hall (I couldn’t wish for better housemates). I can hardly wait for September. God has really been gracious in helping me on the housing front so far this semester. He is indeed very good. Thank you to all of you who have prayed!