Monthly Archives: April 2011

Enlightenment and Romanticism

Enlightenment: “The demand to produce strictly rational explanations of the human and scientific worlds.”

Romanticism: “A mode of rationality that sought to acknowledge fully the dimensions of unknowability and contingency within human experience.”

Quotes taken from Richard Crouter, Friedrich Schleiermacher: Between Enlightenment and Romanticism (Cambridge: 2005), 8.

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Etcetera

Peter Hitchens, in his book The Rage Against God, tells us what he thought he knew about the Christian faith before he believed it:

I was convinced that a grown-up person had no need of Santa Claus fantasies or pies in the sky. I knew all the standard arguments (who does not?) about how Christianity had stolen its myths and feast days from pagan faiths, and was another in a long line of fairy stories about gods who die and rise again. Since all the great faiths disagreed, they couldn’t all be right. Jesus was curiously similar to Mithras, or was it Horus? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, easy as pie, not in the sky, and made still more facile by the way such youthful epiphanies are applauded by many teachers and other influential adults, and endorsed by the general culture of my country, which views God as a nuisance and religion as an embarrassment or worse.

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Amis on Hitch

I have, in the last year, become somewhat of a Christopher Hitchens admirer. I basically read every new article that is posted at Daily Hitchens (I get their email updates), often have his lectures or debates playing in the background while I’m doing dishes or some other mundane task, and try to collect and read through his books. In addition, via the references in a number of his works, I’ve broadened my reading interests to include others of his circle, including the poet James Fenton, his brother Peter Hitchens and novelist Martin Amis. It’s worth noting that I’m also slowly working my way through the writings of George Orwell, largely due to the Hitch. Also, I have a somewhat strange confession that I probably shouldn’t share, but will anyway: I pray fairly regularly that he would both be cured of his cancer and would turn to Christ in faith.

Martin Amis has been a lifelong friend of Hitchens; they met in school. I am hard-pressed to determine who is the better prose writer, both are genius with the English language. If you read Amis’ latest piece in the The Observer, it would appear that he believes Hitchens to be the better between the two. I enjoyed this essay for a number of reasons: first, it appears in the beginning to be hagiographical, which it certainly is not; second, Amis shares some hilarious (albeit crude) one-liners of Hitchens’; third, Amis tries to “convert” Hitchens to agnosticism. Here’s a quote regarding the latter:

The atheistic position merits an adjective that no one would dream of applying to you: it is lenten. And agnosticism, I respectfully suggest, is a slightly more logical and decorous response to our situation – to the indecipherable grandeur of what is now being (hesitantly) called the multiverse. The science of cosmology is an awesome construct, while remaining embarrassingly incomplete and approximate; and over the last 30 years it has garnered little but a series of humiliations. So when I hear a man declare himself to be an atheist, I sometimes think of the enterprising termite who, while continuing to go about his tasks, declares himself to be an individualist. It cannot be altogether frivolous or wishful to talk of a “higher intelligence” – because the cosmos is itself a higher intelligence, in the simple sense that we do not and cannot understand it.

But I find the following, not perplexing, but depressing. Amis intends to demonstrate some eschatological optimism, but his words amount to a banal form of “ashes to ashes,” bound with a sort of euphemism that Hitchens (and Amis) purportedly despise. What comfort or solace is there in this?

Anyway, we do know what is going to happen to you, and to everyone else who will ever live on this planet. Your corporeal existence, O Hitch, derives from the elements released by supernovae, by exploding stars. Stellar fire was your womb, and stellar fire will be your grave: a just course for one who has always blazed so very brightly. The parent star, that steady-state H-bomb we call the sun, will eventually turn from yellow dwarf to red giant, and will swell out to consume what is left of us, about six billion years from now.

From “Amis on Hitchens: ‘He’s one of the most terrifying rhetoricians the world has seen,'” in The Observer (Sunday April 24, 2011).

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Easter Service at West Toronto Baptist

This year New City Baptist will be joining the folk at West Toronto Baptist in the Junction for a joint Easter service. Pastor Justin Galotti will be preaching and together the two churches will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Everyone welcome!

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Ascend to Heaven by Clint Humfrey

In time for Easter, Clint Humfrey, pastor of Calvary Grace Church of Calgary, has posted a free e-book on the church’s website called Ascend to Heaven: Meditations for Gospel Wayfarers. I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of it and gladly urge people to download, read, and pass on this delightful collection of meditations.

Based primarily on Clint’s thoughts on 1 John, other texts of Scriptures are also considered. In this encouraging booklet you’ll get a unique perspective on the gospel from one who has coupled his reflections with the mountainous scenery of Canmore, AB where he put his thoughts to paper. His words are rich with imagery drawn from the Canadian Rockies. Clint also offers some insightful critiques of contemporary culture and how our union with Christ sets Christians apart as people with a new and distinct identity.

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Film: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl

Nate (Nathan? N.D.?) Wilson is a best-selling author who wrote Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl, a fun and philosophical reflection on the goodness of life. I read it around two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed myself from cover to cover. The book has the paradoxical quality of being light-hearted yet profound. It is mixed with the author’s personal reflections on life and sophisticated treatments of the vapid hedonism of this world. Basically, Wilson points up the true way to enjoy the world, and enjoy it to its fullest.

Now, with the help of Gorilla Poet and Beloved Independent, he has made the book into a film. It’s strange, but the two-minute trailer, short though it is, gave me the same feeling of fullness and joy as the book did. I hope this film does well:

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl Movie Trailer from Gorilla Poet Productions on Vimeo.

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Death, Parousia and the Christian Life (GW Article)


The Gospel Witness, published by Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto, is a great magazine that I recommend subscribing to. Typically it offers three articles on a given theme as well as one or two book reviews and news updates for things going on in the Jarvis Street/Toronto Baptist Seminary nexus. Contributors have included theologians like Carl Trueman, Fred Zaspel, Michael Haykin (one-time editor), Sharon James, Richard Gaffin, and a whole host of other well-known evangelicals. One of the distinguishing features of the magazine is that, alongside writers we are familiar with, pastors and church leaders also have opportunity to contribute. I am thankful that over the years I have been given the chance to publish a couple of articles.

In the March 2011 edition I was asked to share my thoughts on the eschatological hope found in 1 Thessalonians, a book of the bible that the issue is dedicated to looking at. The article is called “‘Since We Belong to the Day’: Death, Parousia and Christian Life” The Gospel Witness (March 2011), 6-10. It is written to highlight the encouragement Christians are to take from the promise that Jesus is returning, instead of over-emphasizing the details of the end times calendar.

To subscribe to The Gospel Witness go here.

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Cynicism and the Church Historian

Historian Carl Trueman, author of the recent Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History, has a piece at Ref21 about the importance of cynical historians (sounds like he’s trying to justify his own existence!). His point is that for all of the hype and hyperbole about every new intellectual or cultural fad, most of the biggies (he even includes September 11 [I’ve stopped calling it 9/11, a la Martin Amis]) in history tend to have little impact on average people. Thus, historians are needed to put a proverbial fork “in it.” Here’s a couple of doozies:

We live in a Warhol world where everybody wants their fifteen minutes of fame, preferably while still here to enjoy it.  You can see this even in writing style.  Too many theologians think that the first person singular pronoun is like a main verb: no English sentence is properly complete without one.   It derives from overestimating the importance of the here and now; or, to put it more pointedly, the importance of ourselves and our contributions.

And this one:

And that is why church historians play such an important role and our cynicism is such a boon.  Church history keeps things in perspective. Through reading the texts and studying the actions and events of the past we can truly say that we have seen it all before.  Thus, whatever it is that the latest guru is suggesting, it definitely will not work as well as expected, probably will not work at all, and anyway it will be a hundred years or more before we can say whether it made a real difference or not.

For the entire thing see “The Price of Everything.”

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Versified Augustine

I don’t know when or where I got it, but in my library I own this wonderful gem of a book called Verses from St. Augustine or Specimens From A Rich Mine by John Searle (Oxford University Press, 1953). It is a collection of Latin quotes from various of Augustine’s works that are then put into English verse. Here is a sample of a couple of favourites:

Quid tibi dabit qui aliunde manus tuas videt occupatas? Ecce Dominus vult dare quae sua sunt, et non habet ubi ponat.–Si vis tenere quod non habes, dimitte quod habes.” Sermo suppos. LXXI. 4, 5.

How can you grasp God’s offering?
Your hands are full, they tightly cling
To coarser stuff—how can you gain
The new and still the old retain?
Let go the dross and grasp the gold,
Both at one time you cannot hold.

This one is particularly good for pastors:

Feliciores sunt qui audiunt, quam qui loquuntur. Qui enim discit, humilis est: qui autem docet, laborat ut non sit superbus, ne male placendi affectus irrepat, ne Deo displiceat qui vult placere homnibus. Magnus tremor est in docente fratres mei…” Enarr. in Ps. L. 13

Safer the lowly pew,
The preacher’s chair how perilous, how few
Fit for their Master’s cause,
Too pleased with man’s applause:
So while I teach I tremble, lest I win
Praise that shall quench the fire of Truth within.

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End Times Books

There’s a lot of buzz about the world ending in 2012, whether it’s due to the Mayan predictions, or the less interesting ones by Harold Camping (for a critique of Camping see Bob Godfrey’s series here). I’ve been helped greatly over the years by a number of books on the subject of eschatology (end times) and I thought that I’d share those titles for those who are interested:

Gary Demar, End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology (Thomas Nelson, 2001). This was the first book that I read where my inherited dispensational theology was significantly challenged. I originally heard Demar interviewed on the Bible Answer Man radio show and was taken aback by his critique of the Left Behind series. This started me on a new path. While I don’t agree with a lot of Demar’s own eschatology (he is postmillennial), I think he does a good job at dismantling popular dispensationalism.

Darrell Bock ed., Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond (Zondervan, 1999). After Demar, I felt like I needed to really study this issue and so I picked up a number of volumes in the Counterpoints series on eschatology. In this book, I initially thought that I would find myself agreeing with Kenneth Gentry’s chapter on postmillennialism, but found it unconvincing. It turned out that Robert Strimple’s chapter on amillennialism was the one I found to be most satisfying theologically. It started me on a track towards amillennialism that I have since firmly adhered to.

C. Marvin Pate, Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Zondervan, 1998). This book helpfully asks questions about the structure of the Book of Revelation. The answers were given from the major end times viewpoints and where I thought Kenneth Gentry’s preterist view would the view I would find the most affinity with—because of my earlier reading of Demar—it turned out that Sam Hamstra on idealism was where I landed.

Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Baker, 2003). I bought this around the same time I picked up Demar’s book, but I didn’t read it right away. After I started getting interested in the amillennial view from the other books, I then delved into this one. A couple of other friends also picked it up and we read it together. All of us became convinced that this was the biblical and historic Christian view of end times. Very well-written, balanced and biblically argued.

Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Eerdmans, 1994). I bought this after I became a firm amillennialist as it’s the classic treatment of the subject. I confess, I’ve never read through the entire book, but only certain key parts. Nonetheless, it’s awesome and should be read widely as a good critique of dispensationalism.

Crawford Gribben, Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis (Evangelical Press, 2003). This book is extremely helpful no matter what your view of the end times. Gribben evaluates the Left Behind series and traces the genre of “rapture fiction” back into the nineteenth-century. His purpose is to demonstrate the shift in the genre’s understanding of the gospel over the last hundred years, arguing that Left Behind has an inadequate understanding of how people can be saved by Christ. I reviewed it here.

Kim Riddlebarger, Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth About the Antichrist (Baker, 2006). I picked this up in Pennsylvania last summer and read it in a few days. Because his work on amillennialism was so helpful, I thought that this book would be as well. I wasn’t disappointed. Riddlebarger does an excellent job showing the bible’s teaching on the antichrist. It’s great.

Other books that I’ve found useful are: G. E. Ladd’s Blessed Hope, Doug Wilson’s, Heaven Misplaced, William Hendrickson’s More Than Conquerors, Lorraine Boettner’s The Millennium, Gleason Archer’s Three Views on the Rapture, Geerhardus Vos’ The Pauline Eschatology, David Helm’s An Approach to Apocalyptic Literature and of course relevant sections in various systematic theologies (like Grudem, Horton, Berkhof, Bavinck, etc.). I also did a course on the Book of Daniel in Bible College and a Simeon Trust Workshop on apocalyptic literature.

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Lamp Mode Records

Like hip-hop? Check out Lamp Mode Records and discover the lyrical wonder of Hazakim, Stephen the Levite, shai linne, Json and others. There’s some free downloads to check out too. Dope.

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Leaked Drafts of Love Wins

It appears that earlier drafts of Love Wins by Rob Bell were found in a dumpster that shed some light on the process of writing. Check it out here.

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Hope’s Reason Available at Amazon

The new apologetics journal Hope’s Reason is now available to order in its print edition from Amazon.com. The first issue, which I contributed to, has articles on Muhummad and the incarnation, presuppositional apologetics, the relation of Paul with the gospels, book reviews (I am now the review editor) and more. You can order it here for $15 {HT: Down By the Bay}.

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Bauckham on Universalism

Don Carson, in his talk on universalism at the 2011 meeting of The Gospel Coalition, made reference to Richard Bauckham’s essay on the history of the subject. I thought I’d link it for people’s interest. Bauckham is a world-class scholar — a generalist who has the authority of a specialist on any subject he writes. This article should prove to be an embarrassment to any who might buy into Rob Bell’s historical-theological claims in Love Wins hook, line and sinker. Check out Richard Bauckham, “Universalism: A Historical Survey,” Themelios 4.2 (September 1978): 47-54.

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Holiness of God Sermon Jam

Dr. Richard Ganz is the pastor of Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ottawa, Ontario. Back in 2009 he preached a sermon from Revelation 5 on “Worshiping Jesus” from which this sermon jam on God’s holiness comes. This is really worth watching:

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Taylor on Death

Infinities fierce firy arrow red

         Shot from the splendid Bow of Justice bright

Did smite thee down, for thine. Thou art their head.

         They di'de in thee. Their death did on thee light.

         They di'de their Death in thee, thy Death is theirs.

         Hence thine is mine, thy death my trespass clears.

~ Edward Taylor (1642-1729), poet

 

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New Fellow at Trinity

A friendly Glaswegian has informed me that Dr. Crawford Gribben was appointed a Fellow in the English department at Trinity College, Dublin. Congrats old boy, good show! For proof: Irish Times.

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Evidences for Easter

Tyndale House is a study-centre located at Cambridge University in England and provides a place of refuge for biblical scholars who need time, space and resources for their work. The name Tyndale House is associated with the heights of cutting edge scholarship done for the church and to the glory of God {Info Video}.

Their Warden is Dr. Peter J. Williams, a textual critic and Old Testament scholar who came to them from the University of Aberdeen. He is an expert in early Christian origins and on early biblical manuscripts. With Tyndale House, Williams has put together some videos related to historical evidences for the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth that are worth checking out. Typically at this time of year (Easter) some PBS special or Dateline exclusive will run an episode about why Jesus never lived, or why he wasn’t crucified and will truck out a load of “experts” to tell us that this is the case. Williams’ videos are a nice counter to such drivel.

Jesus’ Trial

Jesus’ Crucifixion

Jesus’ Resurrection

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Tony Blair the Calvinist

I recently completed Martin Amis’ collection of essays dealing with “September 11” (don’t call it “9/11,” says Amis), entitled The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom. I don’t believe that it is easy flattery when The Daily Telegraph quote from the back of the dust-jacket says, “The English language bows deeper to Amis than anyone else.” His prose and vocabulary are stellar. Amis could write on the most banal of subjects and I’d still be fascinated by him.

In the chapter “On the Move With Tony Blair,” originally an essay for The Guardian (June 2007), Amis offers snippets from his travels with the former British P.M., asking him questions about Iraq, his relationship with Bush and other such items. In one section on Iraq Amis describes a trip that he and Blair make to the Baghdad International Airport, all dolled up in — well, in Amis’ case — the trappings necessary to keep one safe for a flight over hostile insurgents. Commenting on Blair’s Col. Kilgore-ish ignorance of protective measures (note the Apocalypse Now reference later in the essay), especially in war-time, Amis makes this somewhat amusing observation:

What is this prime-ministerial trait? The rest of us, by this stage, were carapaced in sweat and grit. But not Tony. Rumor predicts that on his retirement Blair will seek solace, along with his wife, in the bosom of Rome. But surely he is Calvinism incarnate–the central doctrine being that your salvation is secured by your confidence in it. In Iraq, Tony crossed the runway like a true exceptionalist: one of the chosen, the redeemed, the elect (Amis, Second Plane, 179).

Later in the piece, Amis reflects on Blair’s moral drive, seeing in his black and white view of good and evil a dualism that hearkens back to a Persian thinker from late Antiquity:

Like his religion it [moral tone] is entirely innate: if that wasn’t there, nothing else would be there. He has been called a Manichee, seeing only light and darkness; and he has been called an antinomian, a self-agrandizer who holds that what he does is right by virtue of the fact that he does it (Amis, Second Plane, 183).

As a budding theologian I found Amis’ theologically-coloured images of Blair to be somewhat entertaining–if not slightly strained (is our Calvinist belief really only rooted in the surety of our belief?). Nonetheless, I am a fan of Amis, and this collection of essays, whether one agrees or not, is a worth-while read. They prove to be thought-provoking reflections on one of the defining events of our time.

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Filed under books, islam, quotes, tony blair

SSMI Blog Post on Hell

I already posted this on my own blog, but it was initially written for the Sola Scriptura Ministries Blog: Hell is Eternal.

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Filed under hell, rob bell, ssmi