Category Archives: me

Good Words

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My aunt Paula passed away from cancer last week, and today was her funeral. I am thankful to have been able to give the eulogy, which I am posting here. My aunt was a special lady, and I will miss her.

Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all;
Many times he died,
Many times rose again.
A great man in his pride
Confronting murderous men
Casts derision upon

Supersession of breath;
He knows death to the bone —
Man has created death.

“Death” by W. B. Yeats

I thought it would be appropriate to begin this meditation on the life of my aunt, Paula Clary, by quoting from the poem “Death” by William Butler Yeats, the great twentieth-century Irish poet and playwright. I do so because Yeats should have been the subject of my aunt’s doctoral dissertation, had she done one. His writing occupied much of her mind throughout her life; and I believe is tied to one of her biggest regrets. A couple of months ago, as she and I were reflecting together on her life, she said as much. She told me of a dinner that she had in Toronto with her father, my grandfather, as she was caught in the throes of indecision about whether to do a doctorate. She had an offer to join a local school-board, which gave her job security and a really good wage, and my grandpa strongly encouraged her to take the job. She did, and regretted it ever since. Now we will never be able to read what her prodigious mind had to say about Ireland’s great poet.

Since aunt Paula was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, I have thought a lot about who she was, and we spent a number of occasions talking about her life. It seems to me, as I look back on the last few months spent with her, that I got to know her in a much deeper way.

Those of you who knew my aunt will not think that I am being crass when I say that she could be quite a character. At times frantic, at others basically irate, she could frustrate even the calmest of us. Yet, at the same time, my aunt was one of those eccentrics, whose eccentricities were perhaps a mark of genius—at the very least of intelligence. We’ve seen that already, as she should have done a PhD. But she was more than just smart. She had that rare ability to look at the world about her and capture its essence with words. She was, like her hero Yeats, a writer and a poet. I have had the pleasure of reading her poetry, and am proud that she lent her creative gifts to the name that we share. My regret for her is that she published very little.

She was also a novelist who a wrote a book that was selected to be published after winning an award, only to have the publishing house close before her book could hit the shelf. This was a blow to her self-confidence, I fear, and is probably a key reason why she never became the author she always wanted to be.

One of her great loves was Northern Ontario, specifically the region of Temagami where we all cottage together—her cabin is next to ours. Her writing captures this love of the north, as she expressed herself with some very personal and thoughtful prose and poetry. Take, for instance, this poem simply called “Temagami”:

To-day, I try to think what made me.
In sunlight, the hills restored against the sky,
I can’t find why.
Unless,
these trees, high up along the rock,
This house, sprung from rock,
and water, washing rock below,
This land I love most under snow
must be the reason why
I want to say, Temagami.

I have spent the last ten or more years going up to the cottage with her face as a regular part of the landscape. Red Cedar Lake will seem strangely empty when I go in a week. My aunt not only had that place stamped on her heart, but her very person was stamped on the water, the sky, and the sounds of life.

Oddly enough, some of my memories of her up there are of her at her most disheveled, which were for me when I was most entertained. Like the time her old dog Sadie—another great love of her life—got into some fish guts that my dad had left in a garbage can. We laughed our heads off as aunt Paul chased the dog across the yard, yelling for it to drop the guts.

I have other memories too. One of my favourites was watching her slowly drive Ken’s boat on Marten Lake as he and I fished for trout with down-riggers. She often had this actor’s look of being an old pro at such things.

Over the last number of years I have developed a deep appreciation for literature and poetry. I have three academic degrees in theology, and am now working on a fourth, and so I have spent a large part of my life slogging through highly technical non-fiction. After finishing a master’s degree a year and a half ago, I dove into the great works of English literature, and found in my aunt a reliable guide and insightful critic. Not too long ago I brought with me to her house a pile of books of poetry by T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, and others to get her opinions. Though she hadn’t taught English for some twenty years, she immediately fell into her old form, and helped me through some of the metaphors and allusions in Eliot’s great “Prufrock” poem. Who will I turn to now for such careful help?

With this growing love of poetry I came to discover that my aunt and I shared many great loves. Not only had we both left our hearts in Northern Ontario, and not only would we get lost in wonder with the great works of literature that the world has gifted us with, but we also share da love for the antique. I don’t merely mean antique furniture, but those things that are old and have and are marked by story. This should not have come as a surprise to me as I am a trained historian, but to see that she had that same love has left me smiling.

We also shared that lovelorn ache for a country we have only ever visited, but feel as though our identities are strangely shaped by nonetheless: Ireland. She went to County Sligo to research Yeats for her dissertation; I went to County Antrim to research Alexander Carson, the subject of my own. The emerald shores of Erin’s Isle caught our hearts, and how I would have loved to have visited the place with my aunt on my arm—drinking in not only the sights and the history, but the stout as well!

My aunt and I also shared the love of rich debate over the essential issues of life; namely existence, life, death, and most importantly, God. Some years ago, as we sat around the table in her cottage, she and I debated whether St. Paul was a Platonist. I argued then, and would still today, that he most certainly was not! I don’t know whether I convinced her, but I know I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. About two years ago, with my sister driving blithely, and no doubt bored stiff in her car, aunt Paula and I debated the existence of hell—with me taking the affirmative. She was the only family member I have where I felt that I could open the engines for debate at full throttle, without fear that he would either be offended or confused, and I always came away having grown from the experience.

About a week before she went into palliative care aunt Paula and I had a very warm discussion about God, salvation, and Jesus Christ. I quoted to her the words of St. Peter from his sermon in the Book of Acts. The words are very simple, and are as true for you as they were for her, and are for me: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” It was one of those discussions that I dread, because I hate looking like a religious fundamentalist—but I must say it was one of the most beautiful conversations that I have ever had. We both wept, and hugged, and told one another of our mutual love. My aunt was not the kind of person who was as forthright with her affections, but I felt a connection with her that I never felt before.

I really don’t know what she did with my advice to her—but I worship a God of hope. The bible speaks very clearly about the need for all of us to be reconciled to God through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father but through him. That is a message of profound hope. And so I carry this hope with me, when I think of my aunt Paula. Death is not the end. When we put a person in the ground, it is with the hope that we will see that person again. When Jesus Christ returns, we will all rise from our graves—some to death, and others to life—and will live and reign with Christ on a new earth forever. My hope is that I will spend many a night talking with my aunt about poetry, about the beauty of God’s creation, and the last wonder of God himself.

My aunt was something of a hypochondriac, so I feared that she would take the news of her cancer quite poorly. But I must say, I never once found her feeling sorry for herself, I never once heard her complain or say “Why me?” She has turned into a real model of someone who died with a certain dignity—as undignified as death always is. She immersed herself in books, reading anything that came across her lap, often offering stinging criticisms. I gave her the wonderful book, Surprised By Oxford, about the life of a London, Ontario-born Carolyn Weber who did a doctorate in literature at the famed British University—the affinities between the author and my aunt were strong. She loved it, and gave some very useful critiques that proved to be a great conversation starter.

We have all lost something in the death of my aunt. Who will be my seasoned conversation partner as I go through this continued discovery of English literature? Who will be my mom’s movie-going partner who will dissect the story for her? Who will go antique shopping with my dad? Who will bug the tar out of my sister, always looking for help shoveling snow or some other such thing? Who will be Ken’s indominatable euchre partner? She leaves a gaping hole.

Let me conclude with another poem, this one also a favourite of hers. It is by Archibald Lampman and is, like the one I read of Paula’s, called “Temagami”:

Far in the grim Northwest beyond the lines
That turn the rivers eastward to the sea,
Set with a thousand islands, crowned with pines,
Lies the deep water, wild Temagami:
Wild for the hunter’s roving, and the use
Of trappers in its dark and trackless vales,
Wild with the trampling of the giant moose,
And the weird magic of old Indian tales.
All day with steady paddles toward the west
Our heavy-laden long canoe we pressed:
All day we saw the thunder-travelled sky
Purpled with storm in many a trailing tress,
And saw at eve the broken sunset die
In crimson on the silent wilderness.

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Violence, Abortion and CCBR

Here my latest post at the Sola Scriptura Ministries blog, it’s called Violence: Image and Action. I deal with the arrests of anti-abortion activists at Carleton University, the Genocide Awareness Project, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, and a fatally-flawed argument from a pro-abortion advocate.

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Idolness of the Heart

The heart is a factory of idols. That quote from Calvin is common to hear repeated in Reformed circles, so much so that maybe it has become cliche. But like so many cliches, there is truth to it. In this case, profound truth.
As most evangelicals wrongly see Satan under every blade of grass, we often fail to see our idols there instead. Everywhere we turn in our lives an idol crops up, waiting to pull our worship away from God. If all of life is to be categorised by worship, then all of life can also succumb to idolatry.

Of course, I’m not speaking necessarily of pagan tree worship–although that is a reality in some places–but the everyday idols that we take for granted. Yet whatever form it may take, all idols seek to devour our souls. Idolatry in the western hemisphere can include many things. The aforementioned tree worshipping is probably in vogue somewhere near Seattle, but idolatry’s subtle charm overwhelms us in every avenue of life. Be it the desire for more money; climbing up the corporate ladder; breaking one’s long-held convictions in compromise; marriage to the wrong person because of age; the mass hoarding of material possessions; coveting other people’s goods or life…this list could go on and on. It can go on and on because any sin is ultimately idolatry and the list of sins possible to the human heart is almost infinite.

I have been thinking a lot about idolatry lately, not the least because I recently read Tim Keller’s excellent little book Counterfeit Gods. But it has hit close to home lately and has really forced me to consider how vast and deep idolatry entrenches itself in our lives. 

But what are idols good for? To paraphrase the title of Herbert Schlossberg’s classic, they are only good for destruction. If we don’t destroy the idols of our hearts, God will. Consider the story of Dagon, the idol of 1 Samuel 5. It is one of the great stories in the bible alongside that of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, if only for its clear demonstration that God hates idolatry. You probably know the story, when the captured ark of the covenant was placed in the same room as Dagon, the idol fell over. The Philistines put Dagon back in order, only to find him fallen again, this time with his head and hands broken off. What a fantastic image!

When God deals with idolatry, it’s not an easy thing to experience. The wound hurts as the cancer is pulled free. And while it is good for the idol to be destroyed, the process often leaves a scar. This is a reminder to myself to keep free of idols, hard though it is. I succumb to idolatry regularly because, as I’ve said, all sin is idolatry. The key to destroying the idols of one’s heart is found in one word: satisfaction. To be satisfied in God and what he has planned for us is the key to keep us from turning to idols. When I’m satisfied in God I will not covet my neighbour’s car. When I’m satisfied in God I will not begrudge another of the good life God has given them. When I’m satisfied in Christ my life is ultimately placed in his hands and I will trust him to do what is right with me.

Satisfaction in Christ rests first and foremost in the gospel. That Christ, the eternal Son of God, died for my sins on a Roman cross should give me great cause to be satisfied in all that he has done for me. How could I not be satisfied in him? He died, he was resurrected, he intercedes for me, he sent the Holy Spirit for me, he will come again to bring me into my eternal reward. When I lack in satisfaction in Christ, I in effect tell him that these things mean nothing.

God help my unbelief. God help all of our unbelief! This is a problem that plagues us all, and we must be aware of it and diligent in killing it. To close with another reference to a quote by a famous Reformed theologian, in this case John Owen, we should be killing sin or sin will be killing us.

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On Freedom and Upbringing

I was converted to Christ not long after my eighteenth birthday. I was at a Christian cottage ground visiting my best-friend at the time, Tim McCready. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of my conversion–I’ve written about that elsewhere on my blog–but I do want to post a couple of thoughts about Tim.

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Puritan Reformed Journal – January 2010

The new issue of the Puritan Reformed Journal is now available – and it’s absolutely massive! There is a wide variety of topics covered and it looks excellent.

Check it out {HT: Meet the Puritans}:

Biblical Studies

The Jews’ View of the Old Testament—David Murray

An Everlasting House: An Exegesis of 2 Samuel 7—Maarten Kuivenhoven

Applying Christ’s Supremacy: Learning from Hebrews—Gerald M. Bilkes

Systematic and Historical Theology

“Hot Protestants”: A Taxonomy of English Puritanism—Ian Hugh Clary

John Bunyan and His Relevance for Today—Pieter Devries

Samuel Petto (c. 1624 –1711): A Portrait of a Puritan Pastor Theologian—Michael G.Brown

James Durham (1622–1658) and the Free Offer of the Gospel—Donald John MaClean

The Ceremonial or Moral Law: Jonathan Edwards’s Old Perspective on an Old Error—Craig Biehl

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Moral Outrage – Burning Flag

Here’s a video of my old band Moral Outrage {HT: Tim McCready} playing Burning Flag at the Belle River Community Centre in 1998:

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Tentative Thesis Bibliography

For some reason I can’t get the footnotes to appear in my post on my thesis proposal. For an idea of the works that I’m using, here is my bibliography. A huge thanks is due to Crawford Gribben for most of the Ussher resources! This bibliography has already grown and will continue to do so – especially in terms of primary sources from the Patristic and Post-Reformation periods.

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The Athanasius of Our Century: Thesis Proposal

I just found out today that my thesis proposal for the master of theology program at Toronto Baptist Seminary was accepted. I will defend it (DV) in either late March or early December. My supervisor is Michael Haykin and hopefully Crawford Gribben and Dennis Ngien will be readers. This is all very exciting!

“The Athanasius of Our Century”: An Evaluation of James Ussher’s Immanuel In Light of Patristic Christology

Though he is relatively unknown today, James Ussher (1581-1656), Archbishop of Armagh was one of seventeenth-century Britain’s most influential figures. If in the twenty-first-century Ussher is known at all, it would largely be due to his famous chronology Annales veteris et novi testamenti (1650-1654), a work of immense learning for its day and still popular amongst young earth creationists for its dating of the world’s creation at 4004 BC. If Ussher is to be remembered only for this singular writing project and not for his other important contributions to the academy and the church, the annals of history have played him a bad card. Ussher was nothing short of a prodigious scholar and committed churchman and it is this reputation that should be retained.

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New City Baptist Church – An Expose (Ian Clary)

This is an interview that I did last week speaking about New City Baptist Church and my role with it:

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American Theological Inquiry 2.2 (July 2009)

The new issue of American Theological Inquiry is out. Here are the articles. You may also want to check out the review of Michael Haykin and Kenneth Stewart’s book The Advent of Evangelicalism. Scroll down to the reviews, it’s the first:

ARTICLES

WHAT IS ‘TRANSFORMATION THEOLOGY’?
Paul D. Janz
9
EVANGELIZATION AND THE NEW ATHEISM
Glenn B. Siniscalchi
29
ALEXANDER CARSON (1776-1844):
‘JONATHAN EDWARDS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY’
Ian Hugh Clary
43
ROBERT COLES: SEEING THE SECULAR IN LIGHT OF THE SACRED
Sister J. Sheila Galligan, IHM
53
CONCEPTUAL FOUNDATIONS FOR THEOSIS AND POSTMODERN
THEOLOGY
Stephen M. Clinton
61
ALL IS NOW READY: AN EXEGESIS OF ‘THE GREAT BANQUET’ (Luke
14:15-24) AND ‘THE MARRIAGE FEAST’ (Matthew 22:1-14)
J. Lyle Story
67
ON CONFIRMATION
Richard H. Fitzgerald
81
THE ‘RUINOUS’ WORK OF THE SPIRIT
Jack Van Marion
93

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Long Haired Punk

My old friend Tim has some pics of our band Wonkavision. I had pretty long hair back then. He also has a recording of us doing a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” I remember when we played it at our highschool’s battle of the bands and John Oleynik, who was a fantastic drummer, played with us. We actually pulled it off if you can believe it.

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Sermon: Jonah 4

We had a good time spending Victoria Day in Windsor this past weekend. One of the joys, among many, was spending time with the people at Grace Baptist Church in Essex. I preached on Jonah 4 at their evening service. I am amazed that they allow me to preach so often, they are a forebearing bunch!

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Bonnie Prince Billy

In honour of breaking my blogging fast, I am posting the video to Bonnie Prince Billy’s “Cursed Sleep.” It makes sense to post this song, because I didn’t go to sleep until 4am this morning: getting my paper done! I hand it in today.

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Gittin’ All Responsible and Stuff

I’m going on a blogging hiatus for the next week. I have a big paper due soon and I need to prioritise. As I said in a meeting  yesterday, I’m constantly trying to be disciplined and blogging is one area where I’m not. So you won’t see me on here for a bit!

Happy blogging!

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Sermon: On the Trinity (Matt. 28:16-20)

I preached last night at New City Baptist on the Trinity in the Great Commission. Here it is if you like.

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Moral Outrage

Years ago I used to be in a hardcore band called Moral Outrage – I played bass and “sang.” If you like old school Agnostic Front, The Exploited or GBH, then you would probably like our music. The drummer, Tim, just put up a post on his blog about the band and linked to some liner notes from our tape “Stand and Fight” and a .zip file of our songs. For all the years that have gone by, I still like the songs – though I would probably not do the anti-gay song because of its overall offensive tone – every other one I stand by.

I know there’s video of us playing in London somewhere, I’d kill to see it again.

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American Theological Inquiry

Ever search your name on Google just for the fun of it? Sometimes it can be scary. I just did and found out that I have a book review published in American Theological Inquiry. Who knew? Anyways, I’m glad that it’s there as the journal looks outstanding. What’s even better, it’s free! Published by Wipf and Stock, ATI looks to be a journal with promise. The latest issue (2.1) has these articles (Scroll down the PDF for my review of Is Christianity Good for the World?):

  • ‘The Theology of Gerald O’Collins and Postmodernism’, by Craig Baron
  • ‘Late have I left thee: a reflection on Augustine the Manichee and the logic of belief adoption’, by Charles Natoli
  • ‘Jesus On The Big Screen’, by Stephen Nichols
  • ‘Lutheran Puritanism? Adiaphora in Lutheran Orthodoxy and Possible Commonalities in Reformed Orthodoxy’, by Daniel Hyde
  • ‘A Rose By Any Other Name: Attempts At Classifying North American Protestant Worship’, Lester Ruth
  • ‘Twin Parables Of Stewardship In Luke’, by J. Lyle Story
  • ‘Death, Killing And Personal Identity’, by Todd Bindig

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Sermon: Divine Charity (2 Cor. 8:9)

Last night was my first time preaching for New City Baptist, it was a real joy. We had a good number of people turn out, so my nerves were doubly on edge! I preached from 2 Corinthians 8:9 on Christ who was rich became poor for us so that we might become rich. It’s on sermonaudio if you want to listen.

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Sermon: The Passover (Exodus 12:1-14)

I had the joy of preaching at Richview Baptist this past Lord’s Day, I hope it was a joy for them to listen to! Their pastor, Darryl Dash, graciously asked me to preach on the Passover as it relates to Christ – in 20 minutes! It was their family day, so the kids were in the service making it a little shorter.

Anyways, here is the link if you should choose to listen!

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No Blogging For A Week…

…because we are going here.

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