Archive for July, 2006

Horatius Bonar’s Birth Day into Glory

July 31st, 2006 Posted in 19th Century

Thanks to Darrin Brooker for remembering that this is the day, 117 years ago, when Horatius Bonar entered into his eternal reward (July 31st, 1889)—he followed the Lamb who had conquered—let us do likewise.

Some Sort of Game about Books Read

July 31st, 2006 Posted in Books

Not sure what this game is called, but I was asked by two individuals—first Darrin Brooker and then Jenson Lim—to participate in this. They “tagged” me, which sounds somewhat ominous at first hearing—almost like being pulled over when speeding or even worse getting the mark of the Beast placed on one!

Since I have been talking about what I have not read (for links, see my answer to the last question below) I am quite game to play along—though the idea of “tagging” another militates ‘gainst some deep personality structures! I have always hated being coerced to do something that everything in me revolted ‘gainst, so I shall let that aspect of the game pass. Of course, some might say, I wasn’t really playing the game—but then…

1. One book that changed your life (other than the Bible):

Mortification of Sin by John Owen

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

Augustine of Hippo, Confessions.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
There are far too many to choose from—maybe if the question was “twenty-one books you’d want on a desert island”—after all, if I was able to carry one, I would be just as able to carry twenty-one—it is very unlikely that I would not be carrying a briefcase in which I would have these books—now if that was the question, here’s my answer (by the way, why twenty-one? Because it is the sum of three times seven!)

a. Augustine, Confessions
b. Basil of Caesarea, De spiritu sancto
c. The letter to Diognetus
d. Patrick, Confessions
e. Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian
f. John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion
g. John Owen, Mortification of sin
h. John Bunyan, Grace abounding to the chief of sinners
i. Blaise Pascal, Les Pensées
j. John Newton, Cardiphonia
k. Andrew Fullers, Works (the one-volume edition from the 19th century)
l. The Olney Hymns
m. The hymns of Charles Wesley
n. The hymns of Ann Griffiths
o. Adolphe Monod, Les adieux
p. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
q. The poems of Edward Taylor
r. C.S. Lewis, The weight of glory (the small book of essays)
s. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life together
t. Iain Murray’s life of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (yes I know it is two books—but it is a two-volume work)
u. Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

4. One book that made you laugh:
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who was Thursday

5. One book that made you cry [or feel really sad]:
Lady de Lancey, A week at Waterloo in June 1815

6. One book that you wish had been written:
The Complete Exegetical Handbook of the Calvinistic Baptists, 1638-1892

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Too many to name here!!!!

8. One book you’re currently reading:
John Lukacs, Democracy and Populism

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:

The Neturei-Karta and the Fighting in Lebanon

July 27th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

In a comment on my most recent post about Romans 11:26 and the fighting in Lebanon, my friend Reid Ferguson offered a fascinating sidelight on a group of Orthodox Jews who do not believe Israel should have been granted nation status and that is because in their thinking Israel is still in exile because of her sins. They are called Neturei-Karta, “guardians of the city.”

Check out his blog at: Responsive Reiding: see

Pure Church–A Blog to Read Regularly

July 27th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

Here is a really good blog that I have been reading recently: “Pure Church.” It is written by Thabiti Anyabwile, who was on staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church with Mark Dever, and who is now on his way to pastor in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.

Romans 11:26 and the Fighting in Lebanon

July 27th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

My Puritan forebears had a great love for the Jewish people. Many of them, like Oliver Cromwell and Henry Jessey, cherished the great hope that Romans 11:26 was to be understood literally, and that there would be a great outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel in the last days. I personally share this hope and would read Romans 11:26 as speaking of literal Israel, that is, the Jewish people.

But, and this point is vital, “Israel” in Romans 11:26 is not to be identified with the actual land of current Israel nor with the Zionist state of current Israel. Yes, Christians ought to love God’s Ancient people, as Paul did (see Romans 9:1-3; 10:1). Paul’s revelation of his heart’s desire—that Israel might be saved—is God’s desire. God desires the salvation of the Jews in Israel—that, they like the Jewish rabbi Paul would come to living faith in Jesus Christ, God’s final Word, the radiance of His glory and the only Saviour (Hebrews 1:1-3).

But the text of Romans 11:26 is speaking of the Jewish people not the land. The land has ceased to have any theological significance since the coming of Messiah. Like Abraham, we now look for a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). Our future is not tied to a physical spot of land, but to the new heavens and new earth.

What this means is that we are free, as Christians, to be critical of the policies of Zionist Israel. We love the Jewish people and seek their salvation, but this does not mean a carte-blanche endorsement of all current Israeli foreign policy. Israel, to be sure, has a right to protect her borders as a nation. But does the systematic destruction of the infrastructure of south Lebanon fall within that right? Yes, the Hezbollah has done wicked things—the use of the sort of random terrorism that they have done in the past condemns them as being wicked. Clearly many of those in this organization are men—and women—whose minds are shaped by hate. Since the coming of the Prince of Peace—our Lord Jesus—the idea that killing innocent human beings can be in the service of the living God is utterly repulsive! Oh that God would enlighten them as He did to Saul the man of hate on the Damascus Road and save them through faith in Jesus Christ.

But does Hezbollah violence justify the sort of destruction of life and society that we are seeing in south Lebanon? Without wanting to appear as a supporter in any way, shape or form of any sort of Muslim terrorist organization, I do wish to register a concern that Christians not blindly assume that right is only on the side of Israel.

Abraham Lincoln was very wise when he said in the American Civil War that the claim by both sides that God was on their side cannot be right, though both might be wrong. In the present struggle, the Hezbollah and Zionist Israel both cannot be right, though both might be wrong.

“Surely, Irish Zion Demands Our Prayers”

July 25th, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

Please see my most recent post at irish-reformation: “Surely, Irish Zion demands our prayers.”

Reading Flannery O’Connor

July 24th, 2006 Posted in Books

I have been reading Flannery O’Connor. In a fascinating essay entitled “The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South” [Mystery and Manners, selected and eds. Sally and Robert Fitzgerald (London: Faber and Faber, 1972)], she makes this extremely revealing remark about how a Catholic writes fiction:

“The Catholic novel…cannot see man as determined; it cannot see him as totally depraved. It will see him as incomplete in himself, as prone to evil, but as redeemable when his own efforts are assisted by grace” (p.196-197).

She goes on to talk about the centre of meaning of the Catholic novel being Christ—but the above quote is so quintessentially Roman Catholic.

More Stuff Never Read

July 22nd, 2006 Posted in Books

Some might think that the previous list of unread stuff was no big deal since a number of the figures I said that I had not read are suspect theologically, so who wants to read them anyway.

Ok, point taken. What about the mainstream of orthodox Christianity—what have I missed reading there? Well, I have hardly read anything by Beza, let alone most of the French & Dutch Calvinists. Have read little of Kuyper, and nothing of either Berkhof or Berkouwer or Bavinck! Would like to have read Grundtvig, but only know a little about him. Know next to nothing about J. Oncken.

Then there are all those Puritans I have never read: Dod, and Winthrop, and Increase Mather, and John Cotton, and only one thing by Roger Williams, and even that not all the way through. Nothing by Philip Henry and very little by Ussher. The list could go on and on!

It has been said that the older an historian gets the more he realizes he does not know. How true this is. And how true also the realization of how much has never been read or even touched upon.

Now, having made this confession (partial, I must indicate) of what has not been read, I see no way of rectifying it. I seriously doubt if any of the figures I have mentioned that I have not read will ever get read by me. So be it. Here is another key principle of all history-writing: The historian by perforce of his human limitations sees through a glass darkly.

“Not Absolutely Dead Things”

July 21st, 2006 Posted in Uncategorized

Speaking of books, it was John Milton who said this gem in his Areopagitica:

“Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous Dragons teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.”

What I Have Not Read

July 21st, 2006 Posted in Books

As somebody like myself, an obvious bibliophile, looks back on a lifetime of reading—around forty-seven years if I began with age-appropriate material when I was five or so!—it is interesting to note what I have not read. Here is a small sampling—with the stress on small. There are many others I could note!

I have not read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress—cannot warm up to the notion of allegory. I have read very little of the Russians like Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, though I do like Solzhenitsyn.

I have hardly touched Aquinas or the late Patristic author John of Damascus.

And as for the Germans of the 20th century like Tillich (ugh!) or Moltmann or Pannenberg, I have read very little. I have read Bonhoeffer—whom I deeply admire despite some evident doctrinal flaws in his thinking—I have read through some Barth and Brunner. Of Bultmann I have only touched his commentary on the Johannine Epistles.

I am amazed I have not really read Van Til, or Bahnsen or Rushdoony.

So many books, so little time was what C.S. Lewis once said, or something like that.