Saturday, 19 May 2012

Francis Schaeffer - published

My Bitesize Biography of Francis Schaeffer is now out - retailing at £5.99. About 140 pages.

Should be available at bookshops or from Evangelical Press via IVP at this website:

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Desire of the Nations

Oliver O'Donovan is a fine intellect but I don't think he could write something simple to save his life. Or maybe it is just the books of his I have read.

'The Desire of the Nations' is an exercise in political theology. He moves swiftly to the issue of authority which he says is 'the objective correlate of freedom' and which evokes free action, unlike mere power or force. Human authority is both authorised and, therefore, authoritative. A theological study of authority must begin with the kingdom of God and to understand that we need to understand politics and Israel - including understanding Israel for today.

Did Israel crying 'the Lord is King' mean that as a spiritual or political reality ? What do those words mean? What does 'my kingdom is not of this world' mean? So the scene is set.

Yhwh's kingship is established in four realities: (i)victorious deliverance of his people (salvation); (ii)justice - bringing right and wrong to light; (iii)the possession of a community - his people (and Yhwh as his people's possession) - which was expressed in the special relationship between the people and the land. These three points reveal the nature of political authority (see thesis '1' below). Here lies the continuity between Israel and the western tradition.

(iv)Then there is praise - which does not contribute to authority but responds to it, though it is through his people's praise (proper acknowledgement) that God's rule takes effect. There is an act of worship at the heart of every political society. State authority (idolatry) begins when people forget who gives the authority. See thesis '3' below.

Six theses perhaps unfold his thinking well enough:

1. Political authority arises where power, the execution of right and the perpetuation of tradition are assured together in one co-ordinated agency.
2. That any regime should actually come to hold authority and should continue to hold it is a work of divine providence in history, not a mere accomplishment of the human task of political service.
3. In acknowledging political authority society proves its political identity.
4. The authority of a human regime mediates divine authority in a unitary structure but is subject to the authority of law within the community, which bears independent witness to the divine command.
5. The appropriate unifying element in international order is law rather than government.
6. The conscience of the individual members of a community is a repository of the moral understanding which shaped it, and may serve to perpetuate it in a crisis of collapsing morale or institution.

Mediators (kings, priests) are there to mediate God's authority - in salvation, justice and possession / tradition. See thesis 4 above. But international rule is bestial - empire in Scripture is anti God - God will not provide a world ruler - this is anti-Christian. See thesis '5'. International order is by law, which is often identified as Natural Law.

Meanwhile individualism grew in importance but is not the radical individualism of today but serves to preserve the faith in the community - the new covenant. The individual is always seen in the context of community. See thesis '6'.

Well,that brings us to the end of chapter 2...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Crime wave

Many , I know, will entertain the ludicrous idea that Welwyn in Hertfordshire is a sleepy little village on the edge of Welwyn Garden City where nothing much happens and the biggest excitement of the year is the Welwyn Festival, street market and fete every June (wow - only a few weeks away).

The monthly bulletin in the Parish Magazine from our local bobby tells a different story. Read this...

'During March I continued to tackle the issues which are repeatedly raised at beat meetings in my area, namely speeding and drivers obstructing the zebra controlled area on High Street, Welwyn. One driver obstructing the crossing selected to go to court and the case was heard on 20th March. I attended court but the driver failed to appear and was found guilty in his absence, given 3 penalty points and ordered to pay a total of £795 in costs. The courts are clearly taking this issue as seriously as I am.

'Crime in the area remains low, with only six crimes being recorded for March 2012. There was a theft of number plates, a smashed residential window, a theft of copper pipes from a building site, two non-residential burglaries and one common assault (which is the lowest form of assault, incurring no injuries).

'One of the burglaries was at the old Clock Hotel site. We promptly attended, arrested three people and, following their admissions, they were issued with Police cautions, having previously been of good character. [The Clock Hotel, I should add, is a derelict and crumbling old hotel site]. The other burglary was from a cupboard in Ottway Walk, but unfortunately we have no leads and no one has yet been arrested. Following the common assault in a pub in Welwyn, a man was arrested and charged, and will soon be appearing in court.' [People should obviously not leave leads in cupboards in Ottway Walk].

My only is concern is that our bobby describes this as a 'low' crime rate; I hope he is not getting complacent. It is a wonder we sleep easy in our beds.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Zippo's Circus

One evening last week our younger boy asked 'Dad, what do people do at a circus?' I tried to answer.

On my way home from the church on Monday lunchtime, walking through the village, I saw a big poster in Pete Morgan the barber's, advertising 'Zippo's Circus', in Hitchin on Monday and Tuesday evenings. I conferred quickly with Hilary and bought four tickets for the 5.00 show.

Ringside seats, the smell of the sawdust, young men dressed up like 'Buttons' in smart jackets selling popcorn, a clown or two warming up the audience, and Norman Barrett MBE in immaculate red tail coat and top hat checking everything out and having a friendly chat with a few of the crowd.

Then we were off. Clowns (a young couple called the Delbosqs), then a girl juggling amazing things on her feet, then a palomino and a Shetland pony, Norman Barrett and his performing budgies, a clown or two on a trampoline, a girl on a high rope, amazing acrobatics from the 'The Kenyan Boys', a trapeze artist, four palominos with Yasmine Smart, more juggling and fire-eating, more clowns, and an incredible finale with three Brazilians on motorbikes whizzing around inside a cage ball which looked about 12 feet in diameter; then two went around with a girl standing in the middle. Oh yes, there as an interval. The whole thing lasted not far short of two hours.

The boys loved it. So did we. It was not as sophisticated as what one sees on telly, but it was real, it was live, three dimensional, and we were three feet away from it. What is more, there were no hyped-up people whooping and hollering or judges to make rude remarks. One could just enjoy, get lost in it, maybe a fading world, which we thought the boys will be unlikely to have many opportunities of seeing again.

There were only about 100 - 120 people there. It was probably a bad time - no doubt at weekends or later in the evening there would be more. But what impressed me was the way the performers gave their all; there were no half measures and no cynicism about the small audience; all the bowing and swaggering and playing to the crowd was there. True professionalism. Made me think a bit about ever letting my preaching be affected by a small congregation!

Thank you Zippo's - a great evening to remember for all of us.