Posted on Wednesday, February 05, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Readers of this blog may know that I am an admirer of the work of Jim Garretson.  Jim has done more than anyone else to make available the pastoral wisdom of the Old Princeton tradition, as the list of  his publications indicates.  Indeed, while I have read the forthcoming volume on Samuel Miller on the Christian ministry in manuscript, I am greatly looking forward to obtaining a real copy when it is launched this month.   Jim always does a wonderful job in showing how the Princetonians drew out in bold relief the ordinariness of the extraordinary task of ministry.  Thus, the new book will be recommended reading for the ministerial students at Cornerstone.

Archibald Alexander Garretson.jpgIn anticipation of the release of the Miller volume, I have been rereading the earlier book Jim wrote on Archibald Alexander.  Alexander and (especially) Miller are men after my own heart: their theological training was somewhat informal, but built upon a solid background in the Classics, wide reading, sitting under faithful ministries, and learning to preach by doing it.  In addition, Miller was a church historian and an acute Presbyterian ecclesiologist.    An aspirational role model if ever there was one.

Anyway, Jim's work on Alexander is well worth the attention of anyone looking towards the ministry or indeed currently serving in that capacity.  Jim distils the wisdom of Alexander's unpublished lectures on pastoral ministry in a manner that is very helpful and thought-provoking, covering topics from qualifications and call to sermon delivery. Here, for example, is his summary of Alexander's theology of preaching:

To interpret pulpit eloquence as merely a species or form of popular eloquence is to fail to understand the distinction between the human activity of public discourse and the divine and supernatural character of biblical proclamation.... Biblical preaching is the incarnation of the divine Word and Presence in the verbal proclamation of God's message through the lips of one of his servants to fallen humanity; its human character is suffused and enlivened with that which partakes of the created order but comes from outside the created order. (p. 75)

A lot of confused methodological thinking could be cleared up if churches -- preachers and congregants -- took to heart the import of these words.

And the Miller volume is even better.

Posted on Wednesday, February 05, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Aimee claims that, since her arrival on the podcast, our numbers of women listeners have gone through the roof, and that we have become the Reformed housewife's choice.  Thus, in the latest MoS, while we may not have managed to reunite The Jam, Mott the Hoople, or Hendrix (120x120).jpgeven the Bay City Rollers, we have brought together two veritable giants of contemporary reformed chick lit: Aimee Byrd and Gloria Furman.  Gloria is so delightful that, if she was actually old enough, she would no doubt be a credible candidate for the person who inspired the great Jimi Hendrix classic of that name.   Aimee, on the other hand.....

gloria rocks.jpgSeriously, one of the  topics we discuss  is the nature of modesty and Gloria has some distinctive thoughts on the issue given that she is currently living in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.    She is the author of Glimpses of Grace and has a website, Domestic Kingdom.  Plus, MoS is proud to show its respect for her by launching a range of special modesty-enhancing Gloria Furman


Head Coverings (pictured left).  Contemporary in style, yet standing in that great tradition of self-effacing personal ministries, this is a true classic.  Gents -- as you start thinking of Valentine's Day, might I suggest that one of these would make an ideal present for that special 1 Corinthians 11 lady in your life?  Just ask the present Mrs. Pruitt.

Meanwhile, as you can see, the team has been recharging its batteries during an opportunity provided a recent thunderstorm above the Underground Bunker.  Clearly, as we prepare for our second year of broadcasting, the Bunker is due for a decent makeover; I am taking far too much demented pleasure in all those half-crazed creative projects which so anger the pitchfork wielding mob from the village down in the valley; the humidity is playing merry havoc with Aimee's hair, and -- well, let's just say that the year of spinning dangerously has obviously taken a very, very heavy toll on Todd.  So it's business as usual and all is well with the world, then.
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Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The latest MoS is up.  This week we look at the issue of politics, public moral issues and how the church should respond to such matters.   While we agree that the church has to holds certain positions on certain issues, when it comes to church strategy, there are disagreements among us.  Thus, it is Byrd and Trueman versus Pruitt.  Of course, in 12 minutes we can only scratch the surface so we will be returning to this important topic in the future.

In the meantime, as we wrap up a complete year's worth of programs, it is worth remembering that we started as a means of giving a voice to the disenfranchised group of the bald, the bad and the ugly.  And like all such once idealist movements, we are coming under pressure to sell-out with product placement, capitulation to the youth market etc.  Thus, the Puppetnichols resort (200x151).jpg Master consulted with distinguished theologian, church historian, aspiring Top Man, and all-round influential person, Steve Nichols®. As a result of that, he sent us all for a Steve Nichols® Makeover at the Steve Nichols® Health Spa and Resort (pictured right)last week so that we might be able more effectively to reach out to a younger audience.  As you can see, Aimee is not persuaded by the results.

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Posted on Saturday, January 25, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

There is a fine interview over at National Review Online with legal philosopher, Francis Beckwith, on the issue of abortion.   For my money, Professor Beckwith is one of the sharpest minds out there working on the interface of law and ethics, especially on the matter of abortion, and this interview is well worth reading.  The key quotation, given Andrew Cuomo's recent statement, is this: "Will pro-lifers in New York State, including its Evangelical pastors and Catholic bishops, rise to the challenge, and stand up for the sheep that they have been called upon to guard and protect? Or will they remain mute and confirm what Governor Cuomo probably believes about the quality of their spines? Time will tell."

The MoS team discusses the broader issue on next Wednesday's Bully Pulpit.

Posted on Saturday, January 25, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Regular readers will know that I occasionally try to keep track of the ever-expanding letters which are being used to describe the sexual chaos that exists in PC World (and I am not referring to the magazine favoured by  computer geeks).  Well, Carlton Wynne has brought to my attention that Professor Robert George at Princeton has spotted a very strong contender for the title of the world's most exhaustively pious PC acronym.  This is from Lewis and Clark: LGBTQQAOPA.   This can be expressed longhand as "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, omnisexual, pansexual and allied community." 

Apart from the fact that the verbal effort required to be politically correct and not offend people is now likely to induce an asthma attack in anyone who does not have a high degree of aerobic fitness, the other interesting thing about this is the arrival of the terms 'omnisexual' and 'pansexual'.  I confess that I have not got the foggiest idea what these two assaults upon the English language represent and feel no urgent need to rectify my ignorance.  The roots would indicate they should be synonyms -- though synonyms for what? I also have a sneaking suspicion -- call me paranoid if you like -- that I may be the only category of person now excluded and oppressed.

Joking aside, the two new words would seem to imply a total abolition of distinguishing categories in the matters of sexuality and sexual identity.  Ironically, this would seem to render the preceding letter distinctions meaningless (perhaps even at some point in the near future potentially imperialist?).  In the land of the utterly free, the meaning of sex is always a matter of purely (sic) individual construction.  When a category embraces everything in general, it embraces nothing in particular.  When thatPrometheus.jpg category purports to be in some way political or ethical -- well, you can draw the conclusion for yourself.

And yet before we thank the Lord that we are not as other men/women/persons of alternative gender/persons of other alternative gender (and so on for 97 bien-pensant pages), remember there is continuity here: the Promethean moment came when sex became primarily a matter of individual fulfillment, a recreational activity freed from the bonds of permanent, loving, sacrificial relationships.  

That was when the hand dared to seize the fire. 

Posted on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

The latest Mortification of Spin is up.  This week, the team tackle the issue of what constitutes a good sermon.   In one of the outtakes, I did get a chance to show Todd and Aimee a diagram explaining the differences between the OPC and their own chosen denomination, the PCA, but it seems the Puppetmaster censored that part. Fortunately, the magic moment was captured in a photograph.
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Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

There are a number of problems with Jeremy's Owenian take on liturgy.

First, Owen himself must be read against the background of the way in which state imposition of liturgy had taken place within the English context.  This lies behind Owen's tendentious and, indeed, fallacious history of liturgy which prefaces his major work against the imposition of liturgy.  This is what makes Owen's statements on liturgy hard to apply to today: as someone who had suffered under state imposition of liturgy, he came to the issue with certain predispositions which were not entirely theological.

Second, the apparent equation of liturgy with ritualism and formalism is untenable, although Jeremy does not make it clear whether he regards all formal liturgy as ritualistic and formalistic or, if he does not, where he would draw the line. 

The Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Knox, Cranmer) are scarcely evidence of an age lacking in 's/Spiritually substantial men' and yet each of them saw formal liturgy -- and quite elaborate liturgy, at least by English non-conformist standards -- as vitally important to intelligent, biblical worship.  And none of them advocated the 'four hymn sandwich' or any thing that comes close -- not that that makes the FHS necessarily wrong; but it might give pause for thought.

The difference is not between churches who have liturgies and churches who do not; it is between churches who have intelligent ones that are theologically informed, which they acknowledge and upon which they reflect, and those who do not.  Whether one writes them down or not, and indeed how elaborate they are, is irrelevant when it comes to the question of formalism.   Formalism is a matter of the heart, not of the written page.   After all, unless one speaks in tongues, one is probably using written liturgical tools such as psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Enthusiasm and formalism are also not mutually exclusive categories.  As a student during a brief -- ahem -- 'enthusiastic' phase, I attended a Pentecostal church for a few months: I left because it was patently obvious that the minister spoke the same glossalalic utterance -- unwritten word for unwritten word --every week. .

In fact, the use of historic liturgy, like the use of historic creeds and confessions, can carry with it powerful biblical impulses: it can give the church service dynamic, intelligent, theological movement; it can prevent people from saying stupid and heretical things in public worship; it can teach people profound theology; it can give people exalted, appropriate, and beautiful language to express themselves; and it can remind us that we connect to a past.   

Thus, it seems to me unnecessary to see the arrival of liturgy in Colorado Springs asseedy searle.jpg necessarily representing some kind of formalist dust inevitably filling a vacuum left by the departure of megachurch evangelicalism.

And if familiarity does on occasion breed contempt, that is not the fault of the written liturgy we might choose to use on a Sunday, however elaborate it may be, as it is also not the fault of the written hymns we decide sing, or indeed the written Bible we love read.

Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

If you are trapped inside in the snow and have read all the Danielle Steel on the bookshelves and stoked the fire with a few end time novels, here are a few other places which might provide food for thought.

Banner of Truth has a couple of new videos where Mark Johnston and Ian Hamilton talk about some aspects of the publishing work of the Trust.  Think Thomas Goodwin and Samuel Rutherford being directed in a movie by John Cassavetes with a budget provided by Hetty Green in a bad mood.

Tim Challies reviews a book by Ref21 regular, Rob Ventura, on spiritual warfare.

And, in case you missed it, Lutheran thinker, Gene Veith, has an interesting piece on the arrival of formal liturgy in an unlikely place which he thinks may be a watershed for evangelicalism.  An excellent piece, it still leaves me wondering if too many are not still mesmerised by the reification of "evangelicalism' which seems to be whatever anyone wishes to make it and to exist mainly as the unquestioned foundation of loose affiliations which make up parachurch groupings.   If David Wells is right in his new book that forms of worship and content of theology are not neatly and cleanly separable (to which me might also add polity and forms of pastoral care, to name but two), then, whatever theological doctrines "evangelicals" hold in common, to hypothesize a coherent, reified entity such as "evangelicalism' without the addition of significant adjectives asmolesworth_reasonably_small.jpg qualifications, seems a bit of a stretch and of interest only to those who have, well, a vested interest in claiming that it does exist (and, usually, that they should be in charge of it and its various institutions).  

Posted on Monday, January 20, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

Tim Wengert, my opposite number at the Lutheran Seminary in Germantown, has just published a thought-provoking book on Luther and the Bible, Reading the Bible with Martin Luther.   In applying Luther's canonicity criterion of 'What pushes Christ' to the Left Behind series, he says the following:

By Luther's criterion, the Left Behind series (or, as I like to call it, the "Home Alone" series) is not worth a person's time, unless perhaps he or she is caught in a lake cabin during a snowstorm and has already read all the Danielle Steele on the shelves.  But even then one may prefer to use them as fuel for the fire.

Hard to believe that even Doc Martin himself could have put it so beautifully.

Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 by Carl Trueman on Postcards from Palookaville

I am told that customers at WTS Bookstore are now requesting pictures of certainphoto.JPG Westminster Faculty, pictures which are designed to help bring out their inner beauty and winsome personalities, to accompany orders.   Here is one example of the quality work these men at the bookstore can do.  Not quite Lucas Cranach the Elder but, knowing the faculty member concerned, I can vouch for the fact that, like Lucas with Katie, the beauty of the sitter has been grossly underrepresented.

My lawyers are taking a significant interest in the matter.