Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Some scholars like to claim that as few of the events described in the Bible actually happened. It isn't at all rare to find people who say that Biblical history starts at about the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings) or David (2 Samuel), and that the earlier stuff is all myth. There are even some people who claim that the history starts in Ezra.

Of course, I don't agree with them, and I think it's a very cavalier approach to history to ignore the only documents we have that describe much of the earlier history. But outside the Bible, there isn't much evidence either way for events before David - Israel wasn't settled then in a way that produces much in the way of archaeology. There's some from the time of Joshua, but that's contested because it isn't clear and could be made to fit half a dozen very different scenarios.

And then something like this comes along. They've found some coins in Egypt from the right sort of time which seem to refer to Joseph. That's Joseph the son of Jacob (as in Genesis) rather than Joseph the husband of Mary. If these are real, they blow massive amounts of liberal Biblical scholarship out of the water. I believe the previous record for the oldest Biblical character referred to in an archaeological inscription was David (c. 1000 BC), but that was from a while later referring to the kings of Jerusalem as "sons of David". If this is the same Joseph, it pushes it right back to about 1600BC...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Phantom of the Opera

Here's some of the TV info blurb for the film of the Phantom of the Opera, as shown on Film4:

Joel Schumacher directs this darkly Gothic interpretation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical

Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous musical is, as the name suggests, about a phantom who lives in an opera house. The script requires a few murders and attempted murders and has several significant scenes set in a graveyard and abandoned caves under the opera house.

It contains lines like "Down once more to the dungeon of my dark despair / Down we plunge to the prison of my mind!"

And yet, somehow, the blurb suggests that it might be possible to produce an interpretation of Phantom that isn't darkly gothic!

Don't get me wrong, I think Phantom is ALW's best musical. It's probably my second favourite musical (after Les Mis). It's clever, and has some real feel-good moments. But it is dark, and it is gothic. Oh, and I enjoyed the stage version more than the film.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Always Going Deeper

Knowing God is the biggest adventure anyone can ever have.

Here is where Gregory of Nyssa makes his most noteworthy contribution to Christian theology: that the Christian life must first be defined by seeking God without end, and "that true satisfaction of the soul's desire consists in constantly going on with this quest and never ceasing in the ascent to God." This is a joyful conclusion, since it ensures that one can always progress in holiness because spiritual progress is one of infinite growth. For the Platonist, all change is regarded as a defect or loss; in Gregory's system, the process of changing may be redeemed by perpetual growth in the good. It is this sort of movement that describes our transformation "from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18, ESV). However much the Christian is transformed into the likeness of God, God remains ever beyond, so that the soul must always push forward in anticipation in this life and in the one to come.

Ancient writers like Gregory remind us that the door to joyful mystery must be opened. Knowledge, even the knowledge that comes from Scripture, is not undermined but humbled, as it is placed before the vast depths of God. Because God is eternal and infinite, there will never come a time when we've exhausted all that God has to give us; we'll never plumb the depths of the Almighty, but will always find ourselves going deeper in and higher up.

D.H. Williams, from here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

God Inside Out - Simon Ponsonby

I've recently finished reading God Inside Out by Simon Ponsonby. Apparently, someone who had read the book though it was so good that they bought a copy for every ordinand in the C of E. Very generous of them. I thought it was certainly good, but not good enough that I'd have bought a copy for all ordinands...

The book sets out to try to provide a Biblical and charismatic account of the person and work of the Spirit, and it does that pretty well. The way he handles, for example, the doctrine of Baptism in the Spirit is excellent. (He argues that the Pentecostal experience is right, but their theologising of it is wrong, and it isn't a "second blessing" of the kind they talk about.)

The one area Ponsonby really doesn't cover, and which I wish he had done, because it's something I think I disagree with a lot of charismatics on, is the question of having "more of the Spirit" and so on. I guess I'm just going to have to read his book on the topic - More.

Here are some good quotes.

If adoration and consecration are not the net result of our theological studies, either what we have studied is flawed, or we ourselves are blinded.

Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures.
Thomas Aquinas, quoted on p.196

The spiritual worship which is claimed demands a spiritual force which is not innate in man; to worship in spirit and truth is possible only through the Spirit of God
H.B Swete, quoted on p.303

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Sorry for the lack of posting recently. A large part of this is that I've been on holiday recently, and my lovely girlfriend has agreed to become my lovely fiancée, which I'm delighted about.

Here's a photo of us together.

I might post some more when I'm less snowed under with sermon prep...