An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

'The Nativity Story': a review

There is a good review of The Nativity Story by Mark Goodacre on the Society of Biblical literature website here.

Epiginoskein on why he's a neocalvinist

Epiginoskein refelcts on his journey from fundamentalism and pentecostalism to Calvinism and neoclavinism:

After high school I enrolled at Dordt College because it seemed to be a good solid Calvinistic Institution. Imagine my shock when many of these Dutch "Calvinists" had no clue what the five points of Calvinism were. However, by God's grace I had come to study history, and the entire history department was filled with Neo-Calvinists who confessed the Canons of Dordt but also pushed me to think about the goodness of creation and the need for a Christian worldview. It was here that I read books by Al Wolters, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, etc. Keeping in mind my essentially gnostic background, Neo-Calvinism liberated me to think as a Christian and live as a true human being (no more ranting about how horrible it was to be a "soul trapped in a body!").

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Happy Christmas

It’s amazing that God should come to earth in human flesh: he became one of us. Too often Christians are the victims of dualism: a sacred/ secular; grace/ nature; spirit/ matter dualisms; and yet here is God becoming matter! Matter matters!

God is endorsing the creation – it’s not about escaping to heaven! It about bringing heaven, the kingdom of God, to earth. Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Living with liberalism

Jonathan Chaplin examines how tolerant is liberal toleration in this week's Comment.

The Nativity Story

We went to see The Nativity Story today. It was much better than I anticipated. It set the political background and the Roman occupation extremely well and bought home the shame that Mary's family must have felt. Herod was well played and his paranoia came over well. I'd certainly recommend seeing it. It seemed to be pretty faithful to the Gospels. Though I'm not sure that the magi would have arrived so soon after the shepherds.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Nature and grace in the nativity

Dualism has distorted most of Christian thought. From Aquinas onwards it was the dualism of nature and grace. This battle between nature and grace can be seen in nativity art (see Francis Schaeffer's Escape from Reason IVP, 1968).

Here grace subsumes nauture - there is nothing natural in this twelfth century icon.

In Van Eyck's Madonna of the Chancellor Rolin (1435) Rolin is facing Mary and he is the same size: there is a battle between nature and grace - no side is dominant.

In Fouquet's painting the king's mistress is painted as Mary with one breast exposed - nature has swallowed grace.

Schaeffer points out:
... when nature is made autonomous it is destructive. As soon as one allows an autonomous realm one finds that the lower element begins to eat up the higher.
The Christians worldview knows nothing of dualism - there is no battle between nature and grace - no one aspect is greater than the other. In the Christian worldview grace restores nature.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Xmas or Christmas?

A Lost Chapter from Herodotus

by C. S. Lewis

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and the north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, and though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from other barbarians who occupy the north- western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they callExmas , and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called anExmas-card . But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest and the most miserable of citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk in the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchasers become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think that some great calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the ExmasRush .

But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with theRush , lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas , which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, It is not lawful, O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and theRush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left. And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, It is, O Stranger, a racket ; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for aracket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game calledtennis ).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For the first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in theRush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.

[Nicked from here]

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Foy Vance - Gabriel and the Vagabond

Winter holidays?

There has been a tendency at the college where I teach to speak of the winter holidays rather than of the Christmas holidays. I can only assume that this is not to upset the secularists as a large proportion of the Moslems I teach wish me a Happy Christmas! If they wished me a happy eid it certainly wouldn't upset me.

There are even happy winter holiday cards:

It reminds me of the story Paul Marshall told (I can't find the original source for this and have forgotten the details): three people were arguing over which game to play - one wanted to do nothing, one wanted football and the other hockey. They agreed they couldn't agree and so played nothing. But in doing nothing they were actually doing something - what the first person wanted.

The term winter holidays also reminds me of what Tumnus tells Lucy of the White Witch:

"It's she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Gideon Strauss on living with liberalism

This week's Comment has a wonderful piece by Gideon Strauss on living with liberalism. By liberalism he means 'the modern ideology commited to individual freedom above all else'. He reminds us that cultural transformation in the form of Schaeffer, Rookmaaker, Dooyeweerd and Kuyper is not an overnight sensation - we have to work at it:

The kind of cultural renewal that will move North American culture beyond the liberal hegemony is the work of more than one or two generations. With this in mind, and without giving up the long-term dream of transforming the culture, Christians must learn how to live with the reality of a liberal cultural hegemony—with authenticity and integrity, but at the same time with prudence and patience, courtesy and civility.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Pray for Fiji

Please pray for Fiji. Bruce Wearne writes on thinknet:
Fiji's so-called coup is by no means a fait accompli.There is stern resistanceof a peaceful and courageous kind stirring from the villages and islands.Suva may be under the Military's heel but they do not have it their own way. Not at all.Please keep this matter in your prayers and bring it to the attention of your churches, associations, schools.
Details can be found on the Fiji Times website and in some of Bruce's recent Nurturing justice articles here.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Comment: Living with liberalism

This week's Comment is by David Koyzis and Brian Dijkema and looks at the issue of liberalism and outline six strategies for faithfulness:

  • Nurture marriages for the long term
  • Have children and raise families
  • Become committed, active members of your church community
  • Join a Christian labour or another work-related association
  • Become involved in your country's political life
  • All all your work to be influenced by your faith:
"If liberalism attempts to force issues of faith into private compartments, and if this curtails the scope of the redeeming power of faith in Christ, integrating our work with our faith is perhaps the best way to address the deficiencies of liberalism."