"Graft your goodness on this grumpy stump"

David Ker, the blogger formerly known as Lingamish, has been publishing a series of Cyber-Psalms, with the intention of completing a collection of 150. He has just got to number 33. Some of them have seemed to me weird, or just irrelevant. But his latest one seems to scratch just where I itch. Well, perhaps that is not a good idiom in the context of this what this poem, or prayer, is trying to say. Do read the whole thing, but it is this part which struck me most:

May those who bump into me
Be showered with fruit
Not pricked with thorns.
Graft your goodness on this grumpy stump.

The Archbishop, the Pope, and the Holy Grail

From the latest edition of Clare News, the magazine for alumni of my Cambridge college:

When the Archbishop of York met Pope Benedict XVI in Rome recently, he gave him an unusual gift …: a special, one-off beer called ‘Holy Grail’ …

Holy Grail beer bottle

For a fuller version of this story see this page on the brewery’s website, which also has a picture of the beer bottle, and its full name:

MONTY PYTHON’S HOLY GRAIL Tempered with burning witches

– with the “GR” crossed out.

Clare College has a strong theological tradition, numbering among its past members Prof Charlie Moule and Archbishop Rowan Williams. But in this case the link with the college is not the Archbishop, nor the Pope, but the head brewer.

Church Council Secretary

I have recently been re-elected to the District Church Council of my church (not a PCC as we are part of a team ministry), and also chosen again as secretary of this Council. So I have been landed again with the positions I laid down a year ago at the end of my maximum three year continuous time on the Council.

Fortunately our Council is not at all like this description of a committee, just sent to me by one of my fellow Council members:

Oh spare me some pity, I’m on a committee, which means that from morning to night
We attend and amend and contend and defend without a conclusion in sight.
We concur and confer, we defer and demur, and reiterate all of our thoughts,
We revise the agenda with lots of addenda and consider a load of reports.
We compose and propose, we suppose and oppose and the points of procedure are fun
But though various notions are brought up as motions, terribly little gets done.
We resolve and absolve but we NEVER dissolve, since it’s out of the question for us,
What an awful pity to end our committee – where else could we make such a fuss?

But perhaps I do need some pity for what I have taken on again – more minutes which take hours to write up!

An ESV Zealot

My regular commenter Jeff wrote in a post on his own blog Scripture Zealot

We all know the English Standard Version is a solid translation. There is plenty to be found on the Web about that.

To that I responded, in a comment awaiting moderation as I write:

Very funny! But some of your readers might not understand your irony here. Just read what Iyov, Mike and most of their commenters have to say about its lack of solidity.

I will wait and see if Jeff recognised his own irony, whether intentional or not, and allows this comment on a post and comment thread which is otherwise hagiography of ESV. Meanwhile I recommend Iyov’s and Mike’s posts and their comments for a more accurate assessment of ESV.

I also had to correct Jeff for wrongly stating in another post that

the Greek word most often translated as hallowed only occurs in the New Testament twice.

He quoted Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2, but in fact the verb (if not the precise form) occurs 28 times in the NT.

Scripture Zealot, I think Romans 10:2 could have been written about you.

Fast and pray, or pray fast?

My post about Bishop Michael Reid has attracted a lot of interest. Simon Jones’ post which I linked to has attracted even more, to judge by the number of comments.

Well down the comment thread on Simon’s post a discussion has started on fasting. The issue was raised by Dr Raj Patel, and the discussion continued by John, a preacher from here in Essex, who reports the following:

Reid taught that it was not right to fast because the Lord, the bridegroom, is now with us and we do not need to fast. He even stated at a meeting for pastors that “fasting is heathen.” This is clearly false teaching, especially in view of Acts 13:2-3.

Raj continues with

You are absolutely right, Reid has totally contradicted Scripture on the issue of fasting. Indeed, some might say say he has blasphemed on this point, as the New Testament tells us that Jesus taught his disciples to ‘pray and fast without ceasing.’ … It looks as if the ‘bishop’ thought he was so important and authoritatative that he could contradict the teaching of Christ himself !

Strange, these quoted words don’t appear in my New Testament. Can anyone tell me where they come from? It is not Reid but whoever first attributed these words to Jesus who “thought he [or she] was so important and authoritatative that he [or she] could contradict the teaching of Christ himself”. For when we look at what Jesus actually taught about fasting, it is by no means that his followers should fast. He did not condemn fasting, but, in Mark 2:19, laid down a general rule, which Reid faithfully taught, that they should not fast “because the Lord, the bridegroom, is now with us”. So, according to commenter John,

Reid also used to say that we should not fast and pray, but pray fast.

Excellent advice! Fasting may be helpful for some in certain circumstances, but in his teaching Jesus, without condemning fasting, repeatedly teaches on the importance of prayer. Not fast prayer in the sense of babbling words or getting it over quickly, but praying fast in the sense of being quick to turn to prayer when there is a need, and of holding fast to God in prayer.

I agree that Reid went too far in saying that “fasting is heathen.” This is indeed false teaching, as are large parts of what Reid taught. But he should be condemned for what is false, and for his adultery, and not for this teaching which is correct, and explodes a long held myth about fasting.

No doubt some of you my readers will want to point me to Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29 (see also 1 Corinthians 7:5) in KJV and NKJV, in which Jesus appears to commend prayer and fasting. But if you look for this teaching in almost any modern Bible translation except for NKJV, you will not find them. Matthew 17:21 is not in these translations at all, and there is no mention of fasting in Mark 9:29 or 1 Corinthians 7:5. In each of these cases the wording with “fasting” is found only in later manuscripts in the Alexandrian and Byzantine traditions; the scholars of the biblical text who produced the UBS 4th edition Greek New Testament judge that in each of these three cases “the text is certain”, referring to the version without “fasting”. It seems highly probable that the variants with “fasting” reflect the growing prominence of this practice in the 3rd and 4th centuries, and not the actual teaching of Jesus and the apostles. These readings found their way into KJV through the Byzantine manuscripts of the New Testament on which the “Textus Receptus” is based, but are now almost universally (except by “KJV-only” people) rejected as later additions.

Since Jesus is with his church, the bridegroom with his bride, I can agree with Reid, as reported by John, that as a general rule

Christians should be feasting and not fasting.

Not the Wright letter

This is not really anything to do with my last post

Ruth Gledhill and John Richardson report on a video message which Archbishop Rowan Williams has sent out to the bishops of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion Office has not only published the transcript but also put the video on YouTube!

Ruth suggests that this is

that ‘Lambeth letter’ that Bishop Wright talked about.

But if this is the same letter that Bishop Tom spoke about, he was badly misinformed about its contents. In Wright’s speech to Fulcrum he claimed that Archbishop Rowan was

writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation … having already not invited Gene Robinson to Lambeth, … suggesting that some others might absent themselves as well. But this is what he promised he would do, and he is doing it.

But there is nothing in the Archbishop’s video message to suggest that any bishops should absent themselves from the Lambeth Conference. Although there is some mention of discussions of the Anglican Covenant, there is no hint that agreeing to discuss this is in any sense a condition of attendance.

I wrote before that

Williams’ letter is far too little, far too late.

And that was on the understanding that the letter was going out more or less as described by Wright. Well, perhaps Williams has realised that sending out a letter of the kind described by Wright at this stage would be pointless. Or perhaps he actually has sent out this kind of letter to accompany the video message. If so, no doubt at least one of the 800 or so recipients will be sufficiently upset by it to publish it. So we will soon find out.

But my challenge to the real Bishop of Durham, if he doesn’t want to be confused with any American “Free Universalist Interfaith Bishop”, is to let us know exactly what is in the package which he and his fellow bishops receive from Archbishop Rowan, and whether it includes a letter anything like the one he described to Fulcrum. If not, he should correct his claim that there is

No skullduggery involved either at Lambeth or with me.

Wrong Bishop of Durham

I thought for a minute that Jim West had a scoop for me, that Bishop NT Wright had started a blog. But it turns out that this blogger is not the Church of England Bishop of Durham, England, but, from his “about” page,

Tom Wrong, the Free Universalist Interfaith Bishop of Durham, North Carolina.

So not to be taken too seriously, I think.

However, he does have a good point about dreams in this post. In the ancient world dreams were taken much more seriously than they are today, and this understanding is reflected in the biblical text. But if Bishop Wrong is intending to suggest that the biblical authors wrote up what they had dreamed as the biblical text, he should offer some evidence for this, for here he may indeed be Wrong.

Packer on Pentecostalism

I tend to associate J.I. Packer with a kind of Reformed evangelicalism which values intellectualism more than experiences and is suspicious of any kind of manifest activity of the Holy Spirit. So I was interested to read at Pentecostal pastor Brian’s blog sunestauromai – living the crucified life an extract from an interview Packer has just given to a Pentecostal periodical. Here is most of what Brian quotes from Packer, apparently with Brian’s emphasis, and the periodical’s American spelling:

The Pentecostal emphasis on life in the Spirit, which became a big thing at the turn of the 20th century, was absolutely right. It was an emphasis that hadn’t been fully grasped by other evangelicals for a long time. The up-front quest for fellowship with God that grabbed the whole of the heart and therefore had emotional overtones and the openness to a recurrence of some of the signs of the Kingdom was right. …

It’s simply a marvelous work of God that when the Pentecostal version of the gospel has been preached all around the world for the past half-century there has been a tremendous harvest. It’s a wonderful work in our time, which we can set against the decline of Christianity in North America and Western Europe. Most notably in Africa and Asia, Christianity has been roaring ahead through the Pentecostal version of the Christian message and life in the Spirit. I celebrate it and thank God for it. There have been older evangelicals who have set themselves against distinctive Pentecostal emphases as if there’s something wrong with it. I have not lined up with those folk and indeed have argued that their attitude is mistaken.

Now I am not a Pentecostal by denomination; like Packer I am an Anglican. But I am one of many Anglicans, and people from other “traditional” denominations, who over the last 40 years (for me personally, for nearly 30 years) have embraced what used to be considered the distinctive Pentecostal emphases, on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. True, many of us have rejected, as I think Packer did, the Pentecostal teaching about the necessity of a specific “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” experience evidenced by speaking in tongues. But we hold that such experiences and gifts are good and to be desired, and that these gifts should be used, with proper safeguards, in the life of the church.

This is of course a summary of what is known as the Charismatic Movement. Perhaps in some ways the movement is dead, as some have alleged. But if so, it is not because its distinctives have been abandoned, more because they have become more and more acceptable in the life of the church and are no longer charismatic or Pentecostal distinctives.

But these Pentecostal and charismatic distinctives have often been viewed with great suspicion by British Anglicans of the Oak Hill tradition who look up to Packer as one of their Christian heroes. Perhaps Packer can help to persuade them that the good things in the Pentecostal tradition are good for reviving not just Pentecostal churches in Africa and Asia but also Anglican churches in North America and Western Europe.

Anointing with oil

I have just discovered Roger Mugs’ interesting pseudonymous blog theologer. Thanks to Nathan Stitt, another interesting new blogger, for the link.

Among Roger’s recent posts this one caught my eye: Anointed… with oil. Now anointing with oil for healing is something I take very seriously, so please don’t think that I am mocking the idea here. Like Roger, I have been blessed with being anointed with oil, as much as can be held on a finger. And I have done it myself a few times. Maybe sometime I will blog seriously about prayer ministry as practised in my church.

Nevertheless, as I commented on Roger’s blog, there is also a humorous side to anointing oil. A few days ago I was helping the lady in charge of our church prayer ministry find some olive oil in the church kitchen to refill the anointing oil bottles. But she complained that the oil we found wasn’t “Extra Virgin”. Sounds like something from Matthew 25:1-13, except that there the extra virgins were the ones looking for oil to refill their bottles.

But if you want to know what biblical anointing was like, read Psalm 133:2.

Justification and felicity

I have not written a serious post here today partly because I have been busy following up on a post I wrote at Better Bibles Blog, with the same title as this one. This is a rather technical matter of linguistics and Bible translation, which is why I posted it there, not here. But it does also link up with what I have written here about the atonement and the New Perspective on Paul. So some of you, my readers, might be interested in following my link to that post and the resulting comment thread.