Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Retro album of the week 5 - Epsilon in Malaysian Pale

We are still in the seventies, 1975 this time, as I wanted to mark the death of Edgar Froese.
I would have been 15 or 16 when I bought this album in its beautiful gatefold sleeve (probably new year '76 when I got hold of it with Christmas money so approaching 17). I had heard about Froese's first album (Aqua - the first of what would be five solo albums) when a friend pointed out a review in one of the music newspapers. I bought this album on the strength of that review really, not having heard it beforehand. I remember my dad being stunned when he learned that I had bought it unheard. I began to worry myself a little when I played it. There were just two long instrumental tracks, which is what I expected. It is not insistent music and so I would play it doing homework. The more I listened the more I liked it. It begins with some ambient-like sounds and then becomes more like a classical piece.
Apparently the first track was inspired by a visit to a Malaysian jungle (and is more mellotron based) and the second (Maroubra Bay) by a place in Australia (and is a more synthesiser-based piece). This second has a more jaunty Tangerine Dream like bit that is quite jaunty (from about 40 minutes in). Maroubra Bay was subsequently released backwards (unintentionally!). It doesn't sound any stranger and in fact makes for an interesting experience. 
The Epsilon album is well worth a listen but it takes a while. 

Midweek Meeting January 28 2015

Behind again. It was my great joy to look again at the hymn in Philippians 2, this time the exaltation of Christ. There is a style of preaching that quotes hymn after hymn. It is not a model I normally follow but this time there seemed to be so many hymns worth quoting on these subjects. So we had references to
  • The head that once was crowned with thorns
  • Jesus, name above all names
  • Jesus! the Name high over all
  • Thou art the everlasting Word
  • At the name of Jesus
There was also a reference to Daniel Neal's history of the Puritans where he says
“The puritans always excepted against bowing at the name of Jesus; it appeared to them very superstitious, as if worship was to be paid to a name, or to the name of Jesus, more than to that of Christ or Immanuel. Nevertheless it was enjoined by the eighteenth canon, and in compliance with that injunction, our last translators inserted it into their text, … as it now stands; however no penalty was annexed to the neglect of this ceremony, nor did any suffer for it, till Bishop Laud was at the head of the church, who pressed it equally with the rest, and caused above twenty ministers to be fined, censured and put by their livings for not bowing at the name of Jesus, or for preaching against it.”
I closed with a reference to the film Gladiator where the Crowe character is asked his name.
A good time of prayer too, though numbers were slightly down perhaps. We also watched a DVD about Caring for Life the Leeds based charity.

Lord's Day January 25 2015

A little behind here but had a god day on Sunday as we carried on with Ezra (Era 2 - not an easy passage but full of thought provoking detail regarding mission) and Matthew 5 (the second four beatitudes - always challenging to consider). We had good varied congregations am and pm, though as ever some were missing. A local lady turned up am who said she had converted from Islam. I do hope we see her again. Visitors often come and then disappear. We have often thought of how we can keep closer tabs on people but in the end we can only hope to get to know people over a period of time. I can think of at least four visitors in recent weeks who we haven't seen now for a week or two. You often do not know quite why they have disappeared. (There was a time when my wife was paranoid that it might be her cooking - as if).

Remembering Edgar Froese

Another one bites the dust, Demis Roussos

Continental seventies rockstars seem to be falling like flies at present. German Edgar Froese was not widely covered but Greek star Demis Roussos was. I have very little Roussos in my collection but this opening title track from Aphrodite's Child (yes that's Vangelis on keyboards and before Demis got fat and wore khaftans) is a great track. It's power to induce nostalgia (a Greek word after all that really refers to homesickness) is powerful. I like particulalry the way it really does seem to be 5 pm (in winter) when I listen to it.

Death of Edgar Froese

I was sad to hear of the death of the German electronic music pioneer Edgar Froese yesterday. There is a brief obituary here.

Retro Album of the Week 4 - Tubular Bells

It's back to the seventies yet again I'm afraid, January 1973 again to be exact. I was going to try and break out but I watched  a documentary and a performance of TB on BBC 4 and felt compelled to get it out again. Each different part is okay but it is the combined effort that wins you over. I liked Mike Oldfield's description, which I had not heard before of seeing them taking away some tubular bells from the Manor Studio and he thinking perhaps he could use them and so getting them to put them back. In all our lives fairly small things can have quite an impact further down the road in God's Providence. I thought it was brilliant when it was used in the Olympics ceremony. I'm sure I was very late discovering it but I owned a vinyl copy with its brilliant cover and remember the Second House live presentation introduced by Melvyn Bragg one Saturday night.
I remember the tongue in cheek notes on the album (a practice Horslips really got into around the same time)
"In Glorious Stereophonic Sound – Can also be played on mono-equipment at a pinch"
"This stereo record cannot be played on old tin boxes no matter what they are fitted with. If you are in possession of such equipment please hand it into the nearest police station"
The album cover was apparently among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued on 7 January 2010.
Another great fact I spotted on Wikipedia is that the only electric guitar to be used on the album was a 1966 blonde Fender Telecaster (serial no. 180728) which used to belong to Marc Bolan. Oldfield had added an extra Bill Lawrence pick-up and has since sold the guitar for £6500 and donated the money to the SANE charity. This guitar had been put up for auction a number of times by Bonhams in 2007, 2008 and 2009 with estimates of £25,000–35,000, £10,000–15,000 and £8,000–12,000 respectively.
It was always said that Mike Oldfield played all the instruments but there were others on it, quite a few. Having said that, he did play acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, Farfisa, Hammond B3 and Lowrey organs, flageolet, fuzz guitars, glockenspiel, "honky tonk" piano, mandolin, piano, percussion, "taped motor drive amplifier organ chord", timpani, vocals and tubular bells.

George Eliot

Having read the John Ruskin biography in OUP's VIP series I thought I'd read the one on George Eliot the female novelist, another individual with an evangelical background who rejected that upbringing. It was translating liberals like Strauss and Feuerbach that undid here along with the influence of liberal minded friends. She was considered to have lived a scandalous life in her day, though compared with other examples she was at least pretty much a serial monogamist, though never formally marrying. Rosemary Ashton doesn't mention Spurgeon, who Ruskin warmed to, to some extent. George Eliot did hear Spurgeon but was unimpressed. She wrote
"My impressions fell below the lowest judgment I ever heard passed upon him. He has the gift of a fine voice, very flexible and various; he is admirably fluent and clear in his language, and every now and then his enunciation is effective. . . . And the doctrine. It was a libel on Calvinism, that it should be presented in such a form .... It was the most superficial, grocer's back-parlour view of Calvinistic Christianity; and I was shocked to find how low the mental pitch of our society must be, judged by standard of this man's celebrity. . . .  Just now, with all Europe stirred by events, that make every conscience tremble after some great principle as a consolation and guide, it was too exasperating to sit and listen to doctrine that seemed to look no farther than the retail Christian's tea and muffins."
She is also said to have said "This Essex man drove bullock wagons through ecclesiastical aisles; his pulpit gown was a smockfrock." This article here gives more of Eliot's religious background with reference to Baptists.

New Saudi King encourages Charles

Historic, Historical

I wrote this letter to ITN tonight
Dear Sir
I have just been watching the ITN News on ITV+1. I notice that in one package journalist Rohit Kachroo refers to "historic claims of sexual abuse" and "historic rape allegations". I wonder if he is aware that there is a difference between the words historic and historical. He is not the only one I have heard making this mistake.
If you google the two words you will see the difference:
historic hɪˈstɒrɪk/ adjective adjective: historic 1. 1.famous or important in history, or potentially so. "the area's numerous historic sites"
historical hɪˈstɒrɪk(ə)l/ adjective adjective: historical 1.of or concerning history or past events. "historical evidence" ◦belonging to the past. "famous historical figures"
Yours faithfully
Gary Brady

Unbroken Review

A shorter version of this review also appears in the February ET
Many readers will be aware of the book War and grace by Don Stephens, a collection of short biographies of Christians from the two world wars, that was published in 2005 and again, in a new edition, last year.
The first story in that book concerns an American of Italian extraction called Louis Zamperini. The new edition reveals that he died on July 2, 2014 and mentions the 2010 biography Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and the then forthcoming film of the same name, directed by Angelina Jolie. This film has now appeared, going on general release in British cinemas on Boxing Day, 2014.
We are always looking for ways to introduce Christ to our unbelieving neighbours and so the fact that a biopic about a Christian has appeared is good news. Sadly, the film, unlike the book that it is drawn from, chooses very much to downplay the fact that Zamperini became a Christian after the war and spent much of his life talking about Christ and the forgiveness that can be found only in him.
In his book, Don Stephens prefaces his life of Zamperini with seven summarising bullet points. The first five of these are well covered in the film.
The three middle points are covered the most extensively – An Air force bomb aimer, decorated for gallantry in action; a survivor of 47 days adrift on a life raft; an ill-treated prisoner of war of the Japanese for two and a half years. The bulk of the film looks at these periods, most of the time being devoted to his harrowing years as a POW when a man known as 'The bird' did all that he possibly could to 'break' his prisoner. Much of this, which includes a great deal of senseless violence, does not make pleasant viewing. Hence the '15' certificate. If you do see this film, be prepared for that. Zamperini had recurring nightmares after his experiences, until he came to Christ. One can imagine some people having nightmares after watching this presentation.
The first two bullet points (a juvenile delinquent in California and an Olympic runner at the Berlin Games of 1936) are covered in the film by means of flashbacks that bring out his Italian background, the racism he suffered, his delinquency and the way his older brother eventually steered him in a better direction by means of sport, leading to some success at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
As for Stephens' final two bullet points – a drunkard who almost wrecked his marriage and a Christian – these are almost entirely ignored. The main film ends when the war ends and just a few subsequent points are covered in a brief epilogue, where written material is combined with contemporary stills to fill in the rest of the story.
All this means that the only real Christian elements in the film itself are a snatch from a sermon by a Roman clergyman when Zamperini was a boy (blurring the fact that he later rejected Catholicism for the gospel), his prayer in the life raft that he would dedicate his life to God if he survived and some conversations about God with his fellow survivor Russell Phillips.
It is hard to understand why the film makers were not keener to depict the moment when Zamperini returned to Japan after the war in 1950 and, having preached to his former guards, warmly shook them by the hand and expressed his forgiveness. They chose not to do it this way, however.
That still leaves us with an opportunity to take advantage of the brief spotlight on Zamperini to draw attention to him and his Saviour by means of Don Stephens' book or other materials that do highlight his conversion and Christian life.
One other point to make, if it is not too esoteric, is that if you watch the film carefully you will notice that sometimes Zamperini is framed in an iconically Christ-like way. Further, near the end we see him symbolically crucified, symbolically dead, symbolically raised and this is followed by a symbolic pouring out of the Spirit and a mass baptism. Some have also detected his representative character, his temptation by Satan and his final ascension too. These elements may be helpful or unhelpful in the long run but are worth keeping in mind.

Exodus Gods and Kings Review

As promised this is my brief review of the Exodus film (a similar review is in the February Evangelical Times)
Hollywood's current fascination with biblical epic continues and hot on the heels of Noah comes a film based on Exodus directed by the acclaimed Ridley Scott. By no means as bad as the attempt on the Genesis narrative, this current offering takes a similar approach and falls way short of what one would have hoped for.
The broad details are followed, of course – a man called Moses grows up close to the Pharaoh and his successor in Egypt; he is sympathetic to the Israelite slaves in that place; he flees to Midian and marries and settles there; God speaks to him from a burning bush; he returns; there are ten plagues; he leads the people out; they cross the Red Sea; the Ten Commandments are received.
However, at every point there are differences, major and minor, from the biblical text. As in The Prince of Egypt which came out some years ago, Moses is assumed to be a close brother of the man who becomes Pharaoh. This time Moses is presented as being unaware of his Hebrew roots and as attempting to organise a guerilla movement before God steps in. His love affair with Zipporah is far more prominent than in the Bible. Presumably we end up with this sort of thing because film makers are eager to give us someone that most people today can relate to. This does not really work here.
As for why Moses is up to his neck in mud when he meets with God at Sinai or why part of Pharaoh's army is killed in a landslide rather than in the Red Sea, who knows? All this means that when we talk to people about Exodus they will have picked up many ideas that are extraneous to the original text. At least the crossing of the Red Sea is dealt with in a fairly accurate manner (although even here is there is plenty of room for improvement), the ten plagues scene is powerful though slightly garbled and the loss of Pharaoh's firstborn comes across well.

10 victims of murder in the Bible

1. Abel
2. Nadab
3. Uriah the Hittite
4. Amaziah
5. Amnon
6. Elah
7. Sennacherib
8. Naboth
9. Uriah the Hittite
9. Zechariah
10. John the Baptist

10 Murderers in the Bible

I can't remember why this list came to mind now (probably reading the early chapters of Genesis)

1. Cain
2. Lamech
3. Moses
4. David
5. Absalom
6. Joab
7. Jezebel
8. Zimri
9. Jehu
10. Herod

Midweek Meeting January 21 2015

Another good and varied number gathered last night and we had a good time of prayer preceded by our study of Philippians 2:6-8. These are familiar words but it was good to remind ourselves once again of the amazing condescension of Christ in coming to this earth in the way that he did. How it magnifies the grace of God and his greatness. Such knowledge should lead us not only to worship but to deny ourselves and put others first. We began with At the name of Jesus which is a fine hymn with a fine tune.