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A New Song

I’ve been on an interesting journey over the past couple of years since I last posted!

Most interesting is the way that, quite unexpectedly, I’ve started running two workplace choirs. One is at BT where I work, and then out of the blue last Summer I was offered the chance to run an another choir at John Lewis at Home and Waitrose in Ipswich.

These have put me in touch with some great people: Manvinder Rattan from John Lewis and the whole Sing for Pleasure organisation.

Most exciting for me, its led to me start a new Community Choir out of the Church where I lead the musica New Song Community Choir.

The title comes from Psalm 40 which has become very important for me:

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord. [New Living Translation]

I am praying that for everyone who comes, of any faith, or none,  it will be a fun, encouraging, challenging, friendly community to be part of.  There won’t be any preaching or pressure. But maybe it will become part of the faith journey of some of those who join. God really has given me a New Song to sing, and he offers it to everyone.

Check us out on our website, and come and join us for our first ever session on Monday March 3rd at 8pm at Burlington Baptist Church Centre, Ipswich, Suffolk

Satan hates music

While in  UK churches the so-called “Worship Wars” have to a large extent abated (although not completely), in the US they are still in full swing.

I was debating with someone from the US on facebook just now about “Contemporary Christian Music” and whether it’s all ungodly rubbish, and found myself asking, why is the church always dividing over music?

I think it must be because God LOVES music and created it for our good and for us to use to worship Him. Why else are there so many commands to Sing to the Lord in the Bible? Bach (who might have known something about it) said that

The final aim and reason of all music is nothing other than the glorification of God and the refreshment of the spirit.

Is it a surprise then, that Satan HATES music and will do all he can to pervert it away from its God glorifying purpose?

C.S.Lewis’s Screwtape (the senior devil in Screwtape Letters) says this:

Music and silence — how I detest them both! … no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise — Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile … We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in that direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.

I gave up reviewing Rob Bell’s Love Wins.  It was all too depressing.

Seems I made a big mistake. Harper Collins have just published the Love Wins companion, and accordingly to their publicity:

…in The Love Wins Companion, Rob Bell offers commentary on the positive and negative attention his groundbreaking book is receiving, delivering a crucial supplement to one of the most important books since the Bible.

One of the most important books since the Bible? It is? And we know this for sure?  And HarperCollins felt the need to let the rest of us know?

Basic Maths

We’ve just been looking at an advert for a Quooker in one of Elizabeth’s magazines. It’s a device which gives you instant boiling water on tap and is all the rage in the modern kitchen (so I am told).  They are pretty expensive (about £700) so we won’t be installing one anytime soon.

Or maybe we should? After all one of the reasons for getting these devices is that it is very energy efficient. It costs 3p a day to run and that’s “a saving of up to 55% against a kettle”. That’s got to be good.

Hang on though.

If 3p a day is a saving of up to 55%, then presumably a kettle costs around 6p a day?
That would be a saving of 3p x 365 = £10.95 per year
So that means the tap pays back in slightly under 70 years.

Sounds like a good investment to me!

Appropriately for the year which sees the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible, I’ve finally finished the Bible In English – that’s the book I referred to in my last post by Shakespeare Scholar and Professor Emeritus at University College, London David Daniell. To be honest it’s about as long as the real Bible in English, and has taken me longer to read. But it was well worth it.

One reviewer has said that “great history should be partiale, passionnée and politique. Professor Daniell achieves this superbly.”

That reviewer is quite right. Daniell is clearly passionée – a huge enthusiast for wonderful story of commitment, danger, adventure and politics which brought the Bible to us in our own Language. He has admiration for the Lollards who first brought the Bible in a version of English we would understand, but reserves his greatest praise for William Tyndale, whose translation introduced into English language such phrases as “give us this day our daily bread”, still familiar almost 500 years later. Tyndale died in 1536 as a martyr for his work, praying: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” And yet despite this (because of this?) only three years later the Great Bible, largely based on Tyndale’s work was, under Henry VIII’s command, placed in all parishes in the kingdom. Tyndale’s work also formed the majority of the base of the King James Bible, and perhaps every one of the more than 3000 translations since.

As an English scholar Daniell is alive to how much the Bible (starting with Tyndale) has influenced the English language, and is extremely partiale in expressing opinions about his favourite (Tyndale) and least favourite English stylists. But you always feel that this is primarily not about loving the English Language, or the technicalities of this or that approach to translation. As Daniell says:

Tyndale would have commented that such things matter far less than the truth that “Scripture is a light and sheweth us the true way, both what to do and where to hope.”

As a history of how generations have worked and suffered, sometimes to death, to make that Scripture available to us in a language we can understand, this book is magnificent.

Over the past couple of years I have been dipping in and out of a marvellous book by Shakespeare Scholar and Professor Emeritus at University College, London David Daniell, called The Bible in English published by Yale University Press.

He sounds like my sort of chap… Loves John Buchan (so do I!), used to sing second tenor (same as me!) with the London Symphony Chorus. And he loves the Bible, not just as literature, but, as far as I can ascertain from reading the book, because he loves the Gospel. I am sure it is a very scholarly work, but it’s not a hard read and is full of great stories and anecdotes, as well as some pithy and amusing commentary.

It’s fascinating to see how the Bible in English has evolved. Daniell leads us through the early years from the 8th Century Lindisfarne Gospels, through Wyclif and the Lollards. We linger over the story of Daniell’s beloved Tyndale and then pick up the pace through the 16th century with Coverdale, the Geneva Bible, the Bishops Bible and finally the King James Bible of 1611, whose 400th anniversary of course we celebrate this year. He talks extensively about the Bible in America, there is a detour into the world of Handel’s Messiah, and then through to the Revised Version, and the present day.

There are gems throughout the book, but what tempted me to post on this was a fascinating curiosity of a Bible-translation from the 18th Century by a certain Edward Harwood DD, who I later discovered was educated at the same Grammar School in Blackburn I attended 250 years later.

Harwood decided to produce a translation of the New Testament following in the literary footsteps of his contemporaries, Samuel Richardson (Clarissa), Henry Fielding (Tom Jones), Tobias Smollet and Lawrence Sterne. Not perhaps the best models for the Word of God.

His title page explains:

As Daniell says:

When it came out James Boswell called it a ‘ridiculous work’ and C. S. Lewis remarked in 1950 that Harwood was ‘no doubt…by our standards, an ass.’

There are some amusing examples. This for example is the start of the parable of the Prodigal Son, followed by the much more direct prose of the Authorised/King James Version

A Gentleman of a splendid family and opulent fortune had two sons. One day the younger approached his father, and begged him in the most importunate and soothing terms to make a partition of his effects betwixt himself and his elder brother — The indulgent father, overcome by his blandishments, immediately divided all his fortunes betwixt them. (Harwood)

A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. (KJV)

Amusing…appalling even, but it gets worse. Try this from the Sermon on the Mount

Do not think that the design of my coming into the world is to abrogate the law of Moses, and the prophets – I am only come to supply their deficiencies, and to give mankind a more complete and perfect system of morals. (Harwood)

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (AV)

If Jesus came into the world to give mankind a more complete and perfect system of morals, I’ve been reading a different Bible.

One last example from 1 Cor 13

Benevolence is unruffled; is benign: Benevolence cherishes no ambitious desires: Benevolence is not ostentatious; is not inflated with insolence.

It preserves a consistent decorum; is not enslaved to sordid interest; is not transported with furious passion; indulges no malevolent design.

It conceives no delight from the perpetration of wickedness; but is first to applaud truth and virtue.

It throws a vail of candour over all things: is disposed to believe all things: views all things in the most favourable light: supports all things with serene composure.

Benevolence shall continue to shine with undiminished lustre when all prophetic powers shall be no more, when the ability of speaking various languages shall be withdrawn, and when all supernatural endowments shall be annihilated.

Oh dear! If you want to see what Edwards has done to your favourite passage then you can find the whole work on Google Books.

Worth consigning to the dustbin of history, then.

However, Daniell reminds us that we cannot be too smug. How about this from another translation of 1 Cor 13

[1] If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate…. [11] When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good…[12] We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (1 Cor 13:1, 11-12)

Is this really any better?  Daniell comments on each verse:

[1] Ecstasy? Nowhere in the passage does the Greek refer to that… Paul’s ‘sounding brass and tinkling cymbal’ have vanished, their place taken by a banal commonplace from a B-movie soundtrack…

[11] Barely recognisable as Paul’s ‘I spake as a child’ passage, this, for the sake of appeal to an immediate visual image, again with sound added, totally abandons the Greek. Worse, it corrupts the sense. Paul is not describing infantile gratification. He is illustrating spiritual growth by a parallel with human mental maturation…

[12] …This is the world of feel-good fiction. Instead of the wonder of Paul’s ‘being known’ by God, ‘face to face’, is the singalong triteness of the sunshine…

And in case you are still wondering, this is Eugene Peterson’s The Message.

Perhaps an unfair comparison? Possibly… You decide!

I thought it would be interesting to collect together a summary of some of the best writing and also talks on Rob Bell’s book. Here are a few I have found which I will add to over the coming days:

A truly excellent talk by Don Carson, followed by a panel discussion from The Gospel Coalition Conference entitled, God: Abounding in Love, Punishing the Guilty.

Lauren Winner’s essay on Rob Bell in the New York Times Book Review

God Is still Holy and What you learned in Sunday School is still true.  A Review of Love Wins, by Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church East Lansing, Michigan.

A review of the book by blogger Denny Burk: Revising Hell into the Heterodox Mainstream

The first book to respond to Rob Bell is Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” by Michael E. Wittmer PhD, who teaches systematic and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

A video of the debate between Rob Bell and Adrian Warnock on Premier Christian Radio. There is an excellent series of posts by Adrian Warnock which you can find here. I think we can conclude that Adrian Warnock is not exactly a Rob Bell fan. Certainly in the interview Rob Bell proved very hard to pin down – that seems wrong to me. We should be clear about what we believe and don’t believe and if we don’t know, we should say so. Anything less is dishonest.

An interview between Martin Bashir and Rob Bell on MSNBC

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