Friday, 26 December 2008

David Andrew Thomas - Revelation 19 in Historical and Mythological Context

Review for JSNT forthcoming 2009

Revelation 19 in Historical and Mythological Context

David Andrew Thomas

Peter Lang: New York, 2008, 978-1-4331-0252-3, xii + 201 hb

The Jewish background to the book of Revelation is well-attested, but David Thomas asserts that John also has the Greco-Roman world firmly in mind, creatively fusing elements from both traditions to construct images of great force for his Jewish and Gentile readers alike. Although usually interpreted in the light of the Divine Warrior myth from the Old Testament (Isa. 63), Thomas compellingly suggests that John’s description of the Rider on the White Horse from Rev. 19.11-21 also bears many of the hallmarks of a Roman triumphal procession. Highlighting the significance of the Nero redivivus myth, in which the dead emperor returns to Rome as the ‘great king’ (19.16) at the head of a Parthian invasion force, Thomas demonstrates how the Christological Rider on the White Horse offers a polemical counter-vision to this Neronian claim to immortal triumph.

The vision of the Rider on the White Horse is a key image within the book of Revelation, and David Thomas proves to be a sure guide to the Greco-Roman background of this crucial passage. Out of his exploration emerges a strong re-reading of the text, with John’s depiction of the Rider as Christus Triumphator offering a powerful counter-claim to the imperial divine pretensions of successive emperors. John’s characterisation of Christ as the triumphant Anti-Nero is seen to relativise the satanic aspirations of the imperial cult, whilst simultaneously anticipating the eschatological triumphal return of the one who was slain and yet still lives.

D. Densil Morgan - Wales and the Word

Review for the Baptist Quarterly forthcoming 2009.

D. Densil Morgan. 2008. Wales and the Word: Historical perspectives on religion and Welsh identity. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 978-0-7083-2121-8, x + 262 hb.

As an Englishman called to minister in Wales, I came to this masterful ‘insider’ study as an ‘friendly outsider’ seeking points of entry to the culture of my calling. In a collection of essays, some here in print for the first time, D. Densil Morgan traces the story of Welsh Dissent from the establishment of the first Baptist church in Ilston on the Gower peninsula in 1649, to the twenty-first century context of contemporary Welsh Baptist witness. On this journey of three-and-a-half centuries, Wales has seen change on the grand scale: from a predominantly rural and pastoral setting to growth, prosperity and industrialisation; from decline and social hardship to political independence and economic resurgence. These social changes have had their effects on the life of the church, and Morgan introduces his readers to some fascinating characters who have played their part in the ongoing story of change and adaptation within the Baptist churches of Wales.

Morgan shows how both the seventeenth century evangelist John Myles and the dramatic revivalist preacher Christmas Evans (1766-1838) left their enduring legacies in terms of both church growth and spiritual vitality, while Owen Thomas and Llewelyn Ioan Evans provided a depth of engagement with theological developments beyond Wales. Further essays chart the development of evangelicalism, the relationship between Baptist identity and Welsh national consciousness, the influence of Karl Barth, the spirituality of D. Gwenallt Jones, the legacy of Celtic Christianity, and an overview of recent historians of Welsh Protestant Nonconformity. The collection concludes with a reflection on ‘The essence of Welshness’ which brings the story up-to-date. Morgan remains realistic about the challenges facing contemporary Welsh Baptists, noting recent numerical decline and lamenting a ‘dearth of theological creativity in the churches’. However, through his account of those who have sought to equip and envision Welsh Baptists of previous generations, Morgan points to the everlasting gospel as a source of hope for those called to Welsh Baptist life in the twenty-first century.

Dennis Bustin - Paradox and Perseverance

Review for the Baptist Quarterly - Forthcoming 2009.

Bustin, Dennis C. Paradox and Perseverance: Hanserd Knollys, Particular Baptist Pioneer in Seventeenth-Century England. Vol. 23, Studies in Baptist History and Thought. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2006.

Hanserd Knollys was one of the great Baptist characters of the seventeenth century. From his confrontational and popular preaching during the turbulent civil war years, to his wise and enlightened leadership exercised in London through protectorate, restoration and glorious revolution, his influence runs like a thread through the formative years of the Particular Baptist movement. Steadfast under persecution, creative in exegesis, and pastoral in intent, Knollys comes to life once again through the pages of Dennis Bustin’s excellent and scholarly work.

Bustin vividly revisits Knollys’ theological and geographical journey: from Lincolnshire clergyman, to New England refugee, to London Particular Baptist pastor, demonstrating how the various influences upon him led to his adoption of a Puritan position. The consequences of this journey are then explored, as Knollys’ struggles to demonstrate the theological legitimacy of his position. He is seen to take a middle path, affirming congregational government and believer’s baptism, but distancing himself from the radical sects which often overlapped with Baptist life. With the restoration came a renewal of persecution, and Bustin demonstrates how Knollys sought to understand the turbulent events of these decades against the apocalyptic schemes of the Book of Revelation. However, with the accession of William and Mary, Knollys’ eschatological speculation gave way to his concern for church order and doctrine, and Bustin shows how in his later years Knollys was able to gift the Particular Baptists stability of both institution and doctrine.

Bustin’s work is a lively and readable account, which contributes not only to our understanding of this fascinating historical character, but also to our appreciation of the paradoxical times in which he lived. Knollys is shown to be one who came through the seventeenth century with perseverance, one who endured faithfully to the end, overcoming times of tribulation and persecution. Rev. 21.7.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

The Guild of Biblical Minimalists

Happy Christmas one and all.
News: I'm honoured to have been appointed Welsh Liaison officer for the Guild of Biblical Minimalists.

Friday, 19 December 2008

A Christmas Confession

I didn't know what 'Noel' meant...

So I checked the OED, and, apparently...

Anglo-Norman and Middle French noel (French noël).

Attested as a surname (and male forename) in England from the 12th cent. (probably originally used for children born or baptized on Christmas day).

1. The feast of Christmas; Christmastide; = Nowell n. 1. rare.
Not in standard use in English, though sometimes used in Anglicized greetings based on French models (see quot. 1953) and as an alternative spelling for Nowell (see quot. 2000).

1435 in H. Nicolas Proc. & Ordin. Privy Council (1835) IV. 295 To be paied by him for {th}e wages..fro {th}e feste of Seint Michel last unto Noel {th}anne next folowyng by a quarter. 1953 K. TYNAN Let. 19 Dec. (1994) iii. 199 Thank you again, and a joyous noël. 2000 Christmas TAB: First Noel in (Usenet newsgroup) 12 Dec., The First Noel. Note: In the chorus, finger the A* chords with fingers 2,3 & 4. It'll make those melody notes on the first string so much easier!

2. A Christmas carol.

1786 T. BUSBY Compl. Dict. Music, Noels, certain canticles, or songs of joy, formerly sung at Christmas in the country churches in France. 1880 Grove's Dict. Music II. 462 The French Noëls will, of course, bear no comparison with those written in Italy in point of excellence. 1903 Speaker 3 Jan. 324/2 The singing of noels must be heard to be really appreciated. 1946 Trollopian 2 6 He was ahead of his age in liking the genuinely popular in music: such folk songs as Noels, ‘Aileen Aroon’, chanties of sailors and dredgers, songs of harvest home. 1980 Early Music Apr. 259/1 The Noël, a peculiarly French genre consisting of a series of variations on popular Christmas tunes of the day, was developed in the first half of the 18th century by Daquin and others. 2000 Columbia Encycl. (ed. 6) 8529 Carols of French origin are called noels.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Primal Fear - Seven Seals

For those who love a bit of Germanic Power Metal, here's Primal Fear and their Revelation-themed song 'Seven Seals'.
HT Martyn, who is a bit of a 'dark horse'... (better that than a pale one!)

The time has come, the end is near
A fire storm
The curse is done, my search is over
The altar of souls

Don’t wanna be the one to live in fear
Seven angels getting near
Don’t wanna be the one, get out of here
With moonlight’s calling

The final day the sky will fall down
And we might all drown
And seven seals will break
The final day will end in sorrow
There’s no tomorrow
The seven seals will break

From peace tough death, holy and true
The noise of thunder
The skies of Hell unfell to Earth
Another wonder

Don’t wanna be the one to live in fear
Seven angels getting near
Don’t wanna be the one, get out of here
With moonlight’s calling

The final day the sky will fall down
And we might all drown
If seven seals will break
The final day will end in sorrow
As no tomorrow
If seven seals will break

The final day the sky will fall down
And we might all drown
If seven seals will break
The final day will end in sorrow
There’s no tomorrow
If seven seals will break

The final day the sky will fall down
And we might all drown
If seven seals will break
The final day will end in sorrow
There’s no tomorrow
If seven seals will break

Women in ministry

A huge thank you to all those who are helping me compile this resource for the BUGB Task Group on Women in Leadership. Further suggestions are greatly welcome...

Women in Ministry resources

Highlighted articles / books are those which I am aware of, but do not yet have copies of. If anyone is able to send me photocopies of the relevant chapters / articles I would be very grateful!

British Baptist Papers


Briggs, John H. Y. 1986. She-preachers, widows and other women: The Feminine dimension in Baptist life since 1600. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

Briggs, John H. Y. 1994. English Baptists of the Nineteenth Century: Baptist Union of Great Britain. pp.278ff.

Gouldbourne, Ruth. 1997. Reinventing the Wheel: Women and Ministry in English Baptist Life, The Whitley Lecture. Oxford: Whitley Publications.

Jarman, Margaret. 1986. Attitudes to Women in Baptist Churches in the Mid 1980s. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

Morris, Nicola. 2002. Sisters of the People: The Order of Baptist Deaconesses 1890-1975. In Centre for Comparitave Studies in Religion and Gender. Bristol: University of Bristol.

Randall, Ian. 2005. The English Baptists of the Twentieth Century: The Baptist Historical Society.

Smith, Karen E. 1991. Beyond Public and Private Spheres: Another look at women in Baptist history and historiography. Baptist Quarterly 34: 2.

Smith, Karen E. 1992. The Role of Women in Early Baptist Missions. Review and Expositor 89: 1.

Smith, Karen E. 2005. British Women and the Baptist World Alliance: Honoured Partners and Fellow Workers. Baptist Quarterly 41: 1.

Smith, Karen E. 2005. Forgotten Sisters: The Contributions of Some Notable but Un-noted British Baptist Women. In Recycling the Past or Researching History: Studies in Baptist Historiography and Myths, edited by P. E. Thompson and A. R. Cross. Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press.

Wilson, Linda. 2000. Constrained by Zeal: Female Spirituality Amongst Nonconformists, 1825-75, Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs. Carlisle: Paternoster Press.


Baptist Union of Great Britain. 1980. Free Indeed: Discussion Material on the Role of Women and Men in the Church: Mission Department.

Beasley-Murray, G.R. 1983. Man and Woman in the Church: Ministry Department, Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Dex, Shirley. 1986. The Church’s Response to Feminism. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

Few, Jenny. 2000. Hats and WI(w)GS: Personal Reflections of the Baptist Union Women's Working Group. In Theology in Context. Oxford: Whitley Publications.

Fiddes, Paul S. 1986. 'Women’s head is man': A doctrinal reflection upon a Pauline text. Baptist Quarterly 31: 8.

Ibbotson, Stephen. 2008. Following the trajectory – eschatological hermeneutic and gender.

Lehman, Edward. 1986. Reactions to Women in Ministry: A Survey of English Baptist Church Members. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

Matthews, Ruth. 1986. God, Women and Men: Language and Imagery. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

McCarthy, Carol. 1986. Ordained and Female. Baptist Quarterly 31: 7.

O'Brien, Vivienne. 2008. Men and Women in Ministry.

Took, Pat. 2008. 'In His Image'. The Baptist Ministers' Journal 300.

Troughton, Tricia. 2006. Women, Baptists & Ordination. Didcot: Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Winter, Sean. 2007. God's Inclusive Story. Talk Magazine.

Woodman, Simon. 2006. A Biblical Basis for Affirming Women in Ministry - Part 1. The Baptist Ministers' Journal 296: 4:8-13.

Woodman, Simon. 2007. A Biblical Basis for Affirming Women in Ministry - Part 2. The Baptist Ministers' Journal 297: 1:10-15.

Practical / Pastoral

Eakins, Adam. 2008. 'That Joke Isn't Funny Any More'.

Ibbotson, Stephen. 2006. Emerging or Submerging. Talk Magazine.

Kilpin, Juliet. 2008. Tough questions for all our churches.

Lees, Kate. 2007. Reflecting on the journey so far. Talk Magazine.

Mainstream North. 2007. The Blackley Declaration.

Men, Women and God.

Rand, Stephen. 2007. "Can anyone here play the piano better than my wife?" Talk Magazine.

White, Rob. 2007. Mr. and Mrs. Talk Magazine.


Baker, Jenny. Women and Men in Ministry.

Baker, Jenny. 2003. Women in Ministry: Re-examining the Biblical Pattern. YouthWorker Journal May/June.

Bell, John. 2006. God and Man and Woman. Double Image: The Bulletin of Men Women and God 11.1.

Campbell, Douglas A. 1996. The Call to Serve: Essays on Ministry in Honour of Bishop Penny Jamieson: Continuum.

Campbell, Douglas A. 2003. Gospel and Gender: A Trinitarian Engagement with Being Male and Female in Christ: T&T Clark.

Fletcher, Anthony. 1995. Gender, Sex and Subordination in England 1500-1800. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Gurney, Ann, Mary Tanner, Rosemary Nixon, Esther de Waal, and Myrtle Langley. 1983. Women in Training: a report of a working party set up by women staff members of theological colleges & courses. In accm occasional paper.

Jones, Ian, Janet Wootton, and Kirsty Thorpe. 2008. Women and Ordination in the Christian Churches: International Perspectives: T&T Clark.

Volf, Miroslav. 1996. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation: Abingdon Press.

Ward, Rosie. 2008. Growing Women Leaders: nurturing women's leadership in the Church: Bible Reading Fellowship / CPAS.

Watson, Francis. 2000. The Authority of the Voice: A Theological Reading of 1 Cor 11.2-16. New Testament Studies 46:520-536.

Watson, Francis. 2008. Agape, Eros, Gender: Towards a Pauline Sexual Ethic. New ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wootton, Janet. 2007. This Is Our Story: Free Church Women's Ministry Epworth.

Wright, N. T. 2004. Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis. In Men, Women and the Church. St John’s College, Durham.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

An unnamed woman

Today I am off to a meeting of the Baptist Union Task Group on Women In Ministry. So, a thought about an unnamed woman…

John 4:15-19 (NRSV)
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water."
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet.

My received reading:
The woman at the well is a sinner, and Jesus exposes her sin, offering her the living water of a new and less sinful way of life. By this reading, she is a serial user of men, she is profligate, objectified, adulterous, and her encounter with Jesus’ mysterious knowledge of her circumstances is what paves the way for her to change her sinful ways.

But what if:
She is not a sinner at all. What if she is a victim? Passed from man to man like piece of property, and currently owned by one who will not even give her the legal security of marriage. What if Jesus’ statement of her circumstances is not offered in judgment, but compassion? Her task is to fetch water for her partner and his family, a task symbolic of her broader enslavement. What if Jesus’ gift of living water is the gift of equality? She draws water for him, he gives water to her. His gift elicits change, yes, but not in the way it is often understood. The gift of equality means that she no longer needs to ‘keep coming here to draw water’, because she is no longer property. She is herself.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Latest review of my book

Andy Goodliff has reviewed my book on his blog.

Here's what he says:

SCM are to be congratulated on this series of Core Texts (see also Mike Higton on Christian Doctrine, Karen Smith on Christian Spirituality and Brian Brock and John Swinton's forthcoming addition on Disability Theology), which are readable and on a certain level introductory, but not without merit as important contributions to scholarship themselves.

Revelation brings out highly contested to outright ridiculous readings and so Simon Woodman is to be thanked for providing an introduction to the book of Revelation that is measured and helpful. Woodman appears to have read, if not every, almost every, book on Revelation and provides the reader with an interesting array of different voices that have interpreted the text both recently and historically.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is an introduction the book, different ways it may be read, some of the key issues of debate and an overview of Revelation chapter by chapter. Part two is called 'Meeting the Characters' and this is an excellent introduction to all the different and many characters. Characters are grouped together - so Jesus, God and the Spirit; the people of God (i.e. the saints, the elders, the multitude, etc); the inhabitants of heaven and earth; and the forces of evil. There is a brief character study on each, drawing in Old Testament background, as well how the character is depicted or developed within the book. (Buy the book just for part two alone). Part three consists of three chapters that engage with the imagery and how the message of the book may have been heard by its first readers (and listeners) and those of us reading and hearing it today. This final section works in many ways as a piece of pastoral theology, showing how Revelation itself is ultimately a letter of pastoral care.

In recent years, the likes of Richard Bauckham and other scholars, have helped rescue Revelation from the fanatical and fanciful readings that either mean people read too much into the book or don't read it all. Simon Woodman's book is a welcome contribution to that endeavour. The Book of Revelation helps explain the often confusing nature of Revelation and gives us new avenues for its speaking to us today. So as the blurb on the back says, this SCM Core Text seeks to bridge the gap between academic and popular and is written with theology students, ministers and anyone who is interested in grappling with Revelation in mind. As I may have said before, the mark of a good piece of theology is its readability and this is very readable, accessible and interesting. I can't recommend it any more highly. I look forward to future books from Simon Woodman (especially because he's a baptist).

Hopeful Imagination

Today I'm posting over at Hopeful Imagination.
If you've not been following this seasonal blog, now is the chance to climb on board...

Monday, 15 December 2008

Baptist Hermeneutics Colloquium

Final preparations are under way for the forthcoming colloquium on Baptist hermeneutics, which Helen Dare and I are organising for mid-January. There are some exciting abstracts coming in, which are being posted on the colloquium website here.

My own abstract is:
The Dissenting Voice: Journeying together towards a Baptist hermeneutic
On the subject of scriptural interpretation, the Baptist Union of Great Britain Declaration of Principle states ‘that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret…’ However, when the (Baptist) Dissenting community read scripture, the question inevitably arises of what to do with the dissenting voice? Or, to put it another way, how are interpretative differences to be handled? The community-based model of interpretative authority developed by Stanley Fish finds many resonances with the Baptist approach to scriptural interpretation, and this paper explores ways in which Fish’s approach can inform the development of a Baptist hermeneutic. Central to this task is the mechanism by which ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ readings are evaluated, and the role which communication plays in the emergence of an authoritative voice.
However, Fish’s approach poses a fundamental theological question regarding the authority of scripture: If the responsibility for interpretation rests solely with the reader and the reading community, in what sense is the ‘word of God’ to be considered authoritative? In answer, Karl Barth’s understanding of ‘the witness of the Holy Spirit’ in the community of readers is explored. By this account, the practice of community interpretation becomes, not an interpretative free-for-all, but an exercise in holy listening, with the possibility emerging of the voice of dissension being heard as the voice of the Spirit, speaking to the community from beyond its boundary. In this way the Baptist Dissenting voice is one which is inevitably and gloriously defined by interpretative diversity, as the Word of God speaks afresh to each new situation.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Love came down at Christmas

I've long been a fan of Christina Rossetti's religious poetry. Goblin Market is a brilliant allegory, which captivated me as a child long before I realised the significance of its imagery (!)
In the Bleak Midwinter has been my favourite Christmas carol for many years.
This morning, in church, we were introduced to a modern version of her other Christmas classic, Love Came Down at Christmas, by Jars of Clay. Here it is for your enjoyment...
And whoever said it had to be a donkey???

Saturday, 13 December 2008

John the Revelator - Depeche Mode

Thanks to John Lyons for a fantastic heads-up on the Depeche Mode version of the classic song John the Revelator:

John the Revelator
Put him in an elevator
Take him up to the highest high
Take him up to the top where the mountains stop
Let him tell his book of lies

John the Revelator
He's a smooth operator
It's time we cut him down to size
Take him by the hand
And put him on the stand
Let us hear his alibis

By claiming God - As his holy right
He's stealing a God from the Israelites
Stealing a God from a Muslim, too
There is only one God through and through
Seven lies, multiplied by seven, multiplied by seven again
Seven angels with seven trumpets
Send them home on the morning train
Well who's that shouting?
John the Revelator!
All he ever gives us is pain
Well who's that shouting?
John the Revelator!
He should bow his head in shame

By and by
By and by
By and by
By and by

Seven lies, multiplied by seven, multiplied by seven again
Seven angels with seven trumpets
Send them home on the morning train
Well who's that shouting?
John the Revelator!
All he ever gives us is pain
Well who's that shouting?
John the Revelator!
He should bow his head in shame

By and by
By and by
John the Revelator
By and by
John the Revelator
By and by
John the Revelator

Or alternatively, for a fascinating re-working of the same song, in which John the Revelator is put firmly back into the anti-imperial political arena, take a look at the following.
If Carly Simon identifies New York with New Jerusalem, here the alternative identification of Washington with Babylon could not be more clear. Is it possible that the book of Revelation ultimately emerges intact from Depeche Mode's lake of fire?

Come, the New Jerusalem

Carly Simon's eschatological cry in 'Let the River Run'...

I love the symbolism of the New York skyline. It's the American Dream, baby!

We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
The morning lights
The streets that meet them,
And sirens call them on
With a song.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark'ning dawn.

It's asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
The sky is the color of blue
You've never even seen
In the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

It's asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We're coming to the edge,
Running on the water,
Coming through the fog,
Your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

From the soundtrack to the film 'Working Girl'

For more on Revelation in Contemporary Culture see here.

Friday, 12 December 2008

A Question

Does the Kingdom of Heaven operate a 'three strikes and you're out' rule?

Monday, 8 December 2008

The funny things people write in exams and essays

The following are all genuine material from exams and essays which I have marked over the last few years.
  • Paul tells the Genitals in Galatians that if they adopt circumcision they should just go the whole way and castrate themselves.
  • Walter Buggerman [should be ‘Walter Brueggemann’]
  • Rudolph Buttman [should be ‘Rudolph Bultmann’]
  • The Psalms are a section of the Old Testament which are often called “scared songs”
  • The Abyssinian Empire attacked northern Israel in the 8th Century BCE
  • Acts 15 describes how Paul and Peter debated at the Apoplectic council of Jerusalem.
  • The doctrine of the vaginal conception explains how God came into the world and became man.
  • As Paul says in collations 1:18…
  • The influence of Jewish Christina can be detected here.
  • Marconi was an early church theologian.
  • At the Passover meal, John has Jesus wash the disciples’ food.
  • In his article “On Dispensing with Q”, Austin Farrar agues that scholars should dispense with Q.
  • Philippi was originally in Greenland, however it became Romanised after the land was won during battle.
  • When discussing the Old Testament, perhaps it is best to first define what constitutes the Old Testament. It is the first five books of the Bible.
  • The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synaptic gospels because they all think in the same way.
  • Irene, writing in 200AD…
  • Mark is very keen to show that the old convenient was now over
  • Jesus told cryptic parables in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. [cf. Mt. 3.12]
  • The parable of the sower crops up in all three synoptic gospels.
  • The psalms are a collection of songs which can be classified according to the work of Hermann Garfunkel
  • John’s gospel has seven masonic signs.
  • Indeed, almost all know of perhaps the most famous ‘false’ Jewish prophet: Jesus Christ.
  • The Psalms were composed after the Babylion Exile.

The funny things people say in prayer meetings

Pre-service prayer meetings, whilst in theory good and Godly occasions, are frequently a source of minor amusement for me. Yesterday gave me three great examples:

"We thank you God that you contracted to a span" was used twice by two different people. It's not a phrase I've ever come across before, and when I checked with my brethren-upbringing wife, she'd never heard it either. I've googled it and apparently it's a line from a hymn by Charles Wesley, but certainly not one I've ever sung! "Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made Man."

"We pray for those who are sick of our fellowship and dying, that you would undertake most wondrously for them" is something of a classic, but I kid you not, it was said exactly as I report it here.

"We pray for all true churches across our land, and we beseech you that the full number of those whom you have fore-ordained to attend will come". Which begs the question, what's the point of the prayer?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

What have the Romans ever done for us?

In their superb book on Revelation, 'Unveiling Empire', Howard-Brook and Gwyther comment: 'If it is difficult to penetrate the cultural, economic, and political forces that shape our media and go on under our very noses, how much more difficult is it to discover the social forces that shaped the media of ancient societies? This has been a major problem in the historical investigation of ancient cultures, particularly that of ancient Rome. There has been a tendency for ancient Roman historians to accept at face value the claims made in the various imperial media. This has resulted in the writing of "history" that has stressed the benefits of Roman rule. These historians have typically praised Roman law, its prosperity, its establishment of peace across a large sector of the known world, and its roads and communications. Not surprisingly, it is these aspects of Rome that were lauded by those who were friends of the emperors. In describing Rome as beneficent, these historians have merely recycled the words of thsoe who acted as public relations personnel for the empire!' (pp.87-8).
Or, as Python put it in the Life of Brian...

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


I'm sure I'm not the only one to see the humour in the acronym of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons, who have today issued a warning that the 'NHS is having to pick up the tab for cosmetic surgery performed abroad that has gone wrong'.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

'Revelation' by C.J. Sansom

The latest novel by C.J. Sansom, 'Revelation', is an excellent read and worth adding to your Christmas list. It also features in my ongoing quest to document the book of Revelation in contemporary culture.
I first encountered the hero of this book, Matthew Shardlake, in the wonderful 'Sovereign', and here he returns to confront a serial killer obsessed with playing out the prophecies of the book of Revelation.

Friday, 28 November 2008

God, Order and Chaos - René Girard and the Apocalypse

I'm happy to report that Steve Finamore's excellent PhD thesis is nearing publication with Paternoster in the Biblical Monographs series.

I have been asked to write some words for the back cover, so here they are:

'In the wake of heated debates surrounding the understanding of violence in various models of the atonement, Stephen Finamore offers an insightful analysis of the violent and chaotic plague sequences of the Book of Revelation. Through careful engagement with the biblical text, and creative engagement with the work of René Girard, the enthroned ‘lamb that was slaughtered’ emerges as the decisive witness to the non-violent kingdom of God breaking into human history and offering an alternative to the cycles of violence which otherwise dominate human culture.'

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Where Christ touches down

John Rackley is leading the prayer times here at RSC, and last night he quoted Margaret Magdalen (from her Grove booklet Vocation: Exploring Call and Identity p.6):

'the call of Christ today always touches down on an inner hunger.'

And this really resonated with me...
  • Where is my inner hunger?
  • Where am I starved, needing food?
  • What am I hungry for?
  • How does Christ's call 'touch down' at that point?
As we are gathered here to consider issues of 'calling' and 'vocation', I once again find myself pondering just what it is I am called to. What am I hungry for?

I'm not going to blog my answers, but it strikes me that the question is worth pondering.

A Question

Does the Kingdom of Heaven operate a points-based immigration system?

How long in the pool?

Spotted by my parents at a swimming pool in Reading...
My Dad's comment was:
'Yeah, this would work. After all, I wouldn't go at a busy time if I had to stay for an hour. Twenty minutes is usually plenty for me!'

Monday, 24 November 2008


This morning I'm off to the R.S.C., but sadly (on this occasion) I'm not going to Stratford-on-Avon. Rather, I'm heading a bit further north to Hothorpe Hall, to the 'Residential Selection Conference' which is where we spend three days interviewing those who are applying for Baptist Ministry but have not trained at a Baptist College. I'm doing the academic interviews, and I've asked the candidates to read Nigel Wright's Free Church, Free State, and Brian McLaren's The Secret Message of Jesus.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


This post has been substantially updated - May 2013.

In the Spring 2013 issue of the Baptist Union Retreat Group (BURG) The Journal, Ian Green pondered whether we ‘tailor make our retreats for introverts’, and wondered what a ‘retreat for extroverts’ might look like? Well, I've done the Myers-Briggs test a few times over the years, and I consistently report as a strong 'E' - that is, I am an Extrovert, rather than an Introvert. This means I am energised by being with people, and drained when I spend time alone. I’ve been on many ‘retreats’ and ‘quiet days’ over the years, and have variously found them either draining or challenging, but never refreshing. And so I think Ian might be onto something. The question I have frequently found myself asking is whether my ‘Extroverted’ nature means that I am inherently any less 'spiritual' than those who report as strong 'Introverted' types?

In their book 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' (SPCK, 2003), Malcolm Goldsmith and Martin Wharton comment that: 'Extraverts... often feel that they are unable to pray, and they feel uneasy when prayer is being discussed... and they probably need help in realizing that their thinking and action might well be a form of prayer... Retreats and Quiet Days can leave them feeling 'outsider', and somehow 'second class' when it comes to spirituality.' (p.158)

I've done a fair bit of reading over the years on 'spirituality', and have frequently been left feeling rather inadequate. Those whom the church looks to as 'spiritual' people, the great 'spiritual' writers of past and present, seem to advocate pathways to God which are predominantly 'I' rather than 'E'. Ignatian Spirituality is predicated on the idea of retreat, with silent meditation and contemplation featuring high up the agenda. The practice of Lectio Divina is based on silent reflection upon the text and the world. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross are similarly focussed on the inner journey undertaken in solitude. When I was growing up, I was told that I should prioritise my daily Quiet Time, finding a silent place and meeting God in my solitude.

And all of this is fine, up to a point. And the point is this: For me, this is all a lot of hard work. I'm not denying it's value: I do indeed take quiet days, engage in silent reflection and meditation, and spend time alone in prayer. But, and it's a big but, this is not my naturally preferred place to be. It is tiring, draining, hard work. It's not that I'm afraid of a bit of hard work from time to time: we all have to work hard at things. But I'm not sure I want to locate my primary place of divine encounter in that place which also drains and exhausts me. Because if I do, when I am tired and stressed from the rest of my life, the last thing I'll want to do is go and meet God. Spending time with God, when understood as an Introverted exercise, can become just one more tiring task to put on the extrovert’s 'to do' list, which they then never get round to completing.

But, nontheless, 'sprituality' = Introverted has become almost de rigeur in Christian culture.

And, forgive the rant, I'm getting less and less happy with this status quo.

  • What if it is just as spiritual to meet God in others as it is to meet him alone?
  • What if it is just as spiritual to hang around at the end of the service talking to people, as it is to go home and contemplate the sermon?
  • What if it is just as spiritual to spend the afternoon visiting, as it is to spend it in prayer?

I was talking this through (as you might expect) with my Spiritual Director, and I was complaining about my perception of 'bias' in the spiritual literature towards Introverted Spirituality. She made what is I think a good point: most people who write books are Introverts, because writing is an essentially introverted discipline. This means that most of those who have put words to their spirituality have done so from a introverted perspective. The extroverts are too busy 'out there' getting on with life.

And so I'm starting to wonder, what might an Extroverted Spirituality look like? I’m starting to wonder what spiritual disciplines would look like that offer a sustainable and nourishing challenge for extroverts, in the same way that more introverted disciplines function for more naturally introverted people? And I also wonder whether an exploration of extroverted disciplines might pose a helpful challenge to those of a more introverted disposition, in an analogous manner to the way in which the introverted disciplines challenge extroverts?

Are extroverts any less 'spiritual'? I think not. I often take encouragement from Revelation 8:1 ‘When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.’ And I think, as an extrovert, that that’s about right. Half an hour – not a morning, or a day, or a week, or a month…

So, in the interests of getting the discussion going, here is my emerging manifesto for Extroverted Spirituality:

  • Intentionally seek to encounter God through interaction with others.
  • Listen for the voice of Christ when talking with others.
  • Seek the counsel of others when engaging in discernment.
  • Believe that it is as we gather that we discern the mind of Christ.
  • Practice accountability with others.
  • Engage in introverted spiritual disciplines, but not daily.
  • When Christ is encountered, tell someone about it.
  • Seek the forgiveness of others, because it is often there that our own forgiveness by Christ will be encountered.
  • Pay attention to what is encountered in the other, because it is often there that we find our inner self.
You might also enjoy: Nancy Reeves, ‘Spirituality for Extroverts (And Tips for Those Who Love Them)’, Abingdon Press, 2008.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Why can't the English learn to speak?

Robyn has commented on the "English" Language...
In 'My Fair Lady', Colonel Pickering moans: 'Why can't the English learn to speak?' (His friend Henry 'enry 'iggins Higgins also moans: Why can't a woman be more like a man?' but that's another story...).
Pickering claims he can identify a person's origin to within six miles by careful application of the science of phonetics. And I think he's probably right. Certainly, when I went up to university in Sheffield, I met a fellow student who correctly told me which school I went to simply by my accent! I met her again recently, for the first time in 14 years, and she reminded me of this.
I've moved around the UK a bit myself, and I've noticed various vocabulary and idiomatic changes from 'proper' English (i.e. that spoken in Sevenoaks).
In Sheffield, the 'while' means 'until'. e.g. 'I'll wait for you while six O'clock but then I'm going.' or 'Today I have to work nine while five'.
In Bristol, a word which ends in a vowel will usually attract an 'L' at the end. So, when I went to my first Bristolian Deacons' meeting, I was met with: 'Have you got tonight's agendal?', and 'That's the ideal!'
In Bristol, plimsolls are daps.
In various places 'ignorant' means 'rude' not 'unknowledgable'. e.g. 'That driver who cut me up were right ignorant!'
In South Wales, 'now' means 'eventually'. e.g. 'I'll do that for you now' means 'I'll do that for you when I get round to it'.
Which leads me to conclude that I'm more ignorant of English than I thought, and that it'll be some time while I work it out, which I'll go and do now.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Smiths - 'Stretch out and wait'

Revelation in culture.

The Smiths - 'Stretch out and wait'
Will the world end in the night time? I really don't know.
Or will the world end in the day time? I really don't know
And is there any point ever having children? I really don't know.
All I do know we're here and it's now,
So stretch out and wait.

Thanks to Simon for posting this, and Craig for pointing it out!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Just Say No!

One of the things I'm very bad at is saying 'no' to things, especially when they're exciting new possibilities which feed right into my ENTP desire for change and novelty. Even more so when they're (a bit) high profile. However, I am pleased (I think) to report that for the second time in recent months I have successfully said 'no' to something...
I think what it boils down to is a sense of calling. Not 'can I do this?' nor 'do I want to do this?' nor 'would it make me look good to do this?' but 'am I called to do this?'
I remember Brian Haymes once saying that some ministers go off with stress not because they are too busy but because they are too lazy... too lazy to take control of their lives... too lazy to take control of their diaries... too lazy to stand up for what they are called to do against the many voices that would load more and more and more into already pressured schedules... too lazy to sit and ask God... what actually I am called to do, at this moment?...

Monday, 17 November 2008

Barack Obama as the Antichrist

I'm teaching later today on 1,2,3 John, which of course contain the only biblical references to 'antichrist'. Here they are:
  • 1 John 2:18-19 Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.
  • 1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.
  • 1 John 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.
  • 2 John 1:7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!
However, as this report from the Guardian makes clear, it appears that not only is the Antichrist present in the book of Revelation, he is also with us today in the person of Barack Obama.
This story grew wings and flew in the run up to the American presidential election, as this report from CNN demonstrates.

My Desktop

Jim West has issued a challenge to post whatever picture is currently on your desktop.
Sounds (a) like fun; and (b) easy. So here it is. It's Turner's 'Death on a Pale Horse'.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast (1982)

Another fine example of Revelation in culture.
Video available here.
For the ongoing list see here.

Woe to you O earth and sea
For the devil sends the beast with wrath
Because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast
For it is a human number
It’s number is six hundred and sixty six

I left alone my mind was blank
I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind
What did I see can I believe that what I saw
that night was real and not just fantasy

Just what I saw in my old dreams were they
reflections of my warped mind staring back at me
Cos in my dreams it's always there the evil face that twists my mind
and brings me to despair

The night was black was no use holding back
Cos I just had to see was someone watching me
In the mist dark figures move and twist
was all this for real or some kind of hell
666 the Number of the Beast
Hell and fire was spawned to be released

Torches blazed and sacred chants were praised
as they start to cry hands held to the sky
In the night the fires burning bright
the ritual has begun Satan's work is done
666 the Number of the Beast
Sacrifice is going on tonight

This can't go on I must inform the law
Can this still be real or some crazy dream
but I feel drawn towards the evil chanting hordes
they seem to mesmerise me...can't avoid their eyes
666 the Number of the Beast
666 the one for you and me

I'm coming back I will return
And I'll possess your body and I'll make you burn
I have the fire I have the force
I have the power to make my evil take its course

Steve Harris (1982)

Pause for Thought - Radio 2 #2

Weekend Pause for Thought's tend to go in pairs, so here's today's offering...

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Pause for Thought - Radio 2

I was the 'Pause for thought' voice on Radio 2 this morning.
You can listen here if you're interested.

Friday, 14 November 2008


As one who does, indeed, do his own 'bloody research' (thank you Mr Lyons), here's my response to the tag...

The Rules
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So... six random things about myself:

1. I can recite all the books of the Bible, in one breath, in order.
2. I can sing (well, sort of) 'How much is that doggy in the window' - backwards.
3. My Dad drives a Red London Doubledecker for a living.
4. I once spent a year selling Indonesian clothing on Camden Market in London.
5. I ride a Honda VFR750f.
6. I really really really really don't like bananas.

And... some people to tag (if they pick this up and want to play) ... Andy Goodliff; Geoff Colmer; Robyn Steele; the Skinny Fairtrade Latte; Glen Marshall; Nigel Coles.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Sean's last night

Tonight marks the end of an era! Sean Winter is stepping down as moderator of Council, but is doing so in fine style! Our loss is Australia's gain. And the New Testament Conference won't be the same again either.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Quote of the day

'Creeping Presbyterianism under the guise of beaurocracy'

Time to remember

In his song Mighty Trucks of Midnight, Bruce Cockburn sings:

Everything that exists in time runs out of time someday

John Weaver, leading Council in our act of remembrance, reminded us that Qohelet puts it like this:

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

The gospel message is that evil is constrained within time, and is therefore under judgment.

As we remember the evils of our past, present and future, the one who is beyond time calls us proclaim and participate in the inbreaking kingdom of heaven.

Posting from Council

Well, it seems The Hayes has hit the 21st century. I'm posting this from my room, using my lovely new Windows Smartphone (a UBIQUIO 503g if you're interested) over the wi-fi cloud.
Council is going well, but last night after hours was a VERY late night!

Monday, 10 November 2008

BU Council and Kings College London

Off to BU Council shortly. Partly I love it, partly it feels like a life sentence to the country's largest deacons meeting! It's always great to catch up with friends there, and share in some discussions (formal and informal).
Then on the way home on Weds I'm going via London, to give a paper at the Biblical Studies Research Seminar at Kings College.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Gog and Magog

At the Lord Mayor's Show in London each year, two huge wicker statues of Gog and Magog join in the procession. They are the traditional guardians of the City of London, and have been part of the show since the time of Henry V. Interestingly, the Lord Mayor's Show website traces their history to pagan/Roman origins, not mentioning the antecedents in the Hebrew Bible (Ezek. 38.2) or the Book of Revelation (20.8).

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Ghostbusters (1984)

Winston Zeddemore: Hey Ray. Do you believe in God?
Dr Ray Stantz: Never met him.
Winston Zeddemore: Yeah, well, I do. And I love Jesus's style, you know.
Hey Ray. Do you remember something in the bible about the last days when the dead would rise from the grave?
Dr Ray Stantz: I remember Revelations 7:12...?And I looked, and he opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake. And the sun became as black as sack cloth, and the moon became as blood."
Winston Zeddemore: "And the seas boiled and the skies fell."
Dr Ray Stantz: Judgement day.
Winston Zeddemore: Judgement day.
Dr Ray Stantz: Every ancient religion has its own myth about the end of the world.
Winston Zeddemore: Myth? Ray, has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason we've been so busy lately is 'cause the dead HAVE been rising from the grave?
Dr Ray Stantz: [Pause ] How 'bout a little music?
Winston Zeddemore: Yeah.

(NB Should be Rev. 6.12)

Prince - Seven

All 7 and we'll watch them fall
They stand in the way of love and we will smoke them all
With an intellect and a savoir-faire
No one in the whole universe will ever compare
I am yours now and U are mine
And 2gether we'll love through all space and time
So don't cry
One day all 7 will die


And I saw an angel come down unto me
And in her hand she holds the very key
Words of compassion, words of peace
And in the distance an army's marching feet (Hut 2 3 4, hut 2 3 4)
But behold, we will watch them fall

And we lay down on the sand of the sea
And before us animosity will stand and decree
That we speak not of love, only blasphemy
And in the distance, 6 others will curse me
But that's alright (that's alright), 4 I will watch them fall
(1 2 3 4 5 6 7)


(Never grow old)

And we will see a plague and a river of blood
And every evil soul will surely die in spite of
Their 7 tears, but do not fear
4 in the distance, 12 souls from now
U and me will still be here - we will still be here

There will be a new city with the streets of gold
The young so educated they never grow old
And ah… there will be no death 4 with every breath
The voice of many colors sings a song that's so bold
Sing it while we watch them fall (Fall)


(Never grow old) {x3}

© 1992 Controversy Music - ASCAP

The Clash – Four Horsemen

Well they were given the grapes that go ripe in the sun
That loosen the screws at the back of the tongue
But they told no one where they had begun - four horsemen

They were given all the foods of vanity
And all the instant promises of immortality
But they bit the dust screamin' insanity! - four horsemen

One was over the edge, one was over the cliff
One was lickin' em dry with a bloody great spliff
When they picked up the hiker he didn't want the lift
From the horsemen

But you!
You're not searching, are you now?
You're not looking anyhow
You're never gonna ride that lonely mile
Or put yourself up on trial
Oh, you told me how your life was so bad
An' I agree that it does seem sad
But that's the price that you gotta pay
If you're lazing all around all day
Four horsemen coming right through
Four horsemen and they're pissing by you
They make you look like you're wearing a truss
Four horsemen and it's gonna be us

Well they gave us everything for bending the mind
And we cleaned out their pockets and we drank 'em blind
It's a long way to the finish so don't get left behind
By those horsemen

And they gave us the grapes that went ripe in the sun
That loosen the screws at the back of the tongue
But we still told nothing 'bout what was to come
Four horsemen


Metallica - The Four Horsemen

Ride the ROCK

By the last breath of the four winds blow
Better raise your ears
The sound of hooves knocks at your door
Lock up your wife and children now
It's time to wield the blade
For now you have got some company

The Horsemen are drawing nearer
On leather steeds they ride
They come to take your life
On through the dead of night
With the four Horsemen ride
Or choose your fate and die

You have been dying since the day
You were born
You know it has all been planned
The quartet of deliverance rides
A sinner once a sinner twice
No need for confession now
Cause now you've got the fight of your life

The Horsemen are drawing nearer
On leather steeds they ride
They come to take your life
On through the dead of night
With the four Horsemen ride
Or choose your fate and die

Has taken its toll on you
The lines that crack your face
Your body it has torn through
Withered in every place
For what you have had to endure
What you have put others through
Deliverance for you for sure
Now there's nothing you can do

So gather round young warriors now
And saddle up your steeds
Killing scores with demon swords
Now is the death of doers of wrong
Swing the judgment hammer down
Safely inside armor blood guts and sweat

The Horsemen are drawing nearer
On leather steeds they ride
They come to take your life
On through the dead of night
With the four Horsemen ride
Or choose your fate and die

Friday, 7 November 2008

The Four Bikers of the Apocalypse

It did not escape their notice that all four strangers had HELL’S ANGELS ON THEIR JACKETS. And they looked dead dodgy as far as the Angels were concerned…
‘You’re Hell’s Angels, then?’ asked Big Ted, sarcastically…
The four strangers nodded.
‘What chapter are you from, then?’
The Tall Stranger looked at Big Ted. Then he stood up. It was a complicated motion; if the shores of the seas of night had deckchairs, they’d open up something like that.
He seemed to be unfolding himself forever.
He wore a dark helmet, completely hiding his features. And it was made of that weird plastic, Big Ted noted. Like, you looked in it, and all you could see was your own face.

They came down the outside lane of the motorway like destroying angels, which was fair enough…
Pigbog wished he’d paid more attention to the Book of Revelation. If he’d known he was going to be in it, he’d have read it more carefully. ‘What I mean is, they’re the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, right?’
‘Bikers,’ said Greaser.
‘Right, Four Bikers of the Apocalypse. War, Famine, Death, and – and the other one. P’lution.’

Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, Gollancz: London, 1990, pp. 262, 274

The Book of Revelation in Contemporary Culture

This post has been re-posted here to neaten the URL

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


  • The 'race' for the 'White'house has been won by one who is non-white.
  • The 'race' for the black and white F1 chequered flag has been won by one who is non-white.
  • We are now one year on from the momentous decision by the Baptist Union Council to offer an apology for the transatlantic slave trade.
I was fortunate enough to be part of the discussions at BU Council last year, and on my return I penned the following letter to the Baptist Times (published Nov 22nd 2008). I think it bears repeating...

As one of those who participated in the 'kairos moment' of the Baptist Union Council discussion of the enduring legacy of the transatlantic slave trade, I offer the following reflection. Many will rightly see the unanimous statement agreed by Council as the Baptist family becoming a more inclusive gospel people. I want to suggest that it is not just about inclusivity: It is also about us becoming a prophetic gospel people.
The question before us is this: In what ways are we, as British Baptists, a gospel people offering good news for all nations?
We in the Baptist Union of Great Britain are the inheritors of empire; some of us represent the beneficiaries of empire, some of us represent the victims of empire, but all of us are diminished by our shared imperial heritage.
As the prophetic people of God, we are called to expose and oppose those systems which oppress and diminish humanity, which mar the image of God in all of us. I believe that those of us who have inherited power can shape a prophetic act of gospel witness by seeking to find ways of restoring divine balance within humanity. An apology thereby offered becomes a commitment to reverse the effects of empire, to repent and turn away from our legacy and from our complicity in the ongoing effects of empire.
In this way, we begin to offer genuine good news, we become a genuine gospel people, prophetically witnessing to the world that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, for the healing of the nations.

Barak goes into battle

Then Deborah said to Barak, “Get ready! This is the day the Lord will give you victory… for the Lord is marching ahead of you.” So Barak led his warriors down the slopes… into battle.
Judges 4:14

Remembrance Day

Let me tell you a story of war: Come back in time with me, sixty years, to the Second World War, and let me introduce you to a young couple… Their names were Madge and Fred, and they had been childhood sweethearts: Fred was a Sunday school teacher in the local Methodist church, and they planned to be married some day, hopefully someday soon. But this was wartime Britain of the late 1930s, and Fred was called up to serve in the Royal Air Force, so the marriage plans had to go on hold until he became eligible for compassionate leave.
Eventually, in mid-1941, Fred was allowed six weeks leave to be married and he and Madge took an extended honeymoon together. Then, all too soon, Fred had to return to the Air Force where he was a navigator on the Lockheed Hudsons which guarded the transatlantic convoys.
A few days later Fred’s plane was damaged by enemy fire and tried to limp back to its base in Cornwall. But a couple of hundred yards off the tip of the Lizard, the Hudson ditched into the sea. Local fishermen saw the plane come down and set off to see if they could help. Two were rescued, but Fred’s body was never recovered.
Madge, waiting back home, got news of her husband’s death shortly before she realised that she was pregnant with my mother. Such is the tragedy of war.
As a postscript to this story, the wreckage of the aeroplane was dredged from the seabed in the mid 1970’s and it is now on display at Flambards in Cornwall, together with the flight logs listing my grandfather’s name and the flights he took. And my mother is in possession of his medals, which include the Distinguished Flying Medal.
But these are little consolation for the loss of a husband and father.
Such is the tragedy of war
And on this remembrance day, it is important that we never forget.

Thought for the Day originally delivered on 11th November 2003 on Radio Bristol