linguistic hero

I’m not very good at reading biographies: it’s not a genre that I’m very keen on.
Although having said that, any time I have read a biography in the past couple of years, I’ve been surprised at how much I did get out of it. More of that another time, maybe.

But one person who I really only learnt to admire through reading his biography was William Tyndale, the first person to translate the Old Testament and the New Testament directly from their original Hebrew and Greek into English. He was eventually (1536) betrayed and executed, but he left an amazing legacy. His biographer is David Daniell, and one of the people singing the praises of the book in the blurb or inside the front cover made a comment to the effect that his treatment of Tyndale left you respecting him, the biographer, nearly as much as the man biographed. He does seem to care about Tyndale, whether his person or his work, and in addition he has an enthusiasm for the skilful arrangement of words and ideas which can only come from an insight which I wish I shared. And which by that clumsy sentence I have shown myself not to share.

A snippet from Tyndale’s preface to his New Testament:

… ye see that two things are required to begin a Christian man. The first is a steadfast faith and trust in Almighty God, to obtain all the mercy that he hath promised us, through the deserving and merits of Christ’s blood only, without all respect to our own works. And the other is, that we forsake evil and turn to God, to keep his laws and to fight against ourselves and our corrupt nature perpetually, that we may do the will of God every day better and better.

It’s published by Yale University Press (also available from Amazon etc).


reasons to hate christmas, No 79

The price of the Big Issue has gone up to £1.20 in the last week or so. While I was negotiating change with the vendor she mentioned it was her first day of selling it. And why? Since it’s Christmas.

It makes me sick that the pressures to participate in Christmas are so strong that someone has to resort to selling the Big Issue just to get through the Christmas season. It shouldn’t be like this!

If people are desperate to remember the birth of Christ they should do it on a weekly basis, every Lord’s Day when they remember his resurrection (his birth’s included there, along with his death, by presupposition if nothing else). Meanwhile, if you want a holiday at the end of the year, by all means have it … just don’t make religion an excuse for this commercial frenzy which disadvantages so many people who can least afford it.

And if you *really* have to do some Christmas shopping, how’s about Oxfam Unwrapped or World Vision’s Alternative Gifts catalogue. Then at least someone might benefit from our seasonal spending.

wrestling with the Divine Idea

Fascinating article by Robert Winston – ‘When science meets God.’

It brings out how human beings on their own can’t come to any substantial knowledge of what God is like – beyond their agreement that there is some supernatural being and that he is powerful. This much and only this much a human can figure out from his/her own existence and the observed uncontrollable forces in the world around us.

To know anything other than this about God, we need him to reveal himself to us in other ways … to know anything better than this, we depend on God to reveal himself in better ways. Otherwise we’re left to our own ignorance and the inevitability of conflicts and clashes with other people who don’t share our half-formed conceptions of the Unknown God.

It’s then just a question of finding out whether he has in fact made any revelation about himself, and identifying where and how he did it. That’s why the Westminster Confession (for one example) lays its foundations on the Holy Scriptures (chapter 1) and proceeds from that starting point to describe what we know about God, sin, and the Saviour. If we don’t take God’s word for it, then a forlorn ‘wrestling with the Divine Idea’ is the best we can aspire to (or rather the fate we’re consigned to) – which is hardly ideal.