sussex linguistics scandal

If you’re shocked to discover that management can close down a university department without consultation – and even more shocked to discover they’ve chosen Linguistics as their victim this time – please be encouraged to sign this petition:

And/or join the Facebook group.

As reported in the local paper here and here, and causing shockwaves throughout the academic community.


transcendent, sovereign, personal

(Following a line of thought thrown up by the discussion on providence.)

Don Carson says:

“God is transcendent, sovereign, and personal.

By transcendent I mean that God exists apart from the creation that he made, and thus above space and time. Thus he is not in any way dependent upon his creation; he is self-existing – that is, he draws his own existence only from himself. He is absolute.

By sovereign, I mean that his power and rule are so extensive that, whatever the difficulties bound up with notions like ‘secondary causality,’ there is nothing whatsoever that takes place apart from his providential reign.

By personal, I mean that God is not an impersonal force or power, but a being who interacts with other persons (whom he has made) as a person – with interchange, speech, ‘personality’.

That theologians and philosophers have difficulty drawing precise boundaries and definitions for some of these words (eg, transcendence, person), and that God cannot be a person in exactly the same way that human beings are persons (since our personhood is inextricably linked to our finitude) does not diminish the biblical evidence that points in these directions.

The transcendent and the personal are separated in most of the world’s religions. In animism and polytheism, there are  many personal spirits or gods, but none is absolute. … Pantheistic religions adopt an absolute, but it is not personal. … Contemporary science, with a frequent bias towards philosophical materialism, constantly tilts toward the impersonal absolute. … The result [of much contemporary religious thought] is a God not clearly personal, and, if absolute, sufficiently remote to be of little threat and of little use. Another strand in contemporary thought, however, wants to emphasise God’s personhood while dismissing his absoluteness. … [Yet there is] biblical evidence that supports the traditional Christian insistence that God is both transcendent and personal.”

DA Carson (1996), The Gagging of God. (Quote from p223)


Got home late last night to find the two volumes of William Cunningham’s Historical Theology waiting for me.

It’s part of my long-term but under-realised goal of reading more deeply in home-grown theologians – and Cunningham was one of the most profound of the group of mid-19th century Scottish theologians. I can’t wait to get the time to dive in.

Meanwhile on the book front, I took the second edition of Ladd’s Intonational Phonology with me to work today to read in my break – shoved it in a smallish plastic bag which turned out to be from Accessorize. How appropriate, I thought. Intonational Phonology, you see, is this season’s must-have. It went so well with the rest of my outfit and I bet everyone on the bus was really jealous.

further reading

I don’t link to that many other blogs, not because I don’t read them, but just to avoid long lists of links down the side of the page. Also, the ones that make it into my list tend not to include the big names that don’t need a link from me to make them known.

But it might be worth remedying all that, with a round-up of the Scottish Christian bloggers who I’m aware of and/or read regularly.

Denominations other than the Free Church are rather more sparsely represented:

Further afield

Even further afield, ie US – the ones where I have even slightly more than the foggiest idea what they’re talking about (America really is a foreign country)

There are bound to be several glaring sins of omission here, but that’ll do for a first pass. I’ve deliberately not included blogs where the material is mainly personal and/or family-oriented. These would boost the denominational headcount fairly significantly, but I don’t want to be responsible for exposing them to the glare of perhaps unwanted publicity. Leave a comment if you feel you’ve been unjustly excluded!

Do also let me know if there any other UK blogs I should know about.

qualifications for a priest

From one of Thomas Goodwin’s treatises:

“The office of high priesthood is altogether an office of grace, and I may call it the pardon office, set up and erected by God in heaven, and Christ is appointed the Lord and Master of it.

“And, as his kingly office is an office of power and dominion, and his prophetical office is an office of knowledge and wisdom, so his priestly office is an office of grace and mercy. The high priest’s office did properly deal in nothing else. If there had not been a mercy-seat in the Holy of Holies, the high priest had not at all been appointed to have gone into it. It was mercy, and reconciliation, and atonement for sinners, that he was to treat about, and officiate for, at the throne of grace. He had otherwise had no work, nor anything to do when he came into the Most Holy place.”

(This observation is drawn from Hebrews 5:2, where the high priest is specified as someone “who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way, for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.”)

Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ in Heaven. First published 1645.

Its full title is: “The heart of Christ in heaven towards sinners on earth; or, a treatise demonstrating the gracious disposition and tender affection of Christ, in his human nature now in glory, unto his members, under all sorts of infirmities, either of sin or misery.”

boston on providence

Thomas Boston:

  1. The design of providence may sometimes lie very hid; and therefore it is good to wait, and not be rash, Psa 78:19.
  2. Sometimes providence seems to forget the promise; but it is not so, but only the time of the promise is not then come. Gen 15:4 with 16:2.
  3. Sometimes providence seems to go quite cross to the promise, and his work to go contrary to his Word. But wait ye, they will assuredly meet. Gen 22.
  4. Ofttimes providence favours a design which yet will be blasted in the end, for that it was not the purpose of God. Jonah 1:3.
  5. Ofttimes providence will run counter in appearance to the real design, and, by a tract of dispensations, will seem to cross it more and more, till the gravestone appear to be laid on it. And yet, ‘at evening-time it shall be light,’ Zech 14:7.
  6. Providence many times lays aside the most likely means, and brings about his work by that which nothing is expected of, 2 Kings 5:11-12.
  7. Lastly, sometimes providence works by contraries, as the blind man was cured with laying clay on his eyes.

From The Beauties of Boston, p344-345. Titled there ‘Important instructions concerning providence.’ Don’t know what the original context was.

understanding providence

How much effort should you put into trying to understand your providences?

Take it as a given that all things work together for good to them that love God.

Also, take it for granted that we clearly aren’t able to  comprehend all the details of our circumstances or understand fully how they fit together or see all their effects. They say that our lives are like the back of a tapestry, all knots and tangles, and you don’t see the beautiful harmony of the finished product until you turn it over, which a person can’t do till they reach heaven. (And even then – ?)

So is it a sign of undue carelessness to say that you’re not going to try too hard to make sense of your providences? Or should you reflect on as much as you can and try to work out what God means by what happens in your life? Is there a difference between being satisfied in and with God and feeling you understand what his doings mean? Do you need to understand what he’s doing in order to trust him?Are his dealings not sometimes inevitably opaque, such that “what is he saying to me by this detail” is sometimes simply an inappropriate question to ask? Is it too pietistic to say you should spend more time contemplating the solid, known truths of the gospel rather than puzzling over things you can never get a guaranteed understanding of?

the works of macleod

John MacLeod is publishing books faster than I can review them. His latest, When I Heard the Bell, was fresh out in February – just months after Banner in the West (published last October).

The newest one is rather more harrowing than what I normally read, and I’ll make no promises about reviewing it. But my review of Banner in the West is now available here (or by clicking through from the ‘Books’ tab at the top of the page).

I’ve also massively overrun my bed-time by disambiguating John MacLeod from, er, John MacLeod and John MacLeod on LibraryThing. John MacLeod didn’t write Bypaths of Highland Church History, ok? That was John MacLeod.