in vain on billboards

Is anyone else bothered by the adverts for the new Kit Kat Chunky? Emblazoned on bus shelters all over town, a casual disregard for the third commandment – thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain – a morally binding requirement that the name of God ‘be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing’.

I don’t suppose there’s much point writing in tones of loud righteous indignation, because of how amazingly many self-identifying Christians think so little of taking God’s name in vain, not to mention the routine practice of non-religious people who only ever (but, all the time) make use of the name of God or Christ as a swearword.

But still, it’s rather insulting.

If I wasn’t already boycotting Nestle, I would be now.


spirituality and the Spirit

Earlier today in conversation I opined that the work of the Holy Spirit is fairly well-defined in Scripture, and that not every experience of an extraordinary or apparently supernatural nature can be attributed directly to the Holy Spirit.

This is specifically in the case of “tingly feelings” and other inexplicable things that people report, like having strange feelings just before an unexpected event, or at the same time as something unusual was happening unbeknown to a friend or family member.

Speaking frankly, it’s something that I have to overcome a lot of scepticism about even in the face of calm and rational friends insisting on the reality and impressiveness of these kinds of experiences. I don’t doubt that the experiences happened, but I don’t have a good sense of how to understand them. It’s not the kind of experience that the Scriptures hold out to us as something to be wished for, or indeed something that the Scriptures describe in much detail at all.

The lack of scriptural guidance on the issue is part of the reason why I think we should be slow to attribute this kind of thing to the Holy Spirit. It may well stem from a weak understanding of who the Holy Spirit is, when anything that can be loosely called ‘spiritual’ is considered to be an encounter with the Holy Spirit. It is completely mistaken, for example, to think of the Holy Spirit as being an impersonal sort of force that exists in the universe and can be channelled in mysterious ways to give rise to mysterious effects. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity – as much a person as the Father and the Son, and needs to be recognised and worshipped as such.

There is also a flaw in any concept of the Holy Spirit that fails to take account of the kind of works that we know he ordinarily does. From the scriptures, that would include primarily things like convicting a sinner of sin, regenerating sinners, enlightening the minds of sinners in the saving knowledge of Christ, sanctifying the regenerate, helping believers to pray, and so on. These are not perhaps his most striking works – maybe you could say that the equipping of the Saviour to undertake the work of accomplishing redemption would be a more impressive work, or inspiring the Scriptures, or confirming the message of the prophets and apostles through miracles from time to time – but these are the acts and activities which he is most normally engaged in on a day to day basis nowadays, and far from being unremarkable for that, they are after all divine works which do (if we were looking at them in a right frame of mind) gloriously display his own divinity and the miraculousness of God’s converting and sanctifying grace.

It’s maybe too much to ask that terms like “spiritual” and “spirituality” should be reserved for things which are indisputably linked to or fruits of the work of the Holy Spirit, but at least that sense of the term should be clearly safeguarded, so that it doesn’t get too muddied with experiences which, for all that they may be inexplicable and perhaps supernatural, are not particularly clearly part of the Holy Spirit does, or gives, according to the scriptures.

bits & bobs

Not really up to much blogging right now, but there’s things I have to share.

One being the fact I recently discovered, that you can’t buy ethanol here without a licence (established through various bizarre phonecalls to pharmacists and chemists).

Also, perhaps more usefully: did you know that if you want to edit a cell in Excel, rather than taking your hands off the keyboard to mouseclick in the bar at the top,  you can just press F2? (Why has it taken in excess of six years of intensive Excel use to discover this?)

Finally, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography today features the life of William Carey – click here, but quickly as I think it might only be accessible for this week. Carey was a Particular Baptist and a pioneering missionary to India at the end of the 18th, early 19th century – he became fluent in a prodigious number of Indian languages (and translated the whole Bible into six of them, including Bengali, Hindi, and Sanskrit). This is a rather good biography of him, edited by Peter Masters.

teach us to number our days

1 Peter 1. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.

Psalm 62. My soul, wait thou only on God, for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour ye out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.

make a wee robot happy

In my thesis¬† acknowledgements, I gave a special mention to Ziggy Campbell, acoustic expert extraordinaire who deserves all sorts of credit for the quality of pretty much all the recordings I’ve ever done.

But in his other life Ziggy is a musician in some kind of way too cool for me to know anything about.

And is one of a small team who has built Cybraphon, a unique robotic music band. The robot consists of musical instruments fitted inside an antique wardrobe which not only play themselves but vary the music that’s produced depending on what mood the robot is in – the unique twist being that its mood is determined by the amount of activity that it registers online about itself.

The more people discuss it online, and click on its pages, the happier it gets, and correspondingly the more happy its music is. It monitors its status constantly and when people lose interest, it gets depressed. (One of its co-creators calls it the very model of a modern indie band.) There’s all sorts of ways you can connect with it online – through the Cybraphon blog, MySpace, Twitter, and Facebook.

An intriguing blend of antique instruments and Web 2.0, and with the tenuous but undeniable phonetics link, surely there’s something here to satisfy everyone’s inner geek. Click around and make a robot happy today!

true blue?

To settle a point of minor dispute, a poll-packed post on presbyterian perspectives. Alliterative, too.

When Calvinists think about Calvinism, how much do they really know?

There follows a series of polls on different aspects of calvinism. My impression is that all the questions are pretty easy, and I’m hoping your answers will bear that out. Anyone can answer, but be especially encouraged to answer if you would describe yourself as a calvinist!

You can vote entirely anonymously – just click the appropriate button – nobody will know how you voted unless you leave a comment to tell us. You can answer as many or as few of the questions as you like (although it’s more interesting to do them all). Here goes.

1) One way people can help themselves remember the five points of Calvinism is using the acronym TULIP (T for total depravity, U for unconditional election, L for limited atonement, I for irresistible grace, and P for perseverance of the saints). Now here’s the first question:

2) If you’re explaining what Calvinism is:

3) Another historical question:


5) Terminology:

6) About you:

a double-barrelled name

Traill says, in one of his sermons:

You are not called at first to believe your interest in Christ, his will to save you in particular: but you are, on the peril of your souls, to trust this Saviour with your salvation; and all the more so, because of his declared ability and goodwill to save.

Saving faith in Christ is not a bare assent unto any proposition of truth concerning Christ the Saviour, for that is but an act of the mind, and it is in devils, and in many ungodly men: but it is an act of the heart on the person of the Saviour. … It is a trust on this divine person, as revealed to us by his names in the gospel. So faith is called so often, ‘believing on his name’, John 1:10, 1 John 3:23.

There is one name of Christ in Isaiah 63:1, ‘I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save,’ where we have a most attractive description of Christ the object of faith. [Traill now breaks down this name into two, (i) I that speak in righteousness, (ii) I that am mighty to save.] All he speaks is true, and you may trust him, and take his word. And he can do all, any thing, every thing, in and about salvation, that a sinner can need to be done. He is mighty to save. Never did a sinner perish through Christ’s lack of might to save.

Remember these two names of Christ in all your employing of him about salvation. The truth of his saving word, and the might of his saving arm, ought never to be out of the eye of faith. How strong would faith grow in us if our faith did duly fix on both?