Wednesday, 31 October 2012


'It is not surprising...that after children leave home, many marriages fall apart. Why? Because while the parents treated their relationship with their children as a covenant relationship - performing the actions of love until their feelings strengthened - they treated their marriages as a consumer relationship and withdrew their actions of love when they weren't having the feelings. As a result, after two decades, their marriages were empty while their love for their children remained strong.'
Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage, p.108.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


'To be a Christian means to live one's own identity in the face of others in such a way that one joins inseperably the belief in the truth of one's own convictions with a respect for the convictions of others. The softness which should characterize the very being of Christians - I am tempted to call it "ontic gentleness" - must not be given up even when we are (from our own perspective) persuaded that others are either wrong or evil. To give up the softness of our difference would be to sacrifice our identity as followers of Jesus Christ.'
Miroslav Volf, Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter. Available at:

Monday, 29 October 2012


'In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.'
David Foster Wallace in Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.127.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


‘Love is a carrier of death – the only thing, in fact, that makes death significant.’
Wallace Stegner, All the Little Living Things, p.91.


‘One thing I have learned hard, if indeed I have learned it now: it is a reduction of our humanity to hide from pain, our own or others’.’
Wallace Stegner, All the Little Living Things, p.12.


‘The days dripped away like honey off a spoon.’
Wallace Stegner, All the Little Live Things, p.9.


‘He’s gone to the place our sorrows lead to at their worst: guilt’s dead-end, panic’s no-exit loop, despair’s junk-yard where everything is busted. There’s nothing to keep him company there but the light he’s always felt shining beneath things. But the light is going. He’s so deep down now in the geology of woe, so buried beneath the mountain’s weight of it, that the pressure is squeezing out his feeling for the light. There’s nothing left of it for him but a speck, a pinpoint the world grinds in on itself, a dot dimming as the strata of the dark are piled heavier and heavier on it. And then it goes out. Of course it does. Love can’t repair death. Death is stronger than love. We all know that. But Yeshua didn’t until now. This is the first time in his entire life he’s ever felt alone. Now there is no love song. There is no kind father. There is just a man on a cross, dying in pain; a foolish man who chose to give up life and breath to be a carcass on a pole. The yellow walls of Jerusalem blur with Yeshua’s tears, and he opens his mouth and howls the news – new only to him – that we are abandoned in a dark place where help never comes.’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.147.


‘We too will need sometimes to be met on the road by a love that never shudders at the state we’re in, never hesitates to check what it can bear, but only cries: this is my son, who was lost and is found.’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.132.


‘The moral scandal of evolution is not that it contradicts some sweet old myth about God knitting the coats for the little lambkins: it’s that it works by, works through, would not work without, continuous suffering. Suffering is not incidental to evolution. Suffering is the method. The world wobbles onward, you might say, on a trackway paved with little bones. But that understates the issue. There is no trackway – there’s just the way the world happens to go, lurching one way, lurching the other. The whole landscape is little bones.’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.92.


‘ well as backing the existence of roses and kittens, the God of everything must sustain tapeworms, necrotising bacteria that reduce flesh to a puddle of pus, and parasitic wasps as they eat their way out of their hosts. Any cell that divides in any organism must be doing so in the radiance of the universal attention. Our judgements of beauty and utility and desirability are beside the point. Crocuses multiply, and so do anthrax spores, and the God of everything smiles on all alike. The same has to be true of all the acts and events of human energy everywhere, continuously. The God of everything must be equally present for everything. You name it. He is exactly as present in a room in a failing strip-mall where a malfunctioning fluorescent tube is jittering out headache for all onlookers as He is in a cathedral. He pays equal attention to the individual way each of the billion separate pebbles lie on a pebble beach. And on all the other beaches. He knows and sustains the exact placement of every single molecule of frozen carbon dioxide in the northern polar cap of Mars. And of every other molecule of every other planet, around every other star. The lot. For every unselected speck of existence, patient shining.’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.81.


‘I myself am a Christian and not a Muslim or a Buddhist for a mixture of two different kinds of reasons; as an outcome of both kinds of process. On the passive side, Christianity was the religion of my childhood. It’s the ancient religion, for something like forty generations, of the place I come from. It’s the matrix of my culture. But it’s also something that I came back to, freely as an adult, after twenty-odd years of atheism, because piece by piece I have found that it answers my need, and corresponds to emotional reality for me. I also find that the elaborated structure of meaning it builds, the story it tells, explains that reality more justly, more profoundly, more scrupulously and plausibly than any of the alternatives. (Am I sure I’m right? Of course not. Don’t you get bored with asking that question?).’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.75.


‘So of all things Christianity isn’t supposed to be about gathering up the good people (shiny! happy! squeaky clean!) and excluding the bad people (frightening! alien! repulsive!) for the very simple reason that there aren’t any good people. Not that can securely be designated as such. It can’t be circling the wagons of virtue out in the suburbs and keeping the inner city at bay. This, I realise, goes flat contrary to the present predominant image of it as something existing in prissy, fastidious little enclaves, far from life’s messier zones and inclined to get all “judgemental” about them. Again, of course there are Christians like that: see under HPfFfU. The religion certainly can slip into being a club or a cosy affinity group or a wall against the world. But it isn’t supposed to be. What it’s supposed to be is a league of the guilty. Not all guilty of the same things, or in the same way, or to the same degree, but enough for us to recognize each other.’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.47.


‘Christianity...does something different. It makes frankly impossible demands. Instead of asking for specific actions, it offers general but lunatic principles. It thinks you should give your possession away, refuse to defend yourself, love strangers as much as your family, behave as if there’s no tomorrow. These principles do not amount to a sustainable programme. They deliberately ignore the question of how they could possibly be maintained. They ask you to manifest in your ordinary life a drastically uncalculating, unprotected generosity. And that’s not all. Christianity also makes what you mean all –important. You could pauperise yourself, get slapped silly without fighting back, care for lepers and laugh all day long in the face of the futures markets, and it still wouldn’t count, if you did it for the wrong reasons. Not only is Christianity insanely perfectionist in its few positive recommendations, it’s also insanely perfectionist about motive. It won’t accept generosity performed for the sake of self-interest as generosity. It says that unless altruism is altruism all the way down, it doesn’t count as altruism at all.
So far, thrillingly impractical. But now notice the consequence of having an ideal of behaviour not sized for human lives: everyone fails. Really everyone. No-one only means well, no one means well all of the time. Looked at from this perspective, human beings all exhibit different varieties of fuck–up. And suddenly in its utter lack of realism Christianity becomes very realistic indeed, intelligently resigned to our vast array of imperfections, and much more interested in what we can do to live with them than it laws designed to keep them segregated.’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic, p.45.


‘Everybody knows, then, that “sin” basically means “indulgence” or “enjoyable naughtiness.” If you were worried, you’d use a different word or phrase. You’d talk about “eating disorders” or “addictions”; you’d go to another vocabulary cloud altogether. The result is that when you come across someone trying to use “sin” in its old sense, you may know perfectly well in theory that they must mean something which isn’t principally chocolately, and yet the modern mood music of the word is so insistent that it’s hard to hear anything else except an invocation of a trivially naughty pleasure. And if someone talks, gravely and earnestly, about what a sorrowful burden one of these is, the result will be to make that speaker seem swiftly much, much more alarming than the thing they’ve got worked up about. For which would seem to you to be the biggest problem, the biggest threat to human happiness: a plate or pralines, or a killjoy religious fanatic denouncing them?’
Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense, p.26.


‘”I think you look what a man I once knew called ‘a God-struggler.’ I can’t tell you why I think it, but I do, and what you say about getting your satisfaction out of wanting things made me sure of it. You see the only ‘thing’ that a human being can go on wanting all their life and be satisfied with just wanting, is God."
“I don’t like the idea of wanting God,” said Margaret decidedly.
Lady Challis laughed.
“My poor dear, that won’t help or make any difference. Have you read The Hound of Heaven?"
“Yes. To me it seems technically beautiful but emotionally it doesn’t mean a thing.”
“I wouldn’t let that worry you. There’s plenty of time.”’
Stella Gibbons, Westwood, p.446.


‘Most of Mr Challis’s troubles could have been traced to his thirst for perfection; he was no maker-do with what God provides; he must have perfection and here for once (he told himself with beating heart), perfection was.’
Stella Gibbons, Westwood, p.160.


‘Sharing the good news is not so much a matter of telling people what they have never heard as of persuading them that there are things they haven’t heard when they think they have.’
Rowan Williams, The Lion’s World, p.17.


‘...some matters are better dealt with through narrative and imagination than through attempts at systematizing; a conclusion that shouldn’t surprise any reader of Holy Scripture.’
Rowan Williams, The Lion’s World: Journey into the heart of Narnia, p.6.

Friday, 19 October 2012


'Every human culture is an extremely complex mixture of brilliant truth, marred half-truths, and overt resistance to the truth. Every culture will have some idolatrous discourse within it. And yet every culture will have some witness to God's truth in it. God gives out good gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill completely without regard for merit. He casts them across a culture, like seed, in order to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world. Without this understanding of culture, Christians will tend to think they can live self-sufficiently, isolated from and unblessed by the contributions of those in the world. Without an appreciation for God's garcious display of his wisdom in the broader culture, Christains may struggle to understand why non-Christians often exceed Christians in moral practice, wisdom, and skill. The doctrine of sin means that as believers we are never as good as our right worldview should make us. At the same time our doctrine of our creation in the image of God, and an understanding of common grace, remind us that nonbelievers are never as flawed as their false worldview should make them.
This suggests that our stance toward every human culture should be one of critical enjoyment and an appropriate wariness.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.109.

Thursday, 18 October 2012


'Contextualization is not - as is often argued - "giving people what they want to hear." Rather, it is giving people the Bible's answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even in they reject them.
Sound contextualisation means translating and adapting the communication and ministry of the gospel to a particular culture withour compromising  the essence and particularities of the gospel.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.89.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


'The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors; and like the sea, it batters and bruises, and does not rest...To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time and to know each time that you must do it again.'
Bruce Thieleman in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry for the Success Syndrome, p.183.


'My preaching almost always displeases me.'
Augustine of Hippo in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Libertaing Ministry from ther Success Syndrome, p.183.


'It may be light work to you men of genius and learning; but to me it is life and death work. Often have I thought that I would rather take a whipping with a cat-o'-nine-tails than preach again.'
Charles Spurgeon in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, p.182.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


'There are, in the end, only two questions to ask as we read the Bible: Is it about me? Or is it about Jesus? In other words, is the Bible basically about what I must do or about what he has done?'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.78.


'Jesus was so holy that he had  to die for us; nothing could satisfy his holy and righteous nature. But he was so loving that he was glad to die for us; nothing less would satisfy his desire to have us as his people.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.77.

Monday, 15 October 2012


'Christians typically identify two ways to respond to God: follow him and do his will, or reject him and do your own thing. Ultimately this is true, but there are actually two ways to reject God that must be distinguished from one another. You can reject God by rejecting his law and living any way you see fit. And you can can also reject God by embracing and obeying God's law so as to earn your salvation. The problem is that people who belong in this last group - who reject the gospel in favor of moralism - look as if they are trying to do God's will. Consequently, there are not just two ways to respond to God but three: irreligion, religion, and the gospel.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.63.

Friday, 12 October 2012


'The power of the gospel comes in two movements. The first says, "I am more siunful and flawed that I ever dared believe," but then quickly follows with, "I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope." The former outflanks antinomianism, while the latter staves off legalism. One of the greatest challenges is to be vigilant in both directions at once. Whenever we find ourselves fighting against one of these errors, it is extraordinarily easy to combat it by slipping into the other. Here's a test: if you think one of these errors is much more dangerous than the other, you are probably partially participating in the one you fear less.'  
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.48.


'The gospel is not just the ABC's but the A to Z of the Christian life. It is inaccurate to think the gospel is what saves non-Christians, and then Christians mature by trying hard to live accordiung to biblical principles. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then are are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.48.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


'A good sermon is a profoundly interesting event because it is one of the few occasions – rarer by the day perhaps - when someone speaks as honestly and seriously as he can to people who listen in good faith. A rare moment!'
Marilynne Robinson on BBC Radio 4's Bookclub, 11th October 2012.


'The gospel is not everything, yet in the final analysis it cannot be tamed into a simple formula with a number of points that must be recited to everyone, in every time and place. There is an irreducable complexity to the gospel. I do not mean that the gospel can't be presented simply and even very briefly. Paul himself does so on numerous occasions (e.g., Rom 10:9). The gospel is a clear and present word, but it is not a simplistic word...I want to resist the impulse, mainly among conservative evangelicals, toward creating a single, one-size fits all gospel presentation that should be used everywhere, that servesd as a test of orthodoxy.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.39.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


'God can achieve his purpose either through the absence of human power and resources, or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on him made possible the unique display of his power and grace. He chose and used somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.'
Oswald Chmabers in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry form the Success Syndrome, p.134.


'I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it were ever possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mubo-jumbo, as Aldous Huxley envisaged in in Brave New World, the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable.'
Malcolm Muggeridge in Kent and Barbara Hughes, Liberting Ministry for the Success Syndrome, p.121.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


'Often we say, "Well, I'm not very religious, but I'm a good person - and that is what is most important." But is it? Imagine a woman - a poor widow - with an only son. She teaches him how she wants him to live - to always tell the truth, to work hard, and to help the poor. She makes very little money, but with her meager savings she is able to put him through college. Imagine that when he graduates, he hardly ever speaks to her again. He occasionally sends a Christmas card, but he doesn't visit her; he won't answer her phone calls or letters; he doesn't speak to her. But he lives just as she taught him - honestly, industriously and charitably. Would we say this was acceptable? Of course not! Wouldn't we say that by living a "good life" but neglecting a relationship with the one to whom he owed everything he was doing something condemnable? In the same way, if God created us and we owe him everything and we do not live for him but we "live a good life," it is not enough. We owe him a debt that must be paid.'
Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.34.


'Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough...Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you...Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need even more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidous things about these forms of worship is...they're unconscious. They are default settings.'
David Foster Wallace in Timothy Keller, Center Church, p.34.


'God saves sinners. God - the triune Jehovah Father, Son and Spirit, three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to acheive the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father's will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of the Father and the Son by renewing. Saves - does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, acheives and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners - men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God's will or better their spiritual lot.' 
JI Packer in Timothy Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, p.30.  

Monday, 8 October 2012


'...repentance is the vomit of the soul...'
Thomas Brooks in Christopher Ash, Pure Joy, p.178.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


'We need not, and cannot, add to what Jesus has done. We do not need, and are not able, to do anything more to have a cleansed consience. Imagine going in to a famous art gallery wth a child's paintbrush and paints in your coat pocket. You stand before some great work of art by Rubens or Michaelangelo, quietly get out your paintbrush and - when the attendants are not watching - start adding your own touches of paint. When challenged, you say, "Well, it's a lovely painting. But I thought it had a few parts missing. So I was touching it up. I hope that's OK." No, it is not OK. You are ruining it! In the same way, I cannot add anything to Jesus' completed work of redemption on the cross, without taking away from its value.'
Christopher Ash, Pure Joy, p.139.  

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


'Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to minister. Pray, therefore, my dear brother, pray, pray, pray.'
Edward Payson in Kent & Barbara Huges, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, p.78.


'What if the main object in God's idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need - the need of himslef? What if the good of all our smaller and lower needs lies in this, that they help drive us to God?
Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other needs; prayer is the beginning of that communion.'
George Macdonald in Kent & Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, p.72.


'What you believe about Jesus is everything. If you believe that his Creator of everything, every cosmic speck across trillions of light years of trackless space, the Creator of the textures and shapes and colors that dazzle our eyes; if you believe that he is the Sustainer of all creation, the force presently holding the atoms of your body and this universe together, and that without him all would dissolve; if you believe that he is the goal of everyuthing, that all creation is moving toward him; if you further believe that this God is the lover  of your soul - then you believe in the God that "is," you believe that the God of the Holy Scriptures exists.'
Kent & Barbara Hughes, Liberating Ministry for n the Success Sydrome, p.68.