Saturday, 30 January 2010

incomes in Britain

Found a fascinating article in the FT a few weeks ago that turned up again in this afternoon's tidy-up. All about the distribution of incomes in the UK.

"Middle class workers richer than they think", Tues 5th Jan 2010.

Based on 2007-08 prices, and also based on all people with incomes (whether pensioners, those on benefits, full-time and part-time workers).

Mean (average) weekly income per individual, £487 [=£25,342pa]
Median (central figure if you line them all up) weekly income per individual, £393 [=£20,436pa]
Mode (most common) weekly income per individual, c.£260 [=c.£13,520pa]

Other interesting facts:

A childless couple making £25,000 each are in the 87th percentile - i.e. only 13% of the population earn more. That means that most yuppie couples in Cambridge are unquestionably "rich" (especially given the rest of the world...)

Having a child means you need an extra 20% on your income to maintain a
similar standard of living.

47,500 people (the top 0.1%) make more than £350,000 per year!

More stats are available at, the people who did the hard work.

Friday, 15 January 2010

a rather sadder chapter

The shocking conduct of Greek clergy among the Alans, including extortion rackets, observed by Bishop Theodore in 1233 (sent three centuries after the nation had been baptised) was part and parcel of the general neglect and intolerance of non-Byzantine believers or seekers. The Bishop of Cherson even objected to Theodore’s ultimately vain attempts to properly preach to and disciple the Alans, crying,

‘“The Devil take the godless Alans who are even worse than the Scythians [Mongols]!” … In the eighteenth century, when Russia was conquering the Northern Caucasus, General Eropkin found in the Baxan village of Kabarda a decrepit codex of the Gospels in Greek. The locals explained that they knew only one way to apply it: they used to put it on a sick man’s head. This is an ironic epitaph to Byzantine missionary efforts in the Alania.’ 

Sergey A. Ivanov, ‘Mission Impossible: Ups and Downs in Byzantine Missionary Activity from the Eleventh to the Fifteenth Century’, in Jonathan Shepherd, ed., The Expansion of Orthodox Europe: Byzantium, the Balkans and Russia (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), pp.251-66 (p.261).

Of course, whether or not one believes that the application of a book to the forehead is 'a good thing' does depend on one's perspective. In the hagiography of one Iakovos, a Greek shepherd who was killed by the Turks in 1520, we read of a local Muslim woman of high renown who was cured of a nasty illness by having  copy of the gospels held above her head.

N.M. Vaporis, Witnesses for Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period 1437-1860 (Crestwood, NJ: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000)., p.58.

So, if you're a critical modern historian (or me) you might be tempted to sneer at such practices, but if you're an 18th century priest collecting uplifting stories of Orthodox life under oppression (or even if you're simply republishing them in the 20th century) then such things can apparently form part of a rounded approach to Christian witness...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Orthodox missiology

The lure of proclamation-in-power is so strong, particularly in churches with a lot of direct investment in material culture (i.e. the ones with a lot of expensive buildings and gold-coated gubbins). This has long been true of what we might call the historic (ossified?!) churches of Christendom. Even some of their modern writers are happy that evangelism-by-impressing should be considered an important part of mission work.

If I am slightly negative about this approach, don't think I am altogether happy with revivalist tent meetings, either, or that I am an expert evangelist myself. Horses for courses, one might say. But cultures change, and some churches are not really keeping up...

Alexander Veronis (Missionaries, Monks, and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All Nations [Minneapolis, 1994]) comments on Stephen of Perm (1340-1396), a godly and successful evangelist among pagan peoples in what shortly became central Russia. Veronis is quite happy that the celebration of the liturgy as an alien event and the impact of impressive buildings should be considered an important part of mission work. This courageous priest went outside Russian territory, lived among the pagans and spent many hours teaching, arguing, debating as well as working alongside them.

Stephen’s method of preaching was not always so aggressive. His most successful means of converting the Zyrians came through the power of the Divine Liturgy and the majesty of various church structures. Throughout Orthodox history, the beauty of the divine services and church buildings have played an important role in the witness of the church… Stephen had adorned the church with beautiful icons and ornaments because he knew the power such a sight could have on the native population. He only had to recall the powerful influence that a beautiful church and liturgy had on the conversion of Prince Vladimir and the Russian people. (p.61)

Zyrians came to see the church building, not yet for prayer, but desiring to see the beauty of the church, adorned as a beautiful bride (p.62). These visits enabled him to preach the truth to many more than he debates with local religious leaders did.

Fair enough, but such an approach simply did not work (and does not work?) among Muslims. There were plenty of impressive structures and other-worldly liturgical celebrations going on in the former Byzantine empire in the middle ages and early modern period. But putting one's trust in the impressiveness of physical structures is not going to work in the long run: such things decline. And as they did, so did any hope that that sort of ‘mission’ would bear fruit among the conquerors of eastern Christendom...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


I never really got into that, which is perhaps a bit odd for a musician with academic leanings. Anyway, a little certainly goes a long way; there is no doubt that my appreciation for music was boosted by music A-levels in 1997 (at the time, poorly understood, if I'm honest), a diploma in musicology (AMusTCL) in 1998 and by occasionally dipping in to academic works since then. But listening to Charles Hazlewood's programme Discovering Music on BBC Radio 3 has been about as helpful as all that study - I can't recommend it more strongly!

Anyway, before Christmas I had to knock up something a little more high powered than my usual chatty programme notes, and this is what came out...

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Sonata No. 62 in E flat major, Hob. XVI/52

I Allegro

II Adagio


Haydn’s last and grandest sonata was written in 1794 during a visit to England. Along with Sonata No. 60 in C major, it was composed for and dedicated to Therese Jansen, a rising star of keyboard performance.[1] The thick opening chords and dramatic gestures of the first movement almost prefigure the changes Beethoven was to bring to the keyboard, and to musical taste in general. At every opportunity Haydn surprises the listener in this Allegro, whether in the frequent harmonic shifts, often unprepared, or in the radical contrast between the grand opening theme and some of the other material. James Taggart points out the humour introduced with the ‘laughing notes’ in the tune at bars 27-9, very redolent of the opening bars of Sonata No. 60.[2] Haydn totally disregards convention when he jumps into E major at the close of the development section – a development section very short on the dominant but bursting with other keys. That leap prepares us for the unusual choice of E major/minor in the Adagio. This is in ternary form, but is essentially monothematic. All the melodic material is generated from the rhythmic organisation and relative pitches of the first three notes. Although slow, there are many flamboyant touches and often a feeling of improvisation. The final movement is in a more conventional sonata form, much more tightly constructed than the Allegro and taking in fewer surprising key-centres, though still highly chromatic in places. Haydn scattered pauses liberally throughout the Presto, adding to a sense of tension and urgency created by the insistent repetition within the main theme and the very early use of the supertonic minor to re-state that theme.

Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924)

Nocturne No. 4 in E flat, Op. 36

The interval of a falling fourth characterises this elegant, deceptively simple work. The structure is loosely ternary, but since the middle section has two quite distinct melodic ideas (albeit in the same key and bracketed by the same semiquaver figuration) perhaps ‘ABCA’ would be more accurate. Each section is essentially a double statement of its main melodic idea, the second iteration more elaborately accompanied than the first. In each case this double statement of the tune is followed by a transitional passage. There are thematic links between ‘A’ and ‘B’ and ‘A’ and ‘C’ in particular. The falling fourths with which the main theme opens find their place in the second section – bell-like semibreves head each bar, appearing in pairs a compound fourth apart. Section ‘C’, which contains the climax of the work, employs material from the tail-end of the main theme of ‘A’ – a falling fifth preceded by rising triplet figure. A coda in the style of ‘B’ over a tonic pedal ushers in the calm conclusion. Musicologists delight in finding parallels between Impressionist art and the sound world of French music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: ‘For Fauré, as much as for Debussy and Ravel, evocations of bells are a recurring colour, standing out rather in the manner of Van Gogh’s characteristic crimson splashes’.[3] It is not hard to find sources in the composer’s life for this love of bell-like sonorities. He grew up under the sound of church bells and his career began in the Catholic church. Between 1866 and 1892 Fauré worked as organist or choirmaster for churches in Rennes and Paris.[4] To take just one other example from his large output for piano, the monumental Thème et Variations closes with a fortissimo peal of bells on a long descending scale.[5] It is intriguing that Fauré chose to set that peal against a slower-moving rising scale in the lower register, and that his long falling scale moves from right hand to left, just like at the climax of this less ambitious but no less beautiful Nocturne.

Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)

Prelude and Fugue in E minor, Op. 35, No. 1

As Fauré owed a great debt to Chopin for much of his piano writing, so Mendelssohn drank deeply from the wells of past great musicians. Fellow Lutheran J.S. Bach was undeniably an important influence, and the extent of that dependence has long been the subject of great debate among musicologists. This negatively affected Mendelssohn’s reputation for more than a century.[6] However, the six Preludes and Fugues are more Romantic than neo-Baroque, more innovative than conservative.

The most striking feature of the un-Bachian prelude is Mendelssohn’s skilful employment of the “three-hand technique” of virtuoso Sigismond Thalberg (1812-71), in which an inner tune is decorated on either side with florid figuration.[7] But there is much more to this restless work than first meets the ear. Although a midget in comparison to the weighty fugue the prelude has great structural integrity in its own right – almost a miniature sonata form. After the main melody is stated in the tonic minor it is repeated with a modulation to the dominant (minor) via an upward leap of a seventh. New thematic material made up of alternating rising and falling note-pairs (like a second subject) builds to a climax. A chromatic fantasia rippling downwards from the dominant opens the ‘development’ section in which the main theme with diminution (the leap of a sixth becomes a tritone, anticipating the crucial interval of the fugue theme to come) is heard twice, abortively. A fleeting passage relying on major harmonies gives way to a diminished seventh that slides into the dominant seventh which introduces the ‘recapitulation’ back in E minor (a single statement of the main melody with slightly altered accompaniment). The ‘second subject’ is then heard in the tonic before an extended coda over a tonic pedal. Mendelssohn could hardly have made his E minor more emphatic here – despite the taunting intrusions of E major harmony (which serves to prepare for outbursts of the modified first subject in the subdominant) the heavily chromatic contrary-motion scales pull the music relentlessly back to the minor, and the simple arpeggios of the final bars underline that harmony in no uncertain terms.

E minor and a mostly dark, dissonant mood dominate the double fugue. The chromatic principal subject comprises rising tritones and falling, sighing scales. Mendelssohn frequently shrinks the subject’s opening interval of a minor third to a tone or a semitone, giving him great flexibility in the direction the music will then take. Major harmonies begin to predominate from the fifth entry of the principal subject, in the tenor part, and the music is firmly established in the warm relative major by the time the tenor again has the tune. This is a false dawn, however, for after the cadence the music begins to fragment. Falling away from G major the voices enunciate dyadic gestures as they fade, at first overlapping and then breaking apart into separate, halting breaths. The return of the principal subject in the bass brings unity to the voices and a long accelerando begins along with greater dynamic range. The acceleration continues through the first dynamic climax and the introduction of a second fugue subject (an inversion of the principal subject, now featuring staccato articulation) right up to the emphatic return of the principal subject in the tonic minor – first in the highest voice (bar 73) and then in bass octaves (bar 77). At the climax of this radical fugue, the left hand octaves produce an effect reminiscent of organ pedals going at full blast. When the right hand enters again Mendelssohn gives it not the fugue subject but a glorious E major chorale of five stately lines. The last of these is instantly recognisable as the second line of Ein feste Burg ist Unser Gott. Tempo 1 is reaffirmed in the coda, which gently explores the principal fugue subject in a calm tonic major. Since the fugue was written as a response to the death of Mendelssohn’s friend August Hanstein, it is not too fanciful to accept R. Larry Todd’s suggestion that its dissonant path represents the course of Hanstein’s fatal disease while ‘the culminating chorale… distinguished by smooth stepwise motion, [depicts] his release through death and spiritual redemption’.[8]

Achille-Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Étude V (pour les Octaves)

The programme closes with a second up-beat, highly chromatic work by a composer nearing the end of a glittering career whose contribution to the piano repertoire was as important as his influence on the development of musical language was far-reaching. Unlike the Haydn Sonata, however, this piece is very short. Written in 1915, it betrays little of the well-known anxiety and depression that Debussy experienced as a result of the First World War, though several other Études from the set of twelve seem to have the shadow of conflict over them: III – pour les Quartes, IX – pour les Notes répétées or the brutal XII – pour les Accords, for example. If there is anything unsettled here then it is in the slightly sinister central section. The form is loosely ternary, and each main section is further subdivided.

The opening section is expansive and bravura, elaborating in turn on significant elements of the first ‘paragraph’ (bars 1-4). Thus from bar 11, the falling triple semiquaver motif and the off-beat melodic phrases are developed, while from bar 23 Debussy returns again and again to the rising, overlapping flourish that traverses almost the entire keyboard. This flourish has been the cause of some confusion among pianists, since Debussy reportedly said that the penultimate (left-hand) pair of notes was printed an octave too high in the first edition. Unfortunately, he apparently did not comment on the final (right-hand) pair, which is thereby potentially left out on a limb above its fellows, but perhaps ought also to be brought down an octave.[9] Given this ambiguity, I have decided to retain the first edition’s notation for my performance. This permits the flourish to expand dramatically in pitch as it rises, as if the rate of change was itself changing, which seems in keeping with the mood and virtuosity of the work.

The central section’s extended diminished whispering eventually gives way to a pentatonic romp. Instead of being shared out between the pianist’s two hands, in different registers, which had produced a rather unsettled effect, the three-note groups of melodic material are now united, without accidentals, in four bars of Strepitoso double-octave passage work. This leads to a reprise of the opening material in E major (the tonic). Debussy avoids the slip down into E flat major that he had employed in the first section, and provides a dreamy episode in the upper register of the piano, based on the fortissimo passage from bar 11. As he heads back to the tonic, for six bars the elements of the first bar – bass octave, central chord, high triple semiquaver motif – are taken apart and put back together in a slightly different order, then insistently squeezed and sharpened. There is a final chromatic rush before the jubilant conclusion.

[1] Tom Beghin, ‘Thoughts on performing Haydn’s keyboard sonatas’, in Caryl Clark, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Haydn (Cambridge: CUP, 2005), pp. 203-25 [p. 14].

[2] Franz Joseph Haydn’s keyboard sonatas: an untapped gold mine (Lewiston: Edwin Mellon, 1988), pp. 60-61.

[3] Roy Howat, The Art of French Piano Music: Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Chabrier (New Haven: Yale UP, 2009), p. 15.

[4] Biographical information about Fauré is taken from the notes to the Naxos recording of Nocturnes 1-6, online at (accessed 19/12/09).

[5] Howat, French Piano Music, p. 15.

[6] For a balanced and contextualized approach, see James Garratt, ‘Mendelssohn and the rise of musical historicism’, in Peter Mercer-Taylor, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn (Cambridge: CUP, 2004), pp. 55-70.

[7] Steve Lindeman, ‘The works for solo instrument(s) and orchestra’, in ibid., pp. 112-29 [p. 124].

[8] ‘On Mendelssohn’s sacred music, real and imagined’, in ibid., pp. 167-88 [p. 180].

[9] Howat, French Piano Music, p. 235.

Back at the King of Hearts in Norwich

Jane and I headed back there in November to do another recital, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole place. My Grandma came down from Lincolnshire and has waxed lyrical about it ever since. I hope we will return - we are plotting another Beethoven-Grieg combo, which seems to be what comes up when we go to Norwich!

Beethoven, Violin Sonata No.7 in C minor, Op.30, No.2

I Allegro con brio

II Adagio cantablie

III Scherzo & Trio (Allegro)

IV Finale (Allegro)

This is pure Stürm und Drang Beethoven. From the dramatic first subject of the Allegro con brio (a declaration of war?) to the insane coda of the Finale, the Sonata is dark, brooding, angry and full of passionate outbursts. The second subject of the Allegro con brio may be in a major key, but it sounds like an army on the march, and the buzzing semiquavers of the tonic minor are never far away. This driving busyness underpins even the lyrical passage at the start of the development section, and after 16 bars the violin gives up, reasoning, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. The main subject of the Finale (a rondo) is even more bold, swelling to a tremendous crash that announces each new section. The momvement is peppered with counterpoint, false starts and more notes than you can shake a stick at. Thankfully the middle movements provide some much needed respite. The vast Adagio cantabile contains one of the most beautiful and yearning melodies ever penned, with aching dissonances on the third beat of each phrase that cry out for resolution. In the various episodes of this slow movement Beethoven strays a long way from the warm key of A flat major (the same key as the slow movement of the famous Pathétique Sonata, also in C minor) and spices up the pacific mood. The miniature Scherzo and Trio are in C major; the former light and spiky, the latter like a rustic dance, whose innocent fun is soon to be shattered by the arrival of the Finale.

Grieg, Violin Sonata No.2 in G major, Op.13

I Lento doloroso – Allegro vivace

II Allegretto tranquillo

III Allegro animato

Written 65 years later, in 1867, the optimism of this work is in complete contrast to the Beethoven. And yet the opening Lento (a slow introduction in the manner of the classical symphony) is a lament in G minor that only gradually finds its way to sunnier keys. The rest of the movement is a lively rondo, built from elements of Norwegian folk tunes. Shortly before the end it seems as though the spirit of Elgar is hovering over the music, as one of the dance themes is slowed right down, and harmonised richly in a very noble, ‘English’ fashion! The E minor slow movement is in a straightforward ABA form, in which A starts gently but ends up as dramatic and angry as Beethoven and B is a distant pastoral song in a bright major key. In the last movement Grieg returns to the “springtans”, a Norwegian dance. The tranquil middle section, whose melody returns more grandly before the final flourish, is redolent of the slow movement, and in fact all the themes of the sonata are re-used and developed as the work progresses. See if you can spot the famous ‘Grieg’ theme from the opening of his Piano Concerto. Grieg wrote this sonata in just three weeks, while on his honeymoon, and his feelings are pretty clear!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Nikolai Miaskovsky (1882-1950)

Fabulous Crimble pressie from the parents – Miaskovsky’s complete symphonies, on 16 CDs with several filler pieces, too (overtures, string suites, etc), making each disc at least 75 minutes long. AMAZING value! Notable symphonies so far would be two of the shortest; No.19 for brass band – the first movement recalls Candide’s sweeping melody, and the slow movement starts like the Skye boatman’s song – and No.8 in a very bumptious C major. There are many moments redolent of 20th century English string writing, and so far few dichordant or revolutionary elements. How Miaskovsky can have been denounced as formalist (in 1948, just 2 years before his death) is beyond me, though perhaps his final works did display more ‘modern’ features. That notwithstanding, the spitefulness of state censors (nor, tempting though it may be, the irrational behaviour of awkward people like me) is hardly something I should expect or particularly wish to understand.

musical synasthesia?

I recently sent this email to someone who asked me about my experience of this phenomenon/condition, along with sub-queries on a particular (though theoretical) key and 'sadness' in music.


My synasthesia is not very strong. I don't usually see colours when I hear single notes, but more when I get harmonic impressions. Sometimes I might get a weak colour sensation from a single note, and it will tend to be the colour of that note's major key.

It's definitely the case that people with synasthesia experience colours differently - I read about Scriabin's very pronounced condition and many of the colours were different to mine.

"G sharp major" does not really exist for me, since I would hear it as A flat major. That is a dull, but rich red with hints of purple. (I'm not sure what I would see in the almost inconceivable case that someone was in B major and then modulated through sharp keys all the way to G sharp major!)

"Sad keys" are partly determined by musical context. All the minor keys are potentially sad. Perhaps I could say that E flat minor and B minor are particularly "sad", while G major, A major and E major are particularly "happy" (I omit D major from that list because it seems richer than "happy", but this is leaving the question of colours somewhat).
Here's a non-systematic and incomplete list of impressions...

Greens come from E, E flat, G and G flat
Yellows come from B and D
Reds come from A, A flat and F sharp minor (F sharp major is like arainbow, with orange emphasis)
F minor is ivory and purple, sometimes pink
C minor is black, dark brown, also gun metal, and other things hard toput into words (C major is like a shiny version of that, or sometimes can be matt, like peat)
B flat is almost white; the minor is grey
D flat is almost colourless, but also sometimes off-white
C sharp minor is impossible to put into words! But I love it.

Romans 5

Something interesting came up when I was studying Romans 5 the other week in preparation for a sermon in our series at Hope (... then click on "Media")

In verses 12-21 a vast chiasmus opened up before my very eyes...

A B C D E D' C' B' A'

Note in particular the two ways [C and D] in which the gift of Christ affects fallen man, and how the content of A is developed through E and A'. Our attention is also drawn, in this difficult passage, to the central claim, which repays long meditation.

[A protasis (interrupted)]
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

[B what law does and did]
for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

[C transformative]
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

[D forensic]
Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.

[E alternate summary of protasis-apodosis]
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

[D' forensic]
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

[C' transformative]
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

[B' what law does]
The law was added so that the trespass might increase.

[A' protasis (complete) and apodosis]
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

NYT editorial on public science

Science not so impartial, whatever either of those two words mean!

A really interesting article to help bring some enlightenment to the crazed devotees of mythical 'Science' anyhow. As they say about guns, science doesn't tell the truth, people do (or don't). And it's a lot more complicated than a machine you can point and click.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

In Bruges

Same preposition, same rudeness. Less creative in its insults, but more intensive. Somehow a virtue is (almost) made out of the storm of words. In this case it's the cute Irish accent saying various swear words rather than the Scots, but there is a distinct Celtic slant to them both. We Anglo-Americans are such vouyeurs of the peripheries...

A surprisingly old-fashioned film, with a very surprising turn by Ralph Fiennes as London crime boss. There are big issues, big principles, and no nudity.

Notice the simple/straightforward "morality" of the characters (though Brendan Gleason's Ken has a greater maturity there, scoring 0.00002 instead of 0.00001): rudeness, violence and killing are fine, but not killing children. The film’s morality is slightly wider than that of the characters. After all, those who live by the sword die by it, and no one else does.

Once again, however, I have reservations about enjoying something so rude and violent. To the pure all things are pure, but whatever is noble, whatever is good...

In the Loop

Armando Iannucci’s acclaimed political satire. Three stars out of five, I think.

But ten out of ten for rudeness – it might have scored higher than any Tarantino for swearing and truly offensive insults…

Although it’s the right length In the Loop is less a feature film and more an expensive exercise in astonishment. Desperately sad, like The Office; every cell in my body cringes at how dreadful the characters are, and yet how true and real they are. Frightening as well as compelling, but not one to watch again.

Performances were pretty good, in that faux documentary way, but unfortunately all the drama ebbed away towards the end. Minister for International Development, Peter Forrester, was too much of a caricature by that point for us to care about his resignation or about the ‘clever’ plan of the odious spin doctor to have him fired instead. Even the prospect of war was not very compelling. Jaded viewer or poor drama? Maybe both...

The Law (Torah)

I was mulling on this again, as I preached on Romans 7 recently. Some very helpful chat with Mrs L…

What is the Law to us Christians? (And what do we even mean when we say, ‘the Law’? – that’s a big question that turns on some technical points and also on the big sweep of redemptive history.)

Are we bound by its commandments?

Is it a spur to holiness?
Not profitably so

Is it a measure or guide?

So can we read it with profit, and if so, what profit?
Good question!

Think about Galatians 5, on the fruit of the Spirit (the good life, as it were). “Against such things there is no law”. In other words, what does the Law have to do with our ethics now? It has nothing to do with measuring or defining the good, Spirit-filled life. As Colossians 2 says of the Torah (or what sounds like at least part of Torah), “such things have the appearance of wisdom… but are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh”.

But can we only say ‘we don’t need the Law for our ethics now, thanks’ because it has already had such a tremendous influence, direct and indirect, on Western culture for hundreds of years? Is it indeed the case that the Law is OK as a guide to secular national life, but not for Christian ethics?

Of course, since New Testament ethics is hardly radically opposed to Torah in many areas we will find an amazing similarity between the Spirit-filled life and the Law. But is that because both come, as it were, independently from the same source, rather than one being a development or part-adoption of the other.

Hey, I almost sound like a Lutheran or Dispensationalist in those musings!

Weed Killers of Three Million AD

A short story I wrote at the age of ten. Well, I say wrote, but in fact (in eerie foreshadowing of my maturer struggles with finishing projects and love of peripherals) what I actually wrote was…

the contents page

Chapter 1 – The Exam Day

— “— 2 – The Kidnapping

—“— 3 – Weedkillers

—“— 4 – Design & Making

—“— 5 – The Last Stand of Base 2?

the opening page of chapter 1


Chapter 1.

Saturday is the worst day of the week and this one was really bad. It was the day of my entrance exam to King Edwards School. I was eating my breakfast and reading a comic and I needed some more milk. “Pass the milk Dad,” I said with my mouth full. He put his paper down to pass the milk and it was then that I saw the Headlines….

the back-cover blurb, on the back cover of the little notebook I had commandeered…

A boy goes to an exam and is taken 3,000,000yrs into the future. The humans want him to design a weapon to destroy plants which have evolved into Giants.

Can he do it before they make a mazzive raid on the Base?

Will his weedkiller weapons work?


UK - £1.50

NZ - $5.50

Notice the happy acceptance of evolution! Must have been in my unreflective phase before I went to that seminar by creationists ;-)

Notice also the dodgy punctuation inside the speech marks! How I dislike that now.