Bags of Bran

Token Life Update
January 3, 2018, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Biography, Personal Adventures

I’ve been away too long, so many have probably given up on any chance that I’ve been thinking about anything worth writing about. The facts are thus (in no particular order):

  1. I hurt my back in October and have been struggling since.
  2. Prior to that, I had been scrambling around to accomplish summertime things, such as get in shape, because
  3. I was sick for much of the spring with things like strep and influenza.
  4. I have also been lazy, which is what makes 1-3 seem like such valid excuses.

Meanwhile my kids have become bigger and smarter. Man, do I love them! Their personalities can be summed up thus:

In a few days, I and the Mrs will be celebrating the beginning of our 18th year of marriage. To say that she has blossomed since she’s been a pastor’s wife would be criminal understatement. She’s more than just a secretary (not only because she’s been on maternity leave for the past three years from her secretarial duties): she is incredibly thoughtful and reminds me often that so-and-so is having a tough time and  could probably use a word of encouragement. It’s like having an alarm clock for my conscience! Beyond this, our kids are really turning out to be neat little people. They spend just about every waking moment with Lady, so it’s no coincidence.

That’s all for now! Maybe soon I’ll get around to writing about my favorite 1 Timothy commentaries or waxing bike chains or something like that.


The Neglected Resource
September 23, 2017, 9:22 am
Filed under: Biography

The wisdom of Socrates: find an older person who has been where you’re going. Listen.

“There is nothing which for my part I like better, Cephalus, than conversing with aged men; for I regard them as travellers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go, and of whom I ought to inquire, whether the way is smooth and easy, or rugged and difficult.”

-Plato, Republic

Preaching Was People Work in the 7th Century
August 26, 2017, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Biography, Pastor Stuff

Among the several worthy Gregories from church history is Gregory the Great, perhaps best known as Pope Gregory I, father of Gregorian chant. Now, before you tune out, be aware that John Calvin appreciated Gregory’s writings very much. Remember also that Roman Catholicism was a different beast in the 7th century compared with the 16th.

At any rate, Gregory’s Book of Pastoral Rule turned up in my weekly reading. In it, I unearthed this gem (Part III, chapter 1), in which Gregory addresses the various considerations that will influence the way he approaches his sermon preparation:

Whence every teacher also, that he may edify all in the one virtue of charity, ought to touch the hearts of his hearers out of one doctrine, but not with one and the same exhortation…

Differently to be admonished are these that follow:—

Men and women.
The poor and the rich.
The joyful and the sad.
Prelates and subordinates.
Servants and masters.
The wise of this world and the dull.
The impudent and the bashful.
The forward and the fainthearted.
The impatient and the patient.
The kindly disposed and the envious.
The simple and the insincere.
The whole and the sick.
Those who fear scourges, and therefore live innocently; and those who have grown so hard in iniquity as not to be corrected even by scourges.
The too silent, and those who spend time in much speaking.
The slothful and the hasty.
The meek and the passionate.
The humble and the haughty.
The obstinate and the fickle.
The gluttonous and the abstinent.
Those who mercifully give of their own, and those who would fain seize what belongs to others.
Those who neither seize the things of others nor are bountiful with their own; and those who both give away the things they have, and yet cease not to seize the things of others.
Those that are at variance, and those that are at peace.
Lovers of strifes and peacemakers.
Those that understand not aright the words of sacred law; and those who understand them indeed aright, but speak them without humility.
Those who, though able to preach worthily, are afraid through excessive humility; and those whom imperfection or age debars from preaching, and yet rashness impels to it.
Those who prosper in what they desire in temporal matters; and those who covet indeed the things that are of the world, and yet are wearied with the toils of adversity.
Those who are bound by wedlock, and those who are free from the ties of wedlock.
Those who have had experience of carnal intercourse, and those who are ignorant of it.
Those who deplore sins of deed, and those who deplore sins of thought.
Those who bewail misdeeds, yet forsake them not; and those who forsake them, yet bewail them not.
Those who even praise the unlawful things they do; and those who censure what is wrong, yet avoid it not.
Those who are overcome by sudden passion, and those who are bound in guilt of set purpose.
Those who, though their unlawful deeds are trivial, yet do them frequently; and those who keep themselves from small sins, but are occasionally whelmed in graver ones.
Those who do not even begin what is good, and those who fail entirely to complete the good begun.
Those who do evil secretly and good publicly; and those who conceal the good they do, and yet in some things done publicly allow evil to be thought of them.

He then goes on to develop each distinction in turn throughout Section III.

But of what profit is it for us to run through all these things collected together in a list, unless we also set forth, with all possible brevity, the modes of admonition for each?

That’s an incredibly thoughtful approach.

Getting Christology Right
August 15, 2017, 10:46 am
Filed under: Biography

To everyone who struggles to say meaningful things about Christ succinctly without bumbling into heresy, I offer:

He hungers–but He feeds thousands….

He is wearied, but is the Rest of them that are weary….

He is heavy with sleep, but walks lightly over the sea….

He prays, but He hears prayer.

He weeps, but He causes tears to cease.

He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was Man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God.

He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world….

As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.

As a lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word….

He is…wounded, but He heals every disease….

He dies, but He gives life….

If the one give you a starting point for your error, let the others put an end to it.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Orat. 29.20

Cited in Thomas Oden, Classic Christianity, 312

Augustine and Bible Interpretation
July 15, 2017, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Biography

The man who fears God seeks diligently in Holy Scripture for a knowledge of His will. And when he has become meek through piety, so as to have no love of strife; when furnished also with a knowledge of languages, so as not to be stopped by unknown words and forms of speech, and with the knowledge of certain necessary objects, so as not to be ignorant of the force and nature of those which are used figuratively; and assisted, besides, by accuracy in the texts, which has been secured by skill and care in the matter of correction;—when thus prepared, let him proceed to the examination and solution of the ambiguities of Scripture.

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine

Liturgical Dance?
July 12, 2017, 10:07 am
Filed under: Biography

Kevin Bauder gets to the real issue with the Redeemer offertory: it has no place in a New Testament worship service.

Theology Central

Here is a video of three men performing a concert dance to the Largo from Glinka’s Trio Pathétique in D Minor. The occasion is an offertory at Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The audience responds with applause after the performance. No pulpit is visible, but the elements appear on the Lord’s Table beneath the stage.

Perhaps I should state that I have no principled objection to concert or theater dance. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m one of only a handful of Baptist fundamentalists who have visited the grave of Rudolf Nureyev in Paris. The question is not whether concert dance is in principle a good thing. The question is not even whether Christians ought to be able to enjoy concert dance. The question is whether concert dances (think of ballet) ought to be incorporated into worship. Not everything that can be done in everyday, mundane life ought…

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Strange, Strange Colossians
June 30, 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Biography

The book of Colossians simply doesn’t click for me. The background stuff is bewildering. What on earth was going on there?

I ran across a bizarre passage in the Testament of Solomon, an occultish Jewish document that was very likely extant in Paul’s day, while I was doing some research in Colossians.

72. And I commanded another demon to come before me. And there came before my face thirty-six spirits, their heads shapeless like dogs, but in themselves they were human in form; with faces of asses, faces of oxen, and faces of birds. And I Solomon, on hearing and seeing them, wondered, and I asked them and said: “Who are you?” But they, of one accord with one voice, said1: “We are the thirty-six elements, the world-rulers 2 of this darkness. But, O King Solomon, thou wilt not wrong us nor imprison us, nor lay command on us; but since the Lord God has given thee authority over every spirit, in the air, and on the earth, and under the earth, therefore do we also present ourselves before thee like the other spirits, from ram and bull, from [35] both twin and crab, lion and virgin, scales and scorpion, archer, goat-horned, water-pourer, and fish.

The bold text is what is so interesting. The word here rendered “elements” is the same word Paul uses in Colossians 2:8, translated “elementary principles,” and I think Paul is using it the same way.


Celebrating Revivalism and Other Noxious Pieties


\"If I am immoderate, I am immoderate to God.\" - Bengel


Like sawdust, but edible.

Broad Meadow

I have spoken the truth coldly; who cares for the truth? To be useful, one must be charming, and my pen has lost that art.

Planting churches with the Baptist Confession in one hand and Tolkien in the other

Orchard Keeper

Plucking fruit from the grove of biblical and theological studies

Jubilate Deo

Music in the service of the church


Theology, apologetics, ramblings

Towards Conservative Christianity

Promoting true conservative Christianity


"We must come down to the plains of distinction and multiplicity." -Pseudo Dionysus

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