Friday, November 23, 2007

And now for something completely different: the "semantic web"

(From Technology Review) Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the WWW, talks about the next stage of Internet technology, the "semantic web".

I'm particularly interested in how this might change the way we correlate and harmonize different forms of historical data, and the speed at which we can do so. PhDs might be written in three months, rather than three years!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Richard Rogers: Three motives to thankfulness

From Richard Rogers's (1550/1-1618) large spiritual manual, Seven Treatises (1603), three factors that produce thankfulness in the saint, leading him or her to return thanks in prayer:

"Thanksgiving is that part of prayer, in which we, being conferred by some benefits which in favor God bestows upon us, are to love and praise him, and show forth the fruits thereof.

In the which description we see three duties to be required of us, and three motives or persuasions to draw us to perform them. I will first mention these latter ...

1. The first motive is knowledge and remembrance of some benefit received or promised us.

Which may be seen in the thanksgiving of all God’s servants, as in David after that he had received the savory and seasonable counsel by Abigail, and in Abraham's servant, when God had blessed him in his journey to Aram. The same may be said of the leper, when he saw that he was cleansed, after he had made request for it to Christ.

And when there is no knowledge and due consideration of some particular mercy, how can there be any true and hearty thanksgiving, howsoever in words there be a protestation for fashion sake? As in them who say, we must thank God for all, when yet they consider of nothing that moves them thereto.

2. The second motive to thanksgiving is joy and gladness of heart for the benefit which we think of, or call to mind.

As appears by the Psalm, in them which returned out of the captivity, saying, When the Lord brought again (that is, turned away) the captivity of Sion (his Church), we became like them that dream: then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with joy.

And so (to apply it to ourselves) except we find such sweet comfort in God’s benefits either already received, or by faith embraced, being promised; the duty of thanks can in no good sort be performed. But that is verified which is commonly spoken, that is, a work is untowardly done, which is not cheerfully gone about.

3. The third thing that should move us to this duty of thanks, is that which is most fit to work the foresaid joy, and that is a persuasion, that the benefit for which we give thanks comes to us from God’s fatherly love, which is a far greater matter to make us glad, than the benefit itself which is bestowed on us.

For if we should fear, that it is sent as a snare to entangle us, or to heap hot coals upon our head, and to make our condemnation the more just, small sweetness should we find therein, but that which would be quenched with that fear, and by an accusing conscience.

As for example, what hearty joy, or sound thanks could that of the Pharisee be, though in tongue he gave the one, and in countenance showed the other, when he had not this persuasion?

But God be thanked, it is not so with his beloved ones, but they knowing that their most loving Father hath given them his Christ, which is the greatest, doth much more of favor give them all other things, which are of less account; which both rejoice their hearts when they remember any of these his blessings, and stirs them up to a much more hearty performing of this duty [of thanksgiving]."

Learn about the spiritual habits of the New England puritans in Charles Hambrick-Stowe's The Practice of Piety (1986):

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Some things to be thankful for, and an eschatological paradigm shift(?)

A recent Christianity Today article by Collin Hansen notes some very encouraging trends in the US. For instance, people between 18 to 30 are today more likely to oppose abortion than any other age group. Crime and drug use are down, academic scores are up, etc., etc.

But Hansen also draws implications from a connection between past religious revivals and the end-time views that prevailed during those revivals:

During two great awakenings before the Civil War, American Christians favored postmillennialism, a belief that the kingdom of God will expand during a millennial age of gospel preaching and social progress ...

But this view became much less popular as the revivals faded, the Civil War dragged on, and theological liberalism spread in America and Europe. Premillennialists saw these developments as signs of the end, when Christ would finally return to rule ...

If the trends identified by Wehner and Levin continue, it's possible evangelicals will see another paradigm shift in their eschatology.

So if things keep going well, more people will begin to subscribe to a postmillennial interpretation of Scripture (held by most puritans, by the way, but not by me.)

I would hope that intelligent Christians would base their understanding of Scripture on sound principles of exegesis (whether these lead them to pre- or postmillennial convictions), rather than societal trends, but I understand how what Hansen is saying could occur, especially at the lay level. An interesting notion, for sure. Feel free to comment.

"Hard and difficult beginnings"

Tomorrow I hope to post a brief summary about Pilgrims, a brand new book debuting this month in the UK, and in the US in January, which tells the account of those who emigrated from England to the New World during the 17th century, but then, for various reasons, returned to their home country.

In preparation for tomorrow's Thanksgiving holiday in the States, I thought I would share the following excerpt from William Bradford's account of the establishment Of Plymouth Plantation. It begins following the drawing up and signing of the original Plymouth covenant, upon the pilgrims' landing near Cape Cod:

After this they chose, or rather confirmed, Mr. John Carver (a man godly and well approved amongst them) their governor for that year.

And after they had provided a place for their goods, or common store (which were long in unloading for want of boats, foulness of the winter weather and sickness of divers), and begun some small cottages for their habitations; as time would admit, they met and consulted of laws and orders, both for their civil and military government as the necessity of their condition did require, still adding thereunto as urgent occasion in several times, and as cases did require.

In these hard and difficult beginnings they found some discontents and murmurings arise amongst some, and mutinous speeches and carriages in others; but they were soon quelled and overcome by the wisdom, patience, and just equal carriage of things, by the governor and better part, which clave faithfully together in the main.

But that which was most sad and lamentable was, that in two or three months' time half of their company died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases which this long voyage and their inaccommodate condition had brought upon them.

So as there died sometimes two or three of a day in the foresaid time, that of one hundred and odd persons, scarce fifty remained.

And of these, in the time of most distress, there was but six or seven sound persons who to their great commendations, be it spoken, spared no pains night or day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed them meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them.

In a word, did all the homely and necessary offices for them which dainty and queasy stomachs cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cheerfully, without any grudging in the least, showing herein their true love unto their friends and brethren; a rare example and worthy to be remembered.

Two of these seven were Mr. William Brewster, their reverend elder, and Myles Standish, their captain and military commander, unto whom myself and many others were much beholden in our low and sick condition.

And yet the Lord so upheld these persons as in this general calamity they were not at all infected either with sickness or lameness.

And what I have said of these I may say of many others who died in this general visitation, and others yet living; that whilst they had health, yea, or any strength continuing, they were not wanting to any that had need of them.

And I doubt not but their recompense is with the Lord.

Find this and other interesting primary-source excerpts related to New England puritanism in The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry, edited by Perry Miller.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Add to that the fact that they weren't dispensationalists ...

No, I'm kidding. (Mostly.)

I almost missed this post: about a week ago, Michael Haykin mentioned some things he thinks the puritans got wrong.

What? Did I just write that?

Eat, Drink and Relax

"Think the Pilgrims would frown on today's football-tossing, turkey-gobbling Thanksgiving festivities? Maybe not."

An article in Christian History & Biography on the pilgrims' original Thanksgiving recreation ...

Image from USS Plymouth Rock Ships Assoc.

Partakest thou of our poll!

... in yonder right side-bar.

Wait, I see that we already have 11 responses ... that can only mean all our contributors have participated, and both of our visitors have filled it out twice!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

You only have 11 more days ...

... to download a FREE, professional-quality, unabridged audio version of Jonathan Edwards's classic, Religious Affections, from ChristianAudio – read by Simon Vance, a wonderfully articulate Brit. (Use coupon code Nov2007.)

More than anything else, human beings need the ability to discern true from false religion, saving faith from damning, counterfeit faith. Edwards explains the crucial difference in this text.

As one would expect, it speaks as relevantly today as it did in 18th-century New England:
"It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ, all along hitherto. It is by this means, principally, that he has prevailed against all revivings of religion, that ever have been since the first founding of the Christian church ..."
Get it! Hear it! Heed it!

(And why not get the hardcopy via


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