Friday, April 27, 2007

William Perkins on theological humility ...

Believers' or pedobaptism? Pre-, post- or amillennial? Covenants or dispensations? Charismata or cessation? High liturgy or low? Instrumental or vocal worship? I have my own convictions, but I still appreciated the following reminder from Perkins's treatise on "The Combat of the Flesh and the Spirit", in his Two Treatises of 1593:

"In the mind there is a double combat. The first is between knowledge of the word of God and natural ignorance or blindness. For seeing [that] we do in this life know in part, therefore knowledge of the truth must needs be joined with ignorance in all that are enlightened, and one of these being contrary to another, they strive to overshadow and overcast each other.

Hence we may learn the cause why excellent divines do vary in diverse points of religion: and it is, because in this combat, natural blindness yet remaining, prevails more or less. Men that are dim-sighted and cannot discern without spectacles, if they should be set to discry [describe] a thing afar off, the most of them would be of diverse opinions of it. And men enlightened and regenerate in this life do but see as in a glass darkly.

Again, this must teach all students of divinity often to suspect themselves in their opinions and defences,
seeing in them that are of soundest judgment the light of their understanding is mixed with darkness of ignorance. And they can in many points see but as the man in the Gospel, who when our Saviour Christ had in part opened his eyes, saw men walking not as men, but in the form of trees [Mark 8:22-26]. Also this must teach all that read the scriptures to invocate and call upon the name of God, that he would enlighten them by his Spirit, and abolish the mist of natural blindness."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Will the Bard

Chris suggested that one of us wrote an article about Shakespeare, who features especially in Lara Eakins's 'TudorCast'". Since my pencil eraser says 'Out Damned Spot' on it (thanks to the RSC gift catalogue of several years ago), and my fountain pen is named Edmund, after Gloucester's legitimate son in King Lear, and that other Tudor Great, Edmund Blackadder, I think I qualify.

My desk calendar informed me that the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death was on Monday (also St George's day, of course). Here are some brief thoughts about Shakespeare and Puritanism.

Religion on the whole gets a very mixed treatment from Shakespeare, prompting a number of theses and responses, including:
- He was a closet Catholic;
- He was a closet Atheist;
- His mixture of Catholic and Protestant sentiments demonstrates the residual Catholic beliefs in England at the turn of the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries;
- Different people with different religious beliefs wrote different plays of his;
- He was a closet puritan (*highly dubious*, especially given some of his early writings like Titus Andronicus and the Rape of Lucrece, which are more the stuff that horror-movies are made on).

'Puritans' who feature in Shakespeare's plays include ice-cold Angelo in Measure for Measure, 'a man of stricture and abstinence' who turns out to be a lustful hypocrite in his attitude to heroine Isabella. But then Isabella, too, is a bit of a puritan, which is possibly what attracts him. The fact she expresses this in her desire to be a nun, and the fact all of this is set in Vienna, is besides the point - critics tend to agree that he is really talking about London and contemporary, Protestant, England. Another famous puritan is Malvolio in Twelfth Night, who eventually becomes plagued by his own ambition, and ends up wandering around in yellow cross-garters.

But parallels can also be drawn between the Bard's other plays and poems and puritan spirituality and life. His early 'time' sonnets, for instance, emphasise the brevity of life and pine after a more lasting reality (although they claim to find it in the youth of his affection).

The theatres suffered a tempestuous relationship with the authorities of the day (Shakespeare in Love gives a fairly good picture of that), and the re-built Globe was eventually closed down in 1642 (and destroyed; until it was rebuilt in the late 20th century).

By the way, I am coveting an RSC 'thinking cap'.

Monday, April 23, 2007


The April edition of Lara Eakins's 'TudorCast' is now available for listening.

Highlights include news on the Showtime series The Tudors, an upcoming sequel to Elizabeth, which starred Cate Blanchett, and a tour of D.C.'s Folger Shakespeare Library website.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


As a congregant of Charlotte Chapel here in Edinburgh, I sometimes have the privilege of hearing sermons from the Unashamed Workman himself, Colin Adams. He delivered a message* this morning, on Jeremiah 17, that was particularly powerful and eloquent.

Have a prayerful listen.

* What does this have to do with the puritans, you ask? If you listen carefully, you may hear a reference to them.


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