Top posts of 2010

As the year draws to a close I thought I’d take stock of what people have been reading on my blog.   Here are the most read posts for 2010.

The fact that the top two posts are about The Salvation Army and the sacraments tells me that Salvationists are still interested in discussing that issue (though some people want to consider it a closed case).

  1. A Comparison of Salvation Story and the 2010 Handbook of Doctrine
  2. Three Quotes from William Booth on the Sacraments
  3. Unsafe God
  4. Christ as the Good Samaritan
  5. The longest church name in the history of the world
  6. Signs that make me laugh: “Cats, Eye Fashion”
  7. The Salvation Army as an Order? An Early Catholic Comment
  8. The Good Samaritan, by John Newton
  9. Wrestling Jacob
  10. Signs that make me laugh: Creepy Doll is “Not For Sale”

Thanks for all who stopped by this past year.  For 2011 I’m planning to continue blogging through my work on my dissertation, as well as hunting for funny signs.  I was saddened to see that “Steak Queen” at the corner of Lawrence and Victoria Park has changed its name before I got a chance to snap a pic and feature it here.  But don’t worry, there’s lots of other material out there!

Recommended Christmas Listening

This isn’t an attempt to choose my all time favourite Christmas music. I love Christmas music and there are so many great songs to choose from, I don’t think I could narrow it down. Having said that, I want to offer a few eclectic recommendations from the dozens of favourites I’ve been listening to for weeks now.

One of my favourite pieces of classical Christmas music (though it is hard to pick, especially with the Messiah and the Nutcracker in the running) is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols.” It begins with a very mysterious sounding setting of “This is the truth sent from above,” and includes “Come all you worthy gentlemen” and “On Christmas night all Christians sing.”  Vaughan Williams spent part of his career collecting and arranging English Folk melodies – the tunes in this piece are three examples.  If you like this, check out his Norfolk Rhapsody.

Here is a live recording, in two parts, of the Monteverdi Choir Würzburg and the Mainphilharmonie Würzburg, from 2008.  My favourite part is the section which builds from about the 1:00 mark to the climactic 3:00 mark of the second video below.

Ray Charles’ version of “The Little Drummer Boy” is classic.  It’s not often you hear the Rhodes, strings, horns AND steel guitar in one song! The visuals on this clip aren’t too creative, but the audio is good quality.

For Canadian content, I recommend Ron Sexsmith’s “Maybe this Christmas.” I couldn’t find an upload of Ron singing, so here is a nice cover by someone named Phil Hyun.

There’s nothing like singing Christmas carols with David Willcocks’ descants – especially if the choir is as good as this one, from St. Paul’s, London. Here’s his arrangement of Once in Royal David’s City. The descant comes in at 2:18.

My last suggestions is NOT a favourite, but I find it hilarious. My vote for weirdest Christmas song: Bob Dylan, “Must be Santa.” I’m a big fan of Bob Dylan, but I’m not sure what to make of this song, or his entire Christmas album, to be honest.  This video won’t embed, so you’ve got to go here to watch it.


A Forgotten Christmas Hymn, by Charles Wesley

I found this wonderful hymn a couple of years ago, when looking through A Collection of Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord, compiled by John Wesley in 1744.  There are some interesting gems in there, but the following hymn, by brother Charles (#11 in the collection) really stood out.

My favourite phrase is “In our deepest darkness rise” – and I love the title given to Christ in verse three: “Thou mild Pacific Prince.”  I wrote a tune for this last year, and I hope to be able to record it some time down the road.


Charles Wesley

Light of those whose dreary dwelling,
Borders on the shades of death,
Come, and by Thy love’s revealing,
Dissipate the clouds beneath :
š›š›The new heaven and earth’s Creator,
In our deepest darkness rise,
Scattering all the night of nature,
Pouring eyesight on our eyes.
Still we wait for Thy appearing,
Life and joy Thy beams impart,
Chasing all our fears, and cheering,
Every poor benighted heart:
Come and manifest the favour,
God hath for our ransom’d race;
Come, Thou universal Saviour,
Come, and bring the gospel grace.
Save us in Thy great compassion,
O Thou mild pacific Prince,
Give the knowledge of salvation,
Give the pardon of our sins ;
By Thine all-restoring merit,
Every burden’d soul release,
Every weary, wandering spirit,
Guide into Thy perfect peace.

Love: the greatest gift or something greater?

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most well-known passages of scripture. Because it is often read at weddings, it is even well known to non-Christians.  Because it is often read on its own, I think many of us think of 1 Corinthians 13 as a stand-alone unit within the Bible.  However, in its context, it actually forms an integral part of Paul’s teaching on charisms.

Paul Kariuki Njiru’s book, Charisms and the Holy Spirit’s Activity in the Body of Christ (Rome: Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 2002), does a good job of outlining the Paul’s rhetorical structure throughout 1 Corinthians 12 to 14.  He summarizes the overall structure this way:

A Spiritual gifts in general (1 Cor. 12)

B Love as the most excellent way (1 Cor. 13)

A’ Spiritual gifts in particular: prophecy versus tongues (1 Cor. 14)

A more detailed breakdown of the various concentric rhetorical structures within chapters 12-14 is found on page 68.  The bottom line is that the famous “love chapter” is not a stand alone tribute to love in general, nor is it a later interpolation by an unknown editor (as some have suggested), but it is the focal point and climax of Paul’s discussion of charisms.

Paul’s method of writing is very rhetorical, and, by the use of concentric figures, he achieves the effect of emphasizing the importance of love as a regulatory principle in the use of spiritual gifts in the Church.  For the Apostle it is love that must govern the use of all charisms (49).

I think this exegesis is clear enough.  It also raises an interesting question: is Paul presenting love as the pre-eminent of all divine gifts, or is he specifically contrasting transitory gifts with the eternal love of God?

Njiru suggests that Paul is presenting love as “the gift par excellence” (60).  However, the broader consensus seems to be that Paul is intent on making a contrast here between the charismata of chapter 12 and 14 and love.   This comes out particularly in 13:8

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Love, then, is not one gift among others, but that without which the gifts are made void, useless, and even divisive.  It may properly be described as a “fruit” of the Spirit (Galatians 5), but not a charism.  This tells us something important about charisms: they are provisional, rather than enduring.   Part of the problem in Corinth was that they were allowing pride regarding particular charisms to divide their fellowship, thereby showing that they valued charisms above the love that they were to have for one another. 

Ecclesially, if we think of particular communions or traditions within the church as having ecclesial charisms, we can see how 1 Corinthians 12-14 could stand as a rebuke for our divisions.  A particular group within the church which separates from others on the basis of a particular gift or set of gifts is, to take up Paul’s image, like the eye saying to the hand, “I don’t need you!” (12:21).