Book of the Year, 2007

December 31, 2007

Last post of the year before I head out to parteee!

‘Book of the Year’ for this blogger has to be Pierced for Our Transgressions. It is a timely defence of penal substitution and its elenctic method makes it very useful for reference as well as for reading through. The exegetical and systematic sections and well handled. The latter half of the book deals with a host of obejctions and will help the reader think these through. It is well organised and well written. Stott’s Cross of Christ might be more edifying on some levels but for those who want to get tooled up to deal with the most recent arguments against penal substitution, this has to be first choice.

The book arrived on the UK scene in the wake of Steve Chalke’s controversial remarks, and the debate continues to run. N.T. Wright has described PFOT as ‘deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical’. Jeffery, Ovey and Sach reply here.

Buy the book. Cherish the doctrine.

Happy ’08.



December 23, 2007


I am conscious that I have not posted for a while. Typical end of term craziness as Christmas approaches combined with catching the cold. Life moving at easier pace now, having flown home to spend the holiday with my parents. Always a good chance to put the feet up and plough through some serious reading.

The other day I read a book about an unfortunate chap called Igglepiggle who had lost his towel. I was looking for presents for my nephew. It’s a cracking read. High drama In the Night Garden. However, it probably took me less than 60 seconds to get through the whole book. And it struck me, imagine doing a PhD on pre-school literature. Instead of reading one or two books a week you could read hundreds. You could be through your entire primary sources bibliography in a matter of days. Then just theorize it a bit with some structural analysis – Vladimir Propp would do – and hey presto! I wonder if it’s too late for me to change subjects.

Anyway, wishing you all a cool yule and a great ’08!

Travel Writing – Part 2

December 11, 2007

The account continues with disapproval of Jansenia’s unorthodox expansionism. The people are so zealous for their faith that they appoint female missionaries. The ‘agents’ of their religion go undercover and establish a good reputation before revealing their true opinions.

To give renown to their preachers, they draw to their sermons certain folks, instructed in all such gestures as may testifie a rapture in them, that ’tis impossible to Preach better; yea, they take care that many Coaches may be seen at the Gates of the Churches where the Sermon is, and that the Coachmen make a great ratling.

The invective continues with a description of the harm done by Jansenist theology at the sociological level. People are taught that there are times when resistance to sin is not in their power. Such thinking has led to the spoiling of many young women. Returning to the Eucharist:

They suffer Lay-people to receive under one kind, but many among them affirme that the contrary would be much coveted. ‘Tis believed that this light was brought to them from England with other Merchandizes, whereof they made no brags because they were liable to Confiscation.

This is an intriguing paragraph – the cross-fertilization between Jansenism and Reformed theology is still something of an undiscovered country in seventeenth-century scholarship. Of these people who had decided ‘the Air of Rome was no ways wholesome for them’, the writer concludes, ‘the world could not shew joy enough in being rid of such a wicked sect’.

This is a fascinating book which takes an unconventional literary approach to get the point across. Reminds me of More’s Utopia in some respects. The figurative map is an unusual device, probably inspired by La Carte de Tendre in Madeleine de Scudéry’s novel Clélie published just a few years before:


Travel Writing – Part 1

December 10, 2007


I have heard you often complain that we see Relations enough of China and Canada, but that none had yet appeared which truly declared, what Country Jansenia is. Be content Sir, here is what you have longed for…

So begins A Relation of the Country of Jansenia; Wherein is treated of the Singularities founded therein, the Customes, Manners, and Religion of it’s Inhabitants by Le P. Zacharie de Lisieux (ps Fountaine), 1660, translated into English and published in London, 1668.


 This comes complete with map, showing Jansenia lying between her neighbours: Desesperia, where you will see men hanging from cypress trees among the rocks, Libertinia, a well-inhabited land of pleasure with statues of Bacchus and Venus, and Calvinia where Jansenists come out into the open and declare themselves true disciples of Calvin. Those that don’t venture quite so far remain in Jansenism itself, and the monsters and shipwrecks at the bottom of the picture show us, none too subtily, where that leads.

You guessed it! This is not a sympathetic treatment like that of Theophilus Gale. This is fairly strong polemic against Jansenism. Quite why a translation was printed in England I cannot tell. Perhaps Roman Catholics felt a need to counter the effect of the Provincial Letters which were selling well. But who did they hope to convince? Perhaps it was to steady the faithful; theological pornography for the closet Ultramontanist.

The account itself has the feel of a Utopian, or rather Dystopian, tale. The land was first colonised by ‘Flemings’ who made it famous by the novelty of their laws. The inhabitants are described in less than flattering terms. A number of specimens have been dissected revealing two hearts, suggested as an explanation of their insincerity and equivocation. The most common ailment is ‘a dangerous swelling’ which can only be cured by leaving, but the inhabitants force people to stay. They imagine that they alone possess the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They cannot make their own arms but have become very good at polishing those that come from neighbouring Calvinia. There is ‘a great correspondency’ with the Calvinists in learning too, ‘and they also mutually lend their Professors when by death some Chair is vacant, and they have nobody to supply it’. They trade with neighbouring Libertinia for wines, fine clothes and all things sensual. Their trade is less profitable in Desesperia.

They venerate their ‘Holy Book’ like the Sibyls in Rome, respectfully kissing the cover though they have no idea what it contains. They claim their town was built by ‘a Prince of Hippo’ about 1200 years before, or rather he repaired that founded 400 yeas before by ‘a famous Prince of Tarsus’, and they claim to have the title deeds to prove it beyond question. Those in the know laugh secretly at the credulity of others. They write so many books that they have to keep great gaggles of geese for quills.

Their gospel is intermingled with many wicked things:

They maintain with much obstinacy, that there are some certain people for whom alone our Saviour dyed: that others, the number whereof is incomparably far greater receive no manner of helps which might lead them to an happy Eternity: that Jesus Christ never intended any such thing, when he shed his blood.

They claim that God is pleased to act in this way. That he charges people to keep impossible laws without giving them aid to do so, to fly without wings, and then destroys them justly. Through temporal favours, veils to cover his true intent, he fattens up the wicked for the day of sacrifice. All the while he binds them to calling him ‘Loving Father’. It is this doctrine that drives men to Desesperia.

After a description of eucharistic practice our traveller turns to confession. The priests ‘most often deny them absolution, without any cause that deserveth it, and comfort them up with promises’. Scandalous! Some have had to go out of the country to have their sins absolved. Others are mired in despair.

Part 2 tomorrow whenever.


December 6, 2007

Can’t blog anything substantial till the weekend (this thesis business really gets in the way of blogging), so for now I will let you in on another one of my secrets. I’m sure that some of διαθήκη’s readers will appreciate Scholasticon, a website at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. This proved invaluable in tracking down a reference last year. The ‘Nomenclator’ page will give you a list of hundreds of (mostly) Catholic scholastics of the early modern period. Some of the entries are brief, some more extensive. The 700+ item bibliography for Suarez looks a bit intimidating. Some surprising omissions too, but no doubt this is an ongoing project. Useful site. Bookmark it for future reference.

Meanwhile, over at the Vatican…Benedict XVI grants a new plenary indulgence for pilgrimages to Lourdes on its 150th anniversary. Read more here.