April bests …

From the reading chair: Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ by T.F. Torrance; Divine Empathy: A Theology of God by Edward Farley; The Knot of Vipers, by François Mauriac; Reformed Worship by Howard L. Rice & James C. Huffstutler; God’s Inescapable Nearness by Eduard Schweizer; Aussie Gems: Cindy Ella by Tom Champion & Glen Singleton; Aussie Gems: Redback on the Toilet Seat by Slim Newton & Craig Smith; Participating in God: A Pastoral Doctrine of the Trinity by Paul S. Fiddes; The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart; Theology & Ministry in Context & Crisis: A South African Perspective by John W. de Gruchy; Good and Evil by Edward Farley; Common Life: Poems by Robert Cording.

Through the iPod: Women and Country by Jakob Dylan; Hold on to Me by The Black Sorrows; X&Y by Coldplay; Symphony No. 6; Into the Twilight; Summer Music by Sir Arnold Bax; Infamous Angel, My Life and The Way I Should by Iris DeMent; Paganini: Violin Concertos with Salvatore Accardo; Nothing Like the Sun and The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting; Leave Your Sleep by Natalie Merchant; Standard Songs for Average People by John Prine & Mac Wiseman; Fair & Square by John Prine.

On the screenBoy [2010]; Endgame [2009]; The White Ribbon [2009]; God on Trial [2008]. BTW: I also saw von Trier’s Antichrist, the most hideous and uninteresting film I’ve seen this year.

By the bottle: Wasp, by Invercargill Brewery.

Recent wanderings: ‘The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes’

  • An attack on liberal Anglicanism – and on art?
  • Some words for teachers on the relationship between teaching styles and learning styles
  • David Fergusson on Rudolph Bultmann
  • Michael Gorman on why Christmas ought not include singing Happy Birthday to Jesus
  • Saddened to hear of the news of Edward Schillebeeckx’s passing. Schillebeeckx’s was one of the great voices in recent years, a true scholar and gentle prophet of reform. Here’s what he had to say twenty years ago: ‘My concern is that the further we move away in history from Vatican II, the more some people begin to interpret unity as uniformity. They seem to want to go back to the monolithic church which must form a bulwark on the one hand against communism and on the other hand against the Western liberal consumer society. I think that above all in the West, with its pluralist society, such an ideal of a monolith church is out of date and runs into a blind alley. And there is the danger that in that case, people with that ideal before their eyes will begin to force the church in the direction of a ghetto church, a church of the little flock, the holy remnant. But though the church is not of this world, it is of men and women. Men and women who are believing subjects of the church’. This mature voice once stated, in God Is New Each Moment, that ecumenism means ‘that we have to bear in mind the great Christian tradition that can be found in all the Christian churches – the Catholica, which does not in itself coincide with the empirical phenomenon of the Roman Catholic Church … In that sense, my work is, I think, a valid contribution to the unity of the church, in which there may be all kinds of differences, but in which the one Church community recognizes itself in the other communities and they recognize themselves in it’ (p. 74).
  • Some disturbing religious activities
  • An interesting interview with Better World Books
  • Robert Minto brings Simone Weil and Graham Greene’s Whiskey Priest into the same frame
  • Andrew Errington shares some Seamus Heaney
  • David Guretzki begins some reflections on Barth’s Credo
  • Jim Gordon posts on the importance of ideas in the practical renewal of the church
  • James Merrick shares some Marilynne Robinson on evangelicalism and Protestant liberalism
  • Finally, as one who has posted on beer before, I was delighted to read Arni Zachariasse’s post on  ‘6 reasons why your church needs (more) beer’:
  1. Beer is good for the community. Beer reduced inhibitions and nowhere are people more inhibited than in church. Congregants want at least one chair between them and the person next them. Even better if they get the entire pew to themselves. With a few pints down them, on the other hand, that invisible wall, that awkward space is all but gone. People will start laughing together, they will start crying together. They will even hug! Paul’s “holy kiss” might once again become commonplace, and not a relic of the Bible sped through by embarrassed readers-aloud. In addition to strengthening the ties between those already in the local church, the stranger will be welcomed with open arms, both his presence and his strange thoughts. Which leads me to the second point.
  2. Beer is good for the church’s communal theological inquiry. Here again alcohol’s inhibition reduction is beneficial. Imagine if people actually asked what was on their mind and weren’t afraid of embarrassing themselves because they weren’t among the chosen few in the front five pews, because they didn’t know the jargon or didn’t worry about having the Bible quoted at them. Imagine if people actually voiced those fleeting thoughts, objections and ideas. Theology would then, at last, actually be done in the church and by the church. Dogmatics, you could say, would finally become church dogmatics. Beer would not only have people doing theology and doing it more freely, but would strengthen people’s ties to the church while simultaneously opening the doors to new ideas from outside the church. (Maybe that’s why church leaders are against alcohol!)
  3. Beer is good for the worship. Have you ever heard drunk people sing? Of course you have! It’s about 80% of what drunk people do. They don’t do it well, no – but they do it with sincerity! With vocal chords and emotional capabilities lubricated by some good brew, the church’s worship would be amazing. It would be loud, brash, unashamed and totally in keeping with that unruly Holy Spirit. Liturgy would be shouted back at the minister. Hymns and choruses would sung on top of lungs along to bands unafraid to actually jam. And I can’t imagine what would happen in charismatic churches with all their tongue speaking and other pneumatalogical craziness.
  4. Beer is good for moral reflection. If you’re like 90% of Evangelicals, you’ve been taught that beer is bad. Consuming of alcohol is something that heathens and liberals do. But look at it this way: Drinking a beer is a physical manifestation of you re-evaluating your morals, of you thinking through, maybe for the first time, how you act out your faith. And it will be an entry into wider reflection, a small, very fun step in the direction of the examined life. And in light of the points raised previously, you’ll do it with your friends and you’ll have a great time.
  5. Keeping with the morals, beer supports Christian brothers and sisters. Or, more specifically, brothers. Some of the best beers in the world, Trappist beers in particular, are made by monks in Belgium and Holland. Trappist monastics brew this heavenly ales in order to keep their communities afloat and to support charitable causes. By buying Trappist beer you not only get some of the best tasting beer you’ll ever try, but you’ll also keep some of your brothers in Christ in their special monastic service.
  6. Beer will introduce you to the finer things in life. Not all beer will do this, granted, but if you do take my advice and buy some Trappist beer you will be introduced to a fascinating world of subtle flavours that will titillate your taste buds and satisfy your soul. Now, I’m not suggesting hedonism for it’s own vacuous sake. I’m suggesting that enjoying God’s gifts can be a worshipful activity and experience. Slowly savouring a glass of fine beer will inspire deep gratitude to the Lord for the blessings he has bestowed upon you, your ability to enjoy them and for existence itself. Fine beer will further introduce you to other tasty beverages like wine, whiskey, brandy and the like. Which means even more thanksgiving. This thanksgiving is great in solitude, but fantastic communally, with brothers and sisters in the church. Imagine a service of beer tasting. No, imagine the Eucharist with gourmet beer. Beautiful!

Speights and Barth on real men


Whether we’re talking of Monteiths, or Three Boys, or Emersons, or West Coast Brewing, New Zealand’s south island can boast being the home of some really decent beers (my own home brew included). One of the local favourites is Speights, whose Old Dark I’ve been enjoying of late. One of the most alluring features of Speights is their ad campaign, exploiting all the time-honoured associations between beer, horses, open spaces and ‘real’ men. Not only are there the amazing photos, (the ones of the river crossing and of the stag are two of my favourites) but one can also complete the Southern Man ID Chart, and sing the Southern Man Song which promotes:

Now I might not be rich
But I like things down here
We got the best looking girls
And the best damn beer
So you can keep your Queen City [Auckland]
With your cocktails and cool
Give me a beer in a seven
With the boys shooting pool

All part of what it means to be a ‘real’ man, right?

And then there’s Barth’s account in CD III/2 of what being a ‘real’ man looks like:

Real man lives with God as His covenant-partner. For God has created him to participate in the history in which God is at work with him and he with God; to be His partner in this common history of the covenant. He created him as His covenant-partner. Thus real man does not live a godless life – without God. A godless explanation of man, which overlooks the fact that he belongs to God, is from the very outset one which cannot explain real man, man himself. Indeed, it cannot even speak of him. It gropes past him into the void. It grasps only the sin in which he breaks the covenant with God and denies and obscures his true reality. Nor can it really explain or speak of his sin. For to do so it would obviously have to see him first in the light of the fact that he belongs to God, in his determination by the God who created him, and in the grace against which he sins. Real man does not act godlessly, but in the history of the covenant in which he is God’s partner by God’s election and calling. He thanks God for His grace by knowing Him as God, by obeying Him, by calling on Him as God, by enjoying freedom from Him and to Him. He is responsible before God, i.e., He gives to the Word of God the corresponding answer. That this is the case, that the man determined by God for life with God is real man, is decided by the existence of the man Jesus. Apart from anything else, this is the standard of what his reality is and what it is not. It reveals originally and definitively why God has created man. The man Jesus is man for God. As the Son of God He is this in a unique way. But as He is for God, the reality of each and every other man is decided. God has created man for Himself. And so real man is for God and not the reverse. He is the covenant-partner of God. He is determined by God for life with God. This is the distinctive feature of his being in the cosmos. – Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III.2 (ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance; trans. Harold Knight, et al.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1960), 203.

To be sure, I’ll keep enjoying my Old Dark, and Speights’ amazing pics, but as for me and my house (even though there’s been some question in the past about the manliness of my manhood), we’re going with Uncle Karl on this one.



July bests …

CalvinFrom the reading chair: Housekeeping: A Novel, and The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought, both by Marilynne Robinson; John Calvin as Teacher, Pastor, and Theologian: The Shape of His Writings and Thought, by Randall C. Zachman; Calvin, by Bruce Gordon; Calvin’s Preaching, by T.H.L. Parker; The Theology of John Calvin by Charles Partee; Why Go to Church?: The Drama of the Eucharist, by Timothy Radcliffe; Christian Worship in Reformed Churches Past and Present, edited by Lukas Vischer; Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ, by J. Todd Billings; Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin, and The Old Protestantism and the New: Essays on the Reformation Heritage, both by Brain A. Gerrish; and A Theology of Proclamation by Dietrich Ritschl. 

Through the iPod: Twist, by Dave Dobbyn; Bruckner’s Symphonies 1–9, by Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan; Troubadour, by George Strait; Lady Antebellum, by Lady Antebellum; My One and Only Thrill, by Melody Gardot; Worrisome Heart, by Melody Gardot.                                                

On the screen: Dogville; Frost/Nixon; Milk; The Pawnbroker; The War on Democracy; The Savages.

In the glass: Speight’s Old Dark.

January bests …

Best books: Wright, David F. and Gary D. Badcock, eds. Disruption to Diversity: Edinburgh Divinity, 1846-1996. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996; Alec C. Cheyne, The Transforming of the Kirk: Victorian Scotland’s Religious Revolution. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1983.

Best music: Parachute Band, Roadmaps and Revelations [2007].

Best films: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit [1990] ♦♦♦½ ; Ladri Di Biciclette [1948] ♦♦♦♦; and Gran Torino [2009] – a near-perfect film! ♦♦♦♦♦

Best drink: Monteith’s Rata Honey & Spice Flavoured Summer Ale (even Judy said it was OK!)

In praise of beer … some be[er]atitudes

  • Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer. – Dave Barry
  • Nothing quenches the thirst like a wheat beer, or sharpens the appetite like an India pale ale. Nothing goes as well with seafood as a dry porter or stout, or accompanies chocolate like an imperial stout. Nothing soothes like a barley wine. These are just a few of the specialty styles of beer. – Michael Jackson
  • So popular is beer, the world’s best-selling alcoholic drink, that it is often taken for granted. Yet scientific analysis shows that a glass of beer has within it as many aromas and flavors as fine wine. Not everyone understands this, but an increasing number of people do. – Michael Jackson
  • Whoever makes a poor beer is transferred to the dung-hill. – Edict, City of Danzig, 11th Century
  • Beer drinking doesn’t do half the harm as love-making. – Anonymous
  • Fermentation and civilization are inseparable. – John Ciardi (1916-1986)
  • Give me a woman who truly loves beer, and I will conquer the world. – Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941)
  • He who drinks beer sleeps well/He who sleeps well cannot sin/He who does not sin goes to heaven/Amen. – Unknown German Monk
  • It is better to think of church in the ale-house than to think of the ale-house in church. – Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  • The selling of bad beer is a crime against Christian love. – Law, the City of Augsburg, 13th Century
  • A good local pub has much in common with a church, except that a pub is warmer, and there’s more conversation. – William Blake
  • Beer is proof that God loves us. – Ben Franklin
  • It is my design to die in the brew-house; let ale be placed to my mouth when I am expiring, that when the choirs of angels come, they may say, “Be God propitious to this drinker.” – Saint Columbanus, AD 612
  • From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world. – Saint Arnoldus
  • God made yeast, as well as dough, and loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves vegetation. – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
  • There are more old drunks than old doctors. – Anonymous
  • Of doctors and medicines we have in plenty more than enough … what you may, for the Love of God, send is some large quantity of beer. – Dispatch from the Colony, New South Wales, 1854
  • The Puritanical nonsense of excluding children and therefore to some extent women from pubs has turned these places into mere boozing shops instead of the family gathering places that they ought to be. – George Orwell (1903-1950)
  • Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer. – Henry Lawson
  • Wine is but single broth, ale is meat, drink, and cloth. – 16th Century English Proverb
  • At social parties no gentleman ever thought of leaving the table sober; the host would have considered it a slight on his hospitality. – F.W. Hackwood, comment on manners, 18th Century England
  • Beer … “a high and mighty liquor.” – Julius Caesar
  • Of beer, an enthusiast has said that it could never be bad, but that some brands might be better than others. – A.A. Milne
  • Beer, of course, is actually a depressant, but poor people will never stop hoping otherwise. – Curt Vonnegut, Jr., Hocus Pocus, 1990
  • He is not deserving the name of Englishman who speaketh against ale, that is, good ale. – George Borrow (1803-1881)
  • Ere’s to English women an’ a quart of English beer. – Rudyard Kipling
  • For a quart of Ale is a dish for a King. – Shakespeare (A Winter’s Tale)
  • I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety. – William Shakespeare (King Henry V)
  • There’s nothing as heartening as the sight of an empty pub in the morning, the shelves full and everything spick and span before the barbarian hordes come in. Them that drinks bottles spoil the look of the shelves but draught is a different story – you never see the barrel going down. – Patrick McGinley
  • No poems can live long or please that are written by water-drinkers. – Horace 65-8 BC
  • Work is the curse of the drinking classes. – Oscar Wilde
  • When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading. – Henny Youngman
  • I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy. – Tom Waits
  • Beer is good food. – John Goodman
  • All other nations are drinking Ray Charles beer and we are drinking Barry Manilow. – Dave Barry
  • Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza. – Dave Barry’s Bad Habits
  • The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind. – Humphrey Bogart

    Photograph by Daniel Foucachon (

  • Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
  • Give a man a beer, and he wastes an hour, but teach a man how to brew, and he wastes a lifetime.
  • He that buys land buys many stones, He that buys flesh buys many bones, He that buys eggs buys many shells, But he that buys good ale buys nothing else. – John Ray
  • Draft beer, not people.
  • People who drink light ‘beer’ don’t like the taste of beer; they just like to pee alot. – Capital Brewery, Middleton
  • Beer will always have a definite role in the diet of an individual and can be considered a cog in the wheel of nutritional foods. – Bruce Carlton
  • No soldier can fight unless he is properly fed on beef and beer. – John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough
  • Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me. – Winston Churchill
  • Make sure that the beer – four pints a week – goes to the troops under fire before any of the parties in the rear get a drop. – Winston Churchill to his Secretary of War, 1944
  • ‘Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink.’ – Lady Astor to Winston Churchill; ‘Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it.’ – His reply
  • If God had intended us to drink beer, He would have given us stomachs. – David Daye
  • If you ever reach total enlightenment while drinking beer, I bet it makes beer shoot out your nose. – Deep Thought, Jack Handy
  • Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed – Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, ‘It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.’ – Deep Thought, Jack Handy
  • A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her. – W.C. Fields
  • Everybody has to believe in something. … I believe I’ll have another drink. – W.C. Fields
  • I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer. – Abraham Lincoln
  • We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old. – Martin Luther
  • Prohibition makes you want to cry into your beer and denies you the beer to cry into. – Don Marquis
  • Why is American beer served cold? So you can tell it from urine. – David Moulton
  • He was a wise man who invented beer. – Plato
  • I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer. – Homer Simpson
  • All right, brain, I don’t like you and you don’t like me – so let’s just do this and I’ll get back to killing you with beer. – Homer Simpson
  • I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day. – Frank Sinatra
  • [I recommend] … bread, meat, vegetables and beer. -Sophocles’ philosophy of a moderate diet
  • This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption … Beer! – Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Friar Tuck
  • Fermentation may have been a greater discovery than fire. – David Rains Wallace
  • Beer: So much more than just a breakfast drink. – Whitstran Brewery sign
  • You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline – it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. – Frank Zappa
  • It is disgusting to note the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects and the amount of money that goes out of the country in consequence. Everybody is using coffee. If possible, this must be prevented. My people must drink beer. – Frederick the Great
  • It was as natural as eating and, to me, as necessary. I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking a beer. – Ernest Hemingway
  • Keep your libraries, your penal institutions, your insane-asylums … give me beer. You think man needs rule, he needs beer. The world does not need morals, it needs beer … The souls of men have been fed with indigestibles, but the soul could make use of beer. – Henry Miller
  • In my opinion, most of the great men of the past were only there for the beer. – Alan John Percivale Taylor, British historian (1906-1990)
  • Nothing quenches the thirst like a Wheat Beer, or sharpens the appetite like an India Pale Ale. Nothing goes as well with seafood as a Dry Porter or Stout, or accompanies chocolate like an Imperial Stout. Nothing soothes like a Barley Wine. These are just a few of the specialty styles of beer.” – Michael Jackson
  • Malt does more than Milton can/To justify God’s ways to Man.- A.E. Housman

[If you know of any more notes of praise for ‘the world’s oldest and most consumed alcoholic beverage’ then post in the comments]