Saturday, April 13, 2013

FREE Bond Lectures on British Reformation History (and worth it!)

We all like free stuff, right? April 25-27 (Thursday 7:00. Friday: free spaghetti dinner, 5:45; lecture at 7:00. Saturday, free breakfast, 8:30; lecture at 9:30), Western Reformed Seminary has asked me to deliver three FREE lectures on “THE REFORMATION IN THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD: Why Every Generation Must Have Reformation.” (FREE!
St Andrews Castle with one of my students
and I promise--they'll be worth it!) This will be a mini course in British Reformation history, accompanied by lots of on-location photography from my tours. I'm giving away 6 FREE copies of THE THUNDER, my recent biographical novel on John Knox. I will also have postcards and information about the forthcoming KNOX at 500 Scotland Tour 2014 (registrations are already coming in for this once-in-500-years opportunity). It should be a grand time, open to the public (including free Friday spaghetti dinner and a breakfast Saturday morning). More information:

The Ronald W. Taber Lectures each year emphasize our Reformed theology and heritage, and their application to the world. This year well known traveler and author Douglas Bond (see his website) will be speaking on “THE REFORMATION IN THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING WORLD: Why Every Generation Must Have Reformation.” With his excellent photographs he will provide a “virtual tour” of interesting and important places in England and Scotland.

Thursday-Saturday, April 25-27

THURSDAY NIGHT, 7:00 p.m., “Reformation in England” (Early Stirrings: Bradwardine and Wycliffe. 16th-Century Reformation: Latimer, Cranmer, Ridley)

FRIDAY NIGHT, 7:00 p.m., “Reformation in Scotland” (Early Stirrings: Patrick Hamilton and Wishart. 16th and 17th-Centuries: John Knox and the Covenanters) (Free Spaghetti in the Spring dinner at 5:45 prior to the lecture)

SATURDAY MORNING, 9:30-11:30 a.m., “Reformational Psalms and Hymns in English: The central role of singing in the Reformation” (Free breakfast at 8:30 prior to the lecture)

Monday, April 8, 2013

INKBLOTS Cannonballs at Poolside

A Carl metaphor for the evening
INKBLOTS Tax Time (most writers don't have to worry over much about taxes from too much income--keep your day job)

I summarized in brief a lengthy discussion I had over the last week or two with another author on story and message. We have 8 men tonight and several white wine options to share. Valuable discussion, ranging widely from cannonballs in the pool, to Mongols and Puritans, evolution and swearing in fiction.

Patrick led off with update on his graphic novel and finding a wonderful artist for it. She is not a Christian and loves the story (including the "religious elements") but thinks that Patrick is a sexist based on how he portrays women. He read the most critical moment in the story, as he feels it. Goodwin is fearless in the face of immortal forces. I love Patrick’s Job allusions. "Everyone is insane and everyone must learn... something, the name of the insanity he chooses..." Solomon allusions. Believing in nothing or believe on the Lord Jesus, but the antagonist thinks this is just another insanity, one that might give some comfort in the valley of the shadow of death but still just another madness. This is an intriguing dialogue. Goodwin is confronted with an arch critic of Jesus, who says if Jesus was here he would chop off his head and put it in a jar. Godwin unmasks the antagonist's primal hatred of Jesus and Christianity, revealing that maybe his insistence that all is insanity including Christianity is merely a smoke screen to vent his hatred of Christ. Does it need more stage direction for the visuals, since it is a graphic novel. Tim said Patrick's writing reminded him of the long passage dialogue in Perelandra, by CS Lewis. Question asked about the genre and the juxtaposing of Puritans and Mongols; can you do that in this genre? In a graphic novel you can draw people in with bazaar visuals. I think I mentioned before that Patrick's tone reminds me of Lewis's Till We Have Faces.

Adam just jumped in with reading. No prelude, no explanatory, just reading. Maybe it's because Adam is distracted with getting engaged this last week! Congratulations! They met while performing in a theater production and he proposed on a pass between Germany and Austria; they met performing in The Sound of Music! I hear theatrical in Adam's writing, sort of Agatha Christy-esque. I like how clipped and to the point your writing is developing. Didn't we sort of beat you up for affected prose before? This moves rapid pace, yet with local color. I looked around the room at the others. I don't think one of us wanted Adam to stop reading. This is a good sign. A daft old gentleman, and a married couple, oddly and variously matched. All set in the context of cemetery caretakers, or is it undertakers. Characters all odd ducks. Why were the people doing what they are doing. Harold and Maud film, Carl brings this up. Cat Stevens in it, hearse, love with a woman 60 years his senior. Clean prose, vivid description, but rapid pace for the tale. Intriguing crime fiction underway. This feels like a fiction triumph underway. Funeral talk ensued.

John Schrupp tells about Pastor Carl's first funeral service. Funeral for a septic tank. Carl still training for the marathon--brutal training in the rain and after the eating of Easter.

Shane got a piece published on So that's good success. He wrote a speech for SeaPack and got zip, but this site picked up and posted his article (he pointed out that it was no pay and online, but nevertheless, published after a technological fashion). Promote but not provide for the general welfare. Central importance of liberty of individuals to create and be productive. The less liberty the less prosperity. Government intervention enervates productivity. Self interest is the best ensurer of productivity and opportunity for all. This is a passionate piece, explaining why he is a conservative, to preserve the greatest ideas in the history of mankind. 700 words, moved in a clipped, to the point manner. Could Shane anchor this piece with contrasts in European politics? Discussion of the difference between anarchists and libertarians. Apex of liberty, the title of the article. So not possible to have absolute liberty if there is more than one person on the planet. Shane makes the point that libertarians, in his opinion, are flawed on the nature of man. Shane then shifted gears and read a poem exploring the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Which reminded me of Lewis's Evolutionary Hymn:
Lead us, Evolution, lead us
Up the future's endless stair;
Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.
For stagnation is despair:
Groping, guessing, yet progressing,
Lead us nobody knows where.

Wrong or justice, joy or sorrow,
In the present what are they
while there's always jam-tomorrow,
While we tread the onward way?
Never knowing where we're going,
We can never go astray.

To whatever variation
Our posterity may turn
Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,
Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,
Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,
Towards that unknown god we yearn...

Carl, the proud owner of six baby chicks (hey, the guy has a church full of farmers--I think he's just trying to fit in), is not reading about animals tonight! I'm leaving! I love Carl's Herriet-esque devotional pastoral reflections. This is about his bride and his eleven year journey of developing convictions. The East Coast version of themselves would laugh at the West Coast version of themselves. Carl realizes that his developing convictions can deflect from the gospel; he sees it in himself and in others. Grumbling results. Great images. Cannonballs at the pool, soaking everyone else with their grumbling splashing. Rolled out the red carpet, inviting others to grumble with him. Carl admits that he too often fails to listen and draw out the other person's challenges, preferring rather to pontificate and solve the problem. They ask a simple question about where to eat and he launches into a erudite treatise on nutrition or the family table. First and last is the gospel. He wants his heart, hand and mouth to be riveted on the gospel, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. 

This is what I love about Carl. He reads and we almost entirely forget about the writing process. We are drawn to lift our gaze from the lint accumulating in our navels and get on topic. Love it. The issue is not the issue. The problem is not the real problem. Carl so wants to listen better and begin to get down to the real issue, pull that out. This guy's church is blessed to have a pastor who thinks this way, who examines himself like this and clings to Christ for grace to listen, love, and care for the one who has issues (which is all of us, especially those of us who think we don't).

Tim (first-time 'Blot), reads chapter one of a book he is working on. I missed the names at the very beginning of the chapter. Fountain feels like it will collect meaning and maybe develop into a symbol. Changers, Eagle and Lion. Black paws. Sitting at a cafe, the fountain gurgling in the background. I feel like there is pretty dense description but a lack of action (and a clear lens through which to see it all). I feel like something ought to be about to happen, but I am not sure what or when or to whom; I need to know whose fortunes I most need to care about. I think the pace might be the problem. Where is this in the novel? That might help me. Our constant challenge in 'Blots is only getting the snippet, not the bigger story context. Here's what I think might rivet my attention: a clearer point of view through which I the reader am observing the action. I need a place to stand, eyes with which to see the fascinating details. Patrick suggested a clearer sense of what the conflict is, but then you launched into the history, and broke away from the focus of the conflict. Shane suggested need for shape shifters to be better defined.

What followed was a discussion about swearing in fiction. When is it appropriate and what is appropriate? For me, the big question is does it entice the reader to ape the language used, and the writer, thereby, because an instrument of leading someone into temptation. Not for me. There is a line I never cross. I never take the Lord's name in vain, ever. Period. Verisimilitude be -----!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Was TOPLADY a theological monster or a saint? Find out in my new biography

New book with Evangelical Press (UK)
I was so blessed in writing this concise biography of Augustus Toplady. Visit my TOPLADY web page featuring other readings and more on my new book AUGUSTUS TOPLADY, Debtor to Mercy Alone, now available with Evangelical Press. After you read the Introduction posted there, listen to an audio excerpt from chapter 4. Read an excerpt below on this post from the chapter that picks up right after the audio. 
"I vividly recall the sweetness and joy of Toplady's diary when I first read it more than twenty years ago now. Douglas Bond has ably captured the man and his faith in this brief biography. Warmly recommended!" Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History, Southern Seminary. 


You can order a signed copy of the book at my webstore,, or you can order a hard copy or Kindle edition at TOPLADY.
A Praying Life
“My God, I want the inwrought prayer,” cried Toplady, “the prayer of the heart, wrought in the soul by the Holy Ghost.” So much of the recorded praying of Toplady reflects just that, praying from the lips of a man who is filled with the Holy Spirit, whose prayers are being sanctified by the immediate presence of the God to whom he is praying. Thankfully for us, Toplady developed the habit of copying down his prayers probably as he prayed them. But there is nothing of the pompous Pharisee strutting in prayer to be seen or heard by men. His prayers are the kind of Psalm-like communing with God every Christian desires.
But let’s face it, communing with God, the activity that occupied so much of Toplady’s days and hours, is profoundly foreign to most of us. When we do get around to quieting our hearts and falling to our knees in prayer, one distraction after another begins its assault on our receiving consciousness. A text message warbles in our pocket. The telephone rings, and we strain to recognize the voice leaving a message. The computer intones the audio signal that a new email has just arrived. We wonder who it’s from. An aid vehicle roars by, siren blaring. A sleepy child crawls onto our back for a cuddle. The hotpot clicks off and we begin hastily rifling out our petitions so as to get the tea steeping while the water is at its hottest. Tea is always better when the water is at its hottest.
If me manage to negotiate the minefield of information technology and toddlers, and we actually get around to praying for real needs, we may find ourselves—often long minutes later—musing on how those parents could have let their son or daughter get involved with the wrong crowd in the first place. Clearly they messed up. If only they had raised their children the way we have raised ours. And when we finally shake our self free of those thoughts, and return shamefaced again to confession and asking for still more forgiveness, there’s the particular problem men have with praying. We men think we can take care of things, solve the problem. We don’t like stopping and asking for help. We can handle this. We’re men. It’s what we do.
When we attempt to get down to the serious business of praying, at best we are too hasty, and at worst we may actually be taking the Lord’s name in vain and compounding our sinning. It is for these reasons that Toplady’s praying is so valuable for distracted moderns. Though many of our 21st century distractions would have been completely foreign to Toplady, we should not fool ourselves. He was a man subject to many of the same challenges we face with prayer. “Was afflicted with wandering in private prayer. Lord, melt down my icy heart, and grant me to wait upon thee.” How often would Toplady’s confession not be an accurate description of our praying life? And like you and me, this would not be the last time he would have reason to long for greater constancy in prayer. In a diary entry dated Monday, December 14, 1767, he reminds us that neglecting prayer has direct consequences:   
Before I came out of my chamber today, I was too hasty and short in private prayer. My conscience told me so at the time; and yet, such was my ingratitude and my folly, that I nevertheless restrained prayer before God. In the course of the day, I had great reason to repent of my first sin, by being permitted to fall into another.
It is just, O Lord, that thou shouldest withdraw thy presence from one who waited so carelessly on thee. May I never more, on any pretext whatever, rob thee (or rather, deprive my own soul) of thy due worship; but make all things else give way to communion with thee!
In a culture destroying itself with the cult of self-esteem, Toplady often prayed in a way that sounds foreign to our ears:
Who am I, O Lord? The weakest and vilest of all thy called ones: not only the least of saints, but the chiefest of sinners. But though a sinner, yet sanctified, in part, by the Holy Ghost given unto me. I should wrong the work of His grace upon my heart, were I to deny my regeneration: but, Lord, I wish for a nearer conformity to thy image.
So unaccustomed are we to hearing someone speak of himself as “the weakest and vilest of all thy called ones,” we might be tempted to dismiss Toplady’s self-deprecation as false humility, an elaborate charade...