15 December 2006

Where I am Right Now, Part 143

Is my solipsism showing again?
by Phil Johnson

ell, Darlene and I are back from the UK, and coming home reminds me why I don't like to travel for more than 2-3 days at a time (especially in December). My desk is piled high with stuff I need to do immediately. I brought home a chest cold and a case of fatigue (or jet lag, or something) that is making it hard for me to think straight after 5:00 PM.

But I wanted to list some of the highlights of our UK visit:

  • First, I'll give the obligatory disaster rundown. Last year I blogged about how bad things happen when I go places. In a different post, I chronicled and documented an amazing string of six earthquakes that followed me from continent to continent over three years' time. For years now, whenever I have returned from traveling, people who know me always ask what disaster accompanied me.
         On this trip, we encountered a freak tornado. It went over our heads like a freight train while I was at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, meeting with Dr. Peter Masters.
  • We also had a drunk and disorderly man two rows away from us on our flight home who had to be subdued, handcuffed, and duct-taped to a back-row seat for most of the 11-hour flight home. That incident delayed our arrival, because the FBI and LAPD needed to meet the flight and remove the miscreant before anyone else could deplane. But that was more annoying than truly "disastrous."
  • Spurgeon was hereSpeaking of Dr. Masters, he kindly arranged for me to examine a priceless file full of handwritten letters from Charles Spurgeon, mostly pastoral letters written to the congregation at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
         The collection included all the weekly letters he wrote from Mentone, France, in 1891-92, in those final weeks before his untimely death in a Mentone hotel, January 31, 1892. They are tender and touching letters, but reading them in sequence mostly helped make me aware of the unbelievable amount of constant pain and discomfort Spurgeon endured from gout and other complications of kidney disease, on top of the oppressive sense of stress he felt after being shunned by so many of his friends and fellow ministers in the Down Grade controversy.
         The pain is clearly reflected in the letters, and holding these documents and reading the words in Spurgeon's own handwriting made for an unforgettable evening. I managed to get excellent scans of five of the most important letters. If I had the time, I would have scanned them all. I'd post one of the scans, but I don't know if these letters have ever been published before, and I don't want to violate any copyright that might belong to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, so I need to wait and ask permission before doing anything with them.
         I told Dr. Masters I was tempted to steal a letter or two, but I managed to mortify my flesh in the nick of time.
  • Speaking of Spurgeon, I made my first visit to the Helensburgh House on Nightingale Road in Clapham. That house, with some modifications, is the same one Spurgeon lived in for most of his ministry in London. It's called "Queen Elizabeth House" today, but the above plaque commemorating Spurgeon marks it as his famous home. It's literally within walking distance of where my friend (and frequent Pyro-commenter) Doug McMasters now lives. Doug was recently called to pastor Trinity Road Chapel in Tooting, a historic church with a close connection to Spurgeon.
Helensburgh House in Spurgeon's time
Helensburgh House in Spurgeon's time
Helensburgh House today
Helensburgh House today

  • I rarely get sick, but it seems when I do, it's after I've been on a long flight, breathing those recycled germs in a compressed airliner. Within 24 hours of our arrival in Britain, I had symptoms of laryngitis and a head cold. The night before the "Men of Kent" conference, I went to bed very early, wanting to rest my voice so that the laryngitis wouldn't keep me from speaking at the conference that brought me to England in the first place.
         Just the day before, I had received and printed out the draft of several chapters from a book John Piper is working on in response to N. T. Wright on the doctrine of justification by faith. So I started reading it. I couldn't put it down and wound up staying up late anyway. The book is unfinished and Piper is currently working on other things.
         Since it's not ready for publication yet, I can't quote from the book and won't say much about it except to say that Piper's defense of sola fide and his exposition of the ramifications of divine grace literally moved me to tears. It's an excellent, irenic, thoughtful, informed, thoroughly biblical, and fair response to Wright. I've done a couple of one-hour seminars examining Wright's statements on justification. In the process I've read carefully what Wright has written on the subject, and I have thought for many hours—no, many months—about the subject. But Piper's book made points and highlighted things that have never occurred to me. Piper's analysis of Wright is a thousand times better than my measly efforts. I learned a lot from Piper about this whole controversy, and I can't wait to see his book completed and in print. Keep an eye out for it.
         When the final manuscript is ready, I hope to get a copy I can review and preview here.
  • I met the esteemed Dr. Adrian Warnock again. Same place as last time: Starbucks in the lower level of Waterloo Station.
         He has posted his notes and a photo from our meeting at his blog. He has also posted this video, which Darlene took with Adrian's really cool camera. As always, I enjoyed the time with him and wish it could have been longer. But he is gainfully employed in the real world and like me is not really a full-time blogger. So we only had about an hour together.
         We discussed the difficulty of blogging with a real job on the side, controversy in the blogosphere, our respective styles and different approaches to certain issues and people, and the problem of troublesome commenters who seem to aim at being irksome. If you're wondering whether we talked about you or not, we probably did. We did not argue about the charismatic issue. (There wasn't nearly enough time for that, or we would have, I'm sure.)
         But Adrian revealed to the world during my visit that he is about to be a father once more. Congratulations to him and Mrs. Warnock.

There's prolly more I could say about the past two weeks, but this is enough for now. I have some thoughts about evangelicalism in the UK that I want to crystallize and post one of these days, but not today.

I also have two important articles due this week, plus all the urgent stuff that stacked up whilst I was gone, so don't expect much more from me this week.

It's good to be home.

Phil's signature


Ebeth said...

It's good to have you home.

candy said...

Of COURSE a freak tornado would go by. Ummm...no plans to come to Reno right? We actually have a fault line that runs by the edge of the Sierra's that hasn't been active for some time...

Nicholas Z. Cardot said...

Is your travel predicament sort of like the opposite of the midas touch. Instead of turning things to gold you turn up disasters wherever you go?

Anyways, I really enjoy your blog.

Jake said...

"...in those final weeks before his untimely death in a Mentone hotel, January 31, 1992."

Wait a second! Spurgeon lived that long? And no one told me? Sheesh! This is bigger than Elvis still being alive!

Phil Johnson said...

Jake & Kristin: "Wait a second! Spurgeon lived that long?"

Good eye. You want a job proofreading?

Jake said...

"Good eye. You want a job proofreading?"

since I just graduated with an M.A. in English, and the only job I can land is working in a restaurant...sure..I'll proofread!=)

Paul said...

"I have some thoughts about evangelicalism in the UK "

I'm sure many of us in the UK will appreciate your thoughts. I do hope that this proposed post does make it to the Blogsphere.

Martin Downes said...


I echo Paul's comment. Don't leave it too long.

James Scott Bell said...

Phil, I arrived London as you left! Yesterday, went down to pay my respects to Westminster Chapel (G. Campbell Morgan, Martyn Lloyd-Jones). No drunken man on our flight over, but BBC reports this morning a drunken man delayed trains by passing out on the rails last night.

Keeping a blog going with all that you do is an amazing thing, and much appreciated by so many of us.

Remember to drink up the Airborne on those plane flights!

FX Turk said...

I personally missed you, and as you can see Dan and I (well, me anyway) didn't post nearly half as much as we (I) should have here without you beating us like copy writers for a weekly tabloid.

Not that you have ever beaten us like copywriters. That anyone can prove.

Kim said...

It's nice to have both you and Darlene back.

As someone who also winds up with a cold after flying, I sympathize with your health issues. Hope you are feeling 100% again soon.

FX Turk said...

I also have suggestions about how to stay healthy on those trans-atlantic flights.

[1] Drink plenty of fluids prior to leaving, and bring your own bottle of water for in-flight slaking of thirst. That way you don't have to handle anything on the airplane except the restroom.

[2] Bring disinfecting wipes and wipe down all the touchable surfaces on your seat. It looks like you'rea a crazy person, but the way to avoid germs is really not avoiding breathing them in: it's avoiding getting them on your hands, with which you will ultimately touch your eyes, nose or mouth -- and that's how the germs get you.

[3] Eat the plane food at your own risk. That is, if you pack a bottle of water, pack a small picnic as well. It's not like you're going to be working out or anything on the plane, so two small meals prepared in your kitchen are less likely to have a sick person touch them than whatever happens on those trans-atlantic jets.

These suggestions are derivatives of suggestions I have garnered from the likes of Margaret Becker and other people who travel a lot, shake a lot of hands, and never seem to get sick. Clean hands, disinfectant, avoid touching eyes/mouth/nose, eat food you know where it came from.

Kay said...

This has been a public service message from your friendly polemical pyromaniacs.

Beth said...

Next time you fly try that saline nasal spray- keeping your mucous membranes moist helps prevent viruses and bacteria from penetrating that barrier. Planes are very, very dry.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Good to have you back, Phil. I would have loved to look at those archives with you. What a privilege!

Carla Rolfe said...

I had to look up solipsism to find out if yours was showing or not. I was hoping that if it was a bad thing, it wasn't showing.

I was relieved. And no, you're not self-absorbed it's good to read about your travels, especially that you & Darlene are home safe and sound. :o)

We all missed you! And for the record, you and Darlene can bring a natural disaster with you when you come to Toronto, Kim and I wont care, as long as we get to visit first.


candy said...

Cent. Your advice is sound. Too bad one can't take bottled water and food on airplanes anymore (last time I checked).

Also. Take Airborne or ColdEze. Lots of zinc before and during your flight.

Fred Butler said...

Did that tornado tear up any English side trailer parks when it hit?


Unknown said...

Your take ok UK evangelicalism would be very welcome, don't delay!

Ebeth said...

Now that you are home, can we expect otherwise inexplicable weather events?

Kevin Stilley said...

Hey Phil, I went back and read your "bad things happen when I go places" post. You left out one of the best ones. As I remember it, it was about 1995 or 1996 and I believe you were flying back from Australia. You asked for hot sauce with your meal and shortly thereafter started having severe stomach pains. If I remember right it turned out to be a gastric tear though everyone initially thought it was appendicitis.

Ebeth said...

I remember a trip from India in 1997 which included several complications and the removal of your gall bladder as emergency surgery. Once you were even allowed off of the plane. Fuzzy memory brings up a terrorist note on the plane. Is any of this accurate?

Kevin Stilley said...

ebeth's memory is better than mine. I think we are speaking of the same incident.

4given said...

--3 children in 4 years.
--green felt pens.
--your wife's sweet chuckle at the mention of your writing style.
--the bonus of no deadlines in blogging.

The video is priceless. Thanks for sharing.

Carla... that pic of you is way too adorable for the blogosphere. :-)

Phil Johnson said...

Kevin Stilley and Ebeth:

The story of that incident is so well-publicized I didn't think to mention it.

Connie said...

I think one thing that makes posts like this so enjoyable is getting to see/hear about our brothers and sisters in X in other countries--natives and visitors!

Your thoughts regarding the state of evangelicals in the UK will be of great interest to me, as we have recently become well acquainted with a couple from the UK. Would be nice to better understand what is or isn't going on in the Church there.