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Saturday Review 3 – Endeavour; Mary Queen of Scots; John Owen; Brendan O’Neill Podcast; The Bothy Band; Berties

Each week this review looks at different aspects of culture

Film:  Mary Queen of Scots

I have reviewed this film in more detail for the Spectator (in Australia) and will post it when they publish it next week.  But for now let me summarise it in this way – This is a shallow, superficial and silly film – its not suitable for Christians (or anyone)  because of its explicit sex scenes. This is a quote from the review

I want to see a film about Mary Queen of Scots, the 16th Century and all the complexities involved. I don’t want to see, as another reviewer put it, “a woke queen, spouting proto-feminist dialogue, keeping a racially diverse court, embracing all religions and her courtiers’ gender fluidity.”


Book: John Owen Vol 9 – Sermons to the Church

41BRiwxXbpL._AC_US218_This has been my companion for the past three months.  It is, as it says, a book of sermons to the church.  It is typical Owen.  Needs to be read slowly and thoughtfully.  I found it incredibly helpful and as always with Owen, it brought me Christ.  Again I will write a fuller review but here is a taster:

“Some write of how little use the person of Christ is in religion; – none, but to declare the doctrine of the gospel to us.  Consider the preaching and talk of men.  You have much preaching and discourse about virtue and vice; so it was among the philosophers of old; but Jesus Christ is laid aside, quite as a thing forgotten; as if he was of no use, no consideration in religion; as if men knew not at all how to make any use of him, as to living to God” (p369).


TV: Endeavour –

It is unusual to have both a post series and a prequel being as good as the original series.  I loved Inspector Morse and have all of them on a box set.  I thought the follow up – Lewis’ would be useless and didn’t initially bother – but when I did I thought it was as good as, if not better than the original.  Endeavour is a prequel to Morse – it has been so successful (watched by millions) that it is just about to enter its sixth series.  Set primarily in Oxford, the young Morse played superbly by Shaun Evans, develops his career as a policeman.  This is intelligent and thoughtful drama at its best.  The setting, acting, writing, character development and plots are of the highest standard.  For me the icing on the cake is the music by Barrington Pheloung.


Podcast: Brendan O’Neill

I usually listen to podcasts when I am walking to earth – there are very few that I listen to introducing-the-brendan-oneill-show-600x525all of them – but Brendan O’Neills new podcast  is one.  Every one of the five episodes so far has been outstanding.  Lionel Schriver, Rod Liddle, Jonathan Haidt, Tony Abbott and Toby Young were all fascinating interviews.  There is a great deal to learn about your society and a great deal of wisdom.  Always stimulating, insightful  and with much to disagree with as well.  Highly recommended


Album:  The Bothy Band

Out of the Wind, Into the Sun (1977)   is an album that I still have on vinyl – as well as on CD and digital.  I never get tired of listening to it – and this track, the Maids of Mitchelstown, is still chills and moves me.


Restaurant:  Berties

berties-logoI use TripAdvisor and contribute towards it. I find it helpful to read what others say about restaurants.  Of course Edinburgh is full of good places to eat – but when I go through to Presbytery or to the Scottish parliament we like to meet up for a quick ‘tea’.  Berties is a new ‘fih ‘n’ chips’ restaurant on Victoria St, literally just across from St Columbas.  I visited here for the first time this week with Bob Akroyd and Roger Carswell.  Here is the Trip Advisor review:

This is a new restaurant – just off the Royal Mile and very handy for me as I sometimes work at Edinburgh Theological Seminary/the Free Church offices on The Mound. We came here before a meeting and it was excellent. The ambience and decor are great. The fish and chips (especially the chips) were some of the best I have ever had. And the service was outstanding – as an evangelist of the Christian Gospel I know what good news is – and I know that it really helps if you want to communicate that news if you actually believe it. The staff here were very enthusiastic about their product and clearly believed in it. I’ve forgotten their names but they are one of the reasons I hope to return soon….very impressed.

The Saturday Review (2) – The Scots in China; The Old Man and the Gun; Logic on Fire; Romans 9 – God’s Sovereign Purpose;




  1. “I want to see a film about Mary Queen of Scots, the 16th Century and all the complexities involved. I don’t want to see, as another reviewer put it, “a woke queen, spouting proto-feminist dialogue, keeping a racially diverse court, embracing all religions and her courtiers’ gender fluidity.”

    I think you were looking for a documentary then. History is always read from the point of view of the prevailing attitudes of the time so I’m not sure why it should be less so in a Hollywood blockbuster where the main aim is entertainment and storytelling rather than fact-telling. Braveheart for example was widely innacurate and yet was used by a wave of North American Christians in the early 2000’s to support a version of pop-psychology ‘Christian’ masculinity (see John Eldredge “Wild at Heart”).

    1. I don’t take such a cynical postmodern view of history…..there are good historians and good histories….which is why I contrasted Antonia Fraser’s biography and this film.

      1. I obviously look forward to the full review which I’m sure mentions Antonia Fraser’s biography. I wouldn’t call it cynical, it is a Hollywood film who’s main purpose is to tell a story, not present absolute fact and to make money any story must be relevant to the times. You say that there are good histories and historians but that requires a value judgement, what makes them good? As much as people would like to think they are objective, that kind of judgement is always colored to some extent by our own worldviews. That’s not a bad thing.

      2. If you keep up with the blog you will see that the full review has now been published.. Your notion that good can only be determined by a value judgement which is personal is indicative of how far we have gone down the post-modern rabbit hole. But you are right about my worldview – I do judge things by that. My worldview is that there is such a thing as truth, rationality, historical facts etc. Thats not a bad thing. (ironic that in arguing against the idea of absolute good you state as an absolute that its not a bad thing that ‘good is subjective – is that statement absolute or just meaningless waffle governed by your subjectivist worldview?!)

  2. “to make money any story must be relevant to the times.” I don’t see why that has to be necessarily so but supposing that it is, does that justify giving a version of the past which is completely different from what actually happened? Suppose that the producer had said that most people nowadays travel between countries by plane so to make the story ‘relevant’ he has Mary returing to Scotland by plane and landing at Edinburgh airport. And instead of Riccio being stabbed to death he is shot by a Kalshnikov rifle. Or better still, he is killed by secret agents using some deadly nerve agent. Meanwhile Mary is busily texting frantic messages to her supporters while Bothwell gets into his 4×4 to drive to her side. The closing scene, of course, would show Mary dying in her bed because capital punishment has been abolished.

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