Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Journal of Biblical Counseling 26, 2 (2012)

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling is now available online in its entirety as a pdf (here), containing the following pieces:
David Powlison
From the Editor’s Desk: In It for Good
Featured Articles
Timothy S. Lane
Godly Intoxication: The Church Can Minister to Addicts
Winston T. Smith
What’s Right about Sex?
David Powlison
How Does Scripture Change You?
Counselor’s Toolbox
Aaron Sironi and Michael R. Emlet
Evaluating a Person with Suicidal Desires
Paul David Tripp
What to Say to a Teenager in Crisis
Lives in Process
My Virtual Refuge
Active Love: A New Way of Living
Book Reviews

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 17.0

Here is the seventeenth in an ongoing of notes by Byron Borger on recent books, including a new one by R. Paul Stevens on Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture, and a collection of essays I’ve been looking forward to ever since I heard about it a few years back, edited by Craig Bartholomew and David Beldman, Hearing the Old Testament: Listening for God’s Address.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Credo Magazine 2, 3 (May 2012)

The next issue of Credo is now out, this one devoted to the topic of ‘Chosen by Grace’.
According to the editorial blurb:
‘The biblical doctrine of election is offensive. It collides with our demand for human autonomy. It removes our will from the throne. And it exposes our nakedness, revealing us to be the sinners that we truly are, undeserving of divine grace and mercy.
‘But when our eyes are opened to its glory, we begin to see that the doctrine of election leads us to worship, praise, and give thanks to our Sovereign Lord...’
The magazine is available to read here, and can be downloaded as a 20.8 MB pdf from a link on this page.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Christian Medical Fellowship

The Christian Medical Fellowship, formed in 1949 and currently with over 4,000 UK doctors and around 1,000 UK medical students as members, has a helpful 4-minute video introduction here (or here on its own site) to its work.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Tyndale Bulletin 63, 1 (May 2012)

The latest issue of Tyndale Bulletin has arrived, containing the following collection of articles and dissertation summaries.
Michael J. Kruger
The Definition of the Term ‘Canon’: Exclusive Or Multi-Dimensional?
There has been an ongoing debate amongst biblical scholars about how to define the term ‘canon’. In recent years, one particular definition – that canon can only be used to refer to books in a fixed, final, closed list – has emerged as the dominant one. Moreover, some scholars have argued that this is the only legitimate definition that can be used. This essay suggests that a single definition fails to capture the depth and breadth of canon and may end up bringing more distortion than clarification. Instead, the complexities of canon are best captured through using multiple definitions in a complementary and integrative manner.
John A. Davies
Heptadic Verbal Patterns in the Solomon Narrative of 1 Kings 1-11
The narrative in 1 Kings 1-11 makes use of the literary device of sevenfold lists of items and sevenfold recurrences of Hebrew words and phrases. These heptadic patterns may contribute to the cohesion and sense of completeness of both the constituent pericopes and the narrative as a whole, enhancing the readerly experience. They may also serve to reinforce the creational symbolism of the Solomon narrative and in particular that of the description of the temple and its dedication.
Matthew C. Easter
‘Certainly this Man was Righteous’: Highlighting a Messianic Reading of the Centurion’s Confession in Luke 23:47
This essay expands on common readings of the centurion’s confession of Jesus as dikaios (‘righteous’, ‘innocent’) in Luke 23:47. Many interpreters take the centurion’s words in Luke as his recognition of Jesus’ political innocence. While not denying a Lukan insistence on Jesus’ innocence, this essay argues for a fuller reading of the centurion’s words that accounts for the christological potential in his calling Jesus dikaios. Whether historically-speaking he knew it or not, this centurion in Luke’s narrative world stands as one of the first people to recognise the crucified Jesus as the Christ.
Michael A. Harbin
The Manumission of Slaves in Jubilee and Sabbath Years
Debt in the Old Testament economy was problematic, and our understanding of it is even more problematic, especially with respect to debt slavery. It is suggested that several common misunderstandings have contributed greatly to the problem. First, the Hebrew word ‘ebed can be translated servant or slave and in the latter case it can denote both debt slave and chattel slave. In many cases there is a failure to make these distinctions. Second, there is a tendency to categorise all debt the same, regardless of the size. Third, a misunderstanding of the purpose of the jubilee has led to confusion regarding its role with respect to slavery and the manumission of slaves. Specifically, while the sabbath year guidelines included debt slavery, the jubilee by its nature did not involve slavery at all. Because the land ‘sale’ was really a land-lease, there was no debt involved, and the Israelite who ‘sold’ his land was not enslaved. It is then suggested that one option for the Israelite who ‘bought’ the land was to employ the ‘seller’ to work the land as a hired hand, which would explain the admonition that he was not be viewed as a slave.
Debbie Hunn
Pistis Christou in Galatians: The Connection to Habakkuk 2:4
The coherence of Paul’s argument in Galatians 2:15-3:14 depends upon strong links among the pistis phrases. Therefore the reader who understands a single use of pistis in the passage can correctly infer basic aspects of the others. Therefore ek pistews in Habakkuk 2:4, because it is cited in Galatians 3:11, informs the discussion about pistis Christou in Galatians 2:16, 20; and an Old Testament prophet speaks in a present-day controversy. Habakkuk, by using ek pistews to refer to the faith of Gentiles, testifies that pistis Christou in Galatians refers to human faith as well.
Scott D. Mackie
Early Christian Eschatological Experience in the Warnings and Exhortations of the Epistle to the Hebrews
This essay examines the characteristics and rhetorical function of the many eschatological experiences found in Hebrews’ warnings against apostasy and exhortations to persevere. In these two contexts we see the vital connection of the author’s hortatory effort to the community’s eschatological experiences. Warnings of the dire consequences of forsaking the community are often substantiated by appeals to the community’s eschatological experiences, both past and present. Similarly, exhortations to persevere are frequently supported by reminders of past and present supernatural experiences. The primary experiential motif found in these exhortations pertains to the community’s identity as the family of God. This essay concludes with the novel claim that the author’s Christological doctrine, hortatory effort, and the community’s eschatological experiences are mutually interdependent.
Andrew Harker
The Affective Directives of the Book of Revelation
In contemporary study of the Johannine Apocalypse both at the academic and popular levels there continues to be a strong bias towards questions of hermeneutics and semantics. This is true despite the calls of many commentators and pastors over the last two millennia to receive the prophecy as pictures to move the heart rather than puzzles to tease the mind. This paper adds volume and clarity to their call. The approach here is an emic one – How does the text itself invite the recipient to engage with its words? Picking up on J.-P. Ruiz’s suggestion that Revelation is punctuated by ‘hermeneutical imperatives’ (sc. Rev. 1:3; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9-10, 18; 17:9; 22:7, 18-19), this article argues that these texts are just as much, if not more, ‘affective imperatives’ or better ‘affective directives’. Thus to read the book in line with its own explicit directions is much more a matter of being moved at the level of the heart and will than of solving a hermeneutical conundrum.
Peter H.W. Lau
Back Under Authority: Towards an Evangelical Postcolonial Hermeneutic
A postcolonial approach is gaining acceptance by many scholars as a fruitful way of interpreting the Bible. Yet a postcolonial approach raises issues for those who hold a ‘high’ view of Scripture. Five issues will be demonstrated through an analysis of Mary Donaldson’s reading of the book of Ruth, with the outcome being that the authority of Scripture is decentred. Nonetheless, a postcolonial approach can still be usefully adapted by those with a ‘high’ view of Scripture. This article will present an alternative postcolonial reading of the book of Ruth that uses biblical theology to help maintain the central authority of the biblical text.
Dissertation Summaries
Matthew D. Jensen
Affirming the Resurrection of the Incarnate Christ: A Reading of 1 John
It is often claimed that 1 John contains no references to Jesus’ resurrection. However, for this claim to hold, a possible allusion to the resurrection in the opening verse of 1 John needs to be denied. There are three reasons given to discard this allusion. First, under the influence of the historical reconstructions that dominate the interpretation of 1 John, the opening verses of 1 John are often understood to affirm the incarnation and not the resurrection. Second, the allusion to the resurrection is rejected because of the similarity between the prologues of the Gospel of John and 1 John. Since John 1:1-18 affirms the incarnation, so too must 1 John 1:1-4. Third, the allusion to the resurrection is dismissed due to the apparent lack of other references to the resurrection in 1 John. The thesis proposes that 1 John affirms the resurrection of the incarnate Christ in the context of an intra-Jewish disagreement over Jesus’ identity. The thesis presents a reading of 1 John that flows from understanding the opening verses of the book to be affirming the resurrection of the incarnate Christ.
Claire Smith
An Exploration of Early Christian Communities as ‘Scholastic Communities’
In 1960, Edwin Judge described the early Christian communities as ‘scholastic communities’. Since then, he has continued to explore this aspect of early Christian communities. However, while his pioneering work in this field has become a standard point of departure for the socio-historical study of the early Christian movement, his ‘scholastic communities’ description has received scant attention. By contrast, scholarship on the formation and social character of early Christian communities is dominated by the search for antecedents, influences, and analogies or models from antiquity, none of which adequately accounts for the Christian communities, or recognises the priority of educational activities reflected in Judge’s characterisation. Moreover, the approach of these studies is problematic, because without a prior description of early Christian communities on their own terms, comparative approaches risk overlooking, distorting or misunderstanding aspects of early Christian communities that are not repeated in other social phenomena.
Myrto Theocharous
Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets: Studies in Hosea, Amos and Micah
As the Septuagint is becoming increasingly important in studies of Second Temple Judaism, the interest of scholars is shifting away from the mere use of the version as an adjunct to the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. The process of sifting secondary readings in order to arrive at the ‘pure’ form of the Hebrew text has been the main preoccupation of textual critics for centuries. LXX readings were commonly retroverted into Hebrew in order to offer more pristine readings than have survived in the MT. Other ways of explaining deviations (e.g. translational factors, influence of late Hebrew/ Aramaic) were generally neglected and a different Hebrew Vorlage behind the LXX was commonly assumed.
David A. Lamb
Text, Context and the Johannine Community: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Johannine Writings
This thesis examines the social context of the Johannine writings from the perspective of sociolinguistic theory of register. In particular, it considers the validity of the Johannine Community model. The idea of a distinct Johannine community lying behind the production of the Gospel and Epistles of John has become, to use Thomas Kuhn’s terminology, a paradigm within Johannine scholarship over the past fifty years. The key works in establishing this paradigm were the two large Anchor Bible commentaries on the gospel published by Raymond Brown in 1966 and 1970, and the slim volume published by J. Louis Martyn in 1968, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. Other scholars, from Wayne Meeks and his 1972 essay ‘The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism’ onwards, have used sociological insights to depict the Johannine community as a sectarian group, opposed both to wider Jewish society and to other Christian groups.

The Gospel of Life for the School of Life

[I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’ from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. I read Alain de Botton’s new book on sex last Saturday – while the children were running around the fairground at Southend-on-Sea – and thought I would do something around that. The 400-word limit meant I had to cut out a lot of reflections, but this is what was left...]
Following on the heels of his bestseller, Religion for Atheists, last week saw the publication of another book from Alain de Botton – How to Think More About Sex. It’s one in a series of short ‘self-help’ books recently launched by the School of Life, with titles from other writers devoted to work, emotional health, technology, money, and political activism. Founded in 2008 by de Botton and others, the School of Life bills itself as ‘a new enterprise offering good ideas for everyday living’.
In his contribution, de Botton looks at the pleasures and the problems of sex. On pleasures, along with reflecting on the nature of physical appeal, he writes of sex being a place where ‘loneliness and alienation are momentarily overcome’. On problems, he deals with how sex relates to love, the hurt of rejection, the lack of desire, pornography (where he is not sanguine about its power to reroute sexual desire), and adultery (with elevated praise for those who remain faithful).
Although the language will occasionally be too strong for some tastes, de Botton is as witty and intriguing here as he has been in his earlier philosophical reframing of work, travel, and architecture. And while there is much to question, there is also much to applaud: his refusal to allow evolutionary biology to reduce sex to that which furthers the species; his reflections on the resentments that can unwittingly build up between couples; his realism about the demands of juggling daily activities, and the significance of locating ‘the good and the beautiful beneath the layers of habit and routine’.
Arguably, none of this will be new to those shaped by the biblical drama of creation, sin, and redemption. Christians know that sex is a good gift from God to nurture the committed union between husband and wife. Christians also know that the difficulties are only what we might expect when two lives collide; as the title of a recent book on marriage puts it, What Did You Expect?
Above all, Christians understand that marriage and sex are best framed through the gospel – which puts God rather than us at the centre of the universe, which tells us that love involves the cost of sacrifice, which calls us to see our families as places where discipleship is worked out in everyday life, and which reminds us that the relationship between Christ and his church remains ultimate for all, married or not.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Centre for Public Christianity (May 2012)

The latest email newsletter from the Centre for Public Christianity contains links to an email interview with Alain de Botton on his recent book, Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, and to video interviews, including one with Amy Black (Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations, Wheaton College, Illinois) on the role of faith in American politics, and one with Rikk Watts (Professor of New Testament, Regent College, Vancouver) on the way early Christians began to challenge the accepted wisdom of their day.

9Marks eJournal 9, 3 (May-June 2012) on Apostolic Pastoring

The latest issue of the 9Marks eJournal is now available as a pdf here.
In the Editor’s Note, Bobby Jamieson writes:
‘Here’s what we have in mind: pastors who care deeply about the progress of the gospel beyond their local churches. Pastors who encourage, disciple, and partner with other pastors. Pastors who lead their congregations to link arms with other likeminded local churches for evangelism, church planting, and more. By “apostolic,” we don’t mean someone who is personally commissioned by Jesus to bear witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). Instead, we mean someone who shares some of the apostles’ priorities and concerns, even though he doesn’t share their office.
‘Here’s the bottom line: Jesus hasn’t called our churches to fulfill the great commission alone. So look up, look out, and see what encouragement and unexpected fruit God may have in store for you as you work to bless other pastors and churches.’

Monday, 14 May 2012

Regent’s Reviews 3.2 (April 2012)

The latest edition of Regent’s Reviews is now available here.
It contains reviews of (among others), The New Testament for Everyone by Tom Wright, Parallel Lives of Jesus: Four Gospels, One Story by Edward Adams, Justice in Love by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Learning to Speak Christian by Stanley Hauerwas, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry by Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean, Remixing the Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology by Doug Gay, and Sharing Possessions by Luke Timothy Johnson.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Christian Reflection on James

The latest issue of Christian Reflection, published by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, is now available, this one devoted to the letter of James. The whole issue is available as a pdf here, and an accompanying Study Guide is available here. The main articles, with their abstracts, are as follows:
Robert B. Kruschwitz
Though often neglected by scholars and church members alike, the letter of James has much to teach us about God’s grace and our faithful response within the Church. Our contributors sift James’s vivid illustrations, pithy parables, and trenchant sayings for their transforming possibilities for our discipleship.
Mariam J. Kamell
God Gave Us Birth
The letter of James is commonly misread as an awkward misfit that constantly focuses on works instead of the grace of God through Christ. Instead, the letter is an appeal for disciples to become what they are: the firstfruits of a restored creation, set free to live according to God’s character.
Patrick J. Hartin
Faith-in-Action: An Ethic of ‘Perfection’
James challenges us to live faithfully, to ‘be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’ Such wholeness or completeness demands that we embrace a life where action and faith go together. Our faith must express itself in our actions, and our actions in turn bear witness to our faith.
Todd D. Still
Taming the Tongue
The things that we say or fail to say serve as a barometer of our Christian character, according to the letter of James. The (in)ability to master our words is both a metric for and a mark of spiritual maturity.
Robert W. Wall
James’s Theological Grammar
A theological grammar of James, guided by analogy to the Church’s apostolic Rule of Faith, can help us uncover the letter’s rich Trinitarian theology. It enables a faithful community to mine this sacred text for wisdom that saves and Christian maturity that performs ‘every good work.’
Heidi J. Hornik
Drawing James
Through its homage to the iconographic tradition, Paul Soupiset’s James the Less draws us into the artist’s personal meditation on the letter of James.
C. Stephen Evans
Seeing Ourselves in the Mirror of the Word
One who hears the Word of God but doesn’t act accordingly is like one who ‘observes his bodily face in a mirror’ but turns away and forgets what he looks like. If we understand James’s parable rightly, Kierkegaard explains, we will see how being a good hearer of the Word is linked to being a doer of the Word.
Paul J. Wadell
Living as the Friends of God
James calls the Church to be a living sacrament of friendship with God, a compelling sign of hope and a credible witness of a more promising and truly human way of life. This is what the friends of the world have a right to expect from the friends of God and, perhaps, even long to see in them.
Bert Montgomery
James’s Amazing Grace Gumbo
A reckless reading sees only legalism. But if we take time to savor its flavor like a Cajun making gumbo, because James stirs in a heaping amount of Abraham, a good sprinkling of Elijah, and just a pinch of Rahab, we will taste rich grace through and through.
Jeremy Colliver
Following James’s Map
James provides a map to a continuing life of transformation and conversion. Along its two roads – a responsible and redeeming relationship with others and a personal struggle against sin – that Jesus laid out and James takes up, we are to walk ourselves and to lead others.
David M. Moffitt
Finding a Central Thread in James
The three studies of James reviewed here bring together in refreshing ways what many scholars hold asunder – substantive historical analysis, exegetical work, and constructive theological engagement. This holistic approach helps us to become doers of the word, not only better hearers of it.

Friday, 11 May 2012

James K.A. Smith on Two Kingdoms Theology

James Smith and Calvin Theological Journal kindly make available his recent essay engaging with ‘Two Kingdoms’ theology:
On his blog, Smith writes:
‘In my little corner of Reformed Christianity, there has been a notable uptick in folks who are sympathetic to “two kingdoms” (2K) theologies of culture – a model more traditionally associated with the Lutheran tradition. There are aspects of 2K thought I appreciate, notably its robust emphasis on the church as a sacramental community as well, its critique of the idolatry of nationalism, and its goal to resist Christian accommodation to partisan politics. There are other aspects, however, that I’m less enthused about.’
He also notes that he hopes to contribute more fully to this conversation over the next few years, especially in the third volume of his ‘Cultural Liturgies’ trilogy.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Richard J. Mouw on Pastors Understanding the Working Lives of their Congregations

There’s a short piece in ‘Faith & Leadership’ (here) by Richard J. Mouw on congregants longing for pastors to understand their work lives.
Mouw writes of speaking to a businessman who was asking for ‘more sensitivity to the kinds of complexities he faces on a daily basis’, and suggests that his pastor ‘could respond to this need in helpful ways without becoming an expert on corporate finance’.
Mouw recommends that a church leader could have lunch with someone to find out what they were facing that day, perhaps even visiting their place of work to get a sense of the environment, to experience something of their workaday world. He also mentions the significance of congregational prayers: ‘simply mentioning the fact that there are businesspeople who need prayer support for their complex challenges can be an encouraging gesture.’

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Collin Hansen on the Challenge of Christian Journalism

Having posted a piece last week on journalism, I thought I’d link to this short piece by Collin Hansen on ‘The Challenge of Christian Journalism’.
Here’s how he concludes:
‘Journalists that would serve the church will fulfill a catechetical calling. We are teachers who help other Christians understand a world created by God but corrupted by sin. Our investigative work reflects the biblical reality that we live in the “not yet” of the coming kingdom, a time when our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We expose the sin that imperils believers so that they might be prepared to defend themselves in the power of the Holy Spirit.
‘Yet, we also live in the “already” time, when the Father is working in glorious ways to spread the saving knowledge of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is good news, and journalists have been called to tell it. With a little help from preachers, we just might be able to encourage the church with a new, more edifying approach to media.’

Monday, 7 May 2012

Christian History Magazine on the History of Christian Worship

I’ve just spotted the latest ‘supplemental resource’ from the publishers of Christian History Magazine – this one devoted to ‘The History of Christian Worship: From Constantine to the Reformation’.
The whole magazine is available as a 26.4 MB pdf here.

Ken Myers on the Church and Culture

There’s a good, brief interview with Ken Myers, here in ‘The Christian Post’, in which Myers says that ‘it's not “the culture,” as we often hear, that poses the most significant challenge for the church today. It’s the culture of the church’.
‘What I mean’, he goes on to say, is that ‘we have reduced the Gospel to an abstract message of salvation that can be believed without having any necessary consequences for how we live. In contrast, the redemption announced in the Bible is clearly understood as restoring human thriving in creation’.
More fully:
‘Redemption is not just a restoration of our status before God through the life and work of Jesus Christ, but a restoration of our relationship with God as well. And our relationship with God is expressed in how we live. Salvation is about God’s restoring our whole life, not just one invisible aspect of our being (our soul), but our life as lived out in the world in ways that are in keeping with how God made us. The goal of salvation is blessedness for us as human beings. In other words, we are saved so that our way of life can be fully in keeping with God’s ordering of reality.’
Asked how the church has been too influenced by the broader culture, Myers response with four point for starters:
• The way in which the dominant role of technology in our lives promotes the deep assumption that we can fix anything
• The way in which proliferating mechanisms of convenience erodes the virtues of patience and longsuffering
• The way in which the elimination of standards of public propriety and manners undermines assumptions about the legitimacy of authority and deference to the communal needs
• The way in which the high prestige accorded to entertainers creates the conviction that every valuable experience should be entertaining
He goes on to talk about ‘relevance’, the church being held captive by so-called ‘youth culture’, and the importance of helping people mature in Christ.
He finishes with Robert Wilken’s point that ‘the principal way in which the early Church leaders sustained cultural influence was by discipling its members, by conveying to them that the call of the Gospel was a call to embrace a new way of life’.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Don’t Stop the Press

[I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’ from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. There were a number of possible topics to write about this week, including the London mayoral and local elections, and the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, but I opted to reflect on World Press Freedom Day.]
World Press Freedom Day, observed annually on 3 May, was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1993. It provides an opportunity to celebrate the principle of press freedom, draw attention to those areas of the world where such freedom continues to be repressed, and pay tribute to journalists who have faced harassment, imprisonment, or even death to bring news to the global public.
Proceedings surrounding this year’s World Press Freedom Day are considering the power of media freedom to ‘transform societies’. That might sound somewhat grandiose were it not for recent events in North Africa and the Middle East. News of the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a vegetable peddler in Tunisia – following the confiscation of his cart by the authorities – went viral through a convergence of mobile technology, social media and satellite TV, lighting the touch paper of unrest, arguably giving birth to what became known as the Arab Spring.
Back in the UK, somewhat ironically, the Leveson Inquiry into ‘the culture, practice and ethics of the press’ rumbles on. The full report is still to come, but the process has already reminded us that freedom can be abused, that there is a line between careful investigative journalism and callous invasion of privacy. Perhaps we have also seen something of our own complicity in sustaining a culture which expects access to news of the scandals and tragedies of others.
At the same time, it would be unhelpful if the Leveson Inquiry demonised journalists and discredited their profession. Those whose understanding of the world is nurtured by Scripture know that journalism (like sex, money and politics) is not inherently evil in itself, but can directed in beneficial ways and misdirected in harmful ways. And those whose lives are shaped by the good news of God’s work of restoration begun in Christ can be confident that in this arena (as with sex, money and politics), redemption is possible.
Indeed, signs of God’s grace can be seen in every instance of truth-telling, of professional integrity, of communicative skill, of honest reporting which treats people with dignity and serves the welfare of others. And we can pray for and support those who work hard to do this, often in difficult circumstances, confident that in God’s grand design ‘there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open’ (Luke 8:17).

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Encounters 40 (April 2012) on Economic Injustice

The latest issue of Encounters from Redcliffe College is now available.
According to the introductory blurb on the website, this edition ‘focuses on the topic of economic (in)justice and provides Christian responses in a variety of contexts’.
‘From engaging historical and Biblical roots, to considering contemporary challenges such as the Occupy movement and the continuing fallout of the financial crash, a number of contributors seek to challenge many of the myths and premises on which our economic structures have been built, challenge the Church to advocate more clearly and purposefully, both within the West and in the majority world, and propose alternative economic methods and strategies, bearing a more humane approach to economic well-being including the safeguarding of the Environment; a common responsibility for us all as God’s image-bearers in contemporary mission.’
Individual articles are available from here, or the pdf of the full issue is available here.

Martin Luther on Changing Nappies

I’ve been reading a fair bit on the theme of vocation/calling in recent months. From a historical perspective, Martin Luther rightly gets drawn into the discussion, and one thing that comes up quite a bit are some his comments about changing nappies. I thought I’d track down the full discussion – in his The Estate of Marriage (1522) – for my own edification, and here is the pertinent part, which (I think) makes for wonderful reading:
‘Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful, carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.
‘What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, “O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labour, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight...
‘Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.’

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Jonathan T. Pennington on Reading the Gospels Wisely

Having done some work myself on the theological significance of gospel narrative, I was very interested to see notice of the forthcoming book by Jonathan T. Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), which I am confident (based on his published research on Matthew) will be excellent.
A friend has drawn my attention to a website containing a video introducing the book along with a summary of the book’s chapters, providing plenty to whet the appetite of those interested in the gospels and the relationship between the gospels and The Gospel.

Conspectus 13 (March 2012)

The latest Conspectus, from South African Theological Seminary, is now out (available here as a pdf), containing an interesting mix of main essays:
Annang Asumang
Modelling the Gospel in Joyful Partnership: Exemplars and the Uniting Theme of Philippians
Most interpreters now recognize the literary unity and integrity of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This consensus has however made the question of the letter’s uniting theme a matter of urgent inquiry for biblical scholars and preachers alike. Even here, significant advances have of late been made; but, questions remain. The aim of this article in the light of this progress is threefold. It will first evaluate some of the key proposals for the letter’s uniting theme. Secondly, it will propose that ‘modelling the gospel in joyful partnership’ best represents the uniting theme of Philippians. And thirdly, it will demonstrate that Paul extensively employs positive and negative exemplars to illustrate this theme in each section of the letter. The article concludes by highlighting the contribution of Philippians to current reflections on New Testament ethics.
Frank Jabini
Witness to the End of the World: A Missional Reading of Acts 8:26-40
In Acts 1:8, Christ told his disciples that they will be his witness ‘to the ends of the earth’. The article argued that Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 was the beginning of a witness among people who were considered to live at the end of the world. In this article, the biblical account was read from a missional exegetical perspective, and it discussed the sharing of Christ in a personal encounter and the Christ-centred message based on a translation of the Word of God. This event opened the door for an African to join the worldwide church, the body of Christ. The article concludes with the identification of five general principles that are significant for the church today in light of this passage.
Russell A. Morris and Daniel T. Lioy
A Historical and Theological Framework for Understanding Word of Faith Theology
This journal article offers a historical background and contemporary framework in order to facilitate a better understanding of word of faith theology. The essay first considers the historical origins of the word of faith movement. In this section, three principal sources are noted. Second, the essay offers several contextual influences which have affected the word of faith movement. Here, five influences are briefly assessed. Third, an assessment of four key persons in the development of the movement is presented. Fourth, key components in the development of the word of faith message are appraised. Finally, four primary tenets of word of faith theology are assessed per their continuity with orthodox evangelical theology.
Christopher Peppler
The Christocentric Principle: A Jesus-Centred Hermeneutic
There are many different understandings of the word ‘christocentric’, both among past and current scholars. In this article, the author aligns with those who regard the life, teaching, and person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the locus of doctrinal formulation and proclamation, but applies this approach specifically to the hermeneutic enterprise. The key contention is that scripture should be interpreted primarily from the perspective of either of Jesus’ character, values, principles, and priorities as revealed directly or indirectly by the biblical revelation of what he said and did. This is called the ‘christocentric principle’. The article proceeds from interacting with other scholars who hold a similar view, to identifying the biblical support for the argument, to a brief example of how the principle can be applied. Before concluding, the author deals briefly with some objections to the central idea espoused.
Thomas Scarborough
Reconciling the Personal and Social Dimensions of the Gospel
Historically, there has been considerable awkwardness and difficulty in harmonising the personal and social dimensions of the gospel. The purpose of this article is to develop an integrative motif through which it may be possible to set these dimensions on the same conceptual footing. In terms of this motif, our world is fundamentally relational. Further, it contains an infinity of relations. Within this infinity of relations, we employ thematic perspectives to trace finite microcosms of relations. However, thematic perspectives, both personal and social, are ontologically flawed, and drive us to despair. This is interpreted theologically in terms of sin and repentance.
David B. Woods
Interpreting Peter’s Vision in Acts 10:9-16
The paper challenges the traditional Christian interpretation of Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-16. The text, in its biblical context, and together with related developments in early church history, point conclusively to a single interpretation: that the Gentiles have been cleansed by God. The vision does not nullify Jewish dietary laws or the Mosaic Law in general, since there is no support for the interpretation that the vision also pertains to the cleansing of unclean food. This conclusion contradicts the traditional Christian interpretation that the vision has a two-fold meaning, though it is not unique in the literature. The main implication is that Christians need to reassess their reading of the New Testament, and especially Paul, on the Law, in the light of recent literature which challenges traditional interpretations and posits various solutions to age-old disputes.
Book Reviews