Thursday, 25 December 2014

All praise to Thee, Eternal Lord

All praise to Thee, Eternal Lord,
Clothed in a garb of flesh and blood;
Choosing a manger for Thy throne,
While worlds on worlds are Thine alone.

Once did the skies before Thee bow;
A virgin’s arms contain Thee now,
While angels, who in Thee rejoice,
Now listen for Thine infant voice.

A little Child, Thou art our Guest,
That weary ones in Thee may rest;
Forlorn and lowly is Thy birth;
That we may rise to Heaven from earth.

Thou comest in the darksome night
To make us children of the light;
To make us, in the realms divine,
Like Thine own angels round Thee shine.

All this for us Thy love hath done;
By this to Thee our love is won;
For this we tune our cheerful lays,
And sing our thanks in ceaseless praise.

Words are ascribed to Martin Luther, translated into English by an unknown author.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Tyndale Bulletin 65, 2 (2014)

The latest issue of Tyndale Bulletin has arrived, containing the following collection of articles and dissertation summaries.


Jerry Hwang
‘My Name Will Be Great among the Nations’: The Missio Dei in the Book of the Twelve
Recent OT scholarship has increasingly recognised that the Minor Prophets were compiled by Hebrew scribes to be read as a cohesive anthology. While acknowledging that each book of the Minor Prophets exhibits a distinctive individuality, scholars continue to debate how to interpret the collection as a coherent whole. In this vein, I propose that the major themes of the Minor Prophets – land, kingship, the move from judgement to salvation, and the relationship of Israel to the nations – find a unifying link in the missio Dei. The plan of God to redeem his entire creation is progressively unfolded in the Minor Prophets, in that the apostasy of God’s people in God’s land (Hosea; Joel) is but the first step in a history of redemption which culminates with the recognition by all nations that YHWH alone is worthy: ‘For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations’ (Mal. 1:11). As such, the missio Dei in the Minor Prophets not only provides a reading strategy for interpreting the collection as a unified Book of the Twelve; it also shows how the Minor Prophets make a unique contribution to an OT theology of mission.

Edmon L. Gallagher
The End of the Bible?: The Position of Chronicles in the Canon
Scholars have argued for the originality of the position of Chronicles at the end of the canon based on both external and internal considerations. As for the latter, various ‘closure phenomena’ allegedly indicate that Chronicles either was written for the purpose of concluding the scriptural canon or was redacted for that purpose. The external evidence includes the Talmudic order of books (b. Bava Batra 14b), various Masoretic manuscripts, and a passage from the Gospels (Matt. 23:35 // Luke 11:51). This paper argues that while Chronicles surely forms an appropriate conclusion to the Bible, the evidence to hand does not demonstrate that it actually took up its place at the end of the Bible before the rabbinic period.

Thomas W. Simpson
Testimony in John’s Gospel: The Puzzle of 5:31 and 8:14
Testimony is a central theme in John’s Gospel and he has a developed view on how it works. This paper makes two contributions. First, I show the complexity and sophistication with which John handles different kinds of testimony in his narrative; this constitutes a category of evidence for the centrality of testimony not noted hitherto. Second, I address the central puzzle, namely the prima facie contradiction between 5:31 and 8:14. At issue is whether Jesus’ testimony about himself requires corroborating testimony for it rationally to be believed. I argue that 8:14 has interpretative priority: according to John, no such corroboration is required.

Peter M. Head
The Letters of Claudius Terentianus and the New Testament: Insights and Observations on Epistolary Themes
Eleven papyrus letters from the early second century (P. Mich. 467-480 & inv. 5395) are studied in relation to parallel interests expressed within NT letters, on the topics of physical layout and formatting, discussions of health, the desire for news and the role of greetings, the role of the letter carrier and the use of letters of recommendation.

Armin D. Baum
Paul’s Conflicting Statements on Female Public Speaking  (1 Cor. 11:5) and Silence (1 Cor. 14:34-35): A New Suggestion
How could in 1 Corinthians women at the same time be permitted to prophesy (1 Cor. 11:5) and prohibited from asking questions (1 Cor. 14:34-35)? Read against their ancient cultural background the two texts reveal a common basic principle which lies behind both of them. According to Paul, female public speaking without male consent was unacceptable (1 Cor. 14:34-35) whereas female public speaking with male consent was tolerable if female chastity was preserved (1 Cor. 11:5).

Justin K. Hardin
Galatians 1-2 without a Mirror: Reflections on Paul's Conflict with the Agitators
Despite its dangers and pitfalls as an interpretive technique, mirror reading continues to enjoy pride of place as the preferred method for reconstructing the situation in Galatians. But does reflecting back the opposite of the text aid our understanding of Paul's letter, or does it merely distort the picture? In this essay, we will discuss Paul’s conflict with the agitators in Galatians to reveal the inherent methodological problems of mirror reading this letter. Specifically, we will address the question whether the agitators in Galatia were questioning Paul’s credentials, prompting Paul to write his lengthy narrative in Galatians 1-2. We will then evaluate recent scholars who have sought to retire the mirror in their interpretation of Paul’s narrative, before ourselves providing a fresh reading of Paul’s aims in Galatians 1-2. We will suggest that Paul was not defending himself (or his gospel or anything else) in Galatians. Rather, Paul was constructing a self-contrast with the agitators in an effort to persuade the Galatians to turn back to the one true gospel and to reject the judaising tactics of the agitators.

Dissertation Summaries

Rosalind S. Clarke
Canonical Interpretations of the Song of Songs
Traditional interpretations of the Song have recognised many allusions to the wider canon, which have been used as the basis for various kinds of allegorical readings. With the rise of alternative interpretations and a recent shift in focus towards methodological issues and ideological approaches to the Song, these canonical allusions have frequently been overlooked. Without advocating a return to allegorical interpretation, this thesis develops a canonical approach to the book, giving due attention to its literary, theological and ecclesiological nature. The Song proves to be a valuable test case for canonical interpretation since it is found in three distinct canonical contexts in the Hebrew Bible, the Greek Septuagint, and modern Christian Bibles.

Fiona Jane Robertson Gregson
Everything in Common?: The Theology and Practice of the Sharing of Possessions in Community in the New Testament with Particular Reference to Jesus and His Disciples, the Earliest Christians, and Paul
This study examines the practice and theology of sharing possessions in community in the NT by examining six diverse NT examples of sharing. The texts are chosen from across the Gospels, Acts and the Pauline Epistles in order to provide a range of examples of different kinds of sharing including variety in terms of: what is shared; the distance over which sharing happens; the geographical locations that sharing happens in; and practice. Each example is considered in its historical and cultural context before being compared with one or more non-Christian comparator examples to identify similarities and differences. These comparators are examples which show similar situations and practice, and which are likely to be known by or familiar to the community in the NT example (or which were used by others at the time as comparators). Having examined the NT examples and compared them with the non-Christian comparators, the thesis identifies common characteristics across the NT examples and consistent distinctives in how the early church shared possessions compared with the surrounding cultures.

Ovidiu Hanc
Paul and Empire: A Reframing of Romans 13:1-7 in the Context of the New Exodus
In Romans 13:1-7, Paul wrote the most emphatic New Testament passage on relations with civil authority. The primary aim of this dissertation has been to propose a rereading of this passage on civil authority by framing it in the context of Paul’s rabbinic education, his high view of Scripture, his own self-understanding, and especially in the larger New Exodus paradigm that is present in Romans as the archetype of salvation.

Dana Benesh
Thomas Aquinas on Hebrews: The Excellence of Christ

Due to the influence of his two great Summae, Thomas Aquinas’ reputation as a ‘systematic’ theologian far surpasses his reputation as a biblical exegete. Yet his commentaries merit attention due to Thomas’ ability to explicate Scripture, his contributions to the development of exegesis, and the fact that his commentaries reflect the same doctrinal and theological concerns as his better-known works. An examination of Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on Hebrews is worthwhile, given the growing interest in pre-modern exegesis as well as the priority that Thomas assigned to the epistle. Organizing the entire corpus of Scripture according to the purposes of God, Thomas orders the Old Testament books in regard to God as king or Father and the New Testament books in regard to Christ and the church. In Thomas’ scheme, Hebrews comes immediately after the four gospels. Among all the epistles, Hebrews is preeminent, according to Thomas, because it reveals the power of the grace of Christ as head of the church. The aim of this dissertation is to understand and appreciate Thomas’ exposition of Hebrews in the context of his theological works and in the context of medieval exegesis.

Greg Forster on Books on the Theology of Work and Economics

Greg Forster, program director at the Kern Family Foundation, has produced an annotated bibliography on the theology of work and economics (available here), designed to ‘be short enough to be accessible, but long enough to include a sufficient number of works’, where ‘each book likewise needed a description short enough to be digested quickly but long enough to point people to the exact works they needed’.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Journal of Biblical Counseling 28, 3 (2014)

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling is now available ($10 for a year’s electronic subscription of three issues), this one containing the following pieces:


David Powlison
Giving Reasoned Answers to Reasonable Questions
In a 2011 interview with Psychology Today, David Powlison was asked a series of questions about biblical counseling. This issue’s editorial centers around that interview. First, Powlison articulates a conscious strategy for redemptive engagement that shaped how he approached the opportunity. A reprint of the original interview follows. Powlison then reflects back on his answers, drawing out the particular biblical truths that came into play in the effort to present biblical counseling to this secular audience.

Featured Articles

Mike Emlet
Five Ministry Priorities for Those Struggling with Same-Sex Attraction
Is same-sex attraction a taboo subject in your church? If it is, you are probably failing to connect to people in your congregation who are struggling silently and need fellowship and support. In this article, Mike Emlet speaks to this pastoral need. He offers practical ways that ministry leaders and wise lay persons can positively impact the church culture in order to offer help to those who struggle with same-sex attraction.

Brad Hambrick
Making Peace with Romans 8:28
A snippet of Romans 8:28 – “All things work together for good” – is often blithely quoted to sufferers as if it is a panacea. But when offered this way, it rarely provides comfort. This is unfortunate because the eighth chapter of Romans is intended to connect to hurting and struggling people. Brad Hambrick reestablishes that connection by first uncovering some false beliefs about suffering and then placing Romans 8:28 in its proper context, enabling us to appreciate its stunning truth.

Steve Midgley
Something Worth Meeting For – A Biblical Vision for Small Groups
Nearly every church has small groups of some sort, and nearly every church struggles with the question of: why are we meeting? Steve Midgley, a pastor in England, experienced this in his church. Using principles of personal sanctification intrinsic to biblical counseling, he refocused the groups to “learn to be like Jesus.” Read how he implemented this vision in his church.

Counselor’s Toolbox

Alasdair Groves
How to Set Up Church-Based Accountability Groups
This article also addresses small group ministry. It dovetails with Midgley’s larger vision by focusing on one, problem-specific application: accountability groups. Groves offers practical instruction on how to start and sustain this type of ministry in your church. He sets this within the biblical call for brothers and sisters to hold one another accountable, confess significant sin patterns, and support one another in the battle against sin.

David Powlison
What Is Your Calling?
This toolbox article helps people identify a personal calling. Powlison asks a series of initial questions to help readers to discern a vocation within the kingdom. A second set of questions helps readers to recognize opportunities to use their vocation, specifically related to counseling ministry. Relatively few people identify themselves as “counselors,” but all of us counsel no matter what our vocation. Work through the article—and its two worksheets—for yourself or with a counselee.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Homiletic 39, 1 (2014)

The most-recent issue of Homiletic, sponsored by the Academy of Homiletics, is available online here.

It contains the two main articles noted below, but (from my perspective) the most interesting feature of the journal is its review sections, which includes reviews of books I don’t see anywhere else.

Clint Heacock
Exploring the Use of Narratology for Narrative Preaching
Although narrative preaching as a movement may have gone out of fashion in North American homiletics more than two decades ago, there has since been a resurgence of interest in the rhetorical function of biblical narratives along with the continuing exploration of more democratic, dialogical and open-ended homiletical forms. This study, therefore, suggests that the discipline of narratology can potentially combine these two elements by replicating the dynamics of biblical narratives in a variety of narrative sermon formats. By providing an examination of the elements of narratology, this approach seeks to reunite the often-separated elements of textual and homiletical form and function. The use of these narratological exegetical tools can then allow biblical narratives to assert a greater influence upon the form of the sermon itself, create an experience of the text for the listeners, and enable them to enter into the “world of words” of biblical narratives.

Adam Hearlson
Are Congregations Texts?
It is a common sentiment among homileticians that preaching requires exegeting both the scriptural text and the congregational context. The relevancy of the preaching message, it is argued, depends in part upon a deep knowledge of the congregational culture. The preacher is therefore encouraged to “read” the culture of the congregation and discern how the symbols, practices, and actions of the congregation are used to make meaning so that the preacher might construct a fitting sermon. In this way, the congregation is likened to a text that awaits a reading by a literate observer. In this paper, I examine the limitations of such an analogy arguing that while a semiotic approach to congregations has merit it is often blind to the ways in which power and production influence the creation and reproduction of the congregational culture. Finally, the paper concludes with descriptions from recent homiletical works that offer productive alternatives to the semiotic approach to congregational study.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Ethics in Brief Volume 20, No. 1 (2014)

An issue from Volume 20 of Ethics in Brief, published by The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, is now available online:

Pursuing justice after conflict poses particular problems. There is an urgent need to restore relationships in order that peace might be maintained, but often processes of justice compound existing divisions by causing further injustices (real or imagined) to those involved. This article draws on two theologians, Nicholas Wolterstorff and Miroslav Volf, to find theological resources in the Trinity and eschatology which might address this issue. These doctrines suggest particular characteristics of justice which might be brought to bear on existing post-conflict processes, in order to reshape them in ways which both offer a better outcome in practice and more closely pursue the justice of God.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Paul Bickley on Christianity and Sport

‘Have we unintentionally skewered our sports stars between the twin-horned dilemma of marketing and the media? In marketing we airbrush them to embody the brand ideals of our consumer culture but then in the media we peel back the layers to expose the blemishes the advertisers left out. And so the athletes pin-ball back and forth between our praises and our curses, from sporting idol to fallen idol.’

So says Christians in Sport, who recently, with Bible Society, commissioned a piece of research by Theos into the relationship between sport and Christianity, particularly around the ‘role model’ status of sportspeople. Combining theological reflection with empirical research – specifically interviews with elite players and sports chaplains – the report, written by Paul Bickley, has now been published.

Here are a few paragraphs from the Executive Summary:

‘This report addresses the connections between Christianity and sport, particularly in the light of what is perceived to be a growing ethical crisis in the world of sport. What is an authentic Christian response to the growing significance of sport?

‘The report reviews some of the growing body or literature which seeks to explore the connections between religion and sport, specifically that which offers a theological account of sport. It then explores the outline of a theological account in the context of semi-structured one-to-one interviews with Christian professional athletes, chaplains and others working in the field. These theological engagements with sport have identified it as offering a field of human freedom and joy and indeed of offering the possibility of transcendent, “godward”, experience.

‘The corresponding critique is that sport is increasingly subjected to a range of extrinsic concerns – for example, market or public policy demands. Sport’s transcendental and aesthetic possibilities, as well as its sheer popularity, also open it to the possibility of “idolatry” or – in other words – to accord it an ultimate significance. These factors combine to create an environment where athletes are under pressure to act as societal role models, but also to achieve sporting success, sometimes resulting in high profile accounts of poor behaviour on and off the field of play...

‘In conclusion we argue that an authentic theological response to sport is to celebrate it, but also to circumscribe its importance. Practically, sport chaplains do this by focusing not on player performance but on athlete well-being – and indeed the well-being of others in sports clubs. We call for reflection on what other acts might simultaneously celebrate and limit the importance of sport.’

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Douglas Moo on Bible Translation and the NIV

2015 sees the 50th anniversary of the New International Version translation of the Bible – or, more exactly, the 50th anniversary of the commencement of the translation committee which would lead to the eventual publication of the New Testament in 1973, the full Bible in 1978, and updates in 1984 and 2011.

Douglas Moo, noted New Testament scholar and current chair of the NIV’s translation committee, delivered the above paper (available as a pdf here) at this year’s meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Diego.

He summarises the main concerns of the essay as follows:

‘Specifically, I highlight three basic and generally agreed-upon linguistic principles that have too often been ignored in modern Bible translation. First, linguistics is not a prescriptive but a descriptive enterprise; second, meaning resides not at the level of individual words but at the level of collocations of words in clauses, sentences, and ultimately discourses; and third, the meaning of individual words is expressed not in a single word gloss but in a semantic field.’ (3-4)

It’s a fairly short piece, reflecting on the NIV, the influence of James Barr’s seminal The Semantics of Biblical Language (1961), along with some nice moments of rumination on where Moo himself has fallen short in practice.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Theos Report on Christian Humanism

Angus Ritchie and Nick Spencer, The Case for Christian Humanism: Why Christians should believe in humanism, and humanists in Christianity (London: Theos, 2014).

In the latest report from Theos, Angus Ritchie and Nick Spencer argue that ‘rather than Christianity and humanism being somehow opposed to one another, the two are intimately linked. Indeed, humanism needs Christianity to sustain some of its most fundamental commitments. Contrary to popular opinion, it is atheism, and not “faith”, that saws through the branch on which humanism sits’.

More information is available here, and the full report is available for download here.

The report was profiled in a piece by Giles Fraser in The Guardian last Friday – ‘The whole point of Christianity is to create a deeper form of humanism’ – and has already drawn a response from atheist and Humanist (with a capital H, as he insists) Stephen Law.

Centre for Public Christianity (December 2014)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted a video interview with John Swinton on the distinction between ‘inclusion’ and real welcome for people with disabilities.

Also posted is the third and final installment of a podcast with John Dickson, in part profiling his forthcoming book, A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible: Inside History’s Bestseller for Believers and Skeptics.

Part I looked at creation, the ‘fall’, and how they explain the world in which we find ourselves. Part II provided a quick tour of the whole of the Old Testament, offering a few key concepts for understanding it as a unified story. Part III looks at the New Testament, from the Christmas story to account in Revelation of where everything is headed, and how it relates to the overarching story of the Bible.

9Marks Journal (Fall 2014) on the Church and Opposition

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available here as a pdf, is devoted to the topic of ‘Vanishing Church? Seeking the Right Perspective as Opposition Grows’.

In the Editorial, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘The growing opposition to the Christian faith in Western culture is heart breaking and worth challenging. That said, God has good purposes for letting the nations – even a so-called Christian nation – oppose his people. And one of them is to sharpen the church’s distinctness. He is seeking a bride for his Son, and he means for her to radiate.

The nature of our relationships inside a church should be distinct. Our ways of serving our employers and employees should be distinct. Our treatment of spouses and children should be distinct. Our loves and our laughter should be distinct. Our sexuality and family budgets and vacation plans should be distinct. And the more our culture opposes God and his people, the more the distinctness of our churches should shine. Yes, there should be points of commonality. We never stop being human, and our lives and loves should be deeply humane. But we are the new humanity. Our neighbors should find us both familiar and exotic.

Notice, then, the further a nation moves away from Christian moral assumptions, the more its churches have occasion to radiate the life-changing power of God. Which means, cultural opposition shouldn't scare us. It sets a backdrop for the display for the glory of God in our lives.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Making Judgments

With some lines and ideas from my colleague, Margaret Killingray, I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Psalm 1:4-6

How do we read passages like these, which talk about the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’? Does everyone fall into one of these categories? Isn’t life – and aren’t people – more complicated than that? Yet, as unpalatable as it might sound, in Matthew 7:13-27, Jesus himself speaks about two ways (one which leads to life, one which leads to destruction), two trees (one which bears fruit, one which doesn’t), and two houses (one built on rock, one built on sand).

As it happens, the psalm itself fills out what is meant by being ‘righteous’ or ‘wicked’. It lays two ways before its readers – a contrast not just between the righteous and the wicked, but the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. Here is a promise not only that the wicked will perish, but all that wickedness stands for will one day pass away, alongside a guarantee that the Lord ‘watches over the way of the righteous’.

None of this is because we are naturally good. The ‘righteous’ in the Old Testament are those who have been brought into covenant relationship with God, through his grace, who then seek to live within the terms of the covenant – even if they don’t always manage to do so consistently. We know from elsewhere in Scripture that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23), and we are saved only ‘by grace... through faith’, which is not from ourselves, but is ‘the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus told a parable about wheat and weeds growing together in the same field until the final harvest. The over-enthusiastic servants who ask whether they should pull up the weeds are told by the owner, ‘Let both grow together until the harvest’ (Matthew 13:30). What looks like a weed today may actually turn out to be wheat. God alone makes the final judgment call.

In everyday life, there are moments to challenge wickedness and admire righteousness – in Christians as well as non-Christians, and sometimes in the same person. Still, the task of judging which category people belong to can, and probably should, be left to God, in the exercise of his complete love and perfect justice. Meanwhile, as we continue to serve the Lord, we can trust that he will watch over our ways.

The Bible Project on Exodus 1-18

The Bible Project – aiming to put together a series of short videos introducing the structure and themes of biblical books and tracing some major themes through the entire Bible – recently made available the next video, this one on Exodus 1-18 (along with another fairly recent addition on ‘Messiah’). Check them out from here (click on ‘Videos’ or scroll down to the ‘Videos & Study Guides’ section).

Friday, 5 December 2014

Amy L. Sherman on Work

The Gospel Coalition posts a piece by Amy L. Sherman on ‘The Basics of a Biblical Theology of Work’, taken from her book Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good (Downers Grove: IVP, 2011).

She borrows from Robert Banks the notion of God as our ‘vocational model’, describing ‘the various sorts of work he does and how myriad human vocations give expression to these aspects of God’s work’, which includes the following:

• Redemptive work – God’s saving and reconciling actions
• Creative work – God’s fashioning of the physical and human world
• Providential work – God’s provision for and sustaining of humans and the creation
• Justice work – God’s maintenance of justice
• Compassionate work – God’s involvement in comforting, healing, guiding, and shepherding
• Revelatory work – God’s work to enlighten with truth

See the whole article for brief expansion of the points.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Andrew Goddard on James Brownson on the Bible, Gender, and Sexuality

The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics makes available here a 70-page critical review by Andrew Goddard (Associate Director of KLICE) of James V. Brownson’s Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013).

Foundations 67 (Autumn 2014)

Issue 67 of Foundations: An International Journal of Evangelical Theology, published by Affinity, is now available (here in its entirety as a pdf), with the following contributions:

Ralph Cunnington

Cornelis Bennema
The Historical Reliability of the Gospel of John
A majority of biblical scholars are sceptical about the historical reliability of the Gospel of John. After delineating the problem and defining key terms, this article presents a cumulative case to the contrary by looking at issues such as ancient history writing, oral tradition, authorship, genre, the historical quality of John’s Gospel, social memory, chronology, archaeology and names. The argument is that the Gospel of John is the accurate and reliable eyewitness account of John of Zebedee about the life and ministry of Jesus.

Chris Richards
The Ethics of IVF
Many contemporary Christian ethicists acknowledge the threat of artificial conception to the moral law but conclude that it may be used legitimately for a married couple where only one or two embryos, derived from them, are created and implanted at each attempt. This paper challenges such conclusions by highlighting several threats to the moral law even in such an “acceptable” context. These include transgression of the Sixth and Seventh Commandments in the threat posed respectively to the early life of the embryo, and to the integrity of one aspect (procreative union) of the “one fleshness” of marriage.

John James
Tortuous and Complicated: An Analysis of Conversion in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
Central to the mission of the church is making disciples of all nations, and discipleship begins with conversion. This paper explores the characteristics that should be present in the process of turning to God, by evaluating the account of conversion in Pilgrim’s Progress and establishing the extent to which John Bunyan regarded this account as paradigmatic. It then evaluates biblically a number of important theological and pastoral considerations that are pertinent for the contemporary church. Recognising that conversion is tortuous, complicated and varied guards against us being overly prescriptive in our evaluation of conversions and too rigid in our expectation of how conversions are manifest, whilst recognising the place of despondency and perseverance should guard us against easy-believism.

Paul Davies
Following the Way: Mission in Luke’s Gospel and the Book of Acts for Latin America
This article proposes that Luke/Acts can be understood as a “progress of the Way of the LORD” so that “All flesh will see the salvation of the LORD”. Firstly in Jesus’ life and then in the life of the Church, the Way is carried forward, ending in the centre of the Empire. Luke 24:44:49 is proposed as a watershed where streams of teaching from the Gospel are united and thrust out into the book of Acts. These themes form the framework for the reflections upon the Latin American Church’s mission.

Mark Pickett
Review Article: ‘For Their Rock is Not as Our Rock’ (Dan Strange)
Daniel Strange’s book is a major contribution to the field of the theology of religion. Expounding  earlier work by such writers as J.H. Bavinck and Hendrik Kraemer, Strange builds on it by a careful exegesis of Scripture and integrating into his argument the work of more recent writers. This review article summarises the main arguments of the book and interacts primarily with the author’s method. While there is much to be commended in this work, the reviewer argues that a major problem is introduced by equating religion and religions and pleads for a more positive incorporation of sociological enquiry into the field.

Jon Putt
Review Article: The Gospel in the Market Place of Ideas (Paul Copan & Kenneth D Litwak)

Neil Powell
Review Article: Ready, Steady, Grow (Ray Evans)

Themelios 39, 3 (November 2014)

The latest Themelios is online here (and available here as a single pdf), containing the following articles:

D.A. Carson
The Underbelly of Revival? Five Reflections on Various Failures in the Young, Restless, and Reformed Movement
Here in the US, and to some extent elsewhere, we have witnessed a significant movement of (mostly young) Christians who have sometimes been tagged “the young, restless, and Reformed.” In part, this movement is embodied in such organizations as Together for the Gospel, Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, 9Marks, and Acts29; in part, it surfaces in many local churches in many countries.

Off the Record
Michael J. Ovey
Is It a Mistake to Stay at the Crossroads?
I want to argue that there are some important parallels between the scepticism that Augustine encountered and some contemporary ways of handling the Bible. I also want to argue that Augustine has given us something of enduring value in meeting those approaches by his analysis of what it is to make a mistake.

Robert W. Yarbrough
Bye-bye Bible? Progress Report on the Death of Scripture
A trio of recent books raises important questions on how Scripture is handled in halls of (certain kinds of) learning and how such handling affects Scripture’s perceived truth and message. One of these books’ titles conveys the thrust of all three: The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies. That is, scholarly study (“biblical studies”) has too often robbed Scripture of the respect it deserves. This essay explores and assesses these books, one by Harvard-trained Hebrew scholar Michael Legaspi and the others by the renowned New Testament scholars Ulrich Wilckens (emeritus, University of Hamburg) and Klaus Berger (emeritus, University of Heidelberg). It concludes that it is not Scripture from which there is need to take leave; the problem is with faulty approaches to reading it.

Andrew David Naselli
Three Reflections on Evangelical Academic Publishing
In light of John A. D’Elia’s A Place at the Table and Stanley E. Porter’s Inking the Deal, this article shares three reflections on evangelical academic publishing. (1) Evangelical scholarship is a gift to evangelicals for which they should be grateful. (2) Evangelical academics should aim to be academically responsible more than being academically respectable. (3) Evangelical scholarship is ultimately about glorifying God by serving Christ’s church.

William R. Edwards
Participants in What We Proclaim: Recovering Paul’s Narrative of Pastoral Ministry
Many have written on the difficulties of pastoral ministry, backed by research into the demise of those who become discouraged in the work. These studies provide useful descriptions and helpful insights into the culture of ministry and how it might be changed. Much of this recent work, however, lacks deeper reflection on the biblical- theological themes that frame life in ministry and provide categories through which its difficulties must be understood. This article explores the framework for suffering in ministry through Paul’s letters, focusing on his correspondence with the Corinthians, with the aim of recovering the rich redemptive-historical narrative of ministry that is grounded in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Steven L. Porter
The Gradual Nature of Sanctification: Σάρξ as Habituated, Relational Resistance to the Spirit
Possessing a helpful explanation of the slowness of spiritual change can be encouraging to Christians who are not growing spiritually as quickly or consistently as they might have hoped. While the classic Christian obstacles of “the world, the flesh, and the devil” provide general categories for explaining the slowness of change, this article proposes a relational understanding of “the flesh” as resistance to the Holy Spirit that offers an explanatory framework for the gradual nature of sanctification.

Pastoral Pensées
Stephen Witmer
Keeping Eschatology and Ethics Together: The Teaching of Jesus, the Work of Albert Schweitzer, and the Task of Evangelical Pastor-Theologians
Jesus and the authors of the New Testament consistently link how Jesus’ followers are to live (ethics) with when they live (eschatology). Yet again and again in modern theology, this link has been severed. Eschatology has been reinterpreted, discarded, or demythologized. This article shows that, surprisingly, the severing of ethics and eschatology is present in the work of Albert Schweitzer. Further, it is argued that no one is better placed than evangelical pastor-theologians to recover and proclaim the New Testament’s fruitful, hope-giving connection between the Christian’s eschatological identity and moral life. This is a matter of great importance for the church.

Book Reviews

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Jubilee Centre on Thinking Biblically About Sunday

The latest in a series of pamphlets from the Jubilee Centre on ‘Thinking Biblically About...’ is devoted to Sunday, exploring ‘why one day in seven was designed to be special, and the consequences of departing from this biblical norm’.

There’s more information here, from where a downloadable version of the booklet is also available.