Saturday, 21 October 2017

Theos Report on English Ecumenism

The latest report from Theos was recently published:

Here is the summary blurb:

‘The ecumenical movement in England has been on a significant journey over the past few decades. The number of Churches and denominations engaged in the area has grown remarkably, reflecting shifting trends in English Christianity. That, combined with major changes in the ecumenical bodies, and changing perceptions of ecumenism among Churches, has given rise to a complex and vibrant ecumenical scene.

This report provides a snapshot of contemporary ecumenism in England. It tells the story of how ecumenism has changed and describes a movement that is now sitting at a critical juncture as it looks to the future. The report focuses primarily on Churches Together in England, the main ecumenical body operating in England. It identifies the strengths of the organisation and discusses the challenges it now faces.

The report concludes with some suggested possibilities for the future, making some tentative recommendations for Churches Together in England as an organisation. It is our hope that this report will serve to provoke fresh debate about the purpose, focus, and direction of ecumenism as it develops over the coming years.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Whole-Life Preaching

I’ve been involved with a project at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (where I work) on Whole-Life Preaching.

LICC works with churches, church leaders, denominations, and individual Christians to explore what it means to be disciples of Jesus in the so-called ordinary, everyday life, and how local churches might best serve their people to live out their callings wherever they find themselves.

We’re persuaded that becoming a whole-life disciplemaking church is not about a programme we bolt on to a church’s activities, but about being given eyes to see what God has already put in place – in the gospel, in his word, in the church, in a people indwelt by the Spirit who are empowered to be Christ’s witnesses in their daily lives. It’s about reframing what we already do through the regular means of grace in the life of a church – how we preach, how we worship when we gather together, how we run our small groups. What are the small shifts that churches might make in these areas which, over time, will make a difference to how people are discipled for the whole of their lives?

Whole-Life Preaching flows out of that larger commitment.

It’s the culmination of several years of working with my colleague Neil Hudson, and spending a significant amount of time with preachers and leaders from around the UK from different church traditions in seminars and workshops.

We’ve tried to capture something of that informal interaction in this resource – which is a series of 6 short videos (excellently produced by owlinspace) of us in conversation with each other, interspersed along the way with reflections from a series of experts, listeners, and preachers.

All six videos are freely available from here.

With each episode goes a downloadable pdf with some questions for reflection and discussion, and suggestions of things to try out. Our testing of the videos suggested that church preaching teams, in particular, would benefit from watching the videos and using hem as a basis for a discussion with each other, and we trust that proves to be the case.

It’s important to make clear that we’re not trying to offer a full-blown overview of homiletics in this resource! We have friends in various organisations which focus on preaching; they do great work, and we’ve not tried to replicate that.

But we wanted to dial up the significance of allowing a whole-life disciplemaking perspective to inform the preparation and delivery of sermons, of recognising that through Scripture God shapes his people for their calling in the world, and encouraging preachers to reflect on the implications of biblical passages in a way that is alert to the everyday contexts in which members of congregations find themselves.

For us, whole-life preaching flows out of a confidence in the scope of God’s loving rule over all things, from a commitment to the gospel of Christ and its implications for every aspect of life, and from a conviction that the Spirit works through Scripture to form and nurture the people of God for his good purposes in the world.

It’s in that light that we trust preachers and others will benefit from this resource.

Also on the LICC website (from here) is a set of resources on 1 Thessalonians – a pack for preachers with some background to the letter and some pointers for preaching it, and a set of Bible study questions for small groups to go alongside a series on the letter.

The Journal of Inductive Biblical Studies 4, 1 (2017)

The latest issue of the Journal of Inductive Biblical Studies is now available online, with the below articles and their abstracts (where available). Individual essays are available from here, and the journal is available in its entirety as a pdf here.

David R. Bauer
From the Editors

Drew S. Holland
The Meaning of Ἐξέστη in Mark 3:21
In examining Mark 3:21, scholars over the last century have focused their attention on the identity of οἱ παρ’ αὐτοῦ. The consequence is that scholarship has reached an impasse in determining who claims that Jesus has gone mad (ἐξέστη). The following paper attempts to focus instead on the meaning of ἐξέστη in Mark 3:21 as a key to solving the interpretational difficulties that have surrounded this verse and the pericope in which it is found (Mark 3:20-30). I propose that ἐξέστη means “he has amazed” as opposed to the traditional sense of “he has gone mad.” Moreover, it is the crowd, not οἱ παρ’ αὐτοῦ, who makes this claim about Jesus. This eases the exigency of locating the identity of οἱ παρ’ αὐτοῦ since we are no longer required to explain why either of these groups would claim Jesus’s insanity. This approach is strengthened by a literary pattern spanning Mark’s Gospel from the beginning until the passion narrative in which the crowd responds positively to Jesus, especially in contrast to religious leaders.

Jerry D. Breen
The Ransom Saying (Matt 20:28): A Fresh Perspective
The ransom saying in Matthew and Mark has intrigued scholars for centuries. Modern scholars were determined to ascertain the precise meaning of the saying to the Gospel’s writers, readers, and Jesus himself. The consensus opinion that Isa 53 provides the background of the saying was challenged by two prominent NT scholars in 1959. Since then the discussion has focused on the linguistic and conceptual parallels between the ransom saying and relevant backgrounds that introduced insightful arguments for and against parallels but largely ignored the contexts of the Gospels themselves. This paper seeks to elucidate the meaning of the ransom saying by identifying the relevant contextual evidence in Matthew and applying it to the discussion. Through this study, it will be demonstrated that the ransom saying should be viewed through the lens of Dan 7 and Isa 40–55.

Howard Tillman Kuist
Chapter X: A Critical Estimate of St. Paul’s Pedagogy

Stanley D. Walters
“Except for the Lord”: An Exposition of Psalm 124

Alan J. Meenan
Autobiographical Reflections on IBS Methodology

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Lausanne Global Analysis 6, 5 (September 2017)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here, including pdf downloads.

In the issue overview, editor David Taylor writes:

‘In this issue we ask how Islamic radicalism and Saudi influence can be countered in Indonesia in the wake of former Jakarta Governor Ahok’s imprisonment on blasphemy charges; we highlight the church’s call to minister to, for, and with children-at-risk, empowering them to flourish as co-laborers in mission; we address the topic of innovation for integral mission, asking how we can generate more creative thinking, planning, and action to spread the gospel to the corners of the world; and we discuss how faithful presence means penetrating high and low culture for Christ as we assess the continuing salience of James Davison Hunter’s book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.’

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Centre for Public Christianity (October 2017)

The Centre for Public Christianity has posted a video interview in four segments with Brian Rosner, Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne. He is talking about issues of identity, drawing on his new book, Known by God: A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity, as as well as his own experience of loss and recovery.

Also posted is a wide-ranging audio interview with Andy Bannister, Director of Solas Centre for Public Christianity in the UK, talking about life’s big questions, some of the key differences between Islam and Christianity, and what Christian faith has to offer our culture that might be worthwhile.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Encounters 47 (September 2017) on Hospitality and Mission

After a four-year hiatus, Encounters, a mission journal from Redcliffe College, has just been relaunched.

Out twice a year, and featuring ‘articles from Redcliffe faculty, as well as drawing on a wide range of missiologists and mission practitioners from around the world’, Encounters ‘aims to stimulate and resource the global missions community and provide a space for those involved in mission to express and exchange their views on a variety of contemporary issues’.

The new issue contains several articles looking ‘at the vibrant interplay between hospitality and mission’. Individual pieces can be accessed here, and the whole issue is available as a pdf here.

Archived editions of Encounters can be downloaded from here.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Eternal Light

During a long car journey recently, I listened to some talks on 1 John by D.A. Carson. At one point he cited the below hymn, which I haven’t sung for over 30 years, but whose richness I still cherish:

Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live and look on Thee.

The spirits that surround Thy throne
May bear the burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.

Oh, how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my natural spirit bear
The uncreated beam?

There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode;
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit’s energies,
An Advocate with God.

These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above;
The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell in the eternal light,
Through the eternal Love.

Thomas Binney (1798-1874)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

9Marks Journal (Fall 2017) on The Reformation and Your Church

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available from here in various formats and here as a pdf, is devoted to the topic of ‘The Reformation and Your Church’.

In the Editor’s Note, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘We asked our contributors to consider the Reformation’s relevance specifically to the local church and the pastor. Why should pastors care? Take a look at D.A. Carson’s piece. What does it have to do with expositional preaching, evangelism, church discipline, church authority more broadly, the ordinances, even pastoral counseling? There are articles on each of these topics, too.

‘There is, of course, a danger in idealizing the past. Brad Littlejohn’s piece offers a crucial warning. But there might be a greater danger in forgetting it altogether...

‘Start, therefore, with Stephen Nichols’ piece. It takes you back in time, and lets you imagine what you might have heard in church the Sunday before Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenberg Door...

‘Then ask yourself how you might teach your congregation about the Reformation... How are you equipping your church with knowledge of the wisdom and folly of the past? If you haven’t been doing this, I’m excited about the wonderful stories and truths your church still gets to learn from those who came before us – like hearing a great symphony for the first time!’

John Van Sloten on Work

John Van Sloten, Every Job a Parable: What Farmers, Nurses and Astronauts Tell Us About God (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2017).

I was asked to write a commendation for the above book – and was happy to do so. Now that the book is out, I’ve pasted the commendation below. It doesn’t really count as a review, but it hopefully provides a flavour of what to expect if this is a topic that interests you.

‘You’ll meet people you know in these pages – electricians, landlords, mechanics, accountants, nurses, hairdressers – and you might even recognise yourself. You’ll certainly see yourself differently – as a human being, as a worker, as someone through whom God’s grace becomes visible in daily life. What do our everyday jobs, even the apparently most mundane, reveal about God? John Van Sloten brings with him a pastor’s heart, an array of real-life examples, and a capacity to spot God’s presence in even the most unlikely of places. Journeying with him through the book provides a way of learning to do the same.’

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Worship of God in the Whole of Life

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s a lightly-edited rerun of one I wrote back in 2015.

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Deuteronomy 10:12-13

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being...’
In a loud voice they were saying:
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!’
Revelation 4:11 and 5:12

It should come as no surprise that the Lord of the whole of life requires worship in the whole of life. In the Old Testament, we see it in regulations that touch on every aspect of daily existence, in psalms which embrace the highs and lows and everything in between, in prophets who call for justice and mercy as well as sacrifice and singing. As Deuteronomy 10:12-13 captures it, all of life was to be an expression of service to the Lord.

That’s completely in line with what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 – where bodies, minds and wills are offered back to God – reminding us that the Old and New Testaments stand together on the necessity of whole-life worship. Across Scripture, acceptable worship is not simply a matter of praising God in music and singing, or of participating enthusiastically in rites and ceremonies; it involves honouring, serving, and revering God in every sphere of life.

And it all flows out of his grace towards us. The biblical story from beginning to end allows us to trace the acts of God on behalf of the people of God and our response to the Lord in worship.

In the book of Revelation, John sees a door standing open in heaven. He’s given a vision of reality from God’s perspective. For the small and weak communities of believers scattered around the Roman empire, John sees that the true account of the world is revealed not only in the Creator God who reigns over all things, but in the Christ crucified who redeems all things.

The worship that John witnesses nourishes our identity and mission as the body of Christ – because it’s focused above all on Christ himself, who is uniquely qualified to bring to pass God’s redemptive purposes in the world. The scope of what God might be pleased to do through us in our everyday lives, even this day, is rooted in what God has done, is doing, and will do for us and for all creation.

So, John’s vision of worship becomes a call to worship, an expression of allegiance in a world of competing allegiances, a way of declaring who’s really in charge, as we allow our worship of God and the Lamb to permeate everything we think and say and do, and invite others to do the same.

Friday, 22 September 2017

James K.A. Smith on Awaiting the King

It will come as no surprise to some visitors to this blog that I have greatly appreciated the work of James K.A. Smith over the years (see here, here, here, here, here, and here), nor that I am looking forward to the imminent release of the third volume in his ‘Cultural Liturgies’ project – Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017) – looking at how worship shapes us as citizens of the King.

There’s more information about the book here, and a series of 10 short videos here in which he talks about the book, its emphases, and its relationship with other parts of his work.

He describes the book as a remix of Augustine and Oliver O’Donovan, nourished by his location in the Reformed (especially Kuyperian) tradition, but also pushing back on that tradition by making the church more central in how we think about our political witness.

In line with the earlier volumes in this series, and with Smith’s work elsewhere, he describes citizens as ‘lovers’, not just rational information processors. Our public and political life is caught up in dynamics of desire and formation. If we want to judge the character of a people, we have to discern what they love. The book is a liturgical analysis of what we worship politically, and what we are being trained to love when we step into those places as Christians.

We are, he says, to be a people whose political vision is animated by a vision of the King who is coming. For Smith, this means learning to walk a line between quietism and activism. We’re not just sitting around, not caring our shared public life; we’re waiting for the King. But nor are we activists in the sense that we think we’re going to bring the end about. We wait actively. We are caught up in what God is doing in the world, and the formative practices of the church shape us as a people who then shape the world.

In this sense, Smith hopes the book will recalibrate our posture towards public life, and he makes some helpful comments in this respect on steering between what he sees as the dangers of the ‘court evangelicals’ (those cosying up to power) and the Benedict Option.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Southwestern Journal of Theology 59, 2 (2017) on Faith, Work, and Economics

The latest volume of the Southwestern Journal of Theology contains the below essays on the theme of ‘Faith, Work, and Economics’. Here’s an excerpt from the opening editorial:

‘[M]any Christians find themselves thinking of faith as a weekend endeavor and not something applicable to the whole of life. This is understandable if one thinks of the Christian life as existing only when one is gathered for religious events. The remaining time of the week must be for something else – something other than religion. However, if one considers Christianity as a whole-life faith endeavor, more than Sunday is in mind. Christianity then becomes something that is an everyday occurrence. If this is the case then work – what most people spend their time doing – must be a part of that lived-out faith. This raises the question, does the Bible actually speak to this concept of whole-life Christianity? The answer to that question is a resounding yes and the articles that follow are engaged with the broader question of what does the Bible say about faith, work, and economics.’

David W. Baker
Are Business People the Bad Guys? Person and Property in the Pentateuch

John S. Bergsma
The Year of Jubilee and the Ancient Israelite Economy

Eric Mitchell
Limited Government and Taxation in the Old Testament

Edd S. Noell
Land Grabs, Unjust Exchange, and Bribes: Economic Opportunism and the Rights of the Poor in Ancient Israel

John Taylor
Labor of Love: The Theology of Work in First and Second Thessalonians

Thomas W. Davis
The Business Secrets of Paul of Tarsus

The entire issue is available as a pdf here.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Lausanne Global Analysis 6, 4 (July 2017)

July’s issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here, including pdf downloads.

In the issue overview, editor David Taylor writes:

‘In this issue we examine how the 2011 Japan earthquake transformed gospel understanding in Japanese churches; we consider how to reach Muslims through music, drawing on bridge-building lessons from Pakistan; we address the challenge of  ‘fake news’ and its impact on Christian witness in today’s post-truth society; and, in the light of his first 100 days in office, we ask what the ‘Trump Effect’ means for the church and mission.’

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Knowing and Doing (Fall 2017)

The Fall 2017 edition of Knowing & Doing – ‘A Teaching Quarterly for Discipleship of Heart and Mind’ – from the C.S. Lewis Institute is now available online (from here), and contains the following articles:

Joel Woodruff
President’s Letter – From Black and White to the Wonderful World of Color
In this President’s Letter, C.S. Lewis Institute President Joel S. Woodruff shares highlights of the new features and layout of our quarterly Knowing & Doing publication.

David George Moore
Where’s Waldo?
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a gifted nineteenth century American writer who helped launch a movement of sorts called transcendentalism, in which the individual supplanted religious traditions and institutions. David George Moore argues that while Emerson’s work isn’t well known among Americans, his influence on our lives is incalculable. In this article, he offers suggestions for how Christians can address the ongoing challenges posed by Emersonian philosophy.

Michael Ward
The Good Serves the Better and Both the Best: C.S. Lewis on Imagination and Reason in Christian Apologetics Part 2 of 3
In Part 2 of this article, Michael Ward continues his examination of some of the groundwork to the thinking of C.S. Lewis that enabled him to become so effective an apologist.

Gregory Ganssle
The Christian Story and Our Longing for Relationship
According to Gregory Ganssle, the Christian story makes sense of our deepest longings. That is, the story that Christianity sets forth fits well with the things we value most and with the kinds of people we want to be. In this article, he develops one aspect of this fittingness, the centrality of relationships to our well-being.

Robert Saucy
Born to Grow: Moving Beyond Forgiveness to an Abundant Life
Robert Saucy observes that the message of Scripture is that our life in Christ is more than the forgiveness of sins, more than the escape from God’s condemnation, but a new way to live, a new source of zest that thirsts and hungers for more. In this article, he explains that spiritual growth is a process, and Scripture gives light to the means of growth and the dynamic operations of these means.

Randy Newman
Introducing: “A Book Observed: An Online ‘Old Book’ Club” (An Interactive Feature from Knowing & Doing)
In this article, Randy Newman introduces a new, regular interactive feature from Knowing & Doing to help readers benefit from reading the great “old books.” The feature is called “A Book Observed: An Online ‘Old Book’ Club”. He also offers some thoughts on the question: Why read the great old books?

Randy Newman
An Encouragement to Read Jonathan Edwards’s The Religious Affections: How Sweet It Is!
In a culture where Christians are affected by fragmentation and compartmentalization, Randy Newman argues that getting “back to the Bible” means pursuing a holistic vision for what it means to be human and what that looks like in every way. Then, we will love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. To help us do this, he recommends reading Jonathan Edwards’s classic The Religious Affections (1746). Edwards wanted his hearers and readers to know that just having an opinion about God or believing the right propositions about God doesn’t make one a Christian. Saving faith must be felt as well as understood.

John Chrysostom (350 – 407 AD)
The Importance of Daily Scripture Reading From the Sermon, “On Lazarus”
An inspiring classic sermon from the pulpit of John Chrysostom that we hope will be a blessing to you.

Richard Baxter (1615 – 1691)
Lord, It Belongs Not to My Care
In each issue of Knowing & Doing we include a poem as part of our desire to promote discipleship of the heart and mind. Poems stir affection, inspire devotion and stimulate emotions. No wonder the Scriptures contains so many of them! And by the way, C.S. Lewis loved poetry.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Centre for Public Christianity (September 2017)

Among other interesting items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted a video interview with Sarah Williams (from Regent College in Vancouver) on ‘Life or Death’, in which she describes how 20 weeks into her third pregnancy she and her husband received the devastating news that their baby was not ‘viable’.

Also posted is an audio interview with Sarah on ‘The Story of Gender’, looking at the history of gender, how we’ve arrived at the understandings we have today, and the key roles that the Bible and Christianity have played in gender equality and women’s rights movements.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Just Thinking 25, 4 (2017)

The current issue of Just Thinking, the magazine of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, was recently posted online. The magazine is available to view from here, from where it can also be downloaded as a pdf.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Themelios 42, 2 (August 2017)

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

D.A. Carson
On Knowing When to Resign

Strange Times
Daniel Strange
The ‘Only’ Option

John C. Wingard Jr.
Confession of a Reformed Philosopher: Why I Am a Compatibilist about Determinism and Moral Responsibility
It is not fashionable among Christian philosophers today to be a compatibilist about morally significant freedom and determinism. This essay sketches a case for the reasonableness of embracing compatibilism that involves both theological and nontheological considerations. This is followed by a critique of the most widely recognized challenge to compatibilism, the consequence argument against compatibilism, that attempts to show why such an argument cannot succeed. The essay concludes by noting several implications of the sort of compatibilism defended here for developing a satisfactory moral psychology.

J. Daniel McDonald
Natural Selection and an Epistemology of Evil: An Incompatible Pair
Underlying the atheistic naturalist’s argument from evil against God’s existence is an assumed knowledge of evil—they know what evil is. For atheistic naturalists, Darwinian evolution serves as the framework of their worldview with natural selection as the blind agent of change. Assuming natural selection is true, how can one who holds to natural selection know what evil is and that something is evil—what the author calls an “epistemology of evil”? This article argues that the beliefs in natural selection and in the existence of evil are contradictory, undermining the argument from evil against God’s existence.

Jacob Shatzer
Wendell Berry’s “Risk”: In the Middle on Gay Marriage?
Wendell Berry’s influence has grown in recent years as many people, Christians or not, have found his agrarian vision a compelling corrective to various modern problems. However, Berry publicly took what we might call a “middle road” on gay marriage. This position surprised (and disappointed) many evangelicals that do not agree. But how does Berry’s position on gay marriage stand up to Berry’s own criticism? Does he agree with himself?

Obbie Tyler Todd
The Preeminence of Knowledge in John Calvin’s Doctrine of Conversion and Its Influence Upon His Ministry in Geneva
John Calvin believed that the mind served as the “citadel” to the soul, commanding the seat of conversion whereby God first remedied the noetic effects of sin before liberating the bound will. Therefore the Reformer consigned particular importance to human knowledge in the process of conversion that reverberated throughout his entire Genevan ministry. It is the aim of this article to examine Calvin’s developed hierarchy of faculties, particularly the chief functional status ascribed to the mind, and how this preeminence of knowledge influenced his view of sin, salvation, and Christian homiletics respectively.

Christopher Woznicki
Redeeming Edwards’s Doctrine of Hell: An “Edwardsean” Account
Jonathan Edwards provides subsequent generations of theologians and ministers with one of the most influential versions of the traditional account of hell. However, his account of hell has its detractors. Those who oppose Edwards’s account argue that it is morally appalling and philosophically problematic. As such, I attempt to defend Edwards’s account by addressing one of its most philosophically pressing objections: the issuant account objection. In order to do this, I turn to Edwards’s doctrine of the blessed state of the redeemed in heaven. This is a doctrine the resources of which can help provide a redeemed “Edwardsean” account of hell, one that is both traditional and issuant.

George A. Terry
A Missiology of Excluded Middles: An Analysis of the T4T Scheme for Evangelism and Discipleship
This article analyzes the theological premises of the popular T4T model for evangelism and discipleship. The analysis argues that the T4T scheme largely depends on several false dichotomies that do not engage the Scriptures except in order to proof text and it regularly excludes the middle area that conveys the biblical balance. The result is an overly rigid methodology that undervalues the influence of context in crosscultural communication. Rather than a theological vision that holds in biblical tension both truth and context, T4T sanctions an inflexible evangelism scheme that is more conducive to receptive audiences and a discipleship model that is more conversant with what is expedient than what is biblical.

Book Reviews

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Crucible 8, 1 (June 2017)

The latest issue of Crucible, published by the Australian Evangelical Alliance and largely produced by the faculty of the Australian College of Ministries, is now available online here, with the below articles (abstracts included, where available).

The Cauldron: peer reviewed articles

Bron Williams
Taking Stock, Taking Heart, Taking Action: Australia, refugees and the ethics of Isaiah
“Taking Stock, Taking Heart, Taking Action” applies the ethics of Isaiah to Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Since Federation, Australia’s responses to asylum seekers and refugees has ranged from positive encouragement and welcome (post-WWII) to punitive discouragement and detention (current ‘illegal maritime arrivals’). Representative passages and themes across the book of Isaiah are explored and examined to support a consistent ethical emphasis on the compassionate and just treatment of the marginalised and needy. When evaluating and challenging Australian policy in the light of Isaiah’s ethics, the sovereignty of God over world issues is emphasized, particularly in times of political turbulence. Isaiah 1–39 calls for a taking stock of the use (or misuse) of language and power, with righteousness and justice used as yardsticks against which God judges the attitudes and actions of people. After judgement, Isaiah 40–55 encourages a taking heart, as the voices of the marginalised and the suffering servant (in this case asylum seekers and refugees) point to a future beyond what has previously been experienced or hoped for. Finally, in Isaiah 56–66 the true fast of God addresses the need for action, both for others and for ourselves.

Jeff Pugh
The Transforming Power of Preaching With Imagination
This article explores the connection between the imagination of a gifted preacher and the illuminating work of the Spirit. There is a commonly held assumption that the stimulation of a congregation’s imagination by a sermon is critical if it is to have any transformative effect on the hearers. Robert Dykstra first explored this connection by drawing upon Donald Winnicott’s version of Object Relations Theory as it relates to infant play and development. He also asserted that boring preaching was in a congregation’s interest and a product of collaboration between both parties. While Dykstra’s proposal is compelling this leaves the tension unresolved that this would imply that the transcendent purposes of the Spirit depend upon the talents of the preacher evoking human God imaging processes. Winnicott’s theory also implies that the images provoked by imaginative preaching are just projections from the psyche of the hearers and nothing more. A more compelling paradigm for the connection between God’s revelation and human imagination can be found by applying Moshe Spero’s recent version of O.R. theory as it allows space for a divine revelatory role in the playful/transformative preaching-hearing encounter. Parallels between the work of the imaginative preacher and therapist show how imagination actually respects the redemptive initiative of the Spirit in several key ways. Practical implications for those preparing compelling sermons follow automatically from this theological insight.

The Test-tube: ministry resources

Wilma Gallet
Practical Theology and Contemporary Social Issues

Ian Hussey
A Sermon: Migration and the Mission of God

The Filter: book reviews

Centre for Public Christianity (August 2017)

The Centre for Public Christianity has posted a helpful 5-minute video interview with Amy Orr-Ewing (Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics) on ‘The world we know: why trust (and read) the Bible?’.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Currents in Biblical Research 15, 3 (June 2017)

The latest Currents in Biblical Research recently arrived, with titles and abstracts of the main articles as below.

Thomas B. Dozeman
The Book of Joshua in Recent Research
Research on the book of Joshua is developing significantly in a variety of different areas. The review summarizes current scholarship in six distinct methodological approaches: (1) textual criticism; (2) composition and literary context; (3) history, archaeology and geography; (4) violence, genocide and conquest; (5) literary and ideological studies; and (6) reception history. The article will conclude with a brief summary of recent collected studies and commentaries on Joshua. The focus of interpretation will be the last ten years supplementing Greenspoon (2005).

David Tabb Stewart 
LGBT/Queer Hermeneutics and the Hebrew Bible
LGBT and queer interpretive approaches have moved beyond the identitarian and apologetic stances of the 1970s–90s, when the first order of business was to respond to anti-gay voices and understand social location as an interpretive standpoint. The HIV/AIDS health crisis helped move some LGBT interpreters away from homosexuality as an object of study to placing themselves inside the text as subjects, lamenting with the Psalms or putting God in the dock like Job. Queer interpretation, anti-essentialist in spirit, moved away from identitarian concerns placing queer interpreters outside the text as interrogators. Queer biblical criticism resists heteronormativity as the default interpretive stance, but embraces the study of the body, gender performance, midrash-making and playfulness with biblical texts. The queer interpretive approach has begun to mature as it seeks intersections with minoritized criticisms, disability studies and the rising consciousness of intersex people, while criticizing itself as well.

Nicholas A. Elder
New Testament Media Criticism
This article introduces and overviews New Testament media criticism. Media criticism is an emerging biblical methodology that encompasses four related fields: orality studies, social memory theory, performance criticism, and the Bible in modern media. The article addresses the methodological foundations of these fields and reviews recent contributions in each of them.

R.B. Jamieson
When and Where Did Jesus Offer Himself? A Taxonomy of Recent Scholarship on Hebrews
This article surveys how recent scholarship answers the question, ‘According to Hebrews, when and where did Jesus offer himself?’ Much interest has been paid to this topic in the wake of David Moffitt’s 2011 monograph, but the debate is often framed in potentially reductionistic binary terms: either Hebrews depicts a sacrificial sequence beginning on the cross and culminating in heaven, or else Jesus’ ‘heavenly offering’ is a metaphor for the cross. By contrast, this article asks how scholars correlate three variables: Jesus’ death, offering, and entrance to heaven. It registers five answers that have been offered, explores the textual basis taken to support each, and articulates the issues which divide each view from the others. Further, the article surveys recent answers to two material questions that arise in the wake of this formal one. First, is Hebrews’ sacrificial theology coherent? Second, in Hebrews, is Jesus’ death atoning?

Dov Weiss
The Rabbinic God and Mediaeval Judaism
From the earliest stages of Wissenschaft des Judentums, scholars of Judaism typically read statements about God in the classical sources of Judaism with a mediaeval philosophical lens. By doing so, they sought to demonstrate the essential unity and continuity between rabbinic Judaism, later mediaeval Jewish philosophy and modern Judaism. In the late 1980s, the Maimonidean hold on rabbinic scholarship began to crack when the ‘revisionist school’ sought to drive a wedge between rabbinic Judaism, on the one hand, and Maimonidean Judaism, on the other hand, by highlighting the deep continuities and links between rabbinic Judaism and mediaeval Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah). The revisionist scholars regarded rabbinic Judaism as a pre-cursor to mediaeval Kabbalah rather than mediaeval Jewish philosophy. This article provides the history of scholarship on these two methods of reading rabbinic texts and then proposes that scholars adopt a third method. That is, building on the work of recent scholarship, we should confront theological rabbinic texts on their own terms, without the guiding hand of either mediaeval Jewish framework.