Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Christian History Magazine on the Catholic Reformation

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is devoted to The Catholic Reformation’, the fourth in a four-part series on the Reformation.

Here is the paragraph of blurb:

‘The fourth and final issue of our Reformation series features the story of Catholic reform in the sixteenth century. Renewal spread through the Catholic church through new religious orders – foremost the Jesuits – and through individuals and groups who sympathized with “evangelical” ideas while remaining under papal authority. The Council of Trent, the official response to the Protestant critique, would set a course for Catholicism for the next 500 years. The issue also includes closing thoughts on the long-term effects of the Reformation and the prospects for ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Protestants today.’

The whole magazine is available as a 6.8 MB pdf here.

The previous three magazines in the series are available

Monday, 17 July 2017

Prayer on a Vast Canvas

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world ... I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.
John 17:24-26

The scope of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is huge, overwhelming even. It moves from the oneness between Father and Son ‘before the world began’ (17:5), through the mission of the Son sent from the Father, to the keeping and sanctification of the apostles as those in turn sent into the world (17:18), to those who believe through their testimony – us included – who come to participate in the eternal love of the triune God. Jesus’ prayer embraces nothing less than the whole history of redemption.

The prayer thus reflects God’s mission, and the goal of that mission – to gather a people to share in the fellowship of love and oneness that existed between Father and Son ‘before the creation of the world’ (17:24), that we might be loved by the Father with the love he has for the Son. Just bask in that for a moment.

In a sense, John 17 is the real ‘Lord’s prayer’, with the one recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 best thought of as the disciples’ prayer. It is Jesus’ prayer, not ours. And, as we eavesdrop on it, we hear not just his voice but his heart: his alignment with the will of the Father, his desire to complete the work given him to do, his concerns for his people. Above all, perhaps, the prayer demonstrates the intimacy between Father and Son. But it also beckons us into that intimacy, and invites us to reflect on how we will pray as a result.

John 17 helps us, not because it gives us a technique for prayer, but because it orients our praying. It shows us that prayer is addressed to God as Father and is rooted in relationship with one who knows us and loves us. It also reminds us of the centrality of God’s glory. Our prayers can sometimes be focused on ourselves with concentric circles of legitimate interests and concerns, needs and responsibilities. But Jesus puts the Father’s glory at the centre, and the circles that radiate out are to do with his will and his purpose.

As Jesus promised, answers to such prayers prayed in his name are always given (John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:24). For those who truly know him – and are one in intimate union with him and the Father – pray out of a knowledge of his will and a desire to serve his interests.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Tyndale Bulletin 68, 1 (2017)

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

Kim Phillips
A New Codex from the Scribe behind the Leningrad Codex: L17
Samuel b. Jacob was the scribe responsible for the production of the so-called Leningrad Codex (Firkowich B19a), currently our earliest complete Masoretic Bible codex. This article demonstrates that another codex from the Firkowich Collection, containing the Former Prophets only, is also the work of Samuel b. Jacob, despite the lack of a colophon to this effect. The argument is based on a combination of eleven textual and para-textual features shared between these two manuscripts, and other manuscripts known to have been produced by the same scribe.

David B. Schreiner
‘We Really Should Stop Translating nir in Kings as “Light” Or “Lamp”’: A Response
This essay responds to Deuk-il Shin’s recently published ‘The Translation of the Hebrew Term NI?R: “David's Yoke”?’ I contend that Shin’s argument does not do enough to counteract Douglas Stuart’s call to stop translating nir in Kings as ‘light’ or ‘lamp’. Among other things, Shin does not consider important contributions to the discussion, which therefore renders his argumentation deficient. All things considered, Ehud Ben Zvi’s suggestion of territorial dominion is most appropriate.

John Makujina
‘Behold, There Were Twins in Her Womb’ (Gen. 25:24-26; 38:27-30): Medical Science and the Twin Births in Genesis
Eran Viezel claims that the book of Genesis is ignorant of the fundamentals of childbirth, particularly the presenting foetal member. While the head normally emerges first, Genesis mistakenly thinks that the hands present, as they do in livestock deliveries. Therefore, the veracity of the twin births in Genesis 25:24-26 and 38:27-30, where a hand exits the womb first (Jacob and Zerah), should be rejected. The present article, however, exposes significant inaccuracies and unsupported assumptions on Viezel’s part. Moreover, while maintaining that both births are anomalous, this article proposes medically realistic scenarios for the parturitions of the twins in Genesis.

Murray Vasser
Grant Slaves Equality: Re-Examining the Translation of Colossians 4:1
This essay offers a fresh challenge to the widely accepted translation of Colossians 4:1. Though isotes normally means ‘equality’, most scholars insist that in Colossians 4:1 the term must instead mean ‘fairness’, for the author evidently assumes the continuation of slavery in the Christian community. Thus English versions render the command ‘Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly’ (RSV). In support of this translation, scholars routinely cite a handful of texts that are purported to demonstrate that the term isotes could mean ‘fairness’ instead of ‘equality’. In this essay, I challenge such an interpretation of these texts. Furthermore, by demonstrating that a first-century moralist could exhort masters to treat their slaves as equals without thereby recommending the abolition of slavery, I challenge the assertion that the context of Colossians 4:1 requires a meaning of isotes other than the one well attested in the extant Greek literature. I conclude that Colossians 4:1 should be rendered as follows: ‘Masters, grant slaves justice and equality.’ This conclusion has important implications not only for Bible translators, but also for scholars attempting to reconstruct the situation at Colossae or describe early Christian attitudes towards slavery.

Jermo van Nes and Harro Koning
Motif-Semantic Differences in Paul?: A Question to Advocates of the Pastorals’ Plural Authorship in Dialogue with Michaela Engelmann
New Testament scholarship is witnessing a growing number of studies advocating the plural authorship of the Pastoral Epistles (PE) on the basis of their mutual differences. Among them is the recent study by Michaela Engelmann highlighting ‘motif-semantic’ differences between the PE in terms of their Christology/soteriology, ecclesiology, heresiology, and image of Paul. While Engelmann and others challenging the common authorship of the PE offer significant contributions to the study of the PE’s origins, their overall approach also raises methodological questions. By way of illustration, 1 Thessalonians and Philippians are studied in a way similar to that of Engelmann. Both letters are shown to exhibit a good number of motif-semantic differences, which might bring into question their explanatory power.

Daniel Hill
The State and Marriage: Cut the Connection
I argue that the connection between the state and the institution of marriage should be cut. More precisely, I argue that the state should not (i) solemnise or purport to solemnise any marriages, (ii) register any marriages and (iii) make any laws, civil or criminal, respecting marriage. I advance several arguments for this thesis, and then respond to many possible objections. I do not argue for any change in any of the typical Western laws respecting sexual intercourse; in particular, I do not argue for any change in the laws regarding rape, the age of consent to intercourse or intercourse with a minor.

Julian Rivers
Could Marriage Be Disestablished?
In this paper, I respond to Dr Daniel Hill’s argument that English law should cease to recognise marriage. Rather than focusing on general arguments of political theory for and against such a proposal I consider practical arguments based on the development of the law in response to injustice in family relations. A law of marriage of some sort seems inevitable. This conclusion is reinforced by the arguments of libertarian and feminist writers who seek to ‘abolish’ marriage. Looked at more closely, they do nothing of the sort; they redefine it. Finally, I discuss the problem of unregistered marriages among British Muslims as an already existing example of marriage without the state. I conclude that law has to respond to existing social forms according to an idea of justice in domestic relations, and for that reason marriage cannot simply be ‘disestablished’.

Dissertation Summaries

Sookgoo Shin
Ethics in the Gospel of John: Discipleship as Moral Progress
This study seeks to challenge the dominant scholarly view of John’s ethics as an ineffective and unhelpful companion for moral formation. The Gospel of John has been an unwelcome outsider when it comes to the discussion of ethics since it has been accused of being morally bankrupt, not ethical enough to be included in New Testament ethics, and a puzzling book – indeed, a major challenge – for ethical enquiry. No one has been, however, more sceptical about the value of John’s ethics than Wayne Meeks, whose criticisms have contributed significantly to this negative view. In order to demonstrate the inadequacy of such claims, this study aims to identify the undergirding ethical dynamic that shapes John’s moral structure by bringing out the implicit ethical elements that are embedded throughout John’s narratives, and thus suggests a way to read the whole Gospel ethically and appreciatively of its literary characteristics.

Peter Malik
Studies in P.Beatty III (P47): The Codex, Its Scribe, and Its Text
The importance of papyri in NT textual criticism, if properly understood, is difficult to overestimate. Despite their state of preservation, they allowed the critics to move beyond the fourth-century ‘barrier’ of the Constantinian period, in which the earliest ‘Great majuscules’ were produced. The early papyri thus provided a venue for revisiting previous theories concerning transmission history and even some of the ‘canons’ of textual criticism. And perhaps of equal significance is the fact that the early papyri have provided the historians with valuable evidence of early Christian material culture and worship. Although to varying degrees this applies to all the papyri from the pre-Constantinian time, it is particularly true of those from Chester Beatty (P45-47) and Bodmer (P66, 72, 75) collections.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament 5, 2 (2016-2017)

The latest issue of the Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament is now available online. The main articles (listed below with their abstracts) are available from here, with a pdf of the entire issue available here. As always, it’s worth checking out its book reviews as much as anything else.

Andrew E. Steinmann
A Note on the Refrain in Genesis 1: Evening, Morning, and Day as Chronological Summary
The meaning of the refrain in Gen 1 “There was an evening and there was a morning, X day” (Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) has long been in dispute. This paper argues that the refrain is a chronological summary of the preceding text by demonstrating what the syntax and usage of such summaries are in the OT. The phrase then means “In summary there was an evening and then a morning, X day,” thereby encompassing an entire day beginning at sundown and ending at the next sundown. Moreover, the phrase “evening and morning” is further defined in the refrain as a single day.

Drew S. Holland
On the Commonalities of Deuteronomy 13 with Ancient Near Eastern Treaties
This article evaluates the numerous potential influences upon Deut 13 from ancient Near Eastern treaties. After assessing both the features Deut 13 shares with Hittite, Aramean, and neo-Assyrian treaties and the ways in which Deut 13 is distinct from them, it will become apparent that this biblical text shares some significant literary traits with these ANE treaties, but the degree to which it differs from them does not enable us to confirm literary dependence, a claim many scholars have asserted. Rather, Deut 13 expresses a uniquely Israelite treaty style within a general ancient Near Eastern treaty tradition.

Greg Goswell
King and Cultus: The Image of David in the Book of Kings
The image of David in the book of Kings is of a cultically-observant king, who does not commit the sin of idolatry, and, as a result, David becomes the model of proper royal behaviour for all kings that follow. In the theology of Kings there is an essential link between kingship and the temple cultus, and the kings who were like David reformed the cult and suppressed deviant cultic expression. The author of Kings measures and assesses the performance of every king by the rule of whether he supported the primacy of the YHWH and his temple in Jerusalem (of which piety David is the exemplar). It is argued that the image of David found in Kings is not without connection to the memory of David preserved in the preceding book of Samuel. In terms of the fate of the Davidic house in exile and beyond, various features in Kings suggest that the book is at best ambivalent as to the long term future of kingship as an Israelite institution.

Book Reviews

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath

For the Love of God, Volume 1 (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998) is a series of daily reflections by D.A. Carson based on the Bible reading scheme of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Carson notes that one of the psalms for today (Psalm 146) inspired the following hymn by Isaac Watts, which I haven’t sung for years but which I think is wonderful.

I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler pow’rs;
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life and thought and being last,
Or immortality endures.

Why should I make a man my trust?
Princes must die and turn to dust;
Vain is the help of flesh and blood:
Their breath departs, their pomp and pow’r
And thoughts all vanish in an hour,
Nor can they make their promise good.

How happy they whose hopes rely
On Israel’s God, Who made the sky
And earth and seas with all their train:
His truth forever stands secure;
He saves th’ oppressed, He feeds the poor,
And none shall find His promise vain.

The Lord gives eyesight to the blind;
The Lord supports the sinking mind;
He sends the lab’ring conscience peace;
He helps the stranger in distress,
The widow, and the fatherless,
And grants the pris’ner sweet release.

He loves His saints, He knows them well,
But turns the wicked down to hell;
Thy God, O Zion! ever reigns:
Let every tongue, let every age,
In this exalted work engage;
Praise Him in everlasting strains.

I’ll praise Him while He lends me breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler pow’rs;
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life and thought and being last,
Or immortality endures.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) 

Word and World 3 (2017)

Word and World, published by IFES, ‘aims to promote conversation and reflection about God’s Word and God’s World’, seeking ‘to enable those involved in student ministry to be nourished by the gospel and attentive to the world that students inhabit’.

The current issue explores persecution and suffering, from the days of the early church to a variety of modern contexts, including Iraq, Gabon, and Nigeria.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Vern S. Poythress on the Book of Revelation

Vern S. Poythress has made available a 125-page Study Guide to the Book of Revelation (here as a pdf). After some introductory matter, most of it contains questions on the book divided into 23 sections, which could be helpful for personal or small group Bible study.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Theos Report on Christianity and Mental Health

For any of the three or four readers of this blog who may be interested, this is my 2000th post, which feels like something of a milestone. Thanks for checking in.

The latest report from Theos has just been published:

Here are the opening paragraphs from the Executive Summary (the bold text is original):

‘This report follows on from the findings of the Theos report Religion and Wellbeing: Assessing the Evidence. That report looked at 140 academic studies and sought to analyse the underlying relationship between religion and wellbeing. This report, by contrast, looks more specifically at Christianity and is an attempt to assess what Christians are actually contributing to society in terms of addressing mental health needs.

‘It should be read as a scoping study, an initial foray into the field which is looking to suggest a research agenda, rather than presenting any firm conclusions. It draws on 15 informal interviews with Christian experts and practitioners within the field, representing a range of denominations, theologies, and particular engagements with mental health.

‘The report provides a brief overview of the mental health situation in the UK today, suggests some Christian principles on which an authentic Christian response could be built, makes a preliminary effort to map such services as already exist, and finally looks to establish how effective those services are and how they could be improved.

‘Throughout, the report returns to “what next?” questions, outlining a programme of research that is needed to encourage, inform, shape and amplify the Christian response to current mental health problems.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

David McIlroy on Finance

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online, this one by David McIlroy:

Here is the summary:

‘The Global Financial Crisis ought to have been a wake-up call. Instead, it has largely been an opportunity missed. It is not, however, impossible to take the steps which are required to transform the financial services industry into one which lives up to its name. This paper seeks to remind us that the shape of banks and the nature of banking are not fixed, that there is an alternative to the domination of our financial system by a few large banks focused on short-term profits. Banking was different in the past and it could be once again.’

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Mission Frontiers 39, 4 (July-August 2017)

The July-August 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles on ‘The Roma’.

Editor Rick Wood writes:

‘The Roma, they are the people of myth, legend and media creations. They are commonly known by the name, Gypsy, given to them by outsiders. Most of us have images in our minds of what “Gypsies” are like even though the vast majority of us have never gotten to know someone who is Romani...

‘The only way to overcome these stereotypes is to confront them with the truth. That is what we are doing with this issue of Mission Frontiers. We are allowing actual Roma people to speak for themselves – to give you a glimpse into the reality of who they are, their struggles, and their passion to make Jesus known among their own people.’

Individual articles can be accessed from here, and the whole issue (5.3 MB) can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Foundations 72 (Spring 2017)

Issue 72 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, most of them on the theme of church planting.

Ralph Cunnington

Neil Powell
The Nature and Necessity of Church-Planting Movements
This paper introduces church-planting movements and considers how they differ from both networks and institutions. It next addresses the nature of gospel partnership within such movements and the place theological vision plays in enabling and establishing a partnership. Further, the paper reflects on some of the challenges movements face, and how they may be overcome, including defining a biblical basis for such partnerships. Finally, it seeks to establish the claim that the development of church-planting movements is necessary to reach our cities and our nations for Christ. 

Philip Moore
Defending Specificity on Doctrinal Distinctives for a Church-Planting Network
Acts 29 is a church-planting network of over 630 churches from 18 different denominations in 30 countries. Acts 29, as well as subscribing to the Lausanne statement of faith, has five specific doctrinal distinctives which its members must accept whole-heartedly. Two of these are Reformed soteriology and complemantarian relationships for men and women in the home and in the church. This article argues for the legitimacy of a network setting distinctives like these as boundaries for the network, describes how Acts 29 lives them out in its different constituencies and finally shows how they relate to the church-planting mission of the network.

Neil MacMillan
Building a Church-Planting Movement in a Traditional Denomination
This article explores how we can have the best of both worlds. The dynamic growth of a church planting movement welded to the resources and depth of a traditional ecclesiastical setting. Because most European Christians belong to traditional denominations it is crucial that these institutions learn to embrace church-planting movement dynamics that can counter the decline of the church. The article begins with a definition and analysis of church-planting movements and contrasts these with the benefits of institutional environments. It is argued that movements and institutions cannot flourish without elements of the other and that it is possible to blend the best features of movement and institution in one organisation. This is followed by a case study of how the Free Church of Scotland has worked to foster a church-planting movement within its existing structures. I try to outline the processes necessary to allow this to happen and some of the challenges involved. The article concludes with a look to necessary future developments that might allow this movement to take root and mature. 

Andy Paterson
Multi-Site Church
Multi-site churches litter the American churchscape and are beginning to crop up on the British scene. This article examines what they are, how the multi-site movement arose and what biblical rationale there might be for their existence. Appeals have been made both to church history and to evangelistic success by their advocates whilst the critics major on the nature of church and its oversight. The paper investigates whether multi-site church is an end in itself, a dangerous distortion to be avoided or a pragmatic tool that might help structure a transitional phase for some church plants and mergers.

Stephen Lloyd
Chronological Creationism
This paper coins a new term, “Chronological Creationism” to describe a nuanced approach to the creation-evolution debate which is theologically, apologetically and scientifically appealing. The importance of the Bible’s chronology, both relative and absolute, is introduced and then chronological considerations are applied to a series of doctrinal issues relating to origins: Adam and humanity, Noah’s flood and the relationship between Adam’s sin and death. It is concluded that if the Bible’s relative chronology in these doctrinal areas is maintained then it is impossible to reconcile the absolute chronology of the Bible with the dating used in evolutionary history. While this presents a formidable challenge, it is only if the relative chronology of the Bible is maintained that we are able to provide coherent responses to many contemporary attacks on Christianity. Starting with the relative chronology of the Bible also allows us to develop a robust scientific approach to origins that is innovative and enriching.

Book Reviews