Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Theos Report on Religion and Violence

The latest report from Theos has recently been published:

Here are some paragraphs from the Theos website:

‘Religion and violence seem inextricably linked in the public’s mind. But what does linked actually mean?

‘The public certainly isn’t clear. While 61% of people think that the teachings of religions are essentially peaceful, 70% think that most of the wars in world history have been caused by religions. Only 8% think religions are inherently violent, but 47% think that the world would be a more peaceful place if no one was religious.

‘If there is confusion, it’s probably because the relationship between religion and violence is confusing. In this essay, ethicist Robin Gill brings some balance to a debate that, particularly of late, has been marked more by caricature than clarity.

‘Recognising that there is a problem to be addressed (if not necessarily the pathological one alleged by New Atheists) Gill goes to the heart of the issue – the specific religious texts that are hijacked to legitimise violence – and argues that read rightly they can be “defused”.

‘Killing in the Name of God will not only deepen our understanding of religion and violence but, in doing so, will enable a richer and more measured debate about these major issues of our time.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Gary S. Shogren on Romans

Gary Shogren, New Testament scholar, who blogs at ‘Open Our Eyes, Lord!’, has kindly made available a pdf (here) of his commentary on Romans, originally written for the Comentario Bíblico Contemporáneo, published by Editorial Kairós.

John G. Stackhouse Jr. on Why You’re Here

I wrote the following mini review for July 2018’s edition of Highlights, produced by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

John G. Stackhouse Jr., Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World (Oxford: OUP, 2018).

In short, ‘why you’re here’ is about vocation, understood as applicable to ‘everyone, everything, everywhere, in every moment’. There is the call of God on every human being, what we were made for. And there is the distinctive call God gives to Christians. Our human calling is to make shalom, our Christian calling is to make disciples. And the sphere in which we work out those callings is, as Stackhouse so helpfully reminds us, the ‘real world’. Living in a time where wheat and weeds grow together until the final harvest, a ‘Christian realism’ trusts God that will work through the various means he has given us, bringing as much shalom as possible but without thinking it’s down to us to build the New Jerusalem. Compelling and accessible, this is essential reading for all those who want to respond in hopeful faithfulness to the call of God on their lives.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Tom Simpson on Academic Freedom

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online (here, from where a pdf can be downloaded), this one by Tom Simpson:

Tom Simpson, ‘Academic Freedom’, Cambridge Papers 27, 2 (June 2018).

Here is the summary:

‘There is a widespread perception that academic freedom is under threat, including in the UK. Is this true, and if so, does it matter? This paper suggests some Christian principles for valuing academic freedom, before considering the evidence for whether it is under threat and what may be done about this. It argues that although academic freedom exists in name, it is being eroded in practice. While academic freedom is a relatively recent doctrine, it is of great value, and its loss matters for the public good. The paper concludes with some proposals.’

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Themelios 43, 2 (August 2018)

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

D.A. Carson
When Revival Comes

Strange Times
Daniel Strange
The Rolling Stones Will Stop

Thomas R. Schreiner
Paul and Gender: A Review Article
Cynthia Westfall has written a wide-ranging book on Paul and gender, examining key texts in their literary, cultural, and theological context. Her discussion is fresh and stimulating, and many of her insights are to be warmly welcomed. She recognizes that Paul’s view of gender must be distinguished from common conceptions in the Greco-Roman world. Nevertheless, the perspective advocated as a whole fails to convince, especially in the exegesis of key texts like 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 and 1 Timothy 2:8–15.

Robert S. Smith
Songs of the Seer: The Purpose of Revelation’s Hymns
What are the purposes of the songs of the Apocalypse? What effect are they intended to produce? After a brief discussion of the question of sources, the function played by Revelation’s hymns is explored with particular attention being paid to their connection to the cosmic conflict theme, the way they model celebration in the face of tribulation, the comfort they offer believers and the warning they present to unbelievers. The article then turns to some of the key theological emphases the songs – in particular Christological and salvific themes. While Revelation’s hymns are transparently doxological, they are also richly pedagogical and pointedly pastoral. For this reason, they pose a much-needed challenge to many contemporary praise practices.

Jackson Wu
Have Theologians No Sense of Shame? How the Bible Reconciles Objective and Subjective Shame
Everyone agrees shame is a pervasive problem; yet, in book and articles, we find writers often talk past one another. Missionaries and anthropologists speak of “honor-shame” cultures. Psychologists describe shame as an individual, emotional experience. Strangely, theologians typically say little about the topic. Christian scholars tend to treat guilt as “objective” and shame merely a “subjective.” This misunderstanding undermines our ability to develop a practical theology of honor and shame. Therefore, this article demonstrates how the Bible helps us have an integrated understanding of shame in its theological, psychological, and social dimensions.

Michael McClymond
Apocalypse Now: The Neo-Bultmannian Universalism of David Congdon’s The God Who Saves
In The God Who Saves (2016), David Congdon seeks an elusive synthesis of Karl Barth’s dogmatics and Rudolf Bultmann’s hermeneutics: he integrates Bultmann’s insistence on the concrete historicity of individual human experience with Barth’s stress on the universal salvific significance of Christ. Despite his “demetaphysicizing” rejection of a substantive God and a Chalcedonian Christ, Congdon propounds universal salvation based on a universal “cocrucifixion” with Christ that may occur in nonreligious experience (e.g., in viewing artwork, watching a baby’s birth, etc.). His intricate argument shows little theological coherence and a lack of grounding in scriptural exegesis or empirical observation.

James D. Clark
The Kuyperian Impulse of the Benedict Option
Evangelicals have criticized Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option and the idea of strategic withdrawal, with some citing Abraham Kuyper as a model of how Christians should engage the world today. This article argues that the Benedict Option and the Kuyperian tradition harmonize with (rather than contradict) each other in significant ways, including their promotion of cultural engagement in general, their recognition of the need to withdraw from the world in some sense in order to enable the Christian formation that makes robust engagement with the world possible, and their openness to a cultural transformation that is distantly future rather than imminent.

Adriani Milli Rodrigues
The Rule of Faith and Biblical Interpretation in Evangelical Theological Interpretation of Scripture
One of the features of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement is the use of the rule of faith in biblical interpretation. However, a comparison of evangelical scholars in this movement shows that there are significant disagreements on the concept of the rule and its hermeneutical role. The present study attempts to clarify these disagreements and briefly analyze them. This article suggests that an engagement with Cullman’s notion of apostolic and post-apostolic traditions and with aspects of Irenaeus’s concept of rule of faith might be helpful for the understanding of the concept and role of the rule of faith.

Book Reviews

Friday, 3 August 2018

Lausanne Global Analysis 7, 4 (July 2018)

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 examine how faulty foundations bring nations to their knees, drawing on the Sierra Leone experience; we address the global abuse of women and how women flourishing in church reflects the Imago Dei and is a witness to unbelievers; we ask how and why Christians should be involved in providing quality aftercare for survivors of trafficking and trauma; and we revisit the issue of balancing grace and truth in our approach to Muslims and Islam.’

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Annual Moore College Lectures

Most of the Annual Moore College Lectures (from Moore College, Sydney) have eventually been published as books. I’ve read a lot of them over the years, and many of them, I think, are excellent.

I’ve just discovered that all the lectures since their inception in 1977 are available as mp3s for download here. It’s interesting looking through the list that I’ve read some not even aware that they began life this way. (For instance, I either never knew or have forgotten that Dick France’s brilliant book on the Kingdom of God in Mark started out as the Moore College Lectures 1989.)

Monday, 23 July 2018

Echoes of Blessing #6: A Protected People

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

The LORD watches over you –
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm –
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and for evermore.
Psalm 121:5-8

Psalms 120-134 come grouped together, each carrying the same heading: ‘A song of ascents’. We don’t know for certain, but it’s most likely they were sung by those making their way to Jerusalem for one of the great festivals.

Of course, like other psalms, they have a reach beyond their original setting, down through the ages, even to us who journey not to the temple but to God himself. Indeed, with its final promise that ‘the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and for evermore’, something of those extended implications are already being worked out in the psalm itself.

That word ‘watch’ or ‘keep’ – which appears six times in the psalm – echoes the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24: ‘the LORD bless you and keep you’. The promise originally given to those on a journey through the wilderness is here reapplied to God’s pilgrim people in subsequent generations.

With some exceptions, the relative comfort and ease with which we undertake journeys today – in air-conditioned cars, high-speed trains, and planes which cross continents and oceans – means that some of the force of the psalm might be lost on us. Here’s a prayer which anticipates a long journey over difficult terrain where ankles can easily get twisted, where bandits might lie in wait, not to mention the heat of the day and the anxieties which come with the night.

For them, the promise of help comes from the Lord, ‘the maker of heaven and earth’, the keeper of Israel who doesn’t slumber or sleep. As they make their way to Jerusalem – and as they walk the path of life – he will not let their feet slip.

And that priestly blessing which reached across the ages to those making their way to worship in Jerusalem reaches yet further across the ages to those of us, like Abraham, looking for a city ‘whose architect and builder is God’ (Hebrews 11:10). For us, too, the journey will involve challenges, even ominous or scary moments. But we, too, travel with others. (You do travel with others, don’t you?) And we claim the same promise, so amazingly comprehensive in its scope, which reaches into the whole of life.

God watches over your everyday comings and goings, day and night. Today. Tomorrow. Next year and the year after that. You and your family. You and your work. You and your life, ‘both now and for evermore’.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Mission Frontiers 40, 4 (July-August 2018)

The July-August 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles devoted to the topic of ‘Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: A Field Strategy for Movements’. The entire theme section has been given over to a single author, Kevin Greeson, exploring Jesus’ parable of the wower and its implications for fostering movements.

The editor, Rick Wood, Writes:

As we remain in Jesus and His love by obeying all that He has commanded then we will aid the growth and flourishing of the organic nature of God’s kingdom. We can either act like the seed that fell on rocky ground and produce little or be like the seed that fell on the fourth soil, the good soil, and produce a 30, 60 or 100-fold crop. The unmistakable message of this and other parables like it is that Jesus expects his friends to be faithful and fruitful in carrying out the work of the kingdom that He has entrusted to us until He returns—and this involved fostering movements of multiplying disciples within all peoples.’

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

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

7 Ways to Pastor Professionals

Jeff Haanen and Dustin Moody have a short article here, outlining seven ways church leaders can pastor people in the workplace.

1.   Visit your members in the workplace.

2.   Host a commissioning service for church members in the workplace.

3.   Use workplace illustrations in your sermons.

4.   Pray for people in different industries.

5.   Feature worship music that affirms work and creation.

6.   Select small group curriculum that focuses on work, calling, and culture.

7  Host ‘all-of-life’ interviews in your worship services.

These are very similar to the sorts of suggestions we’ve made through the work of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (for example, here and see also here).

Monday, 16 July 2018

Echoes of Blessing #5: A Confident People

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

The LORD remembers us and will bless us:
he will bless his people Israel,
he will bless the house of Aaron,
he will bless those who fear the LORD –
small and great alike.
May the LORD cause you to flourish,
both you and your children.
May you be blessed by the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 115:12-15

Offering an elegant reminder of what faithful prayer looks like, Psalm 115 holds together words about God and words addressed to God. In doing so, it echoes the priestly blessing of Numbers 6, but takes us on a journey to hear the full force of those reverberations.

‘Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory’, the psalm begins. And the grounds for this resolute refusal to receive any of the glory which rightly belongs to the Lord flow out of his covenant commitment to us – ‘because of your love and faithfulness’ (115:1). The honour goes to the one who loves us deeply, who stays faithful to his people through history.

Not that we’re always fully aware of this. Or that we don’t feel the pinch when others ask, ‘Where is their God?’ (115:2). Where, indeed?

The psalm tells us: ‘Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him’ (115:3). Unlike idols ‘made by human hands’, God is not a mere object of worship, but the living Lord, sovereign over all creation. Idols, complete with all their body parts, look like they have the capacity to deliver on their promises. But they can’t. It’s the Lord who has a mouth, eyes, ears, nose, hands, feet, and vocal chords that work. He’s the real God who can speak and act in the world.

So, we can trust in him, the psalm says, because he is our ‘help and shield’ (115:9-11). He fights for us. He protects us.

Then, hearing those echoes at last, comes a threefold assurance for all of God’s people – ‘small and great’ – that blessing rests upon the person who trusts in the Lord. We can be confident, the psalm says, that ‘the LORD remembers us and will bless us’, that his blessing extends beyond the present to future generations, that ‘the Maker of heaven and earth’ has unlimited resources with which to bless us.

Our journey through the psalm brings us to a place where we can be emboldened, right where we are, even today. How? In our resolve to put God’s glory above our own. In our commitment to trust him in spite of the bemusement and even belligerence of others. And in daring to believe that he will bless us as we do so. In this is our confidence.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Setting God’s People Free for… Monday to Saturday

This is an excellent short booklet, written by Mark Greene (my boss at LICC, though I’d still be recommending it even if he wasn’t, honest, guv...), outlining ‘seven small shifts that will make a big difference to the way we worship, pray and support each other in our everyday faith’:

1. Be curious
2. Visiting people in context
3. Sunday praying for Monday to Saturday living
4. This time tomorrow
5. What’s noticed on notice boards?
6. Commissioning people
7. Preaching matters

All seven flow out of a conviction that ‘the gathered life and worship of a church is a vital expression of our faith’, but asks how this time together can ‘better nurture our life of faith across the week’.

There’s a click-on summary for each point, but you’ll have to purchase the inexpensive booklet to get the fuller reflections. 

This forms part of the Church of England’s ‘Setting God’s People Free’ initiative, seeking to facilitate a shift in church culture to ‘enable the whole people of God to live out the Good News of Jesus confidently in all of life, Sunday to Saturday’.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies 3.1 (2018) on Pastoral Theology

It’s well worth taking a look at the online Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies.

The most-recent full issue is devoted to pastoral theology, containing several interesting contributions (see below). The essays largely flow out of the renewed interest in recent years on the role of the ‘pastor-theologian’, seeking to ground pastoral ministry within a theological framework.

The full issue, which also contains a sizeable collection of book reviews, is available as a pdf here.

Justin L. McLendon
Current Issues in Pastoral Theology: An Editorial Introduction
This special issue of the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies features articles exploring current issues in pastoral theology. The articles within this issue address academic and ecclesial concerns across the evangelical spectrum. In keeping with the mission of JBTS – to relay content that is original and yet accessible – this issue contains articles uniquely formulated to speak to seminary students, busy ministers, and scholars academically engaged in the broad field of pastoral theology. This issue includes an even selection of articles from scholars working within various academic institutions, in addition to articles from pastors engaged in the trenches of everyday pastoral ministry. In sum, this issue offers a distinct set of voices from varied backgrounds, ministry methodologies, and denominational alliances.

Josh Branum
Elder as Shepherd: Implicit Use of the Shepherd Metaphor by the Apostle Paul
This paper analyzes the Pauline qualifications for eldership considering the shepherd metaphor. In this analysis, the author argues that Paul presents qualified elders as “good shepherds,” those of the utmost integrity, who are able to manage the flock of God well. The shepherd metaphor is utilized throughout both the Old and New Testaments, by various authors, and in a variety of contexts. From a New Testament perspective, the shepherd metaphor is used most frequently in reference to Jesus, but is later applied to elders. While one might expect the Apostle Paul, the author of the so-called “Pastoral Epistles,” to make much use of this metaphor, he only explicitly uses the shepherd metaphor on two occasions. This seeming omission has led some to dismiss it as a central aspect of his teaching. However, Paul demonstrates a heavy reliance on the shepherd metaphor implicitly, particularly in the qualifications for eldership in the books of 1 Timothy and Titus.

Gary L. Shultz Jr.
Theological Preaching and Preaching Through Theology: The Priority of the Pastor-Theologian
Over the last several years a renewed call for the re-emergence of pastor-theologians has occurred within Evangelicalism. The distinguishing mark of the pastor-theologian is that his broader theological ministry to the church and the academy is explicitly grounded in his pastoral ministry, and his broader theological ministry strengthens and reinforces his pastoral ministry. While pastoral ministry has many facets, its foundation is the ministry of the Word, and the heart of the ministry of the word is preaching. Therefore, preaching the Word should be the priority and aim of the pastor-theologian, not only in his pastoral ministry, but in his broader theological ministry. This article will establish this truth by demonstrating how preaching is the theological act that grounds all other aspects of pastoral ministry even as it is grounded itself by that ministry. It will then explore how that truth should impact the pastor-theologian’s broader theological ministry, leading it to be biblical, confessional, and culturally relevant, even when directed towards the academy. Preaching is the connecting center of the pastor-theologian’s ministry, resulting in effective pastoring and ecclesial theology that not only reinforce one other but together preach the good news of the gospel to the world.

Jonathan Master
Preaching Psalm 46 to the People of God Today
The preached word is the means that God has ordained for both the evangelization of the nations and for the building up of the church. As evangelicals, we are committed to the fact that all of scripture is inspired and profitable for the people of God: therefore, all scripture must be preached – including the Psalms. In Part 1, I present four recommendations for preaching Psalm 46 today. Each of these recommendations supplement the preacher’s regular homiletic preparation. These recommendations are intended to remind preachers of certain features of the Psalms in general and of this psalm in particular. In Part II, I present an example sermon, considering each of these guidelines.

Matthew Ward
What Worship Leaders Need Their Pastors to Know: A Call to Theological Leadership in Worship
Many pastors today do not understand their role in their church’s worship – they have not received training in the principles of corporate worship and someone else on staff has the title of “worship leader.” That elusive role is to provide theological leadership to the worship ministries of the local church. Theological leadership assumes that pastors have done the work of developing a theology of worship. It then involves two steps: contextualizing that theology to their unique local church and communicating it effectively with that local church. While there are many examples of a theology of worship available to consider, there are few examples of a contextualized theology; this article offers two that are still general enough to glean benefits and pitfalls. Communication is a two-way process. If pastors are to be effective theological leaders, they must cultivate meaningful relationships – particularly with their worship leaders, listen and learn, and not act out of fear.

Joshua D. Chatraw
A Way Forward for Pastor-Apologists: Navigating the Apologetic Method Debate

Benjamin D. Espinoza
Pastor Theologians, the Gospel, and the Ministry of Racial Conciliation
Evangelicalism has a historically tenuous relationship with racial conciliation. As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, we must rethink our approaches to racial conciliation. The purpose of this article is to give pastor theologians a vision and plan for developing a rich ministry of racial conciliation. The paper will situate racial conciliation as a gospel issue that demands a response. Next, the article will explore how scholars have reflected on the source, nature, and solutions to racism. Finally, I develop key practices and implications that will assist pastor theologians in being agents of racial conciliation in both ecclesial and academic spaces.

Owen Strachan
Light from the Third Great Awakening: Harold Ockenga and the Call to Future Pastor-Theologians
Something remarkable transpired in the mid-twentieth century. Just as the First Great Awakening reset the ecclesiastical paradigm along gospel-demarcated lines in the 1700s, and just as the Second Great Awakening redrew the Protestant map through the explosion of upstart groups like the Baptists and Methodists, so the Third Great Awakening of the neo-evangelical years fundamentally recalibrated and repositioned evangelicalism for unprecedented expansion and activity.

Many individuals contributed to this galaxy-formation. Upon close reflection, however, Harold Ockenga – with Billy Graham and Carl Henry – formed the three horsemen of the Neo-Evangelical Resurgence. It is the purpose of this article to first explore Ockenga’s significance for the current day, as the twenty-first century church’s experience mirrors that of the neo-evangelicals some 60–70 years ago. Ockenga offers us an example of a richly theological pastorate, and a pulpit that majored in doctrine over storytelling and sentimentality.

In what follows, we shall see that, in a doctrinally-deficient era like ours, Ockenga offers the rising generations of pastors a faithful model to which to aspire and, God allowing, assume. This model we call the pastor-theologian. After showing what the pastor-theologian is and is to be, we offer five considerations for the rising generation of shepherds of God’s flock, considerations that together urge the church to invest in the doctrinal formation, personal courage, and theistic confidence of its pastors.

Douglas Estes
Pastor-Scholar: The Pastor Theologian and Scholarship
There is a critical need today for pastor-scholars to serve the Church and to advance theological knowledge. The pastor who is a scholar will utilize the format of the written word to dialogue with an important part of modern society – scholars and educated readers – through the form of scholarly discourse. Though the pastor- scholar is not a common calling, once one embraces this calling, there are several essential characteristics that can positively impact the pastor-scholar’s profession and standing.

Michael W. Goheen
Pastoral Theology in a Missional Mode
In this article I argue for the renewal of pastoral theology from a missional mode. This approach to pastoral theology offers rich resources addressing critical areas of contemporary concern. This article is more than just academic reflection. In fact, this reflects a curricular work in progress at Missional Training Center, Phoenix, Arizona – an extension site of Covenant Theological Seminary, St Louis, Missouri. For the past six years we have been attempting some creative approaches to theological education based on the rich insights from the 1960s—1980s offered by Western mission leaders and Southern hemisphere church leaders on theological education in a missional mode. I am especially indebted to the insights of Lesslie Newbigin, Harvie Conn, and David Bosch, and will draw primarily on their work in this article. 
I begin by briefly exposing the roots of this problematic view of pastoral theology. I then sketch the missional turn in the 20th century and note its considerable impact beginning with ecclesiology, and then on theology and leadership. This understanding of mission provides a solid theological foundation for the renewal of pastoral theology. Finally, I work out some of the significant implications of this missional turn for rethinking pastoral theology.

Andrew Zantingh
Toward a Theology of Pastoral Care in a Missional Mode
For close to twenty-five years, I have been learning how to care for the congregations God has called me to serve. In this respect, I am like most other professional pastors who paid significant money to be trained by professional professors to gain the necessary skills and techniques to do specialized care in a congregational setting. In addition to being a pastor, I now also teach graduate level pastoral care courses for pastors. The following paper is my theological reflection on the task of training pastors to do pastoral care in a missional way. There are some significant problems with our current approach to pastoral theology. In this volume, Michael Goheen identifies three crucial assumptions that have negatively shaped pastoral theology’s historical growth as a theological discipline: a theory-practice dichotomy, a professionalized view of the pastoral ministry, and a non-missional understanding of the church. My pastoral care experience bears out how these three assumptions have led to a faulty pastoral theology. In this article, I wish to offer an alternative approach to pastoral care from a missional mode. In doing so, I offer a solution which overcomes the theory-praxis dichotomy, that properly positions the role of the pastors as lead discipler, and one that correctly locates pastoral care in the context of a missional understanding of the church. I will do this by sketching the problem of pastoral care from ministry experience, by constructing theological contours that reframe pastoral care in the missional mode, by offering a concrete example of this kind of pastoral care in action, and finally by sketching a dynamic approach to theological education that can equip pastors for such care.

Marcus J. Serven
The Care of Souls: John Calvin’s Shepherding Ministry
Many Christians today have distinct impressions of who John Calvin was, but most have never read a single line from his Institutes of the Christian Religion, or benefited from the careful exegesis found in his Commentaries on the Bible, or reflected upon a single salient point from one of his many published sermons. In brief, the reformer John Calvin (1509–1564) has been misinterpreted, misread, and misunderstood. He is, perhaps, best known for his views on the doctrines of election, predestination, and reprobation. He is also known for his pivotal role in the prosecution of the arch-heretic Michael Servetus (1511–1553) who rejected the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. But none of these disconnected pieces of information can demonstrate, in my opinion, the true character of the man. And so, who really was John Calvin? Hughes O. Old, a noted scholar of Calvin’s life and theology, states the opinion that, “John Calvin is chiefly remembered as a biblical scholar and a systematic theologian.” Cearly, Calvin distinguished himself through his theological writing and teaching ministry. However, he also was the preeminent pastor of the city of Geneva during the time of the Protestant Reformation. John T. McNeill notes, “Jean Daniel Benoit, the expert on Calvin’s work in the cure of souls, states boldly that the Genevan Reformer was more pastor than theologian, that, to be exact, he was a theologian in order to be a better pastor. In his whole reforming work he was a shepherd of souls.” Thus, it is Calvin’s shepherding ministry that will be 
explored in this article – in particular, his pastoral care of souls.

Book Reviews 

Monday, 9 July 2018

Echoes of Blessing #4: A Broken People

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

How long, LORD God Almighty,
will your anger smoulder
against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears;
you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision to our neighbours,
and our enemies mock us.
Restore us, God Almighty;
make your face shine on us,
that we may be saved.
Psalm 80:4-7

The Psalms are a lifesaver for those of us who struggle with knowing what to pray. Because they give us a voice. Where we don’t always have the words, they give us the words.

The words in this particular psalm come from a place of brokenness. In case we’re in any doubt, the central prayer comes not once, not twice, but three times: ‘Restore us... make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved’ (80:3, 7, 19).

That refrain is deliberately reminiscent of the priestly blessing in Numbers 6, where Aaron and the priests affirm the sheer delight God takes in his own: ‘the LORD make his face shine on you.’ Except, the people felt they were no longer experiencing that promised blessing of the Lord.

They’d perhaps been feeling it for some time. ‘How long?’, they ask. That question is found in a number of psalms. Sometimes it’s because devastation has come at the hands of others and it’s a plea for God to step in. In this case, though, the people are painfully – and tearfully – aware of their own culpability, of God’s anger smouldering against them, of being mocked by others. Is it possible for God’s people to be derided by unbelievers because God himself brings it about? Apparently so.

Here is a cry of anguish from God’s people who are grieved by their own failure and distraught that God seems distant or even absent from them.

What do they pray? What do we pray? We return to the one we know to be faithful even when we’re not, to what we know to be fundamentally true about his promises to us, and to plead with him to step in and show his face: ‘Restore to us your special presence – your shining, smiling face that brings deliverance and blessing.’

So, what is it today that you would want to cry out to God for? For yourself? For the congregation to which you belong? For the church in our land? For your friends and neighbours? For your place of work? For our world? Take the words of the psalm and make them your own: ‘Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.’

And as you do so, remember that some broken things are restored because they’re precious, because they’re loved. God remains, to this day, in the restoration business.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology 5, 1 (2018)

The latest issue of the Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology is now available, carrying the below essays on the historical Adam, and several book reviews which ‘likewise focus both on both contemporary and classic works relating ‎to the Historical Adam, original sin, and theological anthropology’.

The issue is available from here via a painless sign-up link.

Joel Willitts
Adam and Eve ‘Above and Beyond’ Darwin: Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a Model for a Faithful Theological Interpretation of the ‘First Human Beings’

Edward W. Klink III
Genesis Revealed: Second Adam Christology in the Fourth Gospel

John W. Yates III
The Image of Adam: Death in Paul and Genesis 1–5

Gerald Hiestand
A More Modest Adam: An Exploration of Irenaeus’ Anthropology in Light of the Darwinian Account of Pre-Fall Death

Matt Ward
Liturgical Adam: What Every Pastor Needs to Know

Book Reviews

Friday, 6 July 2018

Guy Brandon on Learning to Love Leviticus

The Jubilee Centre has published a piece from Guy Brandon, the first in a series on the laws in Leviticus, this one looking at the ban on mixed-fibre clothing. The article is available here, and from here as a pdf in the Jubilee Centre’s Engage magazine.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

James K.A. Smith on Theocracy and Kingdom

Comment has just published a great piece (here) by James K.A. Smith offering ‘a caution for reactionary liberals who hear “theocracy” whenever Christians talk about “the kingdom.”’

He particularly has in his sights those who confuses dominionism (an understanding which thinks it’s our job to impose the kingdom here and now) ‘with the Christian political endeavour of an Abraham Kuyper’.

It’s not, he makes clear, that ‘the gospel is comfortably apolitical’. The language of the kingdom is ‘a reminder that Christianity is not just some privatized message of soul-rescue that we can comfortably fence off as “personal piety.”’ Still, ‘every time we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are reminded it hasn’t arrived yet’.

Here, for me, is the killer paragraph:

‘[T]he arc of the biblical narrative includes a very important temporal pause button that the Dominionists ignore: we await the kingdom, we don’t impose it. In the meantime of our waiting, we hope to bear witness to our neighbours about these truths... not so we can “win” or “take over” or “have dominion” but because we believe these truths are gifts of insight into common human concern. We bring these insights to the table of public debate as a proposal to consider, not a fiat to be imposed. We hope to change things, but we see democracy as a gift for the saeculum and understand we need to persuade our neighbours. The biblical narrative teaches us to expect pluralism and difference in the meantime.’