Saturday, 23 June 2018

Thomas R. Schreiner on Revelation

Today’s ‘Daily Dose of Greek’ links to a generous pdf excerpt from a forthcoming commentary on Revelation by Thomas Schreiner, to be published in volume 12 of the new ESV Expository Commentary. Further information on the volume is available here, and the pdf excerpt is available here.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Foundations 74 (Spring 2018)

Issue 74 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:

Martin Salter

Jamie A. Grant
Crisis, Cursing and the Christian: Reading Imprecatory Psalms in the Twenty-First Century
Many Christian readers of the Psalter balk at the psalms that call down curses on particular people in response to wrongs that have been perpetrated by them. We are uncomfortable both with the language and the ethical implications. Effectively, these psalms are omitted from the life and worship of the church. This article argues that this should not be the case. When understood in the light of the constraints of genre and when understood as prayers offered to the Sovereign, these psalms provide us with a spiritual vocabulary which enables us to deal with the horrific injustices of life before the throne of God.

Heather R.F. Harper
The Book of Job as a Theology of Isolation
Suffering is an inescapable part of life. As Christians it is difficult to comprehend that a God who is both omnipotent and benevolent could allow his people to endure such agony. This raises the issue of how Christians should respond to suffering. To answer the question this paper will firstly reflect on the aspects of isolation caused by suffering in the book of Job, paying particular attention to chapters 2, 3, 29, 30 and 31. Secondly, it will consider Job’s response to isolation caused by suffering, with particular attention to his lament and Job 42:7-17, and use this as a paradigm of how Christians should respond to God, our own thoughts and emotions, and others during times of suffering.

Jon Putt
Culture, Class and Ethnicity: A Theological Exploration
Christian discussion of culture, class and ethnicity are as important as they are heated. Often they fail to properly define terms or reflect deeply within theological categories. This paper is a theological exploration of the ways in which the concepts of class, culture and ethnicity are understood in biblical terms and subsequently interrelated. It is part of an attempt to uncover and confront our own cultural blind spots and biases, and in turn value the other more highly than ourselves.

Fiona R. Gibson
Overcoming Listlessness: Learning from Evagrius of Pontus
Early and medieval Christian writers cautioned believers against the Seven Deadly Sins. Even today most Christians could probably name most of them. However, the one that was considered one of the most deadly and complex – acedia – is now virtually unknown and little understood. This paper will briefly examine the nature of acedia by engaging with the writings of Evagrius of Pontus, who was one of the first theologians to deal extensively with what acedia is, and how to overcome it. Some of his remedies may be surprising, and have unexpected contemporary applications.

Daniel Stevens
Review Article: The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge

Book Reviews

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Asbury Journal 73, 1 (2018)

The latest issue of Asbury Journal, containing the below main articles, mostly drawn from a colloquium on ‘Wesleyan Theology from Biblical and Missiological Perspectives’.

Laurence W. Wood
John Wesley’s Mission of Spreading Scriptural Holiness: A Case Study in World Mission and Evangelism
A manual of discipline, called The Large Minutes, was given to all Methodist preachers when they joined John Wesley’s annual conference, containing this explanation: “God’s design in raising up the people called ‘Methodists’” was “to spread scriptural holiness over the land.” This paper will trace a narrow slice of the larger developing story of how John Wesley arrived at his distinction between justifying faith and full sanctifying grace. It will also serve as a case study to show that the call to justification by faith and a subsequent experience of sanctification by faith became the theme of his evangelistic preaching. This paper will conclude with some observations about the importance of Wesley’s holiness message for the founding of Asbury Theological Seminary and the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism.

Susangeline Y. Patrick
Seeing Lakota Christian Mission History Through the Eyes of John Wesley’s Image of God
This paper engages John Wesley’s understanding of the Imago Dei (the image of God) and examines the history of Christian mission among the Native American tribes, particularly Lakota on Rosebud Reservation and Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Wesley’s view of the image of God in creation, partial loss of the image of God, and restoration of the image of God in Jesus Christ provides a framework to describe both the successes and failures in Lakota mission history. Wesley’s understanding of the Imago Dei challenges current mission theology and praxis to see God’s creation and peoples as worthy of honor and love, redeemable and restorable in the new creation.

Timothy J. Christian
The Problem with Wesley’s Postmillennialism: An Exegetical Case for Historic Premillennialism in 21st Century Wesleyan Theology and Missions
This article presents an exegesis of Revelation 20:1-10 followed by a critical assessment of Wesley’s interpretation of Revelation 20:1-10. Overall, Wesley’s postmillennial interpretation of Revelation 20:1-10 is not supported by an exegetical reading of Revelation 20:1-10 (Scripture); it is not rooted in the early church (tradition); and it is based largely upon the optimism of the 18th century which was shattered by the 20th century (experience). Historic premillennialism, however, does exegetical justice to Revelation 20:1-10 (Scripture), takes seriously the early church’s view (tradition), and accords with our reason and experience in the 21st century (reason and experience). As such, Wesleyans should abandon postmillennialism and instead embrace historic premillennialism for the sake of having a biblically based theology and approach to missions and evangelism in the 21st century.

Wilmer Estrada-Carrasquillo
The Relational Character of Wesley’s Theology and its Implications for an Ecclesiology for the Other: A Latino Pentecostal Testimony
This article assesses the impact of John Welsey’s theology on relationship, both between human beings and God and between human beings within community. This theology of relationality is then used as a framework for reading the Christological hymn in Philippians. Finally the implications of our understanding of a theology of relationality are explored in the light of missiological and ecclesiological lenses. All of this is done through the added lens of the author’s experience as a Latino Pentecostal.

Ryan Kristopher Giffin
The Good Work of Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification: John Wesley’s Soteriological Explanation of Philippians 1:6
Numerous scholars have described John Wesley’s use of scripture as soteriological in orientation. This article discusses how this soteriological hermeneutic is present in Wesley’s explanatory note on Phil 1:6, a well-known Pauline text. The article highlights how Wesley’s brief note on this beloved text can provide readers with an entry point into a discussion of three theological themes Wesley held dear, the themes of justification, sanctification, and glorification. In this way, Wesley’s explanation of Phil 1:6 presents Wesleyans with a convenient way of reflecting on both Wesleyan hermeneutics and Wesleyan theology.

Howard A. Snyder
John Wesley, Irenaeus, and Christian Mission: Rethinking Western Christian Theology
John Wesley (1703-1791) was a theologian and practitioner of mission. The theological sophistication of his missiology has never been fully appreciated for three reasons: 1) Wesley seldom used the language of “mission,” 2) he intentionally masked the depth of his learning in the interest of “plain, sound English,” and 3) interpreters assumed that as an evangelist, Wesley could not be taken seriously as theologian. Quite to the contrary, this article shows the depth and sophistication of Wesley’s doctrinal and missiological thinking. Reviewing Western Christian theology from the first century to our day, this article examines the close use of Irenaeus by Wesley, which carries high potency for Christian fidelity, discipleship, theological integrity, authentic mission, and Spirit-powered transformation in persons and culture.

Marcus W. Dean
A Wesleyan Missiological Perspective On Holiness Across Cultures
Missiology has focused on various aspects of contextualization and the importance of salvation, but has not dealt extensively with the biblical concept of holiness. From a Wesleyan perspective this paper looks at holiness from the lens of contextualization. A biblical support of contextualization is presented. Then the cultural factors of values – the dynamics of shame, guilt, and fear are explored – and purity are examined as starting points to contextualize the holiness message. While holiness is ultimately about ethical life and relationships, the message must be built upon culturally understandable concepts.

Mark R. Elliott
Methodism in an Orthodox Context: History, Theology, and (Sadly) Politics
The history of Methodism and Eastern Orthodoxy goes back to the early days of Wesley and his interest in the teachings of the Greek Church Fathers. The relationship between Methodists and the Orthodox Church has gone through positive and negative periods, but the growth of the Soviet Union and the challenge of Communism placed new challenges on both groups. The emergence of the Russian Orthodox Church and its reaction to growing Protestant missions has led to new problems, although the ongoing hope is that commonalities in our theology will overcome some of the challenges of current political realities. This paper was originally presented at the United Methodist Church Eurasia-Central Asia “In Mission Together” Consultation, held in Fulton, Maryland on May 6, 2017.


From the Archives: Frances Havergal’s Letter to Hannah Whitall Smith about her Sanctification Experience

Book Reviews

The entire issue is available as a pdf here.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Echoes of Blessing #1: A Favoured People

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

The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons, “This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
‘“‘The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face towards you
and give you peace.’”
‘So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’
Numbers 6:22-27

How would it feel to go into the rest of this week joyfully confident of God’s favour resting on you? What difference might it make to how you’d approach the things you’ll do, the conversations you’ll have, the decisions you’ll make?

Confidence comes in knowing that God is the source of every blessing.

We see something of his intent on the first page of the Bible when God blesses the creatures he has made – to be fruitful, to multiply, and flourish. And he blesses human beings too – as made in his image and called to steward the earth, to exercise loving rule over other creatures. God’s plan to bless creation is reinforced with the call of Abraham in Genesis 12 when God promises to form a people through whom he will extend blessing to all nations.

The Lord reinforces his larger purpose in the ongoing blessing of the Israelites mediated through the priests. Somehow he knew they’d need a regular reminder.

For them as for us comes the reassurance that the Lord and the Lord alone is the one who blesses his people. For them as for us the blessing declares that God cares for us and keeps us, delights in us and forgives us, watches us and restores us. That’s how God marks out those who belong to him. No wonder that these words of blessing shaped the worship of Israel through the centuries as, in different contexts, the people of God echoed the promises made and occasionally glimpsed how it would spill over to others.

And the words speak to us and shape us in the process of doing so. It’s somehow too easy to look for blessing in all the wrong places, to be uncertain of the father’s love for us, unaware of his enfolding grace, unsure of his gift of peace. It’s too easy to forget that every day his face lights up as he sees us, because his favour rests on us.

Because of the God he is, we’re not only encouraged to live under the reality of being treasured by him, but emboldened by the conviction that there is nothing worth having that he withholds from us. This God who, as Paul says in Ephesians 1:3, has ‘blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ’, is the same God today.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Anvil 34, 1 (2018) on Mission

The Journal Anvil is hosted online by Church Mission Society. The latest issue contains the below articles, along with a good number of book reviews, and is available as a pdf here.

Mike Pears
Mission and Place: From Eden to Caesarea
Mike Pears examines the significance of place and geography in relation to mission in a world where many feel displaced, dislocated and precarious.

Kyama Mugambi
Mission is Not Western: Kenyan Perspectives on Identity, Church Planting, Social Transformation, and Bold Mission Initiatives
Kyama Mugambi shows how mission is operating in a new paradigm that involves an explosion of church planting, social transformation and global gift exchange.

Cathy Ross
Lament and Hope
Cathy Ross draws on African theology to explore how lament can address injustice and offer new hope.

Debbie James and Thomas Fowler
Mission Is... Good Question: Reflecting Upon the Pioneering Call to Join in with the Mission of God
Debbie James and Thomas Fowler discuss some of the findings of CMS’s 2017 Mission Is survey and some myths that may need busting.

Paul Bradbury and Tina Hodgett
Pioneering Mission Is... A Spectrum
Paul Bradbury and Tina Hodgett have designed an incredibly helpful map that offers insight into the spectrum of pioneer ministry.

Paul Ede
Our Hammyhill: What Creative Ways Can a Church Express Its Mission at the Heart of the Community, for the Benefit of the Community?
Paul Ede shows how a local community have been participating in transformation with God

Book Reviews

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Theos Report on the Response of Faith Groups to Grenfell

The latest report from Theos has recently been published:

Amy Plender, After Grenfell: the Faith Groups’ Response (London: Theos, 2018).

Here are some paragraphs from the Theos website:

‘The fire at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 shocked and horrified the country, the agony and trauma of its victims compounded by the apparent indifference and disorganization that ensued.

‘In the chaos, the role of the diverse faith groups in the community stood out. Churches, mosques, synagogues, and gurdwaras all stepped up to the plate, responding practically, emotionally and spiritually to a moment of pain and confusion...

‘This report explores what the faith communities did, how they managed to do it, and what can be learned from the experience. Based on interviews with representatives of faith communities in the vicinity, as well as representatives of statutory bodies and emergency services, the report charts the faith groups’ response in the immediate hours, days and weeks after the tragedy.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Lausanne Global Analysis 7, 3 (May 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 feature two articles examining how we should respond to the global refugee crisis, focusing on living out Christian hospitality to migrants and welcoming the Global Stranger. We also consider how the church should respond to the rise of religious nationalism in South Asia, and how the growth of orality-training resources can advance the Great Commission.’

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Word and World 5 (2018)

‘Violence Against Women in the University’ is the theme of the latest issue of Word and World, published by IFES. The issue contains the below pieces, and is available as a pdf here. Summaries are taken from the editorial by Elisabet le Roux, who also contributes the first article.

Elisabet le Roux
What is Campus Rape Culture?
My piece discusses the phenomenon of campus rape culture within the setting of South African universities. Explaining the background to the controversial term “campus rape culture,” the article explores why sexual violence is so rife on university campuses. The article examines the role that religion plays in its continued perpetration, but also – hopefully – in its eradication.

Deborah Vieira
Girls beyond Ipanema
Deborah Vieira takes us to Brazil to show us how universities ignore the violence being perpetrated against women on campus. She shows Christian complicity in this, identifying various harmful beliefs and attitudes that are justified religiously. Then she turns to the Bible to explain why this should not be the case, and she uses the example of ABUB, the IFES movement in Brazil, to illustrate how Christian students can positively and constructively address the phenomenon.

Kendall Cox
Everybody’s Business
Kendall Cox draws on her experience of studying and now lecturing at the University of Virginia in the United States to explore how rampant sexual violence is on university campuses. Reflecting on bystander interventions, she highlights how many typical Christian responses to the issue actually makes it worse, especially for survivors. She calls on Christians to “mourn with those who mourn” and to be angry about the injustice and violence that women face.

Jamila Koshy
Male Violence against Women on Campus
Jamila Koshy turns to the biblical story of Tamar to guide a discussion of male violence against women on campus. She shows us how this little-read “text of terror” has much to teach us about how badly patriarchal power structures abuse women, and then she proceeds to show how Christians should be responding to such violence and to survivors of such violence.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Preaching in Context

The below article, written with my friend and colleague Neil Hudson, has been posted on the website of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity as a supplementary piece to the resource on whole-life preaching. It is the fifth in a projected series of six short pieces exploring different aspects of preaching in a way that is alert to the everyday lives of Christians.

Ever had one of those moments when someone thanks you for saying something in a sermon, but which you can’t recall saying, or which you never intended to be taken that way? Or ever preached a sermon that seemed very effective in one church only for it to fall flat in another church?

The difference often comes down to context.

1. Understanding the significance of context

In What Do They Hear? Building Bridges Between Pulpit and Pew (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007), Mark Allan Powell explores why what a congregation ‘hears’ is not always what the preacher ‘said’. One of the reasons is that how we read and receive Scripture is shaped by our social locations.

Describing an experiment conducted with students from different backgrounds, Powell uses the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32 as an example. His American students tended to overlook 15:14 (‘there was a severe famine in that whole country’), while most Eastern European students identified the famine as crucial to the story. Students from Tanzania noted 15:16 (‘no one gave him anything’), highlighting the way the people of the distant land exploited the son’s desperation instead of helping him. Powell also demonstrates how, in reading stories in the gospels, clergy tend to identify mostly with Jesus, whereas lay people are more inclined to identify with other characters, such as the disciples or the Pharisees.

Here, if we need it, is a reminder that we don’t preach biblical passages into a vacuum. We preach to particular people from particular backgrounds with particular responsibilities and concerns as they gather at a particular time in a particular place. The people in our congregations live out their identity as disciples of Jesus in particular circumstances.

Scripture itself leads us to expect nothing less. God’s word doesn’t float free in a contextless ‘ether’. It’s rooted in and flows out of particular on-the-ground situations – whether it’s the different types of Psalms arising out of multiple moments in the life of faith, Jeremiah in Jerusalem or Ezekiel in Babylon, Matthew or Mark telling the story of Jesus for early Christians, Paul writing to the Galatians or to the church in Corinth, Peter writing to Christians who, like exiles, are scattered across Northern Turkey, or John writing up his visions from Patmos for those being persecuted for their faith. God’s word addresses God’s people where they are.

So, we preach it as a word which flows out of particular contexts in the life of God’s people to be addressed back into particular contexts in the life of God’s people.

2. Taking account of contexts

This being the case, in our preparation for preaching we engage carefully with the biblical text, but we also reflect (insofar as we are able to do so) on the various contexts in which our people find themselves – the places where they live out their discipleship to Jesus.

Taking context into account allows our preaching to be timely, grounded, and personal. We sometimes think that the more we speak in general terms, the wider we’ll reach; but that doesn’t mesh with the reality of people’s lives. Preaching is for real people in real contexts, not generic people in generic contexts. We do not escape our everyday reality to hear a promise or a rebuke or a command from God’s word; we hear those in our current, concrete, and often complex circumstances – a promise or rebuke or command that addresses us where we are.

‘Context’ might be global, regional, local, or personal. Personal elements of context might include situations at home, at work, wider social activities, with family, colleagues, friends, acquaintances. Ideally, we focus on where people are. Starting globally might feel remote and overwhelming for many listeners, but we can start with the home situation or something in the neighbourhood or an item in the news, and perhaps draw wider implications for the national or international context.

We don’t take account of context in order to appear ‘relevant’, but to give our hearers an imagination for seeing their context as part of the larger world in which God is working. Sometimes our engagement with Scripture may provide a mirror that reflects something of our context back to us, helping us to understand it more deeply. On other occasions, it may engage with aspects of our context and challenge us to envision alternative possibilities. How might things be different where we are – at home or at work?

3. Preparing sermons with contexts in mind

In some respects, taking account of context is less about adding a further step to our preparation, and more an awareness that permeates the whole process. Even so, it might be helpful to reflect self-consciously on some of the specific situations of congregation members known to us and bring these to our engagement with the text. Below is a series of questions and prompts we have found helpful to consider in preparing to preach from biblical passages:

(a) What does this passage reveal about God/Jesus/the gospel?

(b) How does this passage shape our understanding of what it means to be a disciple?

(c) Knowing where at least some of the congregation have been this week, and being aware of their contexts:

• What might I want to highlight and explore from this passage?
• What might connect with their situations?
• What would offer a challenge?
• What would offer encouragement?

(d) Reflecting on this passage would lead us to pray that...

(e) Living out this passage over the next week might involve...

The order of the questions is significant. We don’t want to impose our congregation’s personal needs or their particular situations too quickly on to the passage without hearing first what God has to say through it. So, we begin with a question which asks what the passage affirms about God, Jesus, the kingdom, the gospel, and so on – these are given priority.

And then, we ask how the passage might shape our understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Only then comes a question related to context. Here now is an opportunity to reflect on the daily frontlines of the members of our congregation and ask how this passage – given what it says about who God is and what God has done in Jesus, and given what it says about discipleship – might address them, where they are.

Out of that then flows a prompt about prayer and a prompt about action.

Give the questions a go with your next sermon.

We don’t need to become professional ethnographers in order to do this task well. We learn it over time through observation and conversation – paying attention to people, asking questions, listening to stories, gathering insights – all of which can make a difference to our awareness of where people are at.

Importantly, preaching is not the only way to address a congregation’s context – the sermon is not a self-contained entity. But it takes its place in the dynamic of the gathered worship, and so is integrated with confession, praise, prayer, song, silence, communion – all of which form us as followers of Jesus for our everyday frontlines.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Mission Frontiers 40, 3 (May-June 2018)

The May-June 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles devoted to the topic of ‘Inside North Korea: Bringing Hope and Healing to the Toughest Places’

They write:

This timely May-June issue highlights some of the extraordinary things that are happening in North Korea thanks to the dedication, tireless work and prayers of many. You will read about the inroads being made to provide for basic needs including medicine and clean water as well as the groundbreaking treatment for children with developmental disabilities. This issue also includes a personal tribute to Jim Downing; the sixth member of the Navigators, survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack and author at age 100, among numerous other celebrated accomplishments.

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

Friday, 11 May 2018

Themelios 43, 1 (April 2018)

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

D.A. Carson
The Postmodernism That Refuses to Die

Strange Times
Daniel Strange
A Wiser Idiot

Scott R. Swain
B.B. Warfield and the Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity 
B.B. Warfield’s 1915 ISBE article on the Trinity presents the Princeton theologian’s mature thinking on the biblical bases and meaning of the doctrine and offers a revisionist interpretation of the personal names of “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit.” Instead of interpreting the personal names of the Trinity in terms of relations of origin, Warfield argues that the personal names only signify likeness between the persons. The present article locates Warfield’s revision within its immediate and broader historical contexts, critically engages Warfield’s proposed revision, and discusses the importance of a traditional interpretation of the personal names for Trinitarian theology.

Fred G. Zaspel
Reversing the Gospel: Warfield on Race and Racism
The giant of Old Princeton, B.B. Warfield, outspokenly condemned the racism and rigid segregation of American society of his day. His views were remarkably ahead of his time with regard to an understanding of the evil of racism and even somewhat prophetic with regard to the further evil that would result from it. His convictions were explicitly grounded in an understanding and faithful application of the unity of the human race in Adam and the unity and equal standing of believers in Christ. This brief essay surveys Warfield’s arguments within the context of his day.

Bruce Riley Ashford
A Theological Sickness unto Death: Philip Rieff’s Prophetic Analysis of our Secular Age
Philip Rieff’s sociological analyses explore the implications of Western Civilization’s unprecedented attempt to maintain society and culture without reference to God. He argues that this attempt to desacralize the social order is deeply detrimental and encourages Westerners to resacralize the social order. For Western Christians who wish to help facilitate a “missionary encounter” between the gospel and our secular age, Rieff’s work will pay rich, albeit uneven dividends. His work is most helpful when diagnosing the ills of our secular age but is less illumining in its prognosis and prescription. Thus, a Christian framework of thought must be employed to evaluate Rieff’s work and leverage it for the Christian mission.

Geoffrey Chang
Spurgeon’s Use of Luther against the Oxford Movement
Nearly three hundred fifty years after Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenburg, Charles Haddon Spurgeon confronted the growing influence of Roman Catholic teaching within the Church of England. Led by Edward Pusey and others, the Oxford Movement called the Church of England to return to her pre-Reformation traditions and teaching. Spurgeon considered this a betrayal of the gospel and, beginning in 1864, would take a Luther-like stand for the truth. This essay will argue that Spurgeon drew from Luther’s model of bold leadership and teaching on justification by faith in his battle against the Oxford Movement.

Andrew G. Shead
Burning Scripture with Passion: A Review of The Psalms (The Passion Translation)
Brian Simmons has made a new translation of the Psalms (and now the whole New Testament) which aims to ‘re-introduce the passion and re of the Bible to the English reader.’ He achieves this by abandoning all interest in textual accuracy, playing fast and loose with the original languages, and inserting so much new material into the text that it is at least 50% longer than the original. The result is a strongly sectarian translation that no longer counts as Scripture; by masquerading as a Bible it threatens to bind entire churches in thrall to a false god.

Michael Strickland
When (and How) English-speaking Evangelicals Embraced Q
This article considers the emergence of an evangelical endorsement of the Two-Source Hypothesis as a solution to the Synoptic Problem in the first half of the twentieth century. Conservative scholars such as B.B. Warfield, Geerhardus Vos, A.T. Robertson, and W. Graham Scroggie considered the hypothesis, and its concomitant Q document, to be amenable to evangelical sensibilities. Specifically, the article details how the scholars considered the Two-Source Hypothesis to be a scientific conclusion, and one that presented an early source for the life of Jesus with a high Christology.

Book Reviews

Monday, 30 April 2018

Powerful Deliverance

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. This is a lightly-edited re-run of one from August 2013.

LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the one who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
Psalm 3:1-4

Psalms 1 and 2 are clear and confident: the righteous prosper and the wicked are blown away like chaff; God is in charge of the world, and the nations will serve him and his Messiah. Except it doesn’t always feel that way, does it?

The need for the assurance of Psalms 1 and 2 becomes clear with the first lines of Psalm 3. But that Psalm 3 comes so early in the Psalter seems appropriate, given how many of the psalms arise out of the experience of being attacked, of feeling ashamed, isolated and abandoned, of wondering why the ungodly prosper when those who serve God suffer. That bundle of emotions and more was likely true of David who, according to this Psalm’s title, wrote it when he fled from his son Absalom, a story told in 2 Samuel 15-18.

Interestingly, David’s foes were not saying that God does not act; they were saying that God does not act for David – ‘God will not deliver him’. They consider David to be cast aside by God, a failure, defeated. Of course, we don’t always need the ‘help’ of others to think that way about ourselves.

But as the Psalm progresses, David’s prayer becomes less a statement about his enemies, himself, or even his trust, and more a declaration about the Lord: ‘But you, LORD, are a shield around me.’ Shields are normally held in front of a person, but this shield encompasses him. In the place of prayer, where we see things we might not otherwise see, David confesses that God will protect him from attack, whatever direction it comes. It is the Lord who will lift his head high, removing his shame and restoring his dignity.

The final note of the Psalm is one of deliverance – ‘from the LORD comes deliverance’ (3:8) – even though it’s not clear that David’s situation has altered. For us too, the ‘problem’ itself might not immediately change – that illness we’re facing, or situation we find ourselves in, or task we have to do. What changes is our sense of dependence on God. Peace comes not primarily because we’re clever enough to work things out, but because of his power and promises of protection. Through prayer he moves us from fear to faith, from peril to peace, from a place of saying, ‘How many!’ to a place of confessing, ‘But you, LORD’.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Malyon Preaching Resources

I’ve enjoyed receiving Malyon Preaching Resources, an online resource from the Preaching Centre at Malyon College (available for free subscription here). Each edition contains a mix of feature articles, podcast reviews, book reviews, sample sermons, and other features.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Perichoresis 16, 1 (2018) on European Baptist Theology and History

Perichoresis is the theological journal of Emanuel University, Romania, published twice a year.

The latest volume, freely available from here, contains the below essays, continuing a series on ‘Celebrating 500 Years since the Reformation, 1518-2018’, with this issue devoted to ‘Insights into Contemporary Baptist Thought: Perspectives on European Baptist Theology and History.

Tim Noble
Nowhere is Better than Here: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Early Sixteenth Century Utopias
This article examines the utopian vision present in the eponymous work by Thomas More and in the early Anabaptists. In the light of the discussion on the power and dangers of utopian thinking in liberation theology it seeks to show how More struggled with the tension between the positive possibilities of a different world and the destructive criticism of the present reality. A similar tension is found in early Anabaptist practices, especially in terms of their relationship to the state and their practice of commonality of goods. The article shows that that all attempts to reduce visions of a better world to a particular setting end up as ideological.

Rupen Das
Becoming a Follower of Christ: Exploring Conversion Through Historical and Missiological Lenses
Conversion is a critical part of Evangelical theology and missiology. It has been defined as a crisis experience or a decision at a specific point in time. However, there is always an aspect of development, a process, involved. Increasingly, the phenomenon of conversion of those from non-Christian backgrounds, for example from other world religions, indicates that how they become followers of Christ is often characterised by a gradual journey, sometimes accompanied by visions and dreams. This paper looks at the phenomenon of conversion through a historical and missiological lens to explain and understand the dynamics of the conversion.

Marion L.S. Carson
In Whose Interest? Ante-Bellum Abolitionism, the Bible, and Contemporary Christian Ethics
Christians look to Scripture to inform their ethical decision-making, believing that God speaks through it. However, disagreement as to what the Bible requires us to do can often lead to acrimonious splits within the church. So long as sharp divisions amongst Christians over ethical issues remain, injustices continue, and the reputation of the church is undermined. This article suggests that lessons may be learned from the story of the use of the Bible in the American Abolitionism debate which can help the contemporary church to discuss and perhaps even resolve some enduring ethical questions which are dividing Christians today.

Stuart Blythe
Open-Air Preaching: A Long and Diverse Tradition
For many people, open-air preaching is associated with a particularly limited understanding of the nature of the event. In part this is related to the fact that open-air preaching has received relatively little serious academic study. From a variety of sources, however, it is possible to piece together something of a critically analytic sketch of the practice. This sketch demonstrates that not only can open-air preaching claim longevity but that in turn it is a practice with considerable diversity as open-air preachers seek to make meaning through their gathering and encounter with audiences.

Anthony R. Cross
The Place of Theological Education in the Preparation of Men and Women for the British Baptist Ministry then and Now
Using principally, though not exclusively, the learning of the biblical languages, this paper seeks to demonstrate four things. Firstly, from their beginnings in the early seventeenth century the majority of British Baptists have believed that the study of theology is essential for their ministers, and that the provision of such an education through their colleges is necessary for the well-being of the churches. Secondly, and contrary to misconceptions among Baptists and those of other traditions, Baptists have always had ministers who have been highly trained theologically, and that this has enriched their service as pastors. Thirdly, it reveals that Baptists today have a wealth of both academically-gifted and theologically-astute pastor-theologians and pastor-scholars. Finally, it argues that theology has always played its part in the renewal of Christian life and witness for which so many Christians today are praying.

Lina Toth
Strangers in the Land and True Lovers of the Nation: the Formation of Lithuanian-Speaking Baptist Identity, 1918-1940
How does an emerging community of faith develop its identity in the context of a semi-hostile and increasingly nationalistic culture? The story of the early years of Lithuanian-speaking Baptists provides an interesting and informative case study. This article focusses on the formative stage of the Lithuanian-speaking Baptist movement during the interwar period of the independent Republic of Lithuania (1918-1940). It considers four main factors which contributed to the formation of Lithuanian-speaking Baptist identity: different ethnic and cultural groupings amongst Baptists in Lithuania; the role of the global Baptist family in providing both material and ideological support; the community’s relationship with the Lithuanian state; and their stance towards the dominant religious context, i.e. the Lithuanian Catholic Church. Out of this dynamic emerges a picture of the particular ways in which these congregations, and especially their leadership, navigated their understanding of loyalty to the Kingdom of God in relation to their belonging to a particular national grouping.