Thursday, 17 September 2020

Themelios 45, 2 (August 2020)

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


Brian J. Tabb

Pursuing Scholarship in a Pandemic: Reflections on Lewis’s “Learning in War-Time”

Brian Tabb argues that an 80-year-old sermon by C.S. Lewis offers timely perspective for these abnormal times. Lewis reminds us that ‘life has never been normal.’ He explains why and how we should pursue serious learning for the glory of God – whether in war or peace-time – and highlights three acute challenges that distract or discourage such scholarship.

Strange Times

Daniel Strange

Praise and Polemic in Our Global Pandemic

Dan Strange calls Psalm 92 an oasis in our COVID-19 desert, a one-stop-shop, not merely for our survival, but for our thrival needs. This psalm of praise also offers an important polemic against our cultural idols. If we believe that Christ has the right to be Lord of all, then Christians have a duty to challenge areas where this rule is not respected, and accounts of anything in creation that do not relate that something to Christ and the Christian worldview are necessarily incomplete, and to that extent misleading.

Jason DeRouchie

The Use of Leviticus 18:5 in Galatians 3:12: A Redemptive-Historical Reassessment

Paul cites Leviticus 18:5 in Galatians 3:12 in order to support that ‘no one is justified before God by the law’ (Gal 3:11). Leviticus 18:5 portrays the principle of ‘doing’ in order to attain life that characterized the Mosaic law-covenant, and when this principle met human inability, the law became an enslaving guardian until Christ (3:21–26) and identified how ‘all who rely on works of the law are under a curse’ (3:10). To say ‘the law is not of faith’ (3:12) means that the era of the law-covenant was not characterized by faith leading to life but by rebellion leading to death.

James S. Spiegel

Celebration and Betrayal: Martin Luther King’s Case for Racial Justice and Our Current Dilemma

During the American Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King’s principal arguments reasoned from theological ethics, appealing to natural law, imago Dei, and agape love. Today in the United States, with the prevailing ideal of public reason, such arguments are unacceptable in the public square. In lieu of King’s theological arguments, are there philosophical principles or values adequate to sustain the cause of racial justice, establishing both a secure rational foundation for racial justice and providing sufficient moral incentive for citizens to work self-sacrificially for this cause? I assess the prospects of the major philosophical alternatives, specifically utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, contractarianism, and the anti-theory option. I conclude that each of these approaches fails to provide the necessary conceptual resources to sustain the cause for racial justice. This presents a disconcerting dilemma: either we readmit theological considerations into the public square or surrender hope for the achievement of lasting racial justice in the United States.

Lydia Jaeger

Christ and the Concept of Person

The concept of personhood is crucial for our understanding of what it is to be human. This article considers the ways that Christological debates in the early Church contributed to the emergence of the concept of person. It then suggests that neglect of the theological roots of this concept is the reason why modern definitions of person are unsatisfactory. The latter typically refer to particular properties of the individual, whereas the Trinitarian concept of person is relational. Finally, some ethical implications are drawn from the Christological insight that the person is a fundamental ontological category. In particular, this perspective defends the personhood of those who do not meet the criteria of modern definitions of person. 

Martin Foord

The “Epistle of Straw”: Reflections on Luther and the Epistle of James

Many believe that because Martin Luther called James an ‘epistle of straw’ he wished to remove it from Scripture. And he has been accused of doing this according to his individual whim. This paper firstly seeks to show that Luther wished to keep James in the New Testament and his decision was not based on personal whim. Luther was able to call James an ‘epistle of straw’ and retain its canonicity because he held to a two-level view of the New Testament: James was excluded from the top tier and consigned to the lower tier of New Testament books. However, secondly, this paper subjects Luther’s position to a theological critique. It is found that Luther’s two-level understanding of the New Testament, and his conclusions about James, are ultimately unconvincing because they are not faithful to Scripture itself.

Mario M. C. Melendez

Interpreting Faith in the Reformation: Catholic and Protestant Interpretations of Habakkuk 2:4b and Its New Testament Quotations

The sixteenth century Reformation debate primarily centered upon the interpretation of Scripture. The Reformers called into question Catholic understandings of justification. The result was a long period of theological writings concerning faith and justification. This study provides a historical survey of Habakkuk 2:4b’s use in the Reformation. The accomplished research shows that Luther and Calvin pointed to Christ’s faithfulness as the object of the Habakkuk 2:4b faith. For the Catholics, Erasmus began with an almost paralleled belief to the Protestants, but the Council of Trent concluded with a conviction that both the works of Christ and sacraments are necessary for salvation.

Michael N. Jacobs

The Resurgence of Two Kingdoms Doctrine: A Survey of the Literature

Two Kingdoms doctrine distinguishes between the common kingdom, the created order common to all life that will one day come to an end, and the redemptive kingdom, the church and those called to consummation into the world to come at the end of the current age. This article surveys the recent resurgence of scholarship on Two Kingdoms doctrine, focusing on work by David VanDrunen, Michael Horton, and D.G. Hart. The article concludes by reviewing neo-Calvinist criticisms of the doctrine and suggesting potential paths forward for future Two Kingdoms scholarship.

Gavin Ortlund

Why Not Grandchildren? An Argument against Reformed Paedobaptism

Reformed paedobaptism generally argues from continuity with the Abrahamic covenant, situating infant baptism as a continuation of infant circumcision. Credobaptist objections have typically challenged this premise, stressing points of discontinuity across the biblical covenants. This article suggests a different (though not incompatible) response, arguing that even if the paedobaptist vision of continuity between circumcision and baptism is accepted, current paedobaptist practice is not in line with it anyway, since circumcision was never at any time administered to ‘those who believe and their children.’ The argument is buttressed by a historical survey of Reformed baptismal practices from John Calvin through the mid-17th century (often forgotten/unknown today) which, by the same appeal to continuity with circumcision, affirmed intergenerational baptism.

Ronald L. Giese, Jr.

Is “Online Church” Really Church? The Church as God’s Temple

Many churches switched to streaming or recording their services during the COVID-19 crisis. This brought a question to the forefront: Can church be done online, not just in part but fully? This can’t be settled by the meaning of the Greek word ἐκκλησία. This article proposes that, though we should use technology in many ministry areas, ‘online church’ is an expression that should not be used. First, one of Paul’s main metaphors for the church is the temple of God. And, in keeping with the literal temple of the Old Testament, and the eschatological temple of the future, this is a place, in the usual meaning of the word. That place now is the local church, gathered physically. Second, God did not create humans as disembodied souls. The soul and body are both critical in Christian anthropology, redemption, and ministry.

Pastoral Pensées

Timothy E. Miller

Text-Criticism and the Pulpit: Should One Preach about the Woman Caught in Adultery?

This article considers whether ‘The Woman Caught in Adultery’ (John 7:53–8:11) should be preached. After indicating why the issue is significant, the article details eleven approaches to the question. Throughout, an analysis of each position on the basis of textual evidence and an evangelical definition of canon is provided. The article concludes by suggesting practical ways of handling the text as it comes up in an expositional series.

Book Reviews

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies 5, 1 (2020) on Ephesians and the Powers

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies carries a set of essays devoted to the topic of ‘Ephesians and the Powers’, available from here.

John Frederick

Introduction: Ephesians and the Powers

Daniel K. Darko

‘The Ruler of the Power of the Air’ in the Salvific Story of Ephesians 2

Post-enlightenment theological articulations of what salvation entail often ostracize Satan in the process and limit the experience to a transaction between God and humans. The idea of ‘salvation by grace’ is however borrowed from Ephesians 2 where pre-conversion life was purportedly lived under the domain of Satan. The human condition is engineered by diabolic influence. Thus, people are saved from satanic in influence and its attendant consequences of sin, social breakdown, fleshly impulses etc. to belong to a people of God. Spiritual warfare is meant to curb pressures from evil powers to maintain faithful standing in God. Salvation would be incomplete, according to Ephesians 2, if it did not include deliverance from the control of ‘the ruler of the power of the air.’

Luke R. Hoselton

“You Have Been Raised with Christ”: Investigating the Spatial Portrait of New Creation in Ephesians

The theology of Ephesians comprises a number of distinctive features. Among other things, the letter portrays a unique relationship between the temporal and spatial aspects of its soterio-eschatology and displays significant attention to the powers. This essay explores the soteriology of Ephesians with reference to its spatial framework, the powers, and the new creation concept.

Eric Covington

Power and the “Powers” in Thomas Aquinas’ Lectura ad Ephesios

In his medieval commentary on Ephesians, Thomas Aquinas interprets the various terms that refer to the “powers” throughout the letter as references to specific tiers within hierarcies of both benevolent and malevolent spiritual beings. Intriguingly, Aquinas interprets the “powers” of Ephesians 1:21 and Ephesians 3:10 as references to the benevolent, angelic hierarchy, while he interprets the “powers” of Ephesians 2:2 and Ephesians 6:12 as references to the malevolent, demonic hierarchy. This chapter will examine Aquinas’ interpretation of these terms in each of these verses and will conclude by examining the theological significance of this identification for Aquinas’ reading of Ephesians. Ultimately, Aquinas sees Christ as the form and exemplar of true divine power, which is most fully expressed in Christ’s resurrection and exaltation over all spiritual beings. Thus, while Aquinas does not contradict modern scholarship’s focus on the subjugation of malevolent forces, he dramatically reorients the discussion around Ephesians’ presentation of Christ as the exalted one through whom the appropriate divine power extends to every creature – physical and spiritual.

Mark R. Kreitzer and Nancy C. Kreitzer

Three Cycles of Growth: Warfare and Spiritual Metamorphosis in John and Paul

In this paper, we examine two key NT passages that address spiritual warfare and spiritual growth, showing how they are inextricably linked. In Ephesians 6:10–20, Paul shows believers that in order to stand in their faith, they must stand in God’s full armor, their identity “in Christ.” With each piece, he reveals essential aspects of Christ’s armor, beginning with the belt of truth and ending with requests for prayer for evangelism. Paul seems to organize them in three sets of three pieces of armor. In 1 John 2:12–14, John teaches that the natural outworking of standing in Christ’s armor is growth in three stages. As we compare the 1 John and Ephesians passages, we will see how each piece of armor, and the believer’s understanding of them, is necessarily linked during the three stages of growth. Finally, we conclude with the far-reaching missiological implications. 

Joshua M. Greever

The Armor of God, the Gospel of Christ, and Standing Firm against the ‘Powers’ (Ephesians 6:10–20)

As the climactic conclusion to the letter, Ephesians 6:10–20 recapitulates and summarizes much of the earlier themes in Ephesians. It clarifies that the “powers” are evil, supernaturally power, spiritual beings. Christians must therefore stand firm against the “powers” by resting in Christ’s redemptive work for them. Christ is seen as the Divine Warrior whose victory over the “powers” is the armor that Christians are called to put on and appropriate by virtue of their union with Christ by faith.

John Frederick

Ephesians and Evangelical Activism: The Covenantal, Corporate, and Missional Components of the Ecclesial Armor of God

In Ephesians 6:10–20, the apostle Paul penned one of the most memorable accounts of spiritual warfare for Christians. Throughout the history of interpretation, the majority of exegetes have viewed Paul’s account of the “armor of God” in relation to the spiritual struggle of individual Christians in their quests for growth in personal holiness. This article counteracts individualistic, moralistic, gnostic readings of Ephesians 6:10–20 by re-situating the “armor of God” metaphor within its original corporate/ecclesial, covenantal, and missional context in Ephesians. The article begins by redirecting evangelical thinking on social activism away from recent fundamentalist denunciations back to the original activist ethos of neo-evangelicalism. Next, Walter Wink’s phenomenological reading of the Powers is explored as a framework for evangelical activism against human structures, systems, and ideologies that facilitate the activity of demonic and oppressive spiritual Powers. The article concludes by offering an exegetical recovery of the corporate, covenantal, and missional components of the armor of God metaphor thus providing a biblical and theological rationale and impetus for evangelical social action as the primary referent of spiritual warfare in Ephesians.

Simon Gomersall

Considering the Impact of Missiology on Contemporary Understandings of “Principalities and Powers”

While the early 20th century saw well-defined movement toward the depersonalizing and demythologizing of principalities and powers as they are described in the biblical text, the latter part of the century witnessed a reappraisal of this process as multi-cultural perspectives began to filter from the mission eld into the academy. This paper traces key milestones in the former demythologizing process and then explores some of the reasons why these modernist assumptions have been revised, including: the experiences of missionaries, greater insight into the assumptions that lie behind worldviews, and the research of anthropologists. The paper finishes with the brief suggestion that each part of this journey brings value to the practice of Christian ministry. 

Vicky Balabanski

Reading Ephesians in Dialogue with the Powers in Colossians

This chapter focuses on interpreting the powers in Colossians, a letter with close connections with the Letter to the Ephesians. It begins with three contemporary scenarios where the perception of the powers among indigenous Christians is contrasted with that of non-indigenous Christians. This demonstrates that any discussion of the powers is conducted in a culturally and theologically contested space. From the perspective of the positive reference to the powers in Colossians 1:16, it examines the more negative references in Colossians 1:13 and 2:15. It sets all these references against the background of Hellenistic cosmology, including the depiction of the powers in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, 1 Enoch 64:1–2, and Jude 14-15. The reference to angelic worship in Colossians 2:18 is also discussed. The chapter concludes by comparing the portrayal of the powers in Colossians and Ephesians, arguing that Western Christianity is right to emphasize the victory of Christ over all powers, but foolish to lose belief in the reality of the powers themselves.

Jonathan K. Sharpe and Jerry Pilla

Bonhoeffer and the Way of the Cruci ed: Methodeia, Doctrine, and the ‘Powers’

The Greek word methodeia, the “schemes,” “tricks,” or “methods” of the enemy that move us away from Christ and from unity in his body, is uniquely found only within Ephesians 4:14 and 6:11. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul focuses on the unity of the body of Christ and the way Christians grow into unity and maturity with Christ is by avoiding the methodeia of the enemy. The term also appears again in Ephesians 6:11 where Paul urges believers to put on the armor of God to avoid the methodeia of the devil. In this chapter we consider Peter Rollins’ theological movement of “Radical Theology” as being an example of methodeia which might disrupt the transformational unity of the body of Christ and against which we need to arm ourselves. We especially examine the purported reliance of Rollins’ movement upon the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and to what extent Bonhoeffer may propose a still radical but, conversely, more clearly orthodox movement of deconstruction than that suggested by Rollins, one in which Christ alone must deconstruct the human “I” and supernaturally enable persons both to overcome sin and the devil and to do good in the world only in and through Christ, via the specific historic means provided by Christ.

Joshua M. Greever

Conclusion: Ephesians and the Powers

Book Reviews

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Centre for Public Christianity (September 2020)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has two ‘Life and Faith’ podcasts: an interview with Richard Shumack, ‘about his new book Jesus through Muslim Eyes, and Abdu Murray, who has looked at Jesus through both Muslim and Christian eyes’, and one in which Justine Toh talks about ‘the struggles facing working mothers during COVID-19, and why society should value the practice of “care”’.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

The Bible in Transmission (Summer 2020) on Covid-19

The latest issue of The Bible in Transmission, from Bible Society, is available online here, offering a collection of articles on ‘When a Crisis Strikes: Perspectives on the Impact of Covid-19’.

I have taken the summaries of articles below from Hannah Stevens’ Editorial.

Hannah Stevens


Dave Landrum

The Role of the Church In, Through and Beyond the Pandemic

It is because of the conscious recognition of a God who cares for us that the Church has taken the opportunity to respond with outreach in the midst of this crisis. In his article, Dave Landrum discusses how the Church is responding with deliveries of food and medicines, shelter, phone calling ministries and much more. Perhaps this could be part of the reason why there is evidence, as Dave also explores, that people in general are more open to conversations about God and willing to explore church during this time. Historically, the Church’s willingness to stretch out a hand to those crying out for help has helped it grow. It could also be because the fear invoked by a crisis exposes the deeper need for a greater plan and power to be in place. Digital church services, online prayer groups and Zoom meetings also make church more accessible to those who are just beginning to explore faith, as well as supporting regular church members during this time. Dave notes that many churches are coping well despite the closure of their buildings – they are adapting by digitising their content and still ‘meeting’ in each other’s homes digitally, a response which may be going back to a format more in line with the Church’s roots. However, Dave also explores how the Church might respond to the predicted economic crisis through a focus on employment provision and supporting local business.

Peter Heslam

God’s Pandemic Rule and Redemption: Business and the Renewal of the Global Economy

Peter Heslam explores the challenges faced by business with the closure of places to work, shop, learn, socialise, travel and enjoy leisure. Peter notes that social isolation has become a way to ‘engage in a communal struggle’ rather than an expression of individual self-sufficiency. He states that business [sic] are fundamentally ‘other-oriented’, co-operative enterprises and that those most in touch with their purpose are the most successful during the pandemic. They are the ones most engaged with their customers and their changing needs. This drive to meet needs – fundamentally, to serve – is driving three Industrial Revolutions. These are the digital technology revolution, which includes the boom of web-based business such as Zoom; the revolution of local digital production through technologies such as 3D printing, and, Peter hopes, a decarbonising green revolution, aided by the replacement of mass manufacturing and carbon-consuming habits with digital and local alternatives.

Chris Sunderland

So What for the Earth?

Chris Sunderland’s point that deep and lasting culture change is needed to protect the Earth beyond the lockdown. Chris is concerned with environmental issues and makes the point that although much of our response to the crisis has had a positive effect on our environment, this will be short-lived unless we change our view of our relationship to the Earth. For Chris, the collective feeling of dread bought about by the pandemic should catalyse a restructure in our thinking about how we can care for others through caring for our environment. This is grounded in an understanding of ourselves as ‘part of the Earth’s life’, and the Earth as God’s precious creation, a creation that is a continuing process beyond the initial act at the beginning.

Fleur Dorrell

Alchemy for the Masses: Why We Need Art in This Pandemic

Creation is a deeply human response to pain and crisis, which we do as part of our reflection of our creator God. We create to express to others and for the benefit of others. Fleur Dorrell explores the artistic response to the Covid-19 pandemic. She tackles the myth that art is an inaccessible luxury only for the elite, pointing to the democratisation of art apparent during the crisis, such as painting rainbows for the NHS. This, too, is a response that reflects God, because, whether consciously or unconsciously, people are utilising a symbol that invokes God’s promise and protection against total destruction. Just as the biblical rainbow in the sky was and is for everyone, so the artistic expression of solidarity with the NHS and social care is for everyone, from children to the elderly to the disabled. Art speaks to people of all walks of life, and so, Fleur points out, art is a means of connecting and caring for others.

Philippa Taylor

Coronavirus: Some Ethical Issues

A person’s relational health is... a factor in whether they will survive illness, as well as physical health. The truth of this drives us to reach out and provide social interaction to the self-isolating in whatever way we can, as much as we are driven to feed them, because of our shared sense of the ‘high value of human life’, as Philippa puts it. This in turn drives us to evaluate the ethics of the way medical care is being distributed. Philippa explores the ethical dilemmas faced by many medical staff today due to the shortage of resources.

Paul Williams

The Revelation of the Lockdown

Paul Williams discusses the opportunity for a new mission field after lockdown has ended. Paul makes the point that lockdown has revealed the flaws in the metanarratives that influence post-Christian society – science and the courses of action based on science are not always clear, and the world of business and economics is not always stable. He argues that there is a sense we are tired of cynicism; we hunger for ‘the real’, which is expressed in the appreciation of relationships and life, as well as gratitude for the NHS and key workers. Paul has recently written Exiles on Mission, in which he discusses the sense of alienation of Christianity from culture, but even in this he points to the hope that we can be ambassadors for the culture of Christ. Perhaps to the people who are feeling alienated from their old lifestyles as a result of lockdown, Christians can relate and be ambassadors of Christ in the midst of it.

Paul Woolley

News from Bible Society

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Credo 10, 2 (2020) on the Church Fathers

The current issue of Credo is available, this one devoted to the topic of ‘The Great Tradition: Patristic Edition’.

Here’s the blurb:

‘Few Christians today have ever heard about the Church Fathers. Those that have heard about the fathers have been warned that they are Roman Catholic or untrustworthy exegetes, or both! However, there is a retrieval underfoot that is not so easily overcome by ignorance or lax acceptance of sloppy caricatures. Christians are now rediscovering the Fathers for the first time. They are also noticing that many of the doctrinal missteps today could have been avoided if we had only paid attention to the insights the Fathers offer. This issue of Credo Magazine is an entryway to the fathers, encouraging you to go deeper and read the fathers for yourself. But it’s more: this issue is a call to be humble and sit at the feet of the fathers as they admonish us for the sake of renewal in the church today.’

Individual articles, along with interviews and book reviews, are available to read from here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Asbury Journal 75, 1 (2020)

The latest issue of Asbury Journal is now available, containing the below articles. The entire issue is available as a pdf here.

From the Editor

Winfield Bevins

Victorian Church Planting: A Contemporary Inquiry into a Nineteenth Century Movement

When people think of Victorian England, church planting isn’t the first thing that comes to mind However, there was a significant movement that swept across the country in the mid to late 19th century that resulted in the planting of thousands of new churches that was well documented. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that there was a church planting movement in England that helped transform the nation in the 19th century. It will examine the causes, characteristics, and trajectory of this movement, while offering a contemporary application of lessons for church planting today.

Philip F. Hardt

Methodist Political Involvement in the School Bible Issue: the Council, The Christian Advocate and Journal, the Mayor, and the Superintendent of Schools

During the early 1840s in New York City, prominent members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, both lay and clergy, used four political avenues to oppose Roman Catholic efforts to both secure public funds for their own parish schools and also eliminate the daily reading of the King James Bible. These avenues included participation before the Common Council, “political” editorials in the Christian Advocate and Journal, the election of a strongly pro-Bible Methodist mayor, and appointment of a similarly-minded Methodist superintendent of schools. The questions of what caused the Methodists to take such a strong stand and why some compromise could not be achieved are also addressed.

Samuel J. Rogal

John and Molly: A Methodist Mismarriage

While not much is known about Mary (Molly) Goldhawk Vazeille, the wife of John Wesley, her story has been interpreted in many ways, and often incorrectly over time. This article explores the historical evidence of her life as a wealthy widow with children who married the founder of Methodism later in life. This contentious relationship is often little understood because of the lack of solid documentation and the multiple interpretations often overlaying the story, which were added by writers with other agendas. It does seem clear that John’s brother Charles was especially unhappy with this marriage in the beginning, and the subsequent events in the relationship led to divisions between the couple that have been open to numerous interpretations.

Kim Okesson

Dorothy Sayers, Communication and Theology: A Lifetime of Influence in British Society

This paper examines the writings of Dorothy Sayers through the lens of transportation theory and feminist communication theory. Dorothy Sayers’s early childhood and educational years are considered in light of their impact on her work as an adult. Her role as a writer and a lay theologian is discussed. The role of women in the first part of the twentieth century is considered. Attention is given to Sayers’s writings across multiple literature genres and the strength this brings to her communication of theological truth.

Robert A. Danielson

“When We are Going to Preach the Word, Jesus will Meet Us:” Ernest and Phebe Ward and Pandita Ramabai

In the 19th century, holiness missions spread to various parts of the world, including India. Ernest and Phebe Ward were part of that movement. They went as faith missionaries, but were also recognized as the first missionaries of the Free Methodist Church. In the course of their mission work in Central India, their traditional radical form of holiness mission was transformed into orphanage work by a severe famine. Through their holiness connections and orphanage work, they became associated with the Pentecost Bands and with Albert Norton, a close partner with Pandita Ramabai. This paper raises the potential importance of these connections in terms of the influence of holiness connections on Ramabai and the Mukti Revival of 1905, which led to the growth of Pentecostalism in India.

Dwight S.M. Mutonono

The Leadership Implications of Kneeling in Zimbabwean Culture

This paper considers the implications of public officials and church members kneeling to their leaders as a cultural expression of honor. Zimbabweans, like many Africans, kneel or crouch when interacting with people in authority. In traditional culture children are socialized to kneel to elders, and this becomes a deeply ingrained part of their way of life. While the practice of kneeling, even in private, is not as prevalent as it used to be, recently high-level Zimbabwean public officials have been recorded kneeling before authority figures. They justify their behavior based on culture. Church members do the same to their leaders and similarly justify their conduct as cultural behavior. This paper analyses and critiques this conduct, considering cultural changes to assess the leadership implications of continuing this practice in modern day Zimbabwe. While the continued private practice of the culture is the prerogative of individual Zimbabweans and cannot be legislated against, the public expression of kneeling is now counter-productive. It is not achieving the original intentions of honoring the behavior’s recipient. Because of abuse and possible interpretive misunderstandings, it should be stopped. Recommended ways of transforming the culture are given.

Yohan Hong

Powerlessness and A Social Imaginary in the Philippines: A Case Study on Bahala na

This paper calls attention to the sense of powerlessness of everyday people in the Philippines, and to the missional agency of US-based Filipino Protestants for the transformation of the Philippines. This research has been a journey to discover what kind of power is in play, how the fallen powers can be named and made visible, and then ultimately the ways through which power should be restored. In this process, I referred to the voices, perceptions, stories, and insights of US-based Filipino Protestants in Texas, in order to explore the causes of powerlessness. This paper focuses on how Bahala na as a Filipino cultural value, functions at some mythic level in relation to a social imaginary in such a way to cause and perpetuate a sense of powerlessness. Furthermore, the missional agency of Filipino American Protestants has been seldom investigated in the academia of Diaspora Missiology and Intercultural Studies. This paper concludes that Filipino American Protestants have re-interpreted Bahala na in transforming ways through the power of their spiritual discipline and Protestant faith so that this paper shines light on the potentiality for them to be change agents who can help bring about the transformation in the Philippines.


From the Archives: John Haywood Paul and Iva Durham Vennard- Holiness in Education

Book Reviews

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Currents in Biblical Research 18, 3 (June 2020)

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

Preston L. Atwood

The Peshiṭta of Isaiah in Past and Present Scholarship

In this study I outline the scholarship pertaining to the Peshiṭta of Isaiah (S-Isa) and expound on specific topics in need of further research. I begin by recounting the process of S-Isa’s manuscript collation and its culmination in Leiden’s editio minor. Relatedly, I explain the role of citations in the patristic literature for reconstructing the original text of S-Isa. Then, I address how scholars approach the question of S-Isa’s relation to the Old Greek (G-Isa) and Targum (T-Isa) of Isaiah. I move on to summarize the studies on the translation technique of S-Isa and explain how they have aided in determining the degree to which S-Isa may have been influenced by G- and T-Isa. I continue by adumbrating the debate on the authorship and theology of S-Isa and problematizing certain assumptions brought to the discussion. I conclude by offering a few reflections on the future of S-Isa scholarship.

Mitchel Modine

Case Studies in Recent Research on the Book of Numbers (With Attention to Non-Western Scholarship)

Scholarship on the book of Numbers continues apace, even if there is not a famous commentary that everyone must always cite. Numbers figures especially prominently in recent work on Pentateuchal source criticism. This survey will examine several recent offerings that contribute in various ways to the ongoing discussion. In addition, particular texts within Numbers continue to excite attention, both from historical-critical and postmodern perspectives. Therefore, this article will devote attention to three texts that have drawn particular attention in the past 15 years: the sotah ritual in Numbers 5, Phinehas’s killing of an Israelite man and a Moabite woman in Numbers 25, and the inheritance request of the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 27 and 36. In all of these areas, recent offerings from non-Western scholars will receive particular attention.

Lynne Moss Bahr

The ‘Temporal Turn’ in New Testament Studies

Reflecting a recent trend across academic disciplines, New Testament scholars are beginning to explore the concept of time and temporality, a concept not well-developed in the field. This article surveys this scholarship from the basis of three inter-related categories: social memory and historical narrative; queer and feminist theory; and apocalypticism and messianism. It addresses the question: How does the concept of time (generally, the idea of continual change) and temporality (concepts and orientations related to the experience of time) serve historical, literary, and theological aims in the New Testament? Further, the article proposes new areas of research that would expand on earlier work and also draw upon the burgeoning field of time and temporality in other disciplines.

Christopher W. Skinner

Ethics and the Gospel of John: Toward an Emerging New Consensus?

For decades the scholarly consensus held that the Fourth Gospel was either devoid of ethics or that its ethical material was narrow, exclusive, and sectarian. In recent years, that consensus has begun to show signs of wear. This article examines the more recent turn to ‘implied’ ethics by looking at four English-language books on the subject published in the past four years. This examination is undertaken with a view to tracing a newly emerging consensus, which holds that (1) the Gospel of John has ethical material, and (2) that material must be taken seriously by those reflecting on ancient ethical systems in general and New Testament ethics in particular. Further, the emerging consensus holds that the implied ethics of the Fourth Gospel, far from being strictly sectarian, are useful for reflecting on and/or constructing models of normative Christian behavior.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Matt Williams on Money and Family Relationships

Matt N. Williams, Money Can’t Fix Everything: The Impact of Family Relationships on Poverty (Cambridge: Jubilee Centre, 2020).

The Jubilee Centre has published a new report, this one by Matt Williams, arguing that ‘family dysfunction is a key driver in poverty and, because of this, healthier families are a big part of the solution’.

Here are some paragraphs from the Jubilee Centre:

‘If you look at the manifestos of political parties on both the left and the right, you’ll see a pattern emerge; in many cases, tackling poverty is seen as a left-wing concern, whilst strengthening family is the sole province of the politically right. This separation of key social and economic issues along political lines is all too common. But what if, after taking a holistic look at the ugly wound of poverty, we find that it’s not just unhelpful, but impossible to talk about poverty without the family?

‘This booklet starts by painting three pictures of contemporary poverty, covering public consciousness of poverty in both Africa and the UK. In part II, it explores how we can recover the overlooked economic reality of family, arguing that the Scriptures give us a holistic perspective on family as part of a wider socio-economic vision. Finally, part III brings this biblical perspective to bear on today’s world. It suggests ways in which these ideas can be applied to face the contemporary challenge of poverty in three key areas: households, churches and government policy.’

The booklet is available as a pdf here, in exchange for an email address.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Centre for Public Christianity (July 2020)

I’m a bit late with this… However, among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has two ‘Life and Faith’ podcasts: a discussion of introversion and extroversion (particularly in the light of this year’s lockdown), and ‘a candid conversation with former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, on career, politics, religion, and leadership’.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Commentaries for Christian Formation

I’ve blogged on previous occasions (here, for example) about my affection for biblical commentaries.

So, I was excited to see that Eerdmans have announced a brand new commentary series – Commentaries for Christian Formation – the inaugural volume of which will be on Galatians, by N.T. Wright

Here is the series description:

‘The Commentaries for Christian Formation (CCF) series serves a central purpose of the Word of God for the people of God: faith formation. Some series focus on exegesis, some on preaching, some on teaching, and some on application. This new series integrates all these aims, serving the church by showing how sound theological exegesis can underwrite preaching and teaching, which in turn forms believers in the faith.

‘Uniting these volumes is a shared conviction that interpreting Scripture is not an end in itself. Faithful belief, prayer, and practice, deeper love of God and neighbor: these are ends of scriptural interpretation for Christians. The volumes in Commentaries for Christian Formation interpret Scripture in ways aimed at ordering readers’ lives and worship in imitation of Christ, informing their understanding of God, and animating their participation in the church’s global mission with a deepened sense of calling.’

Monday, 3 August 2020

Evangelical Review of Theology 44, 3 (2020)

The World Evangelical Alliance’s Evangelical Review of Theology is becoming a free online journal, starting with its August 2020 issue (contents below).

Details of how to subscribe (a single email to the editor), along with access to issues back to January 2018, are available here.

Welcome to the New ERT

Efraim Tendero

How to Advance the Kingdom of God without Travelling

John Langlois

A Candid History of the Evangelical Review of Theology

As it becomes an open-source journal, the Evangelical Review of Theology will be new to most readers, but it has been around for a long time. John Langlois, who was there at the beginning, meshes personal recollections, theology and magic mushrooms in this fascinating story of how the journal came into existence, as part of the amazing revival of evangelical scholarship over the last fifty years.

Thomas K. Johnson

A Case for Cooperation between Evangelical Christians and Humanitarian Islam

Humanity’s ability to live together in peace and harmony – and the very lives of both Christians and peaceful Muslims in many parts of the world – are threatened by radical Islamic elements. The World Evangelical Alliance and a major Muslim organization have agreed to work together to combat threats to their shared values and articulate a positive alternative. This article explains why such an effort is justified and how it hopes to make a global impact.

Janet Epp Buckingham

Where Are the Goalposts Now? Christian Theology on Sexuality in a Changing World

In the last 20 years, as LGBTQ rights have greatly advanced, claims to religious freedom that conflict with these rights have been eroded. This paper considers the case of Trinity Western University, which was denied the right to establish a law school by two provincial law associations and the Supreme Court of Canada, and the implications for Christian behaviour in cultures that have shifted away from traditional views of human sexuality.

Brian J. Grim

Bringing God to Work: The Benefits of Embracing Religious Diversity in the Workplace

It often seems that corporations welcome and encourage diversity in every dimension except religion. In this article, a global leader on religious freedom in the business sector analyses data on US Fortune 100 companies and makes a business case for welcoming expressions of faith.

Bambang Budijanto

The Correlation between Church Growth and Discipleship: Evidence from Indonesia

This article presents and analyses data from surveys conducted by the Bilangan Research Center, which were patterned after similar surveys by the Barna Research Group in the United States. The findings have important implications for improving congregational engagement in effective disciple making.

Gary G. Hoag

Demystifying Gender Issues in 1 Timothy 2:9–15, with Help from Artemis

1 Timothy 2:9–15 is a source of considerable debate over women’s role in the church. Many aspects of the passage have long mystified interpreters. This article shows how a little-noticed contemporary love story from Ephesus may enable us to unlock this influential and often troublesome text.

Elizabeth Olayiwola

The Theology and Culture of Marriage in Nigerian Evangelical Film

Nigerian evangelicals have embraced filmmaking as a way to share Christian truth, but their transnational films expose the significant worldview differences between Christian cultures in Nigeria and the West. This article probes the somewhat mixed messages that appear in videos by Nigeria’s best-known evangelical film producer, Mike Bamiloye.

Johannes Reimer and Chris Pullenayegem

World Diasporas: An Opportunity for World Mission

Many of us who cannot leave our home country on Christian mission have world mission coming to our doorstep – in the form of increasing numbers of international refugees and migrants. This article explains the cultural situation experienced by members of today’s world diasporas and how the body of Christ can reach out to them.

Simone Twibell

Interreligious Dialogue: Towards an Evangelical Approach

Engaging with people from other religious traditions, with respect and grace while also bearing witness to our faith, can be challenging for evangelical Christians but is also a crucial part of carrying out our mission. This article surveys various types and purposes of interreligious dialogue and offers practical guidance on how and why all of us should do it.

Andrew Messmer

Faith, Hope, Love and Jesus’ Lordship: A Simple Synthesis of Christianity

Capturing the essential nature of the Christian faith in a simple phrase or set of ideas is valuable for several reasons: to keep our Christian life balanced, to evaluate our behaviour, and to explain to inquirers or new Christians what we believe and how we live out Christian obedience. Drawing on a series of illustrations from Scripture and church history, Andrew Messmer suggests describing Christianity in terms of a familiar triad: faith, hope and love.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

On Qualities for Living Well in a Pandemic

The below is an excerpt from an email written for the congregation where I am one of the pastors.

A few weeks back, the BBC’s ‘Rethink’ programme asked people who they describe as ‘six great minds’ – from chef Nisha Katona to philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah – ‘to share the qualities they believe will help us weather the pandemic and thrive in the world beyond’. You can check out the feature here.

Before you read on, you might like to pause to ask yourself the question: what qualities do we need in order to live well at this time? How would you respond if they asked you?

Their answers? Compassion. Gratitude (for healthy bodies). Consistency of small actions. Engagement. Empathy. Hospitality.

I don’t know anything about the faith commitment or otherwise of those who were asked, but it strikes me that those qualities are not at all out of place with the sorts of qualities Christians would be happy to endorse.

It got me thinking about what lies behind the moral judgments of people in society. All of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, approach ethical issues from a particular way of viewing the world, or what we sometimes call our ‘worldview’. (We were thinking about this as a church on Sunday evenings before lockdown started.)

Given this, I’d like to propose that qualities such as compassion, gratitude, empathy, and hospitality make best sense from a perspective that, at the very least, resembles a biblical worldview, grounded in a God who is himself good.

Of course, it’s not true to say that non-believers don’t recognise moral values or live good lives. They clearly do. But that’s not the same as having a consistent basis for doing so.

That’s perhaps especially the case for dedicated atheists. It’s very difficult to make sense of a commitment to values in the absence of God. Where atheists hold to a view that there is nothing in the universe other than matter and energy, that we are a random collection of atoms and molecules, and that moral beliefs are pressed upon us by our evolutionary history, then nothing and no-one has any rightful claim on us and we can live as we please. One of the most famous atheists, Friedrich Nietzsche, recognised this: if there is no God there can be ‘no moral facts whatsoever’.

As Justin Brierley puts it in his book, Unbelievable?, ‘Most atheists I meet are passionate about equality and justice, so of course you don’t need to believe in God to be a moral person. The problem is that you can’t make sense of those moral beliefs without there being a God.’ The question is not whether there might be people who are good without God, but whether they have a strong-enough framework – or a coherent-enough story – in order to hold those views consistently.

The good news for our non-believing friends is that there is a story which is not only consistent with the world they long for and the values to which they aspire, but which undergirds them, and a Saviour who stands at the heart of it for when we fail.

The challenge for us as as Christians is to live as if we ourselves believe that to be case, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, living lives that point to Christ. As the writer to the Hebrews prays (13:20-21), ‘may the God of peace... equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.’

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Didache 20, 1 (2020)

The latest issue of Didache (sponsored by the International Board of Education of the Church of the Nazarene) is now available, with several of the essays addressing issues related to Covid-19.

Here are some excerpts from the Editorial:

‘We begin in biblical studies with Samuel Hildebrandt, Lecturer at NTC Manchester, who revisits the concept of “exile” in both Jeremiah and 1 Peter to explore identity, pastoral care, and human responses to God’s “good plans” in exile... Reuben L. Lillie and Dr. Charles L. Perabeau, both from Olivet Nazarene University, provide an intriguing treatise on the creation and nature of Nazarene district organization...

‘The journal then takes another turn, this time addressing a contemporary problem affecting the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent coronavirus crisis continues to challenge the church in both its creativity and faithfulness... Each academically oriented essay serves as a measured response to the pandemic... [R]eaders will note points of continuity among these authors as well as divergence. So, one will discover varying responses from the use of technology in worship and discipleship, to contextuality and people on the margins of society, to faithful sacramental practice and ecclesial adaptation.’

The essays are available from here:

Dean G. Blevins


Samuel Hildebrandt

Living in Tension: Exilic Identity in Jeremiah 29 and 1 Peter

Reuben L. Lillie and Charles L. Perabeau

Redefining Districts: Fulfilling a New Model for Administrative Boundaries in the Church of the Nazarene

Essays on Ministry during the Pandemic

Andrew J. Pottenger

‘Insult to the Incarnation?’ Online Technology and Christian Worship After COVID-19

Jan Duce

The Body of Christ: Together in More Ways Than One

Gabriel J Benjiman

Temple Building, Technology and Worship in a Time of Isolation

Gift Mtukwa

Ministering in a Pandemic: Learning from the Apostle in 1 Thessalonians

Albert Hung

Stitching a New Garment: Holistic Discipleship During COVID-19

Brent Peterson

Sacraments in a Pandemic

Joseph Wood

What the Early Church Can Teach Us About COVID-19: Worship Practices, Adaptability, and Concern for the Other


Sunday, 26 July 2020

Lausanne Global Analysis 9, 4 (July 2020)

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

In the issue overview, editor Loun Ling Lee writes:

‘Churches around the world have been pushed to use their creativity for worship services, discipleship programmes, and group activities, with the help of modern technology. Some have tried to bring the gospel into homes by virtual evangelistic Bible classes and WhatsApp Bible studies, as well as Zoom counselling sessions. In his article ‘Mobile Missions Mentoring in the COVID-19 Era’, DJ Oden, a cross-cultural worker in Southeast Asia with PIONEERS, explains how mobile devices are being used securely and effectively for ‘monitoring and supporting semi-literate field workers in creative-access contexts’...

‘Phill Butler reminds us in ‘Who gets the Credit in Collaborative Efforts?’: ‘Since its birth in 1974 one of the distinguishing qualities of the Lausanne Movement has been its focus on linking God’s people together.’ ‘In the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen intense levels of collaboration going on’. What are the vital essentials to enable effective collaboration, biblically and practically? Phill, Senior Strategy Advisor with visionSynergy, emphasizes trust as the key element... Hopefully through lessons learned during the pandemic crisis, our missiological paradigms have shifted from individualism to communalism, and from parochialism to globalism.

‘For the first time, we have commissioned an article in Portuguese, translated into English for Lausanne Global Analysis: ‘Connecting Brazil’s Youth with God’s Global Mission’ by Lissânder Dias, a journalist and one of the founding members of Movimento Vocare. ‘Movimento Vocare is recognized in Brazil by the mission leadership as a successful initiative for mobilizing and connecting young people for God’s mission,’ writes Lissânder. It is a Brazilian missionary movement that has helped them to explore and discover their vocation or calling in God’s mission, giving them meaning in life...

‘In the light of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis, many cross-cultural mission workers have been pondering questions around ‘In a Pandemic, Should Missionaries Leave or Stay?’. As the author Kirst Rievan says, it is ‘an opportunity to rethink our missiology with regard to risk.’ In this article, he uses ‘the concepts of polarity management and mental models to explore if our present missiology of risk still holds true.’