Monday, 6 July 2020

Jubilee Centre

I meant to post on this a while back – to say that the Jubilee Centre has a new-look website here.

It’s been re-designed around a 'topics' structure, making it easier to explore key areas such as Politics and Government, Economy and Business, Environment, and more.

It also has a dedicated page for their Cambridge Papers along with a listing for their free eBooks – well worth checking out.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Mission Frontiers 42, 4 (July-August 2020)

The July-August 2020 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles on the theme of ‘Missions in the Age of Coronavirus’.

According to the blurb:

‘In this issue we observe how COVID-19 is leaving its impact on outreaches across the globe.  As this virus is changing our lives in dramatic ways, it is also changing the way we go about doing missions – which is what this issue is all about. How do we reach people and make disciples while wearing masks and practicing social distancing?

‘We take a fascinating look back at how the Church has responded to pandemics throughout history and review ways that we can respond biblically as Christ followers. We take you on a journey to see how some movements around the world are using the pandemic to reach people for Jesus. You will be called to action when you read how God’s people move directly into suffering – despite the circumstances surrounding them.’

The issue is available here, from where individual articles can be downloaded, and the entire issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The Bible Project on the Character of God

The Bible Project team has produced a video on Exodus 34:6-7, ‘the most repeated and re-quoted text in the Bible’, kicking off a brand new series on the character of God. They write:

Exodus 34:6-7 is the first description of God’s attributes found in the Bible, and it’s referenced throughout much of the Bible. Here we learn that all of God’s actions are an expression of these attributes: compassion, grace, patience, loyal love, and faithfulness. This list of God’s character traits has been carefully designed to help us see the meaning and importance of each trait in relation to the others.’

Monday, 29 June 2020

The Journal of Inductive Biblical Studies 7, 1 (2020)

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

David R. Bauer

From the Editors

David Schreiner

“Now Rehoboam, Son of Solomon, Reigned in Judah”: Considering the Structural Divisions of Kings and the Significance of 1 Kgs 14:21

This essay discusses the main divisional breakdown of the Book of Kings. After detailing a disconnect in scholarly discourse over the main units of Kings, I argue that the first major literary unit spans from 1 Kgs 1:1–14:20. Moreover, I argue that any chiastic arrangement of the material within the first literary unit is eventually found wanting. As an alternative, I argue that the sub-divisions within the first unit are best determined by grammatical and comparative considerations. With this established, this essay concludes with commentary on the three major literary units that organize the presentation of Kings.

Lindy D. Backues

Construing Culture as Composition—Part 3: Traina’s Methodology Culturally Applied

We come now, in Part 3 of the series, to employ Traina’s inductive Bible study method, as discussed in the earlier articles in the series, to the sociological issue of slums. If, then, we are to discuss slums, we need to remind ourselves, at the outset, that we are not talking about overcrowding, lack of amenity, poverty or want as such; but about the relationship of such conditions to a context of meaning that changes with your point of view. Unless we remember this constantly, any proposal in terms of slums becomes unconscious ideological imposition.

Wilbert Webster White

The Resurrection Body “According to the Scriptures”—First Installment: Foreword and Chapters One and Two

William J. Abraham

Robert A. Traina: Teacher, Scholar, Saint

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal 4, 2 (2020)

The most-recent issue of the Scottish Episcopal Institute Journal is now online, this one devoted to ‘Church, Ministry and Coronavirus’.

According to the editorial board:

‘The impact on our lives is unprecedented, and significant theological concerns have come to the fore in the worldwide crises of the COVID-19 pandemic. This issue of the Journal reflects not only on the life of the Church, but on society, community and the value of human life [...]

‘“Church, Ministry and Coronavirus” draws together contributions from a variety of disciplines to resource the people of God in their exploration of the issues and discernment of the theological truths to be applied now and in the coming years. The present crises demand our theologically informed vigilance. In the bedrock of our Christian faith is the belief that each and every human being is created in the image of God and that the glory of God is each one of us fully alive and flourishing in a community of persons. In a time when a cacophony of voices shout for our attention, the prophetic voice of the Church is urgently needed.’

The entire issue of the journal can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

On Being in the Wilderness

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

Like me, you’re probably listening to updates from the government, wondering what we can do this week that we weren’t allowed to do last week. Indeed, there has been some lifting of restrictions in recent days, and we’ll continue to monitor their implications for us as a church, especially in terms of when and how we might be able to gather again. For the most part, though, a return to ‘normal’ (remember that?) still seems a fair way off. In our more honest moments most of us sense that to be the case.

As a result, it’s easy to feel betwixt and between at this time – neither one thing nor another, neither where we were when the year started or where we hope we might be when the year ends.

As unsettled as we might feel during this season, we are not the first to walk this path. And we might be encouraged to know that God has worked through such circumstances in the past.

In the book of Exodus, after their deliverance from Egypt and their escape through the sea, God’s people enter the wilderness. It’ll be another two months before they arrive at Mount Sinai where God will make a covenant with them. Meanwhile, the wilderness is an ‘in-between’ place, a transitional moment where the people stand on the boundary of something new, the next chapter in the story of God’s dealings with them and the world they will be called to serve.

But the wilderness is not a place to mark time or to circle the runway. Nor is it a moment for them to grit their teeth and get by. It’s a place of formation. It’s during this period that they are to trust that the God who rescued them is the God who will provide for their daily needs (literally their ‘daily bread’ in the form of manna). It’s in the wilderness that these former slaves learn the rhythm of work and rest, set in place at creation. Their service to Pharaoh has been replaced by their service to God, and growing into their identity as God’s people will require living a different way. In addition, while they were largely passive in the destruction of the Egyptian army, it’s in the wilderness that they have to fight new enemies, showing that they’ll need to take a more active role in events going forwards.

In short, it’s in the wilderness that the God who delivers his people also trains them, forming them into a ‘holy nation’ (Exodus 19:6) who will obey him and represent him to a watching world.

Perhaps for us, too, this is a time to grow our trust in the Lord’s care and provision, a time to reflect on how he is training us to live differently, a time to grow in loving our neighbour as ourself.

So keep listening to those updates from the government. It’s right for us to want to come through this period, to get to the next chapter! Nevertheless, it’s good to remember that God is still at work meanwhile – in us and through us – conforming us to the image of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Centre for Public Christianity (June 2020)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has two ‘Life and Faith’ podcasts, one with historian Tom Holland and one with fiction writer Christos Tsiolkas, both of whom ‘while not believers themselves, have been profoundly influenced by Christianity’.

Tom Holland explores the revolutionary and enduring influence of Christianity here, while Christos Tsiolkas talks about the personal experiences that led him to choose early Christianity and the Apostle Paul as the subject of his latest book Damascus here.

In a further post, they draw attention to a podcast on ‘Ode to Teachers’, here, in which five different teachers share their stories of the highs and lows of the job.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Keith Ferdinando on Spiritual Warfare

Issue 10 of Primer (published twice a year by the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, and designed ‘to help those in church leadership stay theologically sharp and engaged’) is devoted to ‘the devil, demons, and spiritual warfare’.

The article by Keith Ferdinando, ‘The Battle Belongs to the Lord: A Biblical Theology of God’s Warfare’, is made available as a pdf here. This includes a final section on the spiritual warfare of God’s people which is not available in the printed version due to space constraints.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Preaching with Amos

I recently wrote a short piece on Amos for a themed issue of Preach magazine on Justice. The magazine recently posted the article online, and it is available as a pdf here.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Eikon 1.3 (2020)

I’ve only just clocked that what used to be called The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood is now called Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology.

According to the blurb on the website of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, it is ‘a semi-annual journal dedicated to facilitating a scholarly and thoughtful conversation aimed at academicians, pastors, and laymen alike on issues ranging from gender, sexuality, marriage, singleness, personhood, family, and the many intersections that exist between these topics and biblical studies, church history, and systematic and practical theology’.

The latest issue – 1.3 (2020) – is available as a pdf here.

I’m particularly interested in reading the article by Wayne Grudem on ‘Grounds for Divorce: Why I Now Believe There are More than Two’, the review by Andy Naselli of Aimee Byrd’s recently-published Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and the review by Sharon James of Andrew Bartlett’s Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from Biblical Texts (for which I wrote a commendation!)

Friday, 12 June 2020

Evangelical Alliance on Changing Church: A Report on Churches Responding to the Coronavirus

The Evangelical Alliance UK has published a report – Changing Church – based on a survey of nearly 900 churches and Christian organisations. It looks at how ‘they have changed how they operate while maintaining their core mission and vision’, and showing that ‘throughout lockdown and the wider challenges, the church has shown great agility and creativity’.

A pdf of the report is here.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

The Bible Project on Apocalyptic Literature

The team at the Bible Project has produced another helpful video, this one on ‘How to Read Apocalyptic Literature’, bringing their ‘How to Read the Bible’ series to a close.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

On Learning to Lament

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

How could God allow that to happen? If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world? Why doesn’t he just fix everything?

Perhaps you’ve been asked questions like those. Perhaps you’ve asked them yourself, possibly even over the last few weeks.

How we respond depends, at least in part, on whether the questions are being asked from the perspective of an ‘armchair’ or a ‘wheelchair’. In some cases, the issue of suffering is little more than an intellectual challenge to the existence of God, and is asked from the relative comfort of a conversation between friends or in a radio phone-in discussion. In other cases, the questions are heartfelt cries from those who are themselves in agony, broken, and completely bewildered with the misery of pain, evil, and injustice in a messed-up world.

The contrast between philosophical and personal engagements with suffering can be seen in the writings of C.S. Lewis. As a university don, he wrote a book called The Problem of Pain, in which he argues from a theological and philosophical perspective that human pain, animal pain, and hell are not sufficient reasons to reject belief in a loving and all-powerful God. But, as a devoted husband, he wrote a book called A Grief Observed, reflecting on his experience of bereavement following the death of his wife from cancer. Which book is more helpful? Which is more truthful? Which is more authentic? Both, at different times of life? Each in its own way?

It’s in the pain of bereavement that Lewis writes: ‘Meanwhile, where is God? ... Go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.’

Some of us might be able to relate to that. Certainly the psalmists could.

Would it surprise you to learn that laments are the largest category of prayers in the book of Psalms? Take a moment to reflect on that: what might it mean that the Holy Spirit has so overseen the writing of Scripture such that over a third of the Psalms bring a troubled situation to the Lord – not in a cold, detached way but from a place of deep agony? What does that say about our own expectations of the way things should go? How are such prayers to shape our own prayer life?

In every case, these psalms allow an honest response to God in prayer from the depths of the broken hearts of his hurting people, even to ask those challenging questions: Where are you, Lord? How long, Lord? They provide a way to pray through a period of crisis, grief, or despair. They give us the words to express our brokenness, our need, our longing for justice. Most importantly of all – and contrary to what we might think at first – they demonstrate trust in God, because they’re addressed to the only one who really does hold all things in his hands.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Global Transmission, Global Mission

Jason Mandryk and the team at Operation World have produced a short e-book which is being made available at no charge – Global Transmission, Global Mission: The Impact and Implications of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

According to the blurb, it seeks to offer ‘a sweeping overview of the implications of the coronavirus for the global Church, and specifically, its impact on global mission’.

Drawing from several global networks – International Prayer Connect, the Lausanne Movement, and the World Evangelical Alliance – the document reflects perspectives shared by many Christians ‘in every region of the world, getting input on how to pray for different nations afflicted by CoVid-19 as well as strategic considerations from a wide array of missiological contexts’.

The book can be download in several formats here.

In addition, check out the Operation World website dedicated to praying through the Covid-19 crisis, here.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Lausanne Global Analysis 9, 3 (May 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:

‘In this issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, we have authors from different parts of the global church addressing strategic issues relating to world mission. Melody J. Wachsmuth is a mission researcher living in Croatia. She is passionate to see Roma and non-Roma together engaging in healthy partnerships for mission, to ‘share our diverse gifts while manifesting the new humanity in Christ’...

‘In the same spirit of unity in the body of Christ, Dan Sered and Simon Stout, serving with Jews for Jesus, sharpen our awareness of the spiritual problem of antisemitism around the world...

‘The legacy of Lamin Sanneh, a distinguished historian, scholar of World Christianity, and advocate of interreligious dialogue, could not be more relevant in our complex world today. Wanjiru Gitau, senior research scholar at St. Thomas University, has highlighted his legacy, especially on the theme of translation of the message of Christ into the language and culture of the recipients...

‘In “The Uncertain Future of China’s Urban Churches’” Thomas Harvey’s analysis of the urban church and mission trends in modern China gives us a fresh insight into the thriving mission movement there despite the hostile environment.’

Monday, 1 June 2020

Foundations 78 (Spring 2020)

Issue 78 of Foundations: An International Journal of Evangelical Theology, published by Affinity, is now available (here in its entirety as a pdf), which includes the below essays, mostly focused on the discipline of systematic theology. The summaries are take from Donald John MacLean’s editorial.

Donald John MacLean

Donald John MacLean
God is Our Refuge and Strength
This is a section of the sermon preached in the first ‘virtual’ service we held at Cambridge Presbyterian Church following government advice for churches to cease meeting physically.

Jonathan Bayes
Review Article: Robert Letham’s Systematic Theology
We begin with an excellent in-depth review article on Bob’s Systematic Theology by Dr Jonathan Bayes. The review is insightful, sympathetic, but also offers correctives from Dr Bayes’ Reformed Baptist position.

Martin Foord
The Need for Systematic Theology in Theological Education
Foord outlines the nature of theological education, the nature of systematic theology and makes a compelling case for the necessity of the latter in training for pastoral ministry. Foord does not shy away from highlighting the weakness of systematic theology done badly, but rightly argues that this should not be used to discredit its vital importance, when done well.

Daniel Schrock
John Murray, Biblical Theology and Systematic-Theological Method
Murray was a systematic theologian of the first order, but he was this because he was first an exceptional exegete and biblical theologian. Daniel Schrock’s article does a wonderful job in expounding and defending Murray’s theological method.

Benedict Bird
John Owen’s Taxonomy of the Covenants: Was He a Dichotomist or a Trichotomist?
Owen’s articulation of covenant theology has been a matter of scholarly dispute. Bird is a safe guide through these debates, and opens up Owen’s views simply to enable us to weigh them in the light of Scripture.

Thorsten Prill
The Use of English in Cross-Cultural Mission: Observations from Africa
Thorsten Prill presents the case that missionaries should learn local languages, even where English is spoken.

Book Reviews

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

On Dying, Death, and What Comes Before

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

It was Woody Allen who quipped: ‘I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’ He echoes the sentiment of many who say they would prefer to die in their sleep, quickly and quietly, with no warning or suffering, and without being a burden to their nearest and dearest. We’d prefer to skip the ‘dying’ part that comes before death.

And yet, for centuries, Christians prayed for the kind of death that most of us would now prefer to avoid. They wanted to ‘die well’ – to have time to get their spiritual lives in order, to make sure loved ones were provided for, to prepare themselves for what lay ahead.

John Wyatt explores this in his moving book, Dying Well (IVP, 2018), reflecting on what it means to die faithfully in the light of the hope the gospel brings. In the 14th century, when the Black Death was sweeping across Europe, killing more than 25% of the population, documents on the ‘Art of Dying’ started to circulate. Essentially, they were self-help manuals encouraging the dying person to prepare for the journey ahead. John Wyatt holds that we have much to learn from the practical wisdom that helped Christian believers of the medieval period face the ending of their lives on earth.

If you’ve read this far, you may feel this is all terribly morbid for a sunny Wednesday afternoon! Except that death really is the one eventuality that none of us can avoid.

While death has largely disappeared from the fabric of our consciousness as a society, we are now having daily reminders of its reality in every news bulletin. Sadly, with the passing of friends and colleagues, some of us have already been bereaved during this period; many more of us know people who have.

Critics of Christianity sometimes claim that belief in an afterlife devalues life in the here and now, and discourages action that would help people live longer and happier. The argument is that those who are fixated on the ‘life to come’ don’t really care about life now.

Just to be clear, the reality is the exact opposite. Many studies show not only that religious people tend to live healthier and more fuflilled lives than non-religious people, but that belief in an afterlife provides a sharper focus about what’s truly important in this life.

For many Christians through the ages, the certainty of death freed them from the mistaken idea that wealth or power would protect them from it, freeing them to live full lives in loving God and serving others. As C.S. Lewis said: ‘If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.’

Indeed, according to the apostle Paul, confidence in what comes after death provides a motivation for how we live now. At the end of his long chapter on our future life, he writes: ‘Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58).

By the grace of God, we are able not only to die well but to live well. May it be so.

Christian History Magazine on Science and Technology

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is devoted to ‘How the Church Fostered Science and Technology’.

Here are some excerpts from the Editorial:

From the very earliest years of the Christian church, creation was taken to be a gift, made and given to us humans by a good God. And human reason was seen as an important part – even the most important part – of the image of God implanted in us at creation...

Furthermore, the Scientific Revolution was led by people of faith who pursued scientific and technological innovation out of Christian motives and understandings...

‘The thinkers we discuss in this issue – ranging from the late ancient period through the twenty-first century – knew that mathematical and naturalistic explanations do not preclude theological ones and that scientific understanding does not rule out awe and wonder. In fact it may aid them. They saw their study of science as reflecting their deeply rooted faith and their faith as being enriched by their increasing understanding of the scientific world. They weren’t scientists in spite of being Christians; they were scientists because they were Christians first.’

The whole magazine is available as a 19.1 MB pdf here.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

More from the Centre for Public Christianity (May 2020)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has a ‘Life and Faith’ podcast (here), on ‘Ode to Nurses’, released to mark International Nurses Day, featuring six nurses who share moving stories about their work – including, for some, caring for patients with Covid-19.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Journal of Language, Culture, and Religion 1, 1 (2020)

The Journal of Language, Culture, and Religion is a new, somewhat niche open-access publication ‘devoted to explorations of how language intersects with culture and religion’, published by Dallas International University.

According to the website, ‘this first issue contains two articles from DIU alumni working with the Kwakum people in Cameroon, introducing the people group and publishing their orthography, which they helped to create. Two other articles focus on Bible translation consultation: one focusing on power dynamics and the other focusing on training locals in their own language’.

The entire journal is available as a pdf here.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

On the Ascension (and Being Creatures of the Calendar)

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

It’s become something of a joke that many of us have lost our sense of time through this period. As someone posted on Facebook a few weeks back, ‘for those who have lost track, today is Blursday the fortyteenth of Maprilay’!

It’s been a reminder of how much we live according to the rhythm of particular calendars. Whether it’s school terms, the football season, summer holidays, or planting the vegetable patch, we are calendar-driven creatures.

As it happens, God made us this way. It’s not long after Noah and his family emerge from the ark that God reaffirms the creational pattern of ‘seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night’ (Genesis 8:22). The Israelite year was punctuated by moments to remember what God had done in saving his people and his ongoing provision for them – Passover, harvest, tabernacles, and so on.

Beyond Christmas and Easter, those of us in free churches don’t tend to pay much attention to Christian festivals. But fellow Christians in other church traditions are far more alert to the changing seasons of the Christian calendar, and they often find their walk with the Lord enriched as a result of reflecting on where we are now in the year.

In any case, all of this is introductory burble to say that tomorrow (Thursday 21 May) is Ascension Day. I wonder if you’ve ever marked it before? We tend to bundle Jesus’ ascension with his resurrection as a single event, but they were separated by nearly six weeks, and Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on the 40th day after Easter Sunday. (Yes, it’s really 40 days since Easter!)

The early disciples knew this, because they lived through those days. So, Peter is clear on the Day of Pentecost that the climax of what God has done in Jesus is not the resurrection, but Jesus being ‘exalted to the right hand of God’ (Acts 2:33), fulfilling the hopes expressed in Psalm 110 of the Messiah taking his seat at the right hand of the Lord.

If the resurrection affirms that Jesus lives forever, the ascension confirms that he reigns forever. And Jesus’ ascension opens up a new era in God’s dealings with his people and with the world – the era of the giving of the Spirit, the era of Jesus’ ministry as our heavenly High Priest, the era of God’s mission to all nations, the era of hope for what will be when Jesus returns just as he left.

All that is worth marking – and pondering – not least during these times in which we live.

Coming back to where we started, it’s perhaps also a reminder that the church calendar at its best changes the way we experience time and understand reality. It’s all too easy for me to to map my year onto the calendar of the dominant cultural reality, whether that be sports, holidays, or education – important though they are. But part of ‘numbering our days’ in order to ‘gain a heart of wisdom’ (Psalm 90:12) is to live according to a more ultimate reality – one that marks time with the coming of Christ as the fulfilment of Israel’s hopes and his coming again at the renewal of all things.

All of which is to say, Happy Ascension Day!

Monday, 18 May 2020

Mission Frontiers 42, 3 (May-June 2020)

The May-June 2020 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles on the theme of ‘Tokyo 2010: Why it Still Matters’.

According to the blurb:

Ten years ago, almost 1,000 delegates from 73 countries got together for the Tokyo 2010 conference. In this issue we look back over the last ten years to see what impact this meeting has had on the course of world evangelization and answer the legitimate question of “Why does Tokyo 2010 still matter today?” Is it really possible that a meeting of 1,000 mission and church leaders could actually be making a difference 10 years later? That is what we want to look at in this issue and to take note of what God has done over the last 10 years and see what still remains to be done. In the midst of the worldwide coronavirus situation, Editor Rick Wood reminds us that when a viral pandemic infects the world, bringing fear and isolation, we need the viral spread of trained disciple-makers and church-planters to spread the love of Jesus to a world in chaos. God is hard at work despite our uncertainties and has a plan of hope for our future.

The issue is available here, from where individual articles can be downloaded, and the entire issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Vern S. Poythress on Reading and Understanding Genesis 1-3

Vern S. Poythress, Interpreting Eden: A Guide to Faithfully Reading and Understanding Genesis 1–3 (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019).

No doubt due to someone’s generosity, a newish book by Vern Poythress on handling Genesis 1-3 has been made freely available in its entirety. Here’s the blurb:

Christians have long discussed and debated the first three chapters of the Bible. How we interpret this crucial section of Scripture has massive implications for how we understand the rest of God’s Word and even history itself. In this important volume, biblical scholar Vern Poythress combines careful exegesis with theological acumen to illuminate the significance of Genesis 1–3. In doing so, he demonstrates the sound interpretive principles that lead to true understanding of the biblical text, while also exploring complex topics such as the nature of time, the proper role of science, interpretive literalism, and more.

The book is available here as a pdf.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Centre for Public Christianity (May 2020)

This month, the Centre for Public Christianity has two ‘Life and Faith’ podcasts (here and here), in which ‘Simon Smart and Tim Costello explore the impact of coronavirus on individuals and communities, and discuss whether the pandemic will change our priorities going forward’.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

On Waiting

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

How good are you at waiting?

Are you the kind of person who drums your fingers on the steering wheel as you sit in your car at yet another red light? If only the car in front had been going a little bit faster, you both could have made it through the junction. Instead, you have to add another 45 seconds to your journey time.

Or do you calculate which queue at the supermarket checkouts is going to move fastest, based not only on how many items people have in their baskets and trolleys, but on your perception of how quickly they’re going to pack and pay, and whether or not the cashier is likely to engage anyone in conversation longer than brief pleasantries? Oh, just me then?


It doesn’t come easy to some of us. But that’s the situation we find ourselves in at the moment. We weren’t sure how long we were going to have to be doing this, but it now looks like it could be even longer than we were expecting.


I’ve been struck how Jesus said on two occasions, ‘My time has not yet come’ (John 2:4 and 7:8). Jesus himself was in a time of waiting, yet continued to carry out the work the Father had given him to do. In the church calendar, this period between Easter and Pentecost is a time of waiting... waiting for what God will do next.

There’s something about waiting which characterises the Christian life.

All of us are waiting in hope for what God has yet to do for us and for this planet – when Jesus comes again, when the dead will be raised, when we’ll be given new bodies, when there’ll be a new heaven and a new earth. Whatever else we might be waiting for meanwhile, we’re all waiting for that.

We wait for this kind of future not in a passive waiting-room sense but in an active living out of an alternative vision of what really matters here and now. Christian hope is not about sitting back and waiting for something better to come along, but a confidence which allows us endure and be patient and resilient in the face of setbacks. If we’re going to have to wait at the moment, let’s wait like that.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Themelios 45, 1 (April 2020)

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

Brian J. Tabb
Theological Reflections on the Pandemic

Strange Times
Daniel Strange
‘The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business’

Jonathan Leeman and Andrew David Naselli
Politics, Conscience, and the Church: Why Christians Passionately Disagree with One Another over Politics, Why They Must Agree to Disagree over Jagged-Line Political Issues, and How
Today many evangelical churches feel political tension. We recommend a way forward by answering three questions: (1) Why do Christians passionately disagree with one another over politics? We give two reasons: (a) Christians passionately care about justice and believe that their political convictions promote justice, and (b) Christians have different degrees of wisdom for making political judgments and tend to believe that they have more wisdom than those who differ. (2) Why must Christians agree to disagree over jagged-line political issues? After explaining straight-line vs. jagged-line political issues, we give two reasons: (a) Christians must respect fellow Christians who have differently calibrated consciences on jagged-line issues, and (b) insisting that Christians agree on jagged-line issues misrepresents Christ to non-Christians. (3) How must Christians who disagree over jagged-line political issues agree to disagree? We explain three ways: (a) acknowledge leeway on jagged-line political issues; (b) unite to accomplish the mission Christ gave the church; and (c) prioritize loving others over convincing them that your convictions about jagged-line political issues are right.

Katherine Smith
Should the Local Church Resist Texts in Scripture that Clash with Western Culture? The Test Case of Leviticus 21:16–24
Leviticus 21:16–24 instructs the Aaronic priest with a permanent physical blemish to refrain from serving YHWH in his presence. In today’s western culture, such exclusion would be deemed deplorable and so this clash of cultures raises the question of how the local church can appropriate Leviticus 21:16–24 as Christian Scripture in the present cultural climate. In addressing this question, this paper argues that the theological basis of Leviticus 21:16–24 is that only those who exemplify a whole condition are acceptable in YHWH’s presence. Thus, when a person does not exemplify this condition of wholeness, there is restriction and exclusion. Understanding the condition that leads to exclusion requires a holistic view of purity and impurity and, when we understand Leviticus 21:16–20 with this holistic perspective, the passage reflects a theological reality central to the person and work of Christ.

Etienne Jodar
Leviticus 18:5 and the Law’s Call to Faith: A Positive Reassessment of Paul’s View of the Law
Paul’s use of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12 is generally understood as showing Paul’s negative view of the Mosaic law. The apostle would be using Leviticus 18:5 to show that the law comes short of the principle of faith. This paper shows that the difficulties with such an understanding of Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12 are both theological and exegetical. The proposed thesis is that Leviticus 18:5 powerfully brings trust in God into play, and thus can be used by Paul to show that the law calls to faith. Leviticus 18:5, then, would not come short of the logic of faith as some commentators assert. Informed by Second Temple Judaism’s understanding of Leviticus 18:5, this manuscript follows an exegetical method that gives particular attention to words like γάρ, δέ, αλλά, and εκ in Paul’s unfolding argument. The article shows that interpreting Leviticus 18:5 as a call to exercise faith makes good sense of Paul’s train of thought in both Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12.

Daryn Graham
The Genesis of the Jerusalem Donation
The Jerusalem Donation was the Apostle Paul’s largest charity drive. However, it did not begin by his own initiative. In this article, it shall be shown using biblical evidence and other ancient sources, that the movement to provide the Jerusalem church with considerable added finances to alleviate suffering among them due to the Great Famine, began with the ordinary Christians of Achaea, Macedonia and Galatia. This article proves, contrary to the claims made by some commentators, the movement behind this collection was not driven by Jerusalemite coercion or pressure from James, Peter and John upon Paul, but rather, it began and progressed out of Christian solidarity and love between Gentile and Jewish believers in those provinces, and genuine concern for their brethren suffering from the effects of famine sustained in Jerusalem.

Jordan Atkinson
Paul’s Overlooked Allusion to Joel 2:9 in 1 Thessalonians 5:2
This article argues that Paul compares the day of the Lord to a thief in the night in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 because of the influence of Joel 2:9. While the scholarly consensus is that the thief imagery owes to Jesus’s thief imagery for his second coming in Matthew 24:42–44 or Luke 12:39–40, Joel 2:9 better fits the criteria for allusions identified in G. K. Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Paul’s contextually faithful interpretation of Joel 2:9 is a model for how Christians should continue to interpret OT prophetic literature.

Jared M. August
What Must She Do to Be Saved? A Theological Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:15
In 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul asserts “the woman will be saved through the childbirth.” This essay asserts that this “woman” is Eve and that this “childbirth” is the birth of the Messiah. Although this interpretation is by no means new, the contribution of this essay rests in its proposal of the evidence for this view, namely, Paul’s use of the Adam/Christ contrast. This essay first analyzes the grammar and context of 1 Timothy 2:15 to assert that a messianic reading of this passage is an exegetically viable option. Subsequently, each instance in which Adam is mentioned by name in the NT is examined (Luke 3:38; Rom 5:14 [x2]; 1 Cor 15:22, 45 [x2]; 1 Tim 2:13, 14; Jude 14), thereby proposing a pattern for when to expect Paul to develop the Adam/Christ contrast.

Dane Ortlund
On Words, Meaning, Inspiration, and Translation: A Brief Response to Bill Mounce
This article is a brief response to Bill Mounce’s recent Themelios essay in which he argues that functional equivalence translations such as the NIV are the most effective approach to Bible translation as they carry over the meaning of the original text. I offer some clarifying remarks and reflect on three areas of disagreement: the usefulness of “literal” as a label, the relationship between words and meaning, and, most significantly, the nature of the divine inspiration of the Bible.

The Southgate Fellowship
Affirmations and Denials Concerning World Mission

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