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.’

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

On Knowing God

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

Last Saturday, news broke over my social media feeds that J.I. Packer was, as some in his generation might well say, ‘promoted to glory’ on 17 July 2020, a few days shy of his 94th birthday.

One of the most influential evangelical theologians of the last 70 years, tributes have steadily poured forth in the days since, with one describing him as ‘saintly and sensible, brilliant and practical, faithful and peaceable, courageous and charitable, cheerful and serene, blunt and gentle, humble and bold, submissive to Scripture and sensitive to the Spirit’.

Even those who have never heard of J.I. Packer are arguably indebted to him, along with a few other significant figures in the years following the Second World War, who – in the providence of God – defended the Christian faith during a period when it might otherwise have been overtaken by swirling currents. Packer demonstrated the credibility of evangelical expressions of faith at a time when Christians were being made to feel they were committing intellectual and spiritual suicide because of their beliefs in the sovereignty of God, the authority and trustworthiness of Scripture, and the saving significance of the death of Christ.

I was working in the Christian bookshop in Southport in 1984 when his book, Keep in Step with the Spirit, first came out. It brought some much-needed clarity and charity at a time of confusion and contention, and we sold copies in the thousands. In later years, Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version of the Bible, which many in our church use, a role he described as ‘the most important thing that I have ever done for the Kingdom’.

But the book for which he is most well-known, and which is rightly hailed as a ‘classic’ is Knowing God, first published in 1973. I pulled my copy off the shelf earlier today and a card fell out, reminding me that it was a gift from a friend on the date of my baptism (12 September 1982).

I confess I didn’t understand all of it when I first read it, but it was rich, and there was no escaping its central message – knowledge about God is no substitute for knowing God himself. As Packer says early on in the book: ‘if we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us [...] Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are.’

I needed that prompt at the start of my Christian life, and I need it still. Perhaps you do, too. Perhaps we need it as a church, given that we have just finished a series on ‘What’s so great about God?’, exploring some of the attributes of God. How easy it would be to fall into the trap of thinking that what really matters is knowledge about God, rather than knowledge of God. Packer’s advice, still good today, is that ‘we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God’.

Leaving the last word to him: ‘Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word. This, and nothing else, is true religion.’

Monday, 20 July 2020

9Marks Journal (June 2020) on Shepherding: The Work and Character of a Pastor

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available from here in various formats, looks at ‘Shepherding: The Work and Character of a Pastor’.

In the Editorial Note, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘The pastor has to wear lots of hats in the course of his work: program-director, administrator, counselor, evangelist, and, at the top of the list, preacher and teacher. Yet in all of this, he is a shepherd. He watches over sheep, principally by concerning himself with their understanding of God’s Word and how it applies to their life together and with outsiders.’

Saturday, 18 July 2020

J.I. Packer (1926-2020)

News has broken all over my social media feeds that J.I. Packer was, as his generation might well say, ‘promoted to glory’ on 17 July 2020. Tributes will no doubt and rightly pour forth over the next few days; some early ones are available from Justin Taylor (here), Leland Ryken (here), and Regent College, Vancouver (here).