Tuesday 27 April 2010

More on the Wheaton Conference on N.T. Wright

I’ve already linked (here) to the video and audio of presentations at the recent Annual Wheaton Conference on ‘Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright’.

There are many reports and reflections on the conference now available online, including by the following:

William B. Evans (at Reformation21)

Michael Gorman (five posts, beginning here)

Nijay Gupta (two posts on Day 1, beginning here)

I read the news earlier today – and by now everyone will probably know – that Wright is moving from Durham to take up a post at the University of St Andrews. It’s reported on here (from the Durham perspective) and here (from the St Andrews perspective).

Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. on Sin

I’ve just seen notice (courtesy of Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds) that Cornelius Pantinga Jr. has produced a 23-page condensed version of his excellent book on sin, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Leicester: Apollos, 1995).

The essay is available as a pdf here.


Sponsored by the Academy of Homiletics, Homiletic describes itself as ‘a scholarly forum in homiletics and a review of publications in religious communication’.

Three issues are available in an archive, and it looks like future issues will also be made available.

I’ve always found this to be a valuable resource not primarily for its articles (which tend to be very few anyway), but for its book reviews. As well as reviewing works in Bible and Theology, it also devotes sections to preaching, worship, media/contemporary culture, and practical theology, meaning one finds reviews of books not always considered in standard theological journals.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Saying Grace

This morning I started reading Julian Hardyman’s Idols: God’s Battle for Our Hearts (Nottingham: IVP, 2010) – which is great, by the way – and came across this arresting set of lines by G.K. Chesterton…

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen into the ink.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Themelios 35, 1 (2010)

The April 2010 issue of Themelios is available in various formats here, with a pdf of the whole document here.

The vast bulk of the issue is taken up with book reviews, which was always the main strength of the original print version, in my opinion.

Otherwise, the contents are as follows:

D. A. Carson
Editorial: Perfectionisms

Carl Trueman
Minority Report: The Importance of Not Studying Theology

Nijay Gupta
New Commentaries on Colossians: Survey of Approaches, Analysis of Trends, and the State of Research

Martin Salter
Does Baptism Replace Circumcision? An Examination of the Relationship between Circumcision and Baptism in Colossians 2:11–12

Bill Kynes
Pastoral Pensées (1 Timothy 3:14–16)

Book Reviews

LST InSight (Spring 2010) on Politics and Christianity

The Spring 2010 issue of InSight from London School of Theology is available online here as a pdf. It is devoted to politics and Christianity, and contains the following short pieces:

Nola Leach
What Issues Should I Consider When Deciding How to Vote?

Laurie O’Brien
A Year in Politics: Reflections of a Former Theology Student

Don Horrocks
How Can Christians Influence the Political Process?

Paul Woolley
Towards a Theology of Politics

Steve Walton
Luke, the Roman Empire and Politics

Anna Robbins
Power to Serve

Jean-Marc Heimerdinger
Who Does God Vote For? Perspectives from the Hebrew Bible

There is also a report on the Laing Lecture 2010, given by Alister McGrath, along with some book reviews.

Monday 19 April 2010

The 19th Annual Wheaton Theology Conference (April 16-17, 2010) on ‘Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright’

The sessions from the recent Wheaton Theology Conference on N.T. Wright have generously been made available here as flash videos and mp3 downloads. I’ll be indulging in a few of these at some point…

Richard Hays
Knowing Jesus: Story, History, and the Question of Truth

Marianne Meye Thompson
The Gospel of John Meets Jesus and the Victory of God

N.T. Wright
Chapel Message

Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat
‘Outside of a Small Circle of Friends’: Jesus and the Justice of God

Nicholas Perrin
Jesus’ Eschatology and Kingdom Ethics: Ever the Twain Shall Meet

Wright, Hays, Walsh, Keesmaat, Thompson, and Perrin
Panel Discussion

N.T. Wright
Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church?

Kevin J. Vanhoozer
Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and in Protestant Soteriology

Jeremy Begbie
The Shape of Things to Come? Wright Amidst Emerging Ecclesiologies

Markus Bockmuehl
Did St. Paul Go to Heaven When He Died?

Edith Humphrey
Glimpsing the Glory: Paul’s Gospel, Righteousness and the Beautiful Feet of N.T. Wright

Wright, Vanhoozer, Begbie, Bockmuehl, and Humphrey
Panel Discussion

N.T. Wright
Paul and the People of God: Whence and Whither Pauline Studies and the Life of the Church?

UPDATE (28 April 2010)
I added two sessions above which were subsequently added to the recordings after this original post.

D.A. Carson on 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8

Don Carson, From the Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days (Fearn: Christian Focus, 2010), 48pp., ISBN 9781845505776.

£2.99 for 48 pages, and small ones at that, makes this a fairly self-indulgent purchase, not least since the material is freely available online in several places in its original sermon format. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and will doubtless turn to it again at some point.

It’s effectively a running exposition of 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8, Paul’s final charge to Timothy. The first chapter, based on 3:1-9, introduces the theme of ‘living in the last days’, understood as the entire period between Christ’s first and second comings. Thereafter come four main points about ‘living in the last days’:

1. Hold the right mentors in high regard (3:10-11)
2. Hold few illusions about the world (3:12-13)
3. Hold on to the Bible (3:14-17)
4. Hold out the Bible to others (4:1-8)

The exposition is brief, but suggestive, and it wouldn’t take too much to expand it into a short series of sermons or house-group sessions, using the material to encourage others to live faithfully in the last days.

Interpretation 64, 2 (April 2010) on Ruth

One of the journals I subscribe to is Interpretation. The issues are themed, with the April 2010 devoted to Ruth – containing the following essays:

Tod Linafelt
Narrative and Poetic Art in the Book of Ruth

Although the Book of Ruth is in many respects a classic example of biblical Hebrew narrative, there are two examples of formal poetry in the book (1:16–17 and 1:20–21). Biblical poetry works with a very different set of literary conventions than narrative, and by taking note of those conventions, we can see the distinctive contributions made by these poems to the book as a whole.

Martin O’Kane
The Iconography of the Book of Ruth

Although absent from early Christian iconography, Ruth has been a popular figure in both Christian and Jewish art from the medieval period onward. In depicting scenes from the Book of Ruth, artists have been sensitive to the nuances and subtleties of the biblical narrative and have interpreted her story visually in many original and distinctive ways.

Helen Leneman
More Than the Love of Men: Ruth and Noami’s Story in Music

This essay introduces and discusses four musical works that extensively treat Ruth and Naomi’s relationship: two late nineteenth-century oratorios, and two twentieth-century operas. Both music and librettos are treated as midrash – a creative retelling through both altered text and in the language of music.

Athalya Brenner
From Ruth to the ‘Global Woman’: Social and Legal Aspects

In this short study, the Scroll of Ruth, and especially Ruth’s undisclosed motives for following her mother-in-law, are read alongside the situation of foreign, female migrant workers in contemporary Israel – and vice versa. This allows a bi-directional reading that supplies a possible context both for the biblical text and for the evaluation of today’s issues.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Krish Kandiah on Just Politics

Krish Kandiah, Just Politics (Milton Keynes: Authentic, 2010), xii + 140pp., ISBN 9781850788652.

Krish Kandiah is here joined by Christian MPs from three parties – Andy Reed (Labour), Gary Streeter (Conservative), and Steven Webb (Liberal Democrat) – along with several others who are themselves committed to ‘just politics’, as well as to helping others explore politics from a Christian perspective.

After brief messages from Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and an Introduction from Krish, the book is divided into four parts:

1. Just Politics and Becoming Informed
2. Just Politics and Demonstrating Integrity
3. Just Politics and Finding Inspiration
4. Just Politics and Getting Involved

Each part begins with a section by the three Christian politicians. In the first part they each tell their story, and in the other parts they respond to questions posed to them by Krish – and it’s interesting to get their perspective from the ‘inside’ of politics.

Each part then contains a similar array of material, including case studies, factfiles, ‘idiot’s guides’ and ‘speaker’s corner’ sections devoted to different areas (e.g., party politics, sanctity of life, local elections, environment), as well as reflections on biblical passages, each of these never more than a few pages long, punctuated throughout with quotations from a variety of pertinent sources, including Scripture.

All in all, this amounts to a handy primer on aspects of political debate and a strong encouragement for Christians to get informed and involved.

Thanks to Krish for a copy of the book!

Friday 9 April 2010

Roger Trigg on Religious Freedom

Roger Trigg, Free to Believe? Religious Freedom in a Liberal Society (London: Theos, 2010).

The latest newsletter from Theos announces the launch of a new report by Roger Trigg, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick and Academic Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Kellogg College, Oxford.

Entitled Free to Believe?, it tackles ‘the silent downgrading of religious rights in contemporary Britain’, arguing that ‘human beings are naturally religious animals and have a prima facie natural right to freely exercise their religion, which should not simply be equated with the right to free speech’.

More information is available here, and the whole report is very kindly made available for download here.

Saturday 3 April 2010

John Carrick on Sacred Rhetoric

John Carrick, The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 202pp., ISBN 0851518265.

The current emphasis on the ‘big story’ of Scripture, seemingly coming from all sorts of theological quarters, whilst enormously helpful, might be misleading on its own or if not carefully circumscribed in certain ways.

In some preaching, for instance, the ‘big story’ approach can end up with sermons that see everything in the context of the… well, ‘big story’… which means interpreting and applying every text in the light of Jesus and the gospel. No bad thing, of course. The kind of preaching that relates every text and every passage to Jesus is sometimes called ‘redemptive-historical preaching’, and those who preach this way are rightly concerned that congregations all the time be directed to Jesus and the gospel. So, they advise, if you’re preaching from Old Testament stories, you need to be careful to avoid moralising from those stories, and make sure – instead – that you set those stories in the context of the biblical story of redemption as a whole, which means directing people ultimately to Jesus. Again, no bad thing, you might think.

Without for a moment denying the significance of Jesus and the gospel and the ‘big story’ of Scripture, John Carrick here reflects critically on this sort of preaching, and he does so by reminding us that God speaks in different ways through his word. Carrick uses the notion of grammatical moods to speak about the variety in biblical texts, a variety which should be reflected in the way we preach and apply biblical texts. He focuses on four in particular:

• The indicative. The indicative asserts objective fact. This is what the redemptive-historical advocates are most interested in. Indicatives are statements like: ‘God so loved the world’; ‘God was in Christ, reconciling himself to the world’; ‘Christ died for our sins’ (9-10).

• The exclamative. Exclamations, says Carrick, presuppose an element of emotion (30). They often begin with words like ‘Oh’, or ‘How’, or ‘What’: ‘Oh, how I love your law’; ‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity’; ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’; ‘Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom of God’ (32-33).

• The interrogative. The interrogative is used in asking a question. It doesn’t assert, like the indicative mood, nor does it exclaim; rather, it questions: ‘Shall we go on sinning that grace might increase?’; ‘What shall we say to these things?’; ‘To whom will you liken God?’; ‘Am I not an apostle? Am I not free?’. Jesus, of course, asked lots of questions: ‘Who do people say I am?’; ‘Why do you call me good?’; ‘Which of these was the neighbour?’; ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’

• The imperative. The imperative mood expresses a command: ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near’; ‘Believe and be baptised’; ‘Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice’; ‘Put to death what belongs to your evil nature’; ‘Walk worthy of the Lord who has called you’.

Carrick is particularly interested in the first and last of the moods, the indicative and the imperative. ‘Redemptive-historical preaching’, he says, tends to focus on the indicative of what God has done in Christ. But the indicatives of God’s dealings with men and women do not exclude the imperatives of ethics. The pattern is seen in the New Testament letters themselves, where Paul regularly moves from the salvation given us to how that salvation works out in our lives. Of course, the Christian faith begins with the indicative, with what God has done. However, some redemptive-historical preachers stop there, says Carrick, and don’t apply the imperative, because they’re afraid of heading down the path to moralism, for fear of putting the gospel at risk. But such preaching can, in turn be weak for leading a congregation to self-examination and repentance.

A sizeable chunk of Carrick’s study tracks the four moods in the sermons of five well-known preachers in the Reformed tradition (Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Samuel Davies, Asahel Nettleton, Martyn Lloyd-Jones), and his book effectively calls preachers likewise to do justice to the variety of the moods in Scripture.

So he concludes: ‘It is a regrettable fact that much Reformed preaching operates in a virtual mono-mood – that of the indicative – to the virtual exclusion of the imperative… It is absolutely essential that the great indicatives of Christ’s accomplishment of redemption be balanced by the great imperatives of the Spirit’s application of redemption’ (151).

Friday 2 April 2010

Jesus, the Crucified, Pleads for Me

For every day, but especially on Good Friday:

Jesus, the Crucified, pleads for me,
While he is nailed to the shameful tree.
Scorned and forsaken, derided and cursed,
See how his enemies do their worst!
Yet, in the midst of the torture and shame,

Jesus, the Crucified, breathes my name:
Wonder of wonders, oh, can it be?
Jesus, the Crucified, pleads for me!

Lord, I have left thee, I have denied,
Followed the world in my selfish pride;
Lord, I have joined in the hateful cry,
Slay him, away with him, crucify!
Lord, I have done it, oh! ask me not how;
Woven the thorns for thy tortured brow;
Yet in his pity, so boundless and free,
Jesus, the Crucified, pleads for me!

‘Though thou hast left me and wandered away,
Chosen the darkness instead of the day;
Though thou art covered with many a stain,
Though thou hast wounded me oft and again;
Though thou hast followed thy wayward will;
Yet, in my pity, I love thee still.’
Wonder of wonders it ever must be!

Jesus, the Crucified, pleads for me!

Jesus is dying, in agony sore,

Jesus is suffering more and more,

Jesus is bowed with the weight of his woe,

Jesus is faint with each bitter throe.

Jesus is bearing it all in my stead,
Pity incarnate for me has bled;
Wonder of wonders it ever must be!
Jesus, the Crucified, pleads for me!

William John Sparrow-Simpson (1860-1952)

Okay, so I’ve now been sensitised to see the pietism and individualism in hymns like this one. And, in a weak moment, you may even get me to admit that versions of the gospel which suggest that Jesus’ death deals only with the results of personal sin are somewhat truncated. But, I will be forever grateful that I spent my formative Christian years in a tradition that sung truths like these heartily, believed them tenaciously, preached them powerfully, and sought to live them daily. All the ‘missional ecclesiologies’, ‘holistic minstries’ and ‘kingdom living’ in the world don’t even get off the ground without the sin-bearing death of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Catalyst 36, 3 (2010)

The latest issue of Catalyst – 36, 3 (March 2010) – is now online, with the following articles:

Virginia T. Holeman
Integrating Counseling Practice and Theology

Love Sechrest
Racial Reconciliation in the Church

Howard A. Snyder
Profile/E. Stanley Jones

J. Christian Stratton
Building a New Testament Library: Philippians-Philemon

Henry H. Knight III
Consider Wesley

D.A. Carson on The God Who is There

Baker Publishing Group have listed a forthcoming (July 2010) book by D.A Carson on the biblical story, called The God Who is There: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.

Here is the publisher’s blurb:

‘It can no longer be assumed that most people – or even most Christians – have a basic understanding of the Bible. Many don’t know the difference between the Old and New Testament, and even the more well-known biblical figures are often misunderstood. It is getting harder to talk about Jesus accurately and compellingly because listeners have no proper context with which to understand God’s story of redemption.

In this basic introduction to faith, D.A. Carson takes seekers, new Christians, and small groups through the big story of Scripture. He helps readers to know what they believe and why they believe it. The companion leader’s guide helps evangelistic study groups, small groups, and Sunday school classes make the best use of this book in group settings.’

The subtitle is very close to the subtitle of the volume by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), and it will be interesting to see where Carson’s treatment of the biblical story will differ from theirs and the many others who have now written along similar lines.

Meanwhile, if July is too far away, Carson’s The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Leicester: Apollos, 1996) contains two weighty chapters given over to the main plot points in Scripture, as does part of his more-recent Christ and Culture Revisited (Nottingham: Apollos, 2008), and several iterations of studies on Paul’s Athens speech in Acts 17 (e.g., here), all of which might provide a flavour of the forthcoming book. I’ll certainly be ordering a copy.

Word for the Week: Whole Life, Whole Bible – Some Initial Reflections

Just over a year ago, the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity started a programmed scheme of fifty 400-word reflections on passages of Scripture sent out weekly via email to nearly 10,000 subscribers.

A year later, the final one has been written, and all fifty reflections are available in the ‘Word for the Week 2009’ archive.

The principal idea was to work through the biblical story from beginning to end, highlighting key turns in the plot, major characters, important motifs, and the like – but to do so in a way which tried to show how the biblical story helps form a distinctive way of looking at the world and living in the world.

It was, in other words, trying to combine elements of biblical theology and worldview thinking with reflections on discipleship. All this lies behind the title for the series – ‘Whole Life, Whole Bible’.

The key driver was to begin to lay down some biblical basis for our emphasis as an Institute on the significance of whole-life discipleship, and to do so not simply by selecting ad hoc Bible passages here and there, but by showing that a ‘whole-life’ emphasis is part of the very warp and woof of the biblical narrative, from start to finish.

Thus, the contributors to the series – myself, Margaret Killingray, Helen Parry and (for one email) Mark Coffey – had to write each piece with one eye to the significance of a particular biblical passage in the larger flow of salvation history and one eye to the significance of that passage for worldview formation and/or its contribution to our understanding that Christianity is for the whole of life not just what we do on Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening in church-related activities. That was always going to be a tall order, and some messages are inevitably more successful than others.

Each email also contained between two and four questions or suggestions ‘for further reflection and action’. Although these were not absolutely integral to the message itself, they did allow us a way of linking the passage under scrutiny to larger patterns of biblical thought, raise issues of interpretation, as well as provoke thought for possible application here and there. Again, no doubt, some manage to do this more successfully than others.

After two introductory messages, the series followed this broad schema…

• God and Creation
• Humanity and Sin
• Israel
• Jesus
• The Coming of the Spirit
• The Vocation of the Church
• The End of the Age

… with each section containing several emails as follows:

1. The Lordship of Christ – Colossians 1:15-20
2. I’ll Tell You a Story – Psalm 78:1-4

God and Creation
3. And God… – Genesis 1:1 and 2:4
4. It Was Good – Genesis 1:31
5. The First Great Commission – Genesis 1:26-28

Humanity and Sin
6. How Could They? – Genesis 3:6
7. The Fruit of Fruit-Eating – Genesis 3:8
8. The Way We Are – Genesis 4:19-24

9. The Promise to Abraham: Restoration, Restoration, Restoration – Genesis 12:1-3
10. The Redemption through Moses: Let My People Go – Exodus 3:7-8
11. The Covenant at Sinai: Covenant Commitment – Exodus 19:3-6
12. The Law of Holiness: Holy, Holy, Holy – Leviticus 18:1-5 and 19:1-2
13. The Entry into the Land: On the Brink – Joshua 1:6-7
14. The Rise of the Monarchy: King for a Day? – 2 Samuel 7:11b-16
15. The Building of the Temple: The Glory of the Lord Filled the Temple – 1 Kings 7:51-8:6
16. The Hymnbook of Israel: Songs for All Seasons – Psalm 103:1-5
17. The Way of Wisdom: Words for the Wise – Proverbs 31:10-31
18. The Division of the Kingdom: For the Sake of David – 1 Kings 12:16
19. The Ministry of the Prophets: Standing Up and Speaking Out – Jeremiah 1:4-5, 9-10
20. The Judgment of the Exile: Loss and Opportunity – Jeremiah 25:1, 8-9, 11-12
21. The Loss that Comes with Exile: Exiled and Forsaken? – Lamentations 1:7, 12
22. The Nature of Life in Exile: Peril and Providence – Esther 4:16 and Daniel 3:17-18
23. The Restoration that Follows Exile: All Change – Ezekiel 36:24-28
24. The Reality of Life After Exile – Psalm 126:1-3
25. The Hope that Lies Beyond Exile: A Partial Restoration – Malachi 2:17-3:2 and 4:1-2

26. His Fulfilment of the Old Testament: The Key to Scripture – Luke 24:25-27, 30-33
27. His Unique Birth: The Word Became Flesh – Luke 2:1-7
28. His Proclamation of the Kingdom of God: The Lord Reigns – Mark 1:14-15
29. His Calling of Disciples: Apostles and Apprentices – Matthew 4:18-20
30. His Ministry of Healing and Exorcism: In Word and Deed – Matthew 4:23-25
31. His Prophetic Call to Israel: He Came to His Own… – Luke 4:14-17
32. His Radical Demands: Love – Matthew 5:17 and 7:12 and 22:35-40
33. His Teaching in Parables: Listen! Whoever Has Ears… – Matthew 13:10-11, 16
34. His Dramatic Actions: Dangerous Revolutionary or Maverick Showman? – Matthew 17:24-27
35. His Saving Victory on the Cross: Finished! – John 19:28-30 and Colossians 1:19-20
36. His Powerful Resurrection: Alleluia! He is Risen! – John 20:1, 19
37. His Commission to Disciple All Nations: The Great Project – Matthew 28:18-20
38. His Ascension to Heaven: Out of This World? – Luke 24:50-53

The Coming of the Spirit
39. The Day of Pentecost: A New World Order? – Acts 2:1-11
40. The Life of the Church: No Spirit, No Church – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
41. The Walk of the Believer: The Freedom of the Spirit – Galatians 5:1, 16, 22-23, 25

The Vocation of the Church
42. The Church Continues God’s Mission to the World: Acts of God – Acts 11:19-21, 26
43. The Church Tackles Problems from Within and Without: How RU CU L8R Love Paul – Philippians 3:1
44. The Church is Identified as the New Israel: The People of God – 1 Peter 1:1, 2:9-10 and Exodus 19:3-6
45. The Church Lives in the Overlap of the Two Ages: Living Between the Times – Romans 8:18, 21-24

The End of the Age
46. The Return of Jesus: A Forward-Looking Faith – 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16-18
47. The Resurrection of the Dead: Soul or Body? – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
48. The Reunification of All Things: United We Stand, United We End – Ephesians 1:8-10, 2:15-16, 4:3, 13
49. The Remaking of Creation: A World Remade – Revelation 21:1-3 and Isaiah 65:17-18

50. To the Glory of God – Philippians 2:5-11

Some other thoughts, in no particular order…

1. It was a challenging but exhilarating experience doing this – even the initial decision about which 50 passages to go for. It’s a worthwhile exercise to set oneself, I think, or to do with some others: what 50, or 30, or 10 passages of Scripture would you select which would tell the story the Bible essentially tells? What absolutely must be there in order for it still to be the story of the Bible, and why? And what could we be relatively comfortable with leaving out, and why?

Much of the scheme happened as planned. We made initial decisions about what to leave out (e.g., nothing on the wilderness wanderings, nothing on the period of the judges) and we stuck to them. And we were painfully aware of other passages that could have been included. We were already a fair way through before we realised we didn’t have anything planned on the ‘servant of the Lord’ passages in Isaiah, which we felt was fairly crucial from a biblical-theological perspective; so we tried to weave in elements of that in other places along the way, particularly in ones on Jesus (e.g., #35). And some things did get changed along the way. For a while we had two separate emails planned on ‘the promise of the Spirit’ (John 14-16) and ‘the giving of the Spirit’ (Acts 2), but we realised we didn’t have anything on the work of the Spirit in the life of individual believers (which was felt to be a fairly crucial element in thinking about the role of the Spirit!), so we combined elements of the promise of the Spirit into #39 (on Acts 2) and thus created space for #41 (on Galatians 5). Also, we were close to the end before we realised we did not have an email planned on the controversial issue of the judgment and fate of non-Christians, so comments and questions about this were woven into the final few entries. There were other tweaks along the way, and we’re aware that some significant gaps remain (there is nothing, for instance, on Jesus’ teaching about the future, e.g., Matthew 24-25).

In short, the exhilaration and challenge referred to above was because these sorts of issues about what was there and what was not there were constantly on the bubble throughout the year, all the time obliging us to consider why a particular event or theme had been chosen and not something else, and where it fitted into the overall grand scheme.

2. We selected the ‘biblical story’ mode of working even while being fully aware that there are other ways of doing biblical theology, other modes of looking at the Bible as a whole. And we did so not primarily because of the recent and happy proliferation of books adopting precisely this sort of approach, which can have the unfortunate effect of making it look ‘trendy’. We’re also aware of the huge current interest in the importance of story in human experience, but even this was not the driving force for the series. In fact, none of this would be nearly so significant were it not that ‘story’ seems to be a primary way God has chosen to reveal himself in Scripture. This is implicit in lots of emails throughout the whole series, but the point is self-consciously made in the introductory ones (#1 and #2) and in the conclusion (#50). In some respects, we were simply wanting to follow the example of Scripture itself, where some of the Psalms (e.g. 78, 105, 106) tell the story of Israel, where Nehemiah 9:5-37 also rehearses it, as does Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:2-53, and Paul’s sermon in Acts 13:16-41.

3. Related to the previous point, seeing the Bible as telling a big story has been important in some missionary situations where there is a lack of general literacy not to mention biblical literacy, and where missionaries have taught individual stories from the Bible in rough chronological order. Sometimes referred to as ‘chronological Bible storying’ or ‘Bible storying’, it’s a way of telling selected biblical stories in chronological order in order to bring people to faith and as part of their ongoing discipleship.

In one case, Bible translators in Central America identified 26 stories in the Bible that could be told in sequence. Major gaps in the sequence were bridged by phrases such as ‘after a long time’ or ‘much later’. This core of Bible stories provided a framework which enabled tribes to make sense of the message of the biblical story as a whole. The sequence was important, and the framework provided a fuller understanding of God and redemption rather than isolated truths abstracted from the larger story.

All of which is to say that, more than ever, we feel we’re standing on firm ground when it comes looking at the storyline of Scripture.

4. In spite of the significance of the biblical story and the events which make up the biblical story, we didn’t want to lose sight of the different types of literature in Scripture and their significance for theology and formation. That’s why we decided to include emails on the law (#12), psalms (#16), wisdom material (#17), prophets (#19), and letters (#43), inserted (we hope) at appropriate points along the storyline.

5. Most people who contacted us during the year have been positive about the series as a whole; some individual emails were particularly appreciated, and others generated a mixture of praise and occasional query. The fullest and strongest response was to #44 on the church as the ‘New Israel’. Objections tended to centre around the following main issues: (1) that our use of the title ‘New Israel’ assumed some kind of ‘replacement theology’ with associated negative connotations of anti-semitism; (2) that our two references to Stephen Sizer, persona non grata for many of those of a pro-Zionist persuasion, was highly problematic; (3) that our recommendations for further reading in the ‘for further reflection and action’ section were biased towards the anti-Zionist position. We responded in several ways, including by: (1) denying that LICC qua LICC embraces ‘replacement theology’ in the negative sense that has become attached to that phrase, (2) including in the website version of the email pro-Zionist writers in the ‘for further’ section, (3) inviting people to contribute other comments and recommended reading on the website, and (4) issuing the gentle challenge to show where the reflection on the biblical passage in the email itself – not least as part of the larger series in which it is found – is lacking.

6. Perhaps the biggest ongoing ‘hermeneutical’ issue was about how to relate the particular passage we were looking at any given week to the issue of whole-life discipleship. We were all too aware of the danger of starting out with a particular agenda (whole-life discipleship in this case) and reading it back into the text. And, of course, there is a sense in which passages may be illuminated in significant ways when read through particular lenses. We could have selected passages that more obviously addressed our ‘discipleship’ concerns, but that would run the risk of being accused that we’d selected passages to prove what we’d already decided beforehand must be the case.

For some parts of the biblical story, the link wasn’t always obvious. For instance, we wanted to include the division of the kingdom (#18), but its relevance to whole-life discipleship is not immediately apparent. But in many cases, it’s not too difficult to build a link, to see an implication, to trace a line of thought. And cumulatively, looking back over the whole series, the case feels strong.

So, our first concern throughout was to give the biblical story priority (albeit acknowledging our selection of passages and events already amounts to a kind of interpretive framework), to see what emerges, to allow the story to shape our understanding of God, his world, ourselves, and our relationship with him, each other, and the created world – broken but now redeemed in Christ – all the while looking forward to final and complete restoration.

I’m glad to get to end of the series, but it’s been great to do it.