Monday 30 August 2010

Equip to Disciple

Equip to Disciple is a useful quarterly publication, produced by CEP (Christian Education and Publications), an agency of the Presbyterian Church in America.

CEP describes itself as seeking ‘to glorify God by equipping, training, and encouraging believers, particularly leaders and teachers to make a difference by proactively living redemptive Christian lives and making disciples in the Kingdom of God by:

1. knowing the Lord,
2. knowing and obeying the Word,
3. knowing the world,
4. knowing themselves,

with a commitment to understand and interpret the truth in different cultural settings from a biblically reformed worldview that enables them to serve the Lord with a global vision by: penetrating this generation with the prophetic presentation of the Gospel, building strong relationships through which Christ builds His church, extending the Kingdom of God in every area of life and equipping people for actual ministry.’

Archived copies of Equip to Disciple are available here.

The Bible in Transmission (Summer 2010) – The Growth of Surveillance and its Impact on Society

The latest issue of The Bible in Transmission, published by the Bible Society arrived a few weeks back. This theme for this one is ‘The Growth of Surveillance and its Impact on Society’, with the following contributions:

Chris Sunderland

David Landrum
From Big Brother to the Big Society?

Considers the reasons for the growth of surveillance in the UK and its consequences. Christians have a responsibility to offer a vision for our society and stimulate debate about civil liberty issues.

Pearl Luxon
Safeguarding Children and the Surveillance Society

In our churches we need to develop healthy environments and informed vigilance to provide safer places for children. This includes the use of strict standards of monitoring to help reduce risk.

Eric Stoddart
The Risk of ‘Risk’

We live in a culture of fear. Any healthy society has an inevitable level of risk. We must learn to fear rightly and respond properly to risk, fostering courage and resilience and giving voice to those who bear the most risk.

Toivo Pilli
Christians Under Surveillance During Communism

Describes the Estonian experience of life under surveillance and the ethical and religious trials Christians faced during communist rule.

David Lyon
God’s Eye: Surveillance and Watchfulness in the Twenty-First Century

Outlines the characteristics of today’s surveillance society. Surveillance capacities may be said to have God-like features. However, God’s all-seeing knowledge of us is very different to the ‘eye in the sky’ of contemporary surveillance.

Jason Pridmore
Engaging Contemporary Consumer Surveillance Practices: A Biblical Perspective

Considers how a surveillance society shapes us as human beings. Fear and suspicion replaces trust and deep interpersonal relationships. Our sense of belonging and self-identity is undermined.

James Catford
News from Bible Society

Phillip D. Jensen and Paul Grimmond on Preaching the Very Words of God

Phillip D. Jensen and Paul Grimmond, The Archer and the Arrow: Preaching the Very Words of God (Kingsfield: Matthias Media, 2010), ISBN 9781921441806.

Having earlier referred to Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything (Kingsford: St Matthias Press, 2009), I thought I should mention this book, which belongs to the same family and serves as a kind of companion volume.

Further information is available here, including an excerpt , an interview, and some sample sermons.

As to how this book relates to the earlier one, it is said that Colin Marshall (of The Trellis and the Vine) and Phillip Jensen (of The Archer and the Arrow) ‘formed a great ministry partnership for over 20 years’, combining different ‘strengths and backgrounds’. While Marshall ‘had a heritage and commitment to personal discipleship and one-to-one discipling of others’, Jensen ‘was shaped by a ministry context that held a very high view of public preaching and proclamation’.

Hence: ‘Clear and powerful public proclamation of God's word, combined with clear and powerful personal ministry of God's word, created a rich soil for growing the gospel.’

In The Archer and the Arrow, Phillip Jensen summarises and explores the task of preaching as follows: ‘My aim is to preach the gospel by prayerfully expounding the Bible to the people God has given me to love’ – a summary which includes the essential elements of proclamation, prayer and people.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Christian Ethics Today 16, 1 (2010)

Christian Ethics Today is often worth checking out. This particular issue carries a fairly straight-talking piece on sex by David Gushee, and what effectively amounts to a very concise summary by Manfred T. Brauch of the concerns of his 2009 book, Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009).

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Alan Jacobs on Book Cultures

Alan Jacobs, ‘Book Cultures’, Books & Culture (July-August 2010).

Having recently posted on books (here), I thought I would mention a recent piece by Alan Jacobs (in Books & Culture) which reviews two other books on book culture.

The tag-line – ‘Love of books, love of reading: not the same thing.’

The Future(s) of Missions

Christianity Today provides a handy table (here) summarising the different concerns of four world missionary conferences being held this year, all of which look back to the World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh 1910, arguably one of the most significant moments in the history of the Christian church.

Monday 23 August 2010

Chris Wright on the Mission of God’s People

Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, Biblical Theology for Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 304pp., ISBN 9780310291121.

Zondervan provide a pdf excerpt (here) of Chris Wright’s latest book. The chapter titles are below, but the excerpt includes a detailed table of contents (as well as the first chapter) which whets the appetite for what is clearly going to be an excellent book.

Queuing the Questions

1. Who Are We and What Are We Here For?

Arriving at Answers

2. People Who Know the Story They Are Part Of
3. People Who Care for Creation
4. People Who Are a Blessing to the Nations
5. People Who Walk in God’s Way
6. People Who Are Redeemed for Redemptive Living
7. People Who Represent God to the World
8. People Who Attract Others to God

Interlude – Pause for Thought

9. People Who Know the One Living God and Saviour
10. People Who Bear Witness to the Living God
11. People Who Proclaim the Gospel of Christ
12. People Who Send and Are Sent
13. People Who Live and Work in the Public Square
14. People Who Praise and Pray

Reflecting on Relevance

15. The Journey So Far and the Journey Ahead

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 14.2 (2010) on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture

This edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is devoted to the theological interpretation of Scripture, with some samples available online.

The Table of Contents is as follows:

Editorial: Stephen J. Wellum
Reflecting upon the ‘Theological Interpretation of Scripture’

Daniel J. Treier and Uche Anizor
Theological Interpretation of Scripture and Evangelical Systematic Theology: Iron Sharpening Iron?

Stephen Dempster
‘A Light in a Dark Place’: A Tale of Two Kings and Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament

Gregg R. Allison
Theological Interpretation of Scripture: An Introduction and Preliminary Evaluation

Keith Goad
Gregory as a Model of Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Robert L. Plummer
Righteousness and Peace Kiss: The Reconciliation of Authorial Intent and Biblical Typology

James M. Hamilton Jr.
John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch: A Review Essay

The SBJT Forum: contributions from Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Keith E. Johnson, Graham Cole, and Everett Berry

Book Reviews

In the editorial, Wellum characterize theological interpretation of Scripture ‘as a broad and diverse movement comprised of biblical scholars and theologians who are mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and evangelicals and who are attempting to recover the authority of the Bible and to return it to the church’ (2). Theological interpretation, he notes, is ‘not interested in treating the Bible merely “as any other book” to be dissected under the rules of general or philosophical hermeneutics’; rather, it ‘strongly endorses a special or theological hermeneutics rooted in a larger Christian theology’ (3).

On the issue of the value of theological interpretation, Wellum expresses caution overall, particularly because of ‘a great divide over the most fundamental question: What is the nature of Scripture and why?’ (3).

Bible Engagement Among Young People in Australia

Philip Hughes and Claire Pickering, Bible Engagement among Young Australians: Patterns and Social Drivers (Christian Research Association, 2010).

Scripture Engagement notes the publication of a 53-page report from the Christian Research Association in Australia on Bible engagement among young people in Australia.

The report, commissioned by the Bible Society (South Australia), is available as a pdf here.

It looks at national patterns of Bible reading, attitudes among young people to the content of the Bible, as well as major influences and social drivers of young people’s attitudes to the Bible.

They summarise:

‘Conservatively interpreted, the surveys show that around 4 per cent of young people read the Bible daily, another 6 per cent read it weekly, and 15 to 20 per cent read it very occasionally. About 70 per cent never read it. The frequency of Bible reading is a little greater among older young people, although this is probably a result of changing history patterns over generations and not related to age. Of those who read the Bible daily or weekly, most attend church services and youth activities, such as a Bible study group. Most also have parents and friends who attend church frequently. Those who read it frequently are mostly involved in Protestant Evangelical or Charismatic denominations, such as the Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Seventh-day Adventists.’

They propose the following recommendations for the Bible Society:

• Focus on building youth groups and Bible study groups
• Develop materials for occasional readers and the curious
• Work with families in encouraging Bible engagement
• Explore relevant forms of communication and community for encouraging Bible engagement

And their recommendations for future research include these questions:

• What are the catalysts for Bible reading?
• How is the Bible interpreted?

Monday 16 August 2010

Themelios 35, 2 (July 2010)

The most recent edition of Themelios is now available here on the Gospel Coalition website, containing some interesting-looking pieces along with the usual long section of book reviews.

Carl Trueman
Minority Report: Not in the Public Interest

Fred G. Zaspel
B.B. Warfield on Creation and Evolution

Denny Burk
Why Evangelicals Should Ignore Brian McLaren: How the New Testament Requires Evangelicals to Render a Judgment on the Moral Status of Homosexuality

Stephen Dempster
A Member of the Family or a Stranger? A Review Article of Jeffrey J. Niehaus, Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology

William Edgar
Parallels, Real or Imagined? A Review Article of Jeffrey J. Niehaus, Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology

Jeffrey J. Niehaus
How to Write – and How Not to Write – a Review: An Appreciative Response to Reviews of Ancient Near Eastern Themes in Biblical Theology by Dempster and Edgar

D. A. Carson
Pastoral Pensées: Motivations to Appeal to in Our Hearers When We Preach for Conversion

Book Reviews

Thursday 5 August 2010

Of Books and Goods

I was asked to write a piece on books as ‘goods’ as part of a thanksgiving service for the LICC Library and librarians, which took place on 13 July 2010, following the downsizing and redistribution of the library.

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

That’s Arnold Lobel, noted for his style and wit, an author and illustrator – and a lover of books!

A little more prosaically, Mortimer J. Adler, author of How to Read a Book, said that ‘reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life’.

A good life. Indeed, books are what we might think of as ‘cultural goods’ in the very best sense of that term – not simply goods in terms of material assets, commodities that can be bought and exchanged, but goods in the sense of that which is good, having intrinsic value.

I confess that I can sometimes see books in a fairly pragmatic way, as tools to get a certain job done. Okay, maybe, they are never less than that. But they are much more than that.

They are our conversation partners, our old friends, our wise mentors, our strange uncles, sometimes our niggly provocateurs – offering, in different ways, their perspectives on the world and what it means to live in the world, engaging our imagination, opening the door of scholarship to us and allowing us to peep through, enlarging our horizons, encouraging us to take some action, perhaps even leading us to thanksgiving and worship.

No wonder they’re the first things to be destroyed when dictators rise to power.

Not always, of course, but often, books are the fruit of years of reflection and writing, editing and refinement. And, for the most part, they come to us as the result of the care and attention of many people – editors, designers, reviewers, printers, publicists, as well as the author.

Books necessarily involve us in relationships.

In a cultural environment which increasingly persuades us to flit about from this to that, books encourage us not to lose the ability to give time and attention to listen carefully to someone else.

And that, of course, is basic to our Christian faith.

A few years back, Alan Jacobs, a professor of English at Wheaton College, wrote a book called A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love. He takes his cue from Augustine who asked that our reading of Scripture be motivated by love – love of God and love of neighbour. But Jacobs encourages us to see that the law of love applies equally well to the reading of John Milton or Toni Morrison as it does to the Gospel of Matthew – that our proper relation to books, and the people who write the books we read, is one of mutuality and love without which we cannot thrive.

Books allow us the opportunity to recognise that we are not self-sufficient, but need others – including books (and those who write them and publish them) – to live life well and in a way which brings pleasure to God.

It’s no surprise, then, that the library was an integral part of the life and work of LICC from the start, nor that we have sought to be wise stewards in moving the books on to good homes.

In that spirit, then, today especially, we give thanks to God for the gift of books, and for those – like Eunice and Elizabeth – who devote themselves, for the sake of others, to facilitate the blessing they bring.

Trinity Seminary Review

Trinity Lutheran Seminary publishes Trinity Seminary Review, ‘a forum for interaction between theological disciplines and the practice of ministry, designed to aid in the continuing education of church leaders’. Issues are available online here.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

The Future of Evangelicalism

As part of a summer series on ‘The Future of Religion’, Patheos are promising a set of essays on the ‘Future of Evangelicalism’.

They write:

‘A rapidly evolving tradition with deep historical roots, evangelicalism confronts abundant opportunities and abundant challenges. How will current movements within the church shape the face of American Christianity in the next ten years? What is the best way to influence culture while retaining the distinctive qualities of evangelical faith? How should evangelicals relate to other Christian traditions, and even non-Christian ones? How ought evangelicals to engage in politics? And how are evangelical ministries responding to the swiftly changing circumstances of life in the twenty-first century?’

With some significant contributors in place, the essays themselves are organised according to the following themes:

• Transforming the Church
• Transforming Culture
• American Evangelicalism and the Varieties of Christianity
• Transforming Society, Part 1: Social Justice and the Progressive Christian Movement
• Transforming Society, Part 2: Liberty, Responsibility, and the New Evangelical Conservatism
• Transforming the Shape of Evangelical Ministry

Interestingly, evangelicalism finds itself in a list on the future of religion as a category alongside mainline Protestantism, Mormonism, as well as the mainstream world religions.