Friday 29 October 2010

Lausanne Congress 2010 Presentations

A full schedule – along with links to downloadable videos – of presentations from the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization is available here.

Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 14, 3 (2010) on Galatians

The latest Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is now out, this fascicle being devoted to Galatians (with the table of contents viewable here).

In the editorial, Stephen J. Wellum notes the significance of Galatians in the history of the church and of Christian theology, offering three reasons for the ‘absolute importance’ of its message for contemporary Christians:

1. ‘Galatians reminds us that every generation must re-commit itself to standing for the gospel in the midst of the perennial danger of compromise and potential loss of the gospel.’

2. ‘Galatians reminds us of the importance of affirming, proclaiming, and living out the implications of the gospel centered in the doctrine of justification by grace through faith.’

3. ‘Galatians, like such books as Romans and Hebrews, also helps us put our Bibles together by unpacking how God’s eternal plan progressively unfolds and develops across redemptive history ultimately culminating in Christ.’

As usual, some articles are made available as samples:

Jason S. DeRouchie and Jason C. Meyer

‘Christ or Family as the “Seed” of Promise? An Evaluation of N.T. Wright on Galatians 3:16’

Christopher W. Cowan

‘Context Is Everything: “The Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16’

Ecclesia Reformanda 2, 2 (October 2010)

Ecclesia Reformanda 2, 2 (2010) is now out, containing the following articles:

John M. Frame

Review of Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the

American Church, Part 2

Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity claims that contemporary evangelicalism is so corrupt in its doctrine and preaching that it is close to rejecting Christ altogether. In this two part review article, I argue that Horton’s basis for this evaluation is itself doctrinally questionable and that he misrepresents the targets of his criticism. I describe ten assumptions Horton makes that have no basis in Scripture or in any of the major theological traditions. If we reject these assumptions (as we certainly should), we will find that Horton’s critique of evangelicalism is wide of the mark, and that it is Horton’s own rather idiosyncratic brand of Protestantism that deserves our critical attention.

Simon Wakeling

The Minor Prophets as a Unity Developing Theodicy

The issue of God’s goodness, in the face of apparent evidence to the contrary, is a perennial one, both apologetically and pastorally, and one that the twelve Minor Prophets seeks to address. I will argue that the Twelve were intended to be read together with the purpose of encouraging the post-exilic reader to trust Yahweh’s faithfulness to his salvation promises, even in the light of the many setbacks endured in the period from Israel’s collapse in 722 BC up until Judah’s disappointment in the post exilic era.

Neil G. T. Jeffers

Reformed Defences of God’s Righteousness in Ordaining the Fall

Predestination has consistently been a non-negotiable of Reformed and Augustinian theology. But it raises theological and apologetic questions which many have struggled to tackle. How does God relate to evil if he foreordains it? Is He the author of evil? What sort of freedom did Adam have? What does it mean in Reformed thought for God to ‘permit’ evil? How do we answer the unbeliever who questions the justice of a predestining God? A full theodicy is beyond the scope of one article. Working from the assumption that God predestined the Fall of Adam, this article will seek to explore the Reformed defences of God’s righteousness in doing that. It will set out both God’s moral and metaphysical distance from evil, without compromising his sovereignty and foreordination of it.

Book Reviews

Thursday 28 October 2010

The Cape Town Commitment: A Declaration of Belief and a Call to Action (Part 1)

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization closed last Sunday in Cape Town. Said to be perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the church, it drew 4,000 selected participants from 198 nations. Its reach was also extended into over 650 GlobaLink sites in 91 countries, drawing 100,000 unique visits to its website from 185 countries during the week of the Congress.

Over the last year, Chris Wright and team of theologians from around the world have worked to shape The Cape Town Commitment – a declaration of belief and a call to action. When completed, it will be a two-part document. The draft of part 1, ‘What We Believe’, is already available here; part 2, which will be a call to action arising from the listening process at the Congress, is expected to be finished by December.

The statement in part 1 is framed around the word ‘love’, the language of covenant, as follows:

For the Lord we love: our commitment of faith

1. We love because God first loved us

2. We love the living God

3. We love God the Father

4. We love God the Son

5. We love God the Holy Spirit

6. We love God’s word

7. We love God’s world

8. We love the gospel of God

9. We love the people of God

10. We love the mission of God

Monday 25 October 2010

William J. Abraham on the Church

William J. Abraham, ‘I Believe in One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’, in Christopher Seitz (ed.), Nicene Christianity: The Future for a New Ecumenism (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2001), 177-87.

Abraham begins with four competing images Christians have of the church – a country club (a nice place to visit), a Noah’s ark (a place of escape), a waterbed (a therapeutic community), and a loose confederation of states (with various laws, principles, customs, ethnic makeup, etc.). Noting the significance of images for the church – not least in Scripture – he comments that ‘a crucial issue here is where we locate the images of the church in the bigger picture’ (178). He also hopes that images will help correct our tendency to think of the church ‘in abstract and utterly unrealistic terms’ (178).

He then unfolds his essay in three sections:

1. The Church and the Kingdom of God

While the church is not the rule of God, ‘it is surely intimately connected to the rule of God’ (179). Abraham sees the Holy Spirit as the clue to understanding the relationship between the church and the kingdom. The Holy Spirit brought the church into existence – in time and space.

‘Pentecost was not just an ecclesiastical seminar where the penny dropped about Jesus and his relation to God. It was not just a special representation of grace in the early community that emanates from Jesus. It was a datable, memorable event in history. It was a decisive new encounter with God in the action of the Holy Spirit that was a milestone in the history of the cosmos’ (180-81).

And, ‘where the Holy Spirit reigns or rules, there God rules, there is the kingdom of God... the creation of a new community, the community of the Holy Spirit’ (181). Such a community will celebrate the lordship of Jesus Christ.

In summary:

‘Jesus actualized the kingdom in his life and ministry; the kingdom continues in the mighty acts of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost; one of the mighty acts is the arrival of the church; the mighty act of forming the church was carried out not apart from but through the apostles in the earthy, contingent realities of the first century’ (182).

2. One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church

This is not so much a definition as a confession, ‘an attempt to describe four crucial aspects of a living historical reality’:

Holy, in that it is ‘set apart, called out to be different to serve the purposes of God’; catholic, in that ‘it operates according to the sense and judgment of the whole and is not parochial or partial in its commitments’; apostolic, in that ‘it stems from the apostles... shares the faith of the apostles and carries out their missionary work’; one, in that ‘there is one people that has descended in succession from the apostles’ (183).

Abraham says he is reaching here ‘for the idea of a historical people with definite institutional continuity and history from one generation to the next’ (183), referring to a ‘concrete historical body, not some platonic ideal’ (184 – he seems to have in mind here the so-called ‘invisible church’).

3. Back to the Future and the Many Images of the Church

The New Testament images – of the body of Christ, the vine, the city, the royal priesthood, the light of the world – ‘like the normative adjectives in the creed’, may also ‘be read as veiled promises’ (186), even as they provide ‘a glimpse of the true greatness God has in store for the church today’ (187).

Interpretation 64, 4 (October 2010) on Matthew’s Gospel

The latest edition of Interpretation takes as its theme ‘“God with Us”: Perspectives from the Gospel of Matthew’, with the following main articles:

Benedict Thomas Viviano

God in the Gospel According to Matthew

The God of biblical revelation is present everywhere in the Gospel according to Matthew, but often in a self-effacing way, receding behind Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us. God’s presence is veiled by divine passives, hidden behind the reverent circumlocution ‘heavens.’ This gospel usually speaks on a horizontal plane of everyday life, where the Transcendent awaits us at every turn as the horizon.

M. Eugene Boring

Matthew’s Narrative Christology: Three Stories

Matthew’s Christology is theocentric, presenting God’s rule as manifest in the life of Jesus as an alternative to the sovereignty and power of this-worldly rulers. This Christology is expressed in the narrative mode. It can be appreciated and appropriated better in the context of the narratives in which contemporary interpreters are embedded.

F. Scott Spencer

Scriptures, Hermeneutics, and Matthew’s Jesus

Eschewing a truncated focus on single proof-texts, Matthew’s Jesus interprets Scripture by Scripture across the canon in creative and provocative ways. His hermeneutical methods and aims resist narrow profiling. Above all, Matthew’s Jesus emerges as the church’s authoritative biblical exegete and teacher.

Barbara E. Reid

Which God is With Us?

There is a tension in the Gospel of Matthew between two very different images of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, God is portrayed as being boundlessly gracious and forgiving, while in eight Matthean parables, God is seen as vindictive and punitive. This poses an ethical dilemma: which God is with us and whom should we emulate?

Dorothy Jean Weaver

‘Wherever This Good News is Proclaimed’: Women and God in the Gospel of Matthew

A careful examination of Matthew’s narrative reveals a striking portrait of those who in the patriarchal world of first-century Palestine are largely people of little power and low esteem. To bring God into the story of women is ultimately, for Matthew, to grant women extraordinary and unanticipated significance for the life and the faith of the people of God.

Friday 22 October 2010

The Center for Gospel Culture

Not sure how I’ve managed to miss this so far...

‘The Center for Gospel Culture exists to establish the centrality of the gospel as the basis for developing a gospel culture worldview in renewing every dimension of an individual’s life, so that individuals would be able to think, act, and live in line with the truth of the gospel.’

Friday 15 October 2010

Joe Carter on the Mutual Help Model of Marriage

There’s a nice, suggestive piece on marriage by Joe Carter in the latest online Comment issue from Cardus.

As the summary sentence says:

‘Too often our culture encourages us to buy into the myth that the perfect spouse is one who completes us, rather than one who can aid us in our journey in becoming whole.’

Adam, says Carter, didn’t need a ‘soulmate’, but a ‘helper’, ‘someone like himself who could share his burdens, his joys, his humanity’.

He draws on Herman Dooyeweerd’s ‘spheres of human life and experience’, seeking to apply them to marriage, spheres which when ‘taken together and in proper proportion... can lead to fulfillment and the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts’:

• The biotic – to do with organic life functions, and health.

• The sensitive/psychic – to do with feeling, emotion, psychology.

• The analytical/logical – to do with the making of decisions.

• The formative – to do with human construction, creativity, and achievement, including history, technology, and culture.

• The lingual – to do with symbolic communication in speech, writing, signs, song, and so on.

• The social – to do with social interaction, forming relationships and social institutions.

• The economic – to do with the skillful, careful use of the household's resources.

• The aesthetic – to do with harmony and surprise, with play and the arts.

• The juridical – to do with giving what is due, providing justice, recompense, and retribution.

• The sacrificial – to do with self-giving love.

• The pistic – to do with faith and faithfulness.

Deovox on Exodus 1-14

The latest series of the Deovox podcast from Damaris is devoted to Exodus 1-14, with the first few episodes already up.

1. Introduction to Exodus

2. Forgotten and Enslaved (Exodus 1:1-14)

In the series description, Richard Collins says:

‘This event is the most important moment in Israelite history. It is the one that forever defines God in the eyes of his people. Throughout the Old Testament, he is referred to as “the God who led Israel out of bondage.” As Christians, we view him in a similar way that is highlighted repeatedly in the New Testament. We worship God, who has led us, not out of Egypt, but out of slavery to sin to a life of freedom. We too are set free to live our lives for his glory. Just like the Israelites.’

As usual, the episodes are supported by study guides.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Steven D. Mathewson on Understanding and Proclaiming Old Testament Narratives

Steven D. Mathewson, ‘Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming Old Testament Narratives’, Bibliotheca Sacra 154, 616 (1997), 410-435.

Mathewson has written more fully on Old Testament narrative elsewhere, so it is helpful to have his salient points gathered together in this essay in two main sections:

Hermeneutical Guidelines

• Interact with a story’s literary art to determine its meaning

• Follow the plot development and shape

• Observe the pace at which the story unfolds

• Focus on the dialogue embedded in the story

• Give attention to the development of characters

• Consider the significance of descriptive details

• Notice how the story uses the technique of repetition

Homiletical Guidelines

• Preach blocks of narrative large enough to communicate a big idea

• Develop an outline that will highlight the story line of the narrative

• Select the vantage point from which to tell the story

• Turn the biblical scenes into pictures that capture the listeners’ imaginations

• Hone storytelling skills

David VanDrunen on Christianity and Culture

Having previously referred (here) to his forthcoming book addressing the relationship between Christianity and culture, I thought I’d link to some recent lectures by David VanDrunen on that topic.

They come as large audio files...

1. Christianity and Culture: A Historical Perspective

2. Christianity and Culture: A Biblical Perspective

3. Christianity and Culture: A Practical Perspective

4. Christianity and Culture: Q&A

... available here.

N.B. The link to the third lecture appears to be dead.

Timothy C. Tennent on World Mission

I recently took delivery of this full volume on world missions:

Timothy C. Tennent, Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-First Century, Invitation to Theological Studies Series (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2010), 559pp., ISBN 9780825438837.

I’m really looking forward to working my way through it. (Incidentally, this series by Kregel – Invitation to Theological Studies Series – has some great-looking forthcoming volumes in it.)

Then, today, an email came through from referring to the online availability of a seminary-level course on ‘The World Mission of the Church’ by Tennent. According to the blurb, the course gives ‘an overview of the strategic and historical progress of worldwide missions. The ways in which a local congregation can fulfill its worldwide biblical mandate are also considered’.

The lectures are available here, and (after a painless and free sign-up process), the audio files can be downloaded.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

D.A. Carson on the Gospel

D.A. Carson, ‘What is the Gospel?—Revisited’, in Sam Storms and Justin Taylor (eds.), For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 147-70.

This brand new essay has been made freely available online here.

In the first few footnotes of the essay, Carson refers to other items he has written on the gospel, available elsewhere online. Those familiar with those treatments will not be surprised with the content and conclusions of this new one; but it’s enormously helpful to have this as a way-station to future promised publications. In fact, Carson refers to two larger projects, one showing how the New Testament relates ‘gospel’ words to an array of theological and pastoral themes, and another exploring the significance of the ‘evangel’ for evangelicalism (148). I’m aware this latter is forthcoming as a book sometime next year, all being well.

The opening chunk of this essay is devoted to a survey of the ‘evangel-’ words in the Septuagint and the New Testament (148-54). This is followed by some ‘preliminary observations’ on the ‘gospel’ words, taking in word study fallacies, literary genre, the gospel and the Roman imperial cult, and gospel content and gospel proclamation (155-57).

The closing section offers ‘more probing observations on these gospel words’ (158-70), under the following points:

• The gospel is heraldic proclamation

• The gospel in its wide and narrow senses

• The gospel is not simply important news, but good news

• The gospel is not just for unbelievers, but also for believers

• ‘Evangelists’ in the New Testament are simply proclaimers of the gospel

• The gospel is not only revelation, but also history

• What the gospel rescues us from, and what it saves us for

Carson maintains his emphasis from earlier essays on not confusing the essence of the gospel with the entailments of the gospel (my categories, I think). Hence:

‘The heart of the gospel is what God has done in Jesus, supremely in his death and resurrection. Period. It is not personal testimony about our repentance; it is not a few words about our faith response; it is not obedience; it is not the cultural mandate or any other mandate... The gospel is the good news about what God has done’ (162).

And, on the issue of whether the gospel is ‘purely a matter of individual salvation’ or should be seen ‘essentially in terms of community and social justice’, he comments:

‘That the Bible addresses both of these topics is beyond dispute. What is more doubtful is that the Bible treats either as the gospel. The better question asks the extent to which the Bible insists that there are both individual and communal outcomes to the preaching of the gospel, neither of which is the gospel itself’ (159).

David VanDrunen on Living in Two Kingdoms

David VanDrunen, Living in God's Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 208pp., ISBN 9781433514043.

Crossway have given advance notice of what looks like a significant title in the area of Christian engagement with culture.

VanDrunen, whose previous publications embrace treatments of natural law and bioethics, is essentially tackling the increasingly popular and vocal position that it is the task of Christians to redeem cultural activity and institutions in order to advance the kingdom of God. However, according to VanDrunen, while Scripture does require ‘a high view of creation and of cultural activity’, it also ‘requires a distinction between the holy things of Christ’s heavenly kingdom and the common things of the present world’.

A pdf excerpt of the book is available here.

Monday 11 October 2010

Wholly Living: A New Perspective on International Development

This is the title of a new report, just published by Theos in partnership with CAFOD and Tearfund, and kindly available in full here.

The October 2010 Newsletter from Theos notes:

‘The report examines human wellbeing in the context of both the UK and international development. It invites the UK government and citizens to enter the debate on how best to create an environment in which to engender human flourishing. Examples taken from the UK and the developing world indicate that people are most fulfilled when they are productive, creative and have strong relationships with others.

Wholly Living calls for a holistic approach that recognises that economic growth is an important – but not the only – driver towards human fulfilment and that unless growth is sustainable, it can do more harm than good. It argues that people flourish most when they are able to fulfil their potential and live in healthy relationships with others. Drawing on academic and theological understandings of flourishing, it calls for the UK government to consider a range of policy ideas in the areas of economics, environment and governance.’

Saturday 9 October 2010

10/10/10 Global Prayer

Micah Challenge is ‘a global coalition of Christians holding governments to account for their promise to halve extreme poverty by 2015’, seeking to establish ‘a global movement to encourage deeper Christian commitment to the poor, and to speak out to leaders to act with justice’.

This prayer for Micah 2010 will be used in churches around the globe on 10/10/10:

‘O Lord, our great and awesome God, loyal to your promise of love and faithful to all who honour and obey you, hear our prayer. We pray for those who live in poverty, we cry out for those who are denied justice and we weep for all who are suffering. We confess that we have not always obeyed you. We have neglected your commands and have ignored your call for justice. We have been guided by self-interest and lived in spiritual poverty. Forgive us. We remember your promises to fill the hungry with good things, to redeem the land by your mighty hand and to restore peace. Father God, help us always to proclaim your justice and mercy with humility, so that, by the power of your Spirit, we can rid the world of the sin of extreme poverty. As part of your global church, we stand with millions who praise and worship you. May our words and deeds declare your perfect goodness, love and righteousness to both the powerful and the powerless so that your Kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.’

Mark Fackler on Big Ideas of the Bible

Mark Fackler (ed.), Big Ideas of the Bible: 101 Key Theological Concepts Explained in Everyday Language (Uhrichsville: Barbour Publishing, 2010), 240pp., ISBN 9781602606975.

Here’s another helpful book to add to the number currently on offer which do biblical theology by exploring themes across the whole Bible. This one is arranged alphabetically, moving from Adoption to Worship, taking in major biblical themes (e.g., Covenant, God, Salvation) as well as not-so major themes (e.g., Bridegroom, Joy, Renewal) along the way. Illustrated with colour photographs, and with two pages for each entry, this would make a helpful guide for someone just starting out in exploring the Bible, complementing the systematic reading of passages with a sense of the topics which span the whole of Scripture.

Friday 8 October 2010

Michael S. Horton with R. Scott Clark

Having mentioned Michael Scott Horton’s forthcoming volume on systematic theology, I thought I would also link to a conversation/interview between him and R. Scott Clark at ‘Office Hours’ from Westminster Seminary California. The mp3 is available here.

Clark asks him several questions about systematic theology, how his volume fits with others that have been produced, whether there are any biblical models of systematic theology in Scripture, the history of systematic theology writing, and more besides.

Horton says he is trying to do something between Bavinck’s Dogmatics and Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, and hopes that his volume will help people think not only about the connections between doctrines, but also their historical-theological development. He says he anticipates that people will dip into it as a reference work, but also hopes that thoughtful lay people will read it and use it as a launch pad to get into the Scripture and think through the coherence of its teaching.

Fred G. Zaspel on B.B. Warfield

Fred G. Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Wheaton: Crossway/Nottingham: Apollos, 2010), 624pp.

Crossway and Apollos are publishing a substantial book on the theology of B.B. Warfield. Justin Taylor (‘Between Two Worlds’) interviews the author here, and Crossway provide a lengthy excerpt of the volume here.

That Warfield’s writings are many and diverse – not to mention spread over books, articles, pamphlets and book reviews – has made a comprehensive account of his theology difficult. Zaspel, it would seem, has made a significant contribution in filling that gap.

In the interview with Justin Taylor, he comments: ‘I suppose I was a bit surprised to learn that the doctrine of inspiration was not the focus of Warfield’s career or literary output. We all know Warfield as the one who articulated this doctrine (inspiration) with more clarity and at more length than any other, and I think we naturally assume that this was his own “center.” But it wasn’t. He was above all else a Christologian. The person and work of Christ forms the greatest segment of his published works, and this was clearly his own center of gravity.’

Saturday 2 October 2010

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 34:4 (October 2010)

There are some interesting-looking pieces in the latest International Bulletin of Missionary Research, including:

Jonathan J. Bonk

Missions and the Liberation of Theology

Titus Presler

Mission Is Ministry in the Dimension of Difference: A Definition for the Twenty-first Century

Stuart J. Foster

The Missiology of Old Testament Covenant

R. Daniel Shaw

Beyond Contextualization: Toward a Twenty-first-Century Model for Enabling Mission

Gregory J. Liston

Asking the Big Questions: A Statistical Analysis of Three Missiological Journals

James R. Rohrer

The Legacy of George Leslie Mackay

Wong Man Kong

The Legacy of Carl Thurman Smith

Friday 1 October 2010

IVP Academic Alert 19, 3 (Winter 2011)

The latest Academic Alert is available from IVP (USA), profiling – among other items – a massive volume on The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael R. Licona, and the bound-to-be-controversial-since-it-goes-against-the-current-grain Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom by Peter Leithart.