Thursday 30 December 2010

Philip Graham Ryken on Ecclesiastes

Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 320pp., ISBN 9781433513756.

Published earlier this year, this volume on Ecclesiastes is part of Crossway’s ‘Preaching the Word’ series.

There is a pdf excerpt containing the chapter on Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 here (effectively forming an introduction to the commentary) and one on 3:1-8 here.

Ryken suggests that we should study Ecclesiastes (14-15):

• because it is honest about the troubles of life.

• to learn what will happen to us if we choose what the world tries to offer instead of what God has to give.

• because it asks the biggest and hardest questions that people still have today.

• because it will help us worship the one true God

• because it teaches us how to live for God and not just for ourselves.

Some quotations give the flavour of his ‘take’ on the book:

‘While it is true that the Preacher takes a sober view of life, never flinching from any of its complexities and confusions, it is equally true that he has solid hope in the goodness of God as well as lasting joy in the beauty of his many gifts. This is exactly why he has shown us the futility of everything earthly: it is so we will put our hope in the everlasting God.’ (20)

‘Here in Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that the fear of God is not just the beginning but also the end – the goal of our existence. But in order to know and enjoy God properly, we first have to see the emptiness of life without him, becoming thoroughly disillusioned with everything the world has to offer. To this end, Ecclesiastes gives us a true assessment of what life is like apart from the grace of God. This makes it a hopeful book, not a depressing one; ultimately its worldview is positive, not negative. Like a good pastor, Qoheleth shows us the absolute vanity of life without God, so that we finally stop expecting earthly things to give us lasting satisfaction and learn to live for God rather than for ourselves.’ (21)

John Sutherland’s Top 10 Books about Books

There’s an interesting rundown, for those interested in such things, in today’s Guardian, by John Sutherland (author of the forthcoming 50 Literature Ideas You Really Ought to Know) on his top 10 books about books.

His top 10 are:

1. Aristotle, The Poetics (Ingram Bywater translation)

2. Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation (1966)

3. Stanley Fish, Is there a Text in this Class? (1980)

4. Elaine Showalter, A Literature of their Own (1978)

5. Roland Barthes, S/Z (1977: Richard Miller translation)

6. Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending (revised edition, 2000)

7. Terry Eagleton, Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976)

8. Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (1980)

9. Christopher Ricks, Milton’s Grand Style (1963)

10. Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Signifying Monkey (1988)

Saturday 25 December 2010

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

This, one of my favourite carols, apparently dates back to an 8th-century Latin version. The English translation normally contains five stanzas, but (as usual) there are others kicking around, versions of which I’ve added below, with no claim being made that this is the definitive one. I love the reach of the words, the strong motif of promise and fulfilment, the confidence of final restoration, and the appropriateness of the solemnity of the tune.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight!

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,

Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O Come, Desire of Nations! Show
Thy kingly reign on earth below;
Thou Cornerstone, uniting all,
Restore the ruin of our fall.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Journal of Theological Interpretation 4, 2 (Fall 2010)

The latest Journal of Theological Interpretation arrived in the post this morning – just in time for Christmas!

Contents are as follows:

Andrew Brower Latz

A Short Note toward a Theology of Abiding in John’s Gospel

Matthew Levering

God and Greek Philosophy in Contemporary Biblical Scholarship

Jason S. Sexton

The Imago Dei Once Again: Stanley Grenz’s Journey toward a Theological Interpretation of Genesis 1:26–27

Douglas S. Earl

‘Minimalism’ and Old Testament Theological Hermeneutics: The ‘David Saga’ as a Test Case

Timo Eskola

Quran Criticism, the Historical-Critical Method, and the Secularization of Biblical Theology

Richard P. Thompson

Scripture, Christian Canon, and Community: Rethinking Theological Interpretation Canonically

Stephen B. Chapman

The Canon Debate: What It Is and Why It Matters

Stephen T. Pardue

Athens and Jerusalem Once More: What the Turn to Virtue Means for Theological Exegesis

Richard S. Briggs

Review Article: Christian Theological Interpretation of Scripture Built on the Foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets: The Contribution of R.W.L. Moberly’s Prophecy and Discernment

Wycliffe Bible Translators on the Biblical Story

Wycliffe Bible Translators have produced a handy resource for small groups, or to help support a sermon series, on ‘The Whole Story in Five Acts’, the five acts being:

Act 1: Creation – Genesis 1-3

Act 2: Israel – Genesis 12-Malachi 4

Act 3: Incarnation and Redemption – The Gospels

Act 4: The Church – Acts and 2000 years of history

Act 5: The Future – Revelation

As they say:

‘This story is not like any other story you are likely to come across. The Bible story claims to be the ultimate story which explains why the universe exists, why the world is the way it is and where the whole of creation is heading. It is a story that makes a claim on your life: which says that you were created for a purpose and which tells you what that purpose is.’

Each part also includes some stories from Bible translation around the world, insightful and suggestive for those (like me) who are largely locked inside a western mindset.

A pdf of the whole thing is available here.

Sunday 19 December 2010

The GCM Collective

I’m not sure how I’ve managed to miss the GCM Collective until now.

GCM stands for Gospel Culture Mission.

The website says that ‘the GCM Collective exists to promote, create and equip gospel communities on mission’, that it is ‘a community that allows people to exchange ideas, resources and encouragement around topics that relate to creating gospel communities on mission’.

I’ve enjoyed browsing through some of the resources, which look very helpful.

Friday 17 December 2010

Chick Yuill on Discipleship

Over at his website – Anvil Ding – one of my LICC colleagues, Chick Yuill, draws attention to his forthcoming book on discipleship, Moving in the Right Circles, which will be published by IVP in January 2011.

Chick looks at discipleship as a series of 4 concentric circles:

• walking in the company of Jesus

• growing in the community of believers

• engaging with the culture of the times

• looking to the coming of the King

Check out an excerpt here.

Sherif Girgis et al. on Marriage

Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan T. Anderson, ‘What is Marriage?’, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 34, (Winter 2010), 245-87.

Trevin Wax links to what looks like an interesting, and likely controversial piece on marriage in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.

The abstract reads as follows:

‘In the article, we argue that as a moral reality, marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction. We further argue that there are decisive principled as well as prudential reasons for the state to enshrine this understanding of marriage in its positive law, and to resist the call to recognize as marriages the sexual unions of same-sex partners. Besides making this positive argument for our position and raising several objections to the view that same-sex unions should be recognized, we address what we consider the strongest philosophical objections to our view of the nature of marriage, as well as more pragmatic concerns about the point or consequences of implementing it as a policy.’

Thursday 16 December 2010

Encounters 35 (December 2010)

The latest issue of Encounters from Redcliffe College is now available, this one devoted to justice and mission.

The editors write:

‘The issue of justice is critically important in contemporary mission. It underlines the whole basis of Jesus’ ministry mandate, and should shape a Kingdom-oriented theology. Socio-political, economic and environmental dimensions of life are integral aspects of our faith – it’s about how we live and not just what we proclaim! More than ever, our globalised culture informs and challenges us to respond to issues of injustice; so what will we do about it?’

The contents are as follows:

Dewi Hughes

Global Mission and Justice – Snapshots from History

Jonathan Ingleby

Justice and Eschatology – A Response to Dr Dewi Hughes

Carol Kingston-Smith

Caring Wisely in a Globalised World

Carol Kingston-Smith

Bodies for Sale: Globalised Trafficking for the Sex Trade – An Interview with Helen Sworn founder of Chab Dai, Cambodia

Rachel Davies

Speaking up for Justice Connecting Church and Government

Andy Kingston-Smith

Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly – An interview with Sheryl Haw: International Director, Micah Network

Ben Niblett

Act now! Inspiring Churches to act on Climate Justice

Ian Meredith

Is Fairtrade the Same as Just Trade? A Direct Trade Perspective

Cranmer Mugisha

A Case Study of Relational Justice and Patterns of Familial Violence – Muhabura District, Uganda Mission

Individual articles can be downloaded here, or the whole issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Friday 10 December 2010

Q Ideas on Four Faces of Global Christianity

Q Ideas refers to a recent article – ‘A Globalized God’ – by Scott M. Thomas in Foreign Affairs on the cultural and political implications of such a shift of Christianity from the ‘west’ to the ‘global south’, particularly in India, Latin America, Muslim Nations, and China.

‘[Christianity] is now returning to its roots by becoming a post-Western religion dominated by the peoples, cultures, and countries of the global South’, Thomas writes. ‘For U.S. policymakers – many of whom currently consider Islam to be the most urgent religious challenge to Washington’s foreign policy – the politics of global Christianity may soon prove just as pivotal.’

Michael Horton on The Christian Faith

Michael Scott Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, forthcoming 2011), 1056pp., ISBN 9780310286042.

Zondervan make available here a short excerpt of Michael Horton’s forthcoming systematic theology which includes the contents page, as follows:

Part 1: Knowing God: The Presuppositions of Theology

1. Dissonant Dramas: Paradigms for Knowing God and the World

2. The Character of Theology: A Theoretical or a Practical Science?

3. The Source of Theology: Revelation

4. Scripture as Covenant Canon

5. The Bible and the Church: From Scripture to System

Part 2: God Who Lives

6. God: The Incommunicable Attributes

7. God: The Communicable Attributes

8. The Holy Trinity

Part 3: God Who Creates

9. The Decree: Trinity and Predestination

10. Creation: God’s Time for Us

11. Providence: God’s Care for All He Has Made

12. Being Human

13. The Fall of Humanity

Part 4: God Who Rescues

14. The Person of Christ

15. The State of Humiliation: Christ’s Threefold Office

16. The State of Exaltation: The Servant Who Is Lord

Part 5: God Who Reigns in Grace

17. Called to be Saints: Christ’s Presence in the Spirit

18. Union with Christ

19. Forensic Aspects of Union with Christ: Justification and Adoption

20. The Way Forward in Grace: Sanctification and Perseverance

21. The Hope of Glory: ‘Those Whom He Justified He Also Glorified’ (Ro 8:30)

22. The Kingdom of Grace and the New Covenant Church

23. Word and Sacrament: The Means of Grace

24. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

25. The Attributes of the Church: Unity, Catholicity, and Holiness

26. Apostolicity: A Fellowship of Receivers and Deliverers

Part 6: God Who Reigns in Glory

27. A Dwelling Place

28. The Return of Christ and the Last Judgment

29. The Last Battle and Life Everlasting

Thursday 9 December 2010

Themelios 35, 3 (2010)

The latest Themelios is online here, containing the following articles:

D. A. Carson

Editorial: Contrarian Reflections on Individualism

Carl Trueman

Minority Report: Terrible Beauty, Beauty, and the Plain Terrible

Daniel J. Estes

Fiction and Truth in the Old Testament Wisdom Literature

Daniel J. Brendsel

Plots, Themes, and Responsibilities: The Search for a Center of Biblical Theology Reexamined

Stephen M. Garrett

The Dazzling Darkness of God’s Triune Love: Introducing Evangelicals to the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar

Philip Graham Ryken

Pastoral Pensées: A World Servant in Christian Liberal Arts Education

Book Reviews

Monday 6 December 2010

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner on 1 Corinthians

Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids/Nottingham: Eerdmans/Apollos, 2010), ISBN 9781844744848.

With the exception of D.A. Carson’s commentary on John, I was fairly disappointed with the first few volumes in the Pillar New Testament commentary series. However, more recent volumes, in my opinion, have been excellent; the last few years alone have seen the release of commentaries by Douglas J. Moo on Colossians and Philemon, David G. Peterson on Acts, G. Walter Hansen on Philippians, and Peter T. O’Brien on Hebrews (to join his earlier excellent entry on Ephesians). Now the series taken as a whole is shaping up to the best, if not the best, of commentaries written from an evangelical perspective at this level.

Having some familiarity with Brian Rosner’s work elsewhere, I’ve been looking forward to this one on 1 Corinthians. I expect it will become a standard mid-level evangelical work to refer to on the letter for a new generation of students, a position that Gordon Fee’s commentary held for quite a long time.

There is a very generous excerpt available here, which includes the Introduction and part of the commentary on chapter 1. And the bibliography is available here.

The Introduction takes in the church in Corinth, the identity and aims of Paul, the interpretation of 1 Corinthians, 1 Corinthians in recent research, and some features of the commentary.

A nice paragraph at the end of the Introduction caught my eye, where they describe 1 Corinthians as:

‘Paul’s attempt to tell the church of God in Corinth that they are part of the fulfillment of the Old Testament expectation of worldwide worship of the God of Israel, and as God’s eschatological temple they must act in a manner appropriate to their pure and holy status by becoming unified, shunning pagan vices, and glorifying God in obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ.’

Here is how they outline the letter:

I. Letter Opening, 1:1-9

A. Salutation, 1:1-3

B. Thanksgiving, 1:4-9

II. True and False Wisdom and Corinthian Factionalism, 1:10–4:17

A. Request for Unity, 1:10-17

B. Condemnation of False Wisdom: The Wisdom of this World, 1:18–2:5

C. Affirmation of True Wisdom: The Wisdom of the Cross and the Spirit, 2:6–3:4

D. Reflections on the Nature of Christian Leadership, 3:5–4:17

III. “Flee Sexual Immorality” and “Glorify God with Your Bodies,” 4:18–7:40

A. Condemnation of Illicit Sexual Relations: “Flee Sexual Immorality” (and Greed), 4:18–6:20

B. Affirmation of Sexual Purity: “Glorify God with Your Bodies,” 7:1-40

IV. “Flee Idolatry” and “Glorify God” in Your Worship, 8:1–14:40

A. Condemnation of Idolatrous Practices: “Flee Idolatry” (Food Offered to Idols), 8:1–11:1

B. Affirmation of Edifying Worship: “Glorify God” in Your Worship, 11:2–14:40

V. The Resurrection and Consummation, 15:1-58

A. Affirmation of the Central Role of the Resurrection of Christ in the Gospel Message, 15:1-11

B. Explanation of the Consequences of Denying the Resurrection of the Dead, 15:12-19

C. Explanation of the Significance of Christ’s Resurrection, 15:20-28

D. Exhortation in Light of Positive and Negative Responses to the Resurrection of the Dead, 15:29-34

E. Answers to Philosophical Objections to Belief in the Resurrection of the Body, 15:35-49

F. Explanation of the Necessity of the Resurrection for the Realization of God’s Ultimate Victory, 15:50-57

G. Final Appeal in Light of the Affirmation of the Resurrection, 15:58

VI. Letter Closing, 16:1-24

A. Instructions for the Collection for the Saints, 16:1-4

B. Travel Plans, 16:5-9

C. Request on Behalf of Timothy, 16:10-11

D. Update regarding Apollos, 16:12

E. Exhortations, 16:13-14

F. Commendation of Stephanas, 16:15-18

G. Greetings from Others in Asia, 16:19-20

H. Paul’s Final Greeting and Farewell, 16:21-24

Sunday 5 December 2010

Chris Wright on the Mission of God’s People

The ‘LICC Reader’s Guide to...’ is a series from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, published in LICC’s quarterly magazine EG and made available online via the LICC website. It’s designed to aid individuals and small groups in discussing books that LICC believe are worthy of further study. I contributed two for the most recent edition of EG (December 2010): on Bill Bryson’s At Home (available here) and Chris Wright’s Mission of God’s People (pasted below).

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), 301pp., ISBN 9780310291121.


‘The missional challenge of reaching the ends of the earth with the gospel, so that the whole earth may be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, faces us still with all its diversity and complexity. The evangelization of the world, in the fullest sense of both the words in that phrase, remains as urgent a priority for the church as it was when Jesus laid it as a mandate on his disciples before his ascension.’

Why Read This Book?

Following previous works which argue that the whole Bible can and ought to be read from the perspective of the mission of God – his redemptive purpose for the whole of creation – this book explores the mission of God’s people. In doing so, it provides an even-handed and warm-hearted worked model of doing ‘biblical theology for life’ (the title of a new a series of volumes from Zondervan which this one kicks off).

About the Book: Overview

‘What does the Bible as a whole in both testaments have to tell us about why the people of God exist and what it is they are supposed to be and do in the world?’ That’s the big question asked in the first part of the book. The second part, the main bulk of the volume, offers a series of answers, outlining the kinds of people we were created to be (caring for God’s creation, walking in God’s way, representing God to the world, etc.) and the specific tasks we are called on to do (bearing witness, proclaiming the gospel, living and working in the public square, etc.). The third part then reflects on the implications for God’s people today.

About the Book: Main Themes

‘The mission of God’s people is carried on in and for the world; it centres on the gospel of God; and it lays a demanding privilege on the church.’ The world, the gospel, and the church frame the book and dominate the discussion, their treatment flowing out of the overarching story of Scripture, demonstrating the significance of biblical theology in handling these themes, and showing mission as the all-encompassing purpose of God to restore creation – which embraces all that his people are called to be and do in the world.

About the Book: Implications

As might be expected from a volume in a ‘Biblical Theology for Life’ series, the book is naturally concerned with the ‘so what?’ question. And the implications are rich and varied, heartening and challenging: serving creation and society; recovering the wholeness of the gospel, ourselves as servants of the gospel, as well as our confidence in the gospel; repenting of our failings, and making disciples – and all to the glory of God.

Questions to Ask While Reading

1. What fresh insights are emerging out of your reading of the book?

2. How is the book expanding your understanding of (a) the gospel, (b) the church, and (c) the world?

Questions to Answer After Reading

1. What would ‘mission’ look like if the church took seriously the concerns of this book?

2. Which chapter, for you, has been (a) the most encouraging, (b) the most challenging, (c) the most contentious?

3. What difference, if any, will your reading of the book make in your own life?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Advent

I’m preparing to preach later this morning on biblical texts for the second week of advent – Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6.

In Malachi, the Lord promises to send a messenger ahead of his own coming to the temple when he will refine and purify it.

What precipitates this promise, as Malachi tells us in 2:17, is that the people are whinging! ‘Why does God allow evil? If he’s a good God, why don’t we see more evidence of his justice?’ The people want God to step in and exercise his power over evil; they want ‘justice’. But they don’t seem to realise that they might be included in God’s judgment when he comes!

Basically, be careful what you wish for...

In my preparation, I have happily stumbled across some excerpts from a 1928 Advent sermon preached by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who (though without reference to Malachi 3), riffs on this theme of judgment:

‘It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming, so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God...

‘We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for every one who has a conscience...

‘Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love.’

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ed. Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 185-186.