Monday 31 January 2011

Resolved #5: To Boast in the Cross of Christ

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by London Institute for Contemporary Christianity; it’s the last of five in a short series drawing on some exhortations from Galatians 5-6 attempting to reframe new year’s resolutions.]

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule – to the Israel of God.

Galatians 6:14-16

We might well resolve to do the things Paul calls on us in Galatians to do – to stand firm in our freedom, to walk with the Spirit, to fulfil Christ’s law, to do good to all people – but where, when all is done, will our confidence finally lie? For Paul, not in our own achievements or the approval of others, but in the cross of Christ.

Removed as we are from the first-century world, where crucifixion was looked upon as shameful by Jew and pagan alike, it’s not easy to feel the scandal of that claim. And yet, the cross is not something Paul returns to only when he has to, and then in slight embarrassment, but is at the centre of his message about Christ. For it was there that Christ became a curse for us (3:13), delivering us from slavery (4:5). And it is there, Paul says, that our old self has been crucified (5:24), echoing his earlier testimony that he has been ‘crucified with Christ’, and that he lives now ‘by faith in the Son of God’ who loved him and gave himself for him (2:20).

As Michael J. Gorman explores in his Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), Christ’s death not only provides the source of our salvation but the shape of our salvation, such that our daily life ratifies our fundamental allegiance to Jesus – as we take up our cross to follow him.

More than this, however, the effects of the cross are cosmic in proportion, reaching beyond individuals to embrace heaven and earth – bringing about ‘a new creation’ no less. Small wonder, then, that whatever privileges might have given grounds for honour for God’s people in the past (circumcision being the specific example here), are nothing compared to what really counts – belonging to the new age that God has begun through the cross of Christ.

And with that comes peace and mercy for the whole family of Abraham, Jew and Gentile alike, to all who ‘keep in step with’ this rule, whose identity is now derived from the new creation God has brought about through the Spirit and in Christ.

Friday 28 January 2011

The Cape Town Commitment

The Lausanne Movement has now released the final version of The Cape Town Commitment: A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action.

The two main parts of the document shape up as follows:

Part I – For the Lord We Love: The Cape Town Confession 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

Part II – For the World We Serve: The Cape Town Call to Action


1. Bearing witness to the truth of Christ in a pluralistic, globalized world

2. Building the peace of Christ in our divided and broken world

3. Living the love of Christ among people of other faiths

4. Discerning the will of Christ for world evangelization

5. Calling the Church of Christ back to humility, integrity and simplicity

6. Partnering in the body of Christ for unity in mission


IVP Academic Alert 20, 1 (Spring 2011)

The latest Academic Alert from IVP (USA) is available here, profiling (among other titles) the forthcoming collection of essays from last year’s Wheaton Theology Conference on the work of N.T. Wright.

James Emery White on Megatrends

The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview carries a short piece by James Emery White on ‘Four More Megatrends That Will Change the World’, ones which White considers ‘are most pressing for the interplay of church and culture’:

1. The locus of Christianity is shifting from the north and the west to the south and the east.

2. Communication of the gospel is becoming increasingly electronic.

3. We are returning to a medieval climate.

4. We are facing a clash of civilizations.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

More of Michael Horton on The Christian Faith

Having posted some time back (here, here, and here) on Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith (just out from Zondervan), I thought I’d mention that he is interviewed about the project here by John Starke and here by Jonathan Leeman.

A few highlights:

‘My basic approach is this: Theology arises first of all out of the drama of redemption, from which certain doctrines emerge that generate doxology and shape our discipleship in the world. That’s the rubric I have in mind in each chapter: Drama, Doctrine, Doxology, and Discipleship.’

‘My goal throughout this volume is to persuade fellow believers that sound theology arises out of the Scriptures, to the practical end of reconciling sinners to God in Christ, so that we worship the Triune God and love and serve our neighbors in the world. Theology fuels mission.’

‘I argue that the modern self is a “master,” demanding autonomy, dominance, and control, while the postmodern self is more like a “tourist.” If the modern person not only has a destination but imagines that he or she has already arrived, the postmodern person is more likely to drift from booth to booth at Vanity Fair without any real goal or destination: from nowhere to nowhere, but making things interesting in between. In contrast to both, the believer is a pilgrim: a clear destination, but we haven’t arrived.’

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Michael W. Goheen on the Missional Church and the Biblical Story

Michael W. Goheen, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, forthcoming 2011), 256pp., ISBN 9780801031410.

I’ve been looking forward to this ever since it was first announced a tantalisingly long time ago. For the moment, it’s worth noting that the Preface and the first chapter are available as an excerpt here on the publisher’s website.

Goheen begins: ‘My primary concern in this book is to analyze the missional identity of the church by tracing its role in the biblical story’ (ix).

He goes on to note five factors from his background which have shaped the book: his doctoral dissertation on the missionary ecclesiology of Lesslie Newbigin, doctoral seminars on ecclesiology with George Vandervelde, past and ongoing pastoral experience, the opportunity over several decades to teach the material to undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as the opportunity to present the material to pastors.

I fully expect this to be a rich volume.

A website has been created to accompany the book, though it doesn’t yet appear be live.

Princeton Theological Review 17, 2 (2010)

The most recent Princeton Theological Review (available here as a pdf) is devoted to ‘The Church After Google’, and contains the following essays:

Philip Clayton

Theology and the Church After Google

Brett McCraken

The Separation of Church and Status: How Online Social Networking Helps and Hurts the Church

Rachel Johnson

Gospel Truth in the Age of Google

Ched Spellman

The Canon After Google: Implications of a Digitized and Destabilized Codex

Matt O’Reilly

Faith Comes From Hearing: The Scandal of Preaching in a Digital Age

Neal Locke

Virtual World Churches and the Reformed Confessions

Travis Pickell

‘Thou Hast Given Me a Body’: Theological Anthropology and the Virtual Church

Henry Kuo

Hacking into the Church Mainframe: A Theological Engagement of the Post-Informational World

David Congdon

Travis McMaken

Theo-Blogging and the Future of Academic Theology: Reflections from the Trenches

Brian Brock

Theological Blogging: A Contradiction in Terms?

Book Reviews

Monday 24 January 2011

American Theological Inquiry 4, 1 (2011)

The latest issue of American Theological Inquiry is now online here, with the following contents:

Patristical Reading

St. Athanasius

On the Incarnation of the Word, 54


Richard A. Muller

Reassessing the Relation of Reformation and Orthodoxy: A Methodological Rejoinder

Christopher Evan Longhurst

Discovering the Sacred in Secular Art: An Aesthetic Modality that ‘Speaks of God’

Jason S. Sexton

A Match Made in Munich: The Origin of Grenz’s Trinitarian Theology

Charles M. Natoli

The Best Man is Only a Man: Reflections on Some Enchantments and Disenchantments of the Grail

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

There is No Sex in the Church

J. Lyle Story

The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree

Book Reviews

The Ecumenical Creeds of Christianity

Resolved #4: To Do Good to All People

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by London Institute for Contemporary Christianity; it’s the fourth of a projected five in a short series drawing on some exhortations from Galatians 5-6 attempting to reframe new year’s resolutions.]

Whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 6:8-10

We like to reap results from our resolutions – some indication that the fitness regime is paying off, that the boxes are being ticked on our ‘to do’ lists, that the bank balance is moving in the right direction. We sometimes forget, however, that ‘sowing’ and ‘reaping’ require hard work. What’s more, there’s a considerable stretch of time between the two activities that demands patience – not easy for those of us who want to see the outcomes of our labour before it’s ready to be reaped.

Here, Paul shows a delicate pastoral balance between the confidence that as we sow to please the Spirit we will also reap ‘at the proper time’, an implicit reminder that this way of living is to characterise our daily lives until that moment, and the encouragement not to lose heart in the process. Crucially, though, the sowing and reaping are not the things that bring us personal benefit, but helping others in need – ‘doing good’.

Interestingly, the exhortation to do good is not contradicted by the emphasis on faith throughout Galatians. In fact, Paul has already made it clear that, as well as being entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel, the apostles encouraged him to remember the poor – the very thing, Paul says, he was ‘eager to do’ (2:10).

All this resonates with what Scripture says elsewhere – that while our primary responsibility are those in the family of faith, our ‘neighbour’ is anyone in need. As Tim Keller points out in Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2010), the doing of mercy to others is indicative of our grasp of the gospel and the scope of its application.

Paul leaves unspecified what ‘good’ he has in mind, which allows us to reflect on its scope – not just the needs around the world, but in the street where we live, the place where we work, the church we attend. And, as Keller reminds us, the mixture of responses required allows for some things to be done by the church as the church, and for other actions to be carried out by Christians in their places in society – as we go about our business in the world, seeking to be a living demonstration of the mercy we have been shown by God himself.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Gabe Lyons on Being Countercultural

Q Ideas has a short piece by Gabe Lyons on being countercultural – ‘What does being countercultural look like?’

When it comes to how Christians relate to culture, he notes the options of separatism (condemnation and retreat in the hopes for self-preservation, but failing to realise that cultural separation is impossible), antagonism (the decision to fight almost everything culture promotes, but rarely offering alternatives that promote a better way of life), and relevance (copying culture in the hope that people will perceive us as ‘cool’ and give us a hearing, but removing the church from a prophetic role in society in the process).

An alternative to these, he says, is to be countercutural:

‘The next generation of Christians aren’t separatists, antagonists, or striving to be “relevant.” Instead, they are countercultural as they advance the common good in society. The next Christians see themselves as salt, preserving agents actively working for restoration in the middle of a decaying culture. They attach themselves to people and structures that are in danger of rotting while availing themselves to Christ’s redeeming power to do work through them. They understand that by being restorers they fight against the cultural norms and often flow counter to the cultural tide. But they feel that, as Christians, they’ve been called to partner with God in restoring and renewing everything they see falling apart.’

The phrase ‘the next Christians’ is a not-too-veiled reference to Gabe Lyons’ most recent book – The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America (New York: Doubleday, 2010) – which explores these issues more fully.

Craig Blomberg on 1 Corinthians 6:9

Craig Blomberg posts here on why he thinks the updated NIV is the best of the current options in its translation of the last phrase in 1 Corinthians 6:9:

‘Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men.’

Wednesday 19 January 2011

The King’s English

The Biblefresh website draws attention to a new blog – The King’s English – by Glen Scrivener, which promises daily posts on phrases from the King James Bible that have passed into common parlance in English... phrases like ‘labour of love’, ‘beast of burden’, ‘scapegoat’, etc.

Leland Ryken on the KJV

Leland Ryken, The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation (Wheaton: Crossway, forthcoming 2011), 272pp., ISBN 9781433513886.

This volume is due out at the end of January; meanwhile, there is an excerpt available here which gives a flavour of what to expect.

Ryken notes that the book comes in four parts exploring four spheres of what he sees as ‘the stature of the KJV’ (15):

1. Its status as the climax of a whole century of English Bible translation

2. Its influence in the subsequent history of Bible translation and in English-speaking culture

3. The literary excellence of the King James Bible itself

4. The influence of the King James Bible on English and American literature

In addition, he has a short article over at Reformation 21 – ‘What Makes the King James Version Great?’ – in which he outlines four ways in which the King James Version is ‘a book of wonders’:

Wonder #1: the inauspicious origin of the KJV

Wonder #2: the unlikely process of translation

Wonder #3: the language and style of the KJV

Wonder #4: the unmatched influence of the King James Bible

Mark Noll on Robert Alter on the KJV

Mark Noll, ‘The KJV Effect: American Prose and the King James Bible’, Books & Culture (May-June 2010).

The Alter book under review is his Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010). I’ve not read the book myself, but I note that the first chapter is available as an excerpt from the publishers.

Essentially, Alter examines the ways the KJV has informed the novels of six significant American authors – Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Ernest Hemingway, Marilynne Robinson, and Cormac McCarthy.

As Noll summarises:

‘Despite a wealth of telling general commentary, Alter’s main business is to show through close readings how much his six novelists drew upon biblical style in creating their own works. Along the way, he also raises an overarching issue of great importance about the relationship of biblical style to biblical content, but that he leaves as an open-ended question for another day.’

I like that teaser at the end...

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Interpretation 65, 1 (January 2011) on Liturgy and Easter

The latest edition of Interpretation takes as its theme ‘Liturgy and Easter’, with the following main articles:

Claudio Carvalhaes & Paul Galbreath

The Season of Easter: Imaginative Figurings for the Body of Christ

The development of Easter as a fifty-day season in the church year was an extended historical process that allowed major theological themes to find their place as a part of this central celebration in the life of the church. Careful attention to the embodiment of these themes in our Easter celebration can foster the work of renewal in our own diverse communities of faith.

Christine E. Joynes

The Sound of Silence: Interpreting Mark 16:1-8 Through the Centuries

The women’s silence in response to the message of the ‘young man’ at the tomb is a feature found only in Mark. Its omission by Matthew and Luke suggests that they found this element in the narrative problematic. Yet Mark’s text has played a significant role in the Easter liturgy of the ancient church and beyond. The reception history of the narrative reveals both harmonization and discord.

Thomas H. Troeger

Resurrection Sounds: When Music Bears the Word

At Easter, hymns and sacred arias can work together with Scripture texts to proclaim in fresh ways that Christ is risen. If we come with attentiveness to focus upon the words, phrases, meter, and melody, we can experience new depths, wonders, and glories.

Ulrich Luz

The Resurrection of Jesus in Art

In the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus is not described as a visible event, and for this reason, the resurrection was not represented directly in visual arts for about one thousand years. Direct representations of the resurrection as an event appeared only after 1000 C.E. They were concrete, and they objectivized and historicized the resurrection in a problematical way.

David G. Buttrick

Easter Preaching

Preachers are faced with two unresolved issues at Easter: 1) Are the resurrection stories fact or legend? and 2) What does Paul mean by a spiritual body? Is he supposing something different from the stories? What is the Easter message we are called to preach?


Pacifica is a peer-reviewed journal published three times a year by the Pacifica Theological Studies Association.

Several back issue are available here, with lots of downloadable essays.

Many of the essays self-consciously reflect the specific context of Australasia and the West Pacific Basin – and provide great examples of contextualised theology – but others are more generally applicable beyond that arena, with some excellent contributions well worth checking out.

Monday 17 January 2011

Contact 38, 1 (2010) on Making Disciples

Contact is the ministry magazine from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The Summer 2010 issue was devoted to ‘Making Disciples’, and carried several helpful, brief articles, including one on the Great Commission and one on aspects of discipleship in the Old Testament.

Individual articles are linked to here, and the whole issue is available as a pdf here.

Resolved #3: To Fulfil the Law of Christ

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by London Institute for Contemporary Christianity; it’s the third of a projected five in a short series drawing on some exhortations from Galatians 5-6 attempting to reframe new year’s resolutions.]

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2

Popular wisdom suggests that fresh resolves – at new year or any other time – often fall prey to the fatal flaw of ‘going it alone’. They focus on individual self-improvement to the neglect of relationships through which support might be given and accountability expressed.

Likewise, it’s possible to mistake the fruitful Christian life for private Christian experience. For sure, we walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), but we do not cultivate his fruit alone. We need each other in order to exercise patience, kindness and gentleness. The change we aspire to is a communal process – at the heart of which is love.

Paul has already made this clear. Those who have been freed from the law now become ‘slaves’ of one another through love (5:13). Those who walk in step with the Spirit are empowered by the Spirit to live a life of love (5:22). Such love – far from doing away with the law – actually sums up the law (5:14). In fact, the law attains its primary reason for existence in churches of Christ when its members become loving servants of one another.

Paul’s concrete example is love expressed in restoration. Even those who have been set free and who seek to walk in the Spirit are still caught out by sin in unanticipated ways. Here, however, is an opportunity for people of the Spirit to display the fruit of the Spirit in gentleness, enabling correction without arrogance or anger – where the goal is restoration. And we do so, Paul reminds us, fully realising our own proneness to stumbling, and our own dependence on others. I who help to restore you one week may need your gentleness the following week.

So it is that we carry each other’s burdens. Beyond suffering the consequences of a specific failing, burdens might be physical, emotional, practical, financial... What, then, might we be able to do for someone this week – a visit, a conversation, a meal, a cheque, a hand with the children, a cup of cold water? Whatever the case, shouldering a load with someone requires distributing the weight between us, lightening the load of the other in the process, demonstrating love in action.

Thus it is that we follow the example of Christ, the supreme burden-bearer. Thus it is that we fulfil the law of Christ.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Redeemer Report (January 2011)

In January 2011’s Redeemer Report, Tim Keller reflects on the significance of lay ministry by taking his cue from Jeremiah 26, and the intervention of the ‘elders of the land’ (26:17) when Jeremiah is threatened with death. As Keller points out, they argue the case from the prophet Micah, demonstrating ‘the importance of having respected laymen who had made their own study of the Scriptures’. Keller goes on to write about the necessity for churches to produce not mere converts but disciples of Christ.

On a related note, the same issue refers to a forthcoming series of ‘gospel and culture lectures’, focusing especially on work, expressing the hope that ‘the church will be awakened to the critical role of work in God’s redemptive plan for all of creation and broaden our understanding of the gospel beyond the walls of the church’.

They cite Dorothy Sayers’ words, first written in the mid-1900s:

‘In nothing has the Church so lost her hold on reality as in her failure to understand and respect the secular vocation. She has allowed work and religion to become separate departments, and is astonished to find that, as a result, the secular work of the world is turned to purely selfish and destructive ends, and that the greater part of the world’s intelligent workers have become irreligious, or at least, uninterested in religion.’

Fruitful Practices 4

L.R. Burke, ‘Describing Fruitful Practices: Communication Methods’, International Journal of Frontier Missiology 27:3 (2010), 147-56.

See the earlier posts:

• Fruitful Practices 1 – Seven Themes of Fruitfulness

• Fruitful Practices 2 – A Descriptive List

• Fruitful Practices 3 – Relating to Society

Following some earlier articles outlining and describing eight ‘fruitful practices’, L.R. Burke explores in more detail those practices relating to communication methods.

Communication Methods 1: Fruitful workers use culturally appropriate Bible passages to communicate God’s message.

The Bible is central in the communication of God’s message, but using it effectively requires cultural insight. Fruitful workers help seekers find the passages that address the issues most relevant to them. The ability to effectively apply biblical truth to the issues of life requires a thorough knowledge of God’s word and an ongoing dependence on wisdom from God.

Communication Methods 2: Fruitful workers communicate the gospel using the heart language, except in situations where it is not appropriate.

In most situations, the heart language is undoubtedly the best way to meaningfully communicate the gospel. However, in areas where more than one language is in common use, established patterns often dictate when one language should be used as opposed to another. Fruitful workers seek to understand local patterns of language use and plan their communication strategies accordingly.

Communication Methods 3: Fruitful workers use a variety of approaches in sharing the gospel.

No one method of gospel communication covers every need and will always be the most effective. Often the best approach to sharing the gospel depends on the audience and the situation in question. Fruitful workers learn to use a variety of different approaches and apply them as appropriate to the setting.

Communication Methods 4: Fruitful workers share the gospel using tools or methods that can be locally reproduced.

In order for faith communities to grow without hindrance, the members of the communities must have access to all the tools they need in their local context. For this reason, fruitful workers focus on methods for sharing the gospel that require only tools and resources that are readily available in the local community.

Communication Methods 5: Fruitful workers sow broadly.

It is not possible to know in advance which ground will bear the most fruit. Fruitful workers sow broadly and pray for wisdom to know where to invest time in personal relationships. They maintain an ongoing balance between the broad sowing of God’s word and the time spent developing individual relationships.

Communication Methods 6: Fruitful workers use Bible study as a means of sharing the gospel.

Spending time in the study of God’s word allows seekers to discover God’s truths for themselves. In some instances, fruitful workers may simply read the Bible with a seeker, responding to questions relating to the text as they arise. In other instances, they may tell Bible stories and ask questions to help seekers discover how to apply the stories to their lives.

Communication Methods 7: Fruitful workers share the gospel in ways that fit the learning preferences of their audience.

Although people from western countries rely heavily on written media, people in many other parts of the world are accustomed to oral forms of communication. Good communicators understand the learning preferences of their audience and plan their communication strategies accordingly.

Communication Methods 8: Fruitful workers use the Quran as a bridge to sharing the biblical gospel.

Certain passages from the Quran can be used effectively in sharing the gospel. Discretion is needed, as inappropriate references to the Quran may validate a seeker’s belief in the divine origin of the book. In general, the use of the Quran as a bridge is most advisable when relating to seekers who already know the Quran well. Fruitful workers do not dwell unnecessarily on the Quran, but use various passages as a bridge in order to share the biblical gospel.

Friday 14 January 2011

Jonathan Burnside on God, Justice, and Society

Jonathan Burnside, God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), xl + 542pp., ISBN 9780199779413.

I have received from the Jubilee Centre a special paperback edition (available only via the Jubilee Centre) of this massive book from Jonathan Burnside, Reader in Biblical Law at the School of Law, University of Bristol, England.

The blurb on the Jubilee Centre website says that the book:

• Explores the subject of biblical law, which is foundational for understanding Western civilisation and the history of Western law

• Discusses how biblical law works in relation to different areas including the environment, property, social welfare, homicide, theft, and marriage

• Challenges popular misunderstandings about the story of Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments, as well as the interpretation of specific verses such as ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’

I was wondering how the book would engage with Chris Wright’s work on Old Testament ethics, but (curiously) I can see no mention of him in the index or the (very full) bibliography. Even so, I’ll be interested to see how someone with academic expertise in law and criminology approaches the legal material in the Old Testament.

The book is huge, but (from a quick glance) looks highly readable. I will probably work my way through it slowly during the course of the year.

A supporting website (Seek Justice) contains a downloadable study guide, podcasts and lots of other free resources.

Gerald Murray on the Quake and Haitian Spirituality

It’s been a year since the earthquake that hit Haiti left more than 250,000 dead and 1.5 million others homeless.

Q Ideas carries a piece by Gerald Murray on ‘Haiti One Year Later: The Quake and Haitian Spirituality’.

He devotes some space to outlining the cultural and religious background, noting that Haiti has three main types of religious followers – Protestants, katolik fran (Catholics who do not mix their religious practices with other rituals), and konn sevi lwa (those who combine Catholic rites with rituals directed to other spiritual beings, many of them of African origin).

But, for all three groups, it is Bondye (the word for ‘God’ in the native language, derived from the French bon Dieu, ‘good God’), not angels or demons or other lesser spirits, who was responsible for the earthquake.

Murray writes:

‘It is true that God is good. He gives us our rain, our crops, our children. But God can also be tough and even violent for reasons known only to Him. He hits us with hurricanes, with floods, and now with this terrible earthquake. Why? Haitian popular theology answers: We do not know. Like Job, Haitians know that God exists outside of our control, beyond our predictions – and far above our right to criticize. Whatever He does, whether gentle or painful: Bondye bon [God is good].’

Wednesday 12 January 2011

David Wells on the Soul-Shaping Reality of the Gospel

The latest Tabletalk carries a brief interview with David Wells in which he is asked how the church can maintain an effective witness as we move into a decidedly post-Christian era.

Among other things, he says:

‘It is a temptation to think that by being nice and accommodating we can make the Christian gospel seem like a great little addition to everyone’s life. But the gospel is not a great little addition. It is a soul-shaking, costly, demanding reality. The church cannot hide this fact! The gospel is not about self-therapy. Despite our pressured, taut, nervejangling age, the Christian message is not there just to make us feel better about ourselves or more able to cope. It is about coming before our great God and Savior, confessing our sins, entrusting ourselves to Him, and surrendering our claim upon ourselves to Him. What is most needed, and what is most lacking in the church, is a little character in differentiating its message from self-help therapies and marketing strategies. Our deficiency is not that we lack the right technique. It is that we often don’t have a real alternative.’