Monday 31 October 2011

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 10.0

Here is the tenth in a series of notes by Byron Borger on recent books, including Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, and David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church... And Rethinking Faith.

Just Enough

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity; it’s probably the final contribution to what has been a fairly unsystematic series on Proverbs.]

Two things I ask of you, LORD;

do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches,

but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’

Or I may become poor and steal,

and so dishonour the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:7-9

Apart from what we glean from the sayings in Proverbs 30, we know nothing of their author, Agur son of Jakeh. But he bequeathes to us the only prayer in the book – a two-fold request describing how he wants to live his life before he dies.

First of all, having declared that God’s own word is ‘flawless’ (30:5), he expresses a desire to be a man of truth and integrity – ‘keep falsehood and lies far from me’.

His second request also begins with a negative petition – ‘give me neither poverty nor riches’ – which is then stated positively – ‘but give me only my daily bread’. The prayer goes on to muse that life at either extreme of the socioeconomic spectrum might lead to faithlessness. The self-sufficiency that results from wealth might lead to a denial of the Lord. The insufficiency that results from poverty might lead to crime, profaning God’s name in the process.

It’s easy to see why the Bible has been claimed to be on the side of both the rich and the poor. The sheer breadth of its teaching on riches means a wealthy Abraham or Job over there can be set against the warnings of an Amos or the letter of James over here. The book of Proverbs itself recognises that money brings undeniable advantages even while it also carries inevitable drawbacks. Proverbs encourages neither prosperity nor austerity; it allows us neither to idolise a life of luxury nor to idealise a ‘simple life’.

Agur’s ‘just enough’ principle is reiterated in different ways throughout Scripture. His request calls to mind God’s provision of manna in the wilderness, sufficient for the needs of the day, and it reaches forward to the petition for ‘daily bread’ in the Lord’s prayer. Raising financial help for those suffering a famine, Paul calls churches to give generously of their ‘plenty’ so that others who are hard pressed might be relieved (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).

Agur’s prayer also provides a model for disciples today. Alongside an awareness of his own weakness is a recognition of God’s power to make poor or rich, a concern about the consequences of sin, and a desire to stay faithful above all else. This much, at least, we know about this ancient follower of the Lord God.

The Mission of God Study Bible

Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation (eds.), The Mission of God Study Bible (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, forthcoming 2012).

I’ve just caught sight of the notice of the above forthcoming publication; here is the publisher’s blurb:

The Mission of God Study Bible encourages followers of Jesus Christ to see their everyday life from God’s perspective and have His heart for people. It’s a reminder that we live around people in desperate need of redemption and reconciliation with God, which can only be found in Jesus. The mission of God has never been just for specialists; it is for all believers to live out through their daily lives and by sharing the good news of what God has done through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Wherever you are, you are on mission.

‘In The Mission of God Study Bible, readers will hear from today’s top thinkers, theologians, and leading voices in the church about what it means to live in the mission of God. Essay contributors include Matt Chandler, Tullian Tchividjian, Ed Stetzer, Matthew Barnett, Andrea Mullins, Dave Ferguson, Christopher J.H. Wright, and many others.

‘Readers will also discover “Letters to the Church” from elder statesmen that speak to the grand narrative of God’s mission in Scripture. These words from Billy Graham, Jack Hayford, R. T. Kendall, Erwin Lutzer, Calvin Miller, and R.C. Sproul will inspire you to live God’s mission daily.’

Sunday 30 October 2011

Journal of Theological Interpretation 5, 2 (Fall 2011)

The latest issue of the Journal of Theological Interpretation contains the following mix of essays (the first three of which were originally presented at the session History, Historicisms, and Theological Interpretation at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture Group):

Raymond C. Van Leeuwen

The Quest for the Historical Leviathan: Truth and Method in Biblical Studies

Joel B. Green

Rethinking “History” for Theological Interpretation

Matthew Levering

Linear and Participatory History: Augustine’s City of God

Daniel Castelo and Robert W. Wall

Scripture and the Church: A Précis for an Alternative Analogy

Thomas Andrew Bennett

Paul Ricoeur and the Hypothesis of the Text in Theological Interpretation

James A. Andrews

On Original Sin and the Scandalous Nature of Existence

David H. Wenkel

Wild Beasts in the Prophecy of Isaiah: The Loss of Dominion and Its Renewal through Israel as the New Humanity

Jonathan Huddleston

What Would Elijah and Elisha Do? Internarrativity in Luke’s Story of Jesus

Charles Raith II

Abraham and the Reformation: Romans 4 and the Theological Interpretation of Aquinas and Calvin

Saturday 29 October 2011

Lexington Theological Quarterly

Lexington Theological Quarterly, published by Lexington Theological Seminary, is now published only in electronic format. There are downloadable articles available from recent volumes here, though it is not clear whether this service will continue with subsequent volumes for non-Lexington-alumni.

Andy Crouch on a New Kind of Urban Ministry

Andy Crouch, ‘A New Kind of Urban Ministry’, Christianity Today (28 October 2011).

‘This is Our City’ is a multiyear Christianity Today project spotlighting the ways Christians are ‘seeking comprehensive flourishing’ in six cities in the U.S. It looks very interesting, and I’ll be curious to see how it might play out in the UK context.

Andy Crouch has an excellent article here, which introduces the project by reflecting on what he calls ‘a new kind of urban ministry’.

He begins with what we know – that cities are thriving, that they are ‘the destination of choice for many young adults... and the hub of revivals in food, architecture, and entrepreneurship’, that even ‘many suburbs are now taking cues from the ‘social fabric of cities’, where the ‘markers of the good life are increasingly urban’.

There is, he says, a shadow side to these trends, that ‘not every city is thriving’, and that ‘thriving is in the eye of the beholder’. And yet ‘renewed cities, and our culture’s renewed interest in what makes for thriving places, are an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the biblical mission that is meant to prepare us for the city whose builder and maker is God’.

He notes the wide use of the biblical model of the exile for urban ministry, that ‘while the exilic prophets never gave up promising a return to the Promised Land, they also exhorted the exiles that exile was an opportunity for faithfulness and mission’ In this respect, ‘Jeremiah’s injunction to seek the peace of the city where God had sent his people (Jer. 29) has become a touchstone for a generation of urban Christians’.

And yet, as he points out, ‘there is one overwhelmingly obvious difference between the Hebrew exiles and Christ-followers in 21st-century cities: the Hebrew exiles were captives. Churches in every American city, on the other hand, are full of proud citizens and hardworking visitors, not captives. Most of us are not hapless exiles; we are purposeful arrivals.’

This, I think, is a crucial point to note in the current surge of enthusiasm for all things ‘urban’ on the part of many Christians.

As something of a personal aside, Christian have rightly been warned about applying the wonderful promises in Jeremiah 29 to themselves without taking account of the original exilic context; but I have been wondering recently whether a whole raft of readers are now in danger of unthinkingly applying to themselves and their particular ‘group’ the commission to seek the shalom of the city without also taking account of the original exilic context. Of course, this doesn’t mean Jeremiah 29 has nothing to say to urban situations today; only that we exercise due caution in how we appropriate it and the implications we draw from it– not least given the fact that salvation history has moved forward.

Crouch goes on:

‘Is there a biblical model, then, that describes better the situations of churches and Christians in cities today – that retains the valuable features of Exodus and Exile while accounting for our responsibility for our communities? Yes, and it is rooted in the 50 days that make us Christians – from Resurrection, through Ascension, to Pentecost. This story redefines our relationship not just to God but to our world. It is a story summed up in one word, Expectation, that keeps us rooted in and responsible for the flourishing of the world precisely because we have a hope outside of history in the usual sense.’

Resurrection, he says, ‘anchors this story’. ‘The exiles had Isaiah’s words of hope for future restoration. But in Jesus’ resurrection, the restoration of all things has already begun – it is not just future, but here in its earliest stages. It is not only possible, but achieved. Resurrection empowers us to live infinitely more boldly than exiles who wait to see whether God will come through.’

Furthermore, ‘rather than an imperial takeover, Jesus commissions his people for what has turned out to be a lengthy and thorough process of bearing witness to his lordship’. Hence, ‘when we say “this is our city,” then, we are staking a claim to a certain kind of Christian responsibility... Not the chastened diligence of exiles captive to an earthly power, but the eager investment of those sent to a place by the Spirit’s power, graced with more resources than they deserve and a longer view of the world’s story than anyone else could imagine’.

Ryan O’Dowd on the Old Testament for Public Life

In Cardus, Ryan O’Dowd kicks off a promised series on ‘how and why we should read the Old Testament for public life today’. In ‘What is Old and What is New’, he looks at some uses and abuses of the Old Testament.

Here’s how he concludes:

The Bible, as Karl Barth rightly said, is not simply a book, but a living way to encounter God in Christ. And a text that puts us in the presence of the Creator and Redeemer of our world can only promise to provide fresh and relevant wisdom for our lives here.

‘Indeed, if the telos of Scripture is the triune God in Christ, then we should feed upon every part of it, as often as we can, with eyes and ears open to discover more of God, of his world, and of ourselves.’

Thursday 27 October 2011

The Bible in Transmission (Summer/Autumn 2011) on Translating the Bible

The latest issue of the excellent publication, The Bible in Transmission, from Bible Society carries a collection of articles on translating the Bible:

Tony Graham


Gordon Campbell

Translating the Bible for King James

At the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 a new English version of the Bible ‘to be read in churches’ was conceived in response to the perceived problems of earlier translations. So began the task of about 50 of England’s finest scholars.

Nick Spencer

The Geneva Bible

Substantially based on the earlier translations by William Tyndale, the Geneva Bible was the most successful, influential and widely read English translation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The English authorities, however, disliked the Geneva’s militant phrases and seditious notes, and eventually it was replaced by the Authorised Version.

Jon Riding

Bible Translation in a Changing World

After a brief survey of the history of translation, Jon Riding considers three key developments in recent decades that have radically transformed the task of translating the Bible. He also reflects on what the future holds for Bible translation.

Paula Gooder

Why Produce Your Own Translation?

Biblical scholar Paula Gooder reflects on why she often produces her own translation of Scripture. Translating a passage afresh allows the different levels of potential meaning to be highlighted in a way not possible if we just use published translations.

Neil Rees

Dissecting the Bible

A concordance is a key aid when studying the Bible. After a brief overview of the history of concordances, Neil Rees explains how computer technology has aided the production of concordances in languages that would not have had the resources to produce them a few years ago.

Simon Crisp

Bible Availability Around the World

A consideration of Bible availability around the world. Examples from four continents illustrate the impact the translated Word can have on individuals and whole communities.

Chris Sunderland

Telling Bible in a Prophetic Age

Stories have an important place in every society. They express a community’s deepest views about life and how it should be lived. This article encourages us to recover the art of storytelling as a valuable discipline and hear the Bible again as a told story that can deeply affect our society.

James Catford

News from Bible Society

Horizons in Biblical Theology 33, 2 (2011)

The latest Horizons in Biblical Theology carries four interesting-looking main essays, with the following summaries:

Nicholas Ansell

On (Not) Obeying the Sabbath: Reading Jesus Reading Scripture

This essay examines the sabbath controversy of Mark 2:23-28 to see how Jesus faces the challenge of biblical interpretation as he models what it means for his disciples to image God in freedom. In dominant approaches to the Gospels, the interpretive process set in motion by this passage, which I characterize as ‘reading Scripture reading Jesus reading Scripture,’ is confined to its earlier stages – a reductionism that calls for hermeneutical reflection. If a narrative has a ‘life of its own’ beyond authorial intention (indispensable though the author may be), can we say the same about a character who is central to a narrative? If so, is ‘the Jesus of Mark’s Gospel’ ‘more than’ the ‘Markan Jesus’ of much scholarly concern? This essay seeks to develop an intertextual, Christocentric hermeneutic by attending to the implicit as well as explicit ways in which Jesus’ reading of Scripture takes place ‘within’ the Gospel narrative.

James E. Robson

Forgotten Dimensions of Holiness

This article explores a sometimes forgotten dimension of divine holiness, divine holiness as love. It starts by reflecting on an apparent incongruity between the New Testament summary of the law, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18) and that verse’s context in Leviticus, where a more probable summary is the call, “Be holy for I, YHWH your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). It examines the significance of the conjunction of Lev 19:2 and 19:18, and argues that it is appropriate to speak of love as a dimension of divine holiness. In the main part of the article, which looks at the Old Testament more widely, including Exodus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hosea and the prayer life of Israel, divine holiness as love is evident on closer examination in three ways: holiness and self-disclosure, holiness and saving activity, and holiness and divine presence.

Yung Suk Kim

“Imitators” (Mimetai) in 1 Cor. 4:16 and 11:1: A New Reading of Threefold Embodiment

When it comes to the language of “imitation” (mimesis) in Paul’s letters (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:6-7; 2:14), divisions among scholars are most clearly manifest. At one end of the scholarly spectrum, Paul follows a Stoic model of imitation, according to which the teacher exhorts pupils to follow him, based upon his authority established (demonstrated) by good conduct. Accordingly, Paul is viewed as an advocate of the Hellenistic ideal of unity at the expense of diversity. At the other end of the spectrum, Paul is seen as a social conservative and an obstacle to true liberation. Here the idea of imitation serves as a means of control and domination of others, as post-colonial and feminist scholars have pointed out. So Paul’s exhortation to “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1) is understood as a demand for sameness, an appeal to copy Paul. However, the language of imitation can be read through the eyes of “embodiment” – a way of life, as an alternate meaning of imitation in 1 Corinthians, which will lead to the involvement of three aspects of God, Christ and the believer. I argue that imitation in 1 Corinthians is neither a copy or sameness nor a type or model to be emulated by the Corinthians. Rather, it should be understood as a way of life rooted in the image of Christ crucified, which plays a central role in the letter, deconstructing abusive, destructive powers in a community and society and reconstructing a beloved community for all.

Mark McEntire

The God at the End of the Story: Are Biblical Theology and Narrative Character Development Compatible?

If the end goal of theology of the Hebrew Scriptures is a description of God and God’s relationship to the world, then the Hebrew Scriptures present us with a dilemma. It is increasingly apparent that the Tanak provides a wide variety of portraits of the divine being. There are two basic possibilities for making use of all of these portraits. The first option is to lay all of them out on a level surface and allow them be in dialogue and tension with one another. The second option is to place these portrayals on a trajectory which gives a position of privilege to those which are at some particular point along the path. Of course there are three choices of trajectory: Historical, canonical, or narrative. The last two differ far more for the Christian Old Testament than for the Tanak. A strictly narrative approach, which reads the biblical story from Genesis to Nehemiah, presents a divine being who is changing and developing as a character, a process which has been well demonstrated over the past decade by Jack Miles, Richard Elliot Friedman, W. Lee Humphreys, Meir Sternberg, Jerome M. Segal, and others. There is general agreement that the divine character portrayed at the end of this narrative trajectory is the one which matches the religious experience of those who were putting the literature, both the individual books and the canon, into its final form. This conclusion would seem to point toward a narrative method of doing theology which gives this endpoint a place of privilege, an observation which raises two questions. First, does this match the actual use of texts by those who are attempting narrative approaches to biblical theology? Second, what role do those portrayals which present earlier stages in the divine character development play in a narrative approach to a theology of the Hebrew Scriptures?

Sweet is the Work, My God, My King

Funny how the mind works some times – well, my mind anyway. I’m currently thinking about ‘shalom’, preparing for a talk I have to do in November on that topic. That got me thinking about ‘harmony’, which led me remember the tune ‘Deep Harmony’ which most often goes with the words to the Isaac Watts’ hymn, ‘Sweet is the work, My God, my King’ – one of my favourites – which we used to sing in the church where I enjoyed my formative years as a young Christian.

I looked up the hymn and saw it has a few more verses than we used to sing, including the strongly-worded fourth stanza below, which (it would appear) not even Strict Baptists could bring themselves to sing.

Sweet is the work, my God, my King,

To praise Thy Name, give thanks and sing,

To show Thy love by morning light

And talk of all Thy truth at night.

Sweet is the day of sacred rest,

No mortal cares shall seize my breast.

O may my heart in tune be found,

Like David’s harp of solemn sound!

My heart shall triumph in my Lord

And bless His works and bless His Word.

Thy works of grace, how bright they shine!

How deep Thy counsels, how divine!

Fools never raise their thoughts so high;

Like brutes they live, like brutes they die;

Like grass they flourish, till Thy breath

Blast them in everlasting death.

But I shall share a glorious part,

When grace has well refined my heart;

And fresh supplies of joy are shed,

Like holy oil, to cheer my head.

Sin (my worst enemy before)

Shall vex my eyes and ears no more;

My inward foes shall all be slain,

Nor Satan break my peace again.

Then shall I see, and hear, and know

All I desired and wished below;

And every power find sweet employ

In that eternal world of joy.

And then what triumphs shall I raise

To Thy dear Name through endless days,

For in the realms of joy I’ll see

Thy face in full felicity

Isaac Watts (1719), author of last stanza unknown.

Faith & Thought 2011 Symposium

Eddie Arthur links to the audio files from the recent Faith & Thought 2011 Symposium, which was devoted to ‘Translating the Old Testament – First Century and Now’ – for which Eddie himself contributed a session alongside Howard Marshall and David Instone-Brewer.

Eddie Arthur

To Translate or not To Translate: The Old Testament in Missionary Bible Translation Strategy

Howard Marshall

The Use of the Old Testament in 1 Peter

David Instone-Brewer

New Bibles Preserved in Dead Sea Caves

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Englewood Review of Books 1, 4 (Ordinary Time 2011)

The Ordinary Time 2011 issue of Englewood Review of Books is now available.

Among other items that have caught my eye, this one contains an interview with Christian Smith about just one of his recent books, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture, a review of Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (which I finished a month or so back and thoroughly enjoyed), and a look back at Abraham Joshua Heschel’s ‘classic’, The Sabbath.

Those outside North America are able to sign up for a free electronic edition, kindly delivered to your inbox as an attached pdf.

Catalyst 2 (Autumn 2011)

Catalyst is a twice-yearly magazine, published by CARE, ‘featuring a mix of interesting articles from Christian leaders and the latest on what CARE is doing to make a Christian difference’.

According to the CARE website, ‘the second issue highlights not only CARE’s work but also the work of other ministries and individuals who really are “making a difference”. There is an article by Marcus Honeysett on leadership, interviews with Robin Mark of The Mandate and Gavin Shuker MP, all the latest from CARE’s Public Affairs team, a fascinating insight into the world of a schools worker and much more’.

The issue is available for browsing here, or downloadable as a pdf here.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Conspectus 12 (September 2011)

The latest Conspectus, from South African Theological Seminary, is now out (available here as a pdf), containing an interesting mix of main essays:

Annang Asumang

Captured by Christ Jesus: Paul as Christ’s Trophy Slave in Philippians

Andrew Aucamp

Paradox and the Centrality of the Doctrine of God in Hermeneutics

Callie J.T. Joubert

Mindfulness and the Brain: a Christian Critique of Some Aspects of Neuroscience

Dan Lioy

Jesus’ Resurrection and the Nature of the Believer’s Resurrection Body (1 Cor 15:1-58)

Darrell O’Donoghue and Dan Lioy

Biblical-Theological Analysis of Matthew 6:19–34 to Clarify the Relationship between the Christian Disciple and Money

Mark Pretorius

The Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve: Literal, Symbolic, or Myth?

Kevin G. Smith, Integrated Theology: A Key to Training Thinking Practitioners

Mervin van der Spuy

Cheating at Solitaire: the Danger of Self-Deception in Pastoral and Counselling Ministry

Noel B. Woodbridge

An Evaluation of Contemporary Challenges to Evangelical Orthodoxy Posed by Toon’s Four Basic Types of Theology: A Christian response

John Stott on Four Ways Christians Can Influence the World

John Stott, ‘Four Ways Christians Can Influence the World: How we can be salt and light’, Christianity Today (20 October 2011).

Christianity Today posts a piece by John Stott – adapted from a sermon on Matthew 5:13-16 – on four ways Christians can influence the world:

• through power in prayer

• through the power of truth

• through the power of example

• through the power of group solidarity

Encounters 38 (September 2011) on the Place of Animals in the Purposes of God

The latest issue of Encounters from Redcliffe College is now available, this one based on Dr Rob Cook’s 2011 Redcliffe Lecture in World Christianity on ‘The Place of Animals in the Purposes of God’.

According to the Encounters email notification, it includes his perspectives on the questions:

• Where do animals feature in God’s cosmic mission?

• Is it God’s will that animals prey on one another and, if not, when and what went wrong?

• For God to be righteous, must there be a place in heaven for innocent, suffering animals?

• What responsibility do we have in being God’s co-workers amongst our fellow creatures?

This issue includes the full lecture transcript (as well as links to audio files) and rejoinders from several other scholars.

The pdf of the full issue is available here.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

George Pitcher on Assisted Suicide

Yesterday (18 October 2011) LICC and Theos co-hosted an evening event with George Pitcher on assisted suicide under the title ‘Don’t Put Yourself Down’.

George Pitcher is the author of A Time To Live: The Case against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide (excerpt here). He is a journalist by background and has worked as an award-winning Industrial Editor of The Observer and as Religion Editor of The Daily Telegraph, before spending a year as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Public Affairs.

In the LICC blurb for the event, he was billed as being ‘one of the most outspoken critics of attempts by lobbyists to have assisted suicide legalised in the UK’, who ‘believes that no proper case can be made in law, medical practice or theology for the establishment of a two-tier system of human life in which some lives are considered of less value than others’.

George also contributed a ‘Connecting with Culture’ piece on the topic for LICC some weeks back, which can be viewed here, and which gives a flavour of his perspective and style.

Beyond the obvious ‘life and death’ issue itself, a topic like assisted suicide provides a way of exploring how various underlying cultural currents shape our moral convictions – currents like autonomy, rights, and consumerism. Thus, engaging with it requires formulating a Christian understanding not just of assisted suicide but broader issues related to lifestyle and choice, suffering, sickness and death.

Of the many stimulating things that George said during the evening, his comments about ‘dependence’ stuck out for me. Human life, he reminded us, has been turned into a commodity – where we worship at the altar of ‘choice’, and where a ‘lifestyle’ can be bought. So, if we can buy the life we live, why not also the death we die? But this way of thinking and living, said George, takes no account of ‘dependency’ – our dependence on God, on others, and even on the created order – where dependency is a healthy and honourable estate, where we rightly take care of babies, of those who are sick, of the old, infirm, and dying.

We’ve grown afraid of such dependency, George argued, privileging the heroic loners and those trampling over others to get to the top of the pile in The Apprentice, assuming that ‘autonomy’ is a right of life. But this, according to George, is absurd –from a theological and philosophical perspective, as well as in legal terms. Thus, we should seek to recover our capacity for, and human requirement of, mutual dependence – in the issue of assisted suicide as anywhere else.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Jonathan Chaplin on Multiculturalism

Jonathan Chaplin, Multiculturalism: A Christian Retrieval (London: Theos, 2011).

This substantial booklet is available for download (here) from the Theos website. Here’s the blurb:

Recent years have seen an astonishingly rapid volte face regarding multiculturalism in Britain. Once political orthodoxy, it is now almost a by-word for segregation, exclusion and security threats. In this report, Jonathan Chaplin argues that in our haste to reassess multiculturalism in the light of evidence of its darker sides, we must not lose sight of its indispensable contribution to realising a just society. Tracing the history of multiculturalism and clarifying precisely what is at stake in the debate, Chaplin offers a vision of “multicultural justice”, drawn from the resources of Christian social thought, but accessible and persuasive to those outside of the Christian faith.’

Monday 17 October 2011

A Time to be Silent and a Time to Speak

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity; it’s a contribution to an ongoing, but fairly unsystematic, series on Proverbs.]

Do not answer fools according to their folly,

or you yourself will be just like them.

Answer fools according to their folly,

or they will be wise in their own eyes.

Proverbs 26:4-5

Do not answer. Answer. So, which is it? Even some rabbis struggled with the ‘contradiction’ between the two sayings, deciding that one should correct the fool only when interpreting the Torah was at stake.

As it happens, the seemingly random mixture of individual proverbs throughout the book mean the sayings would work on their own if they were isolated from each other; placed side by side, however, they do something more.

As the second line in each case indicates, there is wisdom in both courses of action. On the one hand, in responding like a fool, we risk becoming like the fool. On the other hand, it’s not always wise to let fools have the last word, in case they mistake their folly for wisdom. All of which is even more significant when there are others around, listening in – during a team meeting, a presentation, or a coffee break conversation.

On their own, the pair of proverbs say nothing about the circumstances which require which type of response or even how the ‘fool’ should be identified. The point is that, at such and such a time one response is to be favoured over the other. Wisdom, in this case, is a matter of what is fitting and what is timely – knowing what to say and when to say it.

The two aphorisms also provide a helpful pointer to how proverbial sayings work more generally. Implicit in the book of Proverbs is the call to live with the ambiguities of life, often in relationship with others, and to navigate wisely through alternate courses of action. In such situations, individual proverbs are not moral absolutes which apply in all circumstances; no one saying contains the whole truth on a particular matter. And so the application of them requires discernment – careful reading of the proverb itself and the situation in which we find ourselves.

And we do all this with the encouragement that if any of us ‘lacks wisdom’, we may ‘ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given’ to us (James 1:5).

Saturday 15 October 2011

Gospel Communities on Mission Conference 2011 – Breakout Sessions

Having earlier linked to the audio files of the main sessions from the 2011 Gospel Communities on Mission Conference, I thought I’d also note that the audio files from the breakout sessions are now available here.

Jeff Vanderstelt

Gospel Conversations on Mission

Steve Timmis

Gospel Counselling in Community

David Fairchild

Preaching the Gospel in Your Context

Paul Whaley and Mark Sellers

Doing Missional Communities in the South

Jonathan Dodson

Making Gospel Centered Disciples

Drew Goodmanson

Technology to Assist a Gospel Community and the Mission

Jeff Vanderstelt

The Gospel in Everyday Rhythms

Steve Timmis and David Fairchild

GCM: Why Everyone Has to Do It

David Fairchild and Drew Goodmanson

Tri-Perspectival Leadership Model and Practice

Jonathan Dodson

How to Plant and Multiply Gospel Communities

Jeff Vanderstelt

What it Takes to Start a ‘Healthy Expression’

Rowan Paterson