Tuesday 31 January 2012

American Theological Inquiry 5, 1 (2012)

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

Patristical Reading

Clement of Alexandria

The Stromata, II.4


William Lane Craig

Pantheists in Spite of Themselves? Pannenberg, Clayton, and Shults on Divine Infinity

Joseph Prud’homme & James Schelberg

Disposition, Potentiality, and Beauty in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards: A Defense of His Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin

Theodore Zachariades

Διπλῆν ἐπαγγελίαν in Athanasius’s Christology: A Methodology to Counter Kenotic Notions of the Incarnation

C. Shawn Stahlman

A Tradition of Reductionism as a Matter of Fact: Alasdair Macintyre and Sam Harris

J. Lyle Story

Facets of Faith/Trust in Pauline Thought

Book Reviews

The Ecumenical Creeds of Christianity

Monday 30 January 2012

D.A. Carson on the Church in Great Britain

Many will know of the furore a few weeks back kicked off by some comments by Mark Driscoll (here) about the state of the church in Great Britain.

I read some of the responses to Driscoll (including those by a number of my friends) with interest, but (for the most part) kept myself out of the discussion. Truth be known, I confess I found some of the responses quite ‘knee jerk’ in their nature. But I realise it’s sometimes difficult to balance the double-sided wisdom of when and how to respond (cf. Proverbs 26:4-5).

Now that I am referring to it, I would like to say I personally found Eddie Arthur’s post (here) to be wonderfully sane and helpful, reframing the debate through cultural assumptions.

Anyway, all of this is to say that D.A. Carson has now written a set of ‘Reflections on the Church in Great Britain’. As might be expected, these are heavily freighted towards the Reformed and conservative end of the spectrum in terms of what’s going on in the country (and I fully anticipate he will be blasted and lampooned for that), but I particularly enjoyed reading his fifth and final reflection:

‘We must not equate courage with success, or even youth with success. We must avoid ever leaving the impression that these equations are valid. I have spent too much time in places like Japan, or in parts of the Muslim world, where courage is not measured on the world stage, where a single convert is reckoned a mighty trophy of grace... I find no ground for concluding that the missionaries in Japan in the 20th century were less godly, less courageous, less faithful, than the missionaries in (what became) South Korea, with its congregations of tens of thousands. At the final Great Assize, God will take into account not only all that was and is, but also what might have been under different circumstances (Matt 11:20ff). Just as the widow who gave her mite may be reckoned to have given more than many multi-millionaires, so, I suspect, some ministers in Japan, or Yorkshire, will receive greater praise on that last day than those who served faithfully in a corner of the world where there was more fruit. Moreover, the measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture not to the quantity of fruit, measured in numbers, but to such virtues as self-control, measured by the use of one’s tongue (James 3:1-6).’

Happy Birthday, Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer was born 100 years ago today (30 January). I suspect the blogosphere will be full of pieces about him as the day goes on.

Don Sweeting, for one, reflects on Schaeffer’s legacy in a helpful piece here, highlighting five points:

• Schaeffer understood the times

• Schaeffer believed in truth and made truth understandable to average lay people

• I learned about the lordship of Christ from Schaeffer

• Schaeffer was prophetic

• With all his outspokenness and advocacy, Schaeffer insisted that it was not just truth that mattered but also love

Saturday 28 January 2012

Route 66 Through The Year: Psalm 6

Spring Harvest’s ‘Route 66 Through the Year’ is designed to take readers on a tour through each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year, with each day’s reading featuring a short passage and comment written by a variety of Spring Harvest speakers.

I have contributed notes for this week, looking today at Psalm 6.

Read: Psalm 6

The Psalm reminds us that we have moments – sometimes long moments – when we suffer physical pain of some kind, inner emotional turmoil, and fear about the future; perhaps we are even faced with death, threat from enemies, or a sense of God’s anger. And it gives us a voice with which to cry out to God. It might also, like other Psalms, provide a way of moving from anguish to a sense of assurance.

In reflecting on God’s discipline of him, David cries out for mercy (6:1-3), turning to God in his suffering, asking for healing. He does so, because this time of discipline was also a time of distress (6:4-7); and so he appeals to God save him ‘because of your unfailing love’, reminding God of his covenant commitment to his people.

In his time of discipline, he cries for God’s mercy; and in his time of distress, he pleads for God’s love. And he expresses the confidence that this will give way to deliverance (6:8-10). Apparently, nothing has changed the circumstances by the end of the psalm, but he is certain that the prayer has been heard, which brings a measure of much-needed relief and hope.

Where do we go for mercy we don’t deserve, for faithful love when all else fails, and for hope of deliverance? In God alone, and in Christ alone.

Friday 27 January 2012

Linda Woodhead on Religion in the Public Square

Linda Woodhead, ‘Restoring Religion to the Public Square: Faith’s Role in Civil Society’, The Tablet (28 January 2012).

One of the sample articles in this week’s The Tablet is by Linda Woodhead, on religion in the public square. Woodhead has been the director of a £12 million research project on ‘Religion and Society’, and she promises that some results of the research will be aired in future issues of The Tablet as well as through a series of ‘Faith Debates’ to be held in Westminster in the Spring.

At one point in this article, she draws an interesting analogy with feminism:

‘For decades, feminists battled to correct the distortion whereby the “male gaze” determined what was seen in history, literature, politics, and even the laboratory. The broadening of perspective that resulted changed the way we view the world. Now another revolution is needed: one to correct the secular gaze that airbrushes religion away. It’s a crazily narrow-minded approach, which has to turn a blind eye to the luxuriantly variegated religiosity of most of the world, and ignore the past. Including our own.’

Reminding us of four of the ‘most momentous events of our times’ – the revolution in Iran, the collapse of Communism, the attacks of 9/11, the Arab Spring – she notes the somewhat obvious point that ‘all had to do with religion as well as politics’.

Woodhead thinks there are some signs of change in higher education:

‘Students are now more openly interested in religion, and a new generation of academics is taking the subject more seriously, even in traditionally secular disciplines... [E]ven with British and other European students, there has been a shift since I started teaching in the early 1990s. They don’t carry the baggage about religion that their predecessors did. Often they carry no baggage at all: they are simply ignorant about religion. But their interest, and their open-mindedness, makes them eager for knowledge.’

Joel Green et al. on Scripture and Ethics

Joel B. Green et al. (eds.), Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), xix + 889pp., ISBN 9780801034060.

My copy of this dictionary arrived earlier in the week, and I’ve been dipping in and out of it, reading some of the entries. It’s been very good so far. The contributors look to be a good mixture of the usual suspects in Scripture and ethics along with a considerable number of names that are new to me.

After Joel Green’s Introduction, there are three fairly substantial opening essays, but the vast bulk of the volume is made up of the A-Z entries, including articles on every biblical book.

I’ve been asked to do a talk on violence in the Old Testament, and so I have been looking at the entries on ‘Ban’, ‘Conquest’, ‘Genocide’, ‘Joshua’, ‘Holy War’, ‘Killing’, ‘Torture’, and ‘Violence’. Between them, they’ve helped to articulate many of the issues involved and pointed me to other reading.

There is a substantial pdf excerpt of volume here, containing the Introduction (by Joel Green), and the opening three essays (by Allen Verhey, Charles H. Cosgrove, and Bruce C. Birch), as well as the entries on the As (from ‘Abortion’ to ‘Autonomy’).

Peter J. Leithart on Imperialism in the Bible

Peter J. Leithart, ‘A Tale of Two Imperialisms’, First Things (27 January 2012).

Peter Leithart has what I think is a great short piece in First Things, reflecting on imperialism in Scripture.

He begins by noting how common it is these days ‘to read the Bible as an anti-imperial epic, the story of God and Israel, then (for Christians) God and Jesus, against empire’, and then goes on to say:

‘It’s a hard sell for all sorts of reasons. Jeremiah urges the people of Judah to enter not exit Babylon (Jeremiah 27, 29). Isaiah invests Cyrus the Persian conqueror with Davidic titles – he is the Lord’s “servant” and “shepherd” and “anointed one” (Isaiah 44-45). Heroes like Joseph, Daniel, and Mordecai end up as chief advisors to emperors. In Scripture, there is no such thing as “empire” but only empires, and they are not all the same. Some are Babels, some beasts; some are rods of discipline, some provide refuge for the people of God.’

He goes on to reflect on the Babel incident in Genesis 11:1-9, which then moves in to Yahweh’s ‘counter-Babel program’ in Genesis 12:1-3.

‘Israel has an imperial vocation to realize in truth what Babel sought in rebellion – unity among peoples, a link to heaven, a great name, righteousness and peace and security. Abrahamic empire is not a Babel imposing its will but the center of “a unified world community under God’s rule” (Oliver O’Donovan). Israel’s hope, and the church’s, is not “peace in isolation” but “a peaceful international community” gathered around Zion (O’Donovan).’

His conclusion:

‘The Bible is not a story of Israel in opposition to empire. It is a tale of two empires, written to assure believers that all Babels will crumble and that Abram’s empire will shine forever.’

Route 66 Through The Year: Ezekiel 43:1-5 and 47:1-12

Spring Harvest’s ‘Route 66 Through the Year’ is designed to take readers on a tour through each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year, with each day’s reading featuring a short passage and comment written by a variety of Spring Harvest speakers.

I have contributed notes for this week on Ezekiel, looking today at 43:1-5 and 47:1-12.

Read: Ezekiel 43:1-5 and 47:1-12

The book of Ezekiel concludes with a vision of a renewed temple and city, everything in its place, where God once again lives with his people (chs. 40-48).

In 43:1-5, Ezekiel connects this vision with the earlier ones he received. As God left the temple in the first half of the book (chs. 8-11), so now he returns to take up residence forever. As Ezekiel was earlier invited to explore the temple, so now he is given a tour of its layout, dimensions and furnishings, told about its procedures and regulations, and sees its effect on the fruitfulness of the surrounding land (47:1-12). The presence of God, in the place of worship and sacrifice, transforms the whole city and the whole people. No wonder the vision ends with the glorious note that the new name of the city will be ‘The Lord is there’ (48:35).

As such, Ezekiel’s vision of the restored temple prepares us for the New Testament, where Jesus becomes the place where God truly dwells, the place where sacrifice is made, and where the church becomes the temple of God indwelt by his Spirit. Moreover, we look forward to a time when there will be no need for a temple, for the Lord God Almighty and the lamb will be the temple (Revelation 21:22) – God’s people forever enjoying the glory of God’s presence.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Alister Chapman Interview on John Stott

Alister Chapman’s book on John Stott has just come out – Godly Ambition: John Stott and the Evangelical Movement (Oxford: OUP, 2012).

There is a 20-minute video (here) of Chapman being interviewed by Peter Sanlon at Oak Hill Theological College.

At one point, Chapman says:

‘One of the things I really admire about Stott is that he had a vision when he went to All Souls in 1950 to reach the entire parish. By the end of the 50s, he realised they were having a very negligible impact on the working classes of the parish. What I find so impressive is the way that Stott at that point didn’t just shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh well, it doesn’t really matter, the church is packed on a Sunday morning and we’ve got hundreds of highly educated people coming.” He saw this as a big problem, and he worked hard to try to find ways to reach out to these people who hadn’t been to university, who were in his parish, who he wanted to see converted.’

Route 66 Through The Year: Ezekiel 36:16-37:14

Spring Harvest’s ‘Route 66 Through the Year’ is designed to take readers on a tour through each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year, with each day’s reading featuring a short passage and comment written by a variety of Spring Harvest speakers.

I have contributed notes for this week on Ezekiel, looking today at 36:16-37:14.

Read: Ezekiel 36:16-37:14

As soon as the news of Jerusalem’s fall comes through to the exiles in Babylon (33:21), Ezekiel’s message shifts from threats of judgment to promises of restoration.

Throughout chapters 33-39, he envisages a return to a repopulated and fruitful land, freedom from enemy harassment, and the benefit of the wise reign of a king from the line of David, who will be a good shepherd to the people.

But something more fundamental even than these things is required. At the heart of God’s promises is the restoration of the people themselves which God himself will bring about, as he pledges to cleanse his people and give them a new heart and a new Spirit (36:25-27). This inward renewal is confirmed to Ezekiel in a powerful vision (ch. 37), showing how God can bring piles of dry bones together, put flesh on them, and breathe his Spirit into them – just as he did with Adam at creation (Genesis 2:7), just as Jesus would do for his disciples (John 20:22).

The words ‘You will be my people, and I will be your God’ (36:28) express in a concise formula the covenant relationship between God and his people. They also provide a powerful reminder of God’s initiative and love for us in bringing hope out of despair, life out of death.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Scripture Bulletin 42, 1 (January 2012)

The January 2012 issue of Scripture Bulletin is available online, with the following articles (summaries are taken from Ian Boxall’s editorial):

Ian Boxall


Jennifer Dines

What Are They Saying About the Minor Prophets?

Jennifer Dines considers the Book of the Twelve (often better-known by Augustine’s title of ‘the Minor Prophets’). She offers a fascinating and wide-ranging critical survey of different recent attempts to explain the existence of this collection and how it should be read, both diachronic (with their attempt to reconstruct the stages of its historical development) and synchronic (including canonical readings and reader-response approaches).

Sean Michael Ryan

In Animate Praise: The Heavenly Temple Liturgy of the Apocalypse and The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice

Sean Ryan’s article is an intriguing exploration of continuities between the angelic liturgy as described in the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (found at both Qumran and Masada) and the scenes of heavenly worship found in the Apocalypse. For all their differences, Ryan has detected some striking similarities: not least, their shared visualisation of the heavenly realm as the interior of a celestial temple re-imagined as a living, animate structure of praise, and the prominence of the number seven as an organising principle. This suggestive article points the way to further research into the liturgical background and reception of the Book of Revelation.

Matthew van Duyvenbode

Word for the World: Four Characteristics of a Faithful Sharing of the Word

Matthew van Duyvenbode offers further reflections on Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, produced following the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God. Building on his work with Bible Society and his extensive knowledge of projects aimed at bridging the gap between scriptural engagement and contemporary culture, his particular focus is on the final section of the document: ‘the Word for the World’ (Verbum Mundo). He sets out four qualities or ‘hallmarks’ which should characterise a faithful sharing of the word of scripture in a missional context.

Book Reviews

Route 66 Through The Year: Ezekiel 25:1-17

Spring Harvest’s ‘Route 66 Through the Year’ is designed to take readers on a tour through each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year, with each day’s reading featuring a short passage and comment written by a variety of Spring Harvest speakers.

I have contributed notes for this week on Ezekiel, looking today at 25:1-17.

Read: Ezekiel 25:1-17

Ezekiel, like the other long prophetic books, has a section devoted to sayings of judgment against nations surrounding Israel (chs. 25-32). Four nations – Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia – are spoken about briefly in chapter 25. Tyre and Egypt are dealt with at greater length in Ezekiel 26-32.

Sadly, this section of Ezekiel describes what we know all too well – our propensity to value political superiority, oppress each other, exercise injustice, and exploit others for economic gain. And so, Ezekiel’s message is significant for us in the same way it would have been significant to those who first received it, as he declares the rule of the Lord over the whole of world history, that the ultimate destiny of all things is in his hands.

At the very least, these chapters demonstrate a strong belief that God was not just the national God of Israel but was Lord over all the nations of the world. They’re a valuable reminder of the global dimension to our faith, that God’s concerns stretch to the far corners of the world – in mercy and in judgment. Somehow, in a way that might always remain a mystery to us, God repeatedly tells Ezekiel that he was acting so that the nations would know he is the Lord.

Lord God, help us to trust in you and bless you for your supremacy over all things.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Whole Life, Whole Bible

Those who know me personally will know I’m not terribly good with self-promotion; but it would probably be somewhat perverse not to mention to readers of this blog that I have recently published a book – Whole Life, Whole Bible – written with two colleagues from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Margaret Killingray and Helen Parry, and published by Bible Reading Fellowship.

More information is available on the BRF website, here.

Here is the blurb I wrote for the back cover:

Where we spend most of our time – at home, at work, in the neighbourhood – matters to God and to his mission in and for the world. Far from restricting our faith to the ‘personal’ sphere, disengaged from everyday living, Scripture encourages us to take the Lord of life into the whole of life.

Whole Life, Whole Bible is written from the conviction that God’s word illuminates every part of existence, enabling us to see differently and live differently – from Monday to Sunday, in public as well as in private. A walk through the unfolding story of the Bible in 50 readings and reflections shows how our lives are bound up with, and shaped by, God’s plan to restore a broken universe. That big story forms our minds, fuels our imaginations and fashions our daily life as we live in God’s world, in the light of God’s word, wherever we are.

The following three people were kind enough to read it and write a commendation for it:

‘Packs a powerful theological punch and will stretch and inspire your faith. A must for every whole-life disciple and disciple maker!’

Rachel Gardner, Director, Romance Academy

‘People can get lost in the Bible’s structure – here are some exciting clues for joined-up Bible reading.’

Greg Haslam, Pastor, Westminster Chapel, London

‘Provides wonderful insights into the overarching story of the Bible and helps us consider how to live on the foundation of God’s word.’

Mark Meynell, Senior Associate Minister, All Souls, Langham Place, London

Available in Christian bookshops, online, and via LICC here.

Route 66 Through The Year: Ezekiel 8:1-18

Spring Harvest’s ‘Route 66 Through the Year’ is designed to take readers on a tour through each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year, with each day’s reading featuring a short passage and comment written by a variety of Spring Harvest speakers.

I have contributed notes for this week on Ezekiel, looking today at 8:1-18.

Read: Ezekiel 8:1-18

Chapters 4-24 of Ezekiel are dominated by warnings of judgment against the people of God. At the heart of this section is the vision in Ezekiel 8-11 which records the glory of God – the indication of his special presence – leaving the Jerusalem temple.

Chapter 8 shows God offended by the sinful actions of his people. Ezekiel is taken on a tour through the temple, where he sees that the sanctuary is itself corrupted, that idolatry has led to immorality and injustice in the land.

Painful though it might be, Ezekiel reminds us of the seriousness of sin. Our preciousness to God and the strength of his commitment to us mean he does not merely feel mildly insulted when we fail to honour him; he feels the strength of passion of a wounded lover, a victim of adultery.

So it is that chapter 9 goes on to describe how judgment is brought on Jerusalem and the people of God (though a remnant is spared), while chapters 10-11 record the departure of God’s glory from the temple and the city.

Even while the city is judged, however, God promises that he himself will be a ‘sanctuary’ for the people in exile (11:16). What’s more, he will bring his people back to himself (11:17-21), revolutionising their inner desires and restoring them to a life of service and worship.

Thank you, Lord, for your mercy in judgment.

Guy Brandon on a Christian Response to Immigration

Guy Brandon, A Christian Response to Immigration (Cambridge: Jubilee Centre, 2011).

Guy Brandon, at the ever-productive Jubilee Centre, has produced a short document offering a Christian perspective on immigration. Here’s the summary:

‘Immigration is a live and perennial issue, and often prompts polarised and unhelpful responses from politicians, the media and the public. Our default viewpoint is frequently one of suspicion, a simplistic reaction that assumes immigrants all come for the same reason and have identical motives. The Old Testament’s approach to immigration was far more nuanced, and a biblical view of nationhood and immigration helps to bring a degree of balance and proportion to the debate.’

Monday 23 January 2012

Route 66 Through The Year: Ezekiel 1:1-28

Spring Harvest’s ‘Route 66 Through the Year’ is designed to take readers on a tour through each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year, with each day’s reading featuring a short passage and comment written by a variety of Spring Harvest speakers.

I have contributed notes for this week on Ezekiel, looking today at 1:1-28.

Read: Ezekiel 1:1-28

It’s no surprise that many of us find Ezekiel puzzling if not daunting, especially given the length of the book, its bizarre passages, and the strangeness of the prophet himself. But there are two very good reasons for reading Ezekiel’s prophecy: (1) because of the situation in which he spoke, and (2) because of the God of whom he spoke.

The occasion was the exile of God’s people to Babylon (1:1-3). With exile came the loss of identity and security – land, temple, kingship – but the opportunity to renew their faith and hope in God himself. Ezekiel speaks powerfully to ‘exiles’ today, but he does so only because of what he says about God. The Lord repeatedly tells Ezekiel that he was acting – first in judgment, then in restoration – so that his people would know he was the Lord.

The book is best understood through a series of visions, the first of which occurs in 1:4-28. Ezekiel sees a vision of God’s throne (1:26), reminiscent of the ark of the covenant – except the wheels (1:15-21) make it clear that this is not so much a royal throne as a royal chariot, which moves wherever the Spirit wants it to!

The temple was left standing in Jerusalem, but God could visit the exiles in Babylon, and call Ezekiel (chs. 2-3) to bring the challenge and comfort they would need away from home.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 13.0

Here is the thirteenth in a series of notes by Byron Borger on recent books, including Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us, by Christine D. Pohl, and Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, by Amy L. Sherman (which I’m currently reading at the moment, and thoroughly enjoying).

Friday 20 January 2012

Interpretation 66, 1 (2012)

Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, is now being published by SAGE. The first SAGE issue is now out and contains essays devoted to the theme of ‘Liturgy and Pentecost/Trinity Sunday’. For a while, at least, it is freely available online here.

The main essays and their abstracts are as follows:

Beverly Roberts Gaventa

Pentecost and Trinity

Luke’s story of Pentecost gathers into itself many biblical motifs having to do with the work of the Spirit, which creates and re-creates communities of faith, even if it remains out of their control. Trinity Sunday returns us to the richness of Scripture’s reflections on God, where we find the constant feature to be the claim that, in all God’s doing, God acts for us and for our salvation.

Andreas Schuele

The Spirit of YHWH and the Aura of Divine Presence

One of the characteristics of Spirit language in the Old Testament is that it occurs in places that have particular significance for the literary formation as well as the theological profile of the Hebrew Scriptures. This essay examines texts from 1 Samuel, Ezekiel, Isaiah 40–66, and Psalm 104 and reconstructs an awareness across the biblical traditions that the experience of divine presence unfolds in and through the “Spirit” as part of God’s “aura.”

Jennifer L. Lord

Pentecost and Trinity Sunday: Preaching and Teaching New Creation

Any renewal of preaching and teaching on Pentecost and Trinity Sundays will be helped by revisiting the nature of these feasts as inseparable from the larger paschal cycle. From the perspective of the larger feast cycle, the preacher and teacher can see these feast days as eschatological proclamation: the ongoing gift of the Holy Spirit is the work of new creation; all creation’s existence, redemption, and sanctification are the results of the ongoing work of the holy Trinity for the life of the world.

Jeremy S. Begbie

The Holy Spirit at Work in the Arts: Learning from George Herbert

If we want some clarity about the relation of the arts to the Holy Spirit of the Christian faith, it is wise to let the arts have proper space to operate theologically. The remarkable poem by George Herbert, “Ephes. 4. 30,” along with material from some of his other poems, gives a fair sense of what Herbert would have assumed about the relation of the arts to the third person of the Trinity, and is especially enlightening for the theology–arts discussion today.

Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal C. Parsons

The Feast of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday: Liturgical Art in Context

This article explores several visual depictions of the event of Pentecost and the doctrine of the Trinity from the history of Christian art. These images can aid contemporary faith communities seeking to reflect in liturgy and worship on the theological significance of these mysteries of the Christian faith.

Missio Dei from Mennonite Mission Network

Missio Dei, in this case, is a series of essays available online:

‘Missio Dei is published by Mennonite Mission Network to invite reflection and dialogue about God’s mission in today’s world. Some features in the series focus primarily on the biblical and theological foundations of the mission task. Others present ministry case studies or personal stories of attempts to be faithful to Christ’s call. Perspectives represented reflect the passion and commitment of the agency: to declare in word and demonstrate in life the whole gospel of Jesus Christ, “across the street, all through the marketplaces, and around the world.”’

Recent editions include substantial booklet-length treatments of ‘What is an Anabaptist Christian?’ by Palmer Becker, and ‘Immigration and the Bible’ by M. Daniel Carroll R.

Michael W. Goheen on a Missional Hermeneutic

Michael W. Goheen, ‘Continuing Steps Towards a Missional Hermeneutic’, Fideles 3 (2008), 49-99.

Before Michael Goheen published his excellent A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), he gave us the above essay – which effectively provides something of the hermeneutical undergirding for the book.

The essay has recently become freely available online here, which is great.

It’s 51 pages long, but they’re not long pages, and it’s a fairly easy read; plus, it’s really helpful to have it all in one place summarised so nicely. After a long-ish introduction, his two big points in the essay are (1) that Scripture is a record of God’s mission, and (2) that Scripture is a tool of God’s mission.

There is a much briefer summary of his reflections in the article, ‘Notes Toward a Framework for a Missional Hermeneutic’.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

L. Gregory Jones on Asking More of Laypeople

L. Gregory Jones has a short article here, looking at how Christian leaders can nurture relationships with laypeople ‘by entering the worlds where laypeople live, think and work – not seeing them primarily as church volunteers and funders’.

Taking a Christian businessman as an example, Jones says:

‘The businessman wanted church leaders to make a claim on him to help him live more faithfully as a disciple of Jesus Christ in his daily life. Church leaders could be more thoughtful in seeing laypeople as disciples who yearn to connect more explicitly their faith with the ideas, insights and imagination they have developed in their vocations.’

He notes that while Christian leaders often empathise when laypeople come to them for spiritual direction or in a pastoral crisis, ‘we often forget the importance of inquiry in our day-to-day leadership of Christian institutions’.

In part, he suggests, leaders forget to ‘practice inquiry’ out of insecurity or defensiveness, or because they ‘believe and act, unwittingly and sometimes wittingly, as though the church and its institutions were the only arenas in which Christian discipleship can be faithfully lived’.

‘Rather than recognizing, rightly, that the church and its institutions are central contexts for worship and the formation of Christian identity, we turn them into idols where they are our exclusive focus.’

This leads to a situation where the border crossing goes only one way, which ‘can alienate the laypeople the church needs to bear faithful witness to God’s kingdom’.

He recommends careful and patient listening to the perspectives of others, and to develop and deepen two-way border-crossing.

John Stott Resource Page

Mark Meynell, he of Quaerentia, has started a page gathering links to online and published resources by and related to John Stott, which is well worth checking out.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Guy Brandon on Sexual Ethics

Guy Brandon, ‘Free Sex: Who Pays? Moral Hazard and Sexual Ethics’, Cambridge Papers 20, 4 (December 2011).

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online, this one devoted to a Christian perspective on sexual ethics.

Here is the summary:

‘Rather than addressing fundamental moral issues around sexual freedom, this paper starts with our culture’s premise by taking a utilitarian approach and exploring the financial impacts. This is in line with the common assumption that what truly matters for public policy can be quantified. It argues that significant costs of sexual freedom are imposed on society as a whole, rather than borne solely by the individuals most directly involved. This represents an enormous moral hazard and, as a result, unsustainable and unjust public expenditure. The paper then explores ways to address this, the most compelling of which is the Bible’s emphasis on rootedness and group responsibility.’

Friday 13 January 2012

Listening as an Act of Love

[I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’ from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, written to coincide with the London memorial service of thanksgiving for the life of John Stott.]

This day, Friday 13 January 2012, sees the London Memorial and Thanksgiving Service for the life of John Stott, held at St Paul’s Cathedral.

John will be remembered for many things, highlighted in the range of tributes already offered. Just one of those, key to LICC’s Connecting with Culture reflections, is his call to ‘double listening’ – listening to the word and listening to the world.

Already in the first edition of Issues Facing Christians Today, published in 1984, John wrote of his conviction to begin with ‘God’s Word written’, along with ‘a second commitment... to the world in which God has placed us’. And that double commitment was played out across a range of global, social, and personal issues. But it was in his 1992 book, The Contemporary Christian, that he laid out the concept of ‘double listening’ as ‘indispensable to Christian discipleship and Christian mission’.

And so he wrote of listening ‘carefully (although of course with differing degrees of respect) both to the ancient Word and to the modern world, in order to relate the one to the other with a combination of fidelity and sensitivity’. For John, this was a way of carefully treading the line between irrelevance to the world on the one hand and accommodation to the world on the other hand.

As such, it lay at the heart of his vision of preaching Scripture, training leaders, and making disciples. Our submission to God’s word and our location in God’s world mean that paying attention to both is essential for authentic Christianity.

But we don’t do so as a cheap evangelistic ploy. John insisted on the need to empathise with the way the world is experienced by our fellow human beings. Listening involves understanding the world’s needs, acknowledging its fears, hearing its questions, and loving its people. Love, of course, goes with genuine listening – living out our love for God and our love for our neighbours in the realities of the world in which God has placed us. The challenge, then (to borrow terms from Andy Crouch’s Culture Making), is to listen not only as an occasional ‘gesture’ but as a characteristic ‘posture’.

John expounded the topic of double listening in his books, but he exemplified it in a life of ministry and mentoring, and encouraged others through exposition of the word and exhortation to be salt and light in the world, for God’s own glory.


LICC’s John Stott tribute site.

John Stott, The Contemporary Christian: An Urgent Plea for Double Listening (Leicester: IVP, 1992).

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Credo Magazine 2 (January 2012)

The second issue of Credo is now out, this one devoted to the topic of ‘In Christ Alone’.

According to the blurb:

‘The January issue argues for the exclusivity of the gospel, especially in light of the movement known as inclusivism. This issue will seek to answer questions like: Can those who have never heard the gospel of Christ be saved? Will everyone be saved in the end or will some spend an eternity in hell? Must someone have explicit faith in Christ to be saved? Contributors include David Wells, Robert Peterson, Michael Horton, Gerald Bray, Todd Miles, Todd Borger, Ardel Caneday, Nathan Finn, Trevin Wax, Michael Reeves, and many others.’

The magazine is available to read here, and can be downloaded as a 35.5 MB pdf here.