Saturday 31 March 2012

Jonathan Burnside on the Spirit of Biblical Law

Jonathan Burnside, ‘The Spirit of Biblical Law’, Oxford Journal of Law and Religion (2012).

Jonathan Burnside, author of a large volume on law in the Bible published last year, has a forthcoming article on the law in the Bible in the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion. It’s currently freely available here as an ‘advanced access’ piece.

Here is the abstract:

‘The Bible – paradoxically – has been deeply influential on Western civilization, including law, yet our assumptions are deeply hostile to its having any influence in the modern world at all. This article subverts the view that there is nothing we can learn from biblical law. Instead, it suggests that it is possible to speak of ‘the spirit of biblical law’. This means seeing biblical law as more than just an object of textual critique. Biblical law can be caricatured in a number of ways; however, this is an inadequate way of reading the subject. We need to recover the spirit of biblical law by looking at a number of its substantive areas, including: property and money; economic organization; race relations and immigration; the role, nature and accountability of Government; family structure; our relationship with the environment and the pursuit of justice. As we do so, we discover that the spirit of biblical law has an ethos which is worth exploring as an imaginative and moral resource.’

And here are the main points about the ‘spirit of biblical law’ explored as the article unfolds:

• Personal and family rootedness – to build strong communities

• The use of money and the structure of financial institutions – to foster healthy commercial and social relations

• A shared culture – to encourage inclusion and cohesion

• The wide distribution of political power – to promote accountability and community development

• Family networks – for the love, support and welfare of the individual

• Our relationship with the environment – to limit our take

• Justice and reconciliation – as the basis for achieving peace and social harmony

Keven Emmert on Sabbath

Kevin Emmert, ‘The “Above All” Commandment of the Sabbath: The one divine “law” that tells us to stop striving for transformation’, Christianity Today (16 March 2012).

Emmert observes that ‘it is difficult, and ironic, to imagine rest as the most transformative element in the Christian life’.

He draws attention to Exodus 31:12-13: ‘And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you’”.’

The Sabbath here is an ‘above all’ command, which ‘encourages us to trust in God in a way that no other activity can. So much more could be accomplished by adding another day of labor, but the Sabbath requires us to trust that God will provide for all our needs and that he will continue to manage the world without our help. The Sabbath is a practical reminder that we are completely dependent on God.’

And with keeping the sabbath comes the promise ‘that I, the Lord, sanctify you’.

‘Here rest is closely connected to sanctification. We instinctively believe our efforts and activities effectively promote personal and spiritual growth – that God is the primary agent in justification and that the individual is the primary agent in sanctification. We may need to think again.’

This leads into some brief reflections, via John Calvin and Tim Keller, on how ‘sanctification is living in accordance with our justification, which is a free gift’, and a reminder that ‘only God brings about our transformation’, which ‘is something we can count on, and rest in’.

Baptist Quarterly 1922-2000

Andy Goodliff notes that every article in the Baptist Quarterly from 1922 to 2000 is now available to download here. This is, in very large part, thanks to the sterling work of Rob Bradshaw who hosts the website.

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 36:2 (April 2012)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research carries articles broadly related to ‘Korean Missions: Beyond the Obvious’.

As J. Nelson Jennings notes in the Editorial:

‘Today as never before, Jesus’ followers are found across a bewildering range of settings: multicultural, alien, postcolonial, politically oppressive, affluent, and destitute. Whatever the setting, whether rooted or on the move, the church is the deeply flawed but extraordinarily purposeful body of Christ incarnate – the Word made flesh. It exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning, as Emil Brunner so aptly observed. The modern world order created by expanding empires is giving way to social, demographic, and ecclesiastical realities that are much less tidy than those proposed by missiological cartographers of a century ago...

‘There can be no church and mission without human beings, and there can be no human beings who are not shaped, conditioned, self-defined, animated, and limited by their cultures. Nor can there be any church and mission that will not instinctively influence and benefit their host culture. While the essays in this issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research are weighted toward the country of Korea, they illustrate well what is taking place worldwide.’

Friday 30 March 2012

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 15.0

Here is the fifteenth in a series of notes by Byron Borger on recent books – four really significant ones this time, so far as I’m concerned: N.T. Wright’s How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, the first in a new series on ‘Prophetic Christianity’ from Eerdmans, this one called Prophetic Evangelicals: Envisioning a Just and Peaceable Kingdom, the revised version of Jamie Smith’s 1999 work, The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic, and Diana Butler Bass’ Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening.

Rachel Thorpe on Life Without Certainty

Rachel Thorpe, ‘Life Without Certainty: Margaret Atwood’s Ambiguous Worlds’, Cambridge Papers 21, 1 (March 2012).

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online, this one looking at the dystopian worlds created in Margaret Atwood’s novels.

Here is the summary:

‘Margaret Atwood is one of the most important and influential writers alive today. Her fiction explores and reflects the current cultural move away from metanarrative and towards fragmented notions of truth. She celebrates this new intellectual trend, whilst also revealing the damage done by its more confused, frustrated and narcissistic elements. This paper will argue that Atwood’s “speculative fiction” in particular uncovers our deep human need for stable knowledge, language and sense of self. Furthermore, her novels point to society’s insatiable longing for the God that it has turned away from, showing all substitutes to be inadequate and dangerous.’

Tyndale House Scholars on Evidence for Easter

Tyndale House has produced some short, helpful videos here (towards the foot of the page) outlining evidence related to Easter events – Jesus’ trial before Pilate, his crucifixion, and his resurrection.

Foundations Archive

Archived issues of Foundations, published by Affinity, have been kindly made available to download free of charge. The archive includes all the issues of Foundations from the first issue in November 1978.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Tom Nelson on Vocation and Work

The High Calling links here to a video of a 12.5-minute interview with Tom Nelson, author of the very helpful Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011).

The interview takes in the book itself, Nelson’s own earlier sense of inadequacy in helping to equip people for their places of work, the need for a robust understanding of vocation as a theology of the Christian life, James Davison Hunter’s category of ‘faithful presence’, and unemployment.

Monday 26 March 2012

Shaped by the Story (8): A Manageable God?

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the eighth in an ongoing series looking at passages in Scripture which summarise the biblical story. In part, the series has been designed to help publicise the book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues.]

Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?” To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you...’ When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Acts 7:1-3, 54-56

Originally selected to distribute food to needy widows, Stephen ends up being the first Christian to die for proclaiming Jesus. Falsely accused of speaking against the law and the temple, he replies by rehearsing the Old Testament story – providing, in the process, the longest speech in the book of Acts. But how does it work as a response?

In part is a recurring theme of rejection, made explicit at the end when he accuses his audience of continuing the pattern of their ancestors, of rejecting Moses and the law, persecuting the prophets, and now killing Jesus (7:51-53).

More significantly, however, Stephen shows that God’s presence and blessing were never limited to the land or the temple. The ‘God of glory’ (where ‘glory’ is regularly associated with the temple) appeared to Abraham not in Israel but in Mesopotamia. The ‘holy ground’ on which Moses met the Lord was miles away from the promised land, and there wasn’t an altar there, let alone a temple! Noting that God does not live in houses ‘made by hands’ (7:48), Stephen even suggests that the temple has become an idol.

Even so, it is his vision and claims in 7:55-56 that tip his accusers over the edge, where it becomes clear that the ‘glory of God’ which appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia is now associated with Jesus.

Stephen’s criticism, of course, is not with the temple itself; but, properly understood, the biblical story has a global reach where God’s blessing is not limited to one nation, land, or building. The story of the Bible points beyond Abraham and Moses and the law and the temple to one who would come from the Father, full of grace and truth. That story has come to its climax in the ascended Lord who now occupies the place of universal authority, the location of God’s presence.

For us too, perhaps, Stephen’s speech is a reminder that God is not manageable. He cannot be isolated by a particular building or institution, a cherished tradition or ritual, a deeply held viewpoint or favoured version of the Bible. For us too, then, comes the challenge that he will not be captured by anything that might usurp the place that rightly belongs to him alone.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Interpretation 66, 2 (2012) on the Book of Joshua

The main essays in the latest issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, are devoted to the book of Joshua. Now published by SAGE, the issue is (for a limited period of time) freely available online here.

The main essays and their abstracts are as follows:

L. Daniel Hawk

The Truth about Conquest: Joshua as History, Narrative, and Scripture

The Book of Joshua constitutes a vital biblical resource for interpreting modern narratives of conquest and colonialism. As a historical narrative, it reveals the fluid and complex character of national memory; as a national narrative of origins, it points to processes and motifs that shaped the identities of both Israel and the United States; as a scriptural narrative, it presents a revelatory vision that illumines contemporary narratives of conquest and evokes the stories of both colonizing and colonized peoples.

Carolyn J. Sharp

“Are You For Us, or For Our Adversaries?”: A Feminist and Postcolonial Interrogation of Joshua 2–12 for the Contemporary Church

This essay seeks to engage the narrative art of the book of Joshua in ways that may prove valuable for contemporary communities of faith. The argument draws on the feminist and postcolonial critical tradition for defining insights about the construction of the subject, the interrogation of power dynamics, and the reformation of community. The essay then explores Joshua’s representations of authority and its use of liminal moments in Israel’s narrative of conquest in order to suggest possible avenues of appropriation by contemporary readers.

Jerome F. D. Creach

Joshua 13–21 and the Politics of Land Division

Joshua 13–21 makes the remarkable claim that the Lord conquered, possessed, and gave the land as a gift to Israel. Although these chapters likely originated in political concerns of Israelite kings, the theological cast of the material outstrips any political motivations that gave rise to the material. The enduring role of this section of Joshua is to shape a society devoted to and dependent on God.

Walter Brueggemann

The God of Joshua… Give or Take the Land

YHWH, the God of Israel, is not only a character embedded in the plot of the Book of Joshua. YHWH is the chief protagonist and the engine that drives the plot. Even when there are other actors in the plot, notably Joshua, their performances in the plot are at the behest of and in response to the intention of YHWH.

Stephen Farris

Preaching Joshua

Preaching from the Book of Joshua can often be “trouble” because of the book’s content. To avoid trouble in a sermon is to rob the text of its potential healing power. In our contemporary world, preaching from this difficult book may prove necessary. This essay explores several homiletical approaches.

Monday 19 March 2012

Shaped by the Story (7): The Family Tree

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the seventh in an ongoing series looking at passages in Scripture which summarise the biblical story. In part, the series has been designed to help publicise the book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues.]

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham... Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. Matthew 1:1, 17

The growth industry in genealogy magazines and books designed to help people trace their family tree, along with the popularity of TV programmes like Who Do You Think You Are?, demonstrate our fascination with roots. In some cases it’s little more than a curiosity about family background, but in many cultures it reflects a desire, even necessity, to show connectedness and belonging. This was certainly the case for Matthew, as he lays out Jesus’ ancestry at the start of his gospel.

Crucially, he begins and ends the genealogy with David and Abraham. Jesus is not only the fulfilment of the hopes of a new king on David’s throne, but also the one who will extend God’s blessings to Gentiles in fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham. But more than this, Matthew’s very first words – about the ‘genesis’ of Jesus Christ – are reminiscent of Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. He is setting the account he is about to tell in the larger story of God’s dealings not just with Israel, but with creation, marking a new beginning in that story – a new beginning in Jesus.

Why Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba are included in the genealogy remains something of a puzzle. Perhaps Matthew wanted us to note they were all ‘foreigners’ to Israel, brought within the orbit of the people of God. More significantly, perhaps, is that their unions and childrearing could be seen as outside the ‘norm’, some even carrying the stigma of sexual scandal. Matthew reminds us – as Joseph will learn in the passage that follows – that God doesn’t always work out his purpose within expected boundaries.

On the first page of the New Testament, then, the significance of Jesus is seen in the shape of the history of Israel, with all its ups and downs, which goes back through David to Abraham, and has its origins in God’s purposes for the whole of creation.

And this history becomes our history too, as we are adopted into the family of faith whose roots go back to the very beginning, carefully worked out by God, culminating in Jesus. Here is great encouragement, as the gospel story reminds me of my incredible significance in God’s grand design – that I find my identity and purpose, with others, in the one who stands at the heart of God’s plan for the universe.

Friday 16 March 2012

The Economist on the Rise of Evangelicalism in the Church of England

There is an interesting short article here, published in The Economist (10 March 2012), about the rise of evangelicalism in the Church of England:

‘As the number of people who are actively committed to the Church of England falls, the proportion of churchgoers who are serious about their faith – and its implications for private and public life – is growing. Peter Brierley, a collector of statistics on faith in Britain, reckons that 40% of Anglicans attend evangelical parishes these days, up from 26% in 1989.’

The piece ends with a comment from Simon Barrow (Ekklesia) who points out the ‘mixed bag’ nature of evangelicals in Anglicanism, noting that ‘Evangelicalism, like Anglicanism as a whole, is a fairly broad church’.

Catalyst 38, 3 (March 2012)

The latest of Catalyst is now online, with the usual collection of short but helpful articles:

Dale C. Allison Jr.

The Study of the Historical Jesus and Human Memory

Beth Felker Jones

Theology for the Church

Thomas H. McCall

Forsaken: The Trinity and the Gospel

Henry H. Knight III

Consider Wesley

Monday 12 March 2012

Currents in Biblical Research 10, 2 (2012)

The latest Currents in Biblical Research is now out; abstracts of the main articles are as follows:

Charles Trimm

Recent Research on Warfare in the Old Testament

In an introduction to the English translation of Gerhard von Rad’s classic work Holy War in Ancient Israel, Ollenburger (1991) reviewed the major contributions on the topic of warfare through to 1990. My article will update Ollenburger’s survey with new research on warfare in the Old Testament from 1990 to 2010, treating historicity, broad histories of warfare, and diversity of warfare. In addition, this article expands Ollenburger’s survey by looking at recent research on other topics connected to warfare (herem, warfare in Psalms and Chronicles, military history, and ethics), and at new perspectives on warfare (ancient Near Eastern connections, feminism, peace, and early reception history).

Judy Diehl

Empire and Epistles: Anti-Roman Rhetoric in the New Testament Epistles

Recent studies of the letters of the New Testament have uncovered intentional words, phrases, ideology and imagery that carry the weight of anti-imperial rhetoric. The second of three articles, this is an investigation of current scholarship concerned with the use of anti-imperial rhetoric in the New Testament epistles. While it is impossible to ignore the Jewish nature of many of the New Testament epistles, both mild and overt, anti-imperial rhetoric challenges the emperor worship and the propaganda of the Roman imperial authorities of the first century. The first part of this article, published in Currents 10.1, is a brief summation of the scholarly developments that have taken place in the discipline of the New Testament epistles. Over decades of research, scholarship has moved from the understanding of the intersection of the book of Acts and the Pauline letters, to the connection between the Apostle Paul and Judaism, to the realization of the junction between Paul and the Gentile world. The second part of the article focuses on a number of Pauline epistles and general epistles where we catch a glimpse of a newer scholarly development, which is a postcolonial approach to the context of the New Testament epistles and the Roman Empire. In a general sense, the response of the authors of the New Testament epistles to the dominating government seems to be, ‘Jesus is Lord, not Caesar!’

Hellen Mardaga

Hapax Legomena: A Neglected Field in Biblical Studies

The current essay offers an overview of major studies on hapax legomena in the MT, LXX and NT. The focus of the contribution is on the definition of hapax legomenon. Authors disagree as to whether the term should point to (a) a word found only once in a specific biblical corpus or to (b) a word occurring more than once as well as unique grammatical forms of a word as well as unique meanings. The present article defends that hapax legomenon should only be reserved for a word found only once in the MT, the LXX or the NT.

Travis B. Williams

Suffering from a Critical Oversight: The Persecutions of 1 Peter within Modern Scholarship

Throughout the history of research, the topic of persecution has been one of the more heavily debated issues within the study of 1 Peter. At the moment, however, a general agreement has been reached concerning the nature of the readers’ problems. According to the modern consensus, the persecutions were localized and sporadic hostility consisting of verbal abuse and discrimination (i.e., ‘unofficial’ persecution). The present article will survey exactly how this consensus was reached, focusing particular attention on a key oversight which took place very early in the discussion. Our review will explore some of the significant effects which this omission has produced in the subsequent debate, while examining how a few of the most recent treatments have worked towards rectifying the situation.

David M. Miller

Ethnicity Comes of Age: An Overview of Twentieth-Century Terms for Ioudaios

This article, part two in a three-part series on the meaning of Ioudaios (‘Jew’ or ‘Judaean’), examines the use of ethnic terminology in scholarship on Ioudaios over the last seventy-five years, with a focus on representative studies from the 1930s–1950s as a point of comparison with more recent developments. The article traces shifts in the meaning of ethnic terminology after World War II and explores why ‘ethnicity’ eventually came to more-or-less supplant other terms such as ‘race’ and ‘nation’. Part one, which appeared in 2010 in CBR 9.1, examined the relationship between Ioudaios and other group labels in ancient Judaism, such as ‘Israel’ and ‘Galilaean’. The final article will analyse the relationship between ethnicity and religion in scholarship on the meaning of Ioudaios, and evaluate the debate over the term’s English translation.

Shaped by the Story (6): Renewing God’s People

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the sixth in an ongoing series looking at passages in Scripture which summarise the biblical story. In part, the series has been designed to help publicise the book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues.]

Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them... You are the LORD God, who chose Abram... You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt... You came down on Mount Sinai... You gave them kingdoms and nations... By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets... Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love...

Nehemiah 9:5, 7, 9, 13, 22, 30, 32

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell of the building projects – the temple and the walls of Jerusalem – that take place after God’s people come home from exile. No less real, and no less hard graft, is the rebuilding of the people themselves – in relationship with God and in community with each other. And at the heart of it, the means by which restoration comes, is the word of God. As Nehemiah 8-10 shows, God works through Scripture – and the story it tells – to breathe new life into his people.

In this case, reading the book of the law leads to confession, with Nehemiah 9 recording the longest prayer in the Bible outside the Psalms. Beginning with praise, the people then trace the biblical story from creation right through to their present day. In doing so, they confess their faithlessness and God’s faithfulness in his dealings with them, admitting their guilt and acknowledging God’s grace.

Mediated through the lens of a scriptural memory of God’s past actions on their behalf, that shared history cements the identity of the people of God, forming a community which will trust and serve him in the future. And so, confession turns to commitment as they make an agreement among themselves and before the Lord to make their own history different in the land God has given them anew. The renewal of the covenant that follows in chapter 10 flows from the awakening by the word of God in chapter 8 and the confession of sin in chapter 9.

Of course, we need ongoing renewal at the personal level. But what’s going on in Nehemiah, crucially, is corporate renewal, renewal of the people of God. A restored relationship with God leads to a restored relationship with each other, to a concern for the welfare of the whole community. The vision at the heart of these chapters, shaped by the biblical story, remains as powerful now as it did then – renewal through the word of God, renewal in relationship with God, and renewal as the people of God.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Leaven: A Journal of Christian Ministry

I came across this freely available online theological journal recently, Leaven – ‘a non-profit journal published quarterly by the Religion Division at Pepperdine University’, which ‘exists to help fellow Christians think together about the challenges of ministry’. Its Editorial and Advisory Board ‘is composed of women and men of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Heritage’, and its writers come ‘from diverse cultural backgrounds committed to the ministry of Christ in a broken world’.

Issues tend to be themed, often based on a book of the Bible; the current one, for instance – volume 19, number 4 (2011) – is devoted to ‘Hebrews and Worship’. I enjoyed browsing through the back issues, picking out a few gems.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Naomi Frizzell on Business as Mission

The latest entry on the Lausanne Movement blog is by Naomi Frizzell on ‘Called to Work: Business as Mission’. It focuses on Section IIA. 3 of Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment, a section devoted to ‘Truth and the Workplace’.

As Frizzell notes:

‘This section of the Commitment addresses the so-called “sacred-secular divide” which has caused some Christians to segment their lives into “secular work” and “spiritual living”. The Commitment encourages Christians to instead, “accept and affirm their own daily ministry and mission as being wherever God has called them to work.” It goes on to “challenge pastors and church leaders to support people in such ministry – in the community and in the workplace – ‘to equip the saints for works of service [ministry]’ – in every part of their lives.

‘Some use the term “full-time Christian ministry” to mean the work of pastors, missionaries or people who work in a Christian organization. Yet the Business as Mission (BAM) movement is challenging the use of that phrase by contending that all Christians – whether they preach, sweep the floor of the local market, or serve as an airline flight attendant – are in “full-time Christian ministry”.

The blog entry links to a slightly longer article on Business as Mission by Mats Tunehag, as well as to other resources.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

9Marks eJournal 9, 2 (March-April 2012) on Conversion

The latest issue of the 9Marks eJournal is now available as a pdf here.

In the Editor’s Note, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘If you were a fan of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, you might remember that Calvin had a transmogrifier machine. The boy Calvin leads his imaginary tiger Hobbes up to a cardboard box with the word “Transmogrifier” handwritten on it, and explains, “You step into this chamber, set the appropriate dials, and it turns you into whatever you’d like to be.” Hobbes wryly observes, “It’s amazing what they do with corrugated cardboard these days.”

‘The promise of true change is a little unbelievable, isn’t it? It’s the stuff of comic strips and childhood daydreams.

‘But make no mistake: this is exactly what Christianity promises – true and real change. Divine pardon. Reconciliation with God. Smashed idols. A new spirit. A new self. A new family.

‘Since this year’s Together for the Gospel theme is the Underestimated Gospel, we thought we’d jump on the bandwagon and devote the pre-T4G Journal to the underestimated doctrine of conversion. Forget Calvin’s transmogrifier machine. How about a whole new creation!’

Didache 11.2 (2012)

The latest issue of Didache: Faithful Teaching (sponsored by the International Board of Education of the Church of the Nazarene, in cooperation with Nazarene Theological Seminary) is now online.

According to the editorial notes, the general theme ‘might be “holistic” issues in teaching/learning including issues of context (including immigrant challenges) content (disciplinary considerations), teaching, and assessing learning’. My eye has been drawn most of all to an essay on ‘Can Faith Be Divorced from the Public Square?’ and another one on ‘The Bible as a Community Encounter: An Essay on Challenges for Faculty and Students of Scripture’.

Monday 5 March 2012

Credo Magazine 3 (March 2012)

The third issue of Credo is now out, this one devoted to the topic of ‘Make Disciples of All Nations’.

According to the editorial blurb:

‘As disciples of Christ, it is our great joy to go and tell the nations about the good news of salvation for sinners through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. The March issue of Credo Magazine will seek to ignite a passion for missions. And what better timing as this year marks the 200th anniversary of Adoniram and Ann Judson setting sail aboard the Caravan with to take the gospel to Burma.’

The magazine is available to read here, and can be downloaded as a 38.5 MB pdf here.

Shaped by the Story (5): The Main Role

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the fifth in an ongoing series looking at passages in Scripture which summarise the biblical story. In part, the series has been designed to help publicise the book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues.]

Give praise to the LORD, call on his name;

make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing of him, sing his praises;

tell of all his wonderful acts.

Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Look to the LORD and his strength;

seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,

his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,

his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.

Psalm 105:1-6

Like other passages which tell the biblical story, Psalm 105 reiterates God’s own place in the drama. Clearly, his role is not merely that of the playwright, much less that of a spectator in the audience. As it happens, not only is he the main actor, the central character on stage, but he also has the most significant speaking part. In taking us from Abraham to Canaan, the psalmist does not simply recite the events, but attributes them to the initiative and promise of the Lord. And we, ‘his chosen ones’, are called to remember both ‘the wonders he has done’ and ‘the judgments he pronounced’, words as well as works.

Moreover, God’s saving work is effective for subsequent generations, and the summons to remember connects us to the events no less than the original audience. So, we too are not spectators in the audience, but called to be involved in the action, to take our place in the ongoing drama of salvation.

Just one of the ways we do that, exemplified by the psalm itself, is through praise. Interestingly, the first part of the psalm is drawn from 1 Chronicles 16, where it is sung in celebration of the arrival of the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem. Beyond its use on that special occasion, it continues to be sung by God’s people, showing that more than a mental act of recitation of the biblical story is taking place. In poetic praise of God’s covenant faithfulness, God's ‘chosen ones’ of every time and place are invited to recount and remember, then respond in celebration and praise.

Crucially, however, we do so to ‘make known among the nations what he has done’ (105:1) – another reminder of the global dimensions of the biblical drama of which we are a part. Confident that God will bring to complete fruition his promise to bless all nations, we praise the Lord and proclaim his name not to benefit ourselves, but to make known his works and words to all people everywhere.

The Briefing 398 (March-April 2012)

My copy of The Briefing arrived this morning, which is always an enjoyable moment.

The Briefing is published by Matthias Media, in partnership with The Good Book Company in the UK, six times a year as a 52-page magazine.

Among other pieces, this volume contains features on running Sunday meetings, the hope of the resurrection, and an interview with Phillip Jensen, along with a couple of reviews and brief reflections on biblical passages.

Folk in the UK can subscribe to it from here. Recently, however, the content (most, if not all, I think) has been made available to non-subscribers online here, which is worth checking out.

Saturday 3 March 2012

The Gospel Coalition Booklets

I bought, and read, a few of the Gospel Coalition Booklets when they first came out a year or so ago. I held back from buying them all, as I suspected they would eventually be published together in a single volume... which, as it happens, has just come out: D.A. Carson and Timothy Keller (eds.), The Gospel as Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

Except that The Gospel Coalition have also now made many (but not all) of the booklets available as downloadable pdfs on their website. Some of these are worth checking out as helpful overviews of their areas:

D.A. Carson and Tim Keller, Gospel-Centered Ministry.

Andrew M. Davis, Creation.

Kevin DeYoung, The Holy Spirit.

J. Ligon Duncan III and Thabiti Anyabwile, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Philip Graham Ryken, Justification.

Timothy Savage, The Church: God’s New People.

Colin S. Smith, The Plan.

Sam Storms, The Restoration of All Things.

Stephen Um, The Kingdom of God.

Sandy Willson, Christ’s Redemption.

Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva (and Charles C. Camosy) on After-Birth Abortion

Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, ‘After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?’, Journal of Medical Ethics (2012), first published on 2 March 2012.

Charles C. Camosy, ‘Concern for Our Vulnerable Prenatal and Neonatal Children: A Brief Reply to Giubilini and Minerva’ (2012).

The short article by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva came to my attention via posts from friends on Facebook. It hasn’t even been formally published in the journal yet, and already seems to be causing a wave of consternation.

Here’s the abstract:

‘Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.’

The authors essentially argue that ‘when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible’. They propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide’, ‘to emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which ‘abortions’ in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child’, seeking to claim that ‘killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be’.

There are two reasons, they say, which, taken together, justify this claim: (1) ‘The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus, that is, neither can be considered a ‘person’ in a morally relevant sense’, and (2) ‘It is not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense’.

On the first of those points, they argue that ‘both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a “person” in the sense of “subject of a moral right to life”. We take “person” to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her’.

And on the second of those points: ‘If a potential person, like a fetus and a newborn, does not become an actual person, like you and us, then there is neither an actual nor a future person who can be harmed, which means that there is no harm at all.’

In a brief reply to Giubilini and Minerva, Charles C. Camosy notes that the Catholic Church also makes logical connections between abortion and infanticide, but, of course differ on their views of what kind of thing the prenatal and neonatal child is. Hence, ‘the Catholic Church will part company with Giubilini and Minerva with regard to moral anthropology and in particular when they claim human persons can be defined merely as collections of actualized traits’.

‘From our prenatal and postnatal children – to brain damaged and mentally disabled adults – the fact that a fellow substance of a rational nature happens to have their potential frustrated is no reason at all to treat them as anything less than a person. If anything, those who are not currently expressing these traits deserve our special attention given that they are so vulnerable.’

Camosy notes that pro-lifers, to be serious players in public debate, ‘should hold a coherent and consistent point of view’, and so ‘should expect... to be pushed to deal with the implications of our positions which seem absurd to others’. He also decries the personal attacks and threats of violence that Giubilini and Minerva have received from those who identify as Christians.

‘That hate and vitriol are spewed by people on all sides of these controversial debates is nothing new, but Christians are called to love and solidarity even with those who oppose us on massively important issues like this. When we behave in ways which undermine our own values of love, solidarity, and respect for life, we not only fail to live the life to which Jesus called us, but we also undercut the effectiveness of our own arguments.’

Friday 2 March 2012

Mission Frontiers (March/April 2012) on the Family

The March/April 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers contains a number of interesting-looking essays on the family, tackling the question in the title of the issue: Is The Family God’s Prime Mission Strategy For World Evangelization?

Here’s the summary blurb:

‘Prepare yourself for a paradigm shift in your thinking about what it means to do missions. Evangelicals from the West are so accustomed to thinking about reaching people with the gospel as distinct individuals – one at a time. Much of our theology and evangelistic practices are centered upon this individualistic approach apart from any connection people have with their family or community. Have we missed God’s prime strategy for world evangelization with this exclusive focus on individuals?’