Thursday 27 December 2012

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37:1 (January 2013)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research carries the feature articles noted below.

Jonathan J. Bonk’s editorial – ‘The Image of God in Mission’ – reminds us that it ‘is essential that we honor the image of God in the individual men and women behind the data so that they are not mere objects of our research, subjects of our religious schemes, or the raw materials of our scholarly reputations or missiological successes, but children of God’.

Drawing on C.S. Lewis’ sermon, ‘The Weight of Glory’, he writes that ‘Christians dare not succumb to a reductionist, utilitarian view of other human beings, no matter how alien, how distant, or how exploitable they might be’.

Johan Mostert and Marvin Gilbert
Obtaining Informed Consent in Missiologically Sensitive Contexts

Stefan Paas
The Use of Social Data in the Evangelization of Europe: Methodological Issues

Gerald H. Anderson
Professional Academic Associations for Mission Studies

Mark Rogers
End Times Innovator: Paul Rader and Evangelical Missions

Roswith Gerloff
My Pilgrimage in Mission

Todd M. Johnson and Peter F. Crossing
Christianity 2013: Renewalists and Faith and Migration

John C.B. Webster
The Legacy of John Charles Heinrich

Arnold L. Cook
My Pilgrimage in Mission

Jonathan J. Bonk, with Erika Stalcup, Wendy Jennings, and Dwight P. Baker
Missiological Journals: A Checklist

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Mission Frontiers 35, 1 (January-February 2013)

The January-February 2013 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles around the theme of ‘Reaching the Unengaged’.

Here’s part of the editorial by Rick Wood:

‘As followers of Jesus, all of us have been called to be on mission with God to overcome every barrier that keeps people from having access to the gospel. That is what this issue of Mission Frontiers is all about – overcoming all the barriers that are keeping the Church from engaging every people so that every person may have access to the gospel. We call those peoples whom no agency is working to reach the unengaged.’

Later, in the same editorial, he writes:

‘The simple fact is that providing access to the gospel for every person, tribe and tongue is a pipe dream unless our goal is to equip and deploy every believer in every people group to be a disciple-maker or church-planter. It is simply not possible to mobilize and deploy enough professional missionaries and pastors to replace the enormous exponential power of the average believer who is trained to make disciples who then go on to make more disciples who are likewise equipped.’

Individual articles can be accessed from here; the whole issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

A Branch So Fair Has Blossomed

A Branch so fair has blossomed
From tender parent stem,
Out of the rod of Jesse,
As told by godly men,
And brought a Flow’r so bright,
Well in the midst of winter
And darkness of the night.

This little Rose, so lovely,
That sprang from Jesse’s rod
A lowly virgin brought us,
The favoured one of God;
By His decree and might
A holy Child she bare us
One blessed Christmas night.

This little Flow’r, so fragrant,
My heart fills with delight,
For with its shining splendour
It drives away the night.
True man, and yet God’s Son,
Saves us from sin and sorrow,
And when life’s day is done.

Apparently this was first published in the 1580s, though some sources date it back to the 14th century. Its original 19 stanzas focused on Mary, comparing her to the woman describing herself as a ‘rose’ in Song of Songs 2:1 – ‘am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley’. By 1609, however, Protestants had adopted the hymn and changed its focus from Mary to Jesus, citing Isaiah 11:1 – ‘A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit’.

Monday 24 December 2012

Lausanne Movement on Children and the Gospel

The current topic focus from the Lausanne Movement on the issues raised in The Cape Town Commitment is children. There is a summarising piece by Naomi Frizzell – ‘Children and the Gospel: Evangelizing the 4/14 Window’, which introduces several articles and responses exploring the topic.

Friday 21 December 2012

Anvil 28, 3 (2012) on Theology and Literature

The November 2012 issue of Anvil is available online, with essays on ‘Theology and Literature’, prompted by the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens earlier in the year.

Paul Edmondson
Spiritual Reflections on the Work of Shakespeare and Dickens
A text’s theological or spiritual significance is not limited to the intent of its author. Here Paul Edmondson argues that a doctrine of incarnation enables the works of great authors, like Shakespeare and Dickens, to become useful as contemporary sources for spiritual direction. This paper has in view, not only the spirituality of the authors themselves, but also the way in which the creative act of writing connects the written word to the divine. Imaginative engagement with literature, therefore, can become a resource for spiritual growth and communion with God.

Julia Golding
What did Dickens ever do for you?
A personal journey through the works of Charles Dickens. Novelist, Julia Golding, finds what he has to teach lies in the dust heaps.

Jane Gledhill
Dickens: The Law and Love
It is not clear the extent to which Charles Dickens deliberately used Christian themes and motifs within his writing, although that many are present is certain. Yet, as this overview of some of his key works and the themes they contain shows, Dickens’ fiction was not only influenced by real events in his world but through it he consistently displayed genuine compassion for those downtrodden by the society in which he lived. As such, the extent to which Dickens believed in the power of literature to challenge and to change can be seen.

Sarah Rowland Jones

Stephen R. Lawhead
Interview with author Stephen R. Lawhead

Adrian Chatfield
Conversations with Wilfred Owen: The Pity is in the Poetry
Owen’s powerful verse, describing the horrors of the First World War and its effects on those who experienced it, continues to move readers nearly 100 years after it was written. Here it is demonstrated, however, how Owen’s poetry can also have a theological significance when placed within a broad hermeneutical framework which allows the bringing into conversation of theology and secular literature. In so doing, Owen’s works continue to provide a prophetic voice to the evangelical church, despite him eventually rejecting the faith it professes.

Tony Watkins
Art’s Desire: Responding to Film and Literature
The media (including the arts) play a dominant role in western society. This article argues that Christians should engage with them positively, since they are the product of God’s image-bearers, yet critically, since they are also the expression of human fallenness. Focusing particularly on film and literature, this article briefly considers media and the arts in relation to the transcendental values of beauty, truth, and goodness. It sets out five aspects of a holistic response, taking account of the aesthetic, emotional, worldview, moral and spiritual aspects.

Douglas Moo Lectures on Romans

The latest addition to the library at is a set of lectures (and class discussions) on Romans by Douglas Moo.

After a short, painless registration process, the lectures are available for download as audio files or for viewing online. There are 53 files in all, but they each tend to be between 10 and 20 minutes in length.

Not the End of the World

I contributed today’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. The day of posting being 21 December 2012, I felt compelled to reflect on the hullabaloo surrounding the coming to the end of the Maya Long Count calendar.

In the words of an old quip, if you’re unsure what to make of the rumblings about ancient Maya prophecies coming to pass today, 21 December 2012, don’t worry – it’s not the end of the world.

During its classical period (AD 250-900), Maya civilisation saw remarkable achievements in architecture, writing, maths, and astronomy, including the creation of a complex system of calendars. One such, the Long Count calendar, which roots the Maya people back in creation itself, reaches the end of a 1,872,000-day-long cycle on 21 December 2012. But the calendar doesn’t end at this point. Instead, like the mileometer on a car that’s gone round the clock, the count rolls over to zero the next day.

Some have spoken of the day being a ‘hinge point’ for the emergence of a new, more enlightened age, when we ‘reconnect with our cosmic heart’. Others have predicted doomsday scenarios involving UFOs, black holes, sun flares, the reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field, and giant tsunamis. Russia and China have reported panic buying of candles and matches, and the US has seen an increase in sales of survival shelters.

Everyday fears are increasingly shaped and intensified by the threat of global disaster – climate change, nuclear attacks, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, pandemics – all reinforced by the media. In popular culture, we see it most pointedly in films which portray the apocalypse or life in its dystopian aftermath. Such movies, like Roland Emmerich’s 2012 (inspired by the assumed ending of the Maya calendar), expose human anxieties and reveal the yearnings for a better, more secure hope. Indeed, while the threat of the end is inevitable, hope that the final destruction of humanity is avoidable runs through virtually all apocalyptic films.

For Christians, hope is not an optimistic belief in our capacity to meet every eventuality. Rather, hope derives its shape from trust in the God who has acted in Jesus Christ, who is working out his plan of redemption, and who will one day inaugurate a world free from ‘the old order of things’. Christians believe not in the end of the world, but in the beginning of a renewed world.

That hope frees us up to live expectantly and confidently, though realistically, in ways that seek to transform the here and now in line with what will be – not as an act of self-assertion, but as a response to God’s gracious promise.


Thursday 20 December 2012

Centre for Public Christianity (December 2012)

The most recent newsletter from the Centre for Public Christianity contains links to several video interviews

Mike Bassous (adjunct Professor of International Studies at Taylor University and General Secretary of the Bible Society of Lebanon) on what the Arab Spring means for the Middle East and the effects of the Syrian civil war

Darrell Bock (Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary) on the purpose of Jesus’ miracles and why Westerners struggle to accept them

Richard Burridge (Dean of King’s College London) on the New Testament attitude towards wealth and the revolutionary impact that such understanding could have on contemporary society

Michael Schluter on the importance of families for healthy communities and what governments should be doing to foster healthy family relationships.

There is also a review of After Capitalism: Rethinking Economic Relationships, by Paul Mills and Michael Schluter.

Monday 10 December 2012

Knowing and Doing (Winter 2012)

The latest edition of Knowing & Doing – ‘A Teaching Quarterly for Discipleship of Heart and Mind’ – from the C.S. Lewis Institute has just become available online (here as a pdf), and contains the following articles:

Joel S. Woodruff
Les Misérables: A Story of God’s Hospitality, Grace and Redemption
There are three biblical themes in this beloved story: the disarming power of hospitality given in the name of Jesus, God’s offer of grace to the undeserving, and the Spirit’s redemptive power as demonstrated through the transformed lives of those who choose to follow Christ.

Michelle Knott
Yes, Vacancy! Welcoming Strangers into Our Home in the Name of Jesus
The story of how one family transformed their home into a Christian “youth hostel”.

Thomas A. Tarrants, III
Hindrances to Discipleship: The Flesh – Part I
If we ever hope to make progress as disciples of Jesus – to think as he thought, to want what he wants, to feel as he felt, to act as he acted – we must understand and deal with our flesh and the sins it produces.

David B. Calhoun
John Wycliffe: “The Morning Star of the Reformation”
A fascinating look at the life of John Wycliffe, greatly used by God in many ways.

Ashley Storm
Answering God’s Call in the Public Schools
One C.S. Lewis Institute fellow responds to God’s call in her life and learns that promotions along the career ladder of faith are rarely written on the world’s terms.

Joseph A. Kohm, Jr.
How to Develop and Maintain a Christian Worldview through C.S. Lewis’s Essay: “The Poison of Subjectivism”
Once we understand that Jesus is our standard, our mission is to ensure that our thoughts, views, and beliefs (our worldview) come nearer and nearer to him.

Vincent Travani 
Sonnet for the Aslan House – Meeting Place for Annapolis Fellows
A sonnet to convey the impact of the C.S. Lewis Institute’s Annapolis Fellows Program.

Contract or Covenant?

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the ninth in a series on Jesus’ parables.]

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard... The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.
Matthew 20:1-2, 9-11

A landowner hires five sets of workers at different times of the day. Those recruited at dawn are promised a day’s wage, and those hired subsequently are assured they will be paid ‘whatever is right’; but when settlement time arrives, all receive the same. Small wonder that the action of the landowner has often been likened to God’s goodness in welcoming all, regardless of merit, into the kingdom.

Another reading has gained traction in recent years which argues that parables like this one show how oppression serves the interests of a ruling class. In this case, the parable depicts two extremes of agrarian society: a ruthless landowner and desperate peasants who are in no position to bargain. Far from being generous, the owner exploits an unemployed workforce to meet his harvesting needs.

For sure, the situation and characters reflect the economic realities of Jesus’ day, realities he was not averse to criticising. Here, though, the introduction suggests the landowner represents something of how God rules. And it’s possible to see him positively, not as ruthless, nor even incompetent in calculating how many workers he’d need to recruit, but in being compassionate to those in need of employment. What’s more, the parable begins and ends with a reference to the last being first and the first being last (19:30; 20:16). Who is ‘last’ and ‘first’ is highlighted with the order in which the workers are employed and then paid, the structure of the parable reinforcing the message of reversal in its frame.

Our response to the parable probably has a lot to do with where we see our place in the line – near the front or at the back. That we instinctively sympathise with the aggrieved workers suggests the difficulty of detaching ourselves from the conviction that rewards should match service rendered. Then as now, the parable challenges our sense of entitlement.

It also spotlights the nature of our relationship to the master. Those hired first are given the wages they have earned; what is given to those hired last is based less on their rights than on the owner’s right to be generous – the difference between a contract and a covenant. The parable helps us examine how far our discipleship is governed by contractual obligations rather than covenantal service. In doing so, it reorientates us towards the gracious presence of the kingdom. This is the way God rules.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Mission Catalyst Issue 1 (2013)

The latest issue of Mission Catalyst from BMS World Mission is available online here. This one contains a collection of pieces by David Kerrigan, Tom Wright, John Polkinghorne, and others devoted to the question ‘What happens when we die?’

Back issues of Mission Catalyst can be downloaded from the archive.

Encounters 43 (December 2012) on More New Voices in Mission

The latest issue of Encounters from Redcliffe College is now available, this one looking at ‘More New Voices in Mission’.

Editor, Tim Davy, reports that the articles (the summaries below are from his editorial) ‘represents the fruit of some excellent thinking and research by postgraduate students at Redcliffe College’, including three MA dissertations ‘which have been abridged to make them a more accessible length’.

Chris Ducker
Labouring and Listening Together?
Chris Ducker builds on significant field research to examine the effectiveness of short-term mission in Moldova. The particularly significant feature of Chris’s study is his focus on the experiences of those hosting foreign short-term teams. In so doing he brings out important, neglected voices and concludes with some very helpful implications for mission practice that could be usefully applied in all sorts of short-term mission contexts.

Joanne Appleton
The Perceptions of a Missional Lifestyle amongst European Generation Y Christians
Joanne Appleton’s study... provides valuable research and observations about how young people understand what it means to be ‘missional’. This is essential reading for all those trying to engage young people with mission. You may be surprised by the results…

Nicolas Haydock
The Levitical Priesthood and the Mission of God
Nicholas Haydock... seeks to develop a canonical understanding of the Levitical Priesthood. His innovative study seeks to set this very ‘Israelite’ institution in the context of the mission of God, yielding some fascinating insights.

Amy Roche
A Critical Evaluation of the Contextualisation of Alpha France
Amy gives a balanced, constructive, accessible and sophisticated analysis of the ways in which the Alpha course has been translated linguistically and culturally for use in France, her own ministry context.

Individual articles are available from here, or the pdf of the full issue is available here.

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 24.0

The latest entry in Brian Borger’s series of ‘must-read books’ highlights Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options, by Herman Dooyeweerd (Grand Rapids: Paideia, 2012), a new paperback version of the 1979 edition, and A Thicker Jesus: Incarnational Discipleship in a Secular Age, by Glen Harold Stassen (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2012).

Thursday 6 December 2012

Protestant Reformed Theological Journal 46, 1 (2012) on Herman Bavinck

Thanks to Steve Bishop for the heads up that the latest issue of Protestant Reformed Theological Journal (contents below, and available here as a pdf) is devoted to Herman Bavinck. The Book Reviews section includes a review of Ron Gleason’s 2010 work, Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian.

Editor’s Notes

David J. Engelsma
Herman Bavinck: The Man and His Theology

David J. Engelsma
Herman Bavinck’s Doctrine of the Covenant

James A. Laning
Herman Bavinck’s View of Common Grace

David J. Engelsma
Another Defender of Shepherd (and the Federal Vision)

Book Reviews

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Themelios 37, 3 (November 2012)

The latest Themelios is online here (and available here as a single pdf), containing the following articles:

D.A. Carson
Editorial: More Examples of Intolerant Tolerance

Michael J. Ovey
Off the Record: Sorrow at Another’s Good?

Andreas J. Köstenberger
The Present and Future of Biblical Theology

Rob Smith
Music, Singing, and Emotions: Exploring the Connections

Peter R. Schemm, Jr.
The Writing Pastor: An Essay on Spiritual formation

Book Reviews

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Foundations 63 (Autumn 2012)

Issue 63 of Foundations: An International Journal of Evangelical Theology, published by Affinity, is now freely available (here in its entirety as a pdf). This is a themed issue, devoted to baptism, with the following contributions:

Ralph Cunnington

Derek W.H. Thomas
Water-Ordeals of the Seventeenth Century: Should Baptism Divide?

John Stevens
Infant Baptism: Putting Old Wine into New Wineskins?

Kevin J. Bidwell
A Covenantal View of Baptism and Its Relationship to Evangelism

Lee Gatiss
The Anglican Doctrine of Baptism

Mike Gilbart-Smith
“Let the Little Children Come to Me... But Should We Baptise Them?”

Jonathan Leeman
Review Article: David F. Wright (ed), Baptism: Three Views

Justin Mote
Book Review: Robert Letham, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Baptism – The Water that Unites

Monday 3 December 2012

Three Theos Reports

Hats off to the ever-prodigious folk at Theos who are releasing three new reports before the year is out. The above two are already available, and the arrival of the third is imminent.

Religion and Law is ‘a collection of essays written by sixteen leading legal experts exploring the complex and often controversial relationship between religion and the law in Britain today’. According to the blurb, ‘it explores the often contested relationship between religious commitment and British law, seeking to challenge the ultimately oppressive reduction of religion to the private realm, and questioning, among other contentious matters, whether human rights and religious commitment are fully compatible’.

Post-Religious Britain? The Faith of the Faithless ‘examines the shape of unbelief in Britain today’. The report ‘llustrates the mistakes of the secularisation thesis, rejecting the common understanding that as we become less institutionally religious, we necessarily become more secular or atheist. It paints a different picture of modern society – one in which the lines between the religious and non-religious are becoming increasingly blurred’.

The third report, From Goodness to God: Why Religion Makes Sense of our Moral Commitments, to be published later this week, ‘argues that religious belief provides a better foundation for moral reasoning than atheism’.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Lausanne Movement on Media and the Gospel

The current topic focus from the Lausanne Movement on the issues raised in The Cape Town Commitment is media.

There is a summarising piece by Naomi Frizzell – ‘Media and the Gospel: A Call to the Global Lausanne Community’, urging us to take seriously:

• Media awareness – ‘The need for greater understanding of how media messages shape individuals, families and societies; and the need to develop skills of critical evaluation and response.’

• Media presence – ‘The need for a new emphasis on working in the mainstream news and creative media, from a Christian perspective, with professionalism, creativity, integrity, and courage.’

• Media ministries – ‘The need for courage, creativity, innovation, and integrity in using every medium to its full potential to communicate the gospel and biblical truth.’

Several short essays and responses exploring the topic further are available from this page.

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 23.0

Byron Borger continues his series on ‘must-read books’, this time highlighting 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life, by Matthew Sleeth (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2012), and Glimpses of Another Land: Political Hopes, Spiritual Longing: Essays, by Eric Miller (Eugene: Cascade, 2012).