Thursday 31 January 2013

Interpretation 67, 1 (2013) on Embodiment

The main essays in the January 2013 issue of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, are devoted to the theme of ‘Embodiment: Reclaiming the Body for Faith’.

Silvia Schroer and Thomas Staubli
Bodily and Embodied: Being Human in the Tradition of the Hebrew Bible
A depiction of the ancient Hebrew understanding of the human being must take into account the fact that the Bible does not contain a systematic anthropology, but unfolds the multiplicity of human existence inductively, aspectively, and in narrative fashion. In comparison to Greek body/soul dualism, but also in the context of body-(de-)construction and gender debates, this circumstance makes it a treasure trove of interesting, often contrasting recollections and insights with liberating potential. This assertion will be illustrated concretely in terms of the nexus points of the human body (throat, heart, and womb), the relationship of humans to animals and angels, and the questions of the power and value of a human being.

Yung Suk Kim
Reclaiming Christ’s Body (soma christou): Embodiment of God’s Gospel in Paul’s Letters
Traditionally, “the body of Christ” has been read through an organism metaphor that emphasizes unity of the community in Christ. The weakness of this reading is that there is no clear articulation of how members of the community are united with Christ. The body language in Paul’s letters can be best understood when read through a metaphor for a way of living that emphasizes Christ’s embodiment of God’s gospel. The body of Christ in Paul’s letters is, first of all, his physical body that represents his life and death. Then, derivatively, it is also associated with Christian living – for example, “You are Christ-like body” (1 Cor 12:27).

Nancey Murphy
Do Humans Have Souls? Perspectives from Philosophy, Science, and Religion
This essay seeks to promote a concept of human nature that is usually called nonreductive physicalism, which is at least not ruled out by Scripture, and may in fact be closer to biblical thinking than dualism. The essay then looks to neuroscience to show that it provides useful insights into how and why we behave as we do.

Debra A. Reagan
Reclaiming the Body for Faith
This essay examines what it means to be embodied members of the Body of Christ, exploring the metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12:12–27 in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, variant embodiment, abused bodies, and sexual bodies

Sunday 27 January 2013

Book Drum on C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity

Book Drum describes itself as ‘the perfect companion to the books we love, bringing them to life with immersive pictures, videos, maps and music’.

It’s most recent entry, by Steve Skaggs, is on C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, available from here.

Friday 25 January 2013

Universally Acknowledged Truths?

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

This Sunday sees the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Besides selling over 20 million copies worldwide, it has been brought to life in many adaptations, including a Bollywood cinema version, an Israeli TV series, and a zombie mash-up which follows Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters as they battle the undead in a quiet English village.

From its oft-cited opening sentence to its (spoiler alert) cheery outcome, something about the tale has an enduring and wide-ranging appeal. Indeed, in the just-published Happily Ever After: Celebrating Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Susannah Fullerton explores why Elizabeth Bennet is ‘the most charming heroine in literature’, why Mr Darcy has been voted ‘the most romantic hero of all time’, and why the book is regularly found in polls on favourite novels.

Those still tempted to suppose all this is a sentimental relic of a bygone age may pause to reflect on shadow health minister Diane Abbott’s warnings earlier this week about the damage caused by the hypersexualisation of society, where we’re seeing ‘an alien, warped view of sex normalised into our culture, engrained by the invisible hand of the market’. By contrast, while it is always possible to make an idol out of romantic love, we’re able to recognise something good and true and beautiful in the story Austen weaves – the flourishing that results from relationships based on genuine intimacy rather than social transactions or financial gain. For Christians, of course, the yearning for relationship points to our being made in the image of the triune God, and speaks of a higher need met fully in Christ.

But Pride and Prejudice does more than celebrate love. The two main characters undergo a transformation in which they see that their failures – the faults referred to in the title – must be overcome. The story is not just about the triumph of true love but the formation of good character.

Austen doesn’t deny the importance of passion, but believes, as Alasdair MacIntyre explains in After Virtue, that ‘morality is... meant to educate the passions’. Some currents in contemporary culture assume that virtue stifles passion, that nothing should stop us from ‘following our heart’. Austen paints a different picture – in line with Scripture – where humility, self-knowledge, and a willingness to act for the good of others deepens the emotional strength of relationships, where virtuous lovers are also the most passionate ones.


Journal of Moral Theology 2, 1 (2013) on Christology

The latest issue of the Journal of Moral Theology (an open-access journal from Mount St. Mary’s University) is now available, with an interesting-looking collection of articles based around the theme of Christology (see below). My eye was particularly drawn to Michael Gorman’s essay which, according to the editorial, ‘recapitulates much of his celebrated work on Paul’s letters and explores the centrality of the cross in Paul’s account of Christology and his account of Christian discipleship’.

Individual essays are available here, and the whole volume is downloadable here.

Paul J. Wadell
Christology and the Christian Life

Paulinus Ikechukwu Odozor, C.S.Sp.
Christology and Moral Theology

Patricia Sharbaugh
The Light Burden of Discipleship: Embodying the New Moses and Personified Wisdom in the Gospel of Matthew

Michael J. Gorman
Paul and the Cruciform Way of God in Christ

Elizabeth Newman
Modern Pluralism or Divine Plentitude? Toward a Christological Ontology

Neil Ormerod
Christ, Globalization, and the Church

Jeffrey P. Bishop
Body Work and the Work of the Body

Christopher McMahon
Review Essay: Beyond the Historical Jesus: Embracing Christology in Scripture, Doctrine, and Ethics

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Brent A. Strawn et al. on the Bible and Happiness

Brent A. Strawn (ed.), The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness: What the Old and New Testaments Teach Us about the Good Life (Oxford: OUP, 2012), 368 pp., ISBN 9780199795741.

Having something of an abiding interest in so-called ‘happiness studies’, I was delighted to see this full and substantive collection of essays appear late last year.

The OUP blurb and the contents are listed below.

‘Scholars of the social sciences have devoted increasing attention of late to the concept of human happiness, mainly from sociological and psychological perspectives. This groundbreaking volume, which includes twelve essays from scholars of the New Testament, the Old Testament, systematic theology, practical theology, and counseling psychology – along with an extensive introduction and epilogue by the editor – poses a new and exciting question: what is happiness according to the Bible? Informed by developments in positive psychology, the contributions explore representations of happiness throughout the Bible and demonstrate the ways in which they impinge upon both religious and secular understandings of happiness.’

Brent A. Strawn
Introduction: The Bible and... Happiness?

Part I. Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

Terence E. Fretheim
God, Creation, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Nathan MacDonald
Is There Happiness in the Torah?

Jacqueline Lapsley
A Happy Blend: Isaiah’s Vision of Happiness (and Beyond)

William P. Brown
Happiness and Its Discontents in the Psalms

Carol A. Newsom
Positive Psychology and Ancient Israelite Wisdom

Part II. New Testament

Carl R. Holladay
The Beatitudes: Happiness and the Kingdom of God

Joel B. Green
‘We Had to Celebrate and Rejoice!’ Happiness in the Topsy-Turvy World of Luke-Acts

Colleen Shantz
‘I Have Learned to Be Content?’: Happiness according to St. Paul

Greg Carey
Finding Happiness in Apocalyptic Literature

Part III. Beyond the Bible: Continuing the Conversation into Other Disciplines

Ellen T. Charry
The Necessity of Divine Happiness: A Response from Systematic Theology

Thomas G. Long
A Constructed Happiness: A Response from Practical Theology

Steven J. Sandage
The Transformation of Happiness: A Response from Counseling Psychology

Brent A. Strawn
Epilogue: The Triumph of Life: Towards a Biblical Theology of Happiness

Michael J. Chan
Appendix: A Biblical Lexicon of Happiness

Amy Sherman on Embracing Vocation in the City

Q Ideas has a 17-minute video here of Amy Sherman on ‘Embracing Vocation in the City’, highlighting themes explored more fully in her book, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012).

Here is the blurb for the video:

‘We spend most of our week outside of church – at our jobs, in our neighborhoods, with our families. How do we connect our faith with our vocations – with the work that we do in the world? Too often the church fails to deploy people’s unique vocational power strategically, creatively, and effectively. Amy Sherman challenges Christians to embrace a new vision for an everyday, integrated faith that will ultimately change workplaces, cities, industries.’

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Jon Thompson on Christianity as True Humanism

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online, this one by Jon Thompson:

Here is the summary:

This paper argues that Christianity is the most coherent form of humanism. By contrast, secular humanism is historically and philosophically dependent upon Christianity’s view of the human person. In a survey of the origins, emergence and development of secular humanism, this paper explores that historical connection before examining some of the implications which flow from a divorce of human values from Christian belief.

Sunday 13 January 2013

9Marks Journal 10, 1 (January-February 2013) on Lay Elders Part 2

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal (the second one devoted to lay elders in the church) is now available as a pdf here.

Credo Magazine 3, 1 (January 2013)

The current issue of Credo is now out, this one devoted to ‘Purgatory’.

According to the editorial blurb:

‘This issue of Credo Magazine might come as a surprise. Purgatory? Really? I thought we addressed that back in the sixteenth-century? Think again. Not only is purgatory a hot button issue once again on the table, especially given the current excitement with some Protestants returning to Rome, but most recently there has been a renewed interest in purgatory among committed evangelicals. For example, in his new book, Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation, Jerry Walls addresses evangelicals today, arguing not only that Protestants should whole-heartedly embrace purgatory, but that such a doctrine as this can serve as an ecumenical bridge with Catholics. Spoiler alert: The purgatory Walls has in mind does not look exactly like your Catholic grandmother’s. You will have to read this issue of Credo Magazine to see why.

The magazine is available to read here, from where also a 12.7 MB pdf of the whole issue can be downloaded.

Saturday 5 January 2013

Vern Sheridan Poythress on Inerrancy and the Gospels

Vern Sheridan Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 238pp., ISBN 978-1-4335-2860-6.

Following on the heels of the earlier Inerrancy and Worldview by Poythress (see here) comes this volume, freely available in its entirety as a 3.2 MB pdf here.

Here’s some of the blurb:

‘Responding to the questions surrounding the Gospel narratives, New Testament scholar Vern Poythress provides an informed case for inerrancy in the Gospels and helps readers understand basic principles for harmonization. He also tackles some of the most complicated exegetical problems, showing the way forward on passages that have perplexed many, including the centurion’s servant, the cursing of the fig tree, and more.’

Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics 3 (2012)

The third volume of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics (contents below) is now available online here as a pdf.

According to the website, the purpose of this journal is ‘to provide academically sound apologetic resources that will equip Christians (pastor and layperson) to engage critics and to answer the questions of seekers... to bridge the gap between the academic world and the needs of the local church’.

Ian Clary
Christopher Hitchens: In Memoriam

Samuel J. Youngs
Grace Might Reign: Understandings of Sin and Grace as Means of Christian-Muslim Interreligious Dialogue

Kevin Pagan
Classical Apologetics From a Presuppositional Foundation

Sam Welbaum
Defining Miracle: Hume, Theism and the History of a Concept

Stephen J. Bedard
Atheism in Canada: What is the Future?

Michael Plato
ENGLISH 101: Evangelicals and English Literature (Review Article)

One Step at a Time

I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

So far as we can tell, people have habitually marked the beginning of new years. And the resolve at such times to ‘do better’ goes back at least to ancient Babylon. Something about the turn of the calendar carries with it a pervasive and powerful desire for a fresh start, a clean slate.

Approximately 50% of us make resolutions each New Year, most of them to do with becoming healthier, managing money, and improving ourselves – all significant as well as offering telling windows into things that matter. And yet, research confirms what we already suspect – perhaps from personal experience – that the majority of us will abandon our resolves by mid-January, with many of us not making it beyond the first week.

Still, the making of resolutions at least implies a felt-need for transformation of some kind – a need that Christians of all people should understand. That need, and our failure to meet it, is addressed in the gospel, which declares that the heart of the Christian faith is not mere potential for self-improvement, still less the need to secure ‘salvation’ through following a certain ‘code’, but freedom – leaving us free from the pressure of having to do things to gain favour with God, free from trying to prove ourselves to others, free to submit to Christ.

The gospel not only explains the need for change, but also provides the power to bring it about, a power which comes from the finished work of Christ on the cross, from who God is and what he has done, with the Spirit as the agent of transformation in our lives.

The apostle Paul’s image of ‘walking’ to describe the Christian life is particularly apt. Unlike the dramatic moments of decision or fresh resolve we sometimes make at this time of the year, the walking metaphor suggests a more regular pattern, ongoing – mundane even – a process which occurs in the everyday places where we live and where we work – on the commute, in the home, at the office, at the gym, in the checkout queue.

In such contexts, we discover, it’s the consistent, everyday actions that make a difference, as we continue to walk step-by-step – our lifelong process of transformation into the likeness of Christ through the ongoing work of the Spirit.