Saturday 29 June 2013

Bible Storying Course

Further to my previous post on the power of story, and prompted by Eddie Arthur, readers of this blog may be interested to know of a six-day intensive course on Bible Storying taking place in November this year at Redcliffe College. The course is part of Redcliffe’s Centre for Linguistics, Translation and Literacy and is taught in partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL.

Meanwhile, check out this list of resources on the Bible and orality.

The Power of Story

I wrote the below piece for LICC’s EG 35 (June 2013), available online here. The theme of the issue revolved around the significance of story and stories. Not long after the article was submitted, I read Scott McClellan, Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative (Chicago: Moody, 2013), which would definitely have been added to the booklist

I was six years old when it happened, but I can remember it to this day. Already an avid reader, I was sitting up in bed one night leaning over a book when I should have been asleep. There had been a power cut (this being the early 1970s, after all) and my only light was a candle, also on my lap. So engrossed was I in the story that I didn’t give a thought about the proximity of a naked flame to cotton pyjamas – until, that is, the inevitable happened. My father seemed to bound up the stairs four at time in response to my screams, burst into the bedroom, ripped the burning top from my body in one movement of a hand, and trod it out on the floor. I’ve never lost my love for stories, but this might explain why I’ve always been cautious around candles.

Telling our stories

‘Tell me a story.’ ‘Once upon a time.’ A four-word request and a four-word opening. Both phrases capture something of the universal impulse for stories. Indeed, one of the characteristics that marks human beings out as distinctive is that we are story-making and story-telling animals. Often, when we get into a conversation with someone, what we hear is their story – of their day or week, or even something of their personal history. Every day of our lives we do things or things happen to us, or other people’s lives intersect with ours, and – often without even thinking about it – we link these ‘events’ and ‘characters’ together in a sequence which makes sense of them, which gives meaning to them, and which – if we were asked to do so – we could relay to others.

No matter the culture or era, stories are ever-present. An essential part of the fabric of relationships, they hold groups of people together – through inside jokes, shared experiences, and lifelong memories. So it is that humans have always passed on stories around the campfire or over the table – stories of origins, of adventures, of heroes, of love, of redemption, of happier times and darker days. Stories embody and transmit the values of the families and communities to which we belong. We explain and entertain ourselves through stories.

And we all know a good story when we hear one – not because it ticks particular boxes on a narratologist’s list, but because it connects with us and communicates in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. Stories are ‘sticky’. In their apparent simplicity and concreteness, in the way their unexpected turns take us from suspense to anticipation to relief, and in the way they provoke our imagination and engage our emotions, stories stay with us long after facts and figures have faded from our memories.

We all have and tell and are submerged in various interconnecting ‘stories’, all of which shape our lives in profound ways.

Embodying The Story

For Christians, of course, the most crucial story for determining our identity, for shaping the way we think and live, is the biblical story.

Prevalent among the Bible’s varied genres are many individual and interconnected narratives – Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, David, Daniel, Esther, Peter, Paul – which show us what God values – faith, obedience, love, loyalty, faithfulness, service, sacrifice. But the Bible also tells a grand sweeping story, from beginning to end. From the garden of Eden to the city of the New Jerusalem, the whole Bible can be seen as an epic narrative: a story which begins with God as Creator, which tells of Israel as the people who will bring God’s blessing to the nations, which the New Testament declares has come to its promised fulfilment in the redemption brought about through Christ, the one in whom God’s purposes for the cosmos will be consummated.

So, the significance of story shouldn’t come as a surprise to Christians, for whom there is an Author who stands behind our stories, imbuing them with his grace in a way that points back to him. Correctly understood, our stories don’t compete with God’s story, but gesture towards it. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and G.K. Chesterton were convinced that all our stories of journeys and heroes, of sacrifice and redemption, speak of humanity’s quest for identity, purpose and hope.

There can be a tendency for us to begin with our stories, and then fit the biblical narrative into the world of our experience. As it is, however, the ‘world’ created by the biblical narrative takes priority over the world of our experience. Our own stories connect with and are sustained by the bigger story told in Scripture, of which we are a part. The desire to ‘tell our stories’ is thus valuable in all sorts of ways, but especially if our telling is calibrated by the biblical narrative of what God has done in Christ and is now doing by his Spirit through his people in the world. What should our stories look like in the light of that story? Our own stories carry significance insofar as they reflect and are aligned with that grand scheme of things.

Encountering other stories

Still, our story instinct has a darker side, as Jonathan Gottschall points out in The Storytelling Animal, for it makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, manipulative advertisements, and damaging national myths. That there are ‘helpful’ stories and not-so ‘helpful’ stories requires us to be careful listeners of other stories as well as competent tellers of our own.

As Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sandford point out, the stories people tell betray ‘hidden worldviews’ about what counts as significant. Worldviews don’t exist as disembodied systems but as stories which appeal to the gut as well as the intellect. As such, snippets of conversations in the coffee shop or Facebook status updates are often enough to betray the stories that are part of the cultural air we breathe, stories which embody worldviews that are unconsciously absorbed rather than consciously adopted.

For Christians, though, Scripture provides the control story for how we understand and engage with other stories on offer. Inevitably, we run the risk of accommodating the biblical story to surrounding cultural stories – whether of scientific materialism, secular humanism, new age mysticism, individualism, tribalism, or consumerism. Indeed, since we are embodied, economic, psychological, political, moral, social beings, there is likely to be some truth in those stories which we will want to affirm, even though none on their own will be sufficient. Our task, then, is to show that the Christian story not only offers more complete and satisfying answers to the questions and dilemmas of life but also contributes to greater human flourishing.

We do this not necessarily by a set of arguments (though they have their place) but by telling a different story about the origin of the universe and the nature and destiny of humanity; a different story about who is in charge of the world; a story which claims to take precedence over other stories, through which other stories are to be read, heard, and understood. The gospel account is not one more variation of the story that we can fix our problems if we are creative or courageous or clever enough. Instead, Scripture tells the story of the God who goes to great lengths to redeem through sacrifice those who don’t deserve it and then draws us into his story, a story which is going somewhere – providing identity, purpose, and hope in the process.

For our part, as those convinced the Bible has a better story to tell, we seek to live in its light and pass it on to those who will listen. One of the ways we can do this is by telling our own stories in ways that resonate with it, which reflect God’s redemptive work in our own lives and in a way that points others to his grace. While arguments don’t always succeed in challenging someone’s framework of values and ideas, a personal story can establish some common ground or open up fresh ways of seeing things, or provide an opportunity to take the conversation in a different direction.

Within the context of the Christian community too, stories of God at work in our lives encourage others, and allow all of us to see our lives on a bigger tapestry. Our individual stories will take different forms – from the dramatic to the domestic, from the marvellous to the mundane – but, if we look closely enough, we will see God at work in our daily lives and relationships, through the highs and lows, for us and for the world.

For further reading

Antony Billington, Margaret Killingray, and Helen Parry, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture (Abingdon: BRF, 2012).

Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories (London: Continuum, 2004).

Gene C. Fant Jr., God as Author: A Biblical Approach to Narrative (Nashville: B&H, 2010).

Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).

Daniel de Roulet, Finding Your Plot in a Plotless World: A Little Direction (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2007).

Annette Simmons, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling (New York: Basic Books, 2006).

Robert E. Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in An Age of Rivals (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008).

Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sandford, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape Our Lives (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009).

Friday 28 June 2013

Tyndale Bulletin 64, 1 (2013)

The latest issue of Tyndale Bulletin has arrived, containing the following collection of articles and dissertation summaries.


Tamie S. Davis
The Condemnation of Jephthah
This paper argues that literary context, commonly used by evangelicals, and intertextuality, often championed by feminist scholars, are complementary tools for understanding the story of Jephthah and his daughter in Judges 11:29-40. The lack of comment from the narrator on the morality of the story has perplexed many readers but, when viewed together, these approaches build a compelling case for Jephthah’s condemnation. The literary context gives warrant to the feminist horror at the events of Judges 11:29-40. Intertextual contrast relating to gender can alert the reader to other differences between the stories which then present Jephthah as an inversion of Abraham: unfaithful and abhorrent to YHWH.

John Dekker
‘May the Lord Make the Woman like Rachel’: Comparing Michal and Rachel
The portrayal of Michal in the book of Samuel is similar to that of Rachel in the book of Genesis. Both have an older sister who is their rival for the affections of their husband. Both have an erratic father who pursues their husband. Both possess household idols called teraphim, which features in the story of their deceiving their father. Both have at least a period of barrenness. Yet there are also differences between the two women, which can be explained in terms of the portrayal of Michal as an even more tragic figure than Rachel. Careful consideration of the points of similarity and difference yields the conclusion that the allusions to the Rachel story in the book of Samuel are intentional.

Nicholas G. Piotrowski
‘I Will Save My People from Their Sins’: The Influence of Ezekiel 36:28b-29a; 37:23b on Matthew 1:21
Matthean scholars are nearly unanimous that LXX Psalm 129:8 [MT 130:8] is the allusive background to Matthew 1:21 notwithstanding formidable semantic differences. Ezekiel 36:28b-29a; 37:23b, however, provides a more convincing and more fruitful conceptual background for Matthew’s programmatic verse. Semantic and thematic considerations bear this out. The result of reading Matthew 1:21 through the lens of Ezekiel 36:28b-29a; 37:23b is the selection of frames for reading the rest of the gospel in terms of the prophet’s vision for Israel’s restoration from exile.

Bruce Clark
Review Article: The Deliverance of God: an Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul by Douglas A. Campbell
Campbell launches a sustained attack against traditional theological conceptions of justification and aims to free Romans 1–4 (on which these conceptions seemingly rest) from a widespread rationalistic, contractual, individualistic (mis)reading, which gains its plausibility only by the modernistic theological superstructure forced upon it. Campbell then presents an in-depth re-reading of Romans 1–4 (as well as parts of chs. 9–11, Gal. 2–3, Phil. 3), in which Paul engages in a highly complex, ‘subtle’ polemic, creatively employing ‘speech-in-character’ as a means of subverting a Jewish Christian ‘Teacher’ whose visit to Rome threatens to undermine the Roman Christians’ assurance of salvation. Campbell argues that justification is participatory and liberative: Christ’s death and resurrection constitute the ‘righteousness/deliverance of God’, by which he justifies, or delivers, an enslaved humanity from the power of sin. This article concentrates primarily on Campbell’s own exegesis, concluding that, while important aspects of Campbell’s critique of both "justification theory" and traditional readings of Romans 1–4 must be carefully considered, his own exegesis is not only ingenious, asking too much of Paul and the letter’s auditors, but altogether untenable at key points.

Jin K. Hwang
Jewish Pilgrim Festivals and Calendar in Paul’s Ministry with the Gentile Churches
It is quite remarkable that Paul explicitly mentions two of the Jewish pilgrim festivals, namely, the Passover and Pentecost in 1 Corinthians (5:7-8; 16:8). This study argues that such festivals played a key role not only in providing Paul with the biblical foundations for his exhortations in 1 Corinthians (as indicated in ch. 5) but also in shaping his ministry with the Gentile churches at Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, and Macedonia, and his collection project in particular, which entails the pilgrimage to Jerusalem by representatives from his Gentile churches, most likely during a Jewish festival (as indicated in ch. 16).

Philip Church
The Temple in the Apocalypse of Weeks and in Hebrews
Several Second Temple texts make no explicit mention of the temple, but it cannot be assumed that this silence indicates a lack of interest. While the Apocalypse of Weeks reveres Solomon’s temple and describes it in ways that indicate that it anticipates the eschatological temple, the Second Temple is ignored, implying a strong polemic against it. Hebrews makes no explicit mention of the Second Temple, but several texts reflect a critique of temple, priesthood, and sacrificial system. Hebrews claims that the temple and its associated rituals were a symbolic foreshadowing of the eschatological dwelling of God with his people in the last days, now come with the exaltation of Christ. Since the reality has now come, the readers can no longer be occupied with the symbols.

Andrew D. Clarke
Lexicography and New Testament Categories of Church Discipline
A range of circumstances, which were formative in the crises prompting the Protestant Reformation, resulted in heightened emphasis on ecclesiastical discipline, with some Reformation Confessions elevating discipline ‘according to the Word of God’ to one of three significant ‘marks’ of the ‘true church’. However, the Bible prompted no similar consensus among either the Reformers or the Reformation Confessions as to how, when, by or to whom such discipline should be exercised. Although the New Testament has no dominant vocabulary for ‘discipline’, the fixing on this term in the Sixteenth Century and subsequently nonetheless became a controlling principle in identifying and interpreting certain New Testament passages as ‘disciplinary’ in focus. Latin lexical roots pose an additional disjunction between first-century and post-Reformation legacy understandings of ‘discipline’. Revisiting New Testament categories of discipleship, education and Christian formation may offer a constructively holistic approach that reaches beyond now traditional views of church discipline.

Dissertation Summaries

Tae Sub Kim
Israel and the Universal Mission in the Gospel of Matthew
This study investigates the relationship between Israel and the universal mission in the Gospel of Matthew. The previous views of scholars deal with this relationship unilaterally proceeding ‘from Israel to the Gentile (or the universal) mission’ alone, but the relationship in the other direction has not yet been discussed. Thus, while introducing new perspectives aiming for a fuller understanding of the reciprocal relationship between Israel and the universal mission in the First Gospel, this study attempts to demonstrate how the completion of the universal mission is associated with the re-establishment of Israel in the Gospel of Matthew.

Robert Crellin
The Greek Perfect Active System: 200 BC – AD 150
What does the ancient Greek perfect stem (covering both perfect and pluperfect forms) mean?  This has proved a controversial question for at least a century, as it has been recognised that traditional accounts leave the form performing functions associated with present and past tenses in certain other European languages. Thus to say ‘I know’ and ‘I stand’, both present forms in English, a perfect is used in Greek. By contrast, the sentiment ‘I have made’ also corresponds to a perfect in Greek. In addition to this aspectual problem the perfect is also involved in a transitivity problem: some perfect actives in Greek are functionally passive. For example, the active perfect ‘apolola’ means ‘I am lost’, and not ‘I have lost (something)’ which might be expected.

One of Us

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

One of my memories from childhood, being born and brought up in northwest England, was the L.S. Lowry print hung in our home. It had a comfortable familiarity: the terraced houses looked like the ones in our street, as did the park railings and the carriage prams. It was easy to be drawn into the characters depicted, imagining where they were going and what they were doing. All this was confirmed with the 1978 hit by Brian and Michael – ‘Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs’ – which I proudly sang along to when it was shown on Top of the Pops. Lowry, it seemed, was one of us.

So it was with some sense of nostalgia that I joined a modest-sized crowd for the opening of the Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain earlier this week. I still find myself drawn into the paintings – though now with more awareness of the influence of 19th-century French art on Lowry and his significance for understanding English culture and social history.

Lowry (1887-1976) was middle class, but described how his eyes were opened to the terrain in which he worked – until his retirement – as a rent collector. He painted at night from memory, and the vast majority of the industrial landscapes for which he is most known are amalgamations of everyday life – street parties, factory gates, belching chimneys, protest marches, football matches. And lots of people – individually differentiated, each of them alive with movement.

Although his paintings depict a world away from us, it’s still possible to resonate with the ordinariness of what’s shown – people going to and from work, children playing in the park. Likewise with the darker moments – the fever van taking the sick child to isolation hospital, a woman’s suicide, the ejection of a house tenant, a pit tragedy.

It’s a moot point whether Lowry claimed comradeship with those whose lives he portrayed, but there is no dispute with God. Jesus’ parables painted God’s reign in the colours of everyday life. More than that, Jesus was with us and alongside us. But the incarnation is not an end in itself. In his death and resurrection, the one who is ‘one of us’ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. As such those everyday places are not just invested with creational significance, but can also be places where the redemptive scope of Jesus’ work is reflected and worked out.

Thursday 27 June 2013

Christianity in its Global Context

Researchers at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, have produced a report – Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission – on the changing demographics of Christianity and the activities of Christians over the past 40 years while looking forward to the next ten.

Here is the closing paragraph from the Executive Summary:

Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission illustrates that fundamental shifts in the demographics of global Christianity and religion are continuing into the twenty-first century. The percentage of Christians from the global South is still increasing, but the personal contact gap between Christians and non-Christians continues to be very wide. Christians are also struggling, along with the entire development community, to address critical social and economic issues. A central problem appears to be uneven resource distribution in a multitude of areas. Christian resources are poorly deployed and not reaching those who could benefit most from them, in terms of both mission and social action. Yet, Christian involvement in spiritual and social transformation has never been greater, and it remains to be seen how effective Christians in both the North and the South will be in carrying out global, integral mission.’

More information is available here, and the full report is available for download as 14.8 MB pdf here.

Currents in Biblical Research 11, 3 (June 2013)

The latest Currents in Biblical Research has been out for a couple of weeks; abstracts of the main articles are as below.

Serge Frolov
Sleeping with the Enemy: Recent Scholarship on Sexuality in the Book of Judges
Reviewing the publications of the last three decades, this article demonstrates that the period in question has been predictably marked by sharply increased attention to the sexual aspects of the book of Judges, and especially by sustained attempts to discover sexuality in the texts that had been commonly read with little to no reference to it. Refreshing as it is in many respects, this trend suffers from multiple vulnerabilities, including the exegetes’ tendency to stretch semantics of the biblical lexemes, ignore the syntactic layout and context of the discussed fragments, rely on problematic sexual symbolism, and produce interpretations that are less than edifying for contemporary Western audiences. As a result, much, although by no means all, of the recent quest for sexuality in Judges is unsustainable, as far as both the text and the reader are concerned.

Jason B. Hood and Matthew Y. Emerson
Summaries of Israel’s Story: Reviewing a Compositional Category
This article reviews and synthesizes the history of, and current research into, ‘summaries of Israel’s story’ (SIS). Particular attention is paid to work done by E. Stauffer, N.T. Wright, H.C. Kee, M.A. Elliot, and Joachim Jeska. This research, as well as investigations into rewritten Bible and other summaries, clarifies the nature of such summaries as a discrete compositional category. Following the review a synthesis of this scholarship will yield a compilation of canonical and extra-canonical SIS.

Coleman A. Baker
Peter and Paul in Acts and the Construction of Early Christian Identity: A Review of Historical and Literary Approaches
The study of Peter and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles has gone through primarily two methodological phases, a search for the historical Peter and Paul and a search for the literary Peter and Paul. In recent decades, the literary approaches to the Bible have begun to raise questions about the role of the reader in understanding texts and their characters, resulting in a few studies that raise the question of the interaction between the reader and the characters of Peter and Paul. This latter development constitutes an emerging third methodological phase, the search for the identity-forming Peter and Paul. At issue in this search is how those who interact with the Acts narrative, both ancient and modern readers, are affected by the presentation of characters of Peter and Paul.

Bruce Worthington
Alternative Perspectives beyond the Perspectives: A Summary of Pauline Studies that has Nothing to Do with Piper or Wright
Given the overwhelming scholarly attention directed towards the Old and New Perspectives within the Pauline Studies guild, much worthwhile Pauline scholarship continues to float beneath or beyond our interpretive radar. Recent post-colonial, ecotheological and philosophical reappraisals of Paul are changing the way we do business – with some interesting alternative conclusions. As a ‘state of play’ synopsis, this article seeks to summarize ways in which alternative discourses like (1) continental philosophy, (2) ecological hermeneutics, (3) post-colonial/gender reconstructions, and (4) social-scientific theory can shed a necessary, nuanced light on Paul and his continued relevance beyond the duelling perspectives. However, I conclude by suggesting that most alternative ‘reconstructions’ significantly rely on the notion of early Christian egalitarian purity, and thus only confirm a modern liberal inclination to establish original, untainted, pure, Christian origins.

F.S. Naiden
Recent Study of Greek Religion in the Archaic through Hellenistic Periods
This article reviews recent literature in the field of Greek religion from approximately 800 to 150 BCE. It notes the long-standing connections between the study of Greek religion and the religions of the Near East, sets forth several common features of these religions, and tells how the study of Greek religion came to embody the ideas of Robertson Smith, among others, and how three themes, the centrality of ritual, of animal sacrifice, and of the religion of the polis came to dominate the field in the last half-century. In the last twenty years, some scholars have questioned these dominant themes. This article concludes by describing the relation between Greek and Near Eastern religion today, and by offering two examples of unstudied parallels between the two fields.

Jason B. Hood on Imitating God in Christ

I recently received a copy of Jason B. Hood, Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern (Downers Grove: IVP, 2013), having had it on pre-order for some time. I’m trying to save it for holiday reading later this summer, but it’s been very tempting to dip into it.

It comes in four parts – Imitating God, Imitating Jesus, Imitating the Saints, Imitation Yesterday and Today – and looks as if it’s seeking to let Scripture set the agenda in its treatment; I suspect it will be an important contribution to current thinking around discipleship, vocation, and sanctification, among other topics. Given what he has written elsewhere, it will almost certainly also address ongoing debates around the appropriateness of ‘moralising’ from Old Testament texts.

Anyway, there are some interviews with Jason Hood here and here which provide a flavour of what to expect.

Here’s a taster from one of them:

‘What’s often missed is that imitation doesn’t start with Jesus. Imitation starts with our identity as God’s image-bearers, made to reflect his character and his creativity. From the very first page of the Bible, humans are imitating God in response to his initiative and his grace. In the gospel we see the restoration of image-bearing in God’s True Image, Jesus his Son. All four gospels, and Paul’s theological explorations, are pretty saturated with the great theme of imitating Jesus and the theology that lies underneath it. Jesus didn’t just come to die and leave us as is; as Augustine says, “Christ, the master of the mint, came along to stamp the coins afresh.”’

Tuesday 25 June 2013

The City 6, 1 (Summer 2013)

The latest issue of The City, from Houston Baptist University, is available online here.

This edition includes several essays around the theme of ‘Marriage and Religious Liberty’, including Ryan T. Anderson on ‘Twelve Theses on Redefining Marriage’, Susan McWilliams reviewing the significant book, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, by Sherif Girgis et al., Fred Sanders on ‘Wendell Berry and the Poetry of Marriage’, Paul D. Miller on sex and modesty (‘Between Burqua and Mini Skirt’), and Andrew Walker on why neutrality is not an option (‘In Defense of Christian Partisanship’). There is also conversation with Eric Metaxas on Bonhoeffer and religious liberty, along with some other pieces and book reviews.

David Male and Paul Weston on Evangelism

I wrote the below review for LICC’s EG 35 (June 2013), available online here. I had a 300-word limit, which didn’t feel quite long enough to say just how much I enjoyed reading the book! Thanks too to BRF for the review copy.

David Male and Paul Weston, The Word’s Out: Speaking the Gospel Today (Abingdon: BRF, 2013), 176pp., ISBN 9780857461698.

You’re not alone. That is, if you struggle with evangelism, you’re not alone. At the same time that our non-Christian friends, neighbours and colleagues know less and less about the biblical story, we feel less and less able to convey it to them. In some cases, it comes down to a fear of rejection (even litigation) or risk of embarrassment. We don’t consider ourselves clever enough to answer all the tricky questions that will come our way, and sense we will only feel like we’re letting Jesus down (again). Best to stay silent.

So it is that David Male and Paul Weston combine their expertise and experience in a desire to see evangelism reinvigorated in today’s church. Two opening chapters explore the changing shape of evangelism, and the impact of contemporary culture on the way we do it. The two main parts of the book then reflect on evangelism from a biblical perspective, and evangelism and the local church. What emerges is the encouragement to see evangelism as ‘the natural overflow of an authentic Christian life’ – not as a ‘bolt on’ Christian activity, but as organically connected to the whole of life.

I particularly appreciated the prompt to be ‘inside-out’ evangelists, those who seek to demonstrate the claims of Jesus from within the Christian ‘narrative’ itself rather than trying to establish the truth of that narrative on some other grounds (science, logic, etc.). Here the call is to follow Jesus’ own practice of engaging with those around him, with the aim of leading the discussion back to Jesus himself, where replies to people are along the lines of: ‘It’s interesting you say that... Jesus was asked a similar question and he said...’ Here and elsewhere, I found the book to be biblically rooted, insightful, challenging and encouraging in equal measure.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Encounters 45 (June 2013)

The latest issue of Encounters from Redcliffe College is now available.

As guest editor Hugh Kemp notes, the apparently eclectic nature of the articles and book reviews in this edition might hide the fact that ‘they represent three ways to incarnate the Gospel of Christ in innovative ways: dialogue with Buddhists, creative prayer spaces for British kids, and restorative justice as an alternative vision to conflict and punishment’.

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

Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament 2, 1 (2013)

The latest issue of the Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament is freely available online. Articles (listed below with their abstracts) are available from here, with a pdf of the entire issue available here.

Bryan Babcock
Sacred Time in West Semitic Festival Calendars and the Dating of Leviticus 23
The Bible records several versions of the Israelite festival calendar, including accounts in Exod 23; 34; Lev 23; Num 28-9; Deut 16; and Ezek 45. The festivals, as depicted in the various texts, have many commonalities; however, there are also differences. Some of the often cited differences in the festival calendar texts include fixed dates versus dates based upon the harvest, the combination of two named rites into a larger ritual complex, the mention of simultaneous rites in different locations of the same text, and some festivals are named in one text and unnamed in others. Scholars have explored these similarities and differences arguing that the various calendars were written by different sources (authors/redactors) at different times in Israelite history. The current project provides a comparative analysis between Lev 23 and the second-millennium Akkadian multi-month festival calendar from Syria (Emar 446). After a review of each text and the contextual material, this study argues that Lev 23 preserves an early second-millennium West Semitic ritual tradition.

Andrew E. Steinmann
Gazelles, Does, and Flames: (De)Limiting Love in Song of Songs
Some of the most commented upon and enigmatic passages in Song of Songs are the adjuration refrains (Song 2:7; 3:5; 8:4) and the comparison of love to a flame (Song 8:6). This paper proposes that these verses serve to delimit and define love in Song of Songs while also limiting the expression of that love. In each context there is a reference to God – often by clever circumlocution (Song 2:7; 3:5) – thereby defining the legitimate expression of love according to divine intent. This use of circumlocution and its omission at Song 8:4 build suspense for the punch line at Song 8:6 which finally reveals the involvement of God in love and its expression between the Shulammite and her beloved.

John G. Ferch
The Story of Torah: The Role of Narrative in Leviticus’s Legal Discourse
For years, source critics have proposed a broad two-part structure for Leviticus, based on two independent sources that are presumed to underlie the book. This approach, coupled with a popular perception of Leviticus as nothing more than a long list of sundry Israelite laws, has caused the book’s narrative unity within the broader story of the Pentateuch to be neglected. By applying narrative criticism to the often-forgotten stories in Leviticus 10 and 24, crucial literary links are revealed which suggest a three-part outline to the book, supporting a united message that presents the giving of the Law as an act of divine grace designed to prepare Yahweh’s people to live in His presence.

Spencer L. Allen
An Examination of Northwest Semitic Divine Names and the Bet-locative
Four separate inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrûd (ca. 800 b.c.) invoke the divine names Yahweh-of-Teman (HI KAjr 14, 19A, and 20) and Yahweh-of-Samaria (HI KAjr 18), which reopened the debate about Deut 6:4’s declaration that “Yahweh is One” and the possibility of distinct, localized Yahwehs in the Israelite pantheon. In the biblical texts, the name Yahweh never appears in a construct chain with a geographic name (e.g., there is no Yahweh-of-Jerusalem), so alternative divine name formulas have been sought as additional evidence for an ancient poly-Yahwism. The most commonly suggested alternative involves a divine name followed by a geographic name in a bet-locative phrase: DN-b-GN. Thus, Yahweh-in-Zion (Ps 99:2) and Yahweh-in-Hebron (2 Sam 15:7) have been proposed as two additional localized Israelite deities. Comparable evidence from Ugaritic, Ammonite, Phoenician, and Punic texts containing the formula DN-b-GN has been offered in the past to support this claim (e.g., Tannit-in-Lebanon, KAI 81:1). This paper examines the relationship between divine names and geographic names as they pertain to potentially localized Yahweh deities and other Northwest Semitic deities. The formula DN-b-GN is carefully examined and rejected as a means of identifying any distinct deity in the various Northwest Semitic pantheons, including those of biblical Israel, for syntactical and other methodological reasons.

Book Reviews

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Lausanne Global Analysis 2, 3 (June 2013)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is now available online.

According to its blurb, the Lausanne Global Analysis ‘seeks to deliver strategic and credible information and insight from an international network of evangelical analysts so that Christian leaders will be equipped for the task of world evangelization’.

The executive summary is available here, and the full issue is available here.

The Living Church

I recently stumbled across The Living Church, which describes itself as ‘a biweekly magazine of news, cultural analysis, and teaching’, published by The Living Church Foundation, Inc., ‘an independent, not-for-profit  foundation of communion-minded and -committed Anglicans from several nations, devoted to seeking and serving the full visible unity of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’.

Issues are archived here, where all but the recent editions appear to be available for download.

Friday 7 June 2013

Deeds Not Words

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

Queen Alexandra, George V’s mother, described it as a ‘sad accident caused through the abominable conduct of a brutal lunatic woman’. History has been kinder to suffragette Emily Wilding Davison who, 100 years ago this week, squeezed through the railings at the Epsom Derby to make a grab for the king’s horse as it raced past.

Davison died four days later, and thousands of suffragettes turned out in London for her funeral. Buried in Morpeth in Northumberland, her headstone is inscribed with the King James Version of John 15:13, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’, along with the maxim of the Women’s Social and Political Union – ‘Deeds Not Words’.

Although speculation has always surrounded her intentions – fueled by some documentary evidence that she was willing to give up her life for the cause – there is now good reason to indicate she didn’t intend to commit suicide. Close analysis of grainy footage of the incident suggests she was seeking to attach a scarf to the bridle of the horse.

Still, it’s clear she was prepared to go to considerable risk to make a dramatic statement, as part of a wider struggle against the inequalities of a rigid class-based society. And she did so, along with others, in the face of hostility, imprisonment and violence. A century on, her death still raises the question of what we would fight for, even be prepared to die for.

Earlier this week, The Guardian asked ‘prominent figures’ what still needs addressing in the fight for women’s rights. Economic inequalities, power imbalance, sexual exploitation, domestic violence and media misrepresentation were all mentioned, along with the need for women to be freed from a sense that their value lies in how they are seen by men. Some also commented on the need for men and women to collaborate in challenging oppression of all kinds.

Along with others seeking the common good, Christians have a stake in addressing those issues. Christians also have a stake in exhibiting to the world what renewed relationships in Christ look like, not least between men and women in different spheres of life.

Originally the Suffragette slogan, ‘Deeds Not Words’, was a call to radical action, but it resonates with the biblical injunction that faith without works is dead, and is seen most notably in the supreme sacrifice of Jesus giving his life for his friends.

Thursday 6 June 2013

Regent’s Reviews 4.2 (May 2013)

The latest edition of Regent’s Reviews is now available here.

It contains reviews of (among others), Out of Babylon by Walter Brueggemann, the second edition of The Fall of Interpretation by James K. A. Smith, The Message of Women by Derek and Dianne Tidball, the second edition of Worshipping Trinity by Robin Parry, Faith in the Public Square by Rowan Williams, and Church for Every Context by Michael Moynagh with Philip Harrold.

Earlier issues can be accessed here.

Evangelical Alliance on Life in the Church

The latest report in the 21st Century Evangelicals Series from the Evangelical Alliance UK highlights research about the church.

The full report – Life in the Church? – is available as a pdf here.

This is what the EA says:

‘This report reveals fascinating details about church life, including how we get involved, what we look for in a church and how we feel about our church leaders. It also explores the experiences and feelings of church leaders, our views on church discipline and the reasons why we move church.’

PowerPoint presentation and discussion questions for churches are linked to from this page.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Knowing and Doing (Summer 2013)

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
The Generous Heart and Life of C.S. Lewis
Joel Woodruff explores Lewis’s life-long adventure of seeking ways to help those
around him.

Catherine Sanders
Alive Due to Divine Intervention
Catherine Sanders shows us God’s miraculous intervention in her husband Wallace’s near-death experience that arose from a seemingly simple virus.

E.G. “Jay” Link
What is My Relationship to My Stuff?
This is the beginning of a series of articles by Jay Link providing practical advice on stewarding all that God has given us.

David B. Calhoun 
George Washington Carver (1860-1943)
David Calhoun describes how God showed George Washington Carver just enough of a glimpse into His world that he revolutionized aspects of agriculture and made a dramatic impact for the Lord.

Bill Smith
Blazing the North-South Trail
Bill Smith describes his challenge to the church and to all of us to live fully-formed, experiential lives of transformation.

Thomas A. Tarrants, III
Fleshly Christianity? What It Is, and What We Can Do About It
Tom Tarrants adds to his series on fighting sin by warning us against the effects of living a life as a ‘carnal Christian.’

Joseph A. Kohm, Jr. 
Finding Obedience in Paolo Veronese’s The Wedding at Cana
The famous painting, The Wedding at Cana, by Paolo Veronese, is explored by Joe Kohm for its beauty, meaning and call to obedience.

Centre for Public Christianity (June 2013)

The latest newsletter from the Centre for Public Christianity contains links to several interesting-looking features:

• A video interview with cultural commentator Mark Sayers, who ‘diagnoses our contemporary restlessness, our excess of choice and wonders what life might be like beyond an endless trip’.

• An audio interview with violinist Rebecca Irwin on ‘the craft involved in producing musical instruments and how such an activity might reveal something of humanity’s creative calling in the world’.

• A video interview with Lynn H. Cohick on ‘the life of women in the ancient world and in early Christianity’.

• An audio interview with Kara Martin, Associate Dean of Ridley’s The Marketplace Institute, exploring work-life balance as part of the wider link between life and faith at work.

Monday 3 June 2013

Christian History Magazine on Christianity in Early Africa

According to its blurb...

‘Stories of faithful heroes, martyrs, bishops, and monks – like Tertullian, Augustine, Origen, Perpetua, and Anthony – combine with vibrant images of African art, worship sites, and archeological remains to uncover important history Westerners often overlook. Journey to ancient Carthage, Alexandria and Hippo to find the truths these believers held dear and understand how their impact is still felt today.’

The whole magazine is available as a 13.2 MB pdf here.