Wednesday 24 July 2013

Christianity Today on the God of Two Testaments

The July/August 2013 edition of Christianity Today carries several articles related to the issue of ‘Grappling with the God of Two Testaments’. Some of them are available online.

Yes – if we set our eyes on the Cross of Christ. A pastor’s response.

We’re troubled by God’s commands for Israel to wipe out entire peoples. Why we should be encouraged.

Even those passages about shellfish, mixed fibers, and animal sacrifice.

It’s part of a much broader teaching in Scripture.

N.T. Wright (in Australia) on Paul

Like many others, I am looking forward to the release of N.T. Wright’s forthcoming volume on Paul in his ‘Christian Origins and the Question of God’ series.

In recent days, he has been delivering some lectures in Australia and engaging with fellow scholars around some of the debates. There is an excellent summary here (on the Bible Society Australia website) from Sophie Timothy which I think succinctly and helpfully captures a number of the issues involved.

Ethics in Brief Volume 18, Nos. 3, 4, 5 & 6 (2013)

Further issues from Volume 18 of Ethics in Brief, published by The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, are now available online:

This article brings geophysical and theological perspectives to bear on the historic influence of social, economic, and political factors that turned Haiti’s 2010 earthquake into an unnatural disaster. These factors have disabled the native endurance of the majority of Haitian people, and the necessary adaptive requirements of the state, in developing disaster mitigation strategies.

In addition to opposing the government’s flawed proposals to allow same-sex couples to marry, Christians need to see these derive from more fundamental differences in understandings of marriage. We therefore have to consider the place of such different views in British society and the respective roles of religion, the state, wider society and marriage law in this new situation.

This issue of Ethics in Brief assesses the meaning and possible impact of the recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights in four well-publicised freedom of religion cases arising in the UK. While the decision demonstrates the limitations of the European Convention on Human Rights in protecting religious freedom, it does contain grounds for cautious encouragement. The article also addresses some of the general issues raised by the decision.

Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book Justice in Love (2011) is an important new exploration of the relationship between these two vital and often misunderstood ethical concepts. This article surveys the book and assesses some of the issues it raises.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Vern Sheridan Poythress on Logic

Vern Sheridan Poythress, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 733pp., ISBN 978-1-4335-3229-0.

The latest tome – over 700 pages of it – from Vern Sheridan Poythress is freely available in its entirety as a 9 MB pdf here.

Here’s some of the blurb:

‘For Christians looking to improve critical thinking skills, here is an accessible introduction to the study of logic as well as an in-depth treatment of the discipline from a professor with six academic degrees and over 30 years experience teaching. Questions for further reflection are included at the end of each chapter as well as helpful diagrams and charts for use in college and graduate-level classrooms.’

Sunday 21 July 2013

Keswick Convention 2013 School of Stewardship

I had an enjoyable time last week in the Lake District, at Week 1 of the Keswick Convention 2013. Among other things, I was leading four seminars in a stream called the ‘School of Stewardship’. Although with the full support of LICC, by whom I am employed, I was largely doing these seminars on behalf of Stewardship, a great organisation staffed by some wonderful and lovely people.

The theme of the Convention this year is ‘The Transforming Trinity’, so we tried to allow the Christian conviction about the Trinity to shape our reflections on stewardship. Given how God has revealed himself – as Father, Son, and Spirit – and given who he is and how he works in the world and in us, what kind of stewards ought we to be? What might a theology of stewardship look like if we start with the creating God, the redeeming Christ, and the empowering Spirit?

Stewardship posted the handouts from each of the sessions on their website, currently available at the links below.

In addition, a fairly full list of resources (mostly books) is available here.

Stewardship have also posted links to several other helpful, practical documents.

Saturday 20 July 2013

9Marks Journal 10, 4 (July-August 2013) on the Sufficiency of Scripture

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, this one devoted to different facets related to the sufficiency of Scripture, is now available as a pdf here.

In the Editorial, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘It’s tough believing that Scripture is enough for building and leading churches. The “old man” in us is continually tempted to build our churches on other things, things we can see and measure. We want to rely on marketing research, personal charisma, good music, force of personality, or other natural devices.

‘It’s fine to rely on what the eyes can see in many areas of life, but Christian ministry is about supernatural change. Paul observes, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:3-4).

‘Trusting God’s Word and Spirit to build our churches is an act of faith. Faith in God. Faith in his Word. And such faith is not natural, even for the Christian. It’s supernatural. God must give it. “Is not my word like fire,” he says to us, “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jer. 23:39).

‘In this issue of the 9Marks Journal we take up the topic of Scripture’s sufficiency for the life of the church...’

Thursday 4 July 2013

David Barclay on Multiculturalism

David Barclay, Making Multiculturalism Work: Enabling Practical Action Across Deep Difference (London: Theos, 2013).

Theos have published the above report.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the Executive Summary:

‘In the light of the widespread rejection of state multiculturalism, this report advocates a new approach to living together, grounded not in theory but in practice. Although there is a place for multicultural theorising and attempts to articulate what comprises British values, the report argues that it is in localised ‘political friendships’ that people learn to live and work together. We need to focus less on orthodoxy or right thinking and more on orthopraxy – right doing.

More information is available here, and the full report is available for download here.

Centre for Public Christianity (July 2013)

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

• A two-part video interview with Megan Best, discussing her book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, which examines the ethics of reproductive medicine from a Christian perspective.

• A video interview with Vishal Mangalwadi on how the Bible that has provided the basis for the freedoms enjoyed in the west, and why he thinks those freedoms are at risk.

• A two-part audio interview with Kevin Miller, director of the documentary Hellbound, and John Dickson, Ancient Historian and CPX Director.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Crucible 5, 1 (May 2013)

The latest issue of Crucible, published by the Australian Evangelical Alliance, is now available online here, with the below articles (abstracts included, where available):

The Cauldron: peer reviewed articles

Conrad Parsons
Is God as Good as We Think?
C.S. Lewis discussed the presence of pain, evil and suffering in his book The Problem of Pain. In the face of evil, he affirmed his view that God is ‘good,’ that is, people are able to recognize God using their natural understanding of what constitutes goodness. However, in July 1960 Joy Davidman, the wife of C. S. Lewis, died of bone cancer. Lewis kept a journal immediately following Joy’s death and those reflections were the basis of his book A Grief Observed. In that small book, Lewis expressed anger towards God and questioned whether God is as good as he thinks. Today the question is still asked by many people: “Is God as good as we think?”

Robert Tilley
The Birth of Ideology: Genesis and the Origins of Self-Deception
In this article the ideological foundations of modern biblical criticism (MBC) are explored. Using historical interpretations of Genesis as his foil – the author shapes an argument that posits the credibility of the Bible’s self-authenticating message, over against the self-deceptive fictions of Modern and post-modern constructions of reality. Drawing on Marxist theories of society, power and the human person, the author renders the possibility that the argument of Genesis is designed to countermand and indeed expose the ideologies of its day; a function that remains relevant for our own time. The adoption of the metaphor of sight as a recurring motif throughout the article suggests the possibility that Modern and post-modern readings of the Bible are blind to other dimensions of existence which are necessary for authentic human existence. Against such blindness, the author juxtaposes the possibility of human self-awareness in the presence of God, and therefore the biblical text which reads us.

The Test-tube: ministry resources

Len Hjalmarson
Learning to Navigate in Missional Waters
What do we do when our maps stop working? How do we locate ourselves, and then find the way forward? Eddie Gibbs offers us the clue: when maps stop working, we train navigators. Navigation is both an old skill and an ancient metaphor. The Greek word means pilot, helmsman, or guide, and was used to speak of spiritual direction. When a ship is entering a harbor universal knowledge is no longer adequate, local knowledge becomes critical. We begin practicing the skills of kubernetes, skills that represent a response to adaptive challenges. Some of these practices are:

• create a context where problems invoke possibilities
• find or create rituals that invoke memory (an internal location)
• initiate and convene conversations that shift peoples experience – help people ask new questions and then like a poet give them new language
• value and affirm process, get comfortable with mystery
• value experimentation and risk, cultivate generosity
• listen and pay attention

Stuart Devenish
An Elegy for Saints Passed

Ross Morgan
Sustainable Spirituality: The Discipline Of Lectio Divina

Brian Edgar
God in the Dock: C.S. Lewis as Public Theologian
In 1970 forty eight of C.S.Lewis’ essays were published under the title God in the Dock: essays on theology and ethics. This paper discusses the ministry that C.S. Lewis exercised in terms of him being a “public theologian”, an “ordinary intellectual”, a “cultural analyst” and as a “committed believer”. His “ministry of the mind” is seen as an evangelical ministry and it is related to the needs of the present day.

The Filter: book reviews

Monday 1 July 2013

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37:3 (July 2013)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research carries the feature articles noted below under the broad theme of ‘Mission Macro and Micro’:

Rick Richardson
Emerging Missional Movements: An Overview and Assessment of Some Implications for Mission(s)

R. Bruce Yoder
Mennonite Mission Theorists and Practitioners in Southeastern Nigeria: Changing Contexts and Strategy at the Dawn of the Postcolonial Era

Melody J. Wachsmuth
Separated Peoples: The Roma as Prophetic Pilgrims in Eastern Europe

Gerald H. Anderson
The Legacy of Peter Parker, M.D.

Gina A. Bellofatto and Todd M. Johnson
Key Findings of Christianity in Its Global Context, 1970–2020

Theodora Bilocura, Mary Motte, and Lamin Sanneh
Pope Francis, Christian Mission, and the Church of Saint Francis

Catherine Foisy
Christian-Muslim Dialogue in Practice: The Story of a French Canadian Mission to Indonesia, 1974–83

Bo Tao
The Peacemaking Efforts of a Reverse Missionary: Toyohiko Kagawa before Pearl Harbor

Norman E. Thomas
My Pilgrimage in Mission

In the Right

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

LORD my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me...
I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.
Psalm 7:1-2, 17

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’ Of course, for most of us, that’s simply not the case. Names designed to hurt us do hurt us. What others say about us matters, particularly if what is said is untrue or amounts to false accusation or represents an attack on our character.

King David knew what that felt like. In Psalm 6, David confesses he has done wrong and asks God for mercy. In Psalm 7, however, David believes he is in the right, and has done no wrong. In fact, he has been wronged, and he longs for God to step in and vindicate him. (Incidentally, that’s why we need all the Psalms – for Psalm 6 moments as well as Psalm 7 moments.)

David begins by bringing his fears to God, by seeking refuge in him. He uses the graphic language of a lion capturing and killing its prey. Many of us will have witnessed such sights caught on film for TV documentaries, but David would doubtless have seen it with his own eyes. And that’s what he feels like. ‘Unless you save me’, he prays, ‘I will be torn to pieces by this.’ In those moments when we feel so overwhelmed – whether by false accusation or anything else – we can place ourselves in the Lord’s hands, seeking the deliverance only he can bring.

This Psalm closes, as many do, with an expression of praise, and it’s important to note where the final emphasis falls. Whose righteousness is really at stake? David has said things about his own ‘righteousness’, but he gives thanks because of God’s righteousness. David knows, having prayed, that God will act for the well-being of his people. Sooner or later, whether directly or indirectly, God will set things straight.

Psalm 7, like other Psalms, provides a way of praying through the issues of everyday life, bringing ourselves and our circumstances to God, trusting his presence to be with us. Beyond that, as those who are ‘in Christ’, the truly righteous king, we have been declared right with God, set free from the declaration of guilt and judgment that hung over us, confident that our shield is God most high. Truly we can give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and praise the name of the Lord most high.