Saturday 31 August 2013

The Gospel Transformation Bible

Forthcoming from Crossway, and so based on the ESV, is the Gospel Transformation Bible. Further information, including a positioning video with reflections by several contributors, is available here.

I can be a bit of a cynic when it comes to the seeming proliferation of study Bibles, but I’ll be interested to take a closer look at this one.

Here’s some of the blurb from the Introduction:

‘The goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible is twofold: (1) to enable readers to understand that the whole Bible is a unified message of the gospel of God’s grace culminating in Christ Jesus, and (2) to help believers apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart-transforming way. Our hope is that, as Christians throughout the world learn to see the message of salvation by grace unfolding throughout Scripture, they will respond to God with greater love, faithfulness, and power.’

Later on, more is said about the second goal of helping readers apply gospel truths to their everyday lives.

‘Faithful application typically answers four questions: 1) What to do? 2) Where to do it? 3) Why to do it? and 4) How to do it? Previous application-focused study Bibles have emphasized the first two of these questions. The Gospel Transformation Bible, while not ignoring the first two questions, seeks to be a primary resource for the latter two. Contributors’ notes indicate how the unfolding gospel truths in any given passage of Scripture motivate and enable believers to honor their Savior from the heart – in short, how grace transforms them.’

A pdf sampler is available here, including sample chapters from six books of the Bible, as well as an introduction to the bible.

In addition, the whole of Jeremiah (with Introduction and Notes by Graeme Goldsworthy) is available here.

Friday 30 August 2013

The Bible in Transmission (Summer 2013) on Food

The latest issue of the excellent publication, The Bible in Transmission, from Bible Society, is available online here, offering a collection of articles on ‘Food Matters’.

In our modern consumer-orientated world, food has become little more than a commodity that we mindlessly consume. We fail to perceive the mystery of food. Here are some theological insights to help us receive food as a precious gift and sign of God’s sustaining care.

Food is important and eating implies transformation at multiple levels. In this article Ángel Méndez-Montoya considers some of the transformations we meet in the Eucharist, where God’s love becomes food to eat and share with others.

An outline of the deep-seated relationship between food and identity in the Old Testament. Food has a central role in ancient Jewish identity and is frequently mentioned in the Hebrew scriptures.

A discussion of how one UK secular commercial slimming group has been resourced in various ways and to various degrees by Christian motifs and theological logic.

Inappropriate modern industrial agriculture practices are failing us. We ought to be able to feed everyone and look after the Earth, but we’re not. Christianity has a powerful agrarian tradition and moral framework that can help reform farming and help us overcome the major problems the world is facing.

Gordon Gatward offers some scientific and biblical insights on the sustainability of farming and food production today.

The food system is failing the poorest people: the balance of power is tipped towards global companies – rather than families trying to put food on the table.

Chris Sunderland briefly outlines some of the ways Bristol is responding to the challenge of providing an adequate and secure food supply across the city.

A Problem Like Syria

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

Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) should be enough to persuade us of the deeply ambiguous nature of existence in the time before the final harvest. To be sure, there is ‘good’ and ‘evil’, but both grow together until the end. Until then, we take seriously the inevitable messiness of life and the requirement for caution in some moral judgments. Unambiguous clarity is not always possible.

This week has seen an acceleration of debate around the conflict in Syria. The recall of Parliament to vote on the principle of armed intervention in response to the probable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime on its civilians has resulted in what today’s headlines are declaring a humiliating defeat for David Cameron. But what is seen as a victory for common sense by some is seen as an abdication of moral responsibility by others. There are MPs on both sides, campaigners on both sides, Syrians on both sides. And Christians – including Syrian Christians – are on both sides too.

For all of us, a bigger picture may provide some perspective. The Old Testament prophets make it clear that God holds nations to account. A nation or a people cannot conduct itself as though it were an ultimate end in itself. It must understand its own life in the context of a larger dynamic of which it is a part – and which will answer ultimately to God. There isn’t a match between ancient nations addressed by the prophets and their modern counterparts, but there is an uncanny resemblance in the reasons for which they are indicted – pride, greed, violence, injustice – and no one nation has a monopoly on those.

Indeed, the line between good and evil, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn (who had good reason to yearn for regime change) reminded us, runs through our own hearts.

Prophetic sayings against the nations weren’t designed to help with nitty-gritty decision-making in international politics. They brought hope to the people of God – of his unrivaled supremacy in the world, of his plan to bless all nations even while holding them to account.

Ambiguity about the best way forward needn’t lead to inaction or despair. Even when we can’t see it now, Christians of all people have reasons for hope and confidence. And to pray and work purposefully for things that make for peace now.

Friday 23 August 2013

American Theological Inquiry 6, 2 (2013)

The latest issue of American Theological Inquiry is now online here, with the following contents:

Patristic Reading

St. Athanasius
On the Incarnation of the Word, 43-44


Neil B. MacDonald
Christological Monotheism, Numerically The Same Divine Self, and John’s Gospel

Neil B. MacDonald
YHWH and Jesus In One Self-Same Divine Self: Christological Monotheism As An Experiment In Objective Soteriology

Lois Eveleth
Clement of Alexandria and the Logos

Kent Eilers
New Monastic Social Imagination: Theological Retrieval For Ecclesial Renewal

Benjamin J. Brown
Saint Anselm of Canterbury in Redemptor Hominis: An Unobserved Connection

Review Article

Andrew Kloes
New Reflections on the Cultural Legacies of the Reformation as Harbingers of Secularization: Brad S. Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation

Book Reviews

Ecumenical Creeds of the Christian Faith

Sunday 18 August 2013

Christian Reflection on Death

The latest issue of Christian Reflection, published by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, is now available, this one devoted to ‘Death’. The whole issue is available as a pdf here, and an accompanying Study Guide is available here. The main articles, with their abstracts, are as follows:

Robert B. Kruschwitz
Our contributors explore how to provide better care for the dying, remember the dead rightly, and prepare for our own deaths – for these, they explain, respond to dimensions of the same problem, our avoidance of death.

Eric Howell
How the Tomb Becomes a Womb
By baptism “you died and were born,” a fourth-century catechism teaches. “The saving water was your tomb and at the same time a womb.” When we are born to new life in those ‘maternal waters,’ we celebrate and receive grace that shapes how we live and die.

Paul J. Griffiths
Defending Life by Embracing Death
In a Christian equipoise between death-seeking and death-avoidance, we would not be especially disposed to postpone our deaths; neither would we be disposed to seek them. We would want to continue to give our lives away as we have received them, as sheer gift. But can we be disposed to equipoise in an immortalist culture?

Brett McCarty and Allen Verhey
The Virtues for Dying Well
With the Ars Moriendi tradition, we should focus on the paradigmatic significance of the death of Jesus in order to learn how to die well. We would learn faith, hope, patient love, humility, serenity, and courage as we commend our lives and our deaths into the hands of a living God.

Regina Easley-Young
Remembering the Dead Rightly
We can over-identify with powerful emotions that accompany grieving, make an idol of the deceased, or harbor the poison of estranged or hostile relationships with them. Remembering the dead rightly – with love that is undistorted by our passions – is a difficult spiritual discipline.

Heidi J. Hornik
All My Life Is Vanity

Heidi J. Hornik
The Grim Reaper

When Life Well Lived Is at an End
David W. Music

Eric L. Mathis
Worship Service

Other Voices

Terry T. Lester
It’s Time to Get Up!
The raising of Lazarus is a preview that prompts us to trust and to glorify God. For in a few short days Jesus too will face his dying and death. But on Easter morn the voice of God echoes into the mystery and darkness of death, “It’s time to get up!” And Jesus, the risen Christ, comes forth.

Glenn E. Sanders
What My Students Teach Me about Death
The class lesson on the practice of dying well is mainly about how a community can comfort the dying and react in spiritually positive ways to death. But the discussion always turns to the students’ experiences of death. One should never assume that young adults know little about death.

Joel Shuman
Dying Well
We most often die as we have lived, and the hope for a “good” death demands a faithful life. The authors of the four books reviewed here make this point, arguing that preparation for death is an essential aspect of Christian discipleship and that the “art of dying” is a skill requiring lifelong cultivation.

Todd Buras
Loving Our Last Enemy
Unaided human reason may teach us to face death fearlessly, but it can do no more. To make peace with death – to embrace our end – we need more by way of wisdom. This is part of what the Church claims to have in Christ.

Charles W. Christian
Restoring the Christian Funeral
Futile attempts to deny death and escape from dying pervade our society. The two books reviewed here seek to restore a distinctively Christian voice to how we understand the dying process and death, and how we articulate their meaning in the funeral service.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Journal of Biblical Counseling 27, 2 (2013)

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling is now available ($10 for a year’s electronic subscription of three issues), this one containing the following pieces:

Featured Articles

Kevin DeYoung
Salvation Stories
Everyone lives according to a story. Everyone has some meta-narrative, some story that seeks to make sense of everything. You can’t avoid trying to explain how life works. You need a framework. You don’t directly experience reality. You constantly interpret it.

Julie Lowe with Lauren Whitman
Teach Your Children About Sex
Imagine this scene. You’re walking through the mall with your children, shopping for new shoes for the kids. You pass a store window with a huge advertisement for clothes. No surprise there, you’re in a mall. The only problem is that the model is barely wearing any clothes. In fact it looks like she is provocatively taking off the clothes she is wearing. As a parent, what do you do?

Timothy S. Lane and Edward T. Welch
The Unpardonable Sin: Two Pastoral Applications
When two articles on ‘the unpardonable sin’ came in to JBC, it presented us with an unusual opportunity. Tim Lane and Ed Welch both desire to comfort troubled souls who get hung up on Jesus’ words. Both authors carefully consider aspects of the context for Jesus’ unsettling words in Matthew 12:31–32. And both counselors point to the same merciful Savior and invite strugglers to interact with God in faith. So why are these articles so different?! Is one of them right and the other wrong? Is one approach better than the other? Or do they complement each other? And that poses a larger question. What do we learn from the similarities and from the differences about how to use Scripture in hands-on pastoral care?

David Powlison
How Does Sanctification Work? (Part 2)
Part 1 looked at how ministry connects various bite-sized truths to life-lived. It critiqued attempts to distill sanctification down to a single truth. Part 2 will do two things. First, I will be anecdotal and autobiographical, giving a sense for the variety of ways that God goes about the lifelong re-scripting of our lives. Second, I will give a simple model for staying oriented to the multiple factors at work.

Pierce Taylor Hibbs
Words of Counsel – Part 1: A Biblical-theological Foundation
As readers of Scripture, we are carried by God’s words. God meets us in the valley of our suffering, in the deathtrap of our sins, and speaks words that bear us up. His words minister to us in our weakness, and they bolster our hearts with their strength.

Counselor’s Toolbox

Paul David Tripp
The Power of Words
Our words help, teach, encourage, and comfort – or they divide, discourage, threaten, and destroy.

Paul David Tripp
How to Fight Right
You will never have a relationship with another person that is free of conflict. You will always find yourself in moments of disagreement, even in the best of relationships.

Lives in Process

Each of us is a work in progress. Biblical counseling exists because God uses people to help people, comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable. Biblical counseling exists because none of us changes all at once, in the twinkling of an eye. When we see Jesus face to face, then we will be fully like him. Until that day, the story is not yet complete. Ths section of JBC seeks to capture snapshots of the struggles and the change process as it is happening. The stories are framed by and infused with biblical truth – not just the theory, but the rough and tumble, the fis and starts of an unfolding personal story.

Numbing My Emotions

Emmelyn Chong
Facing My Contempt

Book Reviews

I’m Special?

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

The takeaway pizza box won’t fit in the fridge.

Too many presents. Had to walk twice to my room carrying stuff.

I can’t get the high def working on one of the flatscreen TVs in my yacht.

You might recognise these as examples of the First World Problems meme. Writing in The Independent this week, John Walsh takes it to task for telling people that their problems ‘count for nothing in the hierarchy of what’s serious’. Indeed, some first world problems are far from minor; nor do we have a monopoly on the need to negotiate everyday trivialities. Even so, #firstworldproblems at its best is a valid reminder that the ‘challenges’ we face are often small compared with many others around the globe.

More seriously, perhaps, the meme has become so commonplace that it’s in danger of lacking any serious empathy for global issues. It draws attention to our narcissism in a knowing, ironic way, which allows us to show how self-aware and ‘switched on’ we are, though without doing anything about it.

And if research is to be believed, narcissism is on the rise. A recent, widely-reported New York Times piece profiled Jean M. Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, whose close study of narcissism has led her to give the designation ‘Generation Me’ to young adults in the west. To be fair, not all accept her findings, with the alleged generational differences being particularly contentious. Still, as one commentator notes, ‘even if we’re not more narcissistic now than we’ve been in the past, I’m willing to entertain the notion that our popular culture is more narcissist-friendly’.

In The Big Ego Trip (IVP), writing from a Christian perspective, Glynn Harrison shows how the promotion of self-worth – ‘boosterism’ as he calls it – has gained widespread acceptance in different parts of culture, including the church, and explores whether there’s ‘a biblical and more psychologically secure approach to the big questions of significance and worth’. He makes it clear he is not arguing against the need for an ‘accurate self-concept’, but calling instead for a ‘radical self-compassion’, where questions of self-worth are ‘sorted out in the context of a larger “story” about our identity and purpose’. We’re special because we’re called to be part of something special, with an identity grounded in the grace and forgiveness of God.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Art Lindsley on Five Ways Pastors Can Affirm Faith, Calling, and Vocation

There’s a nice, short piece on the Gospel Coalition blog by Art Lindsley on ‘5 Ways Pastors Can Affirm Faith, Calling, and Vocation’:

1. Watch your language
2. Pray for people in professions
3. Interview workers
4. Commission people for ministry in their work
5. Stress that you can have a ministry at work

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Ecclesia Reformanda

Over at Biblical, the wonderful Rob Bradshaw has seen to it that all three volumes of Ecclesia Reformanda are available online. It’s worth taking a look at what’s there.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Credo Magazine 3, 3 (July 2013)

The current issue of Credo is now out, this one devoted to ‘Born Again: God’s Sovereign Grace in the Miracle of Regeneration’.

According to the editorial blurb:

‘While doctrines such as election, justification, and sanctification typically receive all of the attention in theological conversations, the doctrine of regeneration is often forgotten. Yet, it is this doctrine that undergirds the entire order of salvation. It is the initiatory change in regeneration that results in everything else, from faith and repentance to justification, sanctification, and perseverance. All of these other doctrines owe their existence to that first moment when God breaths [sic] new spiritual life into the sinner’s dead corpse.’

The magazine is available to read here, from where also a 41.7 MB pdf of the whole issue can be downloaded.

Themelios 38, 2 (August 2013)

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

D.A. Carson
Kingdom, Ethics, and Individual Salvation
In recent years a number of stances have arisen that have set themselves over against traditional evangelicalism and traditional Reformed thought, not a few of them arguing, in part, on the basis of a particular understanding of the kingdom. These stances claim to be more biblical and thus more faithful than traditional stances. To some extent they overlap; to some extent each is identifiably different from the others...

Off the Record
Michael J. Ovey
From Moral Majority to Evil Disbelievers: Coming Clean about Christian Atheism
People rightly note the way Christians in English-speaking Western culture have moved in a generation from being ‘moral majority’ to ‘immoral minority’. But I wonder whether that really catches the intensity of the dislike and disdain that I see in the two Western societies with which I am most familiar, the UK and Australia. You see, when I read the Sydney Morning Herald or the UK’s Guardian, what I perceive goes beyond a simple charge of immorality...

Peter Orr
Abounding in the Work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58): Everything we Do as Christians or Specific Gospel Work?
One of the deepest impacts of the Reformation on Western Culture arose from the robust rearticulation of the biblical doctrines of creation and vocation. Luther may have captured the combined impact of these neglected doctrines most strongly by rejecting the enshrined sacred-secular divide that was so prevalent in medieval thought. Luther emphasised the ordinary activities of daily life ‘as examples of a Christian’s return to creation and embrace of vocation’...

Owen Strachan
Carl F.H. Henry’s Doctrine of the Atonement: A Synthesis and Brief Analysis
Carl Ferdinand Howard Henry (1913–2003) was an American theologian in the conservative evangelical tradition. Born on Long Island and trained as a journalist, Henry served as the first editor of Christianity Today from 1956 to 1968. Henry earned two doctorates, including a PhD in theology from Boston University. The capstone work of his career was the six-volume series God, Revelation, and Authority, published in stages from 1976 to 1983...

Gerald R. McDermott
Will All Be Saved?
Will everyone one day be saved? Is hell only temporary, if it exists at all? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the historic Christian commitment to the conversion of the world to Christ would appear to be somewhat silly. Why go to such effort and expense trying to persuade people that Jesus is the only way if they all will see that eventually anyway? Why risk offending people – especially those who follow other religious traditions...

Book Reviews

Powerful Deliverance

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

LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the one who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
Psalm 3:1-4

Psalms 1 and 2 are clear and confident: the righteous prosper and the wicked are blown away like chaff; God is in charge of the world, and the nations will serve him and his Messiah. Except it doesn’t always feel that way, does it?

The need for the assurance of Psalms 1 and 2 becomes clear with the first lines of Psalm 3. But that Psalm 3 comes so early in the Psalter seems appropriate, given how many of the psalms arise out of the experience of being attacked, of feeling ashamed, isolated and abandoned, of wondering why the ungodly prosper when those who serve God suffer. That bundle of emotions and more was likely true of David who, according to this Psalm’s title, wrote it when he fled from his son Absalom, a story told in 2 Samuel 15-18.

Interestingly, David’s foes were not saying that God does not act; they were saying that God does not act for David – ‘God will not deliver him’. They consider David to be cast aside by God, a failure, defeated. Of course, we don’t always need the ‘help’ of others to think that way about ourselves.

But as the Psalm progresses, David’s prayer becomes less a statement about his enemies, himself, or even his trust, but a declaration about the Lord: ‘But you, LORD, are a shield around me.’ Shields are normally held in front of a person, but this shield encompasses him. In the place of prayer, where we see things we might not otherwise see, David confesses that God will protect him from attack, whatever direction it comes. It is the Lord who will lift his head high, removing his shame and restoring his dignity.

The final note of the Psalm is one of deliverance – ‘from the LORD comes deliverance’ (3:8) – even though it’s not clear that David’s situation has altered. For us too, the ‘problem’ itself might not immediately change – that illness we’re facing, or situation we find ourselves in, or task we have to do. What changes is our sense of dependence on God. Peace comes not primarily because we’re clever enough to work things out, but because of his power and promises of protection. Through prayer he moves us from fear to faith, from peril to peace, from a place of saying, ‘How many!’ to a place of confessing, ‘But you, LORD’.