Tuesday 29 October 2013

Anvil 29, 1 (2013)

Anvil, the ‘Anglican evangelical journal of theology and mission’, is now available as an open access journal via De Gruyter, after a sign-up process.

The September 2013 edition includes papers from an environmental consultation on the issue of ‘Hope’, with contents and abstracts as follows.

Margot R. Hodson
Editorial: Discovering a Robust Hope for Life on a Fragile Planet

Martin J. Hodson
Losing Hope? The Environmental Crisis Today
Environmentalists and scientists who study the environment often give a pretty bleak picture of the future. Surveys of secular views on the environment suggest that the general public in the developed West are concerned about the state of the environment. After considering all of the environmental problems that are causing scientists to worry, this paper then concentrates on four: climate change; biodiversity loss; global water supply; and the increase in our human population. Finally we will see what scientists have to say about hope in a time of environmental crisis.

John Weaver
Exploring Hope
This paper has emerged out of a consultation held in Oxford to consider the relevance of the Christian message of hope in the face of global environmental crisis. For many Christians, hope has moved from being a proximate hope that we might change our behaviour, to an eschatological hope, as behaviour and policy change are becoming frustratingly hard to secure. It is recognised that this crisis of hope not only applies to environmental issues but also issues of poverty. The author considers our role as hopeful disciples living between proximate and ultimate hope. He uses Ricoeur’s ‘knot of reality’ to explore the interconnection between suffering, faithfulness and the promises of God. The link between catastrophe, judgment, endurance, and hope are examined. A number of key Bible passages are considered in outline and Col. 1:15-20 and Rom. 8:18-23 are examined in more depth, along with some passages from Genesis and Isaiah. Church leaders who are aware of the environmental crisis, need to improve their communication to motivate Christians to take seriously the care for creation and for the poor. Drawing on the work of Walsh and Keesmaat, the author calls Christians to be countercultural. The Church can bring the signs of hope and these are found in community. This requires action that embodies Christian virtues. These point to a renewal of creation and show that we are caught up in a bigger story. Our ultimate hope is always in God and is brought into our present world through our faithful discipleship.

Richard Bauckham
Ecological Hope in Crisis?
This paper considers the topic of Christian hope in the context of today’s environmental crisis. Christian hope needs to be renewed as the world changes, and it needs to engage with the prevalent secular hopes. We are the first people to live at a time when we face the possibility of an entirely human-caused terminal catastrophe. During the Cold War we had the threat of a nuclear holocaust, and now an ecological disaster. The relationship between ultimate and proximate hopes is investigated. Ultimate hope is the final accomplishment of all God’s purposes for his creation. Proximate hopes are those we have for the temporal future. One difference between ultimate and proximate hope is that the former is unconditional and depends only on God’s transcendent act of re-creation. Proximate hopes depend partly on what humans do, and they can be disappointed. Ultimate hope can support proximate hopes, and enables us to work in the direction of God’s purpose. Faith, hope and love are mutually engaging, and needed for the flourishing of the others. We need to scale down our lifestyles, and limitless growth will not be possible. In this scenario hope will need to be both discerning and imaginative. We will also need endurance to keep going and not to give up in the very difficult situation we are facing this century.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba
Hope and the Environment: A Perspective from the Majority World
This paper considers hope and environment from a majority world perspective. It begins by surveying moves within the Anglican Church to become more environmentally aware, and to integrate environmental concerns into theology and practice. This process began at the Lambeth Conference in 1968 and eventually led to the inclusion of an environmental strand within the Anglican Communion’s ‘Five Marks of Mission’. The fifth Mark is ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’ In the 2008 Lambeth Conference a whole section was devoted to the environment. There follow accounts of environmental work in the Province of Southern Africa. In Niassa Diocese, in northern Mozambique, the mission department has been using Umoja (from the Swahili word for having a common mind) in congregational and community development. It demonstrates holistic mission by deepening faith, building community, and helping with practical challenges. Now the bigger question facing Southern Africa and the majority world is climate change. In South Africa apartheid used to dominate everything and this led to unity in the Church, but after apartheid the country is not faced by one overarching problem, but many. The theology of Charles Mathewes is explored in an attempt to find an adequate Christian response and bring hope to this new context. This then leads on to action in both small practical ways, and in bringing about more fundamental change. Finally, we are reminded that we should not always speak about problems, but also to present a positive vision.

Andy Atkins
Communicating Hope in the Real World
This paper outlines a methodology for campaigning on environmental issues at a time when hope is in short supply. Brief consideration is given to the real world context. Current environmental concerns are set within the present economic downturn. Our science is generally much better, and many more players are interested in the environment. There has been a media revolution in the last 10 years, and there are now many more ways of communicating information. The equation ‘Proposal + People + Opportunity = Change’ is explored. The principles elucidated are applied to a case study of ‘The Bee Cause’, a Friends of the Earth campaign. The implications for Christian leaders are then investigated.

Bishop Geoff Davies
SAFCEI (Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute)
The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) grew out of a life-long conviction that the Christian church had failed in its responsibility to care for God’s world. Surely we who worship the God who ‘in the beginning created’ all that exists, should take a lead in its care?

Monday 28 October 2013

Regent’s Reviews 5.1 (October 2013)

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

It contains reviews of (among others), Gordon J. Wenham’s Psalms as Torah, Medi Ann Volpe’s Rethinking Christian Identity, Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith, Bruce Ellis Benson’s Liturgy as a Way of Life, and Roger Standing’s As a Fire by Burning.

Earlier issues can be accessed here.

Journal of Theological Interpretation 7, 2 (Fall 2013)

The latest issue of the Journal of Theological Interpretation recently came through the post, containing the following articles:

Stephen Fowl
Effective History and the Cultivation of Wise Interpreters

R.R. Reno
Using the Fathers

John Riches
Reception History as a Challenge to Biblical Theology

John L. Thompson
At the Margins of the Rule of Faith: Reflections on the Reception History of Problematic Texts and Themes

Andrew E. Nelson
“Who Is This?” Narration of the Divine Identity of Jesus in Matthew 21:10–17

Joshua E. Leim
In the Glory of His Father: Intertextuality and the Apocalyptic Son of Man in the Gospel of Mark

Tomas Bokedal
The Rule of Faith: Tracing Its Origins

Brad Embry
“Redemption-Acquisition”: The Marriage of Ruth as a Theological Commentary on
Yahweh and Yahweh’s People

Eugene R. Schlesinger
Fire in the Water: Baptismal Aptness and Ecology in the Petrine Epistles

J. de Waal Dryden
Immortality in Romans 2:6–11

Sunday 27 October 2013

Centre for Public Christianity (October 2013)

Among other items, the latest newsletter from the Centre for Public Christianity contains a link to an audio conversation in which Justine Toh talks to Ruth Dearnley (World Vision Australia’s campaign leader for child protection and trafficking) and Ruth Padilla DeBorst (World Vision International’s director of Christian Formation and Leadership Development) about the ethical dimensions of our eating.

Church Growth Resourcing Mission Bulletin

Church Growth Research & Development is a hub designed to ‘communicate and disseminate some of the Church of England's work on church growth research and development that aims to help the Church allocate its resources effectively to facilitate its mission and growth’.

I’ve recently started subscribing to the Church Growth Resourcing Mission Bulletin, which often contains some useful short pieces.

The October 2013 edition, available as a pdf here, includes the following:

Paper 1: Growth and Challenge in Liverpool Diocese
This is an edited version of a speech given by the Bishop of Warrington to the College of Bishops which met in September 2013 to discuss the mission and financial challenges facing the Church

Paper 2: Capital Vision 2020
By the staff of the (Resource) Strategy and Development Unit in conversation with Debbie Clinton, Capital Vision Manager, diocese of London

Paper 3: Partnership for Missional Church
By the Revd Canon Dr Nigel Rooms, Director of Ministry and Mission, diocese of Southwell and Nottingham

Paper 4: Developing Relationships in Mission
By Sandra Cobbin, Freelance Trainer and Mediator

Paper 5: Pioneer Ministry in a New Community: A case study on the first year of ministry in Cranbrook, Exeter
By the staff of the (Resource) Strategy and Development Unit in conversation with the Revd Mark Gilborson, Minister for Cranbrook, Exeter

Saturday 26 October 2013

Catalyst 6 (Autumn 2013)

Catalyst is a twice-yearly magazine, published by CARE, highlighting ministries ‘making a Christian difference’ as well as giving the latest CARE news.

According to CARE, this issue includes a ‘moving interview with Professor John Wyatt on human dignity, a profile of TLG Education charity, a lively account of an evaluate presentation, a tour round the Parliaments and Assemblies, and much more’.

The issue is available for browsing here, or downloadable as a pdf here.

Friday 25 October 2013

David McIlroy on Choice

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

Here is the summary:

Our culture understands choice to be the means by which we express our freedom and individuality but sees choice as a range of consumer options. We are constantly compelled to choose, yet the unexpected result is that the things we choose have no value in themselves. God’s choices have significance, involve commitments, are made relationally, and carry a cost which God himself bears. A faithful response to God’s choices will make us aware that our choices matter, that to choose well is to commit to things, that our choices affect those around us, and that the cost of our choices is one we are prepared to shoulder.’

Ed Stetzer et al. on Christ-Centred Preaching and Teaching

A series of articles on Christ-centred hermeneutics first published on Ed Stetzer’s blog has been made available as a convenient pdf here (after a pain-free sign-up process).

Flowing out of work on The Gospel Project, for which Ed Stetzer is the general editor, it brings together brief contributions from Daniel Block, David Murray, Walt Kaiser, and Bryan Chapell, as well as Stetzer himself.

Stetzer writes in the Introduction the collection:

‘For the series, I brought a number of scholars to the blog to discuss the importance of Christ-centered hermeneutics. In the series, the authors looked at both the strengths and weaknesses of adopting this kind of hermeneutic...

‘This series was prompted by the question: How should we point to Jesus in our teaching?... The team of people working on The Gospel Project believe (as I do) that we should indeed be Christ-centered in our biblical interpretation, but that this Christ-centeredness must be built on balanced hermeneutical principles.’

Business as Mission Global Think Tank

The Business as Mission Global Think Tank – whose goal is ‘to accelerate the movement of  business people getting involved in God’s mission to the world’ – has started publishing the first few in a promised series of 30 plus reports from various working groups.

The reports are available from here, and include these ones so far:

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Evangelical Alliance on Work

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

The full report – Working Faithfully? – is available as a pdf here.

This is what the EA says:

‘This report provides fascinating insights into evangelicals’ experiences and opinions of the world of work, including views on the living wage, job satisfaction and perceptions of discrimination in the workplace. It also explores whether the Church really supports working people and cares about the unemployed.’

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

Saturday 12 October 2013

Encounters 46 (September 2013)

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

This edition includes several book reviews by members of the faculty of Redcliffe College, ‘all providing useful tools for seeking to engage with, and communicate more effectively to, our complex world’.

As co-editors Graham Dancy and Tim Davy point out, ‘a good teacher never stops learning and reflecting’, so ‘although the titles covered are varied, the unifying theme is our request to participants that they complement their reviews by reflecting on how their reading might be useful for or influence their teaching’.

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

Saturday 5 October 2013

Theos Report on Faith Schools

Elizabeth Oldfield, Liane Hartnett and Emma Bailey, More than an Educated Guess: Assessing the Evidence on Faith Schools (London: Theos, 2013).

Theos have published the above report.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the Executive Summary:

‘Around one in three maintained (i.e. state funded) schools in England have a religious character. This reflects the substantial historic contribution of the churches in providing public education. More than an Educated Guess: Assessing the evidence on faith schools summarises research around maintained schools with a religious character, with a view to informing debate around their place in a plural society and their effect on students.’

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

Friday 4 October 2013

Andy Crouch on Power

Having thoroughly enjoyed as well as benefited from his Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008), I have been looking forward to the new book by Andy Crouch: Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power (Downers Grove: IVP, 2013).

At this point, the volume is not even out in the UK, but it has already received some substantial coverage online:

• A lengthy profile by Byron Borger here
• A Gabe Lyons video interview with Andy Crouch here, some of which is excerpted here
• An interview with Justin Taylor here
• A piece in Christianity Today here, from which the following is taken:

‘I believe we need a new conversation about power in the church. I say a new conversation, because it will be a genuinely new topic for many pastors and laypeople.... [T]here are surprisingly few times when pastors and people directly address power. And this is especially true in churches that participate in the culture of middle- and upper-middle-class America, where we can easily take power for granted.

‘I also say a “new conversation” because when we do talk about power, we often talk about it strictly as something negative – something dangerous to be avoided – rather than as a gift to be stewarded...

‘But from beginning to end – that is, from creation to consummation – the Bible is full of references to power. You will often hear pastors say that Jesus “gave up power.” And indeed, the climax of salvation is the cross, on which Jesus is stretched out, suffers, and dies, having refused to grasp the power within his reach. But as the early Christians reflected on his life, death, and resurrection, they came to a different conclusion. Precisely because they were witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection after a violent death, the New Testament writers could no longer acquiesce to the idolatrous fiction that violence is the truest form of power. Instead, they had seen with their eyes, and touched with their hands, evidence of a much greater power at work in the world than Rome could muster...

‘What would a new conversation about power include?

‘It would acknowledge, indeed insist, that power is a gift – the gift of a Giver who is the supreme model of power used to bless and serve. Power is not given to benefit those who hold it. It is given for the flourishing of individuals, peoples, and the cosmos itself. Power’s right use is especially important for the flourishing of the vulnerable, the members of the human family who most need others to use power well to survive and thrive: the young, the aged, the sick, and the dispossessed. Power is not the opposite of servanthood. Rather, servanthood, ensuring the flourishing of others, is the very purpose of power...

‘[I]f power is a gift, then we can be accountable for its proper use – to its Giver, and to one another.’

Update (5 October 2013) – another review, by John Nugent, starting here, and another review by John Starke here.