Thursday 31 December 2015

Commentary (Winter 2015/16)

The Winter 2015 edition of Commentary, the twice-yearly magazine published by Oak Hill College, came out a month or so back. As with other issues, this one contains occasional profiles of students along with an assortment of short articles, including Dan Strange on the idea of ‘progress’, Mike Ovey on the theory of secularisation, and Kirsty Birkett on reincarnation.

The magazine is available to read from here, or downloadable as a pdf from here.

Foundations 69 (Autumn 2015)

Issue 69 of Foundations: An International Journal of Evangelical Theology, published by Affinity, is now available (here in its entirety as a pdf), with the following contributions:

Ralph Cunnington

Nathan Weston
“But That’s Just Your Interpretation!”: Foundations for an Evangelical Response
Postmodern scholarship has radically challenged the notion that texts have clear and accessible meaning which corresponds to the author’s intent. This has led to particular scepticism towards any claim of certainty within biblical interpretation. At best, such certainty is largely considered to be inappropriate and potentially divisive; at worst it is thought to represent a manipulative power play. Christians are often confronted which such scepticism when they seek to propound Scriptural truth to outsiders (or even to those in their churches), often expressed in the objection: “that’s just your interpretation”. This article aims to provide the foundations for an evangelical response to this scepticism, arguing that the only secure criterion for religious (or indeed any) knowledge is a revealed word from the truthful Father applied by his Spirit to the heart of a sinner redeemed by his Son.

Ralph Cunnington
The Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper in Adolphe Monod’s Preaching
This article traces out the significance of the Lord’s Supper in the life and ministry of Adolphe Monod, a minister in the French Reformed Church during the nineteenth century. The Supper held a high place in his theological and pastoral thinking and played a crucial role in disputes in both Lyons and Paris. While Monod’s Reformed contemporaries in North America were jettisoning Calvin’s doctrine in favour of a modified Zwinglian view, Monod remained committed to it. For Monod, communion was “the Lord’s love feast” and it was a feast he could not bear to see profaned.

Robert Strivens
Response to John Stevens, “Not Reformed Enough: Critiquing Contemporary Practice of the Lord’s Supper”
This article is a response to John Stevens’ contribution to “Foundations 68” (Spring 2015), in which he argues that the NT views the Lord’s Supper as a new covenant community celebration meal. It argues from systematics, church history and biblical exegesis that the Lord’s Supper does not require a full meal but that, as one of the two new covenant sacraments, it is a visible sign which points to gracious spiritual realities and by which believers participate in those realities by faith. It is argued that John over-emphasises the horizontal aspects of the Supper at the expense of the vertical element by which believers together in the Supper come to Christ himself and partake of him by faith. At the same time, it agrees with some of John’s reservations as to the manner in which the Supper is sometimes conducted in evangelical churches, particularly to an overly morose approach which also does not reflect the corporate nature of the Supper. Reform in these areas would be most welcome.

Tim Ward
Book Review:
Preaching with Spiritual Power: Calvin’s Understanding of Word and Spirit in Preaching

Samuel Hyde
Book Review:
The Plausibility Problem: The church and same-sex attraction

Friday 25 December 2015

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all-sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

Charles Wesley wrote this hymn, which was first printed in his Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord (1744). It largely flows out of Haggai 2:7 – ‘“I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord Almighty’ – but its mere two stanzas are packed tight with rich theology.

A lovely rendition of the carol by Marcy Priest along with a great video produced by The Skit Guys can be seen here – beautifully visualising how the biblical story leads up to the birth of Jesus.

Sunday 20 December 2015

More Videos from the Bible Project

The Bible Project continues to put together a series of helpful short videos, some of which introduce the structure and themes of biblical books, and others of which trace some major themes through the entire Bible.

Since I lost posted on this, several other Bible book videos have been made available (including on Ruth, Job, Psalms, Matthew, 1 Corinthians, and Hebrews), and one themed video on atonement.

Check them out from here (click on ‘Videos’ or scroll down to the ‘Videos & Study Guides’ section) or see them all via YouTube here.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Christian Reflection on Generosity

The latest issue of Christian Reflection, published by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, is available online, this one devoted to ‘Generosity’. 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
Since generosity echoes God’s love, practicing it in our lives and congregations is essential. Our contributors explore the distinctive features of Christian generosity, its central role in discipleship, and why its practice is so difficult in a consumerist culture.

Douglas V. Henry
Generosity of Spirit
Generosity names not merely something we do, but an admirable quality of character, something we are. Undergirding the character of truly generous people is a special awareness of themselves, others, and God’s gracious provision for the world, and this understanding inspires genuinely generous activity.

Kelly D. Liebengood
Paul’s Expectations of Generosity
True generosity requires us to give to those in need and make a place for them in our gatherings. Such generosity, Paul reminds us, is enabled by the transforming grace of God manifested in the self-emptying life of Jesus Christ and made accessible through the life-giving Spirit.

K. Jason Coker
Subversive Generosity
God’s reign, founded on God’s subversive generosity, opposes Roman oppression in the New Testament. Today it provides the moral vision to see through the distortions of consumerism and gives an alternative way to understand our obligations to one another and to God.

Patricia Snell Herzog
Solving the Riddle of Comfortable Guilt
Most of us admit that our giving behavior does not match our personal or our religion’s ideal of what it should be. Yet we are oddly content with this. Why do we have this comfortable guilt, and how can we change our habits to be rid of it? 

Ruben Swint
How Congregations (and Their Members) Differ on Generosity
Not every church member responds to the same message about giving. Not every congregation’s culture supports the same approach to developing faithful stewards, or generous givers. What variables in congregational life foster giving differences in members and congregations?

Heidi J. Hornik
Imperial Gifts

Heidi J. Hornik
Stopping to Help

Anthony Carl
All Who Thirst

Sharon Kirkpatrick Felton
Worship Service

Jonathan and Elizabeth Sands Wise
In This Old House
While generosity typically involves donating money or goods, it includes giving less material things. In this way, hospitality is a species of generosity, a making room and giving space to others in your own place, or in your attention, or in conversation. 

Richard Stearns
Time to Tithe
In our culture, the chief competitor to dependence on God is money – what it can buy and what it symbolizes. We need to give generously in order to inoculate ourselves from the virulent cultural diseases of materialism and consumerism. Unfortunately, we are not getting our vaccination shots. 

Allen Walworth
Unlikely Champions: A Widow’s Might
Scripture tells many stories about unlikely generosity champions, men and women who play out their lives, often in obscurity, except for the watchful eye of the biblical narrator – and God. They are champions of the human spirit. Upon their faithfulness the world turns, and the kingdom of God advances. 

Jo-Ann A. Brant
Generosity in the Bible
Most of us wish to be more generous. The four books reviewed here not only demonstrate the centrality of the call to generosity that runs through the biblical canon, they also provide practical advice about how we can turn our well-meaning intent into action.

Arthur M. Sutherland
Toward a Theology of Generosity
Americans long have wrestled with how God gives, the obligations of the rich toward the poor and the poor toward the rich, and how generosity shapes public life. Three recent books continue the struggle by surveying, probing, and depicting generosity as an orientation toward life.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Mission Catalyst

I don’t think I’ve posted on this before, though I’ve intended to do so...

Mission Catalyst has just arrived through the post. Published by BMS World Mission and available free of charge, it’s an excellent publication which normally contains short articles around a particular theme.

The first issue of 2016 is devoted to War, carrying (among other features) an interview with Chaplain General David Coulter, an article by Michael Jerryson on ‘Does Religion Legitimate War?’, an article by Susan Niditch on ‘War in the Old Testament’, and an article by Steve Hucklesby on ‘Humanitarian Intervention: Justified War?’

Further information, including an online subscription form for hard copies, and access to electronic versions of past issues is available here.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology

The Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology is published annually by the Center for Pastor Theologians, and is drawn from the papers presented at the Center’s bi-annual theological conference for pastors.

Two volumes are currently available – 1.1 (2014) with essays on gender and sexuality (available as a 18.2 MB pdf here), and 2.1 (2015) with essays on work, wealth and economics (available as a pdf here).

Friday 11 December 2015

The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 19, 3 (2015) on 2 Corinthians

The latest issue of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is devoted to 2 Corinthians, with some great looking essays, several from scholars who have either written commentaries on 2 Corinthians or spent considerable time in the text in other studies on Paul.

Stephen Wellum writes in the Editorial:

‘A wonderful place to turn to see the power of God’s Word at work is 2 Corinthians. Second Corinthians is the last of the extant letters Paul wrote to the Corinthian church. Anyone familiar with the Corinthian church knows of its serious problems and aberrations and how Paul patiently, yet forthrightly addressed these problems with pastoral care and the theological application of the gospel to their situation. In 2 Corinthians, we not only discover more about the serious condition of the Corinthian church, but also of Paul’s deep and abiding love for this church which had caused him no small amount of grief and sadness. In this letter we learn that the church was infected by false apostles and their teaching; how these “teachers” stood against Paul and his ministry, and more importantly, how Paul responded to these charges. In Paul’s response, we not only discover the heart of the apostle – a man captivated by Christ and all of his glory – we also learn valuable lessons about what true Christian ministry is and what true leadership entails in the church.’

Individual essays can be accessed from here, or the whole issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Stephen J. Wellum
Editorial: Learning from Paul’s Second Letter to Corinth

Mark Seifrid
The Message of Second Corinthians: 2 Corinthians as the Legitimation of the Apostle

Matthew Y. Emerson and Christopher W. Morgan
The Glory of God in 2 Corinthians

George H. Guthrie
Καταργέω and the People of the Shining Face (2 Corinthians 3:7-18)

Matthew Barrett
What is So New About the New Covenant? Exploring the Contours of Paul’s New Covenant Theology in 2 Corinthians 3

Joshua M. Greever
“We are the Temple of the Living God” (2 Corinthians 6:14- 7:1): The New Covenant as the Fulfillment of God’s Promise of Presence

Thomas R. Schreiner
Sermon: A Building from God—2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Book Reviews

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Themelios 40, 3 (December 2015)

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

D.A. Carson
On Disputable Matters

Off the Record
Michael J. Ovey
Is the Wrath of God Extremist?

Jeremy R. Treat
More than a Game: A Theology of Sport 
Sports have captured the minds and hearts of people across the globe but have largely evaded the attention of Christian theologians. What is the meaning of sports? There seem to be two polar responses: some dismiss sports as merely a game, while others worship sports as nearly a god. This essay argues that when viewed through the lens of Scripture, sports are more than a game, less than a god, and when transformed by the gospel can be received as a gift to be enjoyed forever.

Rob Smith
The Amorality of Atheism
This essay explores the question: Can there really be such a thing as objective morality in an atheistic universe? Most atheists (both old and new) are forced to admit that there can’t be. On atheism, objective morality is necessarily an illusion. Yet due to the reality of human moral experience, many atheistic philosophers feel compelled to provide a naturalistic account of “the universally experienced phenomenon of the ought.” Such an enterprise is self-defeating, as it can only be achieved by maintaining a position that is intellectually incoherent or by redefining ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in a decidedly non-moral way. The atheist thus faces a tough choice: maintain atheism and embrace amorality or maintain morality and embrace theism.

Andrew J. Spencer
Beyond Christian Environmentalism: Ecotheology as an Over-Contextualized Theology
When Christian theology fails to adapt to the cultural context in a healthy manner, it can lead to a loss of cultural relevance. Proper contextualization is essential. This essay argues that ecotheology, which is a form of liberation theology, is an example of a contextual theology that is more closely linked to the contemporary context than it is to traditional forms of Christian doctrine. To argue this thesis, the essay will first provide an overview of ecotheology, demonstrating its consistency with praxis theology using an ecocentric hermeneutics of suspicion. Then the essay will offer critiques of ecotheology to show where the movement presents a helpful corrective and where it becomes over-contextualized.

Daniel Strange
Rooted and Grounded? The Legitimacy of Abraham Kuyper’s Distinction between Church as Institute and Church as Organism, and Its Usefulness in Constructing an Evangelical Public Theology
The question of the precise nature and scope of the church’s mission has been both perennial and thorny. In recent years many evangelicals have made positive reference to Abraham Kuyper’s distinction between the church as ‘institute’, and the church as ‘organism’ noting this is a helpful and necessary way of distinguishing between the organised church with its own particular and specific roles and responsibilities, and the church understood as Christians in the world, living out their God-given vocations in all spheres of life. This article describes and critiques Kuyper’s distinction asking whether it is a help or a hindrance, and offering possible other ways of delineating and distinguishing the mission of the church.

Andrew Ballitch
“Not to Behold Faith, But the Object of Faith”: The Effect of William Perkins’s Doctrine of the Atonement on his Preaching of Assurance
The Elizabethan Puritan, William Perkins, is accused of exclusively pointing people inward to signs of repentance or to their sanctification for assurance of salvation. It is assumed that he was bound to this strategy because he affirmed particularism in the atonement. Both Perkins’s accusers and defenders have tended to amass evidence from Perkins’s writings explicitly on assurance and, as such, there is a need to look at his actual practice. While Perkins certainly did point individuals toward themselves in his preaching, this article will show that he also pointed doubters to Christ and gospel promises for assurance.

Pastoral Pensées
Matthew Barrett
The Duty of a Pastor: John Owen on Feeding the Flock by Diligent Preaching of the Word
In the twenty-first century the pastor is expected to fulfill an incredible amount of ministry responsibilities. Too often, unfortunately, the proclamation of God’s Word becomes just another duty in an unending list of ministry assignments. In order to counter such a trend, this article looks to the Puritan, John Owen, who reminds pastors that their first priority is to “preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). After a brief exploration of Owen’s own pastoral ministry, we will examine a sermon Owen gave at an ordination service in 1682 in order to understand why, exactly, Owen believes everything hinges upon gospel-proclamation. In doing so, we will probe four pillars Owen affirms as indispensable to such a task, as well as identify the specific tools Owen says every pastor must possess and utilize. Whether one is a brand new pastor, a seasoned shepherd, or a professor training others for future ministry, Owen sheds invaluable light upon the most important undertaking in the church, namely, feeding the people of God the Word of God. 

Book Reviews

John Dickson on the Bible

John Dickson, A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible: Inside History’s Bestseller for Believers and Skeptics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015).

Like many books published in recent years, this one provides a bird’s-eye view of the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation. But there is something distinctive and refreshing about this one. It’s brief and accessible. It’s also intelligent and tonally engaging. Reading it is like having a conversation with a smart friend, someone who not only tells the biblical story really well, but who responds helpfully to the questions you might have about the ‘controversial’ bits – Genesis 1, Adam and Eve, the land, the law, the violence, issues of archaeology and history. It would be a great book to give to friends who are exploring the Christian faith – the ‘doubters’ or ‘sceptics’ referred to in the title. But it would also serve as a valuable primer for those who’d like an opportunity to take in again the ‘story we recognise as true’, and the God who calls us to himself through it.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Exegetical Tools Quarterly 1.2 (October 2015)

The second volume of Exegetical Tools Quarterly is now available online, available as a pdf here.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Knowing and Doing (Winter 2015)

The Winter 2015 edition of Knowing & Doing – ‘A Teaching Quarterly for Discipleship of Heart and Mind’ – from the C.S. Lewis Institute is now available online (here as a pdf), and contains the following articles:

John Lennox
Science and Faith: Friendly Allies, Not Hostile Enemies
Are science and faith enemies? John Lennox, banquet speaker, explains that science and faith are actually allies.

Paul M. Gould
Is Bigger Better? C.S. Lewis, Atheism, and the Argument from Size
In this article Paul Gould helps us to think through concepts like this from Lewis: “It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion.”

Randy Newman
Leveling the Playing Field: A Strategy for Pre-Evangelism
Randy Newman explains that before we even start some evangelistic conversations, the deck is stacked against us, as nonbelievers assume they’re morally or intellectually superior to believers. Many outside the faith see us as narrow-minded, intolerant, homophobic simpletons. He gives us some valuable techniques to level the playing field so our words are considered rather than dismissed.

Thomas A. Tarrants III
Who Is God? Part 1
The great need of every true believer (and nonbeliever) today is the recovery of a right view of God. Tom Tarrants, Vice President for Ministry and Director, Washington Area Fellows Program, C.S. Lewis Institute, helps us to begin to see Who God Is in this article.

Michael William Schick
God’s Job, Our Job: Knowing the Difference Makes All the Difference
With a culture that increasingly encourages self-absorption, it’s not surprising that many people act like “little gods” who are confused about their role in life versus God’s role over all of life. In this article, adapted from the book by the same title, Michael Schick helps us to sort out the difference.

Tom Schwanda
The Legacy of John Hus
A fascinating look at the life of pastor and church reformer John Hus. Hus devoted himself, much like Luther and Calvin, to study the Scriptures and discover the truth. He would challenge us today to be diligent in the Word of God.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

The Bible Society on Democracy, Conflict and the Bible

Cristian Romocea and Mohammed Girma (eds.), Democracy, Conflict & the Bible: Reflections on the role of the Bible in International Affairs (Swindon: Bible Society, 2015).

Last night, I attended the launch and panel discussion of a report from Bible Society’s International Bible Advocacy Centre on ‘Democracy, Conflict and the Bible’.

Information about the Centre can be found here, and the above report can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Monday 30 November 2015

Credo Magazine 5, 4 (2015)

The current issue of Credo is available, this one devoted to John Owen (2016 sees the four hundredth anniversary of his birth).

Matthew Barrett writes in the Editorial:

‘It is hard to exaggerate the importance and influence of Owen’s life and writings. His books were and still are some of the best works in theology that we have, standing alongside those of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and many others...

‘What is so remarkable about Owen, however, is not merely the robust, biblical nature of his writings, but his insistence that theology affects the Christian life. In other words, Owen refused to separate head and heart. Doctrine must lead to doxology every time, otherwise we have not truly understood its purpose. Therefore, Owen is the Doctor who looks into the human soul in order to diagnose our spiritual disease and offer us a cure in Jesus Christ.’

The magazine is available to read here, and an 11 MB pdf of the whole issue can also be downloaded here.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Ray Van Neste on Bibles and Bible Resources in 2015

It’s that time of the year when people start posting their best reads of 2015. I always look forward to Ray Van Neste’s contribution, who provides a full survey of Bibles and Bible resources produced during the year. Hs summary of 2015 starts here.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Michael Gorman on Paul in One Sentence

I’ve been preparing for a session on Paul, and have been rereading Michael Gorman’s introductory overview of Paul’s theology, Reading Paul (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008). His opening chapter has a wonderful one-sentence summary in which he offers what he calls ‘a glimpse of Paul’s grand scheme’, which goes like this:

‘Paul preached, and then explained in various pastoral, community-forming letters, a narrative, apocalyptic, theopolitical gospel (1) in continuity with the story of Israel and (2) in distinction to the imperial gospel of Rome (and analogous powers) that was centered on God’s crucified and exalted Messiah Jesus, whose incarnation, life and death by crucifixion were validated and vindicated by God in his resurrection and exaltation as Lord, which inaugurated the new age or new creation in which all members of this diverse but consistently covenantally dysfunctional human race who respond in self-abandoning and self-committing faith thereby participate in Christ’s death and resurrection and are (1) justified, or restored to right covenantal relationship with God and with others; (2) incorporated into a particular manifestation of Christ the Lord’s body on earth, the church, which is an alternative community to the status-quo human communities committed to and governed by Caesar (and analogous rulers) and by values contrary to the gospel; and (3) infused both individually and corporately by the Spirit of God’s Son so that they may lead “bifocal” lives, focused back on Christ’s first coming and ahead to his second, consisting of Christlike, cruciform (cross-shaped) (1) faith and (2) hope toward God and (3) love toward both neighbors and enemies (a love marked by peaceableness and inclusion), in joyful anticipation of (1) the return of Christ, (2) the resurrection of the dead to eternal life, and (3) the renewal of the entire creation.’

Michael J. Gorman, Reading Paul (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008), 8.

The Asbury Journal 70, 2 (2015)

The latest issue of Asbury Journal, containing a few interesting-looking articles (I’ll definitely be checking out the one on Brueggemann and the one on preaching Isaiah), is available from here.

W. Creighton Marlowe
The Meaning and Missional Significance of “Call on the Name YHWH”

David Bundy
Pietist and Methodist Roots of the Société des Missions Évangéliques de Paris

George E. Hendricks and M. Elton Hendricks
Mr. Wesley, Since you Wanted to Help the Poor, Why did you Ignore the English Poor Law of your Day?

Zaida Maldonado Pérez
We Love God, the Holy Spirit!

Rachel L. Coleman
Walter Brueggemann’s Enduring Influence on Biblical Interpretation

Bill Thompson
Preaching Isaiah’s Message Today

Monday 23 November 2015

Lausanne Global Analysis 4, 6 (November 2015)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, with three of the articles looking at the impact of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation held in Cape Town in 2010.

In the issue overview, editor David Taylor says:

‘In this issue we focus in three of our articles on the impact and legacy – five years on – of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation held in Cape Town in 2010. Our Executive Director/CEO Michael Oh and Director of Executive Projects Justin Schell analyse the fruit of the Congress, emphasising particularly taking a long view of the work of global mission; Michael’s predecessor Doug Birdsall, who organised Cape Town, offers his personal reflection on the conference’s legacies; and Rudolf Kabutz focuses on the impacts of it in Africa, as well as the key issues for Christians in Africa going forward.’

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

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Theos Report on Proselytism

The latest report from Theos has recently been published:

Here’s the summary blurb:

‘Critics of religion argue that the threat of proselytism is one of the key reasons why faith-based organisations should not have a greater role in providing public services, or receive any public money.

‘The word, which traditionally simply meant the attempt to persuade someone to change their religion, now implies using power and position or taking advantage of the vulnerable to recruit new adherents. However, there’s confusion about the boundaries between what is and isn’t legitimate when it comes to the public articulation of faith.

The Problem of Proselytism explores three areas where faith-based organisations do need to exercise caution: prioritising the public good, respecting the dignity of religious and other minorities and protecting vulnerable service users. It argues that faith-based organisations don’t need to secularise in order to head off these concerns. Indeed, they should be transparent and consistent in setting out how what they do is different to purely secular providers, particularly when it comes to offering spiritual care. The report offers a rigorous analysis of the debate around proselytism today, drawing on the findings of a range of interviews. It describes ‘full fat’, ‘half fat’ and ‘low fat’ approaches to faith-based social action, arguing that each will and should have a different kind of relationship with statutory providers or funding.

‘The report calls for openmindedness from decision makers, with responsible and reflective social action on the part of faith-based organisations.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Sunday 15 November 2015

Centre for Public Christianity (November 2015)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted a video interview with David Smith on ‘what it means to learn from – and even love – the stranger’, and an audio interview with Trevor Hart on art, theology, and imagination, exploring ‘the relationship between art and the Church, the idea of God as an artist, human creativity, and the way art points us to the divine’.

Friday 13 November 2015

Collin Hansen et al. on Revisiting ‘Faithful Presence’

2010 saw the publication of James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press), which has exercised considerable influence in the broader discussion of Christian engagement in society and culture. In my reading of much of the literature in this area, Hunter’s advocation of a ‘faithful presence’ on the part of Christians seems to have struck a chord, even if many still want to say ‘yes, but...’

With that in mind, I was very interested to see that Collin Hansen has edited a collection of essays from several contributors and published The Gospel Coalition’s first eBook, Revisiting ‘Faithful Presence’: To Change the World Five Years Later, which engages with Hunter’s essential thesis and its effect on reflection in this area.

More information, including Hansen’s Introduction to the book can be found here. Very generously, the book is made available for free in various formats, including as a pdf which can be downloaded here.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Michael Wittmer on Becoming Worldly Saints

Michael Wittmer, Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015).

Grounded firmly in Scripture, and written with verve and wit, here’s a book that offers a powerful vision of the Christian life that embraces the whole of life. ‘Worldly Saints’ might seem like a contradiction in terms, but it’s what we’re called to be. As God’s holy people, we must be also ‘worldly’ – enjoying creation, looking after our family, loving friends, working hard, resting well, and excelling in our cultural tasks. If being a Christian becomes an obstacle to being human, then something has gone wrong. Tracing the story of salvation from Genesis to Revelation, the book provides an engaging and compelling reminder of the deep and wide nature of the gospel. The God who created all things is the God who will restore all things, and who calls us to flourish in his liberating lordship in every aspect of life.

Brian Russell on Missional Hermeneutics

Brian Russell (whose blog is well worth checking out) has posted online three short videos – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 – introducing missional hermeneutics (as part of a course he teaches on the Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary).

He has a book coming out in the not-too distant future which explores missional hermeneutics more fully, which I’m looking forward to reading: (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World (Eugene: Cascade, forthcoming 2015/2016).

Monday 2 November 2015

Mission Frontiers 37, 6 (November-December 2015)

The November-December 2015 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles honouring the 50th anniversary of Fuller Theological Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies, formerly  known as the School of World Mission.

Guest Editor Jeff Minard writes:

‘Fuller Theological Seminary performed an innovative work 50 years ago when they opened the School of World Mission (SWM), which later changed its name to the School of Intercultural Studies (SIS). A separate school focused on mission is common today among seminaries, but it wasn’t then...

‘We present excerpts of articles written by several faculty at the School of Intercultural Studies. The following pieces are excerpts from the forthcoming volume by IVP Academic, Mission with Innovation: Retrospect and Prospect in the Field of Missiology, edited by Charles Van Engen, scheduled for publication in October 2016.’

Individual articles can be accessed from here, and the whole issue (8.3 MB) can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Monday 19 October 2015

Andy Bannister on Atheism and Apologetics

Andy Bannister, The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: Or: The Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments (Monarch Books, 2015).

Andy Bannister is the Canadian Director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He speaks regularly to audiences of all kinds on issues of faith and scepticism, and his joyously breezy approach is wonderfully captured in this book. Andy pricks the bubble that atheism has recently become, with its assumption that it’s the most ‘reasonable’ position to be adopted by contemporary urbanites. He’s adept at exposing the holes in poor arguments, but does so with a cheeky winsomeness. There’s plenty of humour here, and it will either have you laughing out loud or groaning out loud, or perhaps both. This is a book to read for yourself if you’re nervous about atheism’s apparent success, but it can also be given with confidence to your sceptical-but-interested friends. As Andy points out, arguments don’t win someone for Christ, but they might help remove the obstacles that prevent them from seeing Jesus clearly in the first place.

Sunday 18 October 2015

The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 19, 2 (2015)

The latest issue of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is devoted to ‘Theology and Economics’, with an interesting line-up of essays indicated below.

Stephen Wellum writes in the Editorial:

‘Living as we do in an increasingly secularized and relativistic age, the church, for a variety of reasons, has too often dichotomized the Christian life. Too frequently, we have artificially separated our spiritual life from our everyday life, and one of its consequences is our disengagement from society. But given that God has created us to rule over his creation, to work, to be salt and light in the world, and to apply God’s Word to our entire lives, Scripture reminds us that our Lord is not only interested in our spiritual lives, he is also interested in us as whole people. Biblical salvation involves every aspect of our lives in relation to God, the world, and to others.’

Individual essays can be accessed from here, or the whole issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Stephen J. Wellum
Editorial: Living All of Life to God’s Glory

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Economics and the Christian Worldview: 12 Theses

David Kotter
Greed vs. Self-Interest: A Case Study of How Economists Can Help Theologians Serve the Church

Mark Coppenger
Stewardship of the Wetlands below the Golan Heights: A Study in Judeo-Christian and Muslim Contrasts

Gregg Allison
Why Are You Here? Heavenly Work vs. Earthly Work

John Wind
Not Always Right: Critiquing Christopher Wright’s Paradigmatic Application of the Old Testament to the Socio-economic Realm

Jason Glas
The Gospel, Human Flourishing, and the Foundation of Social Order

Pieter DeVries
Living in Truth: Unmasking the Lies of our Postmodern Culture

Thursday 15 October 2015

Christian History Magazine on Martin Luther

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is the first of a promised four issues on the Reformation, this one looking at Martin Luther.

The whole magazine is available as a 9.2 MB pdf here.

Monday 5 October 2015

The Whole of Life for Christ (7): Whole-Life Worship

I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the last in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Deuteronomy 10:12-13

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being...’
In a loud voice they were saying:
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!’
Revelation 4:11 and 5:12

It should come as no surprise that the Lord of the whole of life requires worship in the whole of life. In the Old Testament, we see it in regulations that touch on every aspect of daily existence, in psalms which embrace the highs and lows and everything in between, in prophets who call for justice and mercy as well as sacrifice and singing. As Deuteronomy 10:12-13 captures it, all of life was to be an expression of service to the Lord.

That’s completely in line with what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 – where bodies, minds and wills are offered back to God – reminding us that the Old and New Testament stand together on the necessity of whole-life worship. Across Scripture, acceptable worship is not simply a matter of praising God in music and singing, or of participating enthusiastically in rites and ceremonies; it involves honouring, serving, and revering God in every sphere of life.

And it all flows out of his grace towards us. The biblical story line from beginning to end allows us to trace the acts of God on behalf of the people of God and our response to the Lord in worship.

In the book of Revelation, John sees a door standing open in heaven. He’s given a vision of reality from God’s perspective. For the small and weak communities of believers scattered around what is now Turkey, John sees that the true account of the world is revealed not only in the Creator God who reigns over all things, but in Christ crucified who redeems all things.

The worship that John witnesses nourishes our identity and mission as the body of Christ – because it’s focused above all on Christ himself, who is uniquely qualified to bring to pass God’s redemptive purposes in the world. The scope of what God might be pleased to do through us in our everyday lives – our whole of life for Christ – is rooted in what God has done, is doing, and will do for us and for all creation.

So, John’s vision of worship becomes a call to worship, an expression of allegiance in a world of competing allegiances, a way of declaring who’s really in charge, as we allow our worship of God and the Lamb to permeate everything we think and say and do, and invite others to do the same.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Journal of Global Christianity

The Journal of Global Christianity, published twice a year by Training Leaders International, ‘seeks to promote international scholarship and discussion on topics related to global Christianity’, addressing ‘key issues related to the mission of the Church in hope of helping those who labor for the gospel wrestle with and apply the biblical teaching on various challenging mission topics’.

Two issues have been published so far (in five languages), containing a variety of essays along with several book reviews. The current issue is available here, from where individual essays or a pdf of the whole issue can be viewed or downloaded.

Thursday 1 October 2015

David and Heather Jackman on Marriage

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

Here is the summary:

‘The broad and pervasive “trend away from marriage” has far-reaching implications for society as a whole, as well as for Christians who come under pressure to conform to cultural standards. In contrast to the short-term and low-commitment relationships that have fast become the norm, the Bible holds out a positive vision for marriage, based on God’s covenant relationship with his people, and offers us the hope of communicating an attractive model of marriage to those who adhere to very different values.’

Monday 28 September 2015

The Whole of Life for Christ (6): Whole-Life Hope

I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the penultimate in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.

‘See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.’
Isaiah 65:17-19

The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
Romans 8:21-24

In words that John will later pick up in Revelation 21, God – through Isaiah – lays out the goal of his redemptive work – nothing less than a new creation. Not an immaterial heaven, but heaven and earth combined in breathtaking renewal. A restored world washed clean of dirt and pollution, where weeping and crying will no longer be heard, where ugliness and scarcity will be overcome by beauty and abundance. Just pause to imagine such a world.

It’s not like that now (in case you hadn’t noticed...). Romans 8 is one of many places where Paul expresses the tension between how things are now and how they will be one day. And that tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ is part and parcel of everyday discipleship.

The new age has broken into the present age, so that we enjoy ‘the firstfruits of the Spirit’ while awaiting the full harvest. The current experience of birth pains will give way to eventual relief. Paul depicts salvation as being set free from bondage, applying the imagery not just to women and men, but to the entire created order – yet one more reminder of the sweeping scope of God’s work in Christ, where such liberation is not simply ‘internal’ or ‘spiritual’, but the ‘redemption of our bodies’, and of creation itself.

The Bible tells the story of God’s work of redemption, which is a gloriously comprehensive rescue – ‘far as the curse is found’, as the old carol puts it. To be sure, biblical passages use figures of speech in their descriptions of what the future looks like, but they all underline not the removal of creation but its renewal, not its ruination but its restoration.

In this time between the times, our discipleship – in keeping with what will be – is all-embracing, as we make known and live out God’s rule over the whole of life. Seeking to avoid both defeatism (claiming too little) and triumphalism (claiming too much), we can testify to the wide-ranging sweep of God’s renewing power in politics and parenting, in economics and education, in art and athletics – being realistic about current ‘bondage’, but all the while looking forward to the complete restoration of what was originally declared ‘good’.

Such is our confidence and expectation – our hope – a hope of the full disclosure of God’s gracious reign that shapes each of us in the here and now.

Friday 25 September 2015

9Marks Journal 12, 3 (2015) on Multi-Ethnic Churches

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available here as a pdf, is devoted to the topic of ‘Multi-Ethnic Churches’.

In the Editor’s Note, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘[C]hurches today too often mimic their host culture’s ethnic rivalries, whether in South Africa, India, or America. Or at least, too often they forget they possess a resource for overcoming racial or ethnic strife that the world does not have: the gospel.

‘Most evangelicals recognize that possessing the righteousness of Christ means “putting on” that righteousness in every-day decisions. Yet the same is true of the reconciliation we share with one another in the gospel (see Eph. 2:11-22). We are to “put on” that reconciliation. If we do not put on that righteousness, and if we do not put on that reconciliation, we call into question whether we have been declared righteous or “one new man.”’

Thursday 24 September 2015

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39:4 (October 2015)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research is a collection of essays written in honour of Jonathan J. Bonk.

In view of the ongoing refugee crisis, it might be worth noting that the issue features articles around the broad theme of ‘Engaging Mission: Hospitality, Humility, Hope’, with a number of the contributions addressing issues related to migration, assimilation, and hospitality.

The whole issue is available as a pdf here.