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.