Monday 25 December 2017

Let Earth and Heaven Combine

I blogged on this back in 2011, but it remains one of my favourite Christmas hymns. We used to sing it regularly in my first home church, but I haven’t sung in years. It’s by Charles Wesley. Verse 2 sounds a tad docetic (!), but the whole tenor of the hymn speaks of the mystery of what God was doing in becoming flesh, captured wonderfully in those lines in the first verse – ‘Our God contracted to a span/Incomprehensibly made man’. That always made me smile as each member of the congregation would invariably fit the words to the music in slightly different ways! Still, it’s a great line.

Let earth and Heaven combine,
Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine
The incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.

He laid His glory by,
He wrapped Him in our clay;
Unmarked by human eye,
The latent Godhead lay;
Infant of days He here became,
And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name.

See in that Infant’s face
The depths of deity,
And labour while ye gaze
To sound the mystery
In vain; ye angels gaze no more,
But fall, and silently adore.

Unsearchable the love
That hath the Savior brought;
The grace is far above
Of men or angels’ thought:
Suffice for us that God, we know,
Our God, is manifest below.

He deigns in flesh t’appear,
Widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near,
And make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know,
For God is manifest below.

Made perfect first in love,
And sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove,
And see His glorious face:
His love shall then be fully showed,
And man shall all be lost in God.

Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Friday 22 December 2017

Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology 4, 2 (2017)

The latest issue of the Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology is now available, carrying the below essays on the doctrine of creation, exploring ‘Biblical, doctrinal, and ethical matters more broadly as they arise from and lead to engagement with God’s creation’. The issue is available from here via a painless sign-up link.

Jarrod M. Longbons
I Seen a Better World’: Theology’s Gift to Ecology

Jeremy Mann
Sacramental Ontology and Calvin: Toward a Re-enchanted World

Matthew Mason
The Authority of the Body: Discovering Natural Manhood and Womanhood

Benjamin D. Espinoza
Faith, Science, and Ecclesial Culture: Engaging STEM Professionals in the Life of the Church

Jeremy Mann
A Consecrated Cosmos? First Timothy 4:1–5 in Exegetical and Theological Perspective

Book Reviews

Saturday 16 December 2017

Word and World 4 (2017)

‘You Will Be My Witnesses’ is the theme of the latest issue of Word and World, published by IFES, exploring how ‘students – along with everyone who has heard that Jesus has defeated death – might be witnesses to Jesus Christ in our time’. The issue contains the below pieces, and is available as a pdf here.

Vinoth Ramachandra
Christian Witness in the University
Vinoth Ramachandra ‘encourages students and faculty to join in conversations that are already going on and take them in a different direction’.

Cathy Ross
Sharing the Joy of the Gospel
Cathy Ross writes about ‘joining in God’s mission and being with others, recognizing that coming to faith is a process’.

Benno van den Toren
Why Inter-Religious Dialogue Needs Apologetics
Benno van den Toren writes that ‘dialogue between religions requires exchanging reasons, even if reason is rarely the primary factor in bringing people to faith’.

Fernando Abilio Mosquera Brand
Creation, Mission and Christ’s witnesses
For Fernando Mosquera, ‘the whole creation bears witness to God, and human witness fits within the mission of God as king, who involves his servants in going about his business in society and politics’.

Further Reading


I’ve just come across CrossPreach, a website and app, which looks like a useful resource. It already has more than 98,000 sermons in its collection, helpfully indexed by books of the Bible. The website also enables churches to upload sermons, storing them in the cloud, but allowing sermons to be displayed on the church’s own website.

Friday 15 December 2017

Foundations 73 (Autumn 2017)

Issue 73 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, the bulk of the essays focusing on mission.

Ralph Cunnington

Keith Walker
Exploring the Unfinished Task: Priorities for Mission Locally and Globally
With their masterful musical and lyrical skill, Keith and Kristyn Getty have revitalised Frank Houghton’s missionary classic, making it once again a popularly sung missionary song. The hymn reminds us that the task is immense, it matters because people live and die without hearing of Christ, and it remains unfinished. The concepts expressed in the hymn have had an impact on global missionary priorities for many decades. Their application to local mission has often been less evident. This article aims to explore a framework for considering priorities in both global and local mission, which takes us beyond the concept of “unreached people groups” (UPGs) which for some decades became the standard driver for missionary strategies.

Thorsten Prill
Martin Luther and Evangelical Mission: Father or Failure?
This article discusses the mission theology and practice of Martin Luther. The author demonstrates that the popular view which claims that the German Reformer was neither interested in the mission of the church, nor made any noteworthy contribution to mission theology, lacks substance. Luther’s critics seem to overlook the fact that Wittenberg, in which the Reformer lived, studied and taught, served as a hub of a huge missionary enterprise. Hundreds of preachers went out from this centre of the Reformation to spread the gospel all over Europe. Leading Scandinavian theologians, such as Olaus Petri and Hans Tausen, had all studied under Luther in Wittenberg and had been deeply influenced by him before they began reform work in their home countries. Furthermore, with his rediscovery of the gospel of justification by faith alone, his emphasis on the personal character of faith in Christ, his radical reinterpretation of the priesthood, his recognition of God’s authorship of mission, his reminder that the witness to the gospel takes place in the midst of a spiritual battle, and his insistence that the Bible has to be available in common languages, Martin Luther laid down important principles for the mission work of the church which are still valid today.

Thomas Brand
Nature, Person, and Will: An Argument from the Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils Against the Eternal Subordination of the Son
In this paper I offer an argument against the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. The argument is based on Scripture and is understood in the light of the historic, orthodox teaching of the church, as seen in a number of the Church Fathers and Ecumenical Councils. Specifically, I argue, from Maximus the Confessor’s interpretation of Scripture, that the volitional faculty is a function of nature rather than person. This entails that just as in Christ there are two wills, because there are two natures, so in the Triune Godhead there is but one will, because there is but one divine nature. I argue that this renders the notion of eternal subordination meaningless.

Mark Pickett
Review Article: Cross-Currents in Muslim Ministry

Book Reviews

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Themelios 42, 3 (December 2017)

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

D.A. Carson
Should Pastors Today Still Care about the Reformation?

Strange Times
Daniel Strange
I’m (Not) Getting Sentimental over You

Bruce Riley Ashford
Tayloring Christian Politics in Our Secular Age
Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age explores the implications of Western civilization’s transition to a modern secular age in which theistic belief has not only been displaced from the default position, but is positively contested by various other options. It is merely one option among many, and an implausible and unimaginable one at that. Building on Taylor’s analysis, Christians have a unique opportunity to reimagine our political witness in light of our secular age, reframe public issues, reform public dispositions, reshape political activism, and recover the lost art of Christian persuasion.

Andrew Chinpeng Ho
A Paragon of Faith? Doubting Abraham
While encrusted generational layers of pious reverence for Abraham have made him out to be a hero of faith, he was not yet one when called at seventy-five. In fact, he would not too irregularly, even mendaciously, evince doubt in God’s promises, probably until Isaac’s birth. Only by the Aqedah, and then only for the last seventy-five years of his life, would Abraham be a man of faith unshakeable. Yet through this unfaithful man, God chose to solve the specific problem that arose when the families of the earth rebelled against him at the end of primeval history.

Graham Shearer
Covenant, Creation and Children: A Response to David Gibson’s Critique of Credobaptism
David Gibson’s 2015 Themelios article on baptism asked whether credobaptism was compatible with a strong, Reformed, doctrine of creation, arguing that credobaptism risks ‘being sacramentally docetic’ since it weakens the relationship between nature and grace. This article offers a credobaptist response to this challenge, examining the three main elements of Gibson’s argument (covenant, creation, and children), arguing that, far from evacuating the created order of significance, credobaptism gives fullest weight to the outworking of salvation history within the created order. The article concludes by offering a brief sketch of a credobaptist theology of baptism placed within a robust theology of creation.

Graham Beynon
The Helpfulness of the Lesser Known Work: Isaac Watts on the Passions
Isaac Watts is well known as a hymn writer, but he also wrote significant works on the place of passion in the Christian life. Writing at a time of ‘cool’ religion in England, Watts aimed to breathe warmth into the religion of his day, while still being aware of the dangers of ‘enthusiasm’. There were significant implications for pastoral ministry along with Watts’s view of praise and preaching. Watts’s context, along with his pastoral insight and practical application, makes his works very helpful today.

Pastoral Pensées
Eric C. Redmond, Walter J. Redmond, Jr., and Charis A. M. Redmond
#Charlottesville: Some Gospel Thinking on White Supremacy
The acts of white supremacy that took place in Charlottesville, VA should encourage the church to act aggressively to deter racist ideals within her ranks. Evangelicals, as a whole, must engage white supremacy as a worthy opponent to the mission and message of the gospel instead of acknowledging race-based hate as a minor threat. Failure to do so directly injures the church’s ability to reach marginalized groups who have become victim to rising attitudes of hate and xenophobia. This responsibility falls on both leadership and members alike, to and both assembly ministers and Christian academics. Evangelical thought and action toward white supremacy cannot be a mere afterthought to the Charlottesville, Virginia incidents August 11, 2017 and like events.

Book Reviews