Friday 30 April 2021

Ink 8 (Spring 2021)

The eighth issue of ink is now available, this one including a feature on ‘Who Were the Assyrians?’ There’s also a profile of Dr Thomas Davis, ‘whose career in archaeology provides insight into the rich heritage of the Christian faith’, and an article on a Ugaritic clay tablet from the time of the biblical Judges.

UK residents can sign up here to receive issues through the post, but the publication is also available to read from here, from where a pdf can also be downloaded.

Thursday 29 April 2021

More from the Centre for Public Christianity (April 2021)

The Centre for Public Christianity has posted a ‘Life and Faith’ podcast (here) on why Jane Austen’s novels ‘inspire an almost religious fervour’, and a piece (here) on why ‘something more than education about consent is needed to reduce sexual assault in our society’.

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Evangelical Review of Theology 45, 2 (May 2021)

The latest Evangelical Review of Theology, published by The World Evangelical Alliance, is now online and available in its entirety as a pdf here.

Introduction: Why We Need Theological Education

Thomas Schirrmacher

Sharing the DNA of Christianity

This article is excerpted and lightly edited from the message Thomas Schirrmacher delivered on his inauguration as Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance on 27 February 2021.

Manfred Waldemar Kohl

Re-Forma: Solving a Key Issue in Global Training of Pastors and Church Leaders

An estimated two million evangelical pastors and church leaders worldwide lack formal theological training. Even if seminaries and Bible institutes had the capacity to educate them, few would have the time or resources to engage in full-time study. This article presents the solution offered by Re-Forma, an initiative affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance.

Richard E. Seed

Cognitive Contextualization in Theological Education: A Theoretical Framework

One inescapable reality of our connected and globalized world is the diversity and plurality of the human situation into which the Word of God speaks. This diversity arises from the living matrix within which each individual is nurtured and is evidenced in the learning and cognitive structures used to build understanding. This article investigates ways to deal with these realities and create cognitively contextualized theological education.

Perry Shaw

Moving from Critical to Constructive Thinking

The author, based on his 30 years of experience in cross-cultural education and on biblical interpretation, warns that an over-emphasis on critical thinking can foster sub-Christian understandings of such concepts as autonomy and tolerance. He proposes an approach more typical of collectivist societies, in which students balance their development of a critical voice with respect for accumulated community wisdom.

Walter Riggans

Can We Not Mourn with Those Who Mourn?

The book of Psalms is full of laments, but our church services today are overwhelmingly dominated by praise songs. Why the difference? This article examines the problem, calls for a song selection that opens its arms to the suffering, and offers some powerful, positive modern examples.

Hannes Wiher

Holistic Mission in Biblical and Theological Perspective

For the last 50 years, one of the most important discussions in global evangelicalism has concerned the idea of holistic mission, which proposes the integration of verbal evangelism and social engagement within Christian mission. This article, excerpted from a longer study to be published in the WEA World of Theology Series, examines how key terms such as ‘evangelism’ and ‘mission’ are understood in the Bible and in contemporary missiological debates. The author argues for a nuanced holism that recognizes the Bible’s overarching concern for our eternal destiny and its endorsement of a wide range of verbal and non-verbal ways to express that concern.

Daniel Kirkpatrick

Reconciling God’s Justice and His Sovereignty in the Process of Salvation: Towards a Mediating View Between Causative Faith and Reprobation

How can we consider God just if he has decided in advance that some people will not be saved? That is one of the foremost problems in apologetics. This article reviews the range of answers given in church history and proposes a solution.

Geoffrey Butler

Luther’s Peculiar Doctrine of the Imago Dei

Martin Luther believed that through Adam’s fall, humanity lost the image of God, which is restored only through justification by faith. That doctrine would imply that non-Christians do not have the image of God in them. This paper analyses Luther’s argument and proposes a mediating position: all humans retain the divine image, but only justification can restore the divine likeness.

Monday 26 April 2021

The Regent World 33, 1 (2021) on Vocation

The latest issue of The Regent World, published Regent College, Vancouver, is devoted to ‘Vocation Reimagined: Being the Church in a Time of Uncertainty’. Here is the blurb:

‘For the world at large, this past year has been bleak. Many of us have had our lives uprooted by the pandemic, civil unrest, racial injustice, and more, which has led to ongoing and multi-faceted loneliness and loss. Yet, churches have not lost their way. In this issue, published in partnership with Regent Exchange, we feature the stories of individuals and churches who are reimagining their vocation as the people of God and contributing to the common good in a diversity of places and spaces.

‘As you read these reflections, poems, and case studies, we hope you’ll be inspired to keep serving God and those he brings to you. May we all experience this season as a time of forging new paths forward and looking to the future with hope – hope for our own lives, our communities, and the church at large.’

Individual articles are available from here.

Saturday 10 April 2021

Paul Mills on a Debt Jubilee

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online here (from where a pdf can be downloaded here), this one by Paul Mills:

Paul Mills, ‘After the Virus: Is it Time for a Debt ‘Jubilee’?’, Cambridge Papers 30, 1 (March 2021).

Here is the summary:

‘The concept of a societal cancellation of debt has an ancient heritage that includes the seven-year cycle of debt elimination found in biblical law. Given the virus-induced economic slump of 2020-21, the idea of substantive debt relief is being revived as a way to alleviate financial burdens on stressed households, companies and governments. The benefits of these proposals need to be weighed against the costs and injustices of changing the “rules of the financial game” retrospectively. But without a principled stance against the bondage of debt finance itself, such relief would only act as a temporary fix. The true lesson from Deuteronomy is that debt should remain short-term, with a “clean slate” within everyone’s grasp, thereby embodying gospel hope within the financial system.’

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Credo 11, 1 (2021) on the Undivided Trinity

The current issue of Credo is available, this one devoted to the topic of the ‘Undivided Trinity’.

Here’s the blurb:

‘Every generation is tempted to forfeit an essential component of orthodox trinitarianism. Our generation is no exception. Not only modern theology but evangelical theology has grown suspicious towards the simplicity of God. Naturally, without simplicity evangelical theology risks segregating Father, Son, and Spirit. Taking its cue from social redefinitions of the Trinity, evangelicals have redefined the Trinity as a society, one in which each person has his own center of consciousness and will. As a result, a core doctrine like inseparable operations is foreign to many and sometimes held in disregard. This issue of Credo Magazine tries to remedy this problem not only by reaffirming divine simplicity but confessing with the church that ancient and scriptural mantra: the external works of the Trinity are undivided. Such indivisibility, however, is no mere cooperation or division of labor. The persons are inseparable in their works because they are indivisible in essence and singular in will. Without this basic commitment the church will not remain faithful to Christian orthodoxy.’

Individual articles, along with interviews and book reviews, are available to read from here.

Tuesday 6 April 2021

Preaching the Book of Daniel

A few resources on preaching the book of Daniel:

David Helm, ‘Teaching Daniel’ (Help Me Teach the Bible Podcast, with Nancy Guthrie).

Josh Manley, ‘3 Reasons to Preach Through Daniel’ (9 Marks).

• Daniel teaches Christians to be faithful where they are planted

• Daniel exposes the folly of idolatry

• Daniel upholds the sovereign God who reigns over everything

Josh Reich, 3 Tips for Preaching the Book of Daniel’.

• The book is about God, not Daniel, the end times, or your church

• Don’t get stuck in the weeds

• Tell people about God’s character and power

Matt Smethurst, ‘Jesus in the Lions’ Den? Preaching Christ from Daniel’ (The Gospel Coalition) – a correspondence with Sidney Greidanus, author of Preaching Christ from Daniel: Foundations for Expository Sermons (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012).

J. Paul Tanner, ‘Preaching the Book of Daniel’ (Preachers and Preaching Podcast).

Monday 5 April 2021

Peter Cotterell (1930-2021)

In just one part of a richly-textured life, Peter Cotterell served as Principal of London Bible College (which then became London School of Theology) from 1990 to 1995, having taught at the college since 1976.

He was willing (or perhaps open to persuasion from others?) to give me my first proper ‘adult’ job as a member of faculty at London Bible College in 1991 – which seems all the more amazing to me since I know I had my ‘difficult’ moments as a student, and I recall crossing swords with Peter on more than one occasion.

My abiding memory is that the college thrived during his time as Principal. Peter knew his limitations, and drew around himself a team of people – most of whom were completely different from him – who would get things done. And they did.

In my experience, Peter was the very best kind of delegator as a boss. He gave you a job, and expected you to get on with it, and you genuinely felt like you had his trust in you to do so. The line management he had put in place was there when it was needed, but I never felt like he was looking disappointedly over my shoulder. The ethos that he established during his time as Principal shaped me in significant ways.

London School of Theology has a page about Peter here, where they also post a short video of Peter talking about his time at the School here.

Safe Hands

I wrote this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC). I originally wrote it a version of it for my own church community, coinciding with the anniversary of the first national lockdown in the UK, but it was ‘repurposed’ for this short series of reflections which ties in with the release of a set of Bible studies by members of the LICC team, to which I contributed, on some of David’s psalms – Worshipping the God of All in All of Life – published for Spring Harvest 2021.

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

deliver me in your righteousness…

Love the LORD, all his faithful people!

The LORD preserves those who are true to him,

but the proud he pays back in full.

Be strong and take heart,

all you who hope in the LORD.

Psalm 31:1, 23–24

‘My times are in your hands’, declares David. And for decades, David’s times were fraught with life-threatening danger. In 53 of his 75 psalms he mentions enemies. Time and again David turns to God. Time and again God is there for him. In this psalm he prays, ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God’ (Psalm 31:5). As the greater King, Jesus also prayed this prayer as he hung on the cross (Luke 23:46), committing himself into his Father’s hands.

But this isn’t just for David, or for Jesus. It’s for us, too.

‘Into your hands, Lord…’

It’s the prayer I felt compelled to pray last week, on the anniversary of our first national lockdown, designated as a ‘day of national reflection’ here in the UK.

I wonder, what did the anniversary bring to mind?

Perhaps it was queuing outside the supermarket only to find the shelves empty on the inside. Perhaps it was trying to capture the last time you saw your elderly parent, just in case. Perhaps it was the cancellation of planned celebrations or exams. Perhaps it was that as lockdowns ended and started again, with all the resulting uncertainty, you began to know more people who were impacted, and some of those closest to you were at the sharpest end of that pointy stick.

‘Into your hands, Lord…’

Or, perhaps you remember that you and your neighbours were suddenly so much more, well, neighbourly. Perhaps it was the rainbows in windows, which rightly applauded our frontline workers but also reminded us of the promises of God’s faithfulness embedded in Scripture as well as in nature. Perhaps you enjoyed the glorious Spring of last year, got out more, and rested more than you’ve done for ages.

‘Into your hands, Lord…’

Not just a prayer for kings, but a prayer for us.

The key is in the final two verses of the psalm in which David addresses God’s people. As those who’ve been on the receiving end of God’s love, he calls us to love and trust God, and wait for him in hope: ‘Love the LORD, all his faithful people! The LORD preserves those who are true to him... Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.’

Those hands that have kept us so far will keep us still. They are the safest hands of all.

Friday 2 April 2021

Great God, in Christ You Call Our Name

This year’s Good Friday hymn is one that belongs more appropriately to Maundy Thursday. I cited stanzas three and four (below) at our church’s Maundy Thursday Breaking of Bread service this year.

I always find the stanzas deeply moving when I return to them. They’re a much-needed reminder that if I don’t always see Jesus, it’s probably because I’m looking in the wrong place. He’s not necessarily ‘up there somewhere’; as often as not, he’s ‘down there’, washing out the muck between my toes.

Great God, your love has called us here

as we, by love, for love were made.

Your living likeness still we bear,

though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed.

We come, with all our heart and mind,

your call to hear, your love to find.

We come with self-inflicted pains

of broken trust and chosen wrong;

half-free, half-bound by inner chains;

by social forces swept along,

by powers and systems close confined;

yet seeking hope for humankind.

Great God, in Christ you call our name

and then receive us as your own,

not through some merit, right or claim

but by your gracious love alone.

We strain to glimpse your mercy-seat

and find you kneeling at our feet.

Then take the towel, and break the bread,

and humble us, and call us friends.

Suffer and serve till all are fed,

and show how grandly love intends

to work till all creation sings,

to fill all worlds, to crown all things.

Great God, in Christ you set us free

your life to live, your joy to share.

Give us your Spirit’s liberty

to turn from guilt and dull despair

and offer all that faith can do

while love is making all things new

Brian Wren (b. 1936)

Thursday 1 April 2021

Centre for Public Christianity (April 2021)

The Centre for Public Christianity has posted two ‘Life and Faith’ podcasts: one (here) with atheist philosopher Julian Baggini and New Testament scholar Jonathan Pennington, asking, ‘if Jesus offers wisdom for how to live, how necessary is the “Son of God” stuff?’, and one (here) with John G. Stackhouse Jr. and Nathan Campbell ‘about the chaos surrounding the recent U.S. presidential election, and the place of Christian faith in politics and public life’.