Saturday 25 December 2021

All praise to Thee, Eternal Lord

I have fond memories of singing this in a makeshift choir which got together annually to sing some of the lesser-known carols, of which this was one my favourites.

All praise to Thee, Eternal Lord,

Clothed in a garb of flesh and blood;

Choosing a manger for Thy throne,

While worlds on worlds are Thine alone.

Once did the skies before Thee bow;

A virgin’s arms contain Thee now,

While angels, who in Thee rejoice,

Now listen for Thine infant voice.

A little Child, Thou art our Guest,

That weary ones in Thee may rest;

Forlorn and lowly is Thy birth;

That we may rise to Heaven from earth.

Thou comest in the darksome night

To make us children of the light;

To make us, in the realms divine,

Like Thine own angels round Thee shine.

All this for us Thy love hath done;

By this to Thee our love is won;

For this we tune our cheerful lays,

And sing our thanks in ceaseless praise.

Words are ascribed to Martin Luther, translated into English by an unknown author.

Friday 24 December 2021

Centre for Public Christianity (December 2021)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has this month posted a ‘Life and Faith’ podcast (here) with the team talking about Christmas – ‘the food, the gifts, the traditions, the family time – and what any of it has to do with the original story’.

Also posted (here) is an interview with theologian Sarah Coakley on ‘the problem of desire’, or ‘our relationship to sex, food, money, the body, and God’.

Lausanne Global Analysis 10, 6 (November 2021)

The latest issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here, including pdfs of individual articles as below.

Manfred Waldemar Kohl

A Global Standard for Ministry Training

Steve Moon

Reaching the World’s Rising Nonreligious

Mark Durie

What is Islam’s Relationship to Christianity?

Eiko Takamizawa

A Korean ‘Love Sonata’ for Japan

Saturday 18 December 2021

Ink 10 (Winter 2021)

The tenth issue of ink is now available, this one including pieces on how Christmas traditions have distracted us from the story told in the Bible, on Jesus as storyteller, on cognitive linguistics and Mark’s gospel, and on reading Exodus in the light of what we know about ancient Egypt.

UK residents can sign up here to receive a bumper summer issue through the post or subscribe for the digital version of the magazine, but the publication is also available to read from here.

Friday 10 December 2021

The Unexpected Guest

I wrote this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

When does Christmas start in your household? At what point is it socially acceptable to put up your tree and start playing Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ at full pelt?

With the regularity of a liturgical calendar, the Christmas adverts on TV arguably mark the beginning of the festive period for many of us. Nowadays, the Christmas ad is as much a part of the season as Boxing Day sales, broken toys, and left-over turkey.

Although it’s perhaps lost something of its lustre over the years, the John Lewis ad is still something of a benchmark. This year’s – ‘Unexpected Guest’ – sees our young hero befriending an alien who has crash-landed their ship in his local woods.

Overcoming his initial hesitancy, he introduces the visitor to the delights of the season: wearing novelty jumpers, eating mince pies, throwing snowballs, watching schmaltzy films. And all to a stripped-back cover of the 1984 classic, ‘Together in Electric Dreams’, the tale of friendship reaching a climax with the lyric ‘love never ends’.

The ad’s tagline – ‘For a Christmas as magical as your first’ – interprets their story for us, inviting us to reach back to something more basic, more lasting, more secure.

Where might that be found?

In part, it’s found in that which the ad itself captures – in befriending strangers and sharing traditions. Treating people as unexpected guests rather than unwelcome intrusions makes sense for those who are themselves part of the story in which God loves, Jesus serves, and the Spirit ministers – in self-giving tenderness towards us. Sentiment aside, how might we demonstrate over the festive season, and beyond, a generosity of heart and home?

But in a storyline which raises the possibility of an ‘unexpected guest’ coming to earth, and with a tagline which invites us to rediscover the magic of our ‘first’ Christmas, we might be encouraged to think of the very first Christmas of all.

Whatever we make of Christmas TV ads, the longings they reflect about relationship, togetherness, and harmony come together in the one who is truly able to offer them. It’s not that the sentiments are wrong. It’s that the solution to our sense of lack is located in the wrong place. The ads lay out a need we have that can be met only in the one who came that first Christmas to set in motion a divine rescue plan – Immanuel, God with us.

Monday 6 December 2021

Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies 6.2 (2021) on Herman Bavinck

The most-recent issue of the Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies is devoted to ‘Herman Bavinck (1854-1921): A Centenary Celebration’.

The summaries of the essays below are taken from the Introduction by N. Gray Sutanto and Justin McLendon, in which they ‘suggest three particular exemplary traits in Bavinck’s life and work that are particularly noteworthy for emulation:

1. Bavinck models the importance of theological priorities.

2. Bavinck models Christian charity with every interlocutor.

3. Bavinck models an expansive vision of the Christian faith.’

The full issue is available as a pdf here.

N. Gray Sutanto and Justin McLendon

Introduction to Herman Bavinck

George Harinck

Herman Bavinck on Antirevolutionary Politics

George Harinck explores Bavinck’s views on political developments and issues within the Antirevolutionary Party, of which he was a member. Harinck presents Bavinck as a “reflective theologian,” and one whose doctrinal commitments informed his awareness and appreciation of the state’s roles in society.

James Eglinton

Planting Tulips in the Rainforest: Herman and Johan Bavinck on Christianity in East and West

James Eglinton explores an unresolved tension in the thought of the “mature Bavinck” (distinguished from the “young Bavinck”); namely, the tension between Bavinck’s views on the global export of culture and religion and his affirmation of the catholicity of the Christian faith. In his analysis, Eglinton suggests Bavinck’s nephew, the missiologist Johan Herman Bavinck (1895- 1964), sought to resolve this tension with Augustinian remedies.

Gregory Parker Jr.

Encyclopedia Bavinck: The Case of the History of the Theological Encyclopedia

Gregory Parker, Jr. provides a survey of Bavinck’s narrative regarding the historical origin and development of the theological encyclopedia. Parker believes a Reformed catholic thread exists throughout Bavinck’s encyclopedia, and he explains how Bavinck appropriated modern grammar to answer his most pressing concerns.

Jessica Joustra

Jesus the Law Restorer: Law and the Imitation of Christ in Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics

Jessica Joustra explores Bavinck’s understanding of the imitation of Christ within the Christian life. Joustra describes Bavinck’s commitment to couple imitation with a traditional Reformed emphasis upon the law. In the end, Joustra believes Bavinck’s view of the imitation of Christ to bring functionally new understandings of the law.

Gayle Doornbos

Bavinck’s Doctrine of God: Absolute, Divine Personality

Gayle Doornbos engages Bavinck’s utilization of “absoluteness” and “personality” in his doctrine of God proper. Doornbos suggests this aspect of Bavinck’s thought represents a creative appropriation of modern philosophical concepts from within his classical, Reformed tradition.

Cameron Clausing

Dogmatics: A Progressive Science?

Cameron Clausing explores Bavinck’s view that Dogmatics is a progressive science. Clausing argues that Bavinck’s view was an innovative move uniquely connected to his nineteenth century milieu and theological method.

Cory Brock

Revisiting Bavinck and the Beatific Vision

Cory Brock revisits Bavinck’s view of the Beatific Vision. In doing so, Brock challenges recent critiques of Bavinck (especially from Hans Boersma) that has questioned Bavinck’s analysis of this theme. Ultimately, Brock asserts that a careful reading of Bavinck’s overall corpus demonstrates a careful eschatological unity.

Matthew Kaemingk

Christology and Economic Ethics: Herman Bavinck’s Prophet, Priest, and King in the Marketplace

Matthew Kaemingk argues that Bavinck’s Christology offers relevant instruction for the economic marketplace questions of the day. Relying on Bavinck’s munus triplex formation, Kaemingk suggests Christians employ a prophetic, priestly, and royal model of economic engagement.

Friday 3 December 2021

Theos Report on Economic Inequality

A new report from Theos has been published, this one on economic inequality.

Hannah Rich, Beyond Left and Right: Finding Consensus on Economic Inequality (London: Theos, 2021).

Here are some paragraphs from the Theos website:

‘Economic inequality is one of the defining issues of our time, both within countries and across the globe, and has gained political salience and public attention in recent years. However, measures to address it are often made difficult by the divisive and partisan nature of the problem, which hinders any consensus on how we ought to go about reducing inequality.

‘In this report, we contend that theology offers a different way of exploring excessive economic inequality, and can open up new avenues of consensus between political and social positions that have typically been at odds.’

A pdf of the full report is available here, and a launch blog post here.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Foundations 81 (Autumn 2021)

Issue 81 of Foundations: An International Journal of Evangelical Theology, published by Affinity, is now available (here in its entirety as a pdf), which includes the below essays which were first presented as papers at Affinity’s 2021 theological study conference on biblical eschatology. The summaries are take from Donald John MacLean’s editorial.

Donald John MacLean


Rupert Bentley-Taylor

The Hopes and Fears of all the Years: The Future of the Church in this Present Age

The first paper, from Rupert Bentley-Taylor, seeks to equip believers to live in the “last days” from the perspective of “optimistic amillennialism”. We are reminded that as we await Christ’s return that victory is assured, that the preaching of the gospel to all nations is the great activity of the last days, that Satan is active seeking to deceive and persecute, that the antichrist will emerge, that we are to be watchful and that there is glory ahead of us.

Paul Yeulett

“With Me in Paradise” – Questions About the So-Called “Intermediate State”

In the second paper Paul Yeulett seeks to cover the topic, “Questions About the So-Called ‘Intermediate State’: Is it Biblical and it is Pastorally Helpful?” Paul argues that for believers the “intermediate state is such that the souls of believers, immediately after death, go to be ‘forever with the Lord’, with the risen and exalted Christ himself, which Paul declared to be ‘far better’ (Phil 1:23)”. After an interesting historical overview, Paul argues persuasively from scripture for his position.

Michael Horton

The End is Not the Beginning... In Fact, Not Even the End

Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California provides the third paper which gives us an “investigation into what the Early Church Fathers, especially Irenaeus and Origen, understood about the human body, soul and spirit, especially in the light of Christ’s ascension and the eternal state.” Aside from the historical theology, and answers to questions like “So, will there be hairdressers in heaven?” we are treated to a rich biblical theological study of Psalm 68 in the light of its citation in Ephesians 4.

Gareth Burke

All Israel will be Saved: The Future of “Israel” with particular reference to Romans 11:26a

The fourth paper covers the much-debated question of the Pauline references to the future of Israel in Romans 11… After providing an outline of Paul’s teaching in Romans through to the end of chapter 11 we are given an exegesis of Rom 11:25-27, and in particular v26a, “And in this way all Israel will be saved.” The paper supports the exegetical position of John Murray that this verse (indeed Romans 11 more generally) teaches a future conversion of national Israel.

Paul Mallard 

The Business of Heaven

The fifth, and final, paper from Paul Mallard provides us with biblical and pastoral reflections on the nature and character of the world to come. In this paper we are treated to discussion of the location of the heavenly life, the nature and the activities of the heavenly life, what the Bible sees as the primary business of heaven (the enjoyment of God) and the practical and pastoral implications of these topics.

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