Wednesday 30 November 2022

Theology in Scotland 29, 2 (2022) on Church, Virtual and Physical

The substance of the latest issue of Theology in Scotland is devoted to the relationship between the physical and the virtual in the life of the church. The articles are available as pdfs from here.

Lina Toth

Editorial: Church, Virtual and Physical

From the Editorial: ‘As we continue to inhabit this not-quite-post-pandemic world, and grapple with the fact that, at least in some contexts and some forms, online participation is here to stay, questions around the relationship between the physical and the virtual in the life of the Church will need some sustained theological conversation. We hope that this issue of Theology in Scotland will contribute to a start of such conversation.’


Tom Shields

Virtual Assurance: Reflecting on the ‘Confident Prayer of the Church’ Through Online Worship

The author addresses two constant questions in Roman Catholic sacramental theology against the background of the broadcasting of online Mass, especially during the restrictions imposed on in-person attendance to inhibit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These are: what constitutes sacramental communion in the Roman Catholic Church and what is the role of the priest in celebrating the Eucharist? Looking at the first of those questions, he briefly examines the recent work of Katherine G. Schmidt and her use of the sacramental theology of Louis-Marie Chauvet, which addresses both the idea and the experience of presence and absence in the celebration of the Eucharist. The author concludes that, while her work raises some important issues that need to be addressed, she does not entirely represent Chauvet’s thinking, and the fullest understanding of sacramental communion in the Roman Catholic tradition will always include the physical. It is in addressing the second question, that of the responsibility of the priest in celebrating the Mass with an online congregation, that the author believes a more satisfactory answer can be found as to the sacramental ‘value’ of virtual worship. Employing the ideas of authority, authenticity, and assurance, as they relate to the ordained ministry, he maintains that it is crucial the ‘confident prayer of the Church’ be visible and accessible.

Michael Hull

Why Not an ‘Online Eucharist’?: A Scottish-Episcopal Perspective on Presence

The experience of Covid-19’s lockdowns, especially living through a period without the Eucharist on Sunday lays behind this theological reflection from the perspective of a Scottish Episcopalian about so-called online Eucharists with remote consecrations. The question I set is simple: ‘Can the elements of bread and wine be consecrated outwith the gathered community?’ Simple too is my answer: ‘No, they cannot.’ The pandemic has tested the fault lines of God’s presence in our worship, our presence in community and those presences in the Eucharist. I argue that God’s presence with us was unchanged by lockdown. I also argue that although many of us began to use ‘onsite’, ‘online’ and a variety of related terms in unprecedented ways vis-à-vis liturgies, our presence to one another was changed during lockdown. When we could not gather as a community, even if we were able to communicate via the internet, we could neither celebrate the Eucharist nor consecrate the elements. Theological reflection will, I hope, hone our appreciation of the significance of our humanity, the Incarnation, and the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacramental economy.

Ruth Gouldbourne in conversation with Steve Holmes

From One Degree of Imperfection to Another: A Consideration of Gathering in Different Ways

This conversation focuses on issues raised during the recent pandemic, and in particular the theological as well as practical questions around gathering for worship when we could not be together in our buildings. We have known each other for several years, but have not met recently. However, to have a conversation reflecting on issues about different ways of meeting which have been brought to the fore by the last few years, it seemed good to meet and share food as well as conversation. This is a lightly edited version of our discussion. Unfortunately, we cannot share the delicious food with those of you who read this – and that fact proved central to our discussion.

Adam Hood

The Place of Buildings in the Mission of the Church of Scotland: The Need for a Theology of the Built Environment

Church sanctuaries are a vital asset in the work of the Church of Scotland, helping to initiate and sustain faith. A sanctuary helps define a congregation’s self-understanding and the features of a church building have a pedagogic function. Church buildings are significant too, in the spiritual life of the wider community. They are the material instantiation of the Kirk’s commitment to be present in each locality, providing a focal point for the expression of spiritual needs and the offering of care. They also testify to God’s presence in a location and to values that transcend those of everyday life.

Arts and Culture

Sorrel Shamel-Wood

Churches Will Open for Private Prayer

This poem describes the first time my husband (then fiancé) and I set foot inside a church following their closure as part of the UK lockdown which began in March 2020. Initially, churches opened for private prayer only, with social distancing measures such as one-way systems in place and the removal of soft furnishings and holy water to avoid contagion.

Gifford Lectures Corner

Jonathan C.P Birch

The Theological House that Jack (un)built: Halberstam on an Aesthetics of Collapse and Mushrooms Among the Ruins

Review Essay

Jonathan C.P. Birch

Three Lions, Divine Comedy and Making Jews Count: Baddiel and Skinner, Then and Now


Monday 28 November 2022

Evangelical Review of Theology 46, 4 (November 2022)

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: Remember the Persecuted

Thomas Schirrmacher

The Protestant Faith and Shared Civilizational Values

Ron Kubsch and Thomas Schirrmacher

Apologetics: Intellectually Bearing Testimony to the Christian Faith

Every Christian should be an apologist, or a defender of the faith. But how? This article provides a sweeping historical overview of ways in which Christians have defended the gospel, along with key considerations affecting how we explain what we believe to others today.

Motoaki Shinohara

Evangelical Diversity: Towards the Future Church

This message, originally delivered at an Asia Theological Association conference, is an excellent, comprehensive statement on how evangelicals (and especially evangelical theological institutions) should live out unity in diversity amidst an era of transition from strong denominational to more horizontal partnerships among churches and organizations.

Daniel Weiss

Sign and Countersign: The Battle against Pornography in the Church

Pornography is one of the greatest scourges of our age, yet churches and Christian ministries almost universally remain silent about it. This article gently reveals the nature and severity of the threat and thoughtfully inspires us to sensitive action.

Paul Wegner

The Afterlife in the Old Testament

The Bible’s teaching on the afterlife began as a shadowy idea in the earlier writings of the Old Testament and took on a more definitive form as Old Testament times progressed. This article interprets, in their original context, the key Old Testament texts that refer (or appear to refer) to the afterlife and shows how they can be harmonized.

Thomas Schirrmacher

No Neutral Bystanders When Christians Are Suffering

Dennis P. Petri

How the Church Got Rid of Persecution: A Critical Analysis of Famous Cases

We talk a lot about how to oppose religious persecution; we don’t talk as much about the possible unintended consequences of our efforts. This article analyses three well- known episodes where Christians worked to end persecution, along with the sometimes complicated long-term results of those apparent successes.

Rossana Muga and Teresa Flores

Political Repression of Religious Leaders’ Manifestations of Faith in Nicaragua

This article on the current struggles of Christians in Nicaragua not only describes their situation to the world but also exemplifies the high-quality research activity of Christian organizations dedicated to improving conditions for Christians under threat.

Yoe Suárez

The 11 July Protests and the Cuban Evangelical Community

On 11 July 2021, Cuba saw the largest public protests since the socialist takeover of 1959. Many Christians were involved. This moving article by a Cuban journalist captures the exemplary actions, courage and spiritual expressions of prominent evangelical participants in a hostile environment.

Book Reviews

Thursday 17 November 2022

Tim Keller on Christian Public Engagement

Tim Keller has written a helpful article – ‘How Should Christians Speak in Public’ – using an interview with a pastor on Australian TV as a prompt.

Keller points out what is now largely evident that, in many places in the west, culture has ‘moved from a Positive view of Christianity to a Neutral view and now to a Negative view of it’.

In this context some are arguing that Christians should abandon the ‘nice’ tone that so often accompanied a so-called ‘seeker-sensitive’ approach, that ‘the age of conciliatory cultural engagement is over’.

However, Keller offers a proposal ‘for a way to do public engagement now which differs not only from the seeker-sensitive approach but also from the new (and admittedly under-developed) “just tell the truth” approach’.

Taking his cue from 1 Corinthians 2:1–5, he suggests that  Paul calls Christians to:

1. A spirit of humility and love – ‘Affection’.

2. Culturally compelling arguments – ‘Persuasion’.

3. A quiet, courageous confidence in the truth of God’s Word – ‘Resolution’.

Keller concludes:

‘I know that we are very early in this conversation in the evangelical world, but I propose that, using Paul’s exhortation, we can find ways of combining the three elements of Affection, Resolution, and Persuasion in our public discourse in a way that many secular people will find moving and some secular people will find convincing. That will grow the church, slowly but steadily, in our society.’

Tuesday 15 November 2022

The World Evangelical Alliance on the Ten Commandments

Thomas K. Johnson and William S. Barker (eds.), The Decalogue Project: Disciples from Six Continents Engage God’s Ten Commandments, World of Theology Series Volume 24 (Bonn: Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft Culture and Science Publ., 2022).

‘The latest book in the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) World of Theology (WoT) series invited contributors from six different continents to apply the Ten Commandments to contemporary issues facing society in their unique context. Co-edited by Prof. Thomas K. Johnson and Prof. William S. Barker, the book was a collaborative project between the WEA and the World Reformed Fellowship.’

The book is available for free download as a PDF here.

Sunday 13 November 2022

Matthew Ferguson on the Ethics of Childbearing

Cambridge Papers are published once a quarter and address a wide range of topics, offering ‘Christian reflection on contemporary issues’.

The latest paper is available online here (from where a pdf can be downloaded here), this one by Matthew Ferguson:

Matthew Ferguson, ‘Too many people on Planet Earth? Family size and new ethical considerations for Christians’, Cambridge Papers 31, 2 (June 2022).

Here is the summary:

‘Having children is being regarded increasingly in Western societies as an optional lifestyle choice; for some, an irresponsible one at that. Climate anxieties, pursuit of personal happiness, and disillusionment with human beings’ place on earth have contributed to a cultural shift away from family and children. Population decline looms in much of the world, with potentially drastic economic and relational consequences. This paper considers how the church can respond – and remain distinct – in a world which is turning its back on childrearing as a source of blessing and hope.’

Thursday 10 November 2022

Centre for Public Christianity (November 2022)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has this month posted a new ‘Life and Faith’ podcast episode with John Stackhouse on evangelicalism’s contribution to the world.

More information and download from here.

Saturday 5 November 2022

The Biblical Mind Course Content Packages

One of my favourite podcasts is ‘The Biblical Mind’, produced by the Center for Hebraic Thought. They also post short, thought-provoking articles.

The team has helpfully assembled a collection of ‘course content packages’ around particular themes (e.g., Biblical Cultural Context, Books of the Bible, Economics, Gender), essentially gathering together podcasts and articles pertinent to those themes.

The full list is available here.

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Mission Frontiers 44, 6 (November–December 2022)

The November–December 2022 issue of Mission Frontiers, published by the U.S. Center for World Mission, contains a number of articles devoted to ‘Effective Strategies for Reaching Frontier People Groups’.

Here is the issue blurb, which sets the scene:

‘What will it take to complete world evangelization – to provide every person on earth with access to the Gospel so that all may respond to God’s love and salvation – and to do so in our generation? MF has been addressing related questions for the last 44 years: what is the nature, size and scope of the remaining missionary task? What resources need to be mobilized and deployed to accomplish this task? What strategies need to be employed to reach the thousands of different people groups still without access to the Gospel? This latest issue of Mission Frontiers continues to address these urgent questions.’

The issue is available here, from where individual articles can be downloaded, and the entire issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Josh Moody on John 1–12

Every month, The Good Book Company make available digital versions of one of their books at no charge. This month (November 2022) it’s John 1–12 For You by Josh  Moody, which is available in exchange for an email address here.