Tuesday 29 August 2023

Christian History Magazine on Lilias Trotter

The latest issue of Christian History Magazine is devoted to Lilias Trotter.

From the blurb:

‘Lilias Trotter left behind the world of Victorian art and fame to serve God in Algiers. You may not know her name, but she left her mark on both the 19th century art world and North African missions.’

The whole magazine is available as a 10.1 MB pdf here.

Thursday 24 August 2023

Mission Catalyst 1 (2023) on Apologetics

The current issue of Mission Catalyst, published by BMS World Mission, is now available. This issue is devoted to ‘Transforming Apologetics’.

Here’s the blurb:

‘In this issue: How to make interfaith friends and not alienate people. Kang-San Tan and Benno van den Toren share how we remedy the Western world’s hold on apologetics, Rev Ruth Conlon talks us through how we can act out radical inclusion, Amro Hussein shares a time he changed his mind, and you’ll hear from regular columnist Natalia-Nana Lester-Bush on how mission is racist.’

Mission Catalyst is available as a free subscription, or this issue can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Saturday 19 August 2023

Hannes Wiher on Holistic Mission

The World Evangelical Alliance’s Theological Commission has published the 25th volume in its ‘World of Theology Series’ on the topic of holistic mission:

Hannes Wiher, Holistic Mission: An Historical and Theological Study of Its Development, 1966–2011, World of Theology Series 25 (Bonn: Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft Culture and Science Publ., 2022).

Here’s some blurb:

‘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 book examines how key terms such as “evangelism” and “mission” have been understood in contemporary evangelical declarations from 1966 to 2011, in the Bible, and in the missiological debate.

‘It adopts an in-depth approach to the historical, biblical and theological analysis. The main thesis is that the different conceptions of evangelism and mission in general, and that of holistic mission in particular, have their root in the worldview of the various theologians and Christian leaders preparing these statements. The book evaluates the missiological conceptions of evangelism and mission proposed in the various declarations in the light of the Bible, so as to derive a biblical understanding of evangelism and mission.’

Further information is here, and the book is available for free download as a pdf here.

Thursday 17 August 2023

Themelios 48, 2 (August 2023)

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


Brian J. Tabb

On Disagreements in Ministry

Strange Times

Daniel Strange

It’s Not Rocket Science… Even If It Is

Ian J. Vaillancourt

Reading Psalm Superscriptions through the Centuries

This article seeks to retrieve from the past in order to gain perspective for the present. It begins by surveying the manuscripts of the MT Psalter, the LXX Psalter, and 11QPsa from the DSS, reporting on the unique aspects of the psalm superscriptions in each of these text traditions. The heart of the article then surveys the way five key questions about superscriptions have been answered by prominent interpreters in the patristic, medieval, reformation, higher critical, and more recent periods. It concludes with some lessons drawn from its survey of history as a vehicle for suggesting a way forward for the present day.

T.F. Leong

Ecclesiastes in Context: Reclaiming Qoheleth’s Canonical Authority

The book of Ecclesiastes is essentially a speech. Its profound message is needed today more than ever. Yet much recent Evangelical scholarship has accepted and assumed critical views of Qoheleth the speaker and his speech. This renders almost the entire book practically useless to Bible teachers and preachers. This article presents the teaching of Ecclesiastes on the meaning of life in the contexts of its ancient and the modern world. Its uncanny superiority over its ancient and modern counterparts corroborates the book’s own claim that Qoheleth’s speech is inspired by God and thus canonically authoritative for teaching and preaching.

Charles Cleworth

The Characterization of Peter and the Message of Acts

The growing trend of utilizing narrative criticism to interpret the New Testament, including the tools of character studies, has led to an increased focus upon the on the way Luke develops Peter’s character in the book of Acts. Less attention, however, has been given to understanding how different accounts of the characterization of Peter in Acts impinge upon and contribute to the overall message of the book. This more recent focus on Peter’s development has led to a skewed analysis of his presentation in Acts, and, as a corollary, has obscured the way in which Peter’s characterization contributes to the message of Acts, which is ultimately about the movement of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

William B. Bowes

Uprisings and Mob Violence in Acts and in the First Century

Acts of the Apostles reports several uprisings and instances of mob violence that occur across Asia Minor, caused by or related to the evangelistic and missionary endeavors of Paul and his companions in the middle of the first century. While the historicity of the events recorded in Acts is an issue of perennial dispute, the disturbances associated with the expansion of the Christian message are presented by the author as historical events. Consequently, a closer and more detailed examination of the major uprisings throughout the text is in order. This article begins with an analysis of extrabiblical records of mob violence and uprisings in the first-century Roman Empire, and then moves to an analysis of five episodes of mob violence recorded in Acts for the purpose of comparing the way that uprisings during the early Imperial period were recorded. The discussion concludes by arguing that Acts reports these events in a manner consistent with the way that other uprisings during this time were reported, and the details in Acts match the social and cultural context of the areas described. As a result, readers should consider the accounts in Acts to have a higher degree of historical reliability.

Scott MacDonald

Modern Healing Cloths and Acts 19:11–12

Christian groups and leaders around the world commission cloths to heal the sick, often claiming Acts 19:11–12 as a foundational text for the practice. After an overview of some examples, this paper analyzes the unusual events of Ephesus in Acts and reflects on the identity of the cloths. This investigation reveals the stark contrast between Paul’s ministry in Ephesus and the modern practice of healing cloths. Instead of inaugurating a normal healing device for Christianity, God uses the miracles and Paul’s public ministry to lead the Ephesians away from magical practices. While God can do as he sees fit, Christian groups and leaders should avoid seeking to manipulate and control the power of God like the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13–20).

Andreas-Christian Heidel

The Agonistic Imagery of the New Testament and the Paradox of the Cross

Early Christians had to develop and negotiate their (new) identity within a society, to which their beliefs and ethical convictions were largely alien. These beliefs were rooted in the Christ event, especially in the understanding of Jesus’s death on the cross as an event of salvation, both individually and collectively. However, the cross contradicted the values of their Greco-Roman environment, and New Testament authors used various imageries to express this tension. This contribution traces this relationship by looking at the usage of agonistic imagery in New Testament writings: Sports metaphors are used by taking up their triumphalist character but at the same time transforming it with a contradicting ethos of defeat that expresses a new kind of paradox identity, both individually and collectively.

Jared Compton

The Function of Divine Christology in Hebrews: Critical Reflections on a Recent Proposal

The recent “theological turn” in biblical studies sparked fresh, creative interest in Hebrews’ Christology. The latest entry in the field, Nick Brennan’s carefully argued Divine Christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews, advances the conversation and, at the same time, illustrates a danger attending the larger project of theological retrieval. This essay explores Brennan’s thesis, commending his theological instincts, while cautioning against his specific conclusions. Readers must account for Hebrews’ theology but never at the expense of the letter’s explicit argument.

David Haines

Thomas Aquinas on Total Depravity and the Noetic Effects of Sin

One of the most common critiques of Thomas Aquinas to be found in contemporary Protestant theology and apologetics is that Aquinas either outright denies the noetic effects of sin, or, at very least, minimizes the noetic effects of sin. Examples can be found in the writings of Dooyeweerd, Schaeffer, and Oliphint. This article provides a much-needed corrective to these all-too-common and perpetually promoted misinterpretations of Aquinas by showing that Aquinas thinks that human nature in its entirety (both intellect and will) is affected by sin. Protestant theologians can adopt his approach without sacrificing Protestant particulars.

Ed Wright

Live and Let Spy? Thomas Aquinas and the Basis for Christian Engagement in Intelligence Work

This article presents a framework for Christian engagement in government intelligence work, evaluating how the theology of Thomas Aquinas can inform such involvement. The article explores how to retrieve medieval theological resources for a distinctively modern issue. Four central pillars of Aquinas’s thought build a basis for Christian engagement in this field, and Aquinas’s understanding of both just war and deception are examined because of their importance to the complexities of intelligence operations. The article concludes by adumbrating a seven-point model for use by pastors and churches where its members may be employed by government intelligence agencies.

Melvin L. Otey

What Christians Need to Know About “Legalized” Marijuana

As states continue to decriminalize marijuana and usage escalates in American culture, Christians must increasingly navigate their associations with the drug. The various implications of marijuana use are much discussed, but the true legal landscape is often misunderstood. Despite recent changes in individual state laws, it is still a federal crime to possess, use, or sell the drug anywhere in the United States. This article argues that—aside from unrelated social, medical, ethical, and spiritual considerations—Christians must abstain from either medical or recreational marijuana use because they are obliged as a matter of faith to obey federal authorities.

Josh Rothschild

Technology and Its Fruits: Digital Technology’s Imago Dei Deformation and Sabbath as Re-Formation Josh Rothschild

The serpent promised that the fruit in the garden would make Adam and Eve more like God. While the fruit reduced the capability gap between God and humanity, it widened the character gap. This article aims to demonstrate that digital technology parallels the fruit in both its promise to grant us God-like abilities while also deforming God’s character in us. I use current psychological and sociological research to demonstrate that high digital technology use steadily deforms God’s character in humanity. I conclude by suggesting that weekly Sabbath practice counters this deforming technological pressure and creates space for God to re-form his image in us.

Book Reviews

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Liz Wann on Motherhood

Every month, The Good Book Company make available digital versions of one of their books at no charge. This month (August 2023), it’s The End of Me: Finding Resurrection Life in the Daily Sacrifices of Motherhood by Liz Wann, which is available in exchange for an email address here.

Monday 14 August 2023

Foundations 84 (July 2023)

Issue 84 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.

Donald John MacLean


Peter Sanlon

Glories That Form and Deform Identity: The Roads Ahead

This paper seeks to analyse what has become the main presenting issue of the day for western culture, that of identity. This question penetrates a good deal deeper than the vexed matters of gender, sexuality and ethnicity; essentially it comes down to a clear and binary choice: whom do we love, worship and glorify – self or God? The quest for self-realisation and self-fulfilment may take many forms, from pornography to conspiracy theories to a culture of ‘victimhood’, but each of these are diverse expressions of the same fundamental motivation – to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever – Amen! (Rom 1:25). Against all this, the next generation is summoned to walk ‘The Road Less Travelled’, where we gather under the cross of Jesus Christ.

Robin Gray

Divine Light and Holy Love: Genuine Conversions in the Works of Jonathan Edwards

This paper opens up the key question of genuine conversion by delving deep into the mind of Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) on the subject, and in particular, his Religious Affections, which were the mature fruit of Edwards’ deep reflection, years after many striking and ‘surprising’ events in his own ministry. Few minds have thought as hard and as deeply as Edwards about the subject of conversion, but fewer by far have written about the subject as incisively as he did. Whilst many other scholars and pastors have very helpfully brought Edwards’ thinking to the attention of the contemporary church, this paper, as it succinctly summarises Edwards’ main observations, will undoubtedly prove to be a precious additional resource in the hands of twenty-first-century pastors, not only in evaluating professed conversions in their own churches but in keeping a close watch on their own souls (1 Tim 4:16).

Phil Heaps

Sanctification and Consistent Godly Living

This paper will lead us to the Sermon on the Mount and to the Beatitudes in particular (Matt 5:3-12) demonstrating that this ‘Jesus Seminar’ is unparalleled as ‘a discipleship course for the 2020s’. Here is material which is intensely practical and yet is addressed directly to the human heart; here is a masterclass for the formation of Christian character but one which is to be worked out in the corporate context of the church. The Lord Jesus Christ – and the Beatitudes are, supremely, a delineation of Christ’s own spiritual character – calls his people to a radical obedience which is motivated by humility, ‘poverty of spirit’ (Matt 5:3) but which is the only path to the growth for which God looks, growth in holiness.

Mark Thomas

Pastoring the Twenty-First Century Church

This paper begins with the tremendous, transcendental reality that God himself is the Pastor of his people (Ps 23:1, 80:1), and then fleshes out in detail how the pastoral office of the undershepherd is described in Scripture. Throughout, the calling of the pastor is described and illustrated with many examples in the Reformation and Puritan tradition – not least from the ‘three Bs’ of Bucer, Baxter and Bridges. The climactic feature of this paper is its recognition and analysis of contemporary culture and how it impinges on young people attached to churches. Whilst there are timeless issues and considerations that every pastor and church must face, there are some that are peculiar to today, and pastors are urged to face up to these – they include anxiety, exhaustion, ‘influences’ and, as in Paper 1, the whole question of ‘identity’.

Patrick Fung

Faithfulness Amidst Trials and Persecution

This paper begins with an in-depth treatment of the narrative of persecution in Luke-Acts, showing how it was first directed against Jesus and then against his disciples. The key consideration is not simply that persecution happened, but that the early church needed to know how to respond to it. The next section of the paper we describe in detail the Boxer Uprising in China in 1900 and in particular the response of the church, exemplified in the approach of Dixon Edward Hoste (1861–1946), Hudson Taylor’s successor as leader of the China Inland Mission. Hoste’s approach was humble, gracious, visionary and deeply instructive for the church today. We conclude with a survey of the state of anti-Christian persecution in the world today, both ‘east’ and ‘west’, and calls us to prayerful, patient, self-denying witness.

Sarah Allen

Review Article: Complementarianism

Book Review

Thursday 10 August 2023

Vern S. Poythress on Historiography

Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Our Thinking about History: A God-Centered Approach (Wheaton: Crossway, 2022).

A recent book by Vern Poythress on the nature of historiography from a Christian perspective has been made freely available in its entirety. Here’s the blurb:

‘Why Is It Critical for Christians to Study the Past?

‘How does knowledge of the past shape Christians’ views of God, Christ’s redemption, and humanity as a whole? In his new book, Vern S. Poythress teaches Christians how to study and write about the past by emphasizing God’s own command to remember his works and share them with the next generation. Readers will explore concepts such as providentialism, Christian historiography, divine purpose, and the 4 basic phases of biblical history: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. By learning how to appropriately study history, believers will begin to recognize God’s lordship over all events and how even minor incidents fit into his overarching plan.’

The book is available here as a pdf.

Friday 4 August 2023

Roger Abbott on Pastoral Care for the Common Good

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):

Roger Abbott, ‘Pastoral care for the common good: How the Church can respond better in the next pandemic’, Cambridge Papers 32, 2 (June 2023).

Here is the summary:

‘Noting that the UK Church’s response to the Covid pandemic was disappointing when compared with her response to disease-related outbreaks of earlier centuries, this paper reflects on the issue of pastoral care by the Church both for congregations and the general public. Requisite pastoral care should have a common grace focus, where carers accept the risks to their own lives, engage collaboratively with the scientific community, yet are also prepared to think and act prophetically. Finally, the paper calls for a way forward that takes seriously the lessons to be learned from the coronavirus pandemic in order to prepare for a more effective response when the next pandemic arrives. The paper closes with an important call for the Christian Church to be at the national policy-making table.’

Thursday 3 August 2023

Michael Bird et al. on Paul within Judaism

Michael F. Bird, Ruben A. Bühner, Jörg Frey, and Brian Rosner (eds). Paul within Judaism: Perspectives on Paul and Jewish Identity (WUNT 507; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2023).

Thanks to a generous grant from the Swiss National Sciences Foundation, the above collection of essays is available open access from here.