Friday, 24 April 2015

Al Wolters on the 30th Anniversary of Creation Regained

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of Al Wolters’ Creation Regained, a relatively short but highly significant book. Many years ago, it was my first introduction to the whole notion of a ‘Christian worldview’, and its strong assertion that the God who creates all things will also redeem all things has been very influential on me, as it has on many others.

In Wolters’ own words, it’s a message that ‘stresses the breadth of Creation, the extent of the Fall, and most importantly, the fact that salvation in Jesus Christ really means a reclaiming, a regaining, of the entire length and breadth of Creation with all of its cultural domains’.

Marking the anniversary, Comment has carried a helpful two-part conversation on the book between Wolters and Brian Dijkema (here and here).

The first part of the conversation takes in the distinction between ‘structure’ (the way things are meant to be, the way God instituted them) and ‘direction’ (the way those things are either distorted or reclaimed in Christ), the educational and theological context in which the book was written, how Scripture shapes the framework outlined in the book, its place in the broader tradition of neo-Calvinism with its recovery of a biblical perspective on the relationship of creation and redemption, or nature and grace, and Wolters’ own scholarly journey.

The second part of the conversation looks at what’s changed since Creation Regained was published, and some of the places where it has been received, what the book has to say to a post-Christian culture, the vulnerability of Reformed thought to secularisation, and the benefit of a variety of strategic approaches to public life, depending on context.

One small point. As one who struggles with the language of ‘redeeming’ culture, I was interested to see Wolters say: ‘We should seek to redeem – actually, I don't like that word, redeem – we should seek to profess the claims of Christ in every area of life.’

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A Further KLICE Briefing on the General Election 2015

The Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics has posted another piece in a special series of eight extended Ethics in Brief essays on the main British political parties:

Christian Democracy is a largely continental European movement of which little is known in the UK. Yet it has many deep and valuable insights from which British politics could benefit. This article presents an overview of the history of the Christian Democratic movement, explains the content and coherence of its economic, social and political principles, addresses some of the sceptical questions it evokes and locates it in relation to the Red Tory and Blue Labour movements in the UK.

Pro Rege 43, 3 (2015)

The latest issue of Pro Rege – the quarterly faculty publication of Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa – is online, containing the following main essays:

James W. Skillen
How Far Does Charles Taylor Take Us in Developing a Christian Understanding of the Secular Age?

David Veenstra
As God Gives Me to See the Right: Gerald Ford, Religion, and Healing After Vietnam and Watergate

Matthew Vos
Carolyn Custis James’ Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women: A Review Essay

Rikk Watts
Four Voices, Two Vistas, One Person: Why Understanding the Narrative Shape of the Gospels Matters

The whole issue is available as a pdf here.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Bruce Waltke on Proverbs

Biblical Training have just posted online (here) a series of videos of Bruce Waltke teaching on the Book of Proverbs, freely available (along with lots of other great material) after a pain-free sign-up process.

Themelios 40, 1 (April 2015)

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

As Brian Tabb points out in the Editor’s Note, several of the essays deal with Abraham:

‘In this issue, pastor-theologians David Gibson and Martin Salter explore the place of Abraham in paedobaptist and credobaptist theology, building upon their earlier Themelios exchange on baptism. David Shaw reflects on the patriarch’s significance in Romans and Paul’s doctrine of justification. Shaw critically interacts with the influential interpretations by N.T. Wright and Douglas Campbell, among others. This essay, along with those by Gibson and Salter, was originally presented in September 2014 at the conference “Abraham in the Bible, the Church, and the World” held at the John Owen Centre for Theological Study in London. Finally, in the Pastoral Pensées column, Matthew Rowley addresses the problematic reception history of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and offers guidelines for interpreting and applying Gen 22.’

D.A. Carson
Why the Local Church Is More Important Than TGC, White Horse Inn, 9Marks, and Maybe Even ETS 

Off the Record
Michael J. Ovey
Courtier Politicians and Courtier Preachers

Editor’s Note
Brian J. Tabb
Abraham, Our Father 

David Gibson
‘Fathers of Faith, My Fathers Now!’: On Abraham, Covenant, and the Theology of Paedobaptism
The figure of Abraham creates a covenantal framework for biblical theology that allows baptism to be considered in relation to the Bible’s developing story line. On this credobaptists and paedobaptists agree. I suggest, however, that reflecting on Abraham also requires baptism to be located in relation to the doctrines of Christology and anthropology, and the theology of divine agency in covenant signs, in a way which points to the validity and beauty of infant baptism. Locating baptism in this way sketches a theology of paedobaptism which has a richer view of Jesus, a more attractive understanding of creation, and a more powerful conception of what God is doing in the sacraments than is present in credobaptist theology.

Martin Salter
The Abrahamic Covenant in Reformed Baptist Perspective
Within the intra-Reformed debate over baptism, covenant theology is a crucial aspect in determining one’s position. This paper argues that a proper understanding of the trajectory of the Abrahamic covenant necessitates credobaptism. In particular it explores the idea of covenant fidelity, noting the requirement and failure under the old administration, and the fulfilment in Christ as he exhausts covenant curses, and fulfils the righteous requirements. As a consequence, New Covenant children of Abraham are born of the Spirit, and trace their Abrahamic sonship through faith-union with Christ. The result is that their covenant status is sure and unbreakable.

David Shaw
Romans 4 and the Justification of Abraham in Light of Perspectives New and Newer
Romans 4 remains a central text in the debate over the New Perspective on Paul. This article locates that debate in the context of a wider discussion concerning the place of justification in Paul’s theology before responding to a fresh reading of Rom 4 by N.T. Wright. His proposal that Abraham’s belief in the God who justifies the ungodly refers to God’s promise to include the Gentiles is outlined and critiqued with the aid of Wright’s earlier and rather different readings of the chapter. In closing, the article accounts for Abraham’s role within the argument of Romans and the place of justification in Paul’s theology.

Nathan A. Finn
Evangelical History after George Marsden: A Review Essay
In recent years, a growing cadre of younger historians has begun publishing significant books on the history of American evangelicalism. Professionally, these scholars have come of age in the shadow of the renaissance in evangelical history typified by historians of the previous generation such as Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, Joel Carpenter, and especially George Marsden. This essay reviews three recent monographs: Steven Miller’s The Age of Evangelicalism, Matthew Avery Sutton’s American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism, and Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. These works are representative of the “post-Marsden” historical scholarship that is reshaping our understanding of modern evangelicalism in America.

Pastoral Pensées
Matthew Rowley
Irrational Violence? Reconsidering the Logic of Obedience in Genesis 22
The account of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac has been and will likely continue to be violently applied so long as the dominant misunderstanding of the text prevails. The first section of this article argues that the Abrahamic narrative has been dangerous and has been used to promote unhealthy decision-making. The second section reconsiders the logic of obedience presented in Gen 12–22. The text has a dangerous reception history, in part, because many preachers, authors, and congregants have misunderstood the rational grounds given in the text for Abraham’s faith in Gen 22. The primary error is in separating the supreme act of faith (Gen 22) from the uniquely miraculous life of faith (Gen 12–21). The danger is not in the text itself but in the prevailing interpretation and application of the text. The third section gives five guidelines for preaching and applying Gen 22. These guidelines are more faithful to the entire Abrahamic narrative, and they guard against inappropriate and dangerous applications of this text.

Book Reviews

Saturday, 18 April 2015

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39:2 (April 2015)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research carries several feature articles on the theme of ‘Hostility against Mission’.

Here are the opening paragraphs from J. Nelson Jennings’ Editorial:

‘Theodicy, or vindicating God in light of the existence of evil, is a relatively safe philosophical exercise. Actually undergoing suffering inflicted by hostile opponents, however, is excruciating trauma. The former presents a genuine intellectual challenge to faith; the latter brings debilitating pain and anguish. Reports from around the world suggest that more persecution and more martyrdoms have occurred during the past two to three generations than in all previous history. Indications are that the trend will continue or even increase.

‘Participants in Christian mission are, quite obviously, not the only people who suffer brutal attacks or systematic oppression. Moreover, specifically religious motivations for harming Christ’s servants are often intertwined with or even overshadowed by political, ethnic, economic, social, historical, or other driving factors. Even so, hostile actions against missionaries and others associated with Jesus Christ are proportionally higher than statistical projections would lead one to expect, whether or not those acts have been primarily religiously motivated.’

The issue includes an essay by Chris Wright on Lamentations, excerpted and adapted from his forthcoming ‘Bible Speaks Today’ commentary on that book.

The whole issue is available as a pdf here.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Julian Rivers on Christian Service in the Secular University

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online, this one by Julian Rivers:

Here is the summary:

‘British higher education is increasingly secular in outlook. This paper identifies three aspects of that secularity: specialisation, instrumentalisation and globalisation. As Christians, we can respond by observing the intellectual, moral and theological inadequacy of the university life this generates. But we are also called to take practical beneficial steps to address its weaknesses as well. We can prevent slippage into hostile forms of secularism by promoting Christianity as an object and framework of study, as well as resisting petty forms of oppression. We can improve the quality of our common life by promoting intellectual virtue, scholarly community and the pursuit of public goods. This may not always sit comfortably with current criteria of scholarly “success”, but by promoting such qualities, we can hope to make even the modern secular academy serviceable to Christ.’