Saturday, 23 May 2015

Robert Plummer on Philemon 10-11

In the ever-helpful weekend video from Daily Dose of Greek, Robert L. Plummer looks at Paul’s play on Greek words meaning ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ in verses 10-11 of Philemon.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Bible Project on Leviticus, Romans, Holiness, and Covenants

The Bible Project is continuing to put together a series of helpful short videos, some of which introduce the structure and themes of biblical books, and others of which trace some major themes through the entire Bible.

I’ve just noticed the next Bible book videos have been made available, one on Leviticus, and two covering Romans.

In addition are two others that are new to me in the ‘Themes’ section, one on holiness and one on the covenants.

Check them out from here (click on ‘Videos’ or scroll down to the ‘Videos & Study Guides’ section).

Monday, 18 May 2015

Out of This World?

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. An earlier version of it first appeared in a book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues Margaret Killingray and Helen Parry (published by BRF).

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Luke 24:50-53

Christ’s ascension sometimes gets bundled with his resurrection rather than treated as an event in its own right. In fact, as the rhythm of the church’s calendar reminds us, they were separated by forty days. And it stands as significant, with Jesus’ ascension opening up a new era in God’s dealings with the world and with his people in the world.

At the very least, it means Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God, as Peter explains (Acts 2:33-36; 5:31), showing he is less interested in the ‘up-down’ mechanics of the event than he is with the status of his Lord – the ascension confirming him as the king, the fulfilment of God’s centuries-old promises to David.

Beyond this, lose the ascension and we lose the heavenly ministry of Jesus as our High Priest, his very presence with God providing intercession on our behalf, his finished work requiring no repetition or extension of any kind. Lose the ascension and we risk losing the comfort of hope – that one day our weak bodies will be like his glorious body, that the same Jesus who ascended will return as judge and king. And as a human being too – for he did not slip off his humanity to get on with the task of being the exalted Son of God, but has taken it into the very presence of God, wedding us to him for ever, reminding us once again of God’s commitment to restore us and his creation.

Meanwhile, the ascension does not mark the end of his work on earth, but the continuation of it through the church – a mission which can be carried out with confidence because of the position our master now occupies, with all places subject to his rule and all people subject to his oversight – including the places we inhabit and the people we encounter, even today.

As the ascended Lord, he lays claim not just to the church but to all realms of life. And his heavenly location redraws how we think about our ‘location’ – how we live in our earthly ‘spaces’ given the one from whom we take our bearing. Our lives are oriented around the reality of the risen and ascended Christ, his heavenly lordship investing today’s even apparently menial tasks with eternal significance.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Robert Plummer on Philemon 5

In the special weekend video from Daily Dose of Greek, Robert L. Plummer looks at an instance of chiasm in Philemon 5, not readily visible in the NIV of that verse – ‘because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus’ – but at least apparent in the Greek text.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Word & World 35, 2 (2015) on Posthuman Identity

The latest issue of Word & World is devoted to ‘Posthuman Identity’. The content (with main articles and abstracts as below) is available from here.


Frederick J. Gaiser
Corporate Personhood: A Posthuman Notion?


Thomas J. Jorgenson
Imagining the Nightmare: Empathy and Awareness in Post-Apocalyptic Young Adult Fiction
Contemporary young adult literature is often set in times of apocalypse or in dystopian societies, or both. These stories help their impressionable audience understand and learn to navigate the grey areas of being human that their brains are primed to grow into: understanding oneself, understanding other people, and understanding that right and wrong are not so simple as black and white. Pastors and teachers need to know this literature in order to know their young people.

Brent Waters
Is Technology the New Religion?
Transhumanists and posthumanists are in the initial stages of mythmaking, and any mythology inevitably has strong religious connotations. In broad outline, the themes of this emerging myth are strikingly similar to those of its Christian counterpart. Through technology, humans will be saved from their finitude and mortality. The chief difference lies in reversing the linchpin of this narrative: turning flesh into data displaces the Word made flesh.

Steven J. Kraftchick
Plac’d on this Isthmus of a Middle State: Reflections on Psalm 8 and Human Becoming
What does it mean now to be human? Pondering this question cannot occur only in the halls and vestibules of churches and classrooms of seminaries. It must also take place through conversations with those inside and outside the walls of communities of belief. To the extent that trans- and posthumanists are asking questions about the human being and its role in constructing and caring for the world, we should join them.

Roger A. Willer
Posthumanism’s Morality and ELCA Social Teaching
While there should be openness to some of the intentions and outcomes conceived as posthuman, it is clear that the generally understood principles of posthuman morality are woefully inadequate at this time. Posthuman adherents need to think much more deeply and broadly toward a substantive, justifiable framework that could provide the necessary moral guidance for their unprecedented efforts.

Tim Hutchings
Real Virtual Community
Virtual community can be real community. An example is the Church of Fools (now St Pixels), launched as an experiment eleven years ago, meant to last but three months. However, that experiment created a congregation that is still alive today, one in which people carry on public discussions with sufficient human feelings to form webs of personal relationships online.

Clint Schnekloth
The Humanity of Posts
Whereas humanism prioritizes human experiences over things, some posthumanist theory prioritizes things themselves. Thus the question of the humanity of posts (the wooden ones). What is the identity or experience of a post, and how shall we account for it in a posthumanist manner that informs theological commitments?

Erik Leafblad and Andrew Root
Youth and the Posthuman: Personhood, Transcendence, and Siri
When everything gets turned into a technology, and existence is about practical mastery, the mystery of being is buried and everything is made an object, blurring the lines between human personhood and other technological objects.

Face to Face

Jon Anderson
Virtual Community? A Gift to Be Nourished

Bill Holmes
Virtual Community? The Absence of Presence

Texts in Context

Frederick J. Gaiser
Not Safe, but Good: Preaching a Holy God in a Time of Terror
The biblical texts appointed for Trinity Sunday proclaim a holy God. This might be just what we need to confront the significant terrors of the world around us.

The 2014-2015 Word & World Lecture

John Swinton
Time, Hospitality, and Belonging: Towards a Practical Theology of Mental Health
Mental health problems are unique experiences that occur in the lives of irreplaceable individuals who have their own unique stories, histories, dreams, and desires; people who are deeply loved by God, and whom God desires God’s church to love without boundaries. People’s stories may be changed by their encounter with mental health problems but they are not defined by them.

Book Reviews

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Michael J. Gorman on Becoming the Gospel

Michael J. Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015).

I took delivery of Michael Gorman’s most-recent book a couple of days ago, having had it on order for quite a while – which is indicative of how much I’ve been looking forward to it.

I’ve not yet had a moment to crack it open, but am eagerly looking forward to doing so, particularly having just seen an entry at EerdWord in which he responds to a couple of questions about the book.

Eerdmans describe the book as ‘the first detailed exegetical treatment of Paul’s letters from the emerging discipline of missional hermeneutics’.

He summarises:

‘In Becoming, I take a new look at several of Paul’s letters from the perspective of participation in Christ, and therefore in the life of God, as being inherently missional. In fact, I suggest that theosis, rather than being anti-mission as some might think, is the proper framework for mission because participating in the life of God means participating in the mission of God. And that means taking on the missional traits of God: faithfulness, love, peaceableness, justice, and so on.’

For those who might not be able to make it through the book, there is an earlier indication of the type of content to be expected in a short article here.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Business as Usual?

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

The swirl of interest and activity surrounding a general election is matched in Christian circles with publications and postings on voting wisely, with the organisation of hustings for the quizzing of local candidates, with prayers for good government, and more besides. And rightly so.

But what happens when the voting stops? What is our default mode for engaging with politics when the drama of an election dies down?

The campaign from Christians in Politics has been enormously helpful in reminding us not just to ‘show up’ on the day to vote, but to ‘show up’ in daily life too. Not only are many Christians on the frontline in the world of politics itself, but politics affects us all, wherever we find ourselves – the teacher in the classroom, the cleaner in the hospital, the parent in the home.

So, not just the world of politics, but of education, business, economics, media, arts, law, health, family – spheres which can be influenced by the presence of Christians within them, more than we might imagine, as we build relationships, seek justice, make a gracious stand for the truth, be a messenger of the gospel. And we do so not merely as a useful means for getting what we want, but as that which flows out of our love for God and neighbour.

The guiding vision for such a posture is the New Testament’s portrayal of the cosmic Lord Jesus Christ, who created all things, who will one day redeem all things, and who calls us – as those in whom the end-time reconciliation of all things has begun – to live as signposts to that future even now. Yes, now. And yes, the teacher, the cleaner, the parent, me, you.

So, let’s not lose the momentum generated by the election, however we feel about its final outcome. Let’s pray for the Government and for our local MPs – by name. Let’s ask trusted people in our churches to help us think through issues from a Christian perspective. Let’s inform MPs of matters that concern us – not simply the narrow range of topics where people expect us to speak out, but on other things too – austerity, education, health, unemployment, environment, immigration. Let’s get involved where we’re able to do so. And let’s recognise that the best changes will be brought about by demonstrating through our lives that there is a better way to do business as usual.