Saturday, 29 May 2010

Lausanne on Glocalized Evangelism

The themed articles in the Lausanne World Pulse for May 2010 are devoted to ‘glocalized evangelism’, with the following contributions:

Tuvya Zaretsky
Glocalization, Diaspora Missiology, and Friendship Evangelism

Today, the cross-cultural experience is not taking place in a foreign land. The world is coming to our doorsteps as people on the move. Diaspora can be a global phenomenon with local implications or a local phenomenon with global implications. Zaretsky discusses the theological basic of diaspora and offers case studies for reflection

Eric Célérier
The Church as Glocal… Addressing the World and Our Community

If we want the gospel message to be relevant for our generation, we need to be glocal in our approach. Glocal is the process most adapted for every organization which considers evangelism as the Great Commission. The author shares the four-part process for Internet glocal evangelism.

Winston Smith
Bridge Peoples: The Role of Ethnic Minorities in Global Evangelization

The author takes a biblical look at bridge people and shares why individuals with dual ethnicities are key to the growth of the church. He also shares a five-part plan on partnering with bridge people.

Victor Cuartas
Demands of the Kingdom of God in Relation to Ethnic Diversity

What are the demands of the Kingdom of God in relation to ethnic diversity? The author shares five elements.

Knud Jørgensen
Glocalization from a Norwegian Perspective

Jørgensen takes the reader on a journey of mission in the Norwegian Church, a journey that includes the local church slowly beginning to take center stage as the primary instrument of mission. The deviates off the traditional concept that mission stems from missionary societies.

It also contains two ‘perspectives’ articles:

Kirsteen Kim
Connecting Local and Global Church: A Preview to Edinburgh 2010

The author looks at how the 1910 Edinburgh conference impacted missions and why things are radically different today. Kim says although the Western missionary movement provided an important catalyst for the growth of Christianity worldwide, the actual work of world evangelization has been achieved mainly through local people in local churches. To demonstrate that Christianity is a global religion, a majority of delegates at the June 2010 gathering in Edinburgh will be representatives of local churches from the global South.

Douglas Shaw
The Gospel & International Studies: Can We Make the Connection?

No longer is it necessary to fly groups around the world to have an international impact for Christ. Shaw shares how International Students, Inc. is impacting local communities and colleges for Christ. The core of ISI’s mission strategy is cross-cultural outreach, or friendship evangelism.

The whole issue is available as a pdf here, and an executive summary (from which the above summaries are taken) is available here.

Friday, 28 May 2010

The Jubilee Centre on Beyond Individualism

The Jubilee Centre provides a convenient summary of proceedings from their recent conference on ‘Beyond Individualism’.

They also include short videos from each of the five speakers, as below, who summarise the main ideas of their presentations and workshops:

Dale Kuehne – Standing on the threshold of an inconceivable age

Jonathan Burnside – Isn’t Leviticus irrelevant in today’s society?

Guy Brandon – Is sexual freedom just?

Rachel Gardner – Intelligent choice: holistic relationships education

David Instone-Brewer – Biblical divorce

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Aspects of Theological Interpretation 12

[This is the twelfth of twelve posts outlining a number of streams in the current interest in theological interpretation, paying particular attention to recent treatments. For earlier introductions to theological interpretation, see here, here, and here.]

#1 – Its uneasy relationship with historical criticism

#2 – Its disputed overlap with biblical theology

#3 – Its natural affinity with precritical interpretation

#4 – Its noteworthy exemplar in Karl Barth

#5 – Its relative comfort with multiple interpretations

#6 – Its significant emphasis on the role of the community of faith

#7 – Its contested dependence on ‘general’ hermeneutics

#8. Its careful attention to the role of the canon and typology

#9. Its renewed reflection on the doctrine of Scripture

#10. Its increasing interest in reception history

#11. Its undeveloped potential for engaging global concerns and the social locations of interpreters

#12. Its ecumenical appeal and potential for dialogue with ‘people of the book’

Theological interpretation is not an exclusively Protestant phenomenon.

[See Daniel J. Treier, Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice (Nottingham: Apollos, 2008), 25-33.]

Studies by Roman Catholic thinkers show an overlap with Protestant emphases, though perhaps some distinctives with respect to claims for the church and tradition (Treier, Introducing Theological Interpretation, 31).

Roman Catholic biblical scholars have been calling for more consideration to be given to theological dimensions of biblical interpretation, and for increased dialogue between exegetes and theologians.

[E.g., as a sampling, Carol J. Dempsey and William P. Loewe (eds.), Theology and Sacred Scripture, College Theology Society Annual Volume 47 (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2002); Gerald O’Collins and Daniel Kendall, The Bible for Theology: Ten Principles for the Theological Use of Scripture (New York: Paulist, 1997); John Topel, ‘Faith, Exegesis, and Theology’, Irish Theological Quarterly 69, 4 (2004), 337-48.]

Matthew Levering advocates a ‘participatory exegesis’, using Thomas Aquinas as an exemplar.

[Matthew Levering, Participatory Biblical Exegesis: A Theology of Biblical Interpretation, Reading the Scriptures (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008); cf. also his ‘Principles of Exegesis: Toward a Participatory Biblical Exegesis’, Pro Ecclesia 17, 1 (2008), 35-51.]

He self-consciously advocates an approach which involves more than ‘historical-critical research into the linear past’, but also ‘participatory “wisdom-practices” (liturgical, moral, and doctrinal)’ that relate the community of faith to God (Participatory Biblical Exegesis, 14).

Although Eastern Orthodox traditions remain largely unexplored by Protestant scholars, here too is a wealth of reflection on interpreting the Bible in line with its own nature and witness, and in faithfulness to tradition, critical study and the Holy Spirit.

[E.g., John Breck, Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2001); Timothy Clark, ‘Recent Orthodox Interpretation of the New Testament’, Currents in Biblical Research 5, 3 (2007), 322-40; Thomas Hopko, ‘The Church, the Bible, and Dogmatic Theology’, in Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (eds.), Reclaiming the Bible for the Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), 107-18; J.A. McGuckin, ‘Recent Biblical Hermeneutics in Patristic Perspective: The Tradition of Orthodoxy’, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 47, 1-4 (2002), 295-326; T.G. Stylianopoulos, ‘Perspectives in Orthodox Biblical Interpretation’, Greek Orthodox Theological Review 47, 1-4 (2002), 327-38.]

Beyond this is the increasing number of those who recognise the implications for interpretation of the Bible in the context of Christian-Jewish relations.

[Brevard S. Childs, ‘Toward Recovering Theological Exegesis’, Pro Ecclesia 6, 1 (1997), 16-26, at 25-26; ‘The Canon in Recent Studies: Reflections on an Era’, Pro Ecclesia 14, 1 (2005), 26-45, at 40-44; James F. Moore, ‘Re-Envisioning Christianity: A New Era in Christian Theological Interpretation of Christian Texts’, Cross Currents 50, 4 (2001), 437-47.]

Jon Levenson, for instance, notes that both Jews and Christians have until recently been required to put aside their respective faith commitments in order to fall in line with the commitment demanded by the academic guild.

[See the various essays in Jon D. Levenson, The Hebrew Bible, The Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993).]

Jews and Christians have responded in similar ways to this, with their responses suggesting a family of ‘postcritical’ methods for interpreting Scripture.

[See Peter Ochs (ed.), The Return to Scripture in Judaism and Christianity: Essays in Postcritical Scriptural Interpretation, Theological Inquiries (New York: Paulist, 1993), esp. Ochs’ introductory essay, ‘An Introduction to Postcritical Scriptural Interpretation’ (3-51).]

Postcritical scholars might well bring so-called modern methods of inquiry to bear on a text, but deny that these are sufficient. The biblical traditions, they maintain, should not be constrained by the criteria of Enlightenment reasoning. In fact, rules for reading can be seen in the traditions themselves and commentary on them. At one level they appear to be postmodern, in that ‘they emerge out of criticisms of the modern search for sources of individual self-certainty, and they emphasize the communal, dialogic and textual contexts of knowledge and the contributions made by interpreters to the meaning of what they interpret’. At another level, they appear premodern in that they ‘serve the theological and moral purposes of particular traditions of scriptural interpretation’ (Ochs, Preface to Return to Scripture, 1-2).

Worthy of mention in this respect is ‘Scriptural reasoning’, with its origins in a group of Jewish thinkers who sought to bridge gaps between literary scholars, philosophers, and theologians.

[Peter Ochs and Nancy Levene (eds.), Textual Reasonings: Jewish Philosophy and Text Study at the End of the Twentieth Century, Radical Traditions (London: SCM, 2002).]

Scriptural reasoning is a practice in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims meet for common study of their respective Scriptures, many of the results of which are published electronically in Journal of Scriptural Reasoning.

[See also the essays in the special symposium in Modern Theology 22, 3 (2006), reprinted as David F. Ford and C.C. Pecknold (eds.), The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006).]

Groups interpret their Scriptures in dialogue with each other, reflecting on theories of interpretation and the way their respective hermeneutical traditions relate to each other. In such contexts, reading is not only academic (concerned with scholarship, hermeneutics, and theology), and divine, but also ecclesial, and has an interfaith element.

[David F. Ford, ‘Reading Scripture with Intensity: Academic, Ecclesial, Interfaith, and Divine’, Princeton Seminary Bulletin 26, 1 (2005), 23-35; cf. his Christian Wisdom: Desiring God and Learning in Love, Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 273-303.]

In contrast to traditional models of dialogue, which seeks agreement at the level of concepts, this model ‘invites participants to be themselves in pursuing an activity they are all familiar and at home with within the life of their respective religious traditions: the reading of Scripture’.

[Ben Quash, ‘“Deep Calls to Deep”: Reading Scripture in a Multi-Faith Society’, in Andrew Walker and Luke Bretherton (eds.), Remembering Our Future: Explorations in Deep Church (Bletchley: Paternoster, 2007), 108-30, here 114.]

One of the consequences is that ‘the texts open up unexpected meanings for those whose sacred texts they are, even at the same time as participants from the other Abrahamic traditions learn more about a text that is not theirs’ (‘“Deep Calls to Deep”’, 114. ) Alongside reciprocity and hospitality as key marks of Scriptural Reasoning is its character as interrogative (‘“Deep Calls to Deep”’, 117-21, 127). It reads in an interrogative mood, with questions being asked of the text, and of members of the group, where the text is understood to shape those involved in the reading process.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Business as Usual?

[I contributed today’s ‘Connecting with Culture’, a weekly email service provided by London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, where I seek to be gainfully employed.]

The flurry of interest and activity surrounding a general election is matched in Christian sub-cultures with the publication of books and articles on voting wisely, with the organisation of hustings events for the quizzing of local candidates, with earnest prayer for good government, and more besides. And rightly so.

Scripture everywhere recognises the inevitability and importance of politics. Not only are 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.

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

As it happens, the unusual nature of the current situation has sustained a level of interest and media coverage. Following the formation of a coalition government, David Cameron welcomed new MPs to Parliament this week, heralding a ‘new start’ for politics, ‘the chance for a new generation to show just how good this place can be’.

Perhaps as expected, much of the response has been cynical, questioning the motives of those involved, and wondering just how long the honeymoon period will last.

Indeed, the coalition will doubtless be challenging as the partners navigate their way through competing ideologies. But whatever self-interest might be at play (and let’s not pretend it won’t be there), both seem to be seeking the national interest above their party’s interest. Is it too much to hope that this moment might signal a new era of negotiation and collaboration? Perhaps the culture of opposition and attack will give way to something different, as people work hard – in relationship with each other – at generating principled discussion and cooperation around ideas for the future.

So, let’s not lose the momentum generated by the election. Let’s pray for the Government and our local MPs – by name. Let’s appoint trusted people in our churches who can 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 – deficit reduction, education, banking reform, health, environment, immigration, civil liberties. 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.


Check out the BBC website, which contains a helpful set of questions and answers on the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition.

Stay informed by organisations which help Christians reflect and act on issues in politics:

Christian Concern for Our Nation
Jubilee Centre

Read Nick Spencer and Jonathan Chaplin (eds.), God and Government (London: SPCK, 2009).

This is a thought-provoking collection of essays from a joint project between Theos, the public theology think tank, and the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, showcasing – from different perspectives – the interface between theology and politics. It helpfully explores biblical and theological foundations for Christian political thinking and considers different ideas about the role of government. This could be a valuable contribution not only in encouraging Christians to see politics as an honourable vocation, but also in demonstrating something of the wealth of material in Scripture and Christian political thought.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Brian D. Russell on a Missional Hermeneutic

Brian D. Russell, ‘What is a Missional Hermeneutic?’, Catalyst 36, 4 (2010).

Brian D. Russell is currently writing a book on missional hermeneutics to be published later this year by Wipf and Stock. This short article is likely to give a flavour of what to expect.

In short, ‘a missional hermeneutic is an interpretive approach that privileges mission as the key to reading the Scriptures’. It has several facets to it, as Russell notes, borrowing the following categories from a 2008 proposal by George R. Hunsberger:

1. The missional direction of the story
‘A missional hermeneutic recognizes that the biblical canon tells the story of God’s mission… in and for creation. ’

2. The missional locatedness of the readers
‘An interpreter’s social location serves a crucial role in the reading process.’

3. The missional engagement with cultures
Exploring how ‘the biblical materials themselves model engagement with culture’.

4. The missional purpose of the writings
‘A missional hermeneutic recognizes that the Scriptures exist to convert and shape their hearers.’

All of which is significant for preachers and teachers of Scripture, in that…

• ‘A missional hermeneutic provides a context and direction for preaching and teaching.’
• ‘A missional hermeneutic connects worship explicitly with life in the world by establishing a missional ethos for the community of faith.’
• ‘A missional hermeneutic establishes a new framework for learning.’

Biblical Poetry, Interpretation, and Theology

Patrick D.. Miller, ‘The Theological Significance of Biblical Poetry’, in Samuel Balentine and John Barton (eds.), Language, Theology, and the Bible: Essays in Honour of James Barr (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 213-30.

This under-explored area is addressed in the above essay by Patrick Miller:

‘There is a larger question that I wish to raise in this essay, and that is what does poetry mean theologically, or what does it mean theologically that we have poetry in the Bible? What does poetry do or not do as a part of the Bible’s claims to speak about God?’ (214).

The language of passionate love, anguished suffering, and devoted praise in Scripture uses the poetic form. Why? Why did the Spirit choose to inspire poetic voices?

Patrick Miller eventually comes round to answering his own question like this:

‘In the simplest form, I would argue that with poetry, the speaking of God (to, from, and about God) in the Bible is figural and non-literal; it is indirect and open’ (225).

Miller argues that the fact that poetry does not work in fixed, predictable ways means that it is ‘open’ and sometimes ambiguous. In some of his works, the scholar and writer Umberto Eco has made a distinction between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ works. We intuitively know there’s a difference between a telephone book and a work of fiction. The telephone book is a ‘closed’ text, according to Eco’s criteria. It’s meaning tends to be quite clear and self-evident. A work of fiction or poetry, on the other hand, may deliberately be more ‘open’ – because it’s been written in such a way to engage the audience, to draw them in, to allow them to enjoy the experience, and to participate in the production of meaning.

Likewise with Scripture, some texts are more ‘open’ than others – like the poetry in Song of Songs, for instance, where the imagery is precisely designed to play on our minds and make us wonder what the point of the comparison might be. But it’s a very different reading experience than the laws in Leviticus or the genealogies in 1 Chronicles.

Miller gives examples where he thinks this openness of poetry is important theologically, reminding us that the ‘meaning’ of a poetic text isn’t always fastened down, and speaking to us of the mystery of God’s ways with the world. This is not to say that there is no sure word from God, only that God has chosen to communicate his sure word to us in literature which requires a certain sensitivity to being moved and persuaded.

One of the other things about poetry is that it often comes to us without a context. It stands on its own. Scholars on the psalms, for instance, regularly try to reconstruct the origins of the psalm in a specific historical context; occasionally we can do that, but with many psalms, we simply don’t have enough information. That, according to Miller, is a plus theologically. Because the poem is not fixed into a specific context, it can be more easily used by others who follow.

The use of figurative language and imagery is important, says Miller, because they remind us of the importance of using our imagination, that ‘the reality of God and things of God in poetry are approached indirectly in the figures of thought’ (229). Miller points out that what he calls ‘primal speech to God’, speech straight from the heart and the gut, directed to God – whether lament or praise – tends to be ‘ambiguous and imaginative, open, not closed’ (229). And this is also true of God’s speech back to us, in a number of places, in the prophets, for instance, or when he eventually answers Job, not with answers to the issue of suffering in the form of cold, detached propositions, but with yet more questions, in beautiful, allusive, powerful poetry.

Tremper Longman, likewise, encourages us to think about what insight the poem gives us into the character of God; he has this to say, in one of his many treatments of poetry:

‘God as poet teaches us something about His character by His choice to speak to us in this artful way. We learn that God is interested in our emotions and in beauty, as well as in our minds and our intellect. Because God wants us to “know” Him we may think that emotions and beauty would distract us. Beauty, we may think, is deceptive. It hides what’s important and true. But God knows better. It’s not a matter of truth or beauty; both reflect God’s glorious presence. This realization should inspire us to seek not only what is right but also what is lovely in our lives.’ Tremper Longman III, Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), 142.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Princeton Theological Review 16, 1 (Spring 2010)

The latest Princeton Theological Review is available here, with some very interesting-looking essays in the area of ‘Mission and Ecumenics’:

Cambria Janae Kaltwasser

Patrick Dunn
The Priest and the Pauper

Benjamin Heidgerken
Apologia Pro Ecclesia Sua

John G. Flett
A Bastard in the Royal Family: Wither Mission?

Peter Kline
Is God Missionary? Augustine and the Divine Missions

Benjamin Connor
The Ministry Section of BEM: Affirmations and Challenges

Joel Estes
Paul as Teacher, Mother, Father, and Child: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 as a Model for Mission

Jeff DeSurra
Converting the West: Examining Lesslie Newbigin’s Model for Mission to the West

Cody Lewis Oaks
The Church’s Future Witness and the Necessity of a Dialectical/Historical Self-Appraisal

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Dialogue 34 (April 2010)

Here’s something I’ve enjoyed subscribing too for a fair number of years. Dialogue: A Journal of Religion and Philosophy was first published in 1993 to support the teaching of A-level Religious Studies in Britain – and it works very well in that role, covering key topics on the AS/A2 syllabus. I suspect there are others outside that immediate audience who pick it up for the same sorts of reasons I do: to benefit from its concise, introductory and overview-type articles (mostly in the field of philosophy of religion and ethics, but with some biblical studies too) by specialists in their areas.

Contents in the April 2010 issue are as follows:

Andrew Wright
Concepts of God: Biblical and Philosophical Perspectives

Richard Norman
Kantian Respect

Julian Baggini
Is Good Ethics Good Business?

Keith Ward
God’s Action in the World

Michael Lacewing
Arguments for Design

Julia Annas
Recent Approaches to Virtue Ethics

Joe Jenkins
Just War

It’s published twice a year, in November and April, at £18.50 for two issues.

Issues 1 to 20 are available in an archive.

More on James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World

James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 368pp., ISBN 9780199730803.

I posted on this as ‘forthcoming’ here and here. I deliberately held back from purchasing a copy until it was available in the UK, but it’s been available in the USA long enough to generate a significant amount of initial responses.

Interestingly, the gist of some of Hunter’s ideas were presented in a 2002 Briefing from the Trinity Forum, available as a pdf here.

More recently – on 6 April 2009 – Hunter presented the Stan Kimmitt Lecture on Public Service at the University of Montana on ‘Public Service and the Idea of a Changing World’ (with an audio file of the lecture available here).

Christianity Today carries an interview with Hunter, under the title ‘Faithful Presence’, with the interviewer (Christopher Benson) asking him a number of challenging questions.

Christianity Today also includes responses from Chuck Colson (‘More than Faithful Presence’) and Andy Crouch (‘Hunter and I Agree on Culture Making (He Just Seems Not to Know It)’), who have also made significant contributions to the broader debate.

It will be interesting for those of us outside the US context to reflect on the significance of Hunter’s work – and the responses it is generating – to our own place.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Fruitful Practices 2

See the first post here.

Don Allen et al., ‘Fruitful Practices: A Descriptive List’, International Journal of Frontier Missiology 26:3 (2009), 111-22.

‘Fruitful practice’, in this context, refers to ‘an activity that promotes the emergence, vitality, and multiplication of fellowships of Jesus followers in a Muslim context’ (111). The essay describes some of the results of a collaborative project on ‘fruitful practices’, seeking to gain insight and knowledge by sharing the best of experiences in the hope of increasing the fruitfulness of Christians working among Muslim peoples.

The authors are careful to say that it is ‘not a set of formulas to follow’, but ‘descriptions of significant principles’, presented as a starting point for what ‘contributes to fruitfulness based on the realities of experience and the foundation of Scripture’ (112).

They also point out that the list is evolving, holistic (the practices are mutually reinforcing), and they ask us to keep the ‘God factor’ in mind (the list is a summary of the many ways they see God working through teams).

There are eight basic categories, each containing a number of significant practices, as follows:

1. Relating to society

• Fruitful workers communicate respect by behaving in culturally appropriate ways.
• Fruitful workers address tangible needs in their community as an expression of the gospel.
• Fruitful workers relate to people in ways that respect gender roles in the local culture.
• Fruitful workers mobilize extensive, intentional, and focused prayer.
• Fruitful workers pursue language proficiency.
• Fruitful workers take advantage of pre-field and on-field research to shape their ministry.
• Fruitful workers build positive relationships with local leaders.

2. Relating to seekers

• Fruitful workers are bold in witness.
• Fruitful workers pray for God’s supernatural intervention as a sign that confirms the gospel.
• Fruitful workers pray for the needs of their friends in their presence.
• Fruitful workers share the gospel through existing social networks.
• Fruitful workers begin discipling seekers as part of the process of coming to faith.
• Fruitful workers encourage seekers to share what God is doing in their lives.

3. Relating to believers

• Fruitful workers are intentional in their discipling.
• Fruitful workers disciple in locally appropriate and reproducible ways.
• Fruitful workers disciple others in settings that fit the situation.
• Fruitful workers help seekers and believers find appropriate ways to identify themselves to their community as followers of Jesus, without imposing their own preferences.
• Fruitful workers help believers find ways to remain within their social network.
• Fruitful workers encourage believers to develop healthy relationships with other believers.
• Fruitful workers model following Jesus in intentional relationships with believers.
• Fruitful workers encourage believers to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in applying the Bible to their context.
• Fruitful workers encourage believers to share their faith.
• Fruitful workers prepare believers to explain why they believe.
• Fruitful workers model service to others and teach believers to serve others as well.
• Fruitful workers use various approaches in discipling.
• Fruitful workers encourage baptism by other believers with a Muslim background.
• Fruitful workers deal with sin in biblical ways that are culturally appropriate.

4. Relating to leaders

• Fruitful workers acknowledge emerging leaders early in the process of building a community of faith.
• Fruitful workers mentor leaders who in turn mentor others.
• Fruitful workers encourage leadership based on godly character.
• Fruitful workers are intentional about leadership development.
• Fruitful workers use the Bible as the primary source for leadership development.
• Fruitful workers prefer to develop leaders locally.

5. Relating to God

• Fruitful workers practice an intimate walk with God.
• Fruitful workers engage in regular, frequent prayer.
• Fruitful workers persevere through difficulty and suffering.

6. Communication methods

• Fruitful workers use culturally appropriate Bible passages to communicate God’s message.
• Fruitful workers communicate the gospel using the heart language, except in situations where it is not appropriate.
• Fruitful workers use a variety of approaches in sharing the gospel.
• Fruitful workers share the gospel using tools or methods that can be locally reproduced.
• Fruitful workers sow broadly.
• Fruitful workers use Bible study as a means of sharing the gospel.
• Fruitful workers share the gospel in ways that fit the learning preferences of their audience.
• Fruitful workers use the Quran as a bridge to sharing the biblical gospel.

7. Fruitful teams

• Fruitful teams are united by a common vision.
• Fruitful teams build one another up in love.
• Fruitful teams have effective leadership.
• Fruitful teams employ the various gifts of their members to serve the task.
• Fruitful teams adapt their methods based on reflective evaluation and new information.
• Fruitful teams have at least one person with high language proficiency in the heart language.
• Fruitful teams engage in corporate prayer and fasting.
• Fruitful teams expect every team member to be involved in sharing the gospel.
• Fruitful teams value their female members as essential partners in ministry, facilitating their active involvement,

8. Characteristics of fruitful faith communities

• Fruitful faith communities use the Bible as the central source for life, growth and mission.
• Fruitful faith communities worship using indigenous forms of expression.
• Fruitful faith communities practice baptism.
• Fruitful faith communities value networking together.
• Fruitful faith communities are committed to one another as extended family, practicing the biblical “one another” commands.
• Fruitful faith communities redeem traditional festivals and ceremonies.
• Fruitful faith communities share meals and practice hospitality.
• Fruitful faith communities share the Lord’s Supper in culturally appropriate ways.
• Fruitful faith communities seek to bless their wider community.
• Fruitful faith communities involve women in culturally appropriate forms of ministry.
• Fruitful faith communities involve their children in worship and ministry.
• Fruitful faith communities equip their members to share their faith in effective and
culturally appropriate ways.
• Fruitful faith communities govern themselves.
• Fruitful faith communities have local accountability structures for the use of funds.
• Fruitful faith communities generally meet in homes or other informal settings.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Regent’s Reviews 1.2 (April 2010)

The latest edition of Regent’s Reviews is now online here. In addition to some review essays, there are reviews of books in the areas of pastoral theology, biblical studies, doctrine and ethics, and church history.

Fuller Theological Seminary Faculty on the Gospel

Theology, News and Notes 51, 2 (June 2004), issued by Fuller Theological Seminary, was devoted the Gospel, with some very good concise essays addressing the topic from different perspectives.

Marianne Meye Thompson
About This Issue: Reflecting on the Gospel

An introduction to the issue and summary of the contributions.

Robert A. Guelich
What is the Gospel?

A wrestling with the question from a biblical perspective, paying particular attention to the sometimes alleged differences between the gospel of Christ crucified (in Paul) and the gospel of the kingdom (in the Synoptic Gospels), setting both against the background of promises of salvation in Isaiah.

Richard J. Mouw
Seeking the Lost

A consideration of the Zacchaeus story in Luke 19:1-10, looking particularly at the mission statement of Jesus in 19:10 (that the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost) and the restitution Zacchaeus was obliged to make as a result of his encounter with Jesus.

Marianne Meye Thompson
The Gospel of Life

A treatment of the raising of Lazarus in John 11 as providing in narrative form a statement of the gospel, under four points: (1) the gospel is what God does for God’s glory; (2) the gospel is about God’s love for the world, reaching into the dark and dead places of life; (3) in the gospel we see that God brings glory to himself through giving life to humankind; (4) the gospel is about what God does that we cannot do for ourselves.

John Goldingay
Israel’s Gospel: God Has Begun to Reign

A reflection on the declaration, in Isaiah 52:7, that God has begun to reign.

Mark Lau Branson
Reflecting on the Gospel: On Changing Stories

The competing ‘gospel’ narratives of consumer capitalism and globalisation promise ‘salvation’ and a way of life, but they are false gospels and offer a false salvation.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Bible in Transmission (Spring 2010) – Shaping a Nation: The Influence of the Bible on British Culture

The latest issue of The Bible in Transmission, published by the Bible Society, is now online here, sporting a handsome new design.

This one takes its cue from the forthcoming 400th anniversary – in 2011 – of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible, and explores how the Bible has shaped, and continues to shape, the cultural landscape in Britain.

Nick Spencer

Chris Sunderland
When Godly Passions Conflict: A Story

The story of Thomas More and William Tyndale, two determined men who opposed each other and were willing to die for their beliefs.

Henry Wansbrough
Roman Catholics and the Bible in English

An historical account of the relationship between Roman Catholics and the English Bible, from its earliest days to the present.

Stephen R. Holmes
Shaping Our Cultural Memories

The biblical text has had an enormous influence on British culture. But we must also take notice of what is not there.

Luke Walton
A Book of Continuing Universal Significance

An exploration of the continued significance of the Bible in contemporary culture, highlighting some of the initiatives of the 2011 Trust to engage the wider culture with the Bible.

Krish Kandiah
Biblical Echoes in Contemporary Film

A helpful four-part analysis of the way we experience God’s voice echoing through contemporary culture.

Julian Rivers
The Nature and Role of Government in the Bible

In biblical terms government is both legitimate and limited. The political values of the Bible still form the basis of the British political system.

Book Review
The 8 Secrets of Happiness

This book will appeal to everyone who is seeking practical guidance for a happier existence; and it may well attract the attention of grass-root church practitioners looking for a ‘pre-Alpha’ resource that could start their un-churched friends and neighbours off on a spiritual journey.

James Catford
News from Bible Society

Preaching the Psalms

The Evangelical Homiletics Society has a number of papers available on preaching the Psalms. I have included the abstracts with the links below:

R. Larry Overstreet
Emotional Subjectivity in Teaching/Preaching the Psalms

The Old Testament Book of Psalms is an ongoing favorite among God’s people, including scholars, preachers, and the laity. Throughout the centuries, believers have looked to the psalms for encouragement, for comfort, for challenge, and for stimulation. At the same time, those who expound the psalms often struggle with how best to present their messages. Scholars manifest a wide divergence in their approaches to the psalms. Significant variety often exists in the structural analysis and the resulting outlines of individual psalms. Why such divergence occurs is commonly not explained. This paper suggests that a frequently overlooked, and crucial, element in the exposition of the psalms is the intended emotional subjectivity of poetry, which can make rigid structural analysis less important than in other genres of literature. Approaching the psalms with this recognition will greatly assist expositors in understanding them and communicating them.

Kenneth E. Bickel
Preaching the Psalms to the Contemporary Community: Inviting the Listeners to Experience the Psalms

The Psalms contain rich resources for people, and preaching them in ways that are honest to the text, consistent with the genre and relevant for 21st century worshipers should characterize our quest. Helping worshipers to ‘experience’ a psalm represents a model of preaching that can be both accurate and engaging for listeners. This paper offers five examples of providing an experience for a psalm, and five general encouragements for the experiential communication of these timeless biblical treasures.

Kenneth W. Smith
Preaching the Psalms With Respect for their Inspired Design

Under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, the psalmists wrote with poetic power and artifice. The Psalms impact hearers more deeply in part because of the literary devices that the psalmists employ. This paper demonstrates the use of literary devices that may enhance a sermon’s impact on its audience.

John B. Tornfelt
Understanding Chiastic Structures for Greater Clarity

Although in ancient Israel psalms were intended to be heard primarily in a linear fashion, a number of psalms also exhibit a secondary chiastic arrangement (a-b-c-b'-a'). This arrangement was not only aesthetically pleasing to the audience but it also provided the psalmist with an opportunity to treat themes twice in a psalm. For example, when a chiastic structure is followed, the unmatched center (a-b-c-b'-a') is normally the centerpiece of the psalm and where the central truth is found. Moreover, a unit from the first half of the psalm can be considered together with its matching unit in the psalm’s second half in order to more fully understand the theme of the psalmist. By paying attention to chiastic structures, the expositor can preach from the psalms with greater clarity.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Kevin Vanhoozer on Redramatizing Theology

Kevin Vanhoozer, Blanchard Professor of Theology at Wheaton College, delivered the 2010 David C. Jones Theology Lectures at Covenant Theological Seminary on ‘Redramatizing Theology: Faith Seeking Practical Understanding’. There were three lectures, as follows:

1. The Theater of the Gospel: The Stage, the Script, and the Director

2. The Company of the Gospel: Rehearsing, Improvising, Performing

3. The God of the Gospel: Being, Authoring, Dialoguing

The sessions provide a handy way in to material that Vanhoozer has developed much more fully in recent publications.

Covenant Seminary kindly make available audio files of the lectures here.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Evangelical Homiletics Society

The Evangelical Homiletics Society is an academic society ‘formed for the exchange of ideas related to the instruction of biblical preaching’. Its goals are ‘to advance the cause of biblical preaching through the promotion of a biblical-theological approach, increase competence for teachers of preaching, integrate of the fields of communication, biblical studies, and theology, and to provide scholarly contributions to the field of homiletics.’

An interesting-looking collection of papers presented at past conferences is available here.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Urban Mission in Europe

‘European Mission’, the blog for the Nova Research Centre (based at Redcliffe College, Gloucester UK, focusing on researching and innovating mission in Europe) draws attention to a recent survey of life in 75 European cities - ‘Perception Survey on Quality of Life in European Cities’ – conducted by The Gallup Organisation, Hungary.

European Mission summarises some of the findings of the report here, noting that the three things that concerned the citizens of seventy-five major cities were job creation and reducing unemployment (64 cities), improving the quality and availability of health services (54 cities), and improving education and training (39 cities). Other important issues were the availability of housing, urban safety, air pollution, and road and public transport.

Nova suggests that the report contains a lot of information ‘that fills out the contextual background for urban mission – suggesting potential entry points and ministry emphases’.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

John Webster on the Gospel (again)

Having earlier referred (here) to a dictionary entry on the ‘gospel’ by John Webster, I recently came across a longer essay by him…

John Webster, ‘What is the Gospel?’, in Timothy Bradshaw (ed.), Grace and Truth in the Secular Age (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 109-18.

Here is his summary:

‘The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, who is its sum and substance. In Jesus, God intervenes in human history, putting an end to the disorder of sin and reconciling all things to himself. The gospel is good news because it is God’s action in disorienting goodness. It is good news because it is God’s act of eschatological deliverance. And it is good news because in its particularity it is comprehensively true and meaningful. The church is what it is because of the gospel. The church is assembly around the gospel, a spiritual event and not only a structure of human society. As assembly around the gospel, the church’s most characteristic activities are praise, prayer, hearing the Word of God, celebrating the sacraments, proclamation and service. The church’s vocation is to hear, and then live and proclaim, this good news.’

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Fruitful Practices 1

Eric Adams, Don Allen, Bob Fish, ‘Seven Themes of Fruitfulness’, International Journal of Frontier Missiology 26:2 (2009), 75-81.

The International Journal of Frontier Missiology is carrying an engaging series of articles on ‘fruitful practices’.

The authors of this particular essay are members of the Faithful Practices Taskforce, described as ‘a collaborative, multi-agency network of missiologists who are studying effective field practitioners and how God is working through them’, through which ‘they identify and publicize practices that are demonstrably “fruitful” in facilitating faith movements among Muslim people’ (75).

This paper describes seven themes which appear to correlate with fruitfulness in raising up communities of faith. Although the authors are focusing on work in Muslim contexts, it strikes me that their findings may carry significance in other situations. I’m certainly interested in reflecting on whether or not, or to what extent, that might be the case.

Here are the seven themes:

1. Fluency – sharing the hope within
2. Storying – engaging hearts and minds
3. Reputation – exemplary lifestyle
4. Social networks – redemptive bonds of trust
5. Scripture use – getting the word out
6. Intentional reproduction – faith, community, leadership
7. Prayer – a holy sacrifice

See the essay itself for a brief expansion of each of the themes.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Missional Journal 4, 4 (May 2010)

There seems to be quite a bit of talk at the moment about unity and ecumenism in the ongoing missional task of churches. David Dunbar’s latest Missional Journal suggests four pointers to what we might actually do.

1. Lower the walls – nurturing a theological hospitality between churches and Christian institutions, referring to the difference between a fortress and a home.

2. Cultivate a gracious spirit – extending to others the welcome we have received from God, giving others the benefit of the doubt, and not being too quick to judge others’ motives.

3. Look for partnerships – among individuals, organisations, and churches which ‘encourage God’s people to work together in a spirit of trust and love across traditional, theological, cultural, or denominational barriers’.

4. Pray for the mission – with churches and Christian organisations together seeking the blessing of God on a particular community, people group, nation, or the world.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Ecclesia Reformanda 2, 1 (2010)

The latest issue of Ecclesia Reformanda is out, with the below contributions. I am particularly interested in John Frame’s review of Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity.

John M. Frame
Review of Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Part 1

Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity claims that contemporary evangelicalism is so corrupt in its doctrine and preaching that it is close to rejecting Christ altogether. In this two part review article, I argue that Horton’s basis for this evaluation is itself doctrinally questionable and that he misrepresents the targets of his criticism. I describe ten assumptions Horton makes that have no basis in Scripture or in any of the major theological traditions. If we reject these assumptions (as we certainly should), we will find that Horton’s critique of evangelicalism is wide of the mark, and that it is Horton’s own rather idiosyncratic brand of Protestantism that deserves our critical attention.

R.S. Clarke
The Hermeneutical Principles and Exegetical Methods of Rev. John Lightfoot, D.D.

This article demonstrates that John Lightfoot’s consistent goal in interpreting the bible was to discern the intended meaning of the human authors of the text and then to show how this also functioned as the divinely intended meaning for the contemporary church. His approach to exegesis is shaped by his recognition of the value of the Rabbinic literature in understanding the biblical text. His hermeneutics, however, is driven by his deep piety and his pastoral concern to see the divine Scriptures read and understood by the church.

Matthew W. Mason
‘Father, Forgive Them’? Or, ‘Let Your Burning Anger Overtake Them’? Psalm 69:22-28 on the Lips of Jesus

This article investigates the fulfilment of the imprecations in Psalm 69:22-28 in the ministry and prayers of Jesus. The psalm is one of the most used in the NT, yet the imprecatory section presents a particular difficulty for biblical theology, particularly as it relates to Jesus’ prayer from the cross, ‘Father forgive them’ (Lk. 23:34). Examining the NT’s use of this psalm, I argue that Jesus did indeed pray the imprecations and his Father answered; yet, building on Klaas Schilder’s discussion of Luke 23:34, I argue that this is readily harmonisable with his first word from the cross.

Lewis Allen
‘Keeping the Heart’: Lessons from Two Puritan Pastors

Andrew Gray and John Flavel served pastorates in Glasgow and Devon respectively in the turbulent times of the mid-seventeenth centuries. Their works continue to be valued today as models of Puritan spiritual counsel. The essay explores the sermons of Gray and a treatise of Flavel on Proverbs 4.23. Each Pastor explores the command and the warning implicit in the text, and show why this verse is of prime important for the Christian. They are highly suggestive works for our less self-reflective pulpits today, and would repay reading for the preacher seeking to improve his pastoral preaching.

Book Reviews

L’Abri Ideas Library

The L’Abri Ideas Library contains loads of excellent-looking downloadable material (mostly audio files of lectures), some of it going back years, in the following areas:

• What is L’Abri?
• Communicating ideas
• What in the world is real?
• Is anyone there?
• Has anyone spoken?
• What about other religions?
• What does it mean to be human?
• What is spiritual reality?
• Knowing others
• Understanding myself
• How then shall we live?
• Art needs no justification
• Whose planet is it anyway?

Monday, 3 May 2010

Tyndale Bulletin 61.1 (2010)

The latest Tyndale Bulletin has just come through, containing the following articles:

Larry W. Hurtado
The Origins of Jesus-Devotion: A Response to Crispin Fletcher-Louis

Jonathan Moo
Continuity, Discontinuity, and Hope: The Contribution of New Testament Eschatology to a Distinctively Christian Environmental Ethos

Brian Brock
On Generating Categories in Theological Ethics: Barth, Genesis and the Ständelehre

Robin Routledge
Did God Create Chaos? Unresolved Tension in Genesis 1:1-2

T.A. Clarke
Complete v. Incomplete Conquest: A Re-Examination of Three Passages in Joshua

John C. Poirier
‘Theological Interpretation’ and its Contradistinctions

Erkki Koskenniemi
Forgotten Guardians and Matthew 18:10

Peter M. Head
Editio Critica Major: An Introduction and Assessment