Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Paul Copan on the First Christmas

Paul Copan has a nice summary here of some of the ‘myths and realities’ surrounding the first Christmas, looking particularly at the alleged ‘inn’ (following Ken Bailey and others), the angels, and the presence of docetism in our hymnody and theology.

Scottish Journal of Theology 64, 4 (2011)

The most recent issue of Scottish Journal of Theology – 64, 4 (2011) – is available here to read and download free of charge until 31 January 2012.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Soma (2011)

My friend Eddie Arthur, who blogs at Kouya Chronicle, recently drew my attention to this new open access theology journal.

According to the website:

Soma is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access theology journal published online in the heart of Africa. The title, Soma, is a hybridized word. In Greek it is a noun. It means “body”. In Swahili it is a verb. It means “to read” or “to study”. This journal seeks to develop a body of theological knowledge, practice, and reflection across languages, cultures, disciplines and economic backgrounds. In these interstitial spaces and moments theological discourses and theological counter-discourses will emerge. Consequently, while the journal is interested in modern theology generally, it will give priority to theologizing that is consciously done on the boundaries or margins of well-established theological discourses and theologizing that is done on the boundaries or margins of society.’

In the Editorial, Robert S. Heaney of St. John’s University of Tanzania, Dodoma, writes:

‘The launch issue addresses “Theology and Globalization”, with contributors seeking ‘to unveil and question the imperialist nature of theologizing in ancient and modern times’, and ‘to propose theological responses to globalization and... interrogate already existing responses to empire and globalization’.

In addition to an editorial on kingdom and empire by Rowan Williams, the main articles are as follows:

Joerg Rieger

Between Accommodation and Resistance: Theology in a Globalizing World

Peter Hatton

‘Age After Age...’ The Old Testament and Empire

In a way that, to some extent, parallels the modern ‘neo-liberal world order’, the rulers of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, prompted by the belief that the gods had made them ‘true shepherds’ of the peoples known to them, enforced their hegemony over the ancient Near East, exercising brutal military power but managing diversity and displaying a certain tolerance of local cultural and religious autonomies. Their policies were both novel and durable. They were adopted by the Babylonian, Persian and Seleucid Empires that followed Assyria and so form the context within which the Old Testament Scriptures were composed. These Scriptures do not seek to answer the imperial monologue with another but, secure within a distinctive religious, linguistic and cultural tradition, consider the claims and performance of Empire in a dialogic fashion.

Susan Abraham

What Does Mumbai Have to do with Rome? Postcolonial Perspectives on Globalization and Theology

Does postcolonial theory that cogently presents postcolonial perspectives on globalization have relevance for theology? The article argues that postcolonial theory’s emphasis on eschewing identity-based strategies for liberation is an urgent necessity in a globalized and militarized world. Postcolonial theorists seek justice and care for the poorest women and children of the Global South, arguing that these concerns should be part of theological and religious agenda.

Jonathan S. Barnes

Christian Ecumenical Partnership from Edinburgh 2010 to the Present: The Home Base, Education, and the Persistence of a Global Church Perspective

The idea of partnership between churches of the West and those of other parts of the world was, at least in its nascent stage, part of ecumenical discussions at the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh (1910). However, a review of the Edinburgh Conference’s Commission VI report on the home base reveals that the concept of Christendom was the dominant worldview of those present, overriding other contesting views. Further, when tracing the history of ecumenical relationships from Edinburgh 1910 to the present, it is evident that the Christendom worldview continues to persist among the constituents of the Western churches, with negative effects on partnership efforts. In reviewing this history, Lamin Sanneh’s typology of churches as either Global (the churches of the North or Western World, also formerly known as ‘sending’ or ‘older’ churches) or World (the churches of the South and East, formerly known as ‘receiving’ or ‘younger’ churches) will provide the critical lens through which this history is understood, for if the goal of ecumenical partnerships is to be realized, the members of the home base must stop seeing mission as expansion and lose the desire to remake others in their image; in short, they must become, in their worldview and ethos, World Christians.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Elmer Martens on Numbers 6:24-26

Elmer Martens, ‘Intertext Messaging: Echoes of the Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26)’, Direction 38, 2 (2009), 163-78.

Understanding intertextuality as ‘the process of invoking a text, either through direct quotation or through allusion, as a way of adding color and depth to the topic under discussion’, Elmer Martens here explores how the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 is echoed by other biblical writers.

The Priestly Benediction (Numbers 6:24-27)

He begins with some reflections on the blessing itself, a three-line prayer followed by a concluding explanation:

‘The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

The benediction, he notes, is to be spoken by ‘Aaron and his sons’ (Num. 6:22; cf. Deut. 10:8; 21:5). The Lord is the subject of each line, and it is best to think of it as three petitions rather than six – with each line containing a call on God to act, followed by an outcome of his action. The first petition is for blessing, the second is about guarding and protecting, while the third – make his face shine – ‘expresses contentment and joy and points to favorable acceptance’.

‘In sum, the Aaronic benediction is a petition to God for beneficence to be shown to a people, a beneficence couched in six verbs: bless, keep, make a face to shine, be gracious, lift up countenance, and give peace.

Old Testament Echoes

Martens goes on to explore some Old Testament echoes of the priestly benediction, notably in Psalms 67 and 121.

Psalm 67 begins: ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us’ (67:1). Here, however, the intended blessing ‘is desired, not in the interests of individuals or even of Israel, but in the interests of God’s salvation becoming known to peoples everywhere’, as seen in the next line of the Psalm: ‘so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations’ (67:2). The prayer for blessing functions ‘as a channel for God’s revelation and salvation to nations’. And Psalm 67 goes on to describe what is entailed in this ‘blessing’. As Martens summarises:

‘God’s favor on a people is sought for the ultimate benefit of the peoples of the world. The ancient benediction, Israel-focused, has become globally-focused. Its dimensions are distant both in geography and in chronology In short, the Psalm in its reuse of the priestly blessing tweaks it in three ways. “Blessing” is about physical productivity. Blessing also has a decidedly spiritual dimension, one having to do with knowing God’s salvation. And thirdly, the benediction is given a missional thrust.’

While Psalm 67 reflects on the ‘blessing’ part of the priestly benediction, Psalm 121 echoes the ‘keeping’ part, with forms of that word appearing six times in this Psalm of Ascent. The Lord watches over his people not just on their occasional journeys but ‘now and forevermore’ (121:8). As Martens notes, ‘the ancient ritual is “tweaked” to encompass the image of a journey, be that the physical ascent to Jerusalem, or symbolically, the journey of life’.

New Testament Echoes

Martens suggests that an echo of the priestly benediction might be seen not at the end of Paul’s letters so much as at their start, in the regular greeting – with the ‘grace and peace to you’ reminiscent of the final sentence of the priestly prayer, ‘And be gracious to you... and give you peace’.

This isn’t as straightforward as it might appear, as Martens himself notes, since the Greek translation of Numbers 6 uses eleeo (normally rendered with ‘show mercy’, ‘be merciful’, etc.), whereas Paul uses a form of charis in his greetings. Of course, charis and eleos are closely related (cf. Ps. 86:15; Exod. 34:6), and Paul’s frequently-added words ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ in his greetings are odd if they are ‘little more than a conventional form of “hello”’. Martens summarises:

‘Granted, it may still be something of a reach to regard Paul’s salutation in his letters as a re-use of the priestly blessing. But, while speculative, it is not an unreasoned reach. If the echo of Paul’s salutation of “grace and peace” is less than sharp, but distant... there is an echo nevertheless. The exercise of intertextuality is more than matching some words; it is realizing the power of ancient texts now hinted at, now expounded. More than repetition or echo is involved.’

Martens concludes his article by noting, among other things, the benefit to preachers of attending to intertexts – by paying attention to how Scripture itself elaborates on ‘blessing’ and ‘keeping’, by seeing how other passages show ‘what it means to live under divine benediction’.

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 11.0

Here is the eleventh in a series of notes by Byron Borger on recent books, including The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Christian Reflection on the Christmas and Epiphany

The latest issue of Christian Reflection, published by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, is now available, this one devoted to the topic of Christmas and Epiphany. The whole issue is available as a pdf here, and an accompanying Study Guide is available here. The main articles, with their abstracts, are as follows:

Robert B. Kruschwitz


How should the Church’s first cycle of preparation, celebration, and rejoicing – Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany – mold our discipleship? We explore the original trajectories of Christmastide (the twelveday season of Christmas) and Epiphany, so we can celebrate them faithfully and winsomely today.

Joseph F. Kelly

The Birth of Christmas

Christmas enjoys such a prominent place among modern believers that only with difficulty can we picture an age when Christians did not celebrate it. How did a feast commemorating and honoring Jesus’ birth come into being, and what elements of that feast can we draw upon?

Donald Heinz

Christmas and the Clash of Civilizations

Christmas magnifies a clash of civilizations between Christianity and consumer capitalism – each making religious claims about the meaning of life. In the consumer Christmas, the Incarnation is reversed. Human attention drifts to the materials that claim to be good instead of the Good that claims to be material.

David W. Music


The singing of carols reminds us that God, in his love for us, sent his Son to be one of us. Just as that first Christmas was marked by singing, so Christians through the centuries have celebrated and borne witness through song to the coming of the Messiah.

Emilie Griffin

The Color of Christmas Extended

The Christmas season through the feast of Epiphany is twelve days and more to ponder and receive the grace of Incarnation. It is a banquet for the affections, a time to glory in the amazing story of Christ incarnate, the full meaning of the Trinity in Christmas dress.

Steven R. Harmon

Seeing Epiphany Whole

Epiphany can seem like a cacophonous party marking disjointed events: the Magi’s visit to Bethlehem, Christ’s baptism by John, and Christ’s miracle at the wedding at Cana. What ties together this wealth of images?

Amber and John Inscore Essick

Distinctive Traditions of Epiphany

The Epiphany feast completes the season of Christmas by inviting us to discern the identity of the Christ child. Three traditions – baking a Kings’ Cake, marking a door lintel with the Magi’s blessing, and elaborating worship with lighted candles – help us interpret the Christmas season appropriately.

Michael J. Clingenpeel

A Feast Worthy of Devout Celebration

“The whole Church of the Gentiles has adopted this day as a feast worthy of most devout celebration,” Augustine wrote in his sermon on Epiphany in 412. Sixteen hundred years later, Augustine’s sermon on the Magi reminds us of important Epiphany truths.

William D. Shiell

When Grace Appears

The book of Titus sees the flash of the glorious, unexpected appearance – or epiphany – of Christ beginning a transformation that continues throughout the whole of our lives. We are to become students following a new curriculum of grace, reflecting the difference Christ’s presence makes in the world.

G. Sujin Pak

The History of Christmas

Ever wonder how December 25th became the date to celebrate Christmas, or the history behind Santa Claus? Did you know that Christians in the first three centuries of the Church did not celebrate Christmas? These questions and many more are answered in the four books reviewed here.

Mark J. Suderman

Choral Music for Christmas

Choral music plays a key role in how we experience the Christmas season. The CDs reviewed here, focusing on the work of ten choirs, are excellent staples for a music library. Each contains outstanding choral literature to enhance public worship and stir celebration of the Nativity.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Centre for Public Christianity Update (November 2011)

The latest email newsletter from the Centre for Public Christianity contains links to several video interviews, including one with Craig Keener on the gospels as ancient biographies and what that means for how we should read them, and a further installment of an interview with Iain Provan discussing the reliability, relevance and the violence of the Old Testament as well as the way that the Bible has shaped western culture.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Never Knowingly Over-commercialised?

[I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’ from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. I’m not entirely happy with the final product; it was difficult to limit myself to the 400 word count and say all I really wanted to say. Ah well... I’m also grateful for the help of my colleague, Neil Hudson, who suggested a few lines.]

Even if you’ve not yet seen the John Lewis Christmas TV advert, the chances are you’ve heard about it – through colleagues at work, Facebook friends, or just about any national newspaper. Within a few hours of being broadcast, it was trending on Twitter and has already had over 1,800,000 hits on YouTube – three times more in a week than its counterpart last Christmas managed in a year.

High production values, careful editing, and a few nods to classic movies combine to tell the story of a young boy counting down the days to Christmas only to ignore his own presents on Christmas morning for the joy of giving his parents their gift. Ending with the tagline ‘For gifts you can’t wait to give’, it has apparently reduced grown men and women to tears.

Others, however, have balked at the £6million price tag for the campaign, or condemned it as a clichéd, overly sentimental example of commercial manipulation, yet another victory for consumerism, and a cynical way of making money – only slightly offset by the policy of John Lewis to reward its workers with a share in the profits. Fans of Morrissey are divided on whether he has done the unthinkable in allowing the 1984 Smiths song, ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’ to be borrowed, covered in this case by Slow Moving Millie, using a hymn about unrequited love to sell goods to the middle-classes.

Even so, although the scenes contain John Lewis products, they are not centre-stage. In fact, the emphasis is not on the value of presents so much as the warmth of relationship. As such, the advert gestures towards what we hope to be true. We want generous-hearted children who know that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35). Maybe the child embodies qualities we’d like for ourselves.

The joy of giving rather than receiving is somewhat hackneyed, but no less true for that, not least for those who are themselves part of the story in which God loves, Jesus serves, and the Spirit ministers – in self-giving tenderness towards us.

Here, perhaps, is a way of truly ‘connecting with culture’. But it’s also the challenge presented in culture to us. Mawkishness and sentiment aside, how might we demonstrate over the festive season and beyond a generosity of heart and home?


View the John Lewis Christmas 2011 Advert on YouTube.

Read the press release from John Lewis on the Christmas 2011 TV advert.

Take a look at Stuart Jeffries, ‘What John Lewis and other stores’ TV ads tell us about Christmas 2011’, The Guardian (15 November, 2011).

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Regent’s Reviews 3.1 (October 2011)

The latest edition of Regent’s Reviews is now available here.

It contains reviews of (among others), Larry W. Hurtado’s God in New Testament Theology, Nicholas Perrin and Richard B. Hays’ edited collection of essays on Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T.Wright, Scot McKnight’s The Letter of James, David F. Ford’s The Future of Christian Theology, Douglas Farrow’s Ascension Theology, Robert W. Jenson’s Canon and Creed, Stuart Murray’s The Naked Anabaptist, and Lloyd Pietersen’s Reading the Bible after Christendom.

Kairos: Evangelical Journal of Theology 5, 2 (2011)

The most-recent issue of Kairos: Evangelical Journal of Theology is available here, with articles in English and Croatian on the impartation of the gift of the Spirit in Paul’s theology, slavery and freedom in Galatians, Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21, Jesus’ ascension, and the influence of the King James Bible on English language and literature.

Jonathan Rushworth and Michael Schluter on Transforming Capitalism

Jonathan Rushworth and Michael Schluter, Transforming Capitalism From Within: A Relational Approach to the Purpose, Performance, and Assessment of Companies, Research Report No 1 (Relationships Global, 2011).

This 72-page report has just been published by the Relationships Foundation.

Transforming Capitalism, they say, is ‘a fresh approach to the purpose, performance and assessment of companies based on the idea that stakeholder relationships lie at the heart of companies’. In addition, the report ‘is based on several years of research into the concept of “relational companies”, culminating in the creation of a Relational Business Charter’.

The Executive Summary is linked to from here, and the full report can be downloaded from here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tim Keller on Five Ways to Imitate John Stott

The US memorial service for John Stott took place last week in Wheaton, where Tim Keller spoke from Hebrews 13:7, ‘Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith’. Keller gave five ways to imitate Stott’s life and faith, as summarised here by Eric McKiddie.

1. Be convicted by his kingdom vision.

2. Be taught by his cultural learning curve.

3. Be chastened by his leadership controversies.

4. Be instructed by his great innovations.

5. Be empowered by the knowledge of his present glory.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Larry Hurtado on the King James Bible

Larry W. Hurtado, ‘The King James Bible and Biblical Scholarship’, Expository Times 122, 10 (2011), 478-89.

It won’t last forever, but this essay is currently available for free download from SAGE Publications. It is slightly modified text of Hurtado’s 2011 Ethel Wood Lecture, given in Kings College London, on 2 February earlier this year.

Here is the summary:

‘As well as a product of statecraft and religious aspirations, the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) was also a product of the biblical scholarship of its day. The company of translators included a number of the best scholars in Hebrew and Greek, and they drew upon then-recent advances in the study of ancient languages, as well as the prior translation efforts of Tyndale and many others. In the centuries after its publication, the KJV both reflected and contributed to the spread of a popular interest in the Bible and in developments in biblical scholarship. These developments, however, also resulted in a critical appraisal of the KJV, especially concerning the Greek text on which the translation of the New Testament depended. So, ironically, the KJV was both a product and then itself, in a manner of speaking, a victim of biblical scholarship.’

Currents in Biblical Research 10, 1 (2011)

The latest Currents in Biblical Research is now out; abstracts of the main articles are as follows:

Judy Diehl

Anti-Imperial Rhetoric in the New Testament

The first of a series of three articles, this essay introduces current scholarship concerned with the use of anti-imperial rhetoric in the New Testament Gospels and the book of Acts. In the first century of the Common Era, if the powerful Roman Emperor was considered a god, what did that mean for the earliest Christians who committed loyalty to ‘another’ God? Was it necessary for the NT authors to employ subversive language, words and symbols, to conceal their true meanings from the imperial authorities in their communications to the first Christian communities? The answers to such key questions can give us a clearer picture of the culture, society and setting in which the NT was written. The purpose of this complex study is to observe how current biblical scholarship views anti-imperial rhetoric and anti-emperor implications found in the NT, assuming such rhetoric exists at all. This initial article reviews recent scholarship with respect to the background of the Roman Empire, current interpretive methods and research concerning anti-imperial rhetoric found in the NT Gospels and Acts.

John W. Olley

Trajectories of Ezekiel (Part 2): Beyond the Book

An earlier article by Olley, ‘Trajectories of Ezekiel: Part 1’ (CBR 9.2), explored resources and studies relating to the text of the book of Ezekiel, both Hebrew and Greek, and the significance of their differences. Here, the review widens to resources and studies concerning ways in which the book and its imagery have influenced other works, from the Judaean Desert scrolls through the New Testament, and into the patristic period. For example, the influence of the vision of chapter 1 is widespread, leading in particular to Merkabah (‘chariot’) spirituality. The influence of the vision of the dry bones in ch. 37 is also widespread, with debates on the nature of resurrection. The book of Ezekiel is used extensively in the book of Revelation, as well as in other portions of the New Testament.

B.J. Oropeza

The Warning Passages in Hebrews: Revised Theologies and New Methods of Interpretation

The interpretation of the warning passages in Hebrews has long been disputed, especially 6.4-6. Discussions on the issue over the last several decades frequently remain in dialogue with the theologies of Calvinist-Reformed and Arminian traditions, and intrigue about the passages often centers on whether or not the recipients of the message are ‘genuine’ believers and able to abandon their salvation because of apostasy. Recent methods of interpretation have opened up new ways of looking at the warnings and bring them into sharper relief. Such methods include historical-critical, socio-rhetorical, social-scientific, intertextual, and oral-critical methods. This article addresses studies of the warnings in Hebrews relevant to such approaches, and it also surveys recent interpretations that integrate Calvinist or Arminian viewpoints.

Robert R. Cargill

The State of the Archaeological Debate at Qumran

This article surveys the present state of archaeological research at Qumran. The article first examines those explorers who came to Qumran prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and interpreted the site without the influence of the scrolls. It then examines how the interpretation of the site changed following the discovery of the scrolls and the excavation of the site by Roland de Vaux. The article then offers a survey of recent contributions by those who excavated the site after de Vaux, as well as contributions made by those whose scholarship has influenced the interpretation of Qumran despite not having excavated there. The article concludes with a discussion of why the interpretation of Qumran weighs so heavily on our understanding of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Eileen M. Schuller

Recent Scholarship on the Hodayot 1993-2010

The Hodayot are a collection of poetic compositions of praise and thanksgiving that first became known with the discovery of the manuscripts in the caves of Qumran. These texts are preserved in eight copies, two found in cave l (1QHa, 1QHb) and six found in cave 4 (4QHa-e, 4QpapHf, 4Q427-432). This collection is reckoned, along with compositions such as the Rule of the Community, the War Scroll and the Pesharim, as one of the core sectarian documents of the specific type of Judaism reflected in the scrolls. The first part of this article describes the manuscripts, 1QHa, 1QHb, and 4QHa-f, with a specific focus on the distinctive features of each that contribute to our understanding of the nature and formation of the collection; the second part discusses specific topics that have been important in Hodayot research since the publication of the manuscripts from cave 4.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Gregory K. Beale on New Testament Biblical Theology

Gregory K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), 1072pp., ISBN 9780801026973.

This due out next month – a massive and significant work – what Beale is calling a ‘NT biblical theology’.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

‘In this comprehensive exposition, a leading New Testament scholar explores the unfolding theological unity of the entire Bible from the vantage point of the New Testament. G.K. Beale, coeditor of the award-winning Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, examines how the New Testament storyline relates to and develops the Old Testament storyline. Beale argues that every major concept of the New Testament is a development of a concept from the Old and is to be understood as a facet of the inauguration of the latter-day new creation and kingdom. Offering extensive interaction between the two testaments, this volume helps readers see the unifying conceptual threads of the Old Testament and how those threads are woven together in Christ. This major work will be valued by students of the New Testament and pastors alike.

A generous excerpt, containing the first two chapters is available here, and another excerpt, containing chapter 3 is available here.

Themelios 36, 3 (November 2011)

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


Editorial: Spiritual Disciplines

Jonathan Gibson

Jonathan Edwards: A Missionary?

Andrew Moody

That All May Honour the Son: Holding Out for a Deeper Christocentrism

Rodney J. Decker

An Evaluation of the 2011 Edition of the New International Version

Melvin Tinker

Friends: The One with Jesus, Martha, and Mary; An Answer to Kierkegaard

Book Reviews

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Alister Chapman on John Stott’s Lasting Impact on American Evangelicalism

Alister Chapman, who has a forthcoming book on John Stott due out next year, has a short piece at The Huffington Post on Stott’s impact on American evangelicalism.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Jamison Galt on Place

Jamison Galt, ‘Christ and the Cubicle: A Meditation on Place’, Comment (11 November 2011).

In part a review of Craig Bartholomew’s recent and (I think) excellent book, Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011), and in part a mediation, Jamison Galt reflects on ‘space’ and the work of ‘placemaking’ for displaced people.

‘Much of our experience of this world is marked by architectural blandness, urban destitution, strip-mall ennui, shrapnel in poppy fields, the cog-in-a-wheel cubicle, gulags, tenements, the home as consumer product, threatening wilderness, or simply what Walker Percy refers to as the malaise of an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. Too often we find ourselves fractured from place, alienated from home and with no sense that where we are has a modicum of meaning.’

Of Bartholomew’s book, he writes:

‘Bartholomew sets forth the whole world as God’s home, and it’s fair to say that he explores nearly every nook and cranny, bringing forth from this storehouse treasures new and old. The exploration involves rigorous biblical-theological work, discourse with the history of philosophy, as well as theories of and challenges to contemporary placemaking. The discovery is a blueprint for the rehabilitation of God’s house, and the surprise that even the desk in front of you is a newfound treasure.’

Galt hopes that ‘if we are attentive to the nuance and import of place – in history – we will be better attuned to God’s efforts of redemptive place-making in this world’.

‘It is in such efforts, engaged in each and every place, that the kingdom of this world is revealed as the very kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. And each of us priests of our own little cubicle, preparing this world to become for us and for God truly and finally, home.’

Route 66 Through The Year: Psalm 19

Spring Harvest’s ‘Route 66 Through the Year’ is designed to take readers on a tour through each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year, with each day’s reading featuring a short passage and comment written by a variety of Spring Harvest speakers.

Each Saturday features a Psalm, and I contributed notes for today on Psalm 19.

Read: Psalm 19

Here is a beautiful example of prayerful meditation at work, bringing together reflections on God’s words in the heavens, the words of the law of the Lord, and the words of the psalmist himself.

The psalm begins with the word of creation (19:1-6), with the psalmist gazing at the heavens and hearing (not seeing, note!) the glory of God as the skies – both day and night – declare it and proclaim it with their voices, and do so continually and universally.

But the psalmist moves from the word of creation to the word of the covenant (19:7-11) – the law through which the Lord revealed himself to his people, which bound him to them and each other, and which facilitates life-giving communion with the covenant God. This much can be seen in 19:7-9 where each line describes a different dimension of God’s word and its beneficial sustenance for God’s people.

And so the word of creation and the word of the covenant lead to a word of commitment (19:12-14). The psalmist’s meditation on the created world and his engagement with the covenant word shapes how he prays and how he wants to live his life.

Lord, may what we say and what we think be the kinds of words and thoughts that have sat under the judgment of your word and reflect your heart.

Friday, 11 November 2011

IDEA (November/December 2011) on the Bible

The November/December 2011 edition of IDEA, from Evangelical Alliance UK, is devoted to the Bible, containing the articles listed below. Individual articles are linked to from here. Or the whole issue can be downloaded as a 10.7 MB pdf here.

Bikers, bloggers and the Bible

Spearheading the national Biblefresh campaign, the Alliance has been encouraging Christians to refresh their Bible passion throughout 2011. Purely and simply – re-discovering the excitement of its words and making it relevant in people’s lives – for good times and bad. And with bikers, bloggers and British festival goers all getting involved with us during the year, Rebecca Taylor looks at how the work has been making the Bible fresh for thousands both in the UK and abroad.

Quoting the King

What is the most famous verse in the Bible? Think of your instinctive response. Was it John 3:16 by any chance?

How churches renewed their love of the Bible

Churches around the country have been taking part in Biblefresh projects inspired by the national campaign with great enthusiasm this year, Claire Musters finds out the highlights from around the country.

What the Bible means to me

I became a Christian in my late teens. I had grown up in church but was never too convinced by the whole thing. But one day found myself reading the gospels and it was while I walked through the stories of Jesus I found someone compelling and inviting.

How to read the Bible

Hearing the deafening roar of 12 motorbikes revving up outside a tent packed full of Christian worshippers; seeing hundreds of children laughing and playing barefoot in sweltering heat waiting to hear a Bible story; feeling infuriated not getting a word in edgeways as Richard Dawkins held forth on the BBC’s Bible Special show: Biblefresh has been quite a year for me.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Looking for conversation starters, Sophie Lister finds relevant themes in popular culture... In a world without God, reason can have no real relationship with ideas about right and wrong.

Living the text

Reading, studying and knowing the word of God is a good start. The fruit, however, is to be found in how we collectively live out the meaning of the text. We are, after all, a letter of Christ, to be known and read by all (2 Corinthians 3:3).

Biblical influence: How Scripture shaped Great Britain

Our political system owes a lot to the Bible, writes Nick Spencer, research director at think-tank Theos and author of Freedom and Order.

Antiseptic effect: The Bible and social renewal

When evangelicals start talking about ‘public morality’, the effects are often incendiary. The reactions usually involve criticisms about ‘moralising’, ‘judgmentalism’ and of course ‘Bible-bashing’. And herein is a problem. If the Bible is all that we believe it is, and yet we cannot refer to it in our social commentary, then we are reduced to talking in code and smuggling in value judgments by other means. Over time, this ‘Bible-blushing’ will have inevitable effects on our national life.

Gather: God is doing something

Unity movements where church leaders from across towns, cities and regions work together in friendship are helping to change their communities. God seems to be doing something very special where Christians are working together...

Truth shining light in the darkness

General Director Steve Clifford asks whether the shaking of our institutions is actually an answer to prayer.

Route 66 Through The Year: Colossians 3:18-4:18

Spring Harvest’s ‘Route 66 Through the Year’ is designed to take readers on a tour through each of the 66 books of the Bible over the course of a year, with each day’s reading featuring a short passage and comment written by a variety of Spring Harvest speakers.

I have contributed notes for this week on Colossians, looking today at 3:18-4:18.

Read: Colossians 3:18-4:18

Regardless of where we might stand on the interpretation of the so-called ‘household code’ in 3:18-4:1, the passage portrays a Christianity that is whole-life, relationships that are two-way, and a motivation that is Christ-centred.

Paul’s ‘whatever you do’ in 3:17 already makes it clear, but the section that follows reinforces the fact that Christ’s rule extends to the whole of our existence. The gospel is worked out in our mundane, daily life, wherever we are – in the domestic sphere and in the public sphere, at home and at work.

In addition, the passage reminds us that relationships are reciprocal, that duties belong to both parties. Wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters are equal in being treated as members of the Christian community and in being called to treat others as responsible human beings to whom they are related in some way.

Finally, every aspect of our life and relationships – whether of family or work – is redefined in relation to Christ. And this fits with what we have seen throughout Paul’s letter. Faced with the challenges of following Jesus in an indifferent or hostile society, Colossians orients us around the word of the gospel and the majesty of Christ, showing who Jesus is, what he has done, and how that works out in the everyday lives and relationships of ordinary men and women.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Interpretation 66, 4 (October 2011) on Climate Change

The latest issue of Interpretation is devoted to climate change – ‘Creation Groaning’ – with the following main articles:

Theodore Hiebert

Reclaiming the World: Biblical Resources for the Ecological Crisis

The Bible believes this world is our home, the primary place we live and practice our faith. It provides us ways of reinventing our role in the world and gives us reasons for human faithfulness to it even when the crisis we have created for the world looks impossibly desperate.

Rosemary Radford Ruether

Ecology and Theology: Ecojustice at the Center of the Church’s Mission

This essay examines two major biblical and theological traditions for ecological commitment: the covenantal tradition, biblical and modern, and the sacramental tradition, biblical and modern. It also asks how we need to reclaim these traditions in the practice of the churches today.

Larry Rasmussen

New Wineskins
This essay explores the conversion of various Christianities to an “Earth-honoring” faith with a moral universe different from the one presently at home in most heads, hearts, and practices. Such reborn faith and morality would be new cloth, new wineskins.

William Schlesinger

Climate Change
Atmospheric physicists show us that rising concentrations of certain greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere should raise the temperature of the planet at rates, times, and places that are consistent with recent observations of ongoing climate change – that is, global warming. It will take great leadership to guide us to a sustainable future before we experience huge destructive impacts on the environment of our only planetary home.