Monday, 30 April 2012

Eleutheria 2, 1 (2012)

The third issue of Eleutheria (an open access, peer-reviewed journal led, edited, and reviewed by graduate students of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is online, containing the following mix of main articles:
Letter from the Editors
Wesley L. Handy
Correlating the Nevius Method with Church Planting Movements: Early Korean Revivals as a Case Study
John Nevius served as a missionary to China in the late nineteenth-century. From his field experience, Nevius argued for radical changes in missionary methodology. His greatest influence may have been on the mission to Korea beginning in the 1890s. David Garrison, currently serving in South Asia, served for several years in influential administrative roles within the International (formerly Foreign) Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He studied and advocated Church Planting Movements [CPM], necessitating a change in contemporary missionary methodology. Both men have made major contributions to the practice of missions. This article endeavors to show the similarities between their methods, viz., the Nevius Method and CPMs, through the historical lens of the introduction of Protestant Christianity to Korea. The impetus behind this analysis is the role and value of missions history in developing missionary strategy. Both the Nevius Method and Church Planting Movements implement certain similar strategies that have proved effective and are worthy of consideration.
Thomas W. Hudgins
An Application of Discourse Analysis Methodology in the Exegesis of John 17
This study applies discourse analysis methodology to the study of the seventeenth chapter of John. Instead of adopting the typical three-fold division of Jesus' prayer based upon the three referents (Jesus, the immediate disciples, and future disciples), greater attention is given to Jesus' requests and final commitment, the mainline verbs. By giving more structural significance to the mainline verbs, the structural division and natural outline of Jesus' prayer become more evident.
Brian T. Scalise
Perichoresis In Gregory Nazianzen and Maximus the Confessor
The doctrine of perichoresis applied to Trinity is the mutual coinherence or interpenetration of the Persons of the Godhead. Applied to Christology, perichoreo is, first, the reciprocal passing of characteristics and titles between the divine and human natures hypostatically united in Yeshua. Secondly, it also describes the distinct but intimate union between Christ's natures. Historically, the Trinitarian use of perichoresis grew out of the christological use of perichoreo first developed by Gregory Nazianzen (A.D. 4th century) and then, subsequently, explained by Maximus the Confessor (A.D 7th century). Maximus, often directly commenting on Gregory's use of perichoreo, seeks to expound upon the union of the divine and human nature in Christ. This essay begins with an investigation into Gregory's use of the term and concept of perichoreo followed by a summarization of the findings . After this, Maximus' use of the concept and term of perichoreo/perichoresis in his Quaestiones Ad Thalassium, Ambigua 1-5, and the 2nd Letter to Thomas will be analyzed and summarized . Lastly, this essay demonstrates how Maximus follows and advances Gregory's use of perichoreo in said works as well as notes the discontinuity between Maximus' use and Gregory's.
Justin K. Morgan
The Burden of Knowing: Camus, Qohelet, and the Limitations of Human Reason
In one of the most influential works of the twentieth century, The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus writes this: ‘This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.’ Here, Camus addresses what he believes to be one of the main sources of the absurd: the limitations of human reason. He claims that his inability to fully understand human reality creates a gap between his existence and its meaning, and, in effect, renders the whole of human experience as absurd. Because Camus makes these conclusions from a purely atheistic position, it would seem that his notion of the absurd is incompatible with a theistic understanding of the human condition. Interestingly, however, the main speaker of the ancient Hebrew wisdom book Ecclesiastes, Qohelet, also concludes that the limits of human knowledge give life a sense of absurdity. Although Camus (an atheist) and Qohelet (a theist) begin with different assumptions regarding the existence of God – the very Being who gives meaning and clarity to his creation – their similar conclusions reveal an unlikely compatibility between atheistic and theistic attitudes towards the human predicament. While Camus and Qohelet recognize that the world cannot be explained by human reasoning, and is therefore absurd, they each conclude that uncertainty and human limitations may prompt a certain liberation and solace that allows them to move beyond the absurd. This curious parallel between Camus’s modern existential attitudes in The Myth of Sisyphus and the ancient Hebraic wisdom of Ecclesiastes show that the awareness of the limitation of human reason may compel man to live authentically and passionately despite the seeming unreasonableness of his life.
Book Reviews

Michael Goheen on Genesis 1-3 in Context

Morling College, Australia, posts the slides from a recent lecture by Michael Goheen on ‘Genesis 1-3 in Context: Historical, Literary, Cultural, and Contemporary Perspectives’. The slides are full and probably provide a good indication of the content of the content of the talk.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Bible and Critical Theory 8, 1 (2012)

The latest edition of The Bible and Critical Theory, now published in open-access format, contains the following mixture of essays.
George Aichele
The Hidden City
I read the gospel of Mark’s kingdom language intertextually with Italo Calvino’s strange novel, Invisible Cities, in which Marco Polo describes a collection of fantastic cities. This approach illuminates a different way to understand the Markan kingdom of God, for which that kingdom is neither realized nor imminent, indeed not eschatological at all. Nor is the kingdom a symbol. Instead the mysterious kingdom is comparable to (in Marco’s words) ‘a crack [that] opens’ and ‘all spaces change, all heights, distances; the city is transfigured, becomes crystalline, transparent as a dragonfly’ – and yet even that, as Calvino’s story implies, is but one of many possibilities.
Jeremiah Cataldo
Remembering Esther: Anti-Semitism and the Conflict of Identity
Reading the biblical narrative of Esther – a narrative giving way to the ritualized Feast of Purim – against more recent testimonies and accounts of anti-Semitism demonstrates common patterns in social, political, and religious responses to conflict. When studied carefully, these patterns support a common model capable of cross-cultural application. This model supports the fundamental thesis that anti-Semitism is not simply a belief but a conflict over identity that produces beliefs and behavioral patterns consistent with deep-rooted prejudices. Moreover, this conflict is typically an ‘absolute conflict’ disguised as an ‘institutional conflict’, terms that will be defined, and is usually triggered by perceived interruptions to institutionalized power. Studies of anti-Semitism must always include detailed understandings of both the identity of the perpetrator and the identity of the victim.
Fiona C. Black
Lamenting or Demented? The Psalmist-Subject of the Complaints and the Possession at Loudun
In an effort to investigate the poetic contours of lament as a consequence of subjectivity, this essay reads the lamenting subject in the Complaint Psalms against the backdrop of Michel de Certeau’s evaluations of the Ursuline nuns in the Possession at Loudun. The 17th-century nuns, possibly as part of a response to the major metaphysical crisis of a plague, began to exhibit signs of possession, and eventually an elaborate system of classification and exorcism developed around their illness. A major interest for Certeau, and for this essay is not, however, the actuality of demon possession, but the apparent creation, social control and management of alterity – in the nuns’ case, madness – in the psalmist’s case, (hysterical) lament. In the psalms, lamentation provides a means of articulating an alternative reality, one that has its own conventions and limitations. In this context, the lamenting utterance threatens to position the subject of the psalms as a place of siege; the subject fights to be heard above the din of ‘normality’ and the rigours of divine expectation. Moreover, his body is a contested site for enemies and illness, among other afflictions. On the other hand, though, the ultimate act of confession at the end of the complaints threatens to undermine his existence, to make him vanish into that very context from which he initially differentiated himself as a speaking subject. The essay considers, therefore, the psalms’ alternative reality as the locus of a balancing act between the subject’s complicity and annihilation. This, in turn, is pondered within the context of poetic discourse, which might be viewed as an impulse to showcase – and manage – ‘possession’.
Maia Kotrosits
Romance and Danger at Nag Hammadi
The story of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts – a tale about a hapless Arab peasant who uncovers the buried secrets of early Christianity – has accompanied most scholarly and popular explorations of Nag Hammadi literature. As a colonialist relic, however, it is more than a quirky tale of the accidents of history. It represents and perpetuates the orientalist epistemological tropes that have since been fixed onto the individual texts themselves: seeking/finding, secrecy/unveiling (esoterism), and sexual taboo/sexual excess (asceticism/libertinism). This paper explores the resonances of this story with the history of Nag Hammadi scholarship, as well as with popular renderings of Nag Hammadi texts. It uses the recent cultural studies interests in affect theory to ask: what is at stake in casting what is called ‘Nag Hammadi literature’ as the romantic and dangerous ‘East’ to the Bible’s domesticated and rational ‘West’?
Kristian Mejrup
Dostoevsky’s New Testament: The Significance of Random Reading
The Bible was a lifelong companion for Dostoevsky, who often read it and sometimes annotated it. But what meaning lies in the marking of a text? The first critic to examine the markings in Dostoevsky’s Bible was the Norwegian professor in Russian literary history, Geir Kjetsaa. He did so in the early 1980s and wrote a book on the subject. This essay will discuss Kjetsaa’s method of reading Dostoevsky on the basis of the annotations. Kjetsaa’s analyses are intriguing but not immune to criticism, as too much focus on the markings tends to neglect the significance of the randomly read passages. After a short introduction (1) I will closely examine Kjetsaa’s analysis of Dostoevsky’s novels (2), and then add my own critical remarks (3). Finally I will compare Kjetsaa’s reading of Dostoevsky with theological readings of him (Romano Guardini and Karl Barth/Eduard Thurneysen). Unlike Kjetsaa, the theologians were unaware of the markings in Dostoevsky’s Bible. The overall question of the essay is, then: how do we approach Dostoevsky’s use of the Bible in the light of his annotations to the New Testament, and when numerous voices clamour to inform us how they should be read?
Book Reviews

Anvil 27, 3 (2011) on Bible Translation

Some contents of the latest issue of Anvil are now available online (after a pain-free registration process), with essays on translating the Bible, with special reference to the 400th anniversary of the King James’ Version.
N.T. Wright
The Monarchs and the Message: Reflections on Bible Translation from the Sixteenth to the Twenty-First Century
In this article, Tom Wright, whose own translation of the New Testament was published in 2011, highlights the importance of translation within Christian faith as the message of the universal kingship of the Jewish messiah is communicated to the nations. Exploring the translations of the Reformation era, he sets Tyndale’s translation and the King James Version in their contrasting political contexts before explaining the significance of the word ‘Christ’ and the issues it raises today both for translators wishing to be faithful to the New Testament message and Christians seeking to live out Jesus’ radical definition of ‘lordship’. He concludes, drawing on his own experience, with reflections upon some of the other challenges facing translators today – such as the inevitability of distortion and the tensions that can arise between accuracy of word and tone or flavour – as they seek to convey the Bible’s message to contemporary readers and rulers.
Graham Tomlin
The King James Version and Luther’s Bible Translation
Graham Tomlin here examines perhaps two of the most influential Reformation texts: Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible (1534) and the King James Version (1611). He shows how their different emphases reflect different strands in tension within the Reformation as well as their different historical contexts. For Luther, translation should be idiomatic and so accessible, theological and the work of a faithful translator who has been humbled by God’s grace. His is a translation of immanence and incarnation into his culture. In contrast, the KJV is not concerned to propound a particular theological standpoint but seeks simplicity and the integrity of precise translation of the original languages. It thus preserves the Scripture’s strangeness and trusts the reader with the text’s uncertainties.
Lamin Sanneh
Bible Translation and Human Dignity
In this article, Lamin Sanneh explores the revolutionary impact, in various contexts, of translating Scripture into people’s mother tongue. He shows this significant religious, social and cultural event is an expression of Christianity as a translated religion which empowers those who receive the translation and affirms their human dignity. These findings are illustrated from history and more recent mission experience in Kenya, West Africa and Zululand and a sketch is offered of the spread of Bible translation and the social and cultural renewal that has followed.

Biblefresh Highlights

I was privileged to be involved in different ways with the Biblefresh initiative, a partnership of 120 organisations (including LICC, where I work), which joined forces to help Christians and churches grow in their appetite and confidence in the Scriptures during 2011.
We asked Theos to conduct a survey of those who had been involved – as individuals and/or as partners, where appropriate. A report on the results of the survey, formally revealed last week, is available here, and an infographic displaying some of the highlights is available here.
Some of the headlines from the Executive Summary are:
A wide range of churches and other organisations were involved in Biblefresh.
Partners and users put on a wide range of activities.
Partners organised a variety of public and outreach events in their local communities.
E100 and the Biblefresh website were the most commonly used resources.
Partner organisations were overwhelmingly positive about the way in which Biblefresh had helped them focus more on the Bible in 2011 than they otherwise would have done.
Partners spoke of its success in ‘immersing’ and ‘familiarising’ people with the Bible.
They were largely positive about the mutual understanding and collaborative efforts Biblefresh had encouraged and enabled.
They were, however, a little less sure about whether these would amount to anything in the longer term.
Partners were overwhelmingly appreciative of the ‘style’ and ‘freshness’ of the initiative.
Biblefresh helped partners extend their reach into the wider community by doing things that they are unlikely to have done without the impetus of the initiative.
Overwhelmingly partners said they would be willing to do something like Biblefresh again.
Criticism from partner organisations was limited and tended to be specific.
People’s use and experience of Biblefresh resources was on the whole a very positive one.
User respondents thought that Biblefresh had been most successful in making them feel ‘enthusiastic’ about the Bible, in helping them ‘personally to read the Bible more frequently’, and in helping them ‘value the Bible more’.
Of Biblefresh’s wider objectives, the single most successful was in helping people ‘explore parts of the Bible that [they] haven’t read before’.
The regular churchgoers among the respondents (which was 98% of the total sample) were keen and engaged with the Bible, both individually and corporately, most attending biblically-serious churches and drawing on resources and material as they needed it. They read and studied the Bible frequently, if not necessarily regularly, sometimes in public although most often in private, and were deterred from doing so primarily by living busy lives.
Respondents saw the relevance of the Bible to a wide range of aspects in their lives, although more people ‘got’ the personal connections than the more public ones, and only a minority saw any connection between the Bible and the manner in which they travelled (e.g. car, bicycle, plane, etc).

Abraham Kuyper Digital Library

Thanks to Steve Bishop for pointing out that Princeton Theological Seminary have made the Digital Library of Abraham Kuyper freely available online. This contains most of his published works as well as unpublished archives (most of it in Dutch, of course).

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Michael Horton on Christians and Politics

In response to someone’s query about a Christian approach to, and involvement in, politics, Michael Horton has what I consider to be a useful post here in which he offers some reflections. In all these points (which are expanded in the post), he says, it is important ‘to make distinctions without oppositions’.
(1) Distinguish Christ’s kingdom from the kingdoms of this age without seeing them as enemies.
(2) Distinguish common grace from saving grace.
(3) Distinguish between the church as institution from the church as its members.
(4) Distinguish between ‘necessary’ and ‘good’ consequences of Scripture.
(5) Distinguish between the sufficiency and scope of Scripture.
‘To conclude: Christians, of all people, should be concerned about the pressing issues in culture and society today. However, even in the same church, where people share the same faith, worldview, and values, there will be different applications, policies, and agendas. Where Scripture speaks, we speak; where it is silent, we don’t dare to speak in God’s name but as those who are attempting to apply our understanding of God’s Word and world to daily living in ways that are not explicitly or even implicitly determined by Scripture.’

Martyn Lloyd-Jones Sermons

The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recording Trust is planning to make their entire collection of Lloyd-Jones’ sermons freely available for download. As of today (28 April 2012), more than 630 sermons are available, divided into 27 categories, with more promised.

Missional Journal 6, 1 (April 2012)

The world goes missional!’, suggests David Dunbar in his latest Missional Journal.
Actually, he focuses on the Lausanne Movement, and its attendant documents over the years – the Lausanne Covenant (1974), the Manila Manifesto (1989), and the Cape Town Commitment (2010), describing the latter as a ‘carefully and winsomely written theological statement’, and noting in particular the emphasis on love as the driving theme. The Cape Town Commitment is pointedly missional, he claims, drawing attention to its focus on (1) the word and deed gospel, (2) the cosmic gospel, and (3) the whole-church mission.

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 16.0

Here is the sixteenth in an ongoing of notes by Byron Borger on recent books, with The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall being the one that has most caught my interest.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Catalyst 38, 4 (April 2012)

The latest of Catalyst is now online, with the usual collection of short pieces (except, I note that they have posted the same Henry Knight piece as for March’s issue):

Glenn Paauw on How to Save the Bible

Q Ideas has a piece here by Glenn Paauw on The Books of the Bible, a publication of the NIV New Testament presented in a single-column format without chapter and verse numbers, ‘enabling the Bible to be read less like a reference book and more like a story – designed to be read from beginning to end’.
I’ve had a TNIV version of the whole Bible of this for a few years, have used it and liked it a lot, in principle; in practice, in my judgment, the single column is slightly too wide for comfortable reading, but that’s perhaps by the by. This fresh iteration is with the new NIV and looks slightly different, but only slightly...
More information on the Books of the Bible project, along with sample downloads, is available here.

Mark Vernon on Faith and Well-Being

The latest issue of The Tablet contains an interesting piece by Mark Vernon (available online here) on ‘why religion is good for you’.
After presenting some of the well-known indicators of this, he says that ‘the evidence becomes more complicated when a further, crucial question is asked. Just why is it that religion has positive effects?’, noting that ‘a range of possibilities are mooted, and hotly contested’.
A first possibility he explores is ‘the proscriptive character of religion’, adding that proscriptions work ‘not when they are perceived as persecutory commandments but rather when they are perceived as charting a path to a new way of life’, perhaps especially combined when an individual’s well-being ‘is boosted by the social support provided in groups’. Another possibility, via Richard Layard, is emotional habits, where ‘religious practices train individuals to control their feelings’.
Vernon (who has a book due out soon – The Big Questions: God) writes that ‘many of the researchers in the positive psychology field are searching for ways of reformulating such religious attitudes for a secular age’, exhibiting a desire ‘to raid religious traditions for their wisdom, while removing the theological scaffolding that has traditionally supported them’ (Alain de Botton is a well-known recent example of this).
But, if I have understood him correctly, Vernon wonders whether such researchers have overlooked... God, noting that, for believers, goodwill and well-being ‘are happy by-products of the main task, which is not actually to have a successful life. It is to come to know God’.
As he concludes:
‘It is striking that atheistic writers and researchers are coming to a new appreciation of religion. Going are the days when faith could simply be written off. Nonetheless, I suspect that their ideas will flounder because a basic and obvious question is being avoided... Might human well-being actually have something to do with God?’

Monday, 16 April 2012

Englewood Review of Books 2, 2 (Lent 2012)

The Lent 2012 issue of Englewood Review of Books has just become available.

Among other items, this one contains a review of Marilynne Robinson’s collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books, an interview with Lauren Winner, a review of Walter Brueggemann’s The Practice of Prophetic Imagination, and looks back at David Bosch’s ‘classic’, Transforming Mission.

Those outside North America are able to sign up for a free electronic edition, kindly delivered to your inbox as an attached pdf.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

I know that my Redeemer lives;
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever living Head.

He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above.
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.

He lives triumphant from the grave,
He lives eternally to save,
He lives all glorious in the sky,
He lives exalted there on high.

He lives to grant me rich supply,
He lives to guide me with His eye,
He lives to comfort me when faint,
He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.

He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly Friend,
He lives and loves me to the end;
He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death:
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.

He lives, all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!

Samuel Medley (1775)

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Reason for the Season

[I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’ from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. This one effectively served as the Institute’s Easter message, hence the greetings at the end.]

Last week’s London Evening Standard reported on a current trend by designers and fashion houses of using the symbol of the cross in clothes and accessories. Columnist Rosamund Urwin noted the irony that ‘the cross’s popularity with designers comes at a time when some Christians feel their right to wear their faith on their chests is under threat’.

Incidentally, it might be worth noting a similar irony surrounding the public outpouring of prayer for injured footballer, Fabrice Muamba, at a time when professional health workers and others have been censured for offering to pray for people in need.

As it happens, in his Easter message earlier this week, Prime Minister David Cameron said he welcomed something of a Christian ‘fightback’, referring specifically to defending the right to wear a crucifix and the overturned attempted banning of prayer before council meetings. In keeping with other recent speeches about Christianity, Cameron said he hopes that any fightback ‘will be based around values more than anything else’. ‘The values of the Bible, the values of Christianity are the values that we need – values of compassion, of respect, of responsibility, of tolerance’, said Cameron, even while conceding that such values are not confined to Christians or even the ‘religious’.

However, whilst noting that Easter is ‘the most important of the Christian festivals’, Cameron perhaps misses the significance of the Easter event which sustains the values he hopes the country will adopt.

Indeed, for all of us, Easter is a pertinent moment to remind ourselves of the danger of separating the teaching of Jesus from the larger framework of the gospels in which his teaching is set – accounts which move inexorably towards the events of Holy Week. This being the case, Jesus’ exhortations to ‘love your neighbour’ and ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’ are not disembodied commands, but are rooted in the story of the one who makes his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die for others and then rise again – historical events which entail a universal claim.

Christians follow Jesus not primarily because his teaching fits a convenient ‘values’ agenda, but because this side of his death and resurrection, ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ has been given to him (Matthew 28:18).

This comes with Easter greetings from the LICC team, trusting that you may experience the love of our Father God, and the peace and joy that comes from knowing that Jesus has died and risen again.


Rosmamund Urwin, ‘Sign of the Cross’, London Evening Standard (26 March 2012).

Mark Easton, ‘Prayers for Muamba’, BBC (19 March 2012).

‘Beyond Belief’ (BBC Radio 4, 2 April 2012) – on the symbol of the cross in contemporary society.

Prime Minister’s Easter Message (3 April 2012).

Nicholas Watt, ‘David Cameron “does God” at No 10 Easter event’, The Guardian (4 April 2012).

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Leroy Barber on Life-Giving Work

Leroy Barber, ‘You Don’t Have to Quit to Find Life-Giving Work’, Christianity Today (2 April 2012).

Christianity Today carries a brief excerpt from Leroy Barber’s forthcoming book, Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012), making the point that ‘even if you don’t like your job, you have a calling to serve God and others’.

I’ve been reading quite a bit on work and vocation recently, so I suspect this book will be added to that pile, even if I might want to say some things a little bit differently.

He writes that a job ‘is simply the task we do to get paid’.

Calling, however, is different:

‘Calling inspires a deeper commitment to your work. Calling pushes a person to ask significant questions about what they do with their lives – questions such as Who am I? What are my gifts and talents? How is my life being shaped by this work? What life would remaining in this work make impossible for me? Calling pushes us deeper into ourselves when choosing a college, or taking an internship. It doesn’t allow us to jump at every opportunity simply because it pays more. We take personal responsibility about our life direction and choices.’

He illustrates this by telling a story about his friend Rob whose ‘simple job transformed into a calling to help people’ and ‘created an environment where others could experience grace and perhaps see their contribution as important’.

‘Life-giving work is available to all of us. But we must alter our primary question from “How much money can I make?” Instead, we must explore those areas where we can serve. How can I take what I am doing, what I believe I was made to do, or what I feel God may be calling me to do, and turn it over to God? In this offering, we can count on him to transform our offering into something extraordinary. We must let God use our lives to change the world, draw people to him, and offer hope in desperate situations. That calling brings excitement, engagement and much more motivation than money can provide.’

John Dickson on the Easter Story

Simon Smart, of Australia’s Centre for Public Christianity, interviews John Dickson (here in his capacity as New Testament scholar and ancient historian) about Easter, covering the date of Easter, Lent, the historicity of the resurrection narratives in the gospels, reasons for believing or not believing in Jesus’ resurrection, compelling evidence for the resurrection (including the early date of the testimony, dependence on the witness of women, the key eyewitnesses died for their claims) being a ‘plausible scenario’, the need to set the crucifixion and resurrection in the bigger story of the Bible (the Passover and temple being pointers to what is going on), what it means that Jesus died and rose again (that there is ‘something more’, the availability of eternal life, that God’s new creation is underway), and what enables us to believe and live today in the face of possible doubts.

Two videos, totaling just under 14 minutes, are available here.

Katie Boone on Being Called to the Mundane

There’s a thoughtful, short reflection here, by Katie Boone, on ‘called to the mundane’.

An excerpt:

‘Mundane, repetitive work teaches humility. You are not too good for it. In fact you will be quite good at it. I saw how my work made worship and discipleship possible, but it never felt like I was actually using any real gift. What I did not see was that the work was good for me. Humility sluices the ego and frees us to laugh. Repetition brings stillness and in that stillness we can hear God. Simplicity gives the gift of sight and we learn the practice of attention. There is no single lesson to the mundane only that God created it and called it good.’

Catalyst 3 (Spring 2012)

Catalyst is a twice-yearly magazine, published by CARE, highlighting ministries ‘making a Christian difference’ as well as giving the latest CARE news.

According to the CARE website, the Spring 2012 edition carries ‘major articles on what it’s like to be involved as Christians in local government or business initiatives’.

‘Feature writer Clive Price has written a moving piece on the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team, and on the urban charity XLP, telling the stories of project worker Ethan Bernard and CEO Patrick Regan. CARE’s Chief Executive Nola Leach is quizzed on the Coalition for Marriage, and we are thrilled that RT Kendall accepted an invitation to write for Catalyst.’

The issue is available for browsing here, or downloadable as a pdf here.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Themelios 37, 1 (April 2012)

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


Editorial: Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me

Michael J. Ovey

Off the Record: The Goldilocks Zone

J.V. Fesko

John Owen on Union with Christ and Justification

Douglas Sean O’Donnell

The Earth Is Crammed with Heaven: Four Guideposts to Reading and Teaching the Song of Songs

Jason S. DeRouchie

The Profit of Employing The Biblical Languages: Scriptural and Historical Reflections

Book Reviews

Monday, 2 April 2012

Shaped by the Story (9): Forgiveness and Freedom in Jesus

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the final entry in a series looking at passages in Scripture which summarise the biblical story. In part, the series has been designed to help publicise the book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues.]

Brothers and sisters from the children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent... We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus... Therefore, my brothers and sisters, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin... Acts 13:26, 32-33, 38-39

Acts 13 records Paul’s first main speech – given in a synagogue to Jews and God-fearers, Gentiles attached to Judaism. The address is arguably programmatic for the next part of Acts, in the same way that Peter’s Pentecost speech in chapter 2 was programmatic for the first part of the book. We’re also probably meant to understand that Luke provides here a glimpse of Paul’s synagogue preaching, a regular feature of his ministry as he takes the gospel ‘to the Jew first’.

So, what does he say?

In line with Old Testament precedents, Paul recounts the story of Israel, beginning with Abraham, taking in the exodus and wilderness wanderings, the Judges era and Samuel, before moving to David – from whose descendants, he says, ‘God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised’ (13:23). Paul’s claims about Jesus are grounded in God’s prior actions for Israel. The God who worked in the past is the same God who has brought salvation in the present, through the death and resurrection of Christ, in line with scriptural promises related to Abraham and David.

This good news is for Israel, but – in keeping with the whole tenor of the story – is extended to Gentiles too. Jesus is risen, and – as several Psalms promised – is the one to whom is given the blessings of David, including the forgiveness of sins for ‘everyone who believes’.

As we reflect on how God works in our own lives day by day, our personal ‘stories’ are an essential dimension of how we understand ourselves. Even so, our own ‘narrative’ makes best sense not when it becomes an end in itself, but when it is connected to the overarching story of God’s redemption in Christ. We understand our life ‘plot’ in the greater light of what the loving, covenant-keeping God has worked on our behalf – individually and together.

For us, as for Paul’s original hearers, far from us offering a God an occasional walk-on part in the story of our lives, we are called to see our lives in the infinitely larger narrative of what he has done and will yet do in the world – through Christ, our Saviour and Lord.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Gospel Project

The Gospel Project describes itself as ‘a Christ-centered curriculum that examines the grand narrative of Scripture and how the gospel transforms the lives of those it touches’.

Led by Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax, the intention is that ‘over a three-year plan of study, each session immerses participants – adults, students, and kids – in the gospel through every story, theological concept, and call to missions from Genesis to Revelation’. There will be ‘separate study plans for adults, students, and kids ensure the proper focus and depth for each age group’.

I’ll be very interested to see how this develops.