Friday, 30 November 2012

Lausanne Global Analysis 1, 1 (November 2012)

The Lausanne Global Analysis, a new electronic publication from The Lausanne Movement, is now available. Due to be published every other month, the Lausanne Global Analysis ‘seeks to deliver strategic and credible information and insight from an international network of evangelical analysts so that Christian leaders will be equipped for the task of world evangelization’

The executive summary is available here, and the full issue is available here.

Evangelical Alliance on Confidently Sharing the Gospel

The latest report in the 21st Century Evangelicals Series from the Evangelical Alliance UK highlights research about evangelism.

The full report – Confidently Sharing the Gospel? – is available as a pdf here.

This is what the EA says:

This research looks at how people became Christians, finding that almost three quarters came to faith before age 20. The report explores what works well in evangelism, as well as the fear factors which hinder us from sharing the gospel. It shows the need for us to build confidence in sharing our faith so that we grasp opportunities rather than shying away. The findings also remind us of the need to intentionally build relationships with non-Christians, and to share the reason behind our good deeds. This means sharing the gospel in a way that defies the negative stereotypes that put many people off Christianity.’

PowerPoint presentation and discussion questions for churches are linked to from this page.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Bible and Critical Theory 8, 2 (2012)

The latest edition of The Bible and Critical Theory, published in open-access format, contains the following essays:


Neil Elliott
Diagnosing an Allergic Reaction: The Avoidance of Marx in Pauline Scholarship
Contemporary study of the New Testament and of Paul more specifically shows symptoms of avoidance of basic categories of Marxist analysis such as economic class, class struggle, and mode of production. The result is that discussions of economic and social realities are often so abstract and sanguine as to be misleading – an expression, from a Marxist point of view, of the shadow cast over biblical studies by capitalist ideology.

Larry LaFon Welborn
Towards Structural Marxism as a Hermeneutic of Early Christian Literature, Illustrated by Reference to Paul’s Spectacle Metaphor in 1 Corinthians 15:30-32
This essay explores the potential of the structural Marxist theory of Louis Althusser to provide a path beyond the mechanistic and expressive models of causality that have dominated comparative studies of early Christianity in the Greco-Roman environment. The essay analyses representational forms of the self in the ‘society of the spectacle’ that characterized imperial Rome, drawing upon the work of Guy Debord. The potentail of a structural Marxist hermeneutic is illustrated by a comparison of Paul’s spectacle metaphor in 1 Corinthians 15:30-32 with the eighth discourse of Dio Chrysostom.

Giovanni B. Bazzana
Neo-Marxism, Language Ideology, and the New Testament
This essay introduces the discipline of linguistic anthropology and, more specifically, the notion of language ideologies, arguing that it might be put to fruitful use in the study of New Testament texts. Linguistic anthropologists, working on a notion of ‘ideology’ of clear neo-Marxist ascendency, have elaborated a very effective set of tools for the analysis of language as a social practice that both re-inscribes socio-political structures and shapes them through its creative impulses. New Testament scholars, who are bound to deal with texts that are detached from their almost irretrievable original contexts, can benefit from the help of linguistic anthropology in delineating the socio-political profiles and agendas of the writings they are working on.

Joseph Mark Bartlett
Bourgeois Right: Social Location and the Limits of First-Phase Communism in the Rhetoric of 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 (A Historical Materialist Exegesis)
Second Thessalonians 3:10b offers the teaching that ‘anyone unwilling to work should not eat.’ Both conservative and socialist readers have cited this teaching as an encapsulation of their mutually incommensurable worldviews. I conduct a historical-critical investigation of the situation in which this passage was written; I argue against recent historical reconstructions that posit that 2 Thessalonians is authentically Pauline, and articulate a Sitz im Leben for the text in line with the principles of historical materialism. Specifically, I contend that the Thessalonian community was a tenement church composed entirely of marginalized people who were particularly vulnerable to economic crises in the late first century Roman Empire; this community fit the criteria for what Marx and Lenin would later call first-phase communism. A lack of sufficient employment opportunities led many members to rely too heavily on the community’s agape feast, thus threatening the community’s viability. The situation at Thessalonica can thus be characterized as what Habermas calls a rationality crisis, whereby the community was forced to abandon the core principles of its agapaic communalism and revert to a regressive policy that Marx calls ‘bourgeois right.’ I conclude that modern conservative uses of the text serve different class interests from its author’s and that, while socialist uses of the text share its author’s class interests, those uses starkly illustrate the precariousness of first-phase communism. This precariousness, then, demonstrates that Permanent Revolution is necessary to secure the viability of communist societies against the structural vulnerabilities to which they are especially susceptible in the context of hegemonic capitalism, and thus that Socialism in One Country is a fatally flawed doctrine.

Lance Byron Richey
MarK/X After Marxism: Fernando Belo and Contemporary Biblical Exegesis
In 1974 Fernando Belo’s A Materialist Reading of the Gospel of Mark combined Marxist and structuralist ideas to uncover the revolutionary political themes he claimed were encoded in Mark’s narrative. Although hailed at the time as a visionary exegetical strategy, it has been largely forgotten over the last generation. While some of Belo’s theoretical and political concerns are inevitably dated, his contributions to understanding both the social and political environment of first-century Palestine and how religious texts such as Mark’s Gospel operated within it merit our attention and critical assessment, both of which this paper will attempt to provide. I offer a two-fold discussion of Belo’s materialist approach to Mark in light of subsequent developments in both philosophy and Marxist social theory. First, I will outline and critically assess the theory of texts found in his discussion of the ‘Concept of “Mode of Production”’ which makes possible his exegesis of Mark as a subversive political text. Secondly, I will briefly explore his account of the specific ‘Mode of Production’ operative in first-century Palestine which Belo sees Mark’s Gospel as challenging, with special attention given to its theoretical underpinnings. I conclude that, while Belo’s work is certainly limited both by the state of theory and of the historical knowledge of his time, his ground-breaking efforts to read Mark’s Gospel as a subversive text remains highly relevant to contemporary efforts at materialist exegesis.

Jonathan Bernier
From Historical Criticism to Historical Materialism in the Study of Earliest Christology
Deploying Fredric Jameson’s model of Marxist literary analysis, this article explores the contradictions in developments of early reflections on Christology. Jameson distinguishes between three levels in such analysis: the immediacy of the political, the wider horizon of the social (class and ideology), and then that of history (now understood in terms of mode of production). The key is that texts never operate in isolation, for they become crucial negotiations – as imaginary resolutions of real social contradictions – of wider social and economic shifts. In this light, we may understand the tensions over different Christological models as dimensions of the ideological responses and contributions to the complex shifts in modes of production. Those models may be designated as follows: ‘personified divine attributes,’ ‘exalted patriarchs,’ ‘principal angels,’ ‘messiah,’ and Jesus as the embodiment of ‘divine agency.’

Book Reviews

Journal of Biblical Counseling 26, 3 (2012)

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling is available online in its entirety as a pdf (here), containing the following pieces:

David Powlison
From the Editor’s Desk: A “Moderate” Makeover

Featured Articles

Edward T. Welch
Are You Feeling Inadequate? A Letter to Biblical Counselors

David Powlison
How Does Scripture Teach Us to Redeem Psychology?

Sam R. Williams
Counselors as Missionaries

Edward T. Welch
When God Touches the Untouchables

Aaron Sironi
From Your Heart... Forgive

Counselor’s Toolbox

J. Alasdair Groves
How DoYou Counsel Non-Christians?

Paul David Tripp
Feeling Lost in the Middle of Your Life

Lives in Process

Jamie L. Rose
My Fashion Fixation and an Unlikely Encounter with God

Rebecca DeAnne Eaton
Parenting for God’s Kingdom, Not My Own

Book Reviews

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Tyndale Bulletin 63, 2 (2012)

The latest issue of Tyndale Bulletin has arrived, containing the following collection of articles and dissertation summaries.


Stephen N. Williams
Could God Have Commanded the Slaughter of the Canaanites?
This article is a slightly revised version of the Tyndale Lecture in Christian Ethics, delivered in 2010. It deals not with the narrowly historical question of the slaughter of the Canaanites, but with the theological question of the possibility of God’s having commanded it. Its argument is that we should not conceive it as a possible divine command, unless we regard it as sorrowfully commanded, a commandment accommodated to conditions of human violence for which humans are responsible.

Scott N. Callaham
But Ruth Clung to Her: Textual Constraints on Ambiguity in Ruth 1:14
Researchers commonly assert that deliberately ambiguous language in Ruth 3 kindles sexual tension in the depiction of Ruth’s nocturnal encounter with Boaz upon his threshing floor. Perhaps inspired by the literary artistry of the author of Ruth, some recent interpreters have also averred that an erotic undercurrent flows through words they deem intertextually suggestive and allusively ambiguous in Ruth 1:14 as the text reads, ‘but Ruth clung to her’. The present study critically examines this proposal in light of interrelated semantic, syntactic, and intertextual literary evidence.

Luca Marulli
‘And How Much Do You Owe...? Take Your Bill, Sit Down Quickly, and Write...’ (Luke 16:5-6)
The parable found in Luke 16:1-8a has very often puzzled Christian commentators. The history of its interpretation shows that only a few fathers accepted the challenge to interpret it (mostly allegorically). Today we are all the more aware of the benefit of understanding the socio-economic backdrop of such an unsettling story. This essay is an attempt to shed light on the meaning of the parable in the context of debt contracts and rates of interest in first-century Palestine. We shall start by a short description of the pyramidal social structure, the relational function of honour/shame values, and debt reduction dynamics in first-century Roman Palestine. The second part of this article will review some biblical, rabbinical and non-literary papyri sources on the topic of loans and debts in order to shed light on the practice of lending/borrowing money and goods, as well as some practical aspects referred to in the parable of the shrewd steward, such as the possible contractors, the rates of interest, the steward’s share, and the documents used in the context of ancient loans.

Lee Gatiss
Grace Tasted Death for All: Thomas Aquinas on Hebrews 2:9
This article examines the biblical interpretation of Thomas Aquinas, which has until recently been relatively neglected amongst the many works of this leading medieval theologian. Looking particularly at ‘by the grace of God Christ tasted death for all’ (Hebrews 2:9), a key phrase which throws up several exegetical and theological puzzles, it concludes that Aquinas’s approach to it is a prime example of medieval commentating both at its best and its worst. It shows how his lack of knowledge of Greek led him astray, notes his neglect of textual criticism, and examines his reliance on tradition, especially the Hebrews commentary of Peter Lombard. It places his use of the theological formula ‘sufficient for all, efficacious for the elect alone’ when expounding the words ‘for all’ into historical context, surveying exegetical discussion of the extent of the atonement from Origen to Gottschalk to John Owen. Aquinas’s use of the scholastic ‘division of the text’ methodology to identify a melodic line centring on this verse’s theme of ‘grace’ within both Hebrews and Paul (the assumed author) is uncovered, along with other interpretative tactics and a reflective piety which jar against the presuppositions of modern academic biblical studies.

David R. Kirk
Heaven Opened: Intertextuality and Meaning in John 1:51
John 1:51 presents unique interpretational challenges at a theological level. In this study, the allusion to Jacob’s encounter with the LORD at Bethel is the point of departure for an approach which brings together this background with a consideration both of the title Son of Man, and the function of the verse within the gospel. A re-examination of the Bethel narrative casts doubt on the stairway being an image of communication. A Jesus-Jacob nexus arises from a natural reading of John 1:51, and is the interpretational key which unlocks the meaning of the verse. This nexus gives a representative emphasis to the gospel’s first Son of Man saying, and the theological connection to the patriarchal promises leads to a conclusion about the identity of the ‘greater things’ which are promised.

Andy Cheung
Foreignising Bible Translation: Retaining Foreign Origins when Rendering Scripture
This article considers the notion of foreignisation with respect to Bible translation, a concept originating with Schleiermacher but re-popularised in the 1990s by Lawrence Venuti. ‘Foreignising translation’ aims to relocate the reader in the world of the source text and attempts to make obvious the alien origins of the original text. It therefore differs from ‘domesticating translation’ which seeks to create a target text with expressions and style more in keeping with target readers’ receptor world conventions. Although foreignisation has long been established as a recognised translation strategy in ‘secular’ translation studies, it is less commonly considered with respect to Bible translation. This article discusses the benefits of foreignising translation in the task of rendering Scripture, albeit within a framework known among translation theorists as ‘skopos theory’, whereby multiple translation styles are permissible, depending on their usage and function in a target community.

Wayne Coppins
Sitting on Two Asses? Second Thoughts on the Two-Animal Interpretation of Matthew 21:7
The main thesis of this article is that the ‘two-animal’ interpretation of Matthew 21:7, according to which Matthew speaks of Jesus as sitting on two animals, can be shown to be more probable than the ‘multiple-garments’ interpretation, according to which Jesus is understood to be sitting on multiple garments on a single animal. Prior to my analysis of Matthew 21:7 I discuss the related question of why Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem involves two animals rather than one, arguing that the ‘history conformed to Scripture interpretation’ is more probable than the ‘Scripture conformed to history’ interpretation. Following it, I advance a more tentative interpretation of the surprising outcome of Matthew’s interaction with Scripture.

John W. Taylor
The Eschatological Interdependence of Jews and Gentiles in Galatians
Agitators in Galatia insisted that law observance for Gentiles was essential, because the eschatological blessing promised to the heirs of Abraham is only to be found within Israel. But in three key passages (3:13-14; 3:25-26; 4:4-7), which are frequently misunderstood because pronominal shifts are set aside, Paul makes the blessing of Jews and Gentiles in Christ mutually interdependent, in a theological sense. Gentiles are blessed with the blessing of Abraham because Jews are set free by Christ from the curse of the law. Because the Gentiles are blessed, and have become sons of God, Jewish believers receive the Spirit. Thus Gentile inclusion in Christ is not subsidiary to Israel’s eschatological status, and does not require law observance.

Dissertation Summaries

Will Kynes
My Psalm Has Turned into Weeping: The Dialogical Intertextuality of Allusions to the Psalms in Job
The ‘bitter parody’ of Psalm 8:5 in Job 7:17-18 has long been recognised but its hermeneutical implications have not been fully explored. The repetition of the phrase ש$מה־אנו (’What are human beings?’), the common structure of both passages, and the recurrence of the verb פקד set in a context which reverses its meaning, have led to a nearly unanimous consensus that Job is intentionally twisting the meaning of the psalm from a hymn of praise for God’s watchful care to a complaint against his overbearing attention. Rarely, however, has the question which naturally follows been pursued: if the author of Job interacted with Psalm 8 in such a knowing and sophisticated way, what other allusions to the Psalms may likewise make significant contributions to the dialogue between Job, his friends, and God?

Monday, 26 November 2012

Not Always Front-Page News

[I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the seventh in a series on Jesus’ parables.]

He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’ He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’
Matthew 13:31-33

Languishing in prison, John the Baptist began to wonder whether Jesus really was ‘the one to come’. Things hadn’t worked out as he’d expected. It was not easy to see how an itinerant preacher from an inconsequential village, with a small band of followers, could be the hopes of Israel.

We too might sometimes puzzle over where and how God is at work in the world today. Or perhaps we don’t feel big enough or strong enough or important enough to make a difference where we are. Or we’re painfully aware that the church doesn’t look too impressive in the grand scheme of things.

And yet, ‘whoever has ears, let them hear...’

Jesus compares God’s reign to a mustard seed, proverbial for its tininess, planted in a field, which becomes a bush big enough to provide shelter for birds. Then Jesus likens the kingdom to yeast mixed into a large lump of dough, working its way through the whole lot, yielding enough bread to feed over a hundred people.

Old Testament passages have suggested to some that the tree refers to God’s sovereignty which provides shelter for the nations, the ‘birds’. Others have not been slow to point out the permeating influence of the yeast. But beyond these finer points of possible significance, what unites both parables is a striking contrast – between a tiny seed and a full-grown plant, between a small amount of yeast and a large lump of dough. The essential element is not the greatness of God’s reign or the transformation it will bring – neither of which would be doubted by Jesus’ hearers – so much as that what it will one day bring will be out of all proportion to its seemingly unimpressive, easily overlooked presence now.

For us, as for the first disciples, it’s an encouragement that God is at work – even if we don’t always see it as clearly as we’d like to. Indeed, something about the images Jesus uses reinforces the apparently ‘ordinary’ mode by which God’s reign is present – not always in an overwhelming display of cosmic strength, but no less significant for that. Jesus anticipates the powerful intervention of God in the fulness of time, but he also teaches that God’s liberating sovereignty and love is already present, with disciples called to live now in the light of that coming reign.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

9Marks eJournal 9, 6 (November-December 2012) on Lay Leaders Part 1

The latest issue of the 9Marks eJournal (this one devoted to lay leaders in the church) is now available as a pdf here.

More from the Centre for Public Christianity (November 2012)

Among other items, the most recent newsletter from the Centre for Public Christianity contains links to video interviews with Tim Costello (CEO of World Vision Australia) on how those of us in the west are more concerned with our own wellbeing than the plight of the vulnerable, and Ryan Messmore, arguing that a place for religion in the public square is a crucial element of a civil society.

Monday, 19 November 2012

William Carey International Development Journal 1, 4 (Fall 2012)

The Fall 2012 issue of the William Carey International Development Journal explores various leadership models and methods for professionals in the international development sphere. A pdf of the full journal is available here.

Yalin Xin
A Note from the Editor
Recognizing the complexity of leadership, we hope that, instead of attempting to cover every aspect of the topic, this issue becomes an invitation to you to read and dialogue with the research and reflections that explore various leadership theories, models and practices from biblical, theological, and socio-cultural perspectives.

Bill Jackson
Becoming a Church that Makes Disciple-making Leaders: Part 1
What was the leadership model that Jesus demonstrated, and how do we model that today? In this article, Bill Jackson describes why it is so important to be leaders that focus on developing disciples to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Bill Jackson
Becoming a Church that Makes Disciple-making Leaders: Part 2
What qualities are essential for leadership – particularly leadership that inspires others to follow your example? In this article, Bill Jackson describes the four qualities essential for a leader – whether they are natural or trained.

Kevin Mannoia
Discovering Servant in Servant-Leadership
There is a substantial rise in interest in servant leadership in the business world, education and Christian organizations. Leaders hear the ideas and are naturally drawn to the apparent selflessness of the paradigm that puts others first. But the genius of servant leadership is really not in its skills or in its outcomes.

Robert Blincoe
New Social Contract: Leaders Relating Church Governing Structures to Voluntary Societies
In this article, an excerpt from his PhD dissertation from William Carey International University, Bob Blincoe explores a different side to the leadership discussion. How can voluntary societies raise up additional leaders for ministry? How can current church leaders develop and empower those in these voluntary societies?

Kevin Book-Satterlee
Serving God Globally: Finding Your Place in International Development
In this book review, Kevin Book-Satterlee explores the many questions students of international development have as they seek to turn their passion into a career, and why Roland Hoksbergen’s book is a great response to their questions.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Tim Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf on Work (1)

Timothy Keller with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Every Good Endeavour: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2012).

I had this book on pre-order for months. It came through the post earlier in the week and has gone very close to the top of my ‘to read’ pile.

It’s briefly profiled here on the Redeemer City to City website, where there are two short trailer videos posted, one of Keller himself and one of Katherine Leary Alsdorf (who, one suspects, will have done the hard work in bringing the book together). There is also an excerpt from the book and a related essay on common grace.

The Gospel Coalition website has an interview with Keller about the book – ‘When the Gospel Invades Your Office: Tim Keller on Faith and Work’. Here are a couple of representative paragraphs:

‘The gospel includes the news that the problem with the world is sin – sin in all of us, sin marring everything – and the only hope is God's grace. That prevents us from locating the real problem in any created thing (demonizing something that is God-created and good) or locating the real solution in any created thing (idolizing something limited and fallen). Also, the Bible lets us know that while Christ's kingdom is already here, it is not yet fully here. We are saved, but still very imperfect, yet we live in the certainty that love and goodness will triumph in the world and in us.

‘In short, we have no reason to become too angry or too sanguine about any trend or object or influence. We have no reason to become too optimistic or too pessimistic. In the book we argue that this balanced gospel-view of life has an enormous effect on how we work. Christian journalists should not be too cynical, nor should they write puff pieces or propaganda. Christian artists should be neither nihilistic and unremittingly dark (as so much contemporary art is), nor sentimental, saccharine, or strictly commercial (doing whatever sells). Christians in business should avoid both the “this company will change the world” hype or cynically “working for the weekend.”’

Ever quick off the blocks, Byron Borger already has a review of the book here, in which he says that Keller brings ‘something a bit unique in terms of perspective and tone, and that is, in fact, this gospel-centered, foundational teaching that our vocational lives are a response to, and grounded in, the grace of our Triune God, shown in the saving work of Jesus Christ’.

Christian Reflection on Disability

The latest issue of Christian Reflection, published by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University, is now available, this one devoted to ‘Disability’. 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
Disability is ‘tragically but redemptively fundamental’ to discipleship, Tom Reynolds notes, for it ‘opens up our vulnerability and dependence upon each other and God.’ How can we walk beside one another in friendship and learn from one another with our disabilities?

Amos Yong
Zacchaeus: Short and Un-Seen
Societal fears of disability often warp how we read the Bible. But the Zacchaeus story challenges the normate assumption that disability is a problem needing to be fixed or eliminated. All human beings can be accepted as children of Abraham regardless of their physical characteristics or capabilities.

John Swinton
Many Bodies, Many Worlds
Disability is a mode of human experience that challenges our norms and reshapes our most basic understanding of reality as we encounter the rich diversity of what it means to be a human being in God’s image.

Thomas E. Reynolds
The Cult of Normalcy
Against the cult of normalcy, disability foregrounds vulnerability as a fundamental condition of sharing life together. It reminds us that wholeness is not self-sufficiency, but is the genuine communion that results from sharing our vulnerable humanity with one another in light of God’s grace.

S. Kay Toombs
Jars of Clay: Disability in Intentional Christian Community
Living in an intentional Christian community offers a nurturing context in which it is possible to fully embrace the vulnerability that accompanies disability, to concretely enact our Christian beliefs with respect to the intrinsic worth of all human beings, and to affirm the value of all members of the community.

Terry W. York
The Twisted Form upon the Tree

Debra Dean Murphy
Worship Service

Heidi J. Hornik
Disability in Christian Art

Jason D. Whitt
Baptism and Profound Intellectual Disability
Is there room in the baptismal waters and at the Lord’s Supper table for persons with profound intellectual disability? For Christians who practice believers’ baptism, the question goes to the heart of what it means to be the Church and to welcome the giftedness of each person in our midst.

Brian Brock
The Lure of Eugenics
In contemporary society ‘prenatal care’ and ‘prenatal screening’ are taken to be synonyms, but they become antonyms in practice when the refusal to test is portrayed as unnecessarily risky and aborting a disabled child is portrayed as a relief.

Thomas H. Graves
Affirming God in the Midst of Disability
An encounter with personal disability brought Tom Graves to a perplexing impasse. As a philosopher of religion, how could he talk of God in words that were both true to his faith and honest with his disabled condition?

Heiki Peckruhn
Travelling in the Ark
With whom are we being human together? With whom are we living together into our potentialities? These questions of community and humanity, central to the L’Arche communities, are explored in four books reviewed here.

Jackie Mills-Fernald
Lowering Barriers for People with Disabilities
If the Church is a place where all are welcome regardless of ability, why is the disability population so poorly represented in our congregations? The resources reviewed here can help us lower the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in the body of Christ.

Byron Borger on Books for Life-Long Learners 22.0

Here is the twenty-second in an ongoing of notes by Byron Borger on recent books, profiling Making All Things New: God’s Dream for Global Justice, by R. York Moore (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012), and Kingdoms Apart: Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective, edited by Ryan C. McIlhenny (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2012), which is in my pile of current reading.

Friday, 16 November 2012

David Helm on One-to-One Bible Reading

David Helm, One-to-One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian (Kingsford: Matthias Media, 2011), 103pp. ISBN 9781921441981.

Here is a short, helpful, practical book from David Helm, essentially encouraging Christians to read the Bible with others:

‘Reading one-to-one is a variation on that most central Christian activity – reading the Bible – but done in the context of reading with someone. It is something a Christian does with another person, on a regular basis, for a mutually agreed upon length of time, with the intention of reading through an discussing a book or part of a book of the Bible’ – although he also notes that ‘there is no reason it cannot be employed in one-to-two or one-to-three contexts as well’ (11).

Part 1 looks at the ‘what, why and how’ of one-to-one Bible reading (covering the nuts and bolts of getting started, running meetings, etc.), while part 2 explores some ‘frameworks and ideas’.

Two simple frameworks for Bible reading are offered:

• The Swedish method – where the passage is read aloud; each person then reads the passage on their own again, looking for three things – a light bulb (anything that shines out in the passage), a question mark (anything that is hard to understand), an arrow (anything that applies personally); followed by sharing and discussion of each category.

• The COMA method – an acronym for Context, Observation, Meaning, Application, with questions asked about a Bible passage in all four categories.

Helm also offers recommendations of particular Bible passages for different sorts of people (whether non-Christians, new Christians, or established Christians), and suggests appropriate COMA questions to ask about the different biblical genres.

An excerpt of the book is available here, and Helm’s COMA questions on biblical genres are available here.

I read the book a while back, but have just caught sight of a short course connected with the book, available online – One-to-One Bible Reading.

According to the website:

‘This course is a way to share the idea of One-to-One Bible Reading with a group, to encourage others to get started with it. The course consists of four lessons that may be enjoyed by groups of any age or size. It’s for adult Sunday school classes, home groups, youth groups, or just a few friends who want to give themselves to reading the Bible.’

Each of the four lessons consists of a video of David Helm sharing a couple of insights from the book, some suggested discussion questions, and an activity.

All the material is available for convenient download from this page.

Tim Keller on Calvin’s Institutes

There’s a nice piece here by Tim Keller on ‘The Counterintuitive Calvin’, reflecting on his read through John Calvin’s Institutes, discovering it to be ‘a true work of literature... biblical... the greatest, deepest, and most extensive treatment of the grace of God... and doxological’.

Andreas J. Köstenberger on the Hermeneutical Triad

The ‘hermeneutical triad’ at stake here is history, literature, and theology, which provides the structure for the large textbook written by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Richard D. Patterson: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011).

Köstenberger introduces and overviews the triad in a paper presented to the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (14 November 2012), available here.

He rightly notes that the three categories themselves – history, literature, theology – have been widely use together in treatments of biblical interpretation, though he thinks the term ‘hermeneutical triad’ is new to him.

According to Köstenberger, the hermeneutical triad is ‘the proposal that history, literature, and theology form the proper grid or lens for biblical interpretation’, and ‘this trifocal lens... is critical if we want to maintain balance in our hermeneutical endeavors’ (5).

Dan Kimball, Cheryl Saunders, and Winfield Bevins on the Future of Evangelical Seminaries

Christianity Today have asked three leaders for their vision for theological education in the future. Here are their responses (with their eyes on the US) along with a few highlights:

Dan Kimball – Live Missionally

‘[T]here is a great need for the majority of faculty and decision-makers to accept more fully their crucial role as missionaries and trainers of missionaries.’

‘[A]ll seminary instruction is best viewed in light of and evaluated by how it fuels the hearts and minds of students to serve as missionaries in their world... I believe this will happen naturally when faculty are themselves living missional lives and are not isolated in an academic bubble.’

‘If seminary leaders are not desperate to transform their schools into missionary-training centers for students who are themselves making new disciples, I wonder whether seminaries as we know them now will survive, because not enough Christians will want to be part of them.’

Cheryl Sanders – Amp Up Innovation

‘Evangelical seminaries can maximize the impact of theological education on the future of evangelical congregations by making education more practical, diverse, and accessible.’

‘[M]uch of what seminaries teach is not always comprehensible to the average churchgoer. Some students of mine have become so excited about something they learned in the classroom that they immediately share it in a sermon or Bible study at their church, then experience great disappointment that the people didn’t “get it.” The trick, of course, is for professors to challenge their students to think about what these truths mean in specific and changing ministry contexts.’

‘New hybrid degree programs are another part of the answer.’

‘By emphasizing diversity and making curricula more flexible and available to a broader range of students, seminaries will be well situated to deal with the diverse churches of America’s future.’

Winfield Bevins – Think Like St. Patrick

‘[W]hat good is it if you know everything about theology and the Bible yet don’t know about the one thing the resurrected Jesus called us to do: make disciples?’

‘Seminaries could learn a few lessons from the past by looking to the ancient Celtic monastic communities that trained missionaries to reach the radically unchurched throughout the British Isles and beyond... These monastic communities were not solely places for cloistered monks but discipleship training hubs that sent out hundreds of missionaries who helped convert the people of the British Isles.’

‘A future model for seminaries would include a balanced faculty, comprising theologians, biblical scholars, and resident church planters who are actively partnering with key churches and ministry networks.’

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Stuttgart Theological Topics

Thanks to Tim Davy over at Bible & Mission for the heads up on Stuttgart Theological Topics, the publication of the Eusebia conference for Bible, Theology and Mission, Stuttgart.

Volumes 2 to 5 are available online here, and contain essays devoted to the following topics:

• Volume 2 (2007) – The Impact of Christian History and Theology on Judaism and Islam and its Significance for Missions Today

• Volume 3 (2008) – Currents in New Testament Interpretation on their Effects on Theology and Missions

• Volume 4 (2009) – The Interchange of Christianization and Islamic Expansion in Historical and Missionary Perspective

• Volume 5 (2010) – Bible Interpretation in the Horizon of Old Testament Theology and in Interaction with the Islamic View of Scripture