Saturday, 30 March 2013

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37:2 (April 2013)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research carries the feature articles noted below.

Lamin Sanneh
The Last Great Frontier: Currents in Resurgence, Convergence, and Divergence of Religion

Valentin Kozhuharov
Christian Mission in Eastern Europe

Philip L. Wickeri
Bishop K. H. Ting, 1915–2012

Rick Richardson
Emerging Adults and the Future of Missions

Darren Duerksen
Ecclesial Identities of Socioreligious ‘Insiders’: A Case Study of Fellowships among Hindu and Sikh Communities

Colin Godwin
The Recent Growth of Pentecostalism in Belgium

Stephen B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder
Evangelization and the Tenor of Vatican II: A Review Essay

Steve Sang-Cheol Moon
Missions from Korea 2013: Microtrends and Finance

David A. Shank
My Pilgrimage in Mission

Rebecca C. Hughes
The Legacy of Mabel Shaw

Indunil J. Kodithuwakku K.
‘Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct’: Thinking Back and Looking Ahead

Friday, 29 March 2013

I Saw One Hanging on a Tree

One of John Newton’s lesser-known hymns, for Good Friday:

I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

O, can it be, upon a tree,
The Saviour died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!

Sure, never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Though not a word He spoke.

O, can it be, upon a tree,
The Saviour died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.

O, can it be, upon a tree,
The Saviour died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!

A second look He gave, which said,
‘I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid;
I die that thou mayst live.’

O, can it be, upon a tree,
The Saviour died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Journal of Biblical Counseling 27, 1 (2013)

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling is now available ($10 for a year’s electronic subscription of three issues), this one containing the following pieces:

Featured Articles

David Powlison
A Most Welcome Visitor

Alasdair Groves
Exposing the Lies of Pornography and Counseling the Men Who Believe Them
Pornography is a defining problem of our age, so it is also a defining problem for counselors. The Bible often addresses people enmeshed in wayward sexuality, and Alasdair Groves digs deeply into one significant aspect in the sanctification of pornographied souls.

Mike Emlet
Practice Makes Perfect? Exploring the Relationship Between Knowledge, Desire, and Habit
Michael Emlet explores the interrelationship of behavioral habits, beliefs, and desires. Habitual actions matter in our sanctification, whether seemingly mundane (brushing your teeth), or seemingly unproblematic (going to the mall), or presumably serious (participating in worship). This article incorporates a review of James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom in the context of Emlet’s larger exploration of the significance of habits for counseling.

David Powlison
How Does Sanctification Work? (Part 1)
When we look closely at what actually changes people – examples both from Scripture and from personal experience – we see how diversely relevant the Word and Spirit are to our human struggles. David Powlison challenges the tendency of popular views on sanctification to take one strand in Scripture and present it as the be all and end all of Christian growth. Powlison specifically engages the strengths and weaknesses of the view that asserts, “You are sanctified by remembering that you are justified.”

Bill Edgar
Death Be Not Proud
This is a sermon that Bill Edgar preached at the funeral of a friend who died of cancer in her 40s. He answers five questions that those who grieve often ask God. Why did this happen? Where were you? What’s the good of it? Where is she now? What do we do now? Scripture offers wisdom and encouragement that becomes embodied in the lives of God’s children as we grow in faith, hope, and love.

Counselor’s Toolbox

Winston Smith
When NOT to Do Marriage Counseling
In this Counselor’s Toolbox Winston Smith considers when NOT to do marriage counseling. Naturally it is a desirable goal for a husband and wife to counsel together. But Smith describes specific situations in which that is the wrong thing to do. Depending on the circumstances, a counselor may need to counsel the spouses separately, or focus on the one spouse who is most ready and motivated to work.

Robin Huck
Effective Homework in Counseling
Robyn Huck offers advice on how a homework assignment can carry the gains of a counseling session out into daily life. Two detailed case studies show how well-designed homework can be developed collaboratively so that it is tailor-made to a counselee’s abilities, problems, and motivation.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Encounters 44 (March 2013) on Reading the Bible in the Global Church

The latest issue of Encounters from Redcliffe College is now available, this one devoted to ‘Reading the Bible in the Global Church’.

This issue provides the text of the Annual Lecture in Bible and Mission, given at Redcliffe College by Eddie Arthur, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK. The title is: ‘Reading the Bible with the Global Church: Opening Our Eyes to See How God Speaks Worldwide.’

This issue of Encounters also includes several responses to Eddie’s paper – from Malaysia, Uganda, the UK and the United States.

Individual articles are available from here, or the pdf of the full issue is available here.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A ‘So That’ People

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

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us –
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
Psalm 67:1-3

The glorious benediction of Numbers 6:24-26 impresses upon us that God is the source of every blessing: ‘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.’ In this case, the blessing is mediated through the priests – bringing with it the guarantee that the sacrifice for sin has been successful, confirming God’s love for his people, reminding them that his presence is with them.

That the blessing shaped the faith of subsequent generations is clear from the number of times it’s alluded to in Scripture, not least in the opening line of Psalm 67: ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us.’ However, the blessing is sought not for its own sake or even for the sake of Israel, but for all peoples, as seen in the next line – ‘so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations’ – expressing the hope that God’s blessing will become a global reality.

Far from an isolated reference, the Psalms are packed with exhortations to Israel to sing of God’s mighty deeds among the nations, summons to the nations to praise God, and promises of a future in which the nations will join Israel in worship. In line with God’s original promise to Abraham, the blessings for Israel were always the precursor of a still greater blessing – for all nations – ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.

The Psalm is of a piece with the rest of Scripture not only in providing a vision of God’s salvation embracing all nations, but in seeing the people of God as those chosen to be instruments of his blessing to others. Through his grace, God brings together a people who exist so that others might be blessed. God’s desire to bless hasn’t changed, and nor has his means of doing so. The Psalm thus enables us to see the arenas of our everyday life as places where God blesses us, calls us to be living proofs of that blessing, and invites us to share it with those around us – in our families, neighbourhoods, and workplaces.

And then, beyond even this amazing privilege, the Psalm reminds us of the ultimate goal of mission – nothing less than the worship of the Lord among ‘all the peoples’. To God be all the glory.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

9Marks Journal 10, 2 (March-April 2013) on Pastoring Christians for the Workplace

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, this one devoted to ‘pastoring Christians for the workplace’, is now available as a pdf here.

Several of the pieces have already been published on the 9Marks blog over the last couple of weeks, but it’s handy to have them all together in one document.

The paragraphs below are from Jonathan Leeman’s Editorial Note:

‘The topic of work is a popular one right now among Christian writers and thinkers, which makes sense. When the Monday morning sun breaks through the bedroom curtains, the last residues of Sunday’s joys afforded by the Word and the company of the saints, still lingering lightly in the mind, can dissipate with the sigh, “Time to make the donuts.”

Pastor, how do you prepare your members for Monday’s alarm clock?

It is easy for armchair theologians to over-exalt the activities of 9 to 5, and talk as if Christians can build eternity now. Never mind Ecclesiastes. In theologically sound circles, ironically, the greater danger is not triumphalism, but a graying out of the next world. Never mind heaven.

No, don’t go those ways, pastor. Your church needs a picture of Bunyan’s Christian stumbling yet steadfastly clambering toward the celestial city, hands stretched forward, eyes fatigued but fixed on the horizon.

Still, the eternal life does begin now for the Christian. And faith helps us see that we participate in the character of the creator through our work. The sharpened pencil says that he is a God of planning and intentions. The populated spreadsheet speaks to his analysis and oversight. The choreography of traffic lights communicates his affirmation of order. The clean sheets on the hospital bed say that he is a God who leans down with compassion. And then of course God rests to relish the good work of his hands.

What a joy and privilege it is to work, and so speak if only in whispers of our generous and delegating God, even as you make the donuts. Maybe an extra dollop of frosting says it more loudly?’

Friday, 8 March 2013

Changing Office Politics?

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

Oliver James, psychologist, broadcaster, and author of best-selling books on the family and capitalism has now turned his attention to work, in Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks (Vermilion, 2013). In keeping with those earlier volumes, what he describes here is not a pretty sight.

While hubris, greed, and self-interest have always existed in the workplace, what has changed, he says, is ‘the extent to which they have become the norm’. James documents a ‘dark triad’ of characteristics, particularly common among senior managers: ‘psychopathy (cold, callous ruthlessness), Machiavellianism (manipulative game-playing) and narcissism (me-me-me grandiosity)’, with some exhibiting two or even all three of these behaviours.

Based on a combination of case studies and interviews he conducted for the book, James looks first at spotting such ‘toxic colleagues’ before exploring how to improve one’s ‘office political skills’. We can’t avoid getting involved in office politics, he claims, as a necessary component of our emotional health. What matters is ‘impression management’, for which James recommends a combination of acting skills, astuteness, ingratiation, go-getting assertiveness and virtuosity, taking careful account – in our dealings with others – of timing, target, and location.

Whether or not the analysis of the contemporary office is correct, there is much here for Christians to engage with: a reminder of the deeply damaged nature of human beings; the hope that God’s ‘common grace’ means things won’t be quite as bad as the picture James paints; the need, therefore, to celebrate the pleasant and positive relationships which are a daily reality in many workplaces.

Perhaps most significant, though, is that little hope is held out for the possibility of change. It’s more a case of survival, of careful navigation through a murky world.

The gospel, of course, offers much more – the redemption of men and women who then undergo a process of personal transformation. Moreover, as Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf point out, in Every Good Endeavour: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World (Hodder & Stoughton, 2012), Jesus gives his followers a ‘new compass for work’ – a different set of virtues, a different view of humanity, a different source of guidance, and a different audience – called to serve the Lord and others in love.

Then, in serving and loving, we may well find we are given a measure of influence for good, wherever we find ourselves.


Thursday, 7 March 2013

Jubilee Centre on the Family and Sexual Ethics

Sally Bertlin (ed.), The Family and Sexual Ethics: Christian Foundations and Public Values (2013).

The Jubilee Centre makes available online a 23-page booklet on The Family and Sexual Ethics: Christian Foundations and Public Values. This flows out of an international conference held in Hong Kong in May 2011, organised by the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Jubilee Centre. The report is a collection of ten short (under two pages long) papers from the conference.

According to the blurb:

‘In recent years there has been a growing international interest and concern about the pressures of the environment and the consequences of this for the long-term survival of the planet. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the breakdown of the family and its consequences for the ecology of the planet. Family breakdown is being driven partly by divorce and partly by today’s sexual ethics, which then impact on rates of family formation and disintegration.’

The report is available as a pdf here.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Currents in Biblical Research 11, 2 (February 2013)

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

Joel Edmund Anderson
The Rise, Fall, and Renovation of the House of Gesenius: Diachronic Methods, Synchronic Readings, and the Debate over Isaiah 36–39 and 2 Kings 18–20
The parallel Sennacherib narratives in Isaiah 36–39 and 2 Kings 18–20 have long intrigued scholars. Although for the better part of the past two hundred years the diachronic methods of historical criticism have defined the exegetical landscape, the recent rise of narrative criticism and its emphasis on the synchronic reading of the text have called many of the previously held views into question. This article will provide a brief overview and critique of both the exegetical issues stemming from the traditional historical-critical methods and of the more recent proposals put forth by scholars like Smelik and Seitz, who argue for a more synchronic understanding of these two texts. This overview reveals a gradual evolution in biblical scholarship, in which the recent synchronic narrative methods are being recognized as aids and correctives to, and not opponents of, the traditional diachronic methods of historical criticism.

Judy Diehl
‘Babylon’: Then, Now and ‘Not Yet’: Anti-Roman Rhetoric in the Book of Revelation
This article is the third and final essay in a three-part series concerned with an analysis of current scholarship and anti-imperial rhetoric in the writings of the New Testament. The focus of this article is on the challenges and the inspiration of the book of Revelation. While Revelation may be considered to be the most unambiguous and blatant example of confrontation between the early Christians and the Roman Empire in the New Testament, a diversity of opinions survives as to how modern readers should understand and apply John’s apocalyptic literature. Does this book have something to say to readers today about the concepts of ‘empire’, colonialism and imperialism? We begin with a reflection on ancient interpretations of the text of Revelation, which are foundational to today’s interpretations, and lend support to the existence of anti-imperial rhetoric found in this cryptic document. Consideration is given to numerous current scholarly approaches, historical, theoretical and literary, with select examples from the book of Revelation for a greater understanding of the text.

Nijay Gupta
What is in a Name? The Hermeneutics of Authorship Analysis Concerning Colossians
Pauline scholars, especially in the last century, have been almost evenly divided on whether they consider Colossians to be genuinely written by Paul or by someone else in his name. Through an exploration of the commentaries of eight key scholars on Colossians, this study examines the hermeneutics of authorship analysis in order to determine the key factors involved and how they are weighed. For the study of the authorship of Colossians to move forward in a productive way, a number of yet-understudied issues must be addressed and closely researched. In the meantime, tentativeness in conclusions is the most reliable stance.

James A. Kelhoffer
New Testament Exegesis as an Academic Discipline with Relevance for Other Disciplines
This English translation of a lecture delivered in November 2011 on the occasion of the author’s installation as Professor of New Testament at Uppsala University (Kelhoffer 2012) addresses several conceptual and methodological questions about New Testament Exegesis, including: ‘What is New Testament Exegesis?’, ‘What does it mean to call New Testament Exegesis an academic discipline?’ and ‘How can this discipline be relevant for other disciplines?’ A central argument is that the current balkanization of biblical studies is undesirable and that scholars who use more traditional or newer methods should engage, rather than talk past, each other. It could help to foster that process if we attend to a misconception of the ‘historical-critical method’ as a single method. Additionally, ‘the linguistic turn’ holds promise for future discussions.

David A. Shaw
Converted Imaginations? The Reception of Richard Hays’s Intertextual Method
Richard Hays’s 1989 work Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul defined the terms and established a method for the study of Pauline intertextuality. Neither the method (Hays’s well-known sevenfold criteria for identifying intertextual allusions) nor the terms (‘echo’ and ‘allusion’) have proved uncontroversial, however, and so this article surveys their reception, outlining and critiquing the major attempts to amend, replace or overthrow them. Concerns relating to the stability of the criteria themselves or to the theoretical framework in which they operate do not nullify their usefulness. Criticisms of Hays’s terms, and the inconsistency with which they are deployed, are, on the other hand, more easily sustained, and so rival taxonomies are reviewed and recommended.

David Hendin
Current Viewpoints on Ancient Jewish Coinage: A Bibliographic Essay
This article presents a survey of recent research in pre-coinage currency of Judaea, coins of the Persian period (Philistia, Edom, Samaria, and Judaea), the Hasmonean dynasty, the Herodian dynasty, the Jewish War against Rome and the Bar Kokhba revolt. Books, articles, presentations and dissertations have added significantly to the literature; it is the author’s goal to assist the non-specialist in keeping up with the latest information and opinions.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Overview Effect

Metanexus links to an interesting 19-minute video featuring reflections from philosophers and astronauts on the ‘overview effect’.

‘Astronauts who have seen the Earth from space have often described the “overview effect” as an experience that has transformed their perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it, and enabled them to perceive it as our shared home, without boundaries between nations or species.’

One of those interviewed in the short film notes his realisation from his viewing perspective looking back at Earth that space isn’t ‘out there’ somewhere, but that we are already ‘in space’. It sparked me to think how Scripture likewise effectively reframes the perspective from which we look and how we see things, providing us with something akin to an ‘overview effect’.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson Debate on Same-Sex Marriage

The video of a debate on same-sex marriage (‘Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?’) between Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson, held on 27 February 2013 in Moscow, Idaho, has now been posted online here.

The first I saw of this was last week when Peter Leithart commented on the debate here and then here.

Leithart writes:

‘I came away from a debate on gay marriage between Douglas Wilson and Andrew Sullivan deeply impressed with the difficulties that Christians have, and will continue to have, defending a biblical view of marriage to the American public. It will take nothing short of a cultural revolution for biblical arguments to be heard, much less to become persuasive.’

The debate was moderated by Peter Hitchens, author of The Rage Against God, who reflects on the debate here.

At one point he says:

‘My own view, which I have recently come to after changing my mind,  is that the demand for same-sex marriage is not itself an attack on the nature of marriage, but a *consequence* of a general change in the institution, which was actually achieved by pressure from a post-Christian heterosexual society and (as Mr Sullivan rightly says ) by the contraceptive pill.’

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Knowing and Doing (Spring 2013)

The latest edition of Knowing & Doing – ‘A Teaching Quarterly for Discipleship of Heart and Mind’ – from the C.S. Lewis Institute has just become available online (here as a pdf), and contains the following articles:

Brenda Solomon with Kristie Jackson
The Ministry of Discipling Friendships: How God Uses Christ-Centered Friendships to Sustain Us in Trials and Help Redeem Our Suffering
A touching illustration of how God works through every part of our lives, even our sorrows and disappointments.

Gerard Long
Evangelization: Sharing the Good News with Delight
Think you don’t have to share the gospel if you don't have the gift of Evangelism?  This article will change that perception.

Thomas A. Tarrants, III
Hindrances to Discipleship: Freedom from the Flesh
Part Two of last issue’s treatment of “the flesh”, and the conclusion to the compelling mini series on the Hindrances to Discipleship. 

Wiliam L. Kynes
Dying to the Flesh
One of the greatest hindrances to discipleship is what the Bible calls “the flesh.” Learn how to overcome the flesh in this thoughtful article.

David B. Calhoun
William Tyndale: “Apostle of England”
Inspiring life story of William Tyndale – the man responsible for our English Bible.

Jana Harmon
A Grief Observed
C.S. Lewis-Atlanta Teaching Fellow and apologist, Jana Harmon, shares some insights on this great classic work of Lewis.

Friday, 1 March 2013

The Joint Public Issues Team on Myths About Poverty

The Joint Public Issues Team (the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland, and the United Reformed Church) has published a report on ‘Truth and Lies About Poverty’.

The report – The Lies We Tell Ourselves: Ending Comfortable Myths About Poverty – is available here as a pdf. It seeks to lay bare ‘six myths about the poor which enable the majority to live with the comfortable assumption that both poverty and wealth are deserved’.

Here are the six myths:

Myth 1: ‘They’ are lazy and just don’t want to work
Myth 2: ‘They’ are addicted to drink and drugs
Myth 3: ‘They’ are not really poor – they just don’t manage their money properly
Myth 4: ‘They’ are on the fiddle
Myth 5: ‘They’ have an easy life on benefits
Myth 6: ‘They’ caused the deficit

And here’s a paragraph from the Executive Summary:

‘The myths exposed in this report, reinforced by politicians and the media, are convenient because they allow the poor to be blamed for their poverty, and the rest of society to avoid taking any of the responsibility. Myths hide the complexity of the true nature of poverty in the UK. They enable dangerous policies to be imposed on whole sections of society without their full consequences being properly examined. This report aims to highlight some comfortable myths, show how they have come to prominence and test them against serious evidence.’

The Reader Magazine

It’s worth checking out The Reader, published by the Central Readers’ Council and the Church of England, which seeks ‘to assist the ten thousand Readers in the British Isles and Europe in the exercise of their ministry by stimulating them theologically and encouraging them to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively in their dioceses’.

The issues contain short articles based around a particular theme. The Spring 2013 edition is devoted to work (highlighted here). Issues are made available online as pdfs approximately three months after the publication of the print edition. So, for instance, the Winter 2012 edition, devoted to ‘Seasons and Spirituality’, is now available here.

Evangelical Alliance on Education

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

The full report – Do We Value Education? – is available as a pdf here.

This is what the EA says:

This research looks at how evangelical Christians are involved in education, what motivates them to learn, and their values and priorities for both their own learning and that of the next generation. It also explores what influences evangelicals when choosing schools for their children, and their views on the place of Christianity in schools, and the practices and politics of education in the UK today. It shows how churches are already involved in schools and examines the challenges and opportunities for Christians to make a difference in the sphere of education.’

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