Friday, 29 May 2015

Tim Chester on Mission Matters

Tim Chester, Mission Matters: Love Says Go (Nottingham: IVP, 2015), 165pp., ISBN 978-1-78359-280-7.

Tim Chester has written very helpfully, in several places, on the significance of everyday mission – the people of God reaching out to others, in word and deed, in the rhythm of their daily life. This is not a reworking of that material, although it complements it very nicely.

The focus here is on world mission. Truth be told, I was a bit disappointed to begin with, but ended up grateful for the recalibration. It’s a timely reminder to those of us who have banged the drum for mission in the everyday arenas in which we find ourselves that we’re sometimes in danger of disregarding the larger, global picture. We should do the former whilst not neglecting the latter – the ‘sending’ and ‘going’ traditionally associated with Scripture’s commissioning texts. The gospel really is to be taken to all nations (not just the nations represented by those who happen to be our neighbours or colleagues).

The book unfolds in four parts:

• The God of mission – with mission flowing out of the love of the Father, and carried out in the name of the Son and the power of the Spirit, where our mission is an extension of the mission of the triune God, done with God’s authority and backing.

• The story of mission – in the promise for all nations as told in the overarching narrative of Scripture, and in Jesus as the fulfilment of the hope of all nations.

• The scope of mission – everyone, with the church at its heart; everything, with proclamation at its centre; everywhere, with the unreached as the priority.

• The challenges of mission – the cultural challenge (with some very helpful summaries of discussions on culture and contextualisation) and the personal challenge (with Tim replaying the ‘four liberating truths’ about God he’s explored elsewhere – that God is gracious, glorious, great, and good), concluding with a reminder from Romans of Paul’s ambition to proclaim Christ where Christ is not known.

As with Tim’s other books, this one is well written, rooted in Scripture, theologically rich, illustrated along the way with helpful examples, and with pointers for ongoing practice.

Here are some lines that particularly caught my eye:

‘We are not given a task which matches our powers. We are given a power (the Holy Spirit) which matches our task (winning the nations).’ (46)

‘Abraham is not chosen instead of the nations, but for the nations.’ (55)

‘Mission involves all that Jesus sends us into the world to do.’ (94)

‘Mission is love in action. Jesus not only gave us the Great Commission to make disciples. He also gave us the Great Commandment to love our neighbour.’ (96-97)

‘The Christian life is all about mission because the Bible is all about mission.’ (146)

The book is published as part of the ‘Keswick Foundations’ series. The Keswick Convention has been committed throughout its history to challenging people with a call to overseas mission, and the book is sprinkled throughout with vignettes of those who responded and went.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Centre for Public Christianity (May 2015)

Among other items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted an audio download with Simon Smart and Justine Toh reflecting on how so many recent and current TV series (think Breaking Bad, House of Cards, True Detective, Game of Thrones) ‘hold up a truly bleak mirror to human nature’, and what this trend tells us about ‘our attitude to ourselves, the society we live in, and our hopes for the future’.

Also posted is a video interview with Geoff Broughton, talking about his work on the streets and in inner-city churches, and his new book, Restorative Christ, and a video interview with Brian Grim on the persecution of Christians around the world and why he’s optimistic about the future of religious freedom.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Eleutheria 4, 1 (2015)

The most-recent 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 main articles:

Letter from the Editor

Timothy B. Chrisman
Jesus and Tiberius: An Examination of Source Reliability
Since the introduction to the critical method of studying the Old and New Testament in the nineteenth century, doubt has been thrown on the historical reliability of the biblical narrative accounts, especially the four Gospels. Yet, far less scrutiny and denigration have been applied to historical sources written during the time of the Roman Empire. A comparison, then, is proposed. It would be beneficial to compare the sources that detailed the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the four sources which chronicled the life of Tiberius, emperor of the Roman Empire during the Ministry of Jesus. How do the sources compare as to their composition in proximity to their subject? Do the sources agree with one another? Is there a level of objectivity in the sources that allowed them to present the correct details of their subject? These questions will determine the reliability of the documents in question and whether the four Gospels measure up to critical examination.

John A. Sypert
Redeeming Rhetoric: Augustine’s Use of Rhetoric in His Preaching Ministry
The art and practice of rhetoric occupied a fundamental place in the ancient Roman world. It is thus not surprising that Augustine (354-430 AD) was deeply committed to the art of speaking well. He spent his youth mastering the theory of rhetoric, putting into practice what he had learned during a preaching career of almost forty years. This essay examines elements of rhetoric in Augustine’s preaching, arguing that he purposely appropriated common rhetorical elements in his preaching for the purpose of making Scripture both plain and compelling to his audience. Augustine’s training in rhetoric is summarized, followed by an overview of the context, Scriptural basis, and style of his preaching. His thoughts on the use of rhetoric in preaching are discussed, primarily by summarizing his arguments from Book Four of his treatise On Christian Doctrine. The essay concludes by offering several examples of rhetorical devices used by Augustine in his preaching.

Tyler D. McNabb
Defeating Naturalism: Defending and Reformulating Plantinga’s EAAN
During the past two decades, Alvin Plantinga has formulated an argument against naturalism that focuses on naturalism’s acceptance of contemporary evolutionary theory. Plantinga argues that given naturalism and evolution, our cognitive faculties have been developed to produce beliefs that meet the Darwinian requirement of survival and reproduction. Plantinga argues that accepting this will lead a naturalist to have a defeater for all of their beliefs, including their belief in naturalism. In this paper, I survey and respond to two types of objections that have been given as a response to Plantinga’s argument. The first objection that I interact with is an objection given by Michael Bergmann. Bergmann argues that a naturalist can continue to hold on to both their naturalism and their belief that their faculties are reliable, even if the probability of their faculties being reliable is low. The second objection that I interact with is an objection that can be seen in the work of Jerry Fodor and Stephen Law. This objection argues that beliefs that enable survival and reproduction will likely be truth conducive and thus, the chance of having reliable faculties is high. I respond to this argument by first reiterating Plantinga’s traditional response to this objection. After I clarify and defend this traditional response, I then reformulate Plantinga’s argument to specifically address metaphysical beliefs. Not only does this give the non-naturalist two different responses to this objection, but I take it that the reformulation could be seen as even more persuasive than the traditional formulation.

Book Reviews

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Vern S. Poythress on Biblical Interpretation

Westminster Theological Seminary has gathered together five articles published by Vern S. Poythress between 1986 and 2014, and made them available (here) as a single pdf, under the title Issues in Hermeneutical Foundations: Selected Articles on Hermeneutics and Biblical interpretation.

As Poythress notes in the Introduction, the articles ‘address the nature of interpretation from a God-centered point of view’, from the assumption that he is present and is significant to how we read texts: ‘what kind of differences does our knowledge of God generate in our understanding of interpretation?’

Monday, 25 May 2015

Journal of Contemporary Ministry 1 (2015)

Thanks to Rob Bradshaw for the heads up on this one...

From Harvest Bible College in Australia comes the first volume of the Journal of Contemporary Ministry, which ‘will act as a place for reporting research and
discussing issues related to contemporary ministry, including related theological and
biblical questions’.

The table of contents is below, along with abstracts of the main articles.


About This Journal

Jon K. Newton

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Philip Hughes
The Multi-Dimensional Issue of Culture and Christian Ministry
The categories of the theology of culture developed by H. Richard Niebuhr in Christ and Culture can be applied to approaches to ministry. Empirical studies of the church in northern Thailand demonstrated that in terms of architecture, the forms of service and other observable forms, the churches were often ‘counter-cultural’. However, in other ways, such as in the themes of sermons and how they were developed, there was a strong Thai cultural flavour. Observations show that many mainstream Australian churches express themselves in ways which are counter to contemporary culture, for example in their architecture and forms of music, although their values and emphases often reflect contemporary culture. Charismatic churches more frequently use contemporary forms of architecture and music, but are counter-cultural, for example, in their teaching on many aspects of life, such as pre-marital sexuality. Heelas and Woodhead argue that charismatic churches are closer to contemporary culture in the ways they are open to the ‘subjectivity’ of formation of the self in contemporary Western societies, and suggest that may explain their greater appeal to many younger people than the appeal of the mainstream churches. There are several dimensions to ministry, including, for example, contextual, substantive and essential, which may all relate to culture in different ways. The challenge for theology is to work out in which dimensions ministry should be cultural, in which it should be ‘counter-cultural’, and in which it should be seeking to transform the culture.

Juhani Ensio Tuovinen
Cultural Differences between Australian Denominations on Coming to Faith
In 2001 and 2006 church attendees in many denominations across Australia were surveyed about various aspects of coming to faith. Many substantial similarities and differences were found, such as the importance of various factors in bringing them to faith and the ages at which they came to faith. The results indicate that there are important cultural differences in the way coming to faith is understood and acted on in the various denominations. In this paper the empirical evidence from two national surveys will be considered, highlighting what the various denominations can learn from each other.

Graeme Vincent Flett
Visual Technologies within a Consumerist Culture
The use of visual technology is now a familiar medium of communication in most churches across New Zealand and Australia. Its accessibility and effectiveness in branding has had wide appeal especially to those leading large churches, who are eager to promote their identity, enlarge the size of their existing congregation(s), and expand influence within a consumerist-culture of lifestyle choices. Large Pentecostal churches are some of the most adept at utilising and absorbing these visual technologies, and do so, to great effect. This creates a level of vulnerability within Pentecostalism which largely goes unnoticed – the hidden absorption of a consumptive way of being. The pragmatism of its leaders to be relevant within this culture creates its own blind-spot. This quest for relevance tends to negate the need for theological critique and a robust process by which to evaluate various visual technologies thus allowing elements of secularity the scope to shape and re-shape congregational identity.

In this paper I discuss to what extent these visual technologies (an aberration of contemporary culture) are shaping a Pentecostal ecclesia and the behavioural patterns of its participants. A brief explanation of how images work is offered. This is followed by a case study of East Auckland Elim Christian Centre (EE) and its use of visual technologies. (EE is one of the largest churches in Auckland). The paper argues that while EE is very effective in communicating its identity and vision, its absorption of visual advertising practices (and thus of popular culture) makes it susceptible to the secular forces that run counter to the gospel, and may even in time, undermine the integrity of its own vision.

Andrew A. Groza
With the Curiosity of an Oddity from a Bygone Era: the Gospel and Our Culture Network (GOCN) conversation and its contribution to mission to the West
The Western church inhabits a post-Christian context, which is just as significant a mission field as any from a non-Western background. Not realising this fact will cause the church to perpetuate paradigms of self-understandings and models of mission that do not fit this new reality, thereby draining the church’s relevance for today. The Gospel and Our Culture Network (GOCN) have been addressing this issue for decades and the literature they have produced gives theological grounding for mission to the West. An exploration of their major tenets can help focus and reenergise the church’s self-understanding and motivation for mission. The effects of one such church that has sought to apply one of the central motifs spurred by the GOCN conversation reveals the benefit of this deep theological reflection.

Pastoral Reflections

Jeremy Weetman
In Praise of Pastors

Student Articles

Asanga De Costa
What is the preferred/dominant leadership/authority style that can be used as a tool that is both culturally appropriate and biblically justifiable, to identify and develop emerging leadership of Sri Lankan Pentecostal/modern church?

Theses Listing

Book Reviews

A New World Order?

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. An earlier version of it first appeared in a book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues Margaret Killingray and Helen Parry (published by BRF).

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:1-4

Pentecost was a harvest festival, when thankful worshippers would offer to God the firstfruits of their crops. Celebrated fifty days after Passover, coinciding with the giving of the law, it also became associated with the covenant made between the Lord and his people. The nation that was first constituted at Sinai, gathering together in Jerusalem to renew their relationship with God, is now, so many years later, reborn – the firstfruits of a new harvest – as God pours out his Spirit to ratify the new covenant.

Certainly, Peter is aware that something momentous has happened. His subsequent explanation ties together the ministry, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus with several passages from Scripture, notably God’s promise through Joel that ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people’ (Joel 2:28). Previously the Spirit was given only to special people, like kings and prophets, or only for specific tasks; now all of God’s people receive the Spirit – men and women, old and young – as part of God’s end-time renewal of all things. Pentecost marks the beginning of that era not in Moses giving the law, but in Jesus giving the Spirit – to ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord’ (Acts 2:21).

In fact, this is nothing less than the inauguration of a new world. It may remind us of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), but it is not necessarily a reversal of Babel – where the scattering reaffirms God’s original purpose for men and women to fill the whole earth. The basis of the unity of humankind is not found in the recovery of a single language, but in a people indwelt by the Spirit of God. If there is a reversal, it is that at Babel people want to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4) whereas at Pentecost they proclaim ‘the wonders of God’ (Acts 2:11). Many languages are spoken and all of them are fitting to praise God.

This fits with the international perspective of Acts. Jerusalem is full of Jews from all parts of the world, each with their own language and dialect. And they hear the great things of God spoken of in the vernacular tongues of their pagan neighbours – showing that what starts in Jerusalem will become a worldwide mission enabled by the Holy Spirit which will result in the worship of God to ‘the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Robert Plummer on Philemon 10-11

In the ever-helpful weekend video from Daily Dose of Greek, Robert L. Plummer looks at Paul’s play on Greek words meaning ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ in verses 10-11 of Philemon.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Bible Project on Leviticus, Romans, Holiness, and Covenants

The Bible Project is continuing to put together a series of helpful short videos, some of which introduce the structure and themes of biblical books, and others of which trace some major themes through the entire Bible.

I’ve just noticed the next Bible book videos have been made available, one on Leviticus, and two covering Romans.

In addition are two others that are new to me in the ‘Themes’ section, one on holiness and one on the covenants.

Check them out from here (click on ‘Videos’ or scroll down to the ‘Videos & Study Guides’ section).

Monday, 18 May 2015

Out of This World?

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. An earlier version of it first appeared in a book, Whole Life, Whole Bible: 50 Readings on Living in the Light of Scripture, written with LICC colleagues Margaret Killingray and Helen Parry (published by BRF).

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Luke 24:50-53

Christ’s ascension sometimes gets bundled with his resurrection rather than treated as an event in its own right. In fact, as the rhythm of the church’s calendar reminds us, they were separated by forty days. And it stands as significant, with Jesus’ ascension opening up a new era in God’s dealings with the world and with his people in the world.

At the very least, it means Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God, as Peter explains (Acts 2:33-36; 5:31), showing he is less interested in the ‘up-down’ mechanics of the event than he is with the status of his Lord – the ascension confirming him as the king, the fulfilment of God’s centuries-old promises to David.

Beyond this, lose the ascension and we lose the heavenly ministry of Jesus as our High Priest, his very presence with God providing intercession on our behalf, his finished work requiring no repetition or extension of any kind. Lose the ascension and we risk losing the comfort of hope – that one day our weak bodies will be like his glorious body, that the same Jesus who ascended will return as judge and king. And as a human being too – for he did not slip off his humanity to get on with the task of being the exalted Son of God, but has taken it into the very presence of God, wedding us to him for ever, reminding us once again of God’s commitment to restore us and his creation.

Meanwhile, the ascension does not mark the end of his work on earth, but the continuation of it through the church – a mission which can be carried out with confidence because of the position our master now occupies, with all places subject to his rule and all people subject to his oversight – including the places we inhabit and the people we encounter, even today.

As the ascended Lord, he lays claim not just to the church but to all realms of life. And his heavenly location redraws how we think about our ‘location’ – how we live in our earthly ‘spaces’ given the one from whom we take our bearing. Our lives are oriented around the reality of the risen and ascended Christ, his heavenly lordship investing today’s even apparently menial tasks with eternal significance.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Robert Plummer on Philemon 5

In the special weekend video from Daily Dose of Greek, Robert L. Plummer looks at an instance of chiasm in Philemon 5, not readily visible in the NIV of that verse – ‘because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus’ – but at least apparent in the Greek text.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Word & World 35, 2 (2015) on Posthuman Identity

The latest issue of Word & World is devoted to ‘Posthuman Identity’. The content (with main articles and abstracts as below) is available from here.


Frederick J. Gaiser
Corporate Personhood: A Posthuman Notion?


Thomas J. Jorgenson
Imagining the Nightmare: Empathy and Awareness in Post-Apocalyptic Young Adult Fiction
Contemporary young adult literature is often set in times of apocalypse or in dystopian societies, or both. These stories help their impressionable audience understand and learn to navigate the grey areas of being human that their brains are primed to grow into: understanding oneself, understanding other people, and understanding that right and wrong are not so simple as black and white. Pastors and teachers need to know this literature in order to know their young people.

Brent Waters
Is Technology the New Religion?
Transhumanists and posthumanists are in the initial stages of mythmaking, and any mythology inevitably has strong religious connotations. In broad outline, the themes of this emerging myth are strikingly similar to those of its Christian counterpart. Through technology, humans will be saved from their finitude and mortality. The chief difference lies in reversing the linchpin of this narrative: turning flesh into data displaces the Word made flesh.

Steven J. Kraftchick
Plac’d on this Isthmus of a Middle State: Reflections on Psalm 8 and Human Becoming
What does it mean now to be human? Pondering this question cannot occur only in the halls and vestibules of churches and classrooms of seminaries. It must also take place through conversations with those inside and outside the walls of communities of belief. To the extent that trans- and posthumanists are asking questions about the human being and its role in constructing and caring for the world, we should join them.

Roger A. Willer
Posthumanism’s Morality and ELCA Social Teaching
While there should be openness to some of the intentions and outcomes conceived as posthuman, it is clear that the generally understood principles of posthuman morality are woefully inadequate at this time. Posthuman adherents need to think much more deeply and broadly toward a substantive, justifiable framework that could provide the necessary moral guidance for their unprecedented efforts.

Tim Hutchings
Real Virtual Community
Virtual community can be real community. An example is the Church of Fools (now St Pixels), launched as an experiment eleven years ago, meant to last but three months. However, that experiment created a congregation that is still alive today, one in which people carry on public discussions with sufficient human feelings to form webs of personal relationships online.

Clint Schnekloth
The Humanity of Posts
Whereas humanism prioritizes human experiences over things, some posthumanist theory prioritizes things themselves. Thus the question of the humanity of posts (the wooden ones). What is the identity or experience of a post, and how shall we account for it in a posthumanist manner that informs theological commitments?

Erik Leafblad and Andrew Root
Youth and the Posthuman: Personhood, Transcendence, and Siri
When everything gets turned into a technology, and existence is about practical mastery, the mystery of being is buried and everything is made an object, blurring the lines between human personhood and other technological objects.

Face to Face

Jon Anderson
Virtual Community? A Gift to Be Nourished

Bill Holmes
Virtual Community? The Absence of Presence

Texts in Context

Frederick J. Gaiser
Not Safe, but Good: Preaching a Holy God in a Time of Terror
The biblical texts appointed for Trinity Sunday proclaim a holy God. This might be just what we need to confront the significant terrors of the world around us.

The 2014-2015 Word & World Lecture

John Swinton
Time, Hospitality, and Belonging: Towards a Practical Theology of Mental Health
Mental health problems are unique experiences that occur in the lives of irreplaceable individuals who have their own unique stories, histories, dreams, and desires; people who are deeply loved by God, and whom God desires God’s church to love without boundaries. People’s stories may be changed by their encounter with mental health problems but they are not defined by them.

Book Reviews

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Michael J. Gorman on Becoming the Gospel

Michael J. Gorman, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015).

I took delivery of Michael Gorman’s most-recent book a couple of days ago, having had it on order for quite a while – which is indicative of how much I’ve been looking forward to it.

I’ve not yet had a moment to crack it open, but am eagerly looking forward to doing so, particularly having just seen an entry at EerdWord in which he responds to a couple of questions about the book.

Eerdmans describe the book as ‘the first detailed exegetical treatment of Paul’s letters from the emerging discipline of missional hermeneutics’.

He summarises:

‘In Becoming, I take a new look at several of Paul’s letters from the perspective of participation in Christ, and therefore in the life of God, as being inherently missional. In fact, I suggest that theosis, rather than being anti-mission as some might think, is the proper framework for mission because participating in the life of God means participating in the mission of God. And that means taking on the missional traits of God: faithfulness, love, peaceableness, justice, and so on.’

For those who might not be able to make it through the book, there is an earlier indication of the type of content to be expected in a short article here.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Business as Usual?

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

The swirl of interest and activity surrounding a general election is matched in Christian circles with publications and postings on voting wisely, with the organisation of hustings for the quizzing of local candidates, with prayers for good government, and more besides. And rightly so.

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

The campaign from Christians in Politics has been enormously helpful in reminding us not just to ‘show up’ on the day to vote, but to ‘show up’ in daily life too. Not only are many Christians on the frontline in the world of politics itself, but politics affects us all, wherever we find ourselves – the teacher in the classroom, the cleaner in the hospital, the parent in the home.

So, not just the world of politics, but of education, business, economics, media, arts, law, health, family – spheres which can be influenced by the presence of Christians within them, more than we might imagine, as we build relationships, seek justice, make a gracious stand for the truth, be a messenger of the gospel. And we do so not merely as a useful means for getting what we want, but as that which flows out of our love for God and neighbour.

The guiding vision for such a posture is the New Testament’s portrayal of the cosmic Lord Jesus Christ, who created all things, who will one day redeem all things, and who calls us – as those in whom the end-time reconciliation of all things has begun – to live as signposts to that future even now. Yes, now. And yes, the teacher, the cleaner, the parent, me, you.

So, let’s not lose the momentum generated by the election, however we feel about its final outcome. Let’s pray for the Government and for our local MPs – by name. Let’s ask trusted people in our churches to help us think through issues from a Christian perspective. Let’s inform MPs of matters that concern us – not simply the narrow range of topics where people expect us to speak out, but on other things too – austerity, education, health, unemployment, environment, immigration. Let’s get involved where we’re able to do so. And let’s recognise that the best changes will be brought about by demonstrating through our lives that there is a better way to do business as usual.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Credo Magazine 5, 1 (2015)

The current issue of Credo has been out for a little while, this one devoted to ‘By the Book: How Well Do You Know the Bible?’

The magazine is available to read here, from where a 43.8 MB pdf of the whole issue can also be downloaded.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Theos Report on the Magna Carta

The latest report from Theos has just been published:

Here’s the summary blurb:

‘The popular story of the Magna Carta – of rebel barons forcing the hand of the tyrannical King John – is well known. But what is often lost in the tale of Bad King John is the crucial role played by Christianity in the formation and preservation of “The Great Charter of the Liberties of England”. Despite their importance to the history of the Magna Carta, neither the practical contribution of the church, nor the principled contribution of Christian theology, have received much attention beyond relatively small academic circles.

The Church and the Charter puts these forgotten Christian contributions right back at the heart of the Magna Carta’s story. In exploring the difficult historical relationship between the religious and secular authorities in England, it assesses how and why the church helped place certain limits on the powers of the English monarch. In practical terms, it demonstrates the role played by the ‘new Becket’, Archbishop Stephen Langton, who was so crucial to both the emergence and the survival of the 1215 Magna Carta.

‘More significantly, however, it explores the ideological relationship between Christian theology and the most celebrated of the ideas that came to be enshrined in the Magna Carta – ideas about the importance of due process, the legitimation of arbitration in the affairs of the king, and the extension of rights language to all free men. It argues that these were notions rooted, not in secular thought, but in a medieval theology that had been profoundly affected by the development of canon law.

‘In the year in which we mark its 800th anniversary, The Church and the Charter shows that the Magna Carta is a document shaped by the history of religious thought, just as much as it is an expression of ‘secular’ demands. And it deserves to be remembered and celebrated as such – as a seminal document in the development of political thought that owes a great debt to both the political clout of the English church, and to the ideological reflections of Christian theology.’

A pdf of the full report is available here.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Journal of Biblical Counseling 29, 1 (2015)

The latest issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling is now available ($12 for a year’s electronic subscription of three issues), this one containing the following pieces:

From the Editor’s Desk

David Powlison
More Than a Proof Text
David Powlison introduces our new column: “More Than a Proof Text.” These short articles demonstrate how a Scripture passage becomes a personalized message, how ministry engages a person. These are not Bible studies. Though careful study and accurate exposition reside in the background, these articles illustrate ministry happening in the foreground. Each connects the dots between a person’s complex struggles and a simple truth that bids to rearrange that person’s reality in a vivid and relevant way.

Featured Articles

Jayne V. Clark
Struggling through Singleness
Many single brothers and sisters in the church long for the companionship and friendship of marriage. In this article, Jayne Clark offers her hard-won wisdom on what it looks like to wrestle well with the Lord about the desire for marriage. Along the way, Clark clears up the meaning of the familiar phrase “the gift of singleness” and why marriage is not the answer to loneliness. 

Darby Strickland
Entitlement: When Expectations Go Toxic
A sense of entitlement is a serious problem that can plague relationships. Darby Strickland shows how a person’s self-centered desires can become adamant, rigid demands that destroy love and mutuality. She identifies the key beliefs of an entitled person, provides a biblical framework for understanding the problem, and offers counseling strategies to help bring the entitled person to a renewed relationship with Christ and others. 

Ed Welch
How to Talk with Someone about Sin
Though we tend to avoid talking with others about their sin, God has called us to encourage one another by speaking the truth in love. Ed Welch prepares us to move toward fellow sinners graciously by examining ourselves, learning to see the good in others, and acknowledging hard circumstances. He then gets specific about how to engage with people directly and winsomely. 

David Powlison
Ten Questions to Ask before Starting a Counseling Ministry in Your Church
This article is for church leaders who are thinking about starting a counseling ministry. Rather than a “how to” guide, Powlison offers ten questions to help a church gain a better understanding of itself and its context. Each question is followed by a short discussion that further orients leaders as to what to consider before moving forward.


Matthew C. Mitchell
Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?: Four Reasons to Read about the Rape of Tamar
Adapting a sermon he preached on this passage, Mitchell walks us through the violent and shameful details of 2 Samuel 13. These include evil scheming, rape, murder, a banished son and a passive king. It’s easy to want to avoid this story, but there are good and important reasons why it is in the Bible.

Counselor’s Toolbox

Lauren Whitman
More Than a Proof Text: “You Are Dust – And God Gets That”
Have you ever thought to use Psalm 103:13–14 to encourage those who struggle with perfectionism? Probably not. But Lauren Whitman shows how these verses can comfort and motivate by bringing home how we are inanimate dust – always in need of animating power from outside ourselves. This reality evokes a joyful dependency.

Michael Gembola
More Than a Proof Text: “Men – Treat Women as Sisters”
There are many passages in Scripture that speak against sexual lust, but Michael Gembola uses 1 Timothy 5:2 to recast the vision for how men are to view women. By tapping into the power of a God-given incest taboo, Gembola offers hope to men that, in Christ, they are able to view women as they would female family members.