Saturday, 30 September 2017

Encounters 47 (September 2017) on Hospitality and Mission

After a four-year hiatus, Encounters, a mission journal from Redcliffe College, has just been relaunched.

Out twice a year, and featuring ‘articles from Redcliffe faculty, as well as drawing on a wide range of missiologists and mission practitioners from around the world’, Encounters ‘aims to stimulate and resource the global missions community and provide a space for those involved in mission to express and exchange their views on a variety of contemporary issues’.

The new issue contains several articles looking ‘at the vibrant interplay between hospitality and mission’. Individual pieces can be accessed here, and the whole issue is available as a pdf here.

Archived editions of Encounters can be downloaded from here.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Eternal Light

During a long car journey recently, I listened to some talks on 1 John by D.A. Carson. At one point he cited the below hymn, which I haven’t sung for over 30 years, but whose richness I still cherish:

Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live and look on Thee.

The spirits that surround Thy throne
May bear the burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.

Oh, how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my natural spirit bear
The uncreated beam?

There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode;
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit’s energies,
An Advocate with God.

These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above;
The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell in the eternal light,
Through the eternal Love.

Thomas Binney (1798-1874)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

9Marks Journal (Fall 2017) on The Reformation and Your Church

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available from here in various formats and here as a pdf, is devoted to the topic of ‘The Reformation and Your Church’.

In the Editor’s Note, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘We asked our contributors to consider the Reformation’s relevance specifically to the local church and the pastor. Why should pastors care? Take a look at D.A. Carson’s piece. What does it have to do with expositional preaching, evangelism, church discipline, church authority more broadly, the ordinances, even pastoral counseling? There are articles on each of these topics, too.

‘There is, of course, a danger in idealizing the past. Brad Littlejohn’s piece offers a crucial warning. But there might be a greater danger in forgetting it altogether...

‘Start, therefore, with Stephen Nichols’ piece. It takes you back in time, and lets you imagine what you might have heard in church the Sunday before Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenberg Door...

‘Then ask yourself how you might teach your congregation about the Reformation... How are you equipping your church with knowledge of the wisdom and folly of the past? If you haven’t been doing this, I’m excited about the wonderful stories and truths your church still gets to learn from those who came before us – like hearing a great symphony for the first time!’

John Van Sloten on Work

John Van Sloten, Every Job a Parable: What Farmers, Nurses and Astronauts Tell Us About God (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2017).

I was asked to write a commendation for the above book – and was happy to do so. Now that the book is out, I’ve pasted the commendation below. It doesn’t really count as a review, but it hopefully provides a flavour of what to expect if this is a topic that interests you.

‘You’ll meet people you know in these pages – electricians, landlords, mechanics, accountants, nurses, hairdressers – and you might even recognise yourself. You’ll certainly see yourself differently – as a human being, as a worker, as someone through whom God’s grace becomes visible in daily life. What do our everyday jobs, even the apparently most mundane, reveal about God? John Van Sloten brings with him a pastor’s heart, an array of real-life examples, and a capacity to spot God’s presence in even the most unlikely of places. Journeying with him through the book provides a way of learning to do the same.’

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Worship of God in the Whole of Life

I contributed this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s a lightly-edited rerun of one I wrote back in 2015.

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Deuteronomy 10:12-13

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being...’
In a loud voice they were saying:
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!’
Revelation 4:11 and 5:12

It should come as no surprise that the Lord of the whole of life requires worship in the whole of life. In the Old Testament, we see it in regulations that touch on every aspect of daily existence, in psalms which embrace the highs and lows and everything in between, in prophets who call for justice and mercy as well as sacrifice and singing. As Deuteronomy 10:12-13 captures it, all of life was to be an expression of service to the Lord.

That’s completely in line with what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 – where bodies, minds and wills are offered back to God – reminding us that the Old and New Testaments stand together on the necessity of whole-life worship. Across Scripture, acceptable worship is not simply a matter of praising God in music and singing, or of participating enthusiastically in rites and ceremonies; it involves honouring, serving, and revering God in every sphere of life.

And it all flows out of his grace towards us. The biblical story from beginning to end allows us to trace the acts of God on behalf of the people of God and our response to the Lord in worship.

In the book of Revelation, John sees a door standing open in heaven. He’s given a vision of reality from God’s perspective. For the small and weak communities of believers scattered around the Roman empire, John sees that the true account of the world is revealed not only in the Creator God who reigns over all things, but in the Christ crucified who redeems all things.

The worship that John witnesses nourishes our identity and mission as the body of Christ – because it’s focused above all on Christ himself, who is uniquely qualified to bring to pass God’s redemptive purposes in the world. The scope of what God might be pleased to do through us in our everyday lives, even this day, is rooted in what God has done, is doing, and will do for us and for all creation.

So, John’s vision of worship becomes a call to worship, an expression of allegiance in a world of competing allegiances, a way of declaring who’s really in charge, as we allow our worship of God and the Lamb to permeate everything we think and say and do, and invite others to do the same.

Friday, 22 September 2017

James K.A. Smith on Awaiting the King

It will come as no surprise to some visitors to this blog that I have greatly appreciated the work of James K.A. Smith over the years (see here, here, here, here, here, and here), nor that I am looking forward to the imminent release of the third volume in his ‘Cultural Liturgies’ project – Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017) – looking at how worship shapes us as citizens of the King.

There’s more information about the book here, and a series of 10 short videos here in which he talks about the book, its emphases, and its relationship with other parts of his work.

He describes the book as a remix of Augustine and Oliver O’Donovan, nourished by his location in the Reformed (especially Kuyperian) tradition, but also pushing back on that tradition by making the church more central in how we think about our political witness.

In line with the earlier volumes in this series, and with Smith’s work elsewhere, he describes citizens as ‘lovers’, not just rational information processors. Our public and political life is caught up in dynamics of desire and formation. If we want to judge the character of a people, we have to discern what they love. The book is a liturgical analysis of what we worship politically, and what we are being trained to love when we step into those places as Christians.

We are, he says, to be a people whose political vision is animated by a vision of the King who is coming. For Smith, this means learning to walk a line between quietism and activism. We’re not just sitting around, not caring our shared public life; we’re waiting for the King. But nor are we activists in the sense that we think we’re going to bring the end about. We wait actively. We are caught up in what God is doing in the world, and the formative practices of the church shape us as a people who then shape the world.

In this sense, Smith hopes the book will recalibrate our posture towards public life, and he makes some helpful comments in this respect on steering between what he sees as the dangers of the ‘court evangelicals’ (those cosying up to power) and the Benedict Option.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Southwestern Journal of Theology 59, 2 (2017) on Faith, Work, and Economics

The latest volume of the Southwestern Journal of Theology contains the below essays on the theme of ‘Faith, Work, and Economics’. Here’s an excerpt from the opening editorial:

‘[M]any Christians find themselves thinking of faith as a weekend endeavor and not something applicable to the whole of life. This is understandable if one thinks of the Christian life as existing only when one is gathered for religious events. The remaining time of the week must be for something else – something other than religion. However, if one considers Christianity as a whole-life faith endeavor, more than Sunday is in mind. Christianity then becomes something that is an everyday occurrence. If this is the case then work – what most people spend their time doing – must be a part of that lived-out faith. This raises the question, does the Bible actually speak to this concept of whole-life Christianity? The answer to that question is a resounding yes and the articles that follow are engaged with the broader question of what does the Bible say about faith, work, and economics.’

David W. Baker
Are Business People the Bad Guys? Person and Property in the Pentateuch

John S. Bergsma
The Year of Jubilee and the Ancient Israelite Economy

Eric Mitchell
Limited Government and Taxation in the Old Testament

Edd S. Noell
Land Grabs, Unjust Exchange, and Bribes: Economic Opportunism and the Rights of the Poor in Ancient Israel

John Taylor
Labor of Love: The Theology of Work in First and Second Thessalonians

Thomas W. Davis
The Business Secrets of Paul of Tarsus

The entire issue is available as a pdf here.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Lausanne Global Analysis 6, 4 (July 2017)

July’s issue of Lausanne Global Analysis, from The Lausanne Movement, is available online from here, including pdf downloads.

In the issue overview, editor David Taylor writes:

‘In this issue we examine how the 2011 Japan earthquake transformed gospel understanding in Japanese churches; we consider how to reach Muslims through music, drawing on bridge-building lessons from Pakistan; we address the challenge of  ‘fake news’ and its impact on Christian witness in today’s post-truth society; and, in the light of his first 100 days in office, we ask what the ‘Trump Effect’ means for the church and mission.’

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Knowing and Doing (Fall 2017)

The Fall 2017 edition of Knowing & Doing – ‘A Teaching Quarterly for Discipleship of Heart and Mind’ – from the C.S. Lewis Institute is now available online (from here), and contains the following articles:

Joel Woodruff
President’s Letter – From Black and White to the Wonderful World of Color
In this President’s Letter, C.S. Lewis Institute President Joel S. Woodruff shares highlights of the new features and layout of our quarterly Knowing & Doing publication.

David George Moore
Where’s Waldo?
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a gifted nineteenth century American writer who helped launch a movement of sorts called transcendentalism, in which the individual supplanted religious traditions and institutions. David George Moore argues that while Emerson’s work isn’t well known among Americans, his influence on our lives is incalculable. In this article, he offers suggestions for how Christians can address the ongoing challenges posed by Emersonian philosophy.

Michael Ward
The Good Serves the Better and Both the Best: C.S. Lewis on Imagination and Reason in Christian Apologetics Part 2 of 3
In Part 2 of this article, Michael Ward continues his examination of some of the groundwork to the thinking of C.S. Lewis that enabled him to become so effective an apologist.

Gregory Ganssle
The Christian Story and Our Longing for Relationship
According to Gregory Ganssle, the Christian story makes sense of our deepest longings. That is, the story that Christianity sets forth fits well with the things we value most and with the kinds of people we want to be. In this article, he develops one aspect of this fittingness, the centrality of relationships to our well-being.

Robert Saucy
Born to Grow: Moving Beyond Forgiveness to an Abundant Life
Robert Saucy observes that the message of Scripture is that our life in Christ is more than the forgiveness of sins, more than the escape from God’s condemnation, but a new way to live, a new source of zest that thirsts and hungers for more. In this article, he explains that spiritual growth is a process, and Scripture gives light to the means of growth and the dynamic operations of these means.

Randy Newman
Introducing: “A Book Observed: An Online ‘Old Book’ Club” (An Interactive Feature from Knowing & Doing)
In this article, Randy Newman introduces a new, regular interactive feature from Knowing & Doing to help readers benefit from reading the great “old books.” The feature is called “A Book Observed: An Online ‘Old Book’ Club”. He also offers some thoughts on the question: Why read the great old books?

Randy Newman
An Encouragement to Read Jonathan Edwards’s The Religious Affections: How Sweet It Is!
In a culture where Christians are affected by fragmentation and compartmentalization, Randy Newman argues that getting “back to the Bible” means pursuing a holistic vision for what it means to be human and what that looks like in every way. Then, we will love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. To help us do this, he recommends reading Jonathan Edwards’s classic The Religious Affections (1746). Edwards wanted his hearers and readers to know that just having an opinion about God or believing the right propositions about God doesn’t make one a Christian. Saving faith must be felt as well as understood.

John Chrysostom (350 – 407 AD)
The Importance of Daily Scripture Reading From the Sermon, “On Lazarus”
An inspiring classic sermon from the pulpit of John Chrysostom that we hope will be a blessing to you.

Richard Baxter (1615 – 1691)
Lord, It Belongs Not to My Care
In each issue of Knowing & Doing we include a poem as part of our desire to promote discipleship of the heart and mind. Poems stir affection, inspire devotion and stimulate emotions. No wonder the Scriptures contains so many of them! And by the way, C.S. Lewis loved poetry.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Centre for Public Christianity (September 2017)

Among other interesting items, the Centre for Public Christianity has posted a video interview with Sarah Williams (from Regent College in Vancouver) on ‘Life or Death’, in which she describes how 20 weeks into her third pregnancy she and her husband received the devastating news that their baby was not ‘viable’.

Also posted is an audio interview with Sarah on ‘The Story of Gender’, looking at the history of gender, how we’ve arrived at the understandings we have today, and the key roles that the Bible and Christianity have played in gender equality and women’s rights movements.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Just Thinking 25, 4 (2017)

The current issue of Just Thinking, the magazine of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, was recently posted online. The magazine is available to view from here, from where it can also be downloaded as a pdf.