Wednesday, 28 February 2007
I want to plug this event being held at Manchester Cathedral on Wednesday March 14th at 7.30 p.m. admission free:
Reversing the Curse of Racism: The Apostle Paul, the Black Pulpit, and International Reparations
Dr Brad R Braxton
Given as part of this year's Bray Lectureship Tour organised by USPG and SPCK
The writings of St Paul have been criticised by some as offering support for slavery, patriarchy and sexism – and, as a consequence, black preachers in particular have avoided using Paul’s letters to challenge social oppression.
But at a series of public lectures in March, the black American theologian Dr Brad R Braxton will argue that Paul’s letters contain a great deal of material that can be used to tackle racism.
Dr Braxton has been invited to put forward his ideas as part of the Bray Lectureship tour, which is organised every two years by USPG and SPCK in honour of the Revd Dr Thomas Bray, who founded the two societies 300 years ago.
The theme for Dr Braxton’s lecture tour – entitled Reversing the Curse of Racism: The Apostle Paul, the Black Pulpit, and International Reparations – has been chosen to coincide with this year’s bicentenary of William Wilberforce’s Act of Parliament to abolish the British slave trade.
Dr Braxton is Associate Professor of Homiletics and New Testament at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Brad is a good friend of mine and a compelling preacher and speaker. Please come along to support him if you are in Manchester on that date.
I have been meaning to mention Marilynne Robinson's astonishing novel for a while now. I finished reading it in December with that sense of loss that the completion of some books provokes in me (the last was, like Gilead, a Pulitzer prize winning novel, Michael Cunningham's The Hours.)
Of course, Gilead connected with me because the central figure is a dissenting minister. John Ames belongs to a bygone age, but his sense of calling, vocation and duty are timeless and his vision of what ministry can be, both poignant and compelling. Here is Ames, reflecting on his sleepless nights:
'In the old days I could walk down every single street, past every house, in about an hour. I'd try to remember the people who lived in each one, and whatever I knew about them, which was often quite a lot. . . . And I'd pray for them. And I'd imagine peace they didn't expect and couldn't account for descending on their illness or their quarreling or their dreams. Then I'd go into the church and pray some more and wait for daylight. I've often been sorry to see a night end, even while I have loved seeing the dawn come.' (p.81)
But more than this, it is Ames' perception of the beauty in the world; a beauty that is not merely the breaking in of divine light from heaven, but which is utterly inherent in the world in all its worldliness. Here is just one, exquisitely beautiful, quotation:
'I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know all this is mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can't believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition or mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity, this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don't imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.' (p.65)
The other thing Ames does when he can't sleep is read Barth, and it shows:
'When this old sanctuary is full of silence and prayer, every book Karl Barth ever will write would not be a feather in the scales against it from the point of view of profundity, and I would not believe in Barth's own authenticity if I did not believe he would know and recognize the truth of that, and honor it, too.' (p.197)
I am not sure if I can think of a more authentic Christian voice in recent literature than that of the Revd John Ames.
For those who haven't seen them, two further sets of propositions by Kim Fabricius have been posted over at Faith and Theology
The propositions on ecumenism include the statement that: "There are, of course, limits to acceptable diversity, but I would suggest that they lie within the parameters of: (a) a common baptism, (b) a Trinitarian confession of faith, and (c) a belief in Christ crucified and risen as Lord and Saviour. All else, I suggest, is adiaphora – particularly matters of polity. Moreover, it would be unreasonable to expect more agreement between our churches than we accept within our churches." The concerns that Baptists have over the language of 'common baptism' are perhaps not as well known as they ought to be, and the possibility of mutual recognition of journeys of inititation, rather than moments within those journeys has still to take deeper root within ecumenical discourse. The force of Kim's description of 'parameters' is to exclude those from a baptistic tradition who struggle to recognize infant baptism as baptism from the ecumenical journey within which such a recognition might eventually be reached.
As I have posted previously, I am due to give the Whitley Lecture here at Luther King House in Manchester next Tuesday, March 6th. Coffee will be available from 7.00 p.m., Lecture at 7.30 p.m. with a 9.00 p.m. finish. All are welcome.
However, if there is anyone out there reading this who is planning to come or who knows others who might be coming, could you please let me know numbers asap. We need to make sure we have a room that will be of approximately the right size.
What I love about NT studies (and what is true here is perhaps true of any academic discourse) is way in which meticulously detailed study of the texts, using all of the technical skills that one possesses, many years of hard work, the full range of scholarly resources - all this can result in the ability to say things in a relatively simple and straightforward way, such that people who have not studied the texts in the same detail can nonetheless grasp the issues and understand the implications of what one has said. Much of my teaching is a combination of (a) saying a few things simply, in such a way that the group can understand what I am claiming and why it is important and (b) showing how those few simple statements are in fact rooted in detailed work with the primary and secondary sources. Whether I succeed is a moot point. But as an illustration consider these two posts on the Synoptic Problem. One is written by Brandon Wason, and gives detailed information on the way that Luke has used Mark. The second is by Mark Goodacre (who like one of his mentors, Michael Goulder, seems to hold much of this kind of detailed information in his head) describing the Synoptic Problem in 8 Easy Steps.
Furthermore, I think that good preaching combines these two elements. I often think that those who know the most and have worked the hardest, preach the simplest. Complicated preaching is often the result of inadequate understanding and/or preparation.
Notification has just arrived from SAGE. Articles include:
Communion, Unity and Primacy: An Anglican Response to Ut Unum Sint
Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Ut Unum Sint, published in 1995, was immediately recognized as a document of fundamental importance for ecumenism. John Paul II clearly and unequivocally renewed the Roman Catholic Church’s commitment to the ecumenical movement and invited leaders and theologians of other churches to engage with the Roman Catholic Church in patient and fraternal dialogue on the issue of the Petrine offices. A decade later this lecture reviews official Anglican responses to the Pope’s initiative and sets out issues which Anglicans need to address and explore.
Authority to Teach in Classical Anglicanism
Anglicanism currently finds itself embroiled in a variety of ‘controversies of Faith’ that individually and together threaten to split the Communion - and most of these concern questions of teaching and authority: who within Anglicanism has authority to teach what, and why? In this situation one naturally looks back on the tradition to seek how an understanding of the past may inform the present. The following paper does so by considering the concept of authority in the foundational period of ‘Anglicanism’, namely from the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England to the denominational ‘invention’ of Anglicanism after 1829. It discovers there three interrelated principles of an Anglican understanding of authority, which are briefly summarized after some remarks about how to use conclusions of papers such as this - and how not to.
The Praxis of Inculturation for Mission: Roberto de Nobili’s Example and Legacy
This article investigates inculturation in the twentieth century in relation to the example and practice of the seventeenth-century Jesuit missionary Roberto de Nobili. Monastic and liturgical attempts at inculturation in South India are examined as well as the critique offered by Dalit Theology. There are four sections: (1) Outline and analysis of the practice of de Nobili, and its theological basis in the seventeenth century. (2) Analysis of the parallels between the praxis of de Nobili and various Christian sannyasi in the twentieth century, e.g. Savarirayan Jesudason, Ernest Forrester-Paton, Jack Winslow, Abhishiktananda, Bede Griffiths and Francis Acharya. (3) Evaluation of the practice, and its theological basis, of these sannyasi and other religious leaders in South India. (4) Investigation of the critique of Dalit Theology of these practices, and possible outcomes for future practice e.g. in relation to inter-religious dialogue.
A Practical Church Unity within Secular Hospitals
Ecclesial unity among Christian physicians is jeopardized by the culture of secular medicine. The medical context, rather than being a neutral sphere, has increasingly become a context that cuts loose and reshapes church members into a secular ecclesia. This thesis is demonstrated through focus groups composed of Christian physician-residents within Harvard Medical School residency programs. The interviews describe how many Christian physicians are psychologically isolated and spiritually endangered because of compliance to secular expectations within academic teaching hospitals. In contrast, the key to undoing secular atomization stems from the nature of the church as a people gathered in the presence of Christ. Thus, the essay develops an ecclesiology that focuses on the manifestation of unity in its local relationships and embodied practices. Despite severe time constraints, Christian physicians have the opportunity to reconstitute a unified church within the secular by pursuing one another in love and offering tangible signs of solidarity.
Monday, 05 February 2007
I have had the clipping to this link for a while now, but for those who haven't see it...
MP3 recordings of the Durham NT Seminar in 2005 are available from the Durham website. The focus is largely on Romans 9-11 and other Pauline texts, but a highlight is clearly the recordings of an extensive conversation between Jimmy Dunn and Tom Wright on Jesus and Paul. Here are the listings for the two terms worth of recordings, but note not all of the sessions were satisfactorily recorded.
Dr. William R. Telford
"Has God Rejected His People?: Jews and Judaism in the Thought of Paul (Romans 9-11)"
Professor John M.G. Barclay
"Philo and Paul on Election and Grace (Legum Allegoriae 3.77-96; Romans 9.6-18)"
Note: Due to technical difficulties, Professor Barclay's actual presentation was not recorded, though the discussion that followed was captured.
An English translation of Philo's Legum Allegoriae. Scroll (about 1/3 of the way) down to XXIV. (77) to begin reading the relevant material.
Professor Robert C. Hayward
"Jewish Perspectives on Paul's Statements about Israel in Romans 9"
Dr. R. Walter L. Moberly
"Jeremiah and the Potter (with a View to Romans 9)"
Rt. Rev. Dr. N.T. Wright
"Further Thoughts on Romans 10"
Gary Griffith (final year postgraduate)
"A Smorgasbord of Grace: Paul's Use of Charis in 2 Corinthians 8-9"
Professor Francis Watson (University of Aberdeen)
"Scripture and Self-definition in Romans 9-10 and the Damascus Document "
Professor Watson's handout.
An English translation of the Damascus Document.
Dr. Richard Bell (University of Nottingham):
"Paul and the hardening of Israel"
Dr. Wendy Sproston North (formerly of Hull University)
“'The Jews' in John’s Gospel: Observations and Inferences"
Professor Loren Stuckenbruck (University of Durham)
"Does Romans 9.1-5 have an 'afterlife' in 9.6ff?"
Professor Joel Marcus (Duke University Divinity School)
"Crucifixion as Parodic Exultation"
Dr. Angus Paddison (University of Gloucester)
"Karl Barth on Romans 9-11"
Professor John Riches (formerly University of Glasgow)
"The End of the Law in Galatians: Readings in the HIstory of Interpretation"
Professor Philip Esler (University of St. Andrews)
"Reflections on Romans 9-11 in the light of Conflict and Identity in Romans (Fortress, 2003)"
The first delivery of the Whitley Lecture was last Wednesday at Bristol. It went well: about 40 present, including old friends and many new faces, made up largely of ministerial students from Bristol and Cardiff Baptist Colleges. The lecture was slightly too long (this will be altered the next time I present it), but there was good interaction after it and we went well over our allotted time. Among the questions that, for me, generated further reflection were:
- have I underestimated the extent to which interpretation is bound up with issues of power, not least at the level of the local church? (Answer: I possibly have in the lecture, although I make comments in it that address this point and developed on them in my comments)
- does my thesis mean that 'anything goes' and that there is no prospect for agreement or convergence in interpretation (answer, no its doesn't mean that, but addressing these concerns is a lengthy and complex task and my focus is inevitably on the fact and legitimacy of interpretive difference, given the assumptions about the nature of interpretation that prevail in our churches). There was a nice historical point here noting that by starting with the General Baptists I am in danger of suggesting that the doctrinal move to Unitarianism was OK (the irony of discussing this point in the institution partly responsible for the development of Evangelical Calvinism was not lost on me).
- do we need to be more radical about re-thinking Sunday worship and especially preaching? Yes, we probably do and I confessed to feeling caught here between the desire for churches to be places of genuine plurality and my belief in preaching as proclamation. I still hope to think that this is a creative tension.
- did I use too many long words?: yeh but..no but...yeh but...
Incidentally, the day after returning i picked off my copy of AKMA's book Faithful Interpretation off the shelves, and found to my delight that he is articulating a similar vision, in rather more sophisticated terms. The chapter on Integral v Differential Hermeneutics is right on the mark.
I had a conversation today in which I was asked if I felt that there was potential for the ideas in the lecture to really make a difference to the ways in which we as Baptists understand and talk about the whole interpretive task. I have my doubts. But thanks to Bristol for giving me the opportunity to give a first airing to these ideas.