Tuesday, 27 September 2005
The latest issue of Biblica is available online. The abstracts for the NT related articles are as follows:
- Karl Olav SANDNES, «Whence and Whither. A Narrative Perspective on Birth a!nwqen (John 3,3-8)» , Vol. 86(2005) 153-173.
- In John 3 birth a!nwqen is illustrated by the wind. Its effect can be experienced without knowledge of from whence it comes and whither it goes. This analogy asserts both the reality and the mysterious nature of the wind. John 3,8 is, however, not exhausted by this analogy. John 3,3-8 belongs within an epistemological pattern found throughout this Gospel: like is known by like. The mysterious and enigmatic nature of Jesus’ identity sheds light on the "whence and whither" of John 3,8. Christology thus becomes a key to understand the mysterious nature of faith.
- Samuel BÉNÉTREAU, «Évangile et prophétie. Un texte original (1 P 1,10-12) peut-il éclairer un texte difficile (2 P 1,16-21)?» , Vol. 86(2005) 174-191.
- It is commonly agreed that the Second Epistle of Peter evinces a knowledge of the First Epistle of Peter (cf 2 P 3,1), but the degree of the influence upon the Second Epistle is assessed differently. This study endeavours to show that the difficult text of 2 P 1,16-21, in which the witness of the apostles is associated with the "prophetic word", becomes clearer and more coherent when a connection is set with 1 P 1,10-12.
- Kevin B. McCRUDEN, «Judgment and Life for the Lord: Occasion and Theology of Romans 14,1–15,13» , Vol. 86(2005) 229-244.
- This article explores Paul’s discussion concerning the strong and the weak in Rom 14,1–15,13. My thesis is that Paul’s comments in this section of the letter function neither completely as a response to an actual problem in Rome, nor as entirely general paraenesis. Rather, Paul’s comments function simultaneously on both a situational and non-situational level. Considering that specific concerns over food were likely operative in the Roman congregation, Paul employs non-specific language in this section in order to espouse a larger theological vision of the essential unity of Jew and Gentile under God’s salvation in Christ.
For those who haven't already heard about this, the Faith and Unity Department (under the leadership of its Worship Co-ordinator, Simon Perry) are providing a new resource for intercessory prayer. Here is the blurb from the BUGB website:
A vital part of worship is a commitment to pray for our world and for those in need. The ministry of intercession is a calling from God, but one that demands much of us. In order to help resource our churches, the Faith and Unity Department is now seeking to provide a page of prayers of intercession for use each month on our website. There will be a mixture of prayers – some designed for use on special designated Sundays of the year, some fitting in with the liturgical calendar, and others picking up on events in the news. You can find these prayers of intercession by going to the Worship Initiatives section of the Faith and Unity page.
September's .pdf file contains a prayer for refugees and a prayer for Harvest. This has the potential to be a very useful resource so thanks to Simon and his team for all the hard work.
I have just had an invitation to attend the launch of the latest Regent's Study Guide (a series of volumes that seek to relate academic scholarship to the needs of working ministers, produced by Regent's Park College in Oxford).
The details are:
Anthony J. Clarke, Paul S. Fiddes (eds.), Flickering Images: Theology and Film in Dialogue
I haven't seen a copy yet, but when I do I will post the image in the sidebar. The launch date is November, so copies may not be around at the moment, but watch this space.
Recent volumes in the series have been of very high quality, so I am looking forward to seeing this one.
Further signs that the Pontificate of Benedict XVI may not turn out to be as reactionary as some had feared. Apparently he met with Hans Küng on Saturday for the first time in over 20 years. Hat tip to Benjamin Myers whose post also has links to the news reports.
Wednesday, 21 September 2005
A number of things have come together in recent weeks, all of which prompt reflections on the whole notion of the use of space for worship and mission. Two conversations with different students have been around the whole question of the idea of "sacred space" (both thinking about doing some research into biblical resources for contemporary reflection and practice). I have also been reading Jorunn Økland's Women in Their Place (see recent books on Paul in the left hand sidebar for details) which argues that Paul in 1 Corinthians 11-14 is concerned to mark our sacred / sanctuary space from private and public space, but does so in a way that is ultimately exclusive of women i.e. the sacred space if genered as "male". Then this morning I happened on Wol's post about the visit of Richard Giles to the Windermere Centre. The thoughts there on how our seating arrangements in churches reflect a theology of purity and contamination may overstate things slightly (surely practicality also accounts for the location of pews), but the point is well made and was only re-inforced by my experience of preaching last Sunday where there felt a huge gulf between me at the front and the congregation at the back! To cap it all, in my own church, we have a buildings project running and I am not sure that the question of how space might be understood and shaped in the light of theological considerations has ever even got onto the agenda. How might the space of Baptist church buildings reflect a peculiarly Baptist understanding of God's covenant relationship with the local, gathered congregation, their covenantal commitments to each other within the priesthood of all believers (including a commitment to full gender-equality), and their calling to offer to the world an alternative "space" within which lives may come to be re-ordered according to the image of God?
Answers on a postcard please!!
Tuesday, 13 September 2005
Alan Bandy at Café Apocalypsis has this entertaining meditation on the diversity of hermeneutical strategies available to anyone encountering a STOP sign on the road.
Wednesday, 07 September 2005
Frank Rees has some useful reflections on the trinity in a recent post. I recently preached a doctrinal sermon on the Trinity in my local church, giving a basic overview of the development of the doctrine in the early Christian period, and giving some reasons why it remains (in my view, and Frank's) central to the articulation of Christian faith and living of Christian life in the contemporary context. People in church lapped it up - "why hasn't anyone explained it to use like that before?" etc. etc. In my experience, too many ministers and preachers not only use the Bible badly, but also fail to recognize the power of the central theological categories by which Christian faith and speech is formed. Quite what this says about theological education and ministerial formation is a matter of considerable debate. But at the very least, every Christian should understand what the doctrine of the Trinity is, and why it is important.
Tuesday, 06 September 2005
For anyone who hasn't really understood the extent of what has happened on the Gulf Coast, I simply suggest you read Michael Homan's post here.
Saturday, 03 September 2005
A full day: seminars in the morning and short paper in the afternoon and evening p[plenary followed by an enjoyable evening with colleagues tasting the joys of Scotland (see Jim Davila's pictures when he posts them).
The Paul seminar worked with 4 papers. The first on identity in Ephesians 2. The second was a theological hermeneutical reading of 1 Corinthians 11 and the material there on gender and headship. A further paper on the Haustafel in Ephesians was followed by the pick of the bunch (in my view; all the papers were strong) namely Stephen Chester's consideration of the relation between justification by faith and participation in Christ in Luther's commentary on Galatians. See the abstracts here.
After a break there was an excellent short paper by David Horrell, picking up the concerns of the Bauckham volume, The Gospels for all Christians and using them to explore the legitimacy of the notion of the "Pauline" church. The paper was a wonderful example of what a short paper should be: a simple but interesting question, explored clearly, without too much detail, but with significant implications. The event was made even better by David's ability to handle the numerous latecomers into the session, requiring several false starts, summaries of previously read paragraphs, and summaries of those summaries. It was all handled with aplomb - David must be a great lecturer to listen to on a regular basis.
We then had a plenary discussion around the "State of the Discipline". Many have concerns about the small numbers of students doing biblical topics at A'Level (although from the statistics it was clear that NT fares better than OT here) and thus the smaller numbers choosing bible as their focus at degree level and of course at research. A number of explanations for this phenomenon were offered and a few strategies for dealing with it. However the comment by Darrell Hannah at the end, to the effect that in the end the only thing that sustains the biblical studies discipline is the church and therefore we should attend, as a guild, to the ways in which our scholarship relates (or rather seems not to be relevant) to the churches and its leaders - it was this point that resonated with me. I would only add to it that, in the present context of ministerial training, even those preparing for ordained ministry do very little Bible, have little opportunity to learn languages (obviously a pre-requisite for graduate work) and often come to College with very low levels of biblical literacy. I don't have a solution, but the problems are real.
The evening paper (following a wonderful conference dinner) was also excellent. Chris Rowland helped us to think about William Blake and the NT. Lots of pictures and interesting stuff about Blake's hermeneutics, arising, it seems, out of his being a part of wider radical and millenarian Christian movements in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
And then to bed .... well no! To an enjoyable gathering with colleagues around bottles of Cask strength Speyside; Balevenie, Highland Park and Tobermory. Was in bed by 1.00 a.m., so not the latest session I have known, but, as usual, great fun.
This morning we have a joint seminar between Paul and Social World discussing 3 new books on 1 Corinthians, and then a final plenary on the Epistula Apostolorum.
Oh and I have bought 15 books!
Friday, 02 September 2005
Other than meeting up with friends and book buying, the main conference programm began yesterday evening with a paper from Richard Burridge on "A Biographical Approach to New Testament Ethics". The session started 40 minutes late, which was not really fair on Richard, but he cracked through a wide range of material and offered us an overview of the basic argument of a forthcoming book on NT Ethics. The basic argument (as I understood it - there was wine with dinner!) was that (a) NT ethics should begin with Jesus; (b) that therefore the genre of the gospels as bioi needs to be taken seriously; (c) that as a result it is problematic to abstract the teaching of Jesus and derive ethical maxims from it, instead one must take seriously the deeds of Jesus as also having ethical significance; (d) when this happens one realizes that Jesus both taught a rigorous ethical program's and lived a life which welcomed those who explicitly failed to live up to that programme: in other words, Jesus didn't live up to the saying that "Bad company ruins good morals" (1 Cor 15.33); (e) Early Christianity (Paul was the example given) by placing christology at the heart of its ethical discourse thus shows a consistency with the initial ethical significance of Jesus.
There was much more in the paper than this summary can do justice to, but I hope it gives something of the flavour. For those who aren't convinced by Burridge's earlier work on the genre of the gospels, the issues may be more complex than the paper suggested. But personally, I found the reminder that the ministry of Jesus is crucial for contemporary ethical reflection a helpful reminder, and one, of course, that connects closely to aspects of the anabaptist / Baptist tradition in which Jesus' teaching about non-violence (for example) is placed front and centre of what it means to stand in a Christian ethical tradition (not that Burridge touched on this issue at all).
Paul Seminar this morning, with some short papers this afternoon (including a discussion on the "State of the Discipline" in 45 minutes. Tonight's paper is by Chris Rowland on William Blake and the NT.
Thursday, 01 September 2005
Well, I am here at Liverpool Hope University for this year's British New Testament Conference. There may not be coat hangers in the room, but there are one or two internet points, and wireless access spots - so expect some blogging from the usual suspects, Mark (good to see him here, despite all the problems over his visa for the US) and Jim in particular. I will try and blog some observations on the Paul seminar in particular and perhaps on the main papers. Have already spent too much on the bookstand, ansd that is without buting anything from the Continuum stall yet!
Saturday, 20 August 2005
Over the next year or so, I have to develop and write the 2007 Whitley Lecture. This is an annual lecture, delivered in a number of centres (mostly other Baptist Colleges) and published under the auspices of Whitley publications. Inevitably, my mind is turning various ideas over wiith a view to landing on a title and focus for the lecture before too long. I told the Whitley committee that I wanted to explore something in the area of hermeneutics, and this has narrowed in my mind to the possibility of exploring whether and how we might describe a "B/baptist" hermeneutic. My initial observation is that as Baptists (and here I have the UK / European scene predominantly in mind) we need to reflect on two things.
1. That Baptists, despite our occasional battles over the Bible, actually share a common commitment to taking the Bible seriously (I have never met a Baptist, however "liberal" they may appear to others, who does not think that the Bible is important, central, crucial to understanding faith and practice and have never been in a Baptist church where the interpretation of Scripture doesn't have a central place in the church's life and worship).
2. That our diversity in the way we handle biblical texts is rooted in hermeneutics. We disagree about stuff because we read and interpret differently.
This is the way I put it in a session I led for some Newly Accredited Ministers last year:
"whatever the nature of our understandings of such issues as the authority, inspiration of the Bible, I have yet to meet a Baptist who does not want to take the Bible seriously. I have met many Baptists who think that other Baptists aren’t taking the Bible seriously, but what they usually mean by that in my experience is that the other is not taking the Bible seriously in the way they think it should be. In other words, Baptists interpret differently. Because we interpret differently, we sometimes end up in state of polarization. This has happened historically, not least at those points when a desire to be biblical amongst some General Baptists led them to Christological views that were eventually deemed unorthodox. So one of the challenges facing us might be to ask whether we might not be able to describe a way of reading that does justice to our differences, or at least enables us to move beyond them."Here is the issue as it appears in William Blake's wonderful poem "The Everlasting Gospel"
|THE VISION OF CHRIST that thou dost see|
|Is my vision’s greatest enemy.|
|Thine has a great hook nose like thine;|
|Mine has a snub nose like to mine.|
|Thine is the Friend of all Mankind;||5|
|Mine speaks in parables to the blind.|
|Thine loves the same world that mine hates;|
|Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.|
|Socrates taught what Meletus|
|Loath’d as a nation’s bitterest curse,||10|
|And Caiaphas was in his own mind|
|A benefactor to mankind.|
|Both read the Bible day and night,|
|But thou read’st black where I read white.|
Blake is referring, of course, the the fact that Jew and Christians read the same text (OT/Tanakh) but derive different meanings. This is, of course, the fundamental hermeneutical question, but I wonder whether there is a way of describing the hermeneutical task (a way that draws on resources within the Baptist tradition) that moves us beyond "black and white" (a possible title for the lecture). I suspect there might be, but getting there may need kind of complex engagement with the theology of covenant, contextual and theological hermeneutics etc. etc. So far, I only have a question - whether it can be adequatelty answerred is another matter entirely.
Friday, 19 August 2005
The latest issue of Ecclesiology arrived a few days ago, preceded by the electronic announcement of its contents. For those who don't know, Ecclesiology is a relatively new journal published by Sage, described as "The Journal for Ministry, Mission and Unity". Convening Editor is Paul Avis, and Paul Fiddes is also listed as an editor, representing the Baptist tradition. The journal has the potential to explore all sorts of contemporary issues at a serious academic level, and it should be taken by every major theological library. The current issue is devoted to exploring the question of why structural ecumenism is in crisis by reflection on a number of issues of ecumenical method. Here are the abstracts:
Does Doctrine Still Divide?
Against an old adage that ‘doctrine divides, service unites’, this article argues that all features of the ecumenical enterprise - evangelistic, humanitarian, moral, liturgical, sacramental, ecclesiological - bear a doctrinal dimension; the point is to discern and foster the unity in doctrine that is necessary to their pursuit. Twentieth-century doctrinal dialogues are surveyed, both in the multilateral arena (notably Faith and Order’s Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry) and in some representative bilateral cases. Their achievements are measured, and the remaining (and new) issues are noted. Attention is paid to the effect of the Roman Catholic Church’s official entry into the Ecumenical Movement with the Second Vatican Council’s decree ‘ Unitatis Redintegratio’, and Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical ‘ Ut Unum Sint ’ is viewed as both a recognition of a century’s progress in ecumenism and the setting of an agenda for continuing work.
The Development of Doctrine: A Lutheran Understanding and its Ecumenical Application
In this essay, a Lutheran understanding of the development of doctrine is developed, in contrast with what George Lindbeck calls ‘historical situationalism’, the limitations of which are analysed. While the final authority of doctrine is a function of its evangelical content, a particular historical development of church teaching can possess a subordinate, distinct, formal authority as an authoritative sign of the material authority of its content. Such developments of doctrine can be irreversible. This understanding is placed in relation to the most prominent doctrine on the development of doctrine, the Catholic teaching on papal infallibility. The comprehensive narrative of the Western church’s struggle over authority since the late Middle Ages should be seen as including both Catholic and non-Catholic developments and as still unresolved.
The Common Statement Called into Question
The forms, structures and conventions of ecumenical texts, and the methods of their production, play a determinative role in shaping the successes and failures of the quest for Christian unity. The textual genre of the ‘common statement’ has played a particular critical role in the development of the modern ecumenical movement, but hermeneutical problems inherent in this genre demand a re-evaluation of the viability of these texts as effective vehicles for ecumenical dialogue. The re-imagination of ecumenism for the twenty-first century must begin with a reassessment of the role of this traditional text form as part of a broader re-imagination of the entire textual life of the movement.
What is Communion and When is it Full?
Joseph D. Small
‘Full communion’ has become the favoured term to characterize forms of reconciled life between and among churches in North America. Yet the term is problematic. This article examines ‘full communion’ in light of its genesis in the ecumenical movement, challenges from Orthodox and Roman Catholic perspectives, the biblical witness, and the actual life of churches that are in ‘full communion’. The article concludes by suggesting a way to retain and employ koino nia categories in ecumenical relations.
Whose History? Historical Method and Ecclesiology in Ecumenical Context
This article explores the concealed relationship of changing historical formulations of Christian doctrine to the statements of doctrine contained in ecumenical dialogue reports, and argues for a form of church history that would be ecumenically and theologically useful. Through a series of specific examples, it points to the hidden history of the ecclesiological contexts in which doctrine is situated. Noting limitations in the concept of ‘paradigm shift’, as well as in theories of doctrinal development, it argues that church history needs to attend to three levels of historical argumentation, covering doctrines, institutions, and social context, and proposes a historical methodology cognizant of all three, and above all of the links between all three.
Structures of Unity: The Next Ecumenical Challenge - A Possible Way Forward
William G. Rusch
The modern ecumenical movement with its primary goal of the visible unity of the churches has given attention to ecclesiology. This has been true both in the work of Faith and Order and in many of the bilateral dialogues. Yet both Faith and Order and the dialogues have stated remarkably little about the structures needed for church unity. This article suggests that by building on the concept of differentiated consensus it may be possible to recognize and utilize a concept described as differentiated participation to move the churches toward greater visible unity. In conclusion some examples are given.
Thursday, 18 August 2005
I was so pleased to see that my good friend, Frank Rees, has delivered on the promise that he made to me at the BWA Congress and has started his own blog.
to be frank
thinking honestly about life and faith
Frank teaches doctrine at Whitley College in Melbourne. He is a committed Baptist and a "fair dinkum" theologian. The blog is sure to deliver (look at the existing posts for confirmation) on the promise to think honestly about life and faith. I have added it to my "Baptist Blogs" blogroll here. Welcome Frank!