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.
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.
Thursday, 25 January 2007
It is rare for me to get angry - on this blog at least - but having tracked for some time now the story of Sheri Klouda's dismissal (technically disguised as a refusal to allow her to apply for tender) from Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and the role of Paige Patterson (the Seminary's President) in that dismissal, my blood just keeps on boiling.
Patterson, of course, was one of the key players in the SBC's break from fellowship with other Baptist Christian's worldwide in the Baptist World Alliance.
On this evidence ... good riddance!
Thursday, 18 January 2007
Yesterday in a staff meeting, we were trying to develop a course that would better equip preachers for the task of preaching. A key element in our thinking was a fundamental commitment to enabling people to be themselves in the communication of the Christian faith. Throughout, I was reminded of an article by Zadie Smith in the Guardian this past weekend on great writing and what it means to be a writer. Here are a few selected quotations that connect to the reason why, in the end, I can not simply believe as a Christian, but needed to try and articulate (as scholar / theologian) and communicate (as minister / preacher) the faith I profess (as disciple), and that challenge me about how to do it better and with greater authenticity and integrity.
'To speak personally, the very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.'
'For writers have only one duty, as I see it: the duty to express accurately their way of being in the world. If that sounds woolly and imprecise, I apologise. Writing is not a science, and I am speaking to you in the only terms I have to describe what it is I persistently aim for (yet fail to achieve) when I sit in front of my computer.When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception. That is what I am looking for when I read a novel; one person's truth as far as it can be rendered through language. This single duty, properly pursued, produces complicated, various results.'
'A great piece of fiction can demand that you acknowledge the reality of its wildest proposition, no matter how alien it may be to you. It can also force you to concede the radical otherness lurking within things that appear most familiar.'
'Writers fail us when that interface is tailored to our needs, when it panders to the generalities of its day, when it offers us a world it knows we will accept having already seen it on the television. Bad writing does nothing, changes nothing, educates no emotions, rewires no inner circuitry - we close its covers with the same metaphysical confidence in the universality of our own interface as we did when we opened it. But great writing - great writing forces you to submit to its vision'
The whole article can be found here. I wish I could write like that. Smith is one of those novelists whose essays and non-fiction (to this reader at least) have an even greater quality than the novels themselves.
Monday, 15 January 2007
Over at Living Wittily, Jim has some nice comments about the affliction that besets so many, of loving books. For me this extends beyond biblical and theological tomes, to an extensive collection of cookbooks, particularly those that deal with Italian food, my great culinary love. Here are my top three, in reverse order:
Anna del Conte, The Classic Food of Northern Italy: a definitive work. The family on my wife's side come largely from the North, and while I have great affection for the food of the South, in the end I would rather have prosciutto and parmigiano than tomatoes and truffles. Del Conte is a wonderfully elegant writer, meticulously researched. She also has an excellent one volume book that covers the whole of Italy, which only just missed my top three.
Giorgio Locatelli, Made in Italy: Food and Stories: my best Christmas present in 2006 and a beautiful book which combines passion with technical genius. Locatelli once told a story about going to a gelateria (ice cream shop) in Italy as a child and asking for an ice cream with one scoop of lemon and one of chocolate. He was told by the owner that this was not possible. When the young Giorgio pointed out that he could see the tubs of lemon and chocolate ice cream in the cabinet, and so asked again, the reply was once again negative. 'Why can't I have a chocolate and lemon ice cream?' ...'Because they don't go!'. That story tells you everything you need to know about the Italian attitude to food.
Marcella Hazan, The Essentials of Italian Cooking: the Bible. The book I learned to cook from. Forget Jamie, Nigella, Ruth and Rose down by the River, Marcella is the real thing, and you will learn more about care, quality, friendship and the importance of food from this book than, I think any other I have read. If you have only one book ... then this is the one. (For those who are sceptical, I encourage you to check recipes for Ragu Bolognese in other cookbooks and see the number of times that Marcella's recipe (including, crucially, milk) is mentioned.)
Sunday, 14 January 2007
Not much blogging these past few weeks. But that doesn't stop me flicking through my blogroll regularly. Here are a few highlights that you may have missed and that struck me as interesting:
Patrick over at God in a Shrinking Universe reflects on Negative Theology, or Why Theology is the Coolest Thing Ever.
Over at Faith and Theology, Kim Fabricius offers a further contribution in his excellent "10 Propositions" series; this time 10 Propositions on Worship. All of these connected with me, but not least number 8:
What should we get out of worship? Wrong question. Worship is not a utility but an offering, i.e. a sacrifice, an economy of grace that interrupts and critiques the feverish cycles of production and consumption – which is why the collection is not fund-raising but cultural critique. If you want relevance, excitement, or profit, go to a rally, a concert, or the stock exchange. To put it most counter-culturally: Blessed are the bored, for they will see God.
At the Generous Orthodoxy ThinkTank you can find some thoughts on the question 'Can an Evangelical Be a Universalist?' (the answer is yes, of course they can, but the arguments are laid out nicely in this article)
Thursday, 21 December 2006
I have just been finishing off the text for the Whitley Lecture that I am due to give on a number of occasions next year - and in the course of writing came across one of those really annoying things that the scholarly world sometimes throws up.
In David Tracey's book, Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermeneutics, Religion, Hope (London: SCM, 1987) on p.19, there is a lovely quote attributed to Bernard Lonergan: "Be attentive, be intelligent, be responsible, be loving, and, if necessary, change". Its a nice quotation for an essay on hermeneutics, and Tracy foonotes a reference to Lonergan's Method in Theology, p.231. Being the nerd I am I went and checked it. The quotation isn't there. What we do find there is the standard list of the 4 "transcendental precepts" that shape much of Lonergan's work" be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable/rational, be responsible", but no reference to being loving or to changing. Only the Tracy version also occurs on this website with the same page reference.
Does Tracy have access to an independent oral tradition (he knew Lonergan well, I think)? Did he just make it up? Am I going mad?
So the quotation stays out, and my conclusion lacks the rhetorical panache that Tracy's version would have given it. Oh, and I spent 40 minutes trying to hunt the thing down.
After a mad end of semester, meetings galore and finally sending off the text for next year's Whitley Lecture, I can now come back up for air - for long enough to wish everyone a great Christmas and cracking start to 2007.
A few interesting things that I have seen over the past few days:
John Lyons' report on Philip Davis analysis of the SBL meetings (no John not shellshocked, but also not going to bust a gut to go every year - its a zoo)
Frank Rees' reflections on ministry: and a public congratulations to Frank on his new appointment.
Discovering William Willimon's blog (and getting my story for the service on Christmas morning from it).
Simon Barrow's very special Christmas thoughts.
See you all next year!
Tuesday, 31 October 2006
I haven't yet listened to this important broadcast on Radio 4. It will be on again this evening at 9.00 p.m. But in the meantime Mark Vernon offers a reallynice summary of the gist of the conversation here.
Things have been very quiet here recently. The reason? Well other than the usual flurry of activity associated with the start of a new academic year and semester, I have been working hard to get my writing complete before the relevant deadlines. First up is my paper for SBL which is almost in final form. As is often the case at SBL, I have only been allotted 30 minutes to make my presentation and engage in discussion with others present - so the main question is how you take an 8,000 word paper and reduce it to 20 minutes. In fact, because it will be my first SBL, I am looking for all the advice I can get about how to make the best of what looks like a pretty intensive few days. So, all you bibliobloggers out there, what are your top 3 tips for surviving SBL?
Update: Mark Goodacre and John Lyons have both helpfully responded to my plea - both fall into Mark's initial category of 'people you like to spend time with', so a big thanks to both. I note John's working hypothesis that free drinks may need supplementing by receptions and meetings of a more spiritual nature.
Further Update: Mike Bird's contribution is funny, rude (I may be square but...) and insightful - well not really the latter, except for the advice about alcohol.
Friday, 22 September 2006
Saturday, 16 September 2006
Well the age to come has evidently broken into this present age with greater force than is customary, because 3 days ago I took delivery of one of these. Mine is a lovely refurb from Apple themselves (at £500 off RRP) and it is a thing of beauty, power and much, much cleverness. I had everything moved from old PowerMac to new MacBook Pro in 45 minutes via an ethernet cable - is it that easy on PCs? I doubt it.
This ran on the Monday and Tuesday following BNTC. Again good to see old friends, and lots of interesting conversations (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω). The theme was "community" which produced some interesting reflection and discussions but, frankly, I think a fair amount of conceptual confusion. The problem comes when community is used as a static noun, with a definite or indefinite article in front of it "a community/the community" - this suggests that we all know what one of these entities looks like. Of course the relevant NT word κοινωνία is not used in this way - it refers instead to the nature of relationships within given social and ecclesial structures and institutions. Thus to ask, is a Baptist College a community? is, in my view, an unhelpful question; better to ask, what kind of relationships are reflections of genuine κοινονία?
And from this conference straight into an NBC staff meeting (2 days) and this last week student induction followed by a Newly Accredited Ministers' Conference. Life will settle into a more established pattern next week when teaching starts
Monday, 04 September 2006
The first two weeks of September are largely taken up with conferences and various forms of staff meeting. The first of these was the Consultation "Baptists Doiong Theology in Context" held here last week from Tuesday-Friday. I won't repeat the excellent summary provided by Andy Goodliff here and by Stuart Blythe here and here Suffice it to say that my paper (details here) went well and with a bit more work will be heading to go into the volume Baptist Sacramentalism 2, to be published by Paternoster in the SBHT series. Paul Fiddes chaired my session, so I was slightly nervous in so far as Paul had largely authored the chapter in the Baptist - Church of England conversations report that formed the starting point for my paper. But all went well, I am glad to say.
Overall the consultation was a success, another is due to be held at Regent's Park College in Oxford in August 2008. If you are a Baptist minister and are interested in theology, then look out for details nearer the time.
Thursday, 20 July 2006
Anyone wishing to witness the venting of the Christian spleen at its most entertaining should take a little trawl through the comments (72 of them and counting) to Ben Myer's recent poll on the worst liturgical innovation. The funniest ones are those that use swear words most effectively, but there is also some interesting stuff.