Affinity journal on baptism
There are not too many UK publications which are both robust and stimulating. This is one. The new edition of the Affinity's journal Foundations is out and it is focused on baptism. Some really good, stimulating articles, both those you will agree with and those you will not. Worth some time.
A holy number series
Maths homework with my Year 4 daughter. Ugh. It's really, really hard. And often poorly written. The questions are ambiguous etc etc. Still, enough griping. This week it was number series. What number comes next in this series? We decided, over a family meal (I know, I know, meal times at the Reynolds household are a hoot, aren't they?) to create our own holy number series. This is what we collectively came up with:
1 , 3 , 7 , 10 , 12 , 24 , 40 , 70 , 77* , 500 , 144,000
Nice. We rejected 3½ on the basis that we were only dealing with integers.
*some dispute about whether this one should make the list
CCEF coming to London – Feb 2013
For those who have benefitted from CCEF material (and those who haven't yet), you may be interested to know that a few of our friends have got together to invite Tim Lane and David Powlinson over next year. They've organised a day in London on Saturday 23rd Feb at Westminster Central Hall running from 10.00am through to 5.00pm. The cost is £28 for the full day. The Good Book are handling tickets and you can book online here. Sounds like it will be a great and useful day. This is Christopher's commendation:
I am delighted to commend this conference and the work of CCEF. There is a theological robustness in CCEF which rescues 'counselling' from being just secular therapy baptised with a thin Christian veneer. They help us see that it is precisely the gospel of Christ (and not some mysterious 'add on' to the gospel, known only to experts) which we need to cure our souls. And they help us make he connection between the gospel of Christ and present-day Christian experience. Having been grateful for some years to CCEF for their resources at a distance, I am very glad about the launch of this network in the UK.
John Chapman’s memorial service
Chappo's memorial service took place last weekend. It's online here and the order of service is available here. We've got one or two Chappo nuggets on the PT website – two talks from the 1991 EMA on "Evangelism every Sunday" here and here and one from the 2000 EMA here. Enjoy and give thanks to God for this remarkable man.
Exaggerating to make a point
Or, as we call it, hyperbole. It's a key Biblical idea – used, for example, by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6.6). But preachers should use it carefully because if people don't get it, it can give entirely the wrong impression. There's a fine line between hyperbole and overstating the case and we need to make sure our listeners get the difference. For example, this weekend past I read (in the paper and online) three statements -all of which are overstated:
- Christians against women bishops are misogynists
- Supersessionsm is a form of anti-Semitism
- Being against homosexuality is the same thing as homophobia
Such overstatement generates headlines, of course. But – and this is only an anecdotal observation – I think our society is less able to critically assess such statements (or perhaps, more accepting of them). The result is disastrous – with no one trusting anyone.
So, if a preacher is going to deliberately overstate his case in order to make a point – in other words to employ some kind of hyperbole, he needs to exercise great care. I'm not saying don't do it – but think to yourself – how will people hear it. Will they understand what I am saying? Will they understand the overstatement. Perhaps, in a more oratorical society, we wouldn't have to be so careful. But today, I think we do.
Christmas is coming around again. Had you noticed? That means that the choral societies are out in force with their Messiah's. It may not be everyone's cup of tea but I love Handel's Messiah. The text is all Biblical and was chosen by Charles Jennens. We can't be sure exactly about his motive, nor his faith. True, he was a "devout Anglican" but quite what this means is not entirely clear from the various analyses of his life. What we can be sure about is that his libretto has given us some profoundly Christ centred Biblical theology before anyone even knew that term. You can read the complete list of texts here.
The reason for blogging about it is that I think it presents Christians with an underestimated evangelistic opportunity. It would be an easy event to take people to. And to get into a discussion about. It's even worth listening to yourself. Calvin Stapert's book is excellent for that, published by Eerdmans. I'm sadder – I follow along in a score – either a mini score (£7), a choral score (£6.70) or a large full size orchestral score (£12.50).
Roger Carswell even has an evangelistic tract on the Messiah (just 15p).
Listen. Soak in the Scriptures.
IX Marks Journal
The new IX marks online journal is available and this latest issue is about lay leaders. The focus is on lay elders (as you might expect). Nevertheless, there is useful wisdom here for lay leaders in the church whatever your ecclesiology. You may, of course, have to do some sifting. But the IX marks journal is always stimulating. Read more here. And a reminder that Mark Dever is one of keynote speakers at next year's EMA@The Barbican. Booking is open now.
Marriage and Ministry
In 2011 we started running 24 hour stopovers for married couples in ministry. This was born out of a belief that strong marriages are essential for those who are both married and in ministry and that Christian ministry places unusual pressures on marriage which many couples are ill equipped to deal with. So far these have been received as a really strong initiative. We'd love to invite you to the next one with Wallace and Lindsay Benn on 19/20 February 2013. "We thought it was brilliant. Spot on. Exactly what we needed" said one couple. "A perfect mix of stretching biblical theology on marriage (some of the best we have heard) and really useful practical help for day to day application. So much to chew on" said another. More information and booking here. The stopover is deliberately small and intimate, so places are very limited. Do pass the invitation onto someone who might benefit from it,
Help to pray
I'm having a tough old time at the moment. I won't bore you with the reasons. But have you noticed that during those tough times the discipline of personal prayer – especially praying for others – is even more difficult? I can pray about myself and the struggles I face. That comes naturally. But praying regularly for others seems to be the thing that disappears quickly. I'm easily distracted. I have less time in the day – and various other excuses.
I've been using an iPhone app – Prayermate – for some time, but it's during this sticky patch that it really has come into its own. It's been developed by our former IT guru Andy Geers and is well worth (if you have an iOS device) two of your English pounds.
Susie in The Times
Not surprisingly, The Times took a very pro stance on the vote on women bishops in their edition last Monday. But, to their credit, they also gave Susie Leafe from Fowey an op-ed column. Here it is:
The question of whether women should become bishops can be boiled down to one word: equality. And it is because I believe in equality that I am against women becoming bishops. Opponents of women bishops in the Church of England are often dismissed as being incurably dusty and out of date. That in 2012 — 12 years into the third millennium — this issue is being argued about is taken as proof that the Church is hopelessly behind the curve. But if you listen more carefully to the debate, you will find that opponents of women bishops are asking some very urgently modern questions — how, for instance, can equality ever really allow diversity?
I consider myself to be a radical feminist. It is not the feminism of my grandmother, who was a doctor in the 1930s, nor that of my mother; it is the radical feminism of my generation. But my idea of equality is very different from the conventional, secular version. Over recent decades we have grown used to seeing equality in terms of the State legislating to protect individual rights. The State, we are told, is there to ensure that everyone is treated in the same way. Individuals are considered equal when they are offered the same job or pay. Quotas are encouraged in our workplaces and universities and when they are fulfilled we are told that “equality” has been achieved.
This “outcome” view of equality is so prevalent that to question it is heresy. That is surely a mistake: 65 years ago, George Orwell recognised that often when the authorities claim that they are acting in the interests of “equality” it is usually little more than a thinly veiled attempt to establish the supremacy of one factional interest over all others. So we need a healthy dose of Orwellian scepticism, and toleration of dissenting opinions, when we debate tomorrow the issue of women bishops.
The “outcome” view of equality is at odds with how the Bible and the Church have traditionally regarded equality. This Christian equality stems not from what we do but from what God has done for us; God created each one of us and Christ paid the same price for each one of us, without regard to our status. The consequence is that we are freed for a life of discipleship patterned after the example of Christ, in which we regard each other as equally precious and exist to serve one another. In this context of mutual servant-heartedness, to describe one human being as more or less equal than any other is absurd. Our value is found in Christ, not in our role within the church or world.
This kind of equality allows us truly to celebrate diversity — to acknowledge, for example, that men and women are different and that those differences are good and a matter of divine design, not merely a social construct. The Bible teaches men and women are equal but not interchangeable. They complement one another because they are different and should be valued accordingly.
In marriage, the family and in God’s family, the Church, men and women are called to serve alongside one another, sacrificing themselves for the good of the other. For men this self-sacrifice shows itself in being prepared to take responsibility for the spiritual welfare of his wife, family and church. That is why I believe that only men can serve as bishops, shouldering the greatest responsibility for the direction of the Church. And it is also why I believe that women’s role at church and in the family is to offer loving, self-sacrificial support.
That does not mean that I think compliant “little women” should be kept out of the office or politics. Of course, women of talent should become CEOs or politicians, but in the sphere of church and the family, our role is different from that of men. I am not alone in thinking this. In May, I and 12 other women members of the Synod started a petition to ensure that our voice was not smothered by the blanket assumption that all women think the same; 2,228 women churchgoers joined us in signing it.
I pray the Church of England does not vote for female bishops tomorrow. I hope that it will not dismiss one view of equality that truly allows diversity to thrive. If the Church tries to legislate its way to equality, I fear some will end up being more equal than others.