1 Timothy: what kind of book?
We’re close to finishing a series on 1 Timothy at church. It’s been – I think – a really helpful reminder of what church is all about. The book is sometimes rather harshly described as a “church manual” which makes it sound (to most) the least exciting book in the whole canon. Of course, there will be some people who read their fridge-freezer operating guide from cover to cover before plugging in, but most of us know how our Smeg works and the thick multi-language guide generally stays in its cover. Until things go wrong. Then, naturally, we’re all over it.
And so it is with 1 Timothy, people think. It only comes out when absolutely necessary. Well, if that’s your view, I could forgive you for thinking how dull it must be. But the metaphor is all wrong. If we must use a metaphor such as this, then 1 Timothy is not an operating manual, it’s a sea chart for a rocky shore. On my wall, I have such a chart of the Thames Estuary, where I grew up. It’s detailed, complex and – this is my point – absolutely indispensable. After all, some “have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.”
No sailor worth his salt would put to sea without a chart. And no church worth its salt would neglect such an important book.
The Gospel Transformation Bible
There are many study Bibles, of course. Many. And many of them are good (with a few not quite so hot). One of my favourites is particularly underrated, I feel. Perhaps that is because it is relatively unknown. It is Crossway’s ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. Catchy title, I know. But behind the slightly clunky title is a remarkable resource. Edited by Bryan Chappell and Dane Ortlund, this Bible has contributions from the likes of Kathleen Nielson, Dave Helm, James Hamilton, Mike Horton, Greg Gilbert, Iain Duguid, Colin Smith, Bruce Ware, Kent Hughes, Kevin DeYoung and Mike Bullmore – in other words, a long list of people we would know and trust.
But what makes it stand apart is the focus of the study notes which have one basic aim – to show how each portion of Scripture fits in with the big story and comes back to Christ. Then, alongside this, there are really helpful application notes. Bryan Chappell explains this in the introduction:
“The goal… is twofold (1) to enable readers to understand that the whole Bible is a unified message of the gospel of God’s grace culminating in Jesus Christ, and (2) to help believers apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart-transforming way.”
What this means is that the GTB is a really useful resource to put into the hands of Bible study leaders, occasional preachers and Sunday School teachers. They can’t hope to have extensive libraries on their shelves, but as one-volume books go, this is worth its weight in gold. You don’t see it in bookstores very often, but tenofthose.com have a load at ridiculously cheap prices (£70 bibles for £9). I’m not being paid to promote them (though I would take the cash!). I genuinely believe that – even if you don’t use the ESV text – this is a really helpful book. At these prices, you could buy each of your Sunday School teachers a copy as a Christmas present.
Well, why not?
Frameworks and the text
I am greatly enjoying reading through Progressive Covenantalism (ed. Wellum & Parker) at the moment. It’s a thoughtful, careful collection of esays steering a course away from some of the madness associated with New Covenant Theology towards a more academically rigorous framework. A review will be forthcoming! But one paragraph caught my eye. We’ve long said at PT that one of the key things that a preacher has to do is to make sure that his framework does not affect his interpretation of the text.
Some have interpreted this to mean that we don’t like any framework. That’s patent nonsense. Everyone has framework (even “not having a framework”!). Rather, we are keen to say that the text must be in the driving seat. In his contribution to the book, Jason Meyer makes this point with slightly more finesse:
“In Greek mythology Procrusteus was the son of Poseidon. He had an iron bed that he offered to weary travellers. He used hospitality as a torture trap. If travellers were too short for the bed, he would stretch out their bodies to fit the bed. If they were too tall for the bed, he would cut off the excess length of their legs.
“Theological systems can become a Procrustean bed. If the text does not want satisfy our system, we can stretch the text to say what we want. If the text says more than what comfortably fits our system, we can cut off what we wish it would not say.
“I am not denigrating theological systems. On the contrary, theological systems can sharpen our understanding of the whole counsel of God but only if they do not first determine our understanding of God’s word. Therefore, theological systems should always be paired with theological self-awareness. We must be up front with our theological commitments, taking them to Scripture. The Bible does not belong on the bed. The Bible is the bed. The Bible alone has the authority to serve as the Procrustean bed for all our thinking. If we love the Bible more than our theological systems, we will be eager to measure our systems with our theological thinking.”
EMA 2017: Booking now open
I hope I have whetted your appetite for the EMA. It’s never too early to put the date in your diary for 2017. Next year’s conference runs 27-29 June and we’ll be joined by Kevin DeYoung, Denesh Divyanathan, Andy Gemmill, Vaughan Roberts, Graham Beynon and Garry Williams. It’s also the 500th year since old Martin posted his 95 whatnots on the church notice board, so expect there to be some focus on that alongside our main theme which is Bearing Fruit and Growing: Preaching and the Mission of the Church. Booking is open now, but even if you don’t book right at this moment, save the date, as they say. Our diaries soon fill up and the nearer we get to deadlines the harder it is to carve out time to make them. So why not carve out the time now?
Praising God for Alec Motyer
We were sad to learn of the passing to glory of Alec Motyer a couple of weeks back. Alec was a good friend to us at PT and a personal mentor to David Jackman who was so instrumental in the formation of the Trust. Indeed, if you have ever heard David on Isaiah, you’ve heard Alec. “Everything I learnt about Isaiah, I learnt from him”, David used to say.
He also spoke for us at conferences and helped out with various things around the place. I sometimes tried to coax him out of retirement and he would always courteously decline with a polite but twinkling letter. His replies are the only ones I ever kept for any time. You could almost hear his chuckle as he typed out the words.
He will be sadly missed, but his life and ministry were a great example to us all, not least in the love and care he showed for his people, his students and his family. Thank you Lord, for Alec.
Lucas at the EMA
I managed to persuade Dick Lucas to come out of his self-enforced EMA retirement for one last hurrah. This is classic Dick, some real gold delivered in his own inimitable style. And, of course, he wore a tie.
Pastoral complexity and a dose of realism
Mrs R and I got to enjoy a film night recently: Eye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman (and a host of other well known stars). It was a compelling film, based on the moral decision to send a missile from a drone to destroy three terrorists and two suicide bombers.
The film was exciting, tense and thought-provoking, though not without its flaws. Key amongst these was the switch in moral dilemma. Towards the beginning of the film, the issue at stake was whether the British government should be killing two British citizens without trial, a kind of Judge Dread scenario. This is an interesting line of thought and needed to be developed more.
However, once a young girl sets up stall next to the targeted compound the moral issue switches to whether her possible death is acceptable collateral damage. You’ll have to watch the film to see how it pans out.
The film simplified things, focusing for the main part on the second issue. But for me the first issue is just as troubling and needs some more assessment. It interested me that the movie was only really able to deal with one moral issue at a time. Presumably that makes for a good script (or is all we audiences can cope with)?
However, in the real work, complexity is the norm. We find this pastoring. In the classroom, pastoral ethics on, say, marriage, seem very straightfoward. But in the real world, where there are kids and multiple layers, things are much messier. The classroom rarely prepares us for the real complexity of life.
But we must not stick our heads in the sand. Part of preparation for ministry has to be determininng a settled position on what we do with competing ethical choices and whether we take a graded view (where we choose the lesser of two evils) or whether we view life more in terms of absolutes. Once the situations are upon us, it’s generally too late to make a choice.
For, as the film does aptly portray, decisions made in split second are very often not the best ones.
Carson at the EMA
Don Carson is a good friend of PT and has served us well in the past, but amazingly it was 2009 that he last came to speak at the EMA. It was a joy to have him back with two typically forthright and helpful sessions on a biblical theology of perseverance.
John Newton and perseverance in ministry
Vaughan’s pen portraits are becoming something of a regular feature of the EMA (though we’re switching to another expert next year for a take on Luther in the Reformation 500th year). This year’s Newton bio was top of the class. Make yourself a coffee, watch (or listen) and be encouraged to persevere.
Some [personal] staff news
Here’s our latest staff announcement which has a particularly personal angle, as you will see.
The Trustees of The Proclamation Trust (PT) today announce that Adrian Reynolds, Director of Ministry for the Trust since 2009, will be leaving his post at Easter 2017 to take up a role as Training Director for the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC).
Adrian and his wife Celia, together with their family, moved to London from Hampshire to serve the Trust.
In his time at PT Adrian has delivered and taught on over 100 conferences, including overseeing the move of the Evangelical Ministry Assembly from its historic location at St Helen, Bishopsgate to its new home at the Barbican Centre in London. He has also been responsible for our book editing, writing two volumes himself and editing a further ten. Adrian has been a regular teacher on the PT Cornhill training course and has, along with Celia his wife, tutored many of the students. Adrian has also overseen our backroom work in the office, drawing on his previous experience in the business sector.
The Trustees want to express their sincere thanks to Adrian for his contribution to the ongoing ministry of the Trust. Vaughan Roberts, Chairman-Elect, said, “We are hugely grateful to Adrian for his enormous contribution to the work of the Proclamation Trust over the last seven years, and also to Celia for helping in so many ways. Adrian’s servant leadership, faithful teaching, administrative skills and godly example have been greatly appreciated by the whole PT family.”
Adrian’s new role – which does not begin until Easter 2017 – will be to oversee the training ministry of the FIEC. The FIEC is a family of over 500 independent churches located throughout the United Kingdom. He will be working alongside the existing Directors and training providers to serve local churches as they seek to train and equip men and women for ministry.
Please pray for Adrian & Celia and their daughter Isabel as they plan for this move. Roberts asked: “Please also pray for the trustees and staff at the Trust as we make plans for the future and seek to build on Adrian’s superb work.”