An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Introducing ThinkingFaith Network

Introducing Thinking Faith Network and its three strands: LifeMatters, RealityBites and Faith-in-Scholarship - featuring Tom Wright and David Hanson.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Kuyper Conference "Religion and Journalism" April 15-16 at Princeton Seminary

The following is the latest from the organisers of the Kuyper Conference:

Still considering registering for next week's Kuyper Conference "Religion and Journalism" April 15-16 at Princeton Seminary? For your reference, please consider the titles and abstracts of this year's full schedule of plenary and concurrent sessions. We would be delighted to welcome you to the Princeton Seminary campus for this year’s programming.
Warm Regards,
Darrell L. Guder, Interim Conference Director
"Religion and Journalism"
April 15-16, 2016

--- THURSDAY, APRIL 14 ---
7:00 p.m., Miller Chapel
Elaine Storkey, distinguished scholar and journalist from the United Kingdom in the disciplines of sociology, philosophy and theology with past appointments at the University of Oxford and the BBC

--- FRIDAY, APRIL 15 ---
9:00 a.m., Conference Plenary I
“The Challenge of Religion as News”
Gustav Niebuhr, director of the Carnegie Religion & Media Program at Syracuse University and career journalist with the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal
Abstract:  In the United States, religion occupies a contested public space, in which practitioners often perceive themselves as doing battle with hostile forces. Historic religious pluralism complicates this perception while also seeming at times to affirm it.
11:00 a.m., Conference Plenary II
Film Documentary: “The Journalist at Work: Abraham Kuyper and His Trip Around the Mediterranean in 1905 and 1906”
George Harinck, Professor of Neo-Calvinist History at the Free University of Amsterdam and Extraordinary Professor of History at the Theological University of Kampen
Abstract: This excerpt from a newly released documentary film series Around the Old World Sea offers a fascinating exploration of clashing cultures and religions in past and present. The film focuses on the roots of religious, political and social conflict in this region though tracing the steps of Kuyper’s own epic nine-month journey in the early 20thcentury.

--- SATURDAY, APRIL 16 ---
9:00 a.m., Conference Plenary III
“Journalism and Religion in a Late-Modern Context: A View from the Dutch Neo-Calvinist Tradition”
Koert Van Bekkum, Asst. Professor of Old Testament at the Theological University of Kampen and former editor at Dutch daily newspaper Nederlands Dagblad
Abstract:  Recent debates on journalism focus on the pitfalls and possibilities of new digital platforms, the increasing influence of capital on the selection and presentation of the news and its interpretation, and on civic and constructive journalism as answers to these trends. The lecture offers a sketch of Abraham Kuyper’s view of journalism and the history Christian journalism in the Dutch Neo-Calvinist tradition, and then elaborates on the recent discussions from this perspective.
10:45 a.m., Conference Plenary IV
 “Understanding Religious Art in a Journalistic Context: Definitions Matter”
Alissa Wilkinsonchief film critic at Christianity Today and assistant professor of English and Humanities at The King’s College in New York City
Abstract: The recent discovery of the "faith-based" industry has contributed to a spike in coverage of the religious audience for mass media - and though it's often full of good-will, it's usually under-informed. What would it look like to contribute to the journalistic record regarding culture as a person of faith? What are the challenges and opportunities that face the journalist of faith?

--- FRIDAY, APRIL 15 ---
1:30 PM – 2:45 PM         1st Concurrent Session Papers:
Session 1A: 
“Abraham Kuyper and the Refugees: Welcoming Strangers in the Name of Christ”
Michael Bräutigam, University of Melbourne
Session 1B:
“‘In a time of unclarity, there can be no conversion without polemics’: Klaas Schilder’s Argument for the Need of Polemics in Christian Journalism”
Marinus de Jong, TU Kampen
Session 1C:
“The Debate Between Objective Journalism and a Journalism of Attachment: A Neo-Calvinistic Approach”
Nathaniel Sutano, University of Edinburgh
3:15 PM – 4:30 PM         2nd Concurrent Session Papers:
Session 2A:
“The Political Economy of Kuyper’s Newspapers”
Clifford Anderson, Vanderbilt
Session 2B:
“Divine images and political representation: towards an evaluation of the role of the media in post-Christian democracies”
A.L.Th. de Bruijne, TU Kampen
Session 2C:
“Taking Journalism to Seminary: Bavinck on Human Action as Theology”
Cory Brock, University of Edinburgh
4:45 PM – 6:00 PM         3rd Concurrent Session Papers:
Session 3A:
“A republic of letters for the Kingdom of God: Journalism in the service of the Protestant religious imagination, 1800-1830”
Andrew Kloes, University of Edinburgh
Session 3B:
“Islam according to Journalist Abraham Kuyper”
Jan van Vliet, Dordt College 
Session 3C:
“A Shy Hope in the Heart? Religious Journalism in Australia and the Kuyperian legacy”
Bruce Pass, University of Edinburgh

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Kuyper's academic genealogy

Theology tree is a fascinating website that shows The Academic Genealogy of theologians and Biblical scholars. It is a free, volunteer-run website. Above is Kuyper's academic genealogy.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Review of You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith

You Are What You Love
The Spiritual Power of Habit
James K.A. Smith
Grand Rapids: Brazos Press
Hbk; 224pp; £12.99.
ISBN 9781587433801
Publisher’s web page here 

The nature of idolatry is that we are shaped into the idol’s image: we become like what we worship (Ps 115:8).  A graphic illustration of this is provided by the Daily Mirror headline some years ago regarding a young computer hacker:


Those who make idols will be like them. We image what we worship. This theme is taken up in Smith’s latest book.The book serves as a summary to two of his previous cultural liturgies books: Desiring the Kingdom (Baker Academic, 2009) and Imagining the Kingdom (Baker Academic, 2013). 

According to Smith ‘This book articulates a spirituality for culture-makers, showing (I hope) why discipleship needs to be centered in and fueled by our immersion in the body of Christ. Worship is the “imagination station” that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom’ (loc 70-72) Smith argues for the need for a change in our discipleship model, a shift in praxis from a Descartian ‘brain-on-a-stick’ model to a view where discipleship is more than information transfer. 

He rightly notes that all models presuppose a view of what it means to be human; how we answer that questions shapes our praxis. The ‘I am what I think’ banking model is flawed. Of course, this is not to be seen as a rejection of thinking, Smith is, after all, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College. Neither is he setting up a head/ heart dualism. He advocates an ‘I love therefore I am’ model. We are what we desire and so we are defined not by knowledge but by what we desire. And this is where worship fits in. As Smith puts it: ‘To be human is to be a liturgical animal, a creature whose loves are shaped by our worship.’ We are what we love and discipleship needs to be seen as a rehabituation of our loves rather than the acquisition of knowledge, this can come through worship. However, the worship needs to embrace liturgies:
‘Christian worship, we should recognize, is essentially a counterformation to those rival liturgies we are often immersed in, cultural practices that covertly capture our loves and longings, miscalibrating them, orienting us to rival versions of the good life. This is why worship is the heart of discipleship’ (Loc 438-441).

What Smith is calling for is not a return to traditional worship and a turning away from contemporary Christian worship - he wants so much more than that. Liturgy is needed to re-orientate our hearts:
‘Our hearts, we’ve said, are like existential compasses and embodied homing beacons: our loves are pulled magnetically to some north toward which our hearts have been calibrated. Our action and behavior—indeed, a whole way of life—are pulled out of us by this attraction to some vision of the good life. Liturgies, then, are calibration technologies. They train our loves by aiming them toward a certain telos’ (889-892)
And importantly:
‘Recognizing worship as the heart of discipleship doesn’t mean sequestering discipleship to Sunday; it means expanding worship to become a way of life.’

The book is iconoclastic - exposing the idols that often lie behind the seeker-sensitive movement,  the youth ministry movement and even marriage and the family.  Smith makes an excellent case for keeping the youth in with the rest of the congregation and not keeping them apart. He cogently argues that we have ‘created youth ministry that confuses extroversion with faithfulness’. 
'And the sad fact is that our youth ministries have treated them as thinking things that need to be entertained when, in fact, what they really crave is not liberation from ritual but rather liberating rituals.'
This is an important book - not only does it makes accessible his cultural liturgies books but provides a framework for rethinking discipleship.

1. You Are What You Love: To Worship Is Human
2. You Might Not Love What You Think: Learning to Read "Secular" Liturgies
3. The Spirit Meets You Where You Are: Historic Worship for a Postmodern Age
4. What Story Are You In? The Narrative Arc of Formative Christian Worship
5. Guard Your Heart: The Liturgies of Home
6. Teach Your Children Well: Learning by Heart
7. You Make What You Want: Vocational Liturgies
For Further Reading

Saturday, 26 March 2016

A History of the Reformational Movement in Britain: The Pre-World War II Years in Koers 80(4)

My paper on the history of the Reformational movement in Britain beofre WWII has now been published in Koers.
It is available here.

Bishop, S., 2015. "A History of the Reformational Movement in : The Pre- World War II Years".
KOERS — Bulletin for Christian Scholarship, 80(4).
Available at: http:// koers.80.4.2216

Friday, 18 March 2016

Review of Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics by Craig Bartholomew

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics
A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture

Craig G. Bartholomew
Grand Rapids: Baker Books
ISBN 978-0-8010-3977-5
640pp; Hbk; £21.75.
Publisher's website here. 

This is perhaps the best book on hermeneutics yet written! In the first chapter Bartholomew sets out his main thesis – he wants to develop a Trinitarian hermeneutic. A Trinitarian hermeneutic, according to Bartholomew, is one which:

1. Approaches the Bible as authoritative Scripture
2. Approaches the Bible as a whole
3. Views ecclesial receptions of Scripture as primary
4. Exists and humbles academic interpretation
5. Will attend to the discrete witness of the Testaments
6. Rightly discerns the goal of reading the Bible
7. Does not close down but opens up interpretation of the Bible
8. Takes up God’s address for all of life seriously

It is perhaps point 8 that mark this introduction out as being different. Bartholomew writes out of a Kuyperian tradition and this permeates all of his approach. This is particularly seen in the inclusion of two chapters - not usually seen in a hermeneutics book - one on the Bible and scholarship and the other on preaching. But also in two key themes that reoccur the role of philosophy and the emphasis on the goodness of creation. As regards the latter point he rightly points out that:
‘Methods are never philosophically and theologically neutral, and we should avoid uncritically importing methods of interpretation that at root are in epistemological conflict with the epistemic primacy of the Trinity.’
'A distinctive of this volume is its insistence that theology and philosophy cannot be bracketed out of biblical interpretation.'
Though, this does not mean that all biblical scholars have to have philosophy degrees! (Though one might help!)

Sadly, it has become common over the past 150 years for Christian scholars to inhabit two unrelated worlds: the world of the church, and the world of their study and lecture room. In the one, Christ is acknowledged; but in the other, Christ is unwelcome, since in the latter domain so-called reason and neutrality reign.

This sort of approach has led to dualism and a privatisation of faith. 

The book is divided into 5 parts: Approaching Biblical Interpretation, Biblical interpretation and biblical theology, the story of biblical interpretation, Biblical interpretation and the academic disciplines, the Goal of biblical interpretation. 

What is refreshing about this book is that it takes seriously the need to listen as well as analyse and interpret. The emphasis is on listening to God; he proposes Mary, Martha’s sister as the patron saint for biblical interpretation –she quietly and attentively listened to Jesus. Listening is part of us ‘being creaturely’. Listening provides an antidote the Enlightenment legacy of the emphasis on rational analysis. He notes that: ‘prior to analysis comes listening’.

Bartholomew draws on a wide range of sources in one chapter we have a range of quotes from as diverse authors as John Stott, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Karl Barth, George Steiner, Herman Bavinck, Lesslie Newbigin, Tocqueville, Mariano Magrassi and Jean Leclercq. This does not mean that Bartholomew takes a pick and mix approach – he is not ashamed to draw upon resources from other traditions and there is richness in such diversity. 
He identifies that one issue has been that academic scholars compartmentalise – so that in the church the lordship of Christ is acknowledged, but in academic study he is not, as reason and neutrality reign. This dichotomy, Bartholomew is right, is unsustainable. What is needed and is a full integration of the ecclesiastical and academic interpretation. This can only come from seeing the Scripture as God’s Word.

The book has a plethora of references over 2300 and a massive bibliography - about 40% of the book is taken up with references and bibliography. That shows the scope of Bartholomew’s research. It also serves to show that this is no mere introduction but is comprehensive.

This book shows that hermeneutics does not need to be a dry and dusty subject - Bartholomew shows that it can be helpful and engaging. The penultimate chapter is particularly inspiring as here Bartholomew plus together most of the threads and shows how in they can be applied to the book of Hebrews in an inspiring and insightful way. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book - and to reiterate my first sentence: this is probably the best book on hermeneutics yet written.


Part 1: Approaching Biblical Interpretation
1. Biblical Interpretation Coram Deo
2. Listening and Biblical Interpretation
Part 2: Biblical Interpretation and Biblical Theology
3. The Story of Our World
4. The Development of Biblical Theology
Part 3: The Story of Biblical Interpretation
5. The Traditions within Which We Read
6. Early and Medieval Jewish Biblical Interpretation
7. Renaissance, Reformation, and Modernity
8. Canon
Part 4: Biblical Interpretation and the Academic Disciplines
9. Philosophy and Hermeneutics
10. History
11. Literature
12. Theology
13. Scripture and the University: The Ecology of Christian Scholarship
Part 5: The Goal of Biblical Interpretation
14. The "Epistle" to the Hebrews: But We Do See Jesus
15. Preaching the Bible for All It's Worth: The Resurrection of the Sermon and the Incarnation of the Christ