King's Evangelical Divinity School

30 November 2009

Revision of JMINS

Since it was published in May this year some twelve hundred copies of The Jews, Modern Israel and the New Supercessionism: Resources for Christians have been distributed already. The success of the book in such a short time was totally unexpected, while the very many comments I've received from readers all over the world expressing support for the book has been very encouraging. Anyway, given the book's success I've begun to work on a revised and enlarged version for publication in late 2010, when we'll be adding several chapters, expanding on others, and generally enlarging this resource. In the meantime, if you haven't yet bought a copy of the first edition, in light of the forthcoming revision the present edition is now available at a special reduced price. Details can be found at http://www.thechurchandisrael.com/.

27 November 2009

My Thanks to the MP Speaking Out With Passion on a Vital Issue

Some of you who've read my KEDS blog contributions know how I've often written about the massive increase in various social services department up and down the country taking children into custody and forcing through adoptions, either to fill quotas or else because of ideological reasons, over the past few years. With the help of many Christians, churches and blogs across the country we even campaigned heavily on this very issue some time back (the Scottish forced adoption case). There are so many well-publicised cases going on right now, including the despicable situation of a young woman being told her child will be taken immediately into care when she gives birth because social services say she has learning difficulties (though professionals disagree). She has had to flee her home region.

Well, this week in Parliament is was good to see Tim Yeo MP stand up and speak with real passion on the issue, criticising strongly Suffolk Country Council for the manner in which they took a child into custody then, when challenged, changed repeatedly their reasons for doing so. Details can be found on this BBC News page. If you want something a bit less bland with lots more detail try the Daily Mail's take on it. Just bear in mind the Daily Mail has been running a campaign on this issue for some time now, so the story is emotively expressed. But so what? It needs to be.

It would be nice to see more MPs have real passion about issues like this, challenging the highly secretive family courts which have caused utmost misery for so many families. Up and down the country so many genuinely vulnerable children are left in homes where they end of suffering terrible abuse, even death, or else children are taken from innocent families by the local Stalinists for reasons of political correctness or just plain spite. How ever did we reach this stage in our country? It is tragic. But well done, Tim Yeo! I wrote to thank him and received a reply today from his secretary. It says:

Dear Mr Smith

Thank you for your e-mail of 26 November.

I have been greatly encouraged by e-mails like yours which I have received from a number of people who share the concerns I have expressed about this issue.

You may rest assured that I will continue to pursue it vigorously.

Yours sincerely

TIM YEO

26 November 2009

I Can't Help Feeling a Little Smug (sorry)

I've posted here several times on the issue of climate change and my scepticism is pretty well-known elsewhere. Importantly, ideological (rather than scientific) segments of the green lobby seem to engage in the worship of creation, rather than the Creator, and indeed part of the movement draw on ancient 'geolatrous' paganism such as Druidism. Leaving the purely scientific aspect to one aside, then, it is very much a religion with its own belief system, together with its own heretics (climate change deniers) and thus inevitable witch hunts.

23 November 2009

Stephen Sizer as Anti-Replacement Theology Champion?

I note Stephen Sizer will be speaking at Bethlehem Bible College's Christ at the Checkpoint conference (March 2010), aimed at promoting a reading and reflection upon Scripture from a distinctly Palestinian perspective. The title of Sizer's paper is "Israel and the Church: Challenging Zionism, Anti-Semitism and Replacement Theology."

Let's leave aside for the moment the supercessionist-heavy list of speakers (excluding, of course, Walter Kaiser, a respected theologian taking the opposite view), which suggests there is unlikely to be a much-needed Evangelical theological breakthrough on the Israeli-Palestinian issue at this conference and instead yet more preaching to the choir and plenty of back-slapping. If only those critical of Christian Zionism could intelligently disengage it from supercessionism, they might find they'd command wider support.

Anyway, the notion of Stephen challenging replacement theology appears somewhat incongruous. In the past, several other supercessionists have tried (not very successfully) to distance themselves from the label "replacement theology". You see, ditching punitive supercessionism while holding to variations of either economic or structural supercessionism (see R. Kendall Soulen's useful book The God of Israel and Christian Theology for definitions of the terminology) doesn't qualify as having eschewed replacement theology. True, there are technical differences between these variations of supercessionism, nonetheless all mean the same thing semantically and theologically: whether one maintains Israel has been replaced or subsumed by, or redefined/extended in light of the Church, however one chooses to word it, it is still replacement theology in concept and outcome. God's historic people are superceded.

Thus, given how, in our correspondence last year Stephen stated categorially the Jews are no longer God's chosen people, I will be interested to see how exactly he intends to challenge replacement theology. At the very least his paper's title is disingenuous, even misleading. It is certainly amusing. At the risk of sounding pejorative, it's like the Pope presenting a paper challenging Catholicism, or Benny Hinn criticising the excesses of Charismaticism. Though no doubt it will be embraced with gusto at the conference, it just won't wash across the wider theological world.

21 November 2009

How Do We Measure the Arts as "Good"?

Tonight BBC2 ran an interesting documentary looking at Berlin's architecture, with special reference to the city's chequered past and the Nazi era (the architect Albert Speer was cloesely associated with the regime). During the programme the presenter Matt Frei asks a question many of us have considered when it comes to the arts as expressed by extreme ideologies or megalomaniacs. In this case, Frei visited the Berlin airport Tempelhof (now in mothballs), the huge terminal so closely associated with the Nazi era, and asks how we ought to view such a structure in light of its pedigree. Should our perceptions of a work of art be based primarily on aesthetics or ideology? It's a difficult question, isn't it? Whether fascist, communist, Christian, Islamic, or whatever, what exactly determines if a work of art is good? It seems to me we are faced with two choices: either determining goodness on the basis of ideology (which makes us the same as the communists or fascists), or else say the ideology behind something has no importance whatsoever, and that we must appraise purely on the basis of a kind of postmodern, reader-response, subjective basis. In either case, art is not judged as good in its own right, but rather on what underpins it. Thus, neither option seems entirely satisfactory. So what do you think?

19 November 2009

Utilitarianism in the Bible?

Over the weekend, much to the acute consternation and collective groans of my poor family, I watched The Wild Geese (with Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris) for the umpteenth time. It’s a 1970s war film about mercenaries hired by a mining magnate to rescue a politician held by a corrupt African regime in order to secure mining concessions. However, the mercenaries are double-crossed by their employer who, negotiating a better financial deal, abandons them to the local militias to save having to pay their contract. They are faced with fighting their way across hundreds of miles of bush pursued by the cruel regime’s bloodthirsty troops, with only a handful of the mercenaries surviving. Mercenary involvement in Africa’s wars of the 1960s and 1970s fascinates me, so I keep going back to this film (much to my family’s misery). When we’re undecided over what to watch and I start torumage through our DVDs, my family immediately guess what's coming and all chorus in unison, “Oh no, not The Wild Geese again!” and disappear with alacrity. I’m not sure I’ve ever watched the film other than alone.

17 November 2009

Interview with William Kay

Last year I interviewed Dr William Kay (then Reader in Pentecostal Studies at Bangor University, now Professor of Theology at Glyndwr University) for King's Evangelical Divinity School's Talks With Scholars.  He has researched and written widely on the subject of Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies, a burgeoning field within theological departments which, by virtue of the movement's widespread growth over the past quarter-of-a-century, is widely studied by observers and insiders alike. If you are interested in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements and their treatments within the academy I'm sure you'll find this interview interesting.

13 November 2009

Palestinian Identity and Islamisation

A useful article published in The Guardian several weeks ago highlighted yet another piece of evidence which demonstrates how Hamas-led Gaza is becoming increasingly radically Islamised. This is just one of various such reports (for example, remember the wedding guests roughed up for their celebration regarded as thorougly un-Islamic?).

Interestingly, however, Palestinian radicalisation does not seem to be limited to Gaza. The Palestinians are traditionally secular in outlook, yet a book by Loren Lybarger, which first I came across some 12-18 months ago, suggest many (including in the West Bank) have become radicalised over the past decade or two. Of course, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian commentators will explain this phenomenon in diammetrically opposed ways, but that aside I think Lybarger's book is useful for two reasons. First, it highlights the complex and divided nature of Palestinian identity, helping to explain why Palestinians seems to be so divided, and thus weakened, in the current Israel-Palestinian conflict. If you've ever wondered why Palestinians can't seem to get their act together, constantly bickering among themselves, this book might help to supply some reasons. Second, a strong shift towards Islamism among a traditionally secular people demonstrates, yet again, the thoroughly theological nature of this conflict. Those who think there is a purely political solution to the conflict are, in my view, living in another world.

9 November 2009

Juxtaposing the Berlin Wall and Climate Change

It’s twenty years today since the fall of the Berlin Wall. For those of us who lived during the Cold War who could have imagined we would one day sit at home, glued to our televisions, watching the fall of Communism? First, Polish reforms, then, like a row of falling dominos, Hungary, the Berlin Wall, Czechoslovakia, the Romanian revolution and summary execution of the Ceausescus, and so on. For a teenager of the Cold War years who listened surreptitiously at night in rapt fascination and trepidation to the Communist empire’s propaganda as churned out by Radio Moscow, the events of late 1989 were heady stuff.

6 November 2009

Evangelicals and War

Just a quick note which might be of interest to readers. From this month the Evangelical Review of Society and Politics is introducing a new forum to explore certain social and political issues of interest to Evangelical readers. The aim of the ERSP Forum is to provide an arena that allows Evangelical scholars to express their views without the constraints and cumbersome nature of debates normally carried out in academic journals, whereby the standard thesis-response-counterresponse approach can take months. Instead, contributors are simultaneously invited to comment briefly on a particular issue without seeing the responses of their fellow contributors prior to publication. The outcome of the first forum has been a collection of thoughtful and insightful pieces on war, and we think the forum is going to prove a most interesting addition to future editions of the journal. Contributors include a leading UK Evangelical leader and scholar, several Christian servicemen (one who leads a well-known charity), a former Australian EA leader, and a well-known US Pentecostal scholar and pacifist. For further details of the journal and subscription information visit the journal website at www.evangelicalreview.com.

5 November 2009

God and Time (continued)

Further to my recent post asking whether God knows the future without having predetermined it beforehand, several people (friends and family included) have argued that because God is outside time He can see the whole of the future before Him, regardless of whether or not He determined it. An analogy sometimes employed to explain this linear view of time is that of a book which sets out the whole of human history, a kind of timeline of humanity, in story format. As someone who has read this book God can see everything that is going to happen before it actually happens, so the argument goes, without having predetermined it, because He stands outside of time and can at once see the beginning, middle and end of the book.

2 November 2009

October Poll Results (and new November poll)

In October this site ran a poll with the question "Which of the following best describes your primary theological identity?" Respondents could select one answer only. Here are the final results:

Neoorthodox 17% (5 votes)
Pentecostal/Charismatic 7% (2)
Liberal Protestant 0% (0)
Catholic/High Church 3% (1)
Dispensational 14% (4)
Fundamentalist 10% (3)
Reformed 21% (6)
None of the above 25% (7).
Total votes 28

Thanks for voting. Unfortunately, there were not really enough votes to make any meaningful judgement about readers of this blog at this stage. Anyway, the next poll has now been posted. To view please scroll down and you'll find it half way down on the right. Please take the time to vote; the poll is active until end of this month.

1 November 2009

Interview With Derek Tidball

Recently, Derek Tidball (former Principal of London School of Theology) was interviewed by King's Evangelical Divinity School for our Talk With Scholars feature. (Be sure to take a look; my colleague Andy Cheung has interviewed various well known names in the theological world.) Derek is a well-known senior Evangelical leader here in the UK, and as such we asked him various questions related to Evangelicalism. His responses were perceptive and nuanced, and I just wanted to draw your attention to the interview which I think is very interesting. It can be found here.

Greek versus Jewish Mindsets

I've just finished another spy novel by one of my favourite fiction writers. In keeping with his style the climax is reached towards the very end of a highly convoluted narrative numbering various hundreds of pages. Actually, though, if you think about it, this emphasis on a climatic approach is very much the way we do things in Western Europe and the US, whether novels, storytelling, movies, indeed even academic research and scholarly papers. This is not a coincidence. Just last week I was reminded again of an important distinction between the Greek and Jewish mindsets when an authoritative Jewish Christian speaker, in an exposition of Isaiah 53, explained how the author sets out his stall from the outset and then spends the rest of the text marshalling his evidence in support of his initial declarations.

The fact is, Western society continues to be shaped by a Greek philosophical mindset stretching back several thousand years. Whether the approach of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, or this focus on climatic endings, we in the West are the product of Greek thought, which contines to pervade our society. To be sure, we must take care not to over-generalise. The Jewish approach is to blab the punchline at the outset then explain why, while the Greek (and his offspring) favour dragging out the story with a climatic building up of the tension so that the whole truth is only revealed towards the end. But of course there are exceptions to this generalisation. Modern Jewish society is increasingly influenced by the West, while here imaginative people think out of the box, that is, they think in ways other than they were conditioned to think. But this aside, the basic premise stands: Jewish (indeed Eastern) and Greek modes of thinking differ in approach, especially if we look to the expressions of thought in the first century. And this is important because it demonstrates how, as Greek offspring, we need to take care how we view and interpret the Bible, which is essentially a collection of Jewish writing. In short, it is a thoroughly Jewish book, divinely inspired to be sure, but expressed in the human language of Jewishness, and as such Western Christianity must take care not to impose upon it a Western mindset and thus interpretation.