King's Evangelical Divinity School

28 October 2010

Into the Production Phase At Last

I have a new edited volume on Latin American Pentecostalism coming out shortly, through by the academic publisher Brill (Leiden and Boston) and entitled Pentecostal Power: Expressions, Impact and Faith of Latin American Pentecostalism. The book is the first regional volume in Brill's Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Series (of which I am a consulting editor). As well as commissioning the various chapters and editing the volume, I wrote the Introduction (which provides, among other things, a survey of the rise of Pentecostal Studies within the academy) and a chapter entitled "Pneumapraxis and Eschatological Urgency: A Survey of Latin American pentecostal Theology and Its Outworking". All peer review is completed, the book has undergone its various proof stages and it has now finally entered production. It is scheduled for release in December.

I'm really excited about this volume because it contributes something new to the existing literature on the topic. Whereas there is a myriad of studies exploring Latin American Pentecostalism emanating from across the disciplines, the tendency is an appraisal from the point of view of a particular discipline, so that (with notable exceptions) interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies are somewhat less forthcoming. Particularly scarce are theological treatments of the movement in that part of the world, where much of the academic inquiry has centred upon Pentecostalism's social and political impact. This volume likewise explores this important aspect of Latin American Pentecostalism, but a detailed theological treatment adds an important additional dimension to understanding Pentecostalism's worldview and its ensuing social and political impact. This volume, then, consists of three parts, with the first exploring Latin American Pentecostalism's history and identifying its various expressions, Part 2 provides theoretical treatments of the movement and its social and political impact upon the continent, and finally a third part is devoted to a theological appraisal of the movement. The volume brings together both seasoned, widely-published veterans and newer scholars in the field and from across various academic disciplines (theology, sociology, history, politics, anthropology), and the various chapters represent important contributions in their respective fields.

Further details of the book, including description, contributors, readership and cover image are available on Brill's website, while details of Brill's Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies series is available here.

19 October 2010

Giving up land for peace?

I have a question for those who broadly hold to the view that the modern State of Israel represents divine providence (though others, of course, are welcome to respond too). It is a serious question, aimed at generating some debate among those visiting these pages over how they respond to the realities on the ground and efforts by some sincere actors in the region (as opposed to those who merely exploit peace talks for their own internal political aims) to reach a peace in the region. It is a question I asked two of our panelists in our final session question time during our recent Israel and the Church conference held at London School of Theology a few days ago, yielding two quite different answers, thus demonstrating once again how it is impossible to portray those who believe God retains a plan and purpose for the Jewish people as essentially homogenous.

Anyway, the question is this: Are there any biblical or theological objections to Israel giving up land for peace? I mean, of course, a genuine peace, not giving up land which is seized upon as a sign of weakness (such as Hamas' response to Sharon's Gaza pull-out and its long-term piecemeal attempt to secure all the land and create an Islamic state). I would genuinely be interested to hear your views because many pro-Israel Christians grapple with this issue - arguably increasingly so - and it seems to me this represents an important defining line between two major expressions of Christian Zionism.

14 October 2010

Ahmadinejad's Folly

So today Iran's President Ahmadinejad informed the Lebanese during his controversial visit to that country that Israelis are mortal (code: they can be destroyed and the land taken back). Individuals are, of course, immortal, but what about a people, particularly God's historical people? The Jewish people were uniquely singled out for ethnic cleansing in the most atrocious and systematic manner imaginable in the twentieth century (and indeed throughout many centuries), and yet they survived. Moreover, the Bible indicates God retains a plan and purpose for the Jewish people (eg Jer 31:35-37, Ro 11:25-6 cf Is 59:20-21), regardless of whether or not Christians agree that the present state of Israel constitutes a divinely-ordained plan. Thus, leaving aside the continued folly, indeed paranoia, of someone supposed to be world statesman, it rather looks like Ahmadinejad - who seeks the destruction of Israel as desperately as the other antisemites who went before him - is on the wrong side of history. I warrant his ilk will disappear long before those he so irrationally detests. That is, after all, the general lesson history teaches us.

12 October 2010

A Brief But Interesting Conversation Concerning Progressive Dispensationalism

I'm not a dispensationalist by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, far from it (my theology and influences are somewhat disparate and eclectic). Yet it is important to note how this theological system takes several different forms, and thus it is essential when discussing dispensationalism to define carefully which version one is referring to. Famously, of course, some years ago several dispensationalist scholars famously modified their position, leading to what is now known as "progressive dispensationalism". I had an opportunity to discuss briefly the nature of progressive dispensationalism with one of its architects just last week.

Like most tutors I have a special place on my bookcase, now running (quite literally) several yards of books in my own field waiting to be read (those working in the university sector will know exactly what I mean). Therefore, I've never really had chance to read the books setting out the case for progressive dispensationalism. So during our Israel and the Church conference this past week, I seized upon the opportunity to get it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, from one of the conference speakers - Darrell Bock - who, together with Craig Blaising and Robert Saucy, is the architect of progressive dispensationalism. Hence, on one of those numerous occasions last week while driving Darrell and Mitch around, tortuously negotiating London's horrendous traffic, I had a chance to ask Darrell to spell out, in a nutshell, the essence of progressive dispensationalism (I thought: why read the book when you can get the author to encapsulate it in a few sentences?) .

I began by pointing out my struggle with what I perceived as classical dispensationalism's seemingly arbitrary imposition of seven dispensations upon the canonical narrative. I qualified this, however, by explaining how I had no problem in principle with God dealing with humanity and revealing His salvific plan in successive stages. After all, the narrative of the Transfiguration highlights the central characters of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, corresponding to three stages of God's revelation, namely, the Law, the Prophets and finally Christ (who is the ultimate revelation, cf Hebrews 1:1-2).

Darrell agreed, noting (deadpan) how actually everyone is really a dispensationalist in one form or another, which, if you think about it, is quite true. Consider how at its most basic, of course, we can at the very least divide Scripture into the Old and New Testaments. Darrell then went on to speak of three dispensations (Israel, the Church, the Kingdom), quite at odds with how classical dispenstaionalism typically postulates seven eras. Progressive dispensationalism also seems to move away from the culmination and nature of the dispensations as classically understood. All in all, while it was a somewhat brief conversation it nonetheless piqued my curiosity.  Towards the end of the conversation, I asked why they didn't ditch the term "dispensationalism" altogether which, after all, is now laden with all sorts of presuppositions and baggage (some of it fair, some not). Yet Darrell's response was the importance of defining properly terminology before modifying and/or changing it, and actually I must agree.

I'm not saying I'm fully persuaded by this modified position. For example, as a premillennialist I subscribe to posttribulationism rather than pretribulationism (I can't get away from that ancient biblical phrase referring to the parousia - the Day of the Lord - and how, arguably, it loses its impact somewhat if stretched over a seven year, two-stage return of the Lord). But I did come away from the conversation deciding to look into their views further, adding Darrell Bock's and Craig Blaising's Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition (Zondervan, 1992) and Progressive Dispensationalism (Bridgepoint, 1993) to my "to read" shelf. After all, it is clear these guys have given this matter some considerable thought. They are no dummies, each with a string of conference papers, journal and book publications to their names (with respected theological publishers), and I respectfully suggest that, whether you agree with them or not, anyone creating straw man parodies of their position ultimately faces the very real danger of making themselves look quite silly.

I'd certainly be interested to hear from anyone who has read either book.

11 October 2010

About That Conference...

Well, the Israel and the Church: A Common Heritage and Uncertain Future conference, jointly organised by King's Evangelical Divinity School and Chosen People Ministry and held at London School of Theology on 8-9 October, was a great success. All places were booked (the chapel was filled to capacity) and speakers were Darrell Bock (Dallas Theological Seminary), Mitch Glaser (Chosen People Ministries, New York), Jules Gomes (formerly LST, now Liverpool Cathedral), Richard Harvey (All Nations Christian College), Barry Horner (author of Future Israel) and myself. The papers covered the issue from a range of angles, and we culminated with a Question Time type debate. We're preparing a press release for later in the week, and eventually a full conference report, and I'll post details here when both are published. A conference volume is also being planned, which will include papers already commissioned in addition to those delivered at the conference. In the meantime, further details and information about obtaining recordings can be found here.

Importantly, the speakers together demonstrates the complexities of this issue and during the course of the event I was approached by a number of people previously undecided on the issue who explained how helpful they had found the conference. Poignantly, one young woman who recently completed a university degree explained how she had attended this year's Greenbelt, which took a particularly biased anti-Israel position. She explained how she came away from the festival eager to promote its core message and lobby against Israel, but having attended this weekend's conference she had come to learn that in fact there was another side to the debate she had never encountered before, not just about the Middle East conflict but also a biblical and theological response to the whole issue of Israel. She expressed indignation Greenbelt had been so one-sided and planned to go away and research the issue further and much more objectively. This was precisely one of the purposes of the conference, to challenge the current narrative, demonstrate another point of view and to encourage a less polarised, more objective biblical and theological examination of the issues, which is right and proper among Christians of all persuasions.

More about Greenbelt and the Middle East here, here and here. (BTW, I believe Peter Tatchell was invited to be a speaker at Greenbelt this year, as discussed by Chris Lazenby and Keith Waters on the King's blog here. If so, it's pretty indicative of the political/theological line the festival takes.)

It was also good to meet several people at the conference who frequently post comments on this blog. My only regret is that I did not have more time to chat with people. Anyway, see about getting hold of those DVDs. More on this conference later this week.

5 October 2010

Still A Handful of Places

Most of the places for the Israel and the Church conference at LST (London) have been taken up. However, we still have a handful of spaces remaining if anyone is interested in booking at this rather late stage. Booking options allow you to reserve places for one, other or both days (full details here). But do hurry, as we've had a surge of last-minute bookings and thus only have about a dozen places left for the Friday, with roughly half that number remaining for the Saturday.


Apologies. Since posting this just a little earlier, I've since learned of several new bookings this evening, which means there are now only six places left for the Friday, with a further five available for the Saturday (we probably could, at a push, find room for a couple more on the Saturday - unfortunately we can't do so for Friday evening as we've booked catering for a maximum of a hundred people).

UPDATE (Wed 6 Oct)

No more places remaining for Friday evening. Also all 125 places fully booked for Saturday, though we are seeing if we can add a few extra chairs (maybe 5-10). Email office@kingsdivinity to be added to a standby list. First come first served.

4 October 2010

Pentecostals and Brazilian Politics

It looks like the former Marxist rebel, Dilma Rousseff, poll favourite and heir apparent to Brazil's President Lula da Silva, is going to have to face a runoff ballot for the Brazilian presidency next month. Despite a series of opinion polls suggesting she commanded well above the 50% of support needed to avoid a runoff, instead a last-minute surge of support for the Green candidate Marina Silva, who secured nearly a fifth of total ballots cast, resulted (as things stand at the moment) with Rousseff some 2-3 % shy of what she needed for an outright victory.

This result - if confirmed - is significant for Evangelicals for various reasons. First, Brazil counts one of the largest Evangelical - predominantly Pentecostal - populations in the world, with figures of between 40% and 50% regularly cited by commentators (though it is important to treat with care some of the inflated figures often bandied about, usually by Marxists and Catholics fearful of an Evangelical invasion, or else driven by Pentecostal triumphalism). Such a powerful bloc cannot be ignored in any election, and it seems in this instance Rousseff failed to convince Brazil's Pentecostals that she planned to liberate the country's abortion laws, together with introducing other social policies which Pentecostals would have found hard to swallow. Interestingly, many Evangelicals switched support to Marina Silva, likely explaining in part her surge of support at the last minute.  Significantly, the Green candidate Marina Silva is herself a Pentecostal belonging to the Assemblies of God.

Thus, Brazil's weekend poll yields several interesting issues for those interested in Evangelical engagement with the political sphere. First, despite the claims by some sociologists and political scientists in the 1960s and early 1970s that religion was in terminal decline as an important determinant of political outlook and behaviour, among Latin America's Pentecostals this has proved far from the case. Indeed, the explosion of Pentecostalism across the continent since the late 1970s has been instrumental in leading many social scientists to ditch secularisation theories.

Brazil's poll also yields another interesting story, namely, that any attempt to stereotype all Evangelicals as reactionary and on the political right lacks nuance. A case in point is how over the weekend many of Brazil's Pentecostals switched their support for a leftist government to another leftist presidential candidate from the Green Party. Clearly, then, Brazilian Pentecostals have little problem voting for someone on the left. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that such a situation is far from new, at least as far as Latin American Pentecostals are concerned. Take, for example, 1970s Chile, during which time many Pentecostal leaders supported General Pinochet. However, in the early 1970s the evidence suggests that the majority of grassroots Chilean Pentecostals instead supported the Marxist Salvador Allende. Meanwhile, in Sandinista Nicaragua, depite the bulk of classical Pentecostals remaining apolitical or eschewing the revolution, nonetheless there remained a hardcore of 30% of Pentecostals who supported it. Thus, this weekend has demonstrated yet again the evolving and increasingly diverse nature of Evangelical politics.

For those interested in exploring these issues further, our M.A. in Theology at King's explores the nature and theology of the movement, including a module entitled History, Thought and Expressions of Global Evangelicalism, together with additional case study modules rooted in a survey of the movement in Asia, Northern Europe and North America, Africa and Latin America. Further details of the M.A. programme are available here.

1 October 2010

Enviro-fascism at it again

The green lobby constantly pushes the view that if you don't fall fully behind them, then somehow you're stupid, immoral, or downright evil. Disagreeing with the concept of AGW, even expressing the slightest doubt, inevitably attracts disdain, abus and vilification from among the more extreme elements of the movement. Thus, a form of thought control is the order of the day, and in many cases some of these eco-fundamentalists are as bad as medieval heretic-hunters or their modern-day totalitarian equivalent (hence the term enviro-fascism).

But even some within their number acknowledge their comrades crossed a line when the 10:10 campaign (which seeks to encourage everyone to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% in 2010... no pressure, mind you) aired a short video today which shocked even many environmentalists. Tongue in cheek? An attempt to bring humour to their message? Quite likely. A spectacular own goal? Most definitely! It demonstrates just how these enviro-fascists think (or rather, how they would have us think). Ironically, greenies keep trying to pull the video, realising how it has caused considerable damage to their cause, but somewhat mischeviously  climate change sceptics just keep on uploading it back on the Internet. James Delingpole over the Daily Telegraph has more on the story, together with a link to the film. Be warned, it's pretty graphic.

By the way, 10:10 have apologised today and pulled the film from their website. Indeed, but for this I had assumed it was all a con, so spectacular was this own goal.