Welcome—and thanks for visiting!

My most recent publication is the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the Book of Revelation. You can order it from Amazon and other online retailers (make sure you order mine, and not the previous edition by Leon Morris!), or directly from the publisher on the IVP website.

My recent publications include:


Tyndale NT Study Group 26–28 June 2019: Orality, writing and the formation of the canon

We have a fascinating line-up of papers for the NT Study Group this year focussing on orality, writing and the formation of the canon. Do come and join us to engage in some world-class scholarship!

The Tyndale New Testament Study Group is part of the Tyndale Fellowship for biblical and theological research, based at Tyndale House in Cambridge, and including evangelical scholars from all over the world.

This year’s NT Study Group will be meeting at Tyndale House from 26th to 28th June 2019 (the equivalent week to last year). The study group is a great opportunity to engage with excellent biblical scholarship, and to meet other scholars from around the world. Not all those attending are NT scholars themselves, but include church leaders wanting to ground their ministry in excellent understanding of the New Testament. One of those attending previously commented:

I thoroughly recommend the conference as an opportunity to do serious biblical reflection in a faith-filled context.

 

Is Christian faith about ‘personal relationship with Jesus’?

There is a continuing rumbling discussion in the Church Times about the phrase ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ since Angela Tilby’s diatribe against ‘evo-speak’ in February, to which I responded with a letter the following week, and to which there have been further responses. Before exploring the issues, it is worth reflecting on the different reasons for reaction to this phrase—and on reflection I am aware that it is not a phrase that I use myself, and I confess to feeling uncomfortable with some ways in which this language of ‘relationship’ is deployed. 

One possible objection is that ‘relationship with Jesus’ focusses on the second person of the Trinity rather than being fully Trinitarian, though in recent discussion that theological concern doesn’t appear to be evident. Another objection might simply be what we might call ‘ecclesiology-cultural’: it doesn’t fit very comfortably with a certain church ethos. After all, there isn’t anything very ‘chummy’ about the language of the Book of Common Prayer, with its ‘manifold sins and wickedness’ which do ‘most justly provoke thy wrath and indignation against us’. Related to that, and connecting theology with the culture of our language, I remember having a debate with a friend at a summer New Wine conference a few years ago, where my friend argued that God is something akin to a celestial chum, and that if we found God mysterious or difficult to understand then we were missing out on God’s friendship. I think this approach is in serious danger of reducing the analogy of human friendship in our understanding of relationship with God, can trivialise our worship, and doesn’t attend to our confident but still partial understanding expressed in 1 Cor 13.12 as ‘seeing through a glass darkly’ or, in contemporary English, ‘dim reflections in a mirror’. This is reflected in many of our contemporary praise songs, where (in one charismatic tradition) as we ‘come closer’ in some sense to the presence of God, we move into celebrating intimacy, rather than being overwhelmed with the holiness and ‘otherness’ of God or being challenged (as were many who came close to Jesus in the gospel accounts) about the demands of discipleship. So there are clearly some important issues to explore here. 

Inclusion and exclusion in Luke 13

Sunday’s lectionary reading from the gospels is Luke 13.31–35, and once again the lectionary does us something of a disservice by cutting this short passage off from its surrounding narrative. That is not such a problem in relation to what follows, since Luke begins chapter 14 with a clear narrative break, ‘And it happened, he [Jesus] going to the house of a Pharisee on a sabbath…’ which is emphasised in many English translations by starting the sentence with the time marker: ‘One sabbath, Jesus went to…’. But the there is more of a problem in the detachment of the lectionary reading from the passage that precedes it, for several reasons. 

First, the previous pericope begins with a generalised reference to Jerusalem in Luke 13.22: ‘Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.’ Luke is not here offering any specific reference to allow us to locate the discussion that follows, but is reminding us of the ‘journey’ motif that he introduced in Luke 9.51, so that this second section of his account picture Jesus as travelling determinedly to the city, and that the challenge of discipleship is to join Jesus on this spiritual and metaphorical journey. That journey motif is implicit in our reading as background to the Pharisees’ question, and the reference to Jerusalem becomes explicit in Luke 13.34.

How Can Christians Think Hopefully about the Future at the Present Time of Crisis?

Tim Howles writes: The French, would you believe, have two words for “the future”. The first is “l’avenir”. This word describes the sort of situation that would likely pertain were things to progress along the trajectory that is currently established. It’s the word we might use, for example, to celebrate the prospects of a young couple whose commitment to one another right now surely presages a bright future ahead. By contrast, the second word, “le futur”, is more indeterminate. It encapsulates the sense that events might go one way or the other, for better or for worse. It speaks of a future that is hard to predict, a horizon that is difficult to discern, precisely because the present moment does not provide a ground from which to make confident predictions one way or the other.

Western society currently finds itself at a crucial juncture between these two conceptualizations of “the future”. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that we are in the process of transitioning from one to the other. And, if this is true, the challenge for Christians is as follows: how can we speak into this situation in a way that is truly hopeful?

Living in Hope? The Church of England’s ‘Living in Love and Faith’ project on sexuality

Andrew Atherstone writes: Evangelical friends have challenged me to give an account for my participation in the Living in Love and Faith project (LLF), which is currently advising the House of Bishops on ‘human identity, sexuality and marriage’. After 18 months spent discussing academic papers in four work streams (Bible, Doctrine, History, Science), the report drafting has begun in earnest during 2019, for publication around the time of the Lambeth Conference in 2020. There are approximately 35 consultants to the project, including a number of evangelicals. But is participation in this project consistent with evangelical profession? Are the evangelical consultants merely pawns in someone else’s game, recruited to provide window-dressing to a ‘revisionist’ agenda? To maintain our integrity, should we resign and wash our hands of the whole affair?