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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:


Why does Jesus make discipleship so hard in Luke 9?

The lectionary reading for Trinity 2 in Year C is Luke 9.51–62. It consists of a brief narrative of rejection of Jesus, following by a collection of three sayings about the challenge of discipleship—but the significance of this passage also derives from its place within Luke’s overall narrative.

Luke 9.51 signals the beginning of Luke’s central ‘journey’ narrative in his gospel, which continues until Jesus’ arrival on the outskirts of Jerusalem in Luke 19.44 at the moment of Cloak Sunday (in the other gospels Palm Sunday; there are no palms or branches mentioned in Luke). Luke doesn’t appear to be telling us anything literal or historical about Jesus’ journeying, since many of the geographical references within this narrative are either rather vague, or in fact don’t really make sense; for example, long after Jesus leaves Galilee and enters Samaria in this reading, we read in Luke 17.11 that he is journeying ‘through the region between Galilee and Samaria’. (Joel Green, NIGTC commentary on Luke, p 398)

The focus, then, is on journeying as a way of understanding what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Right at the beginning we have heard that the ‘dawn from on high’ will break upon us to ‘guide is into the way of peace’ (Luke 1.79), and in Acts we learn that those in the early Jesus movement were known as people of ‘the Way’ (Acts 9.2, 19.9, 23, 22.4, 24.14, 22). The two disciples in Luke 24 meet Jesus on the way to Emmaus, and in this section discipleship is summarised as following Jesus on the journey he is taking. But this journey is not just about the process; it also focusses on the destination: Jerusalem. This is yet another aspect of the focus on Jerusalem in Luke’s gospel and in Acts, the central place in God’s actions from which the gospel then goes out to all the world. 

 

What does the C of E believe the laity are for?

I have been contributing to the Church’s Renewal and Reform stream on developing lay leadership, and one of the questions that has come up is: ‘What does the Church of England actually believe about the laity and lay leadership?’ I am not referring here to what some have called ‘ecclesial lay leadership’, that is, the leadership of lay people within the gathered church at services, such as being a Reader, leading the intercessions, leading small groups and so on, important though these are. I am referring to the vision (if any) that the church as a whole has of the leadership that Christians exercise in their daily occupations by virtue of being baptised followers of Jesus in an unbaptised world. (This is rightly called ‘leadership’, since a leader is anyone that others are following, and we exercise leadership when we influence others and society around us to change in the light of our faith in Jesus.)

To know what ‘the Church of England believes’ officially (rather than asking what the collection of people who happen to identify as Anglican think at any particular time), you need to look at the canons and at the liturgy, since this is where the C of E articulates its doctrine. This would include looking at canons and liturgy relating to ordination, exploring what light that sheds on the whole people of God. But a key part of the liturgy is the Communion service, and particularly the final movement (following Gathering, Liturgy of the Word, and Liturgy of the Sacrament) of the Dismissal. The Latin for dismissal is the origin of the Roman Catholic term ‘Mass’, so this is not an insignificant part of the service; the goal of gathering together, hearing God’s word to us and receiving the tokens of his grace in the bread and wine are that we might be sent out into the world, equipped and transformed.

Can we love God with our mind?

Is Christian faith about an affective encounter with God, or about becoming convinced about the case for Christianity? You will immediately be crying ‘False dichotomy!’—but it is worth reflecting on the balance between these two ideas in contemporary expressions of faith. There was a time when the tradition of rational enquiry was most influential, but the impact of the Charismatic Movement has decisively shifted the balance. You might think that on the Alpha Course from HTB in London it would be the explanation of Why Jesus Died that would lead to personal commitment—but since the influence of the Toronto Blessing in the 1990s, it has been the ‘Holy Spirit’ day that has been seen as the turning point.

And yet there are people who have either come to faith or come to appreciate faith on the basis of thinking and analysis. Tom Holland is a historian, largely of the ancient world, and he explains in an article in the New Statesman how he came to realise through his studies that everything he really valued originated with Christian faith and not with the values of the classical period:

Familiarity with the biblical narrative of the crucifixion has dulled our sense of just how completely novel a deity Christ was. Most of us who live in post-Christian societies still take for granted that it is nobler to suffer than to inflict suffering. [Christianity] is why we generally assume that every human life is of equal value..In my morals and ethics, I have learned to accept that I am not Greek or Roman at all, but thoroughly and proudly Christian.