Welcome—and thanks for visiting!

The second Festival of Theology will be taking place on Wednesday 17th October in Nottingham from 10.30 am to 3.30 pm.

Come and listen to out fantastic speakers address some vital questions for Christian living, mission and discipleship in TED-style talks, with the opportunity to ask questions and interact.

Details of the programme and speakers can be found in this post. Book your ticket online here. See you there!


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:


What is wrong with wearing a burqa?

Boris Johnson has once again got into hot water, and once again his comments have provoked furious reactions on both sides—agreeing and disagreeing with him—but I wonder how may actual read what Johnson said? It is worth reading (and worth the trouble of registering on the site) if only to know what it is that people are debating. The central line of his reasoning is that it seems to him paradoxical that in a country like Denmark, which appears to pride itself on a radical understanding of freedom that protects things we in the UK would find distinctly odd, the burqa is banned when that would be unthinkable here. 

But of course Johnson hasn’t simply offered an argument; he has offered an argument using his swashbuckling and confident style of writing, which makes it very interesting to read but also makes it easily offensive. The offending phrase came in the description of the perception of those wearing burqas in the UK:

 

Jesus came…to destroy the works of the evil one

I have been continuing my teaching at New Wine (Hub 1, 2.30 pm each day) on the question of ‘Why Jesus came…’ based on sayings in the gospels in which Jesus states his purpose in these terms. We begin by exploring Jesus saying ‘I have come to preach [good news]…’ and then reflected on Jesus’ saying ‘I have come to call sinners to repentance’ (Mark 2.17, Luke 5.32). 

This third saying doesn’t quite come on Jesus’ lips himself, but from a verse in 1 John and from the saying of someone on the receiving end (as it were) of Jesus’ ministry. The verse is 1 John 3.8:

For this reason Christ was revealed: to destroy all the works of the evil one.
When I became a Christian as a teenager, and avidly read the writings of David Watson, this verse was one of his ‘top ten’ memory verses for new Christians. I am not sure that it would be in a top ten today—and do we still encourage the learning of memory verses?! I also remember that it was in a well-known chorus, and again I wonder why we don’t sing more scripture in our songs. We might think that this text was about ‘spiritual warfare’ or ‘deliverance’ ministry—but in fact the context in 1 John is the relatively mundane question of holy living and not being led astray in our understanding of God. 

What does it mean to be ‘in Christ’?

The latest Grove Biblical booklet is a fascinating study by the well-known American scholar Michael Gorman on Participation: Paul’s Vision of Life in Christ. Within it, Michael offers 13 theses about Paul’s understanding of the goal of the Christian life, building in his previous ideas published in Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross and Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission, but also moving them on. He begins with the importance of the idea of ‘participation’ both in everyday life but particularly within recent scholarship on Paul. 

How does Revelation configure space and time?

As part of the extended epistolary opening (which runs from Rev 1:4 to 1:11), John locates himself temporally, spatially, relationally and spiritually in a series of ‘in’ statements which are usually obscured in English translations:

I, John, your brother and companion
in the tribulation and kingdom and patient-endurance that are ours
in Jesus was
in the island called Patmos…I was
in the Spirit
in the Lord’s day…
This striking succession of ‘in’ phrases (Greek en, idiomatically translated by a variety of phrases in ETs) locates John temporally—explicitly ‘on the Lord’s day’, implicitly in the recent past, more or less contemporaneous with his readers—and spatially ‘on the island called Patmos’. The relational dimensions of this are both explicit and implicit; John is ‘brother’ to those to whom he writes, using the most common term in the early Jesus movement that redrew the boundaries of familial loyalty around allegiance to the proclamation of the kingdom of God in the person and teaching of Jesus (see the foundational example of this in Matt 12.46–50 and pars). But his spatial location also has implicit relational overtones, since from Patmos John is just able to see the hills on coast of the Roman province of Asia surrounding Ephesus, the nearest of the seven cities. He is at some distance, but as a pastor he is not remote.

What does it mean to be human?

What do you think is the biggest question facing our culture? Is it to do with Brexit, and questions of national identity? Is it about social media, and questions of truth? Is it to do with sex and gender identity? Or are you facing personal questions and challenges that dwarf these? My conviction is that, underlying all these questions is one, much bigger one: What does it mean to be human? All the questions we currently face can be trace to this, larger, underlying question.

And this question, in turn, as two parts to it: who counts as human? What really sets us apart and makes us distinctive? Within the different narratives in our culture, there are numerous challenges which threaten to undermine any confident answer to these questions. In the realm of science and materialism, we are challenged from two directions. On the one hand, we are constantly being told that we are not very different from other members of the animal world. We share 96% of our DNA with chimpanzees, and we have discovered that they can communicate in a kind of language, have social rituals like us, and even go through mourning rituals when one of them dies. (Elephants do this too, but that doesn’t feel like such a challenge to our human identity.) On the other hand, more and more of our life is being taken over by computers, if not robots. Last month, a computer was judged to have won a debate with a panel of experts, and we are told that robots might one day soon care for the elderly. In the film I, Robot, Will Smith interrogates the robot Sonny and challenges him with the reality that robots are not human.