How do the lives of earlier saints illuminate our path?

Richard Briggs, Director of Biblical Studies and Lecturer in Old Testament at Cranmer Hall, Durham, reviews Rowan Williams’ Luminaries: Twenty Lives that Illuminate the Christian Way (London: SPCK, 2019).

In a little under 150 modest pages (small page size, large font), Rowan Williams takes us on a guided tour of 20 people whose lives have something to say to us. The ‘us’ in that sentence, I guess, is people who are interested in learning from the lives of others, and who have broad interests in church history ancient and modern, and are willing to believe that illumination could lie anywhere. My own experience of reading this book was that it does indeed lie rather more widely than I might have expected.

First a description of what Williams does. He takes anything from 5 to 12 pages over each ‘life’, typically 7 or 8 pages, and offers the briefest context before probing one or two key points that speak to us today. The material is eclectic, and sourced from various places. By my count, 7 of the pieces were sermons, 7 more were lectures or addresses, 3 are extracts from previously published works of his, 1 was a radio talk, and 2 are not credited (including the longest piece, 12 pages on Theresa of Avila, about whom Williams once wrote a book). The result of these origins as (mainly) oral address is that the book feels quite informal, and also quite focused on delivering a short, sharp message to take away from each chapter.

What does ‘love’ really mean?

Dr Patrick Mitchel is Director of Learning at the Irish Bible Institute in Dublin, and blogs at Faith in Ireland. He is the author of a new volume in the Bible Speaks Today: Bible Themes series on The Message of Love. I asked him about the book, the theme, and its importance. 

Tell us about the book that you have written. Why were you drawn to write it, and would do you hope it will contribute to the its readers?

The genre of the IVP Bible Speaks Today (BST) Themes series is designed to expound the biblical text and relate to contemporary life in an accessible way. I have done my best to do that through discussion of seventeen texts. Each chapter stands on its own but also makes a distinctive contribution to an overall biblical theology of love.

In regard to why this book, it really was a process of being drawn in to where I felt compelled to put pen to paper. There were twenty BST themes volumes published before this one on love – which is remarkable when you think about it given the importance of love within the Bible. It confirmed what others have noticed before me, that there is a curious lack of biblical studies on love, so this book attempts to help fill that gap. My prayer is that it will give individual readers, preachers and anyone interested in Christianity a fresh vision of the love of God and his agenda for his people to be communities of love within the world. There is a study guide which should be particularly useful for groups.

What was slavery like in the NT world?

The latest Grove Biblical booklet is on Slavery in the New Testament and is by Caryn Reeder, Professor of New Testament at Westmont College, Santa Barbara. It offers a really helpful exploration of the phenomenon of slavery in the New Testament world, and highlights the importance of our understanding since the mention of slavery, both literal and … Continue Reading

Where can worship leaders find wisdom for their leading?

John Leach writes: The role of the ‘worship leader’ and the ‘worship band’ are relatively new on the church scene, coming into mainstream denominations with the rise of charismatic renewal from the 1960s. Before that a worship leader, at least in Anglican circles, was the minister (often but not exclusively ordained) who led the congregation … Continue Reading

Should Christians become vegetarians?

On 3rd January 2019, a new product hit the British high street. It sold out almost immediately, precipitating a nationwide launch and extensive media attention. The company was bakery giant, Greggs, and the product was the vegan sausage roll. Within weeks, Greggs’ sales had increased by almost ten percent, and annual sales broke through the … Continue Reading

How important was class struggle in the early Jesus movement?

Tim Murray writes: One of the pleasures of the last few weeks was the chance to review the collection of essays edited by Robert Myles, recently published under the title Class Struggle in the New Testament (Lexington/Fortress, 2019). In a publishing culture that increasingly values quantity of output over any discernible value or purpose, it refreshing to … Continue Reading

Is Richard Rohr’s ‘Universal Christ’ Christian?

Richard Rohr is a well-known and popular teacher, and his books are regularly best-sellers. Despite that, he is something of a ‘Marmite’ theologian—people either adore or loathe him. Depending on which side you come down on, you will either find his latest book, The Universal Christ (London: SPCK, 2019) a scintillating and energetic tour de force of … Continue Reading