Reimagining Church: Review, part 1

A few weeks ago Ben Witherington III (BW3) posted a multi-part review of Frank Viola’s book Reimagining Church, which was followed by a conversation between Viola and BW3 about the issues raised. I offered my own response to part 1 of BW3’s review, and later reported on the ongoing debate. I was also sent my own copy of the book. I have now read part 1 of the book, “Community and Gatherings”, representing almost exactly half of the book. Here I am offering a review of this part, or perhaps more precisely my general reflections on it. I intend to continue reading part 2, “Leadership and Accountability”, which promises to be more controversial, and I will share my thoughts on that here in due course.

I must say that I was a little disappointed by the first half of this book. The strength of BW3’s criticism had led me to expect something far more novel and controversial! What in fact I found, at least in part 1, is mostly material to which I reacted “Well, of course! Doesn’t everyone believe this?” It turns out that most of the issues on which BW3 disagrees with Viola, apart from the one of hierarchy which I will come back to in another post, are peripheral matters in Viola’s argument, or places where he has allowed himself to be carried away by hyperbole. Sure, there are places where Viola’s exegesis is not as strong as it might be, but, for example, he is following a common evangelical understanding in seeing the “Let us make …” in Genesis 1:26 as reflecting the Trinity.

Now I wonder if my reaction is so different from BW3’s because of differences between the British and North American church scenes. I have heard it said that the North American church is five years ahead of the British, in every trend whether good or bad. But on this matter I can’t help wondering if the British church is ahead, and by about 25 years. Viola is basically promoting the vision of a house church movement which he has been involved in for 20 years but is presenting as something novel to his primarily North American audience. Maybe this really is new to most North American Christians, or maybe they just have short memories. But my memories, based on over 30 years as an evangelical Christian, go back to a British house church movement which probably started in the 1960s and was certainly influential into the 70s and 80s. I was never personally involved in such a group, but had close contacts with some who were, and heard a lot of teaching from that direction, mostly in the early 80s.

Specifically here in Chelmsford but relating also to national trends, that was a time when many Christians who had been touched by the charismatic movement were re-examining what it meant to be church, and contrasting what they found with their experience in rather traditional churches. Many, some of whom were and still are my friends, left to set up and join what started out as house churches. These churches soon outgrew the homes they met in and started to meet in hired halls, but they kept many if not all of their house church distinctives as well as a generally charismatic approach. And in practice these are many of the same things which Viola is now teaching in America, 25 years later.

In other ways some of these house churches took a very different direction from what Viola teaches in terms of leadership and authority. To a greater or lesser extent they became involved in the shepherding movement, of which one of the leaders was Derek Prince but from which, as I mentioned in passing recently, he later dissociated himself. One of the groups I had close contacts with in fact put themselves under the leadership of the infamous Bishop Michael Reid, whose teaching on authority must be the complete antithesis of Viola’s. But I will come back to this issue. At least one other Chelmsford house church group from that time is still in existence, as Chelmsford Community Church which identifies itself as

born out of the house-church movement, around 30 years ago.

Personally, in the 1980s I didn’t join one of these house churches, but in 1985 I did move from a traditional evangelical Anglican church to my current church which although officially Anglican was, and still is now, very much focused on church as community rather than institution. I can’t claim that we put into practice every part of Viola’s teaching, but, except concerning leadership, we acknowledge the principles Viola teaches while making allowances for the more traditional preferences of some of our members, and for what we are required to be and do as Anglicans.

But perhaps I am wrong to claim that the house church movement is a British invention. I just retrieved from my bookshelves a book which I have kept since the early 1980s, although mostly unopened: The Community of the King by Howard A. Snyder, published in 1977 by IVP in the USA. This book is referred to and quoted by Frank Viola, and indeed much of what he writes, at least in part 1 of Reimagining Church, is very similar to what Snyder was teaching 30 years ago – although perhaps Snyder is more cautious than Viola in recognising that even new forms of church are still institutions with structures. That Viola is dependent on Snyder and others of his generation doesn’t make his teaching wrong, but it does explain why there is little in it which is new to me.

It is also worth noting that Snyder’s book, which includes explicit positive teaching about the gifts of the Spirit, would probably have been accepted in its day only by charismatics; whereas Viola deliberately avoids suggesting that charismatic manifestations are of the essence of his house churches.

So, to return to Viola’s book: he starts by asking his readers to reimagine the church as an organism rather than an organisation, as a community modelled on the Trinity as a community of three. While he rejects “Biblical Blueprintism”, he is strongly opposed to the religious tradition which has shaped so many of our churches. He recognises that the “DNA” of the church will produce different forms in different environments, but accuses traditional churches of violating this “DNA” by forcing the church into unnatural forms.

Viola continues by reimagining church meetings. Here I think BW3 is right to criticise his classification of four kinds of church meetings, at least if he intends rigid distinctions between them rather than different emphases. But he is right to insist that regular gatherings of the church should primarily be for “Mutual Edification”, allowing every member participation. He notes how the Reformation embraced the principle of the priesthood of all believers but did not allow this to be worked out in practice in the church.

Perhaps the most revolutionary part of Viola’s teaching is on the Lord’s Supper. He rejects the idea of distributing token pieces of bread and drink in favour of sharing full meals, “The Lord’s Banquet”. It would be very hard for traditional churches to fully embrace this teaching. But in practice churches like mine have regular potluck style meals very much like what Viola proposes, as well as celebrating the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist in a more traditional way.

The next sacred cow Viola tries to slay is that of the church building. He makes a good point that the early church generally met in homes, although BW3 is surely right to object that there were exceptions to this. And Viola makes a good case for why this is right and proper, including pointing out (p.89) the scandal that in the USA alone

Christians give between $9 and $11 billion a year on church buildings. How much freer would their hands be to support the poor and needy as well as to spread the gospel if they didn’t have to bear such a heavy burden?

Archbishop John Sentamu noted last week (thanks to David Keen for the link):

It would cost $5 billion to save six million children’s lives. World leaders could find 140 times that amount for the banking system in a week. How can they now tell us that action for the poorest on the planet is too expensive?

But if the church just in the USA can find twice that $5 billion for its own buildings, shouldn’t the Archbishop also be calling for some of that money to be spent instead on saving children’s lives?

But a problem Viola doesn’t address in detail is the one which the 1980’s house churches here in Britain quickly faced: what happens when a congregation grows too large for a home? Perhaps this is not such a problem in Viola’s central Florida. But here in Chelmsford there are few homes which can comfortably house meetings of more than about 20 people; gardens are often no larger and the weather can never be relied on. Viola writes (p.85):

What did the church do when it grew too large to assemble in a single home? It certainly didn’t erect a building. It simply multiplied and met in several other homes, following the “house to house” principle (Acts 2:46; 20:20).

But if a group of about 20 divides, or multiplies, because it has filled a home, it becomes two groups of only ten, each not really large enough to be a viable independent church or provide a broad base of fellowship for its members. In fact they become the spiritual equivalent of nuclear families, rather than the extended family model which is more appropriate for the church. Also if each group needs several leaders, it can be very hard to find an adequate number of people who have the necessary gifts and maturity to lead even a very small church.

It is for reasons like that that many churches like mine have adopted a home group or “cell church” model, offering a combination of small group meetings in homes with larger central meetings. But of course the central meetings require a building, owned or hired by what is then necessarily some kind of officially organised church. Viola does allow for large group gatherings but apparently only on special occasions, not regular ones which might encourage ordinary Christians to find their sense of belonging in a larger group.

Viola is right to point out that the chief New Testament model for the church is the family. But it is not the modern American or British nuclear family. It is really not at all clear what kind of size of church Viola has in mind, although his final example implies an “organic church” of more than a dozen or so. He is indeed right that many people today are looking for the kind of close community offered by this family model of the church. But churches like mine work very hard on offering community like this without going all the way with the house church model. And the very visibility of a church building at the geographical heart of a community draws into the family people who might never be reached through home based fellowships.

On church unity, Viola makes some good points, and a historically debatable link between sectarianism and the clergy/laity divide. He is right to look for unity primarily not through doctrine but through “organism”. But he goes too far, in my opinion, in expecting Christians from very different traditions to join together in the same house church. Indeed in his example he notes that “the sparks began to fly” and there was a messy split before a new consensus emerged among the survivors. In practice, and especially if we are talking about quite small groups, house churches of the kind he recommends will work best if the members take rather similar positions on basic issues which divide evangelicals. Each house church should of course also accept the validity of other positions, and not allow any barriers to fellowship with groups taking different positions. It is somewhat ironic that Viola comes on strong about things that fragment the body of Christ but doesn’t recognise that for house churches the walls of a house necessarily do this. He rightly considers inadequate the kind of ecumenism in which only church leaders meet together. But his readers are left in the dark about what unity should mean in practice, in a city where there are more Christians than can fit into one home.

Viola sums up this part of the book by studying how church practice links with God’s eternal purpose. Although some of the details are exegetically debatable, he certainly makes a good point that the mission of God is far more than to save individuals, it is to build a new community.

I can see why Viola’s book annoyed a good scholar like BW3. If I look at it as an academic monograph I can find significant weaknesses. There is exegesis which is not fully justified in the text, and perhaps not all of it is justifiable. There are generalisations and flights of hyperbole which would not be expected from a careful scholar. Contrary opinions are dismissed without proper analysis. And there are conclusions reached without being fully explained.

But Viola does not intend his book to be an academic monograph. I’m sure he would have written very differently if he had intended it as such. It is written not for scholars, not even for theologically educated church leaders, but “To every Christian who has reimagined church”. It is written to make ordinary Christians think, to react, and to discuss the issues raised. Indeed each chapter closes with questions for reflection and discussion. A judicious use of provocative hyperbole helps to make a book fit for such purposes.

Well, I have written over 2,000 words on this already, nothing like BW3’s 26,000 in four parts but still quite a lot. So I will leave this review here for now, and read on into the more controversial part about leadership and accountability.

Updated 1st October to add some links, also to clarify what Viola had to say about multiplying groups and to add the sentence starting “Viola does allow for large group gatherings …”

An Audience with a Musical Bishop

I am not much of a concert goer. In fact I think before tonight the last mainly musical evening I went to was the folk concert I went to last year by fellow blogger Tim Chesterton, visiting his old home of Essex from Canada where he is an Anglican priest.

Tonight I have been to a musical evening which had a lot in common with that last one. Again the performer was a solo singer with acoustic guitar. Again the venue was a church building, this time the one I attend. And again the performer was an Anglican clergyman associated with the Dengie peninsula where Tim grew up. Tonight’s performer was the Bishop of Bradwell, Laurie Green. Bishop Laurie’s association with Bradwell on the Dengie is purely nominal, because it is the site of an ancient church building. He is in fact a suffragan (assistant) to the Bishop of Chelmsford, and is my local area bishop.

I have come across Bishop Laurie a number of times when he has visited my church, most recently for a large confirmation service. I think he finds our very informal style rather hard to cope with because his own inclinations are “smells and bells” Anglo-Catholic. But I have always liked what he says and how he says it.

Tonight the bishop visited my church again but for a rather different purpose, to offer An Audience with Bishop Laurie, an evening of musical entertainment in a variety of styles, interspersed with stories of his life going back to his childhood in the East End of London. He really is a good guitarist, and a good stage performer. Among the songs he sang were the East End folk songs of his own childhood, including one he learned while working in a jellied eel factory about why the winkle turns to the right when it goes to bed! And while there were a few explicitly Christian songs there were also charmingly irreligious ones like Sister Josephine by Jake Thackray.

Towards the end there was a chance to ask questions. I resisted the temptation to ask a difficult question about, say, the Lambeth Conference, and instead listened and admired the wise way he answered the sometimes difficult questions others put to him. This was a good evening for the mostly mature audience, many of whom are not regular churchgoers.

I thoroughly recommend him to other churches in the area. Not all bishops are bad!

Todd Bentley update from Rick Joyner

I’m sorry to post twice in one day about Todd Bentley, but my excuse is that for the first time for some weeks there is actually some news about the man himself. Thanks to “learnfrenchwiththebible” for the link. Rick Joyner has written an article, dated yesterday (26th September) and apparently his first since 23rd August, which includes the following, starting at the beginning (I have added the italics, the bold emphasis is Joyner’s):

The number one question I am asked is, “How is Todd Bentley doing?” Todd came to spend a few days with us, and in general I was encouraged with how he’s doing. He is deeply sorry for the problems that his problems have caused others. He is well aware that he made some mistakes and foolish choices. Todd wants to express this as clearly as he can in a letter, which should be coming in a few weeks. It will take that long because I will be helping him with this, and I will be out of the country for three weeks. We also want to get input from a few others, and this will take time.

The present plan is for him to get some practical issues worked out in his life, visit with a couple of friends who have gone through similar things in their lives and have come through them victoriously, and then come to Heritage for a period of time to begin a healing and restoration process.

I have also spent some time with two of the primary leaders of Fresh Fire Ministries. I am confident that both Todd and Fresh Fire will not only make it through this, but will be a powerful force and factor in what will be unfolding in the coming times. …

I appreciate the patience and the prayers of those who have not given up on Todd, Fresh Fire Ministries, the Lakeland Outpouring, and especially on the Lord to continue moving mightily in Lakeland and in many other places. Lakeland was a spark that has lit many fires and continues to light them—they are not going out. If you were touched in any way by it, keep moving forward. This was never about Todd Bentley but the Lord, and He is moving at a dramatic pace now. This really could be the beginning of the move of God that does not stop moving!

At the same time, we cannot keep killing our own wounded. As Galatians 6:1 declares, we have no choice but to restore those who are caught in “any trespass.” I am very confident that Todd  will not only be back in ministry, but will ultimately have a much bigger impact and be walking in even more power than he has yet walked in. …

At the same time, I was not very surprised by Todd’s problems. Those of his nature and calling have always been prone to great victories and advances, and great mistakes. The Apostle Peter is a good example. Right after he received one of the greatest commendations in Scripture, the Son of God Himself called him “Satan” (see Mark 8:33). One minute Peter was hearing straight from heaven, and the next minute he was hearing straight from hell. Right after denying the Lord, which is one of the worst things we could do, Peter was restored and became the leader of the revival on the Day of Pentecost. Go figure.

Joyner concludes his letter by quoting in its entirety the letter from Rory and Wendy Alec of God TV which I discussed in a previous post. He describes this letter as follows:

I thought this was as close to a letter with true apostolic weight as I have yet seen about these issues.

Todd Bentley's Chinese tattoo means "King David"

My fellow bloggers John Hobbins and David Ker don’t seem to be ashamed to blog about celebrity tattoos. So why shouldn’t I blog again about Todd Bentley’s tattoos?

The subject came up again in comments here by Julie Steadman. Originally she claimed concerning one of Todd’s tattoos:

the japanese symbols exactly match what is used to depict the Budhist angel Emma-O.

I asked her for evidence, and she replied yesterday, more than a week later, with a quotation from this web page which in fact by no means supports her claim. The tattoo in question, pictured here, consists of three Chinese characters, which are also used in Japanese where they are called Kanji. According to a Japanese “expert”, the first character means “great” and the third “king”; the middle character might mean “protect”. But in this order they make no sense in Japanese, although they might be rearranged to mean “Protect the Great King”. So what is the link to the supposed Buddhist angel “Emma-O”? Only that this angel is also sometimes called “Great King”. Well, God and Jesus are also sometimes called “Great King”, so why is anyone suggesting that a tattoo on a Christian refers to a Buddhist rather than a Christian king?

But it turns out that this is not the real significance of the tattoo. Now I don’t know any Chinese or Japanese personally. But I do know how to identify Chinese or Kanji characters. It seems that the three in Todd’s tattoo are:


The middle character, the one which the Japanese “expert” consulted for the page Julie linked to had trouble identifying, is Unicode character 885E, with (according to Unicode data) the Mandarin pronunciation wèi, the Korean pronunciation wi, and the Vietnamese pronunciation vệ.

A bit of googling gave me a whole page about this character including this image, from which I determined that its Japanese pronunciation is mamoru, and its English meaning is “defence”. I also found that the combination 大衞斯 dai mamoru shi, pronounced together daieishi, is used for a man called Davids, and the first two characters here are the first two characters in Todd’s tattoo. Since the third character of the tattoo means “king”, this suggests that the tattoo could perhaps be read “King David”.

So guess what I found when I asked Yahoo Babelfish to translate “King David” into traditional Chinese for me? 大衛国王. Todd’s tattoo consists of the first, second and fourth of these characters. The third character, meaning “country”, is apparently redundant, because the whole tattoo, 大衛王, translates back into English as “David king”.

To confirm this, I looked at Bible Gateway for the Chinese Union Version (in traditional orthography) of 1 Kings 1:1. Here is the verse:

大 衛 王 年 紀 老 邁 , 雖 用 被 遮 蓋 , 仍 不 覺 暖 。

In English the first part of this of course means “When King David was very old …” (TNIV). The first three characters appear to be exactly the ones of Todd’s tattoo, clearly implying that this is the traditional Christian way of writing “King David” in Chinese. It doesn’t make sense in Japanese because it is not Japanese but Chinese.

I can only presume that Todd went to a tattooist and asked for a Chinese tattoo meaning “King David”. And he got what he asked for.

God TV defends Todd Bentley broadcasts

In many of the recent discussions of Todd Bentley and the Lakeland outpouring there has been criticism of the role that God TV played in this. For example, Rupert Ward has written the following:

Lakeland, on the other hand, was virtually instantaneous, screened live by God TV and on the internet.  In my opinion, God TV have a lot to answer for, as they effectively became the ones who proclaimed this from the rooftops: this is God – jump in.  It didn’t allow time for people, or for questions, or for process.  They were forcing people to make a choice: are you for this or not?

I can’t imagine the pressures that suddenly hit Todd Bentley and his Fresh Fire ministry.  In the matter of a few days, he was catapulted from a somewhat known itinerant preacher to global superstar in the Christian world. …

In the end, the failing of Todd to live faithfully to his wife, has had a greater impact on the body of Christ due to the prominence he had ‘achieved’ over the last few months.  If Lakeland hadn’t happened, I doubt it would have registered a hit on Christian radar.

For that, I think that GodTV do have real responsibility.  Not for Todd choices.  But for the pressure that he was put under.  For not allowing Lakeland to grow slowly or fizzle out.  For promoting something, and then not taking responsibility for the leadership they brought to the worldwide body of Christ.

To an extent I agree with Rupert. The decision of God TV to broadcast the Lakeland meetings certainly put Todd under massive pressure. This may well have contributed to the breakdown of his marriage. It certainly increased public awareness of his moral lapse. But does this in itself make God TV to blame?

Today I have received by e-mail, also available online and featured on their UK home page, a statement from Rory and Wendy Alec, the founders of God TV, defending their decision to broadcast from Lakeland. Here are some extracts from what they write:

we believe that the Lord instructed us to broadcast the Outpouring services at Lakeland with Todd Bentley.

It was not a mistake.
It was not by mistake.
We believe it was a clear instruction from the Lord.

Over the past twelve years, but especially since our launch in America, we have in obedience to the Lord searched through the earth for those events and anointings that the Lord has laid on our hearts – to amplify their message and anointing to the Body of Christ in this crucial endtime hour that we live in.

The Lakeland Outpouring with Todd Bentley was one of those events. We received over 45 000 e-mails many, many of these heart rending, powerful testimonies from viewers across the earth of their bodies or their families bodies healed, their lives transformed and their hearts revived.

None of us have ever seen such significant fruit in all the years of broadcast.

Far more profound than that were the desperate cries for help. I (Wendy), would go through the live inbox and see the desperate cries from mothers, wives, sons and daughters, so many with TERMINALLY ILL husbands, wives, children, sometimes babies in arms – sensing HOPE in their situation that for so long had been without hope.

Just reading these prayer requests would bring one to tears –

We are often so cloistered from the agony of peoples day by day real life agonies – and their agonies were written there. …

The enemy had heard of the great honoring of the Lamb and was determined to destroy it – BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE AND AT ANY COST.

And the cost was Todd Bentley.

Was it because Todd was vulnerable and certain areas of his life were not surrendered wholly – Yes – like so many of us – in all probability.

Was it because the character of Christ was not yet formed in him in the equivalent measure to his gifting? Yes – like so many of us – in all probability.

Could it be the case that there by the grace of God go YOU AND I… Yes – In all probability. …

On the June 23rd, Todd actually spoke openly and with great vulnerability of his and Shonnah’s previous marriage challenges and how they had faced those challenges and the Lord had begun His work. He did not try to hide their struggle but shared their ongoing journey.

As Rick Joyner so wisely put it –
In marriage, I have learned there are those who admit they have been through times when they wondered if their marriage would make it, and then there are liars. …” …

The Lord also shared with us that someone can be deceived in an AREA of sin but it does not necessarily mean that in every area of his or her life or ministry, they were walking in deception as some critics of the revival may lean to believe.

And who is to judge that the Lord does not hold the violent unleashing of criticism and faultfinding and tearing down and divisiveness of the heresy hunters, as severe a sin as separation in a marriage? …

So beloved friend –

Do we at GOD TV refute the Outpouring? NO.

We are presently planning to broadcast other offshoots of Lakeland in both the United Kingdom and America, including revival meetings in Dudley, England. …

Remember: this was never about Todd Bentley. It was always about the Holy Spirit and the fact that God loved you and I. It was GOD who touched our lives. …

Remember also, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Let’s turn our eyes toward Him and away from our trust in man.

He who sent His only begotten Son.

The Great Father of Compassions.

To Him alone we bow.

Personally we believe that the best is yet to come.

For our King and His Kingdom

Rory and Wendy Alec

Rory and Wendy don’t admit to making any mistakes in their coverage. I regret that because I suspect that they did. For example, it seems likely, although I can’t prove it, that Todd returned to Lakeland sooner than expected after his break in July because of pressure from God TV, who had doubtless seen their Lakeland viewing figures plummet in his absence. In fact the blame for that should be mainly with the viewers who were more interested in watching a man than in experiencing God at work. But if God TV did put pressure on Todd they were wrong to do so. I hope that they are at least privately recognising that not everything is perfect in their world and doing something to put it right.

Nevertheless I accept that God TV is a genuine Christian ministry whose leaders are truly wanting to see God glotified, and who in this case did what they really believed God was calling them to do. It is all too easy to say that they were wrong, especially with the benefit of hindsight. But even with that hindsight we must realise that the damage caused by the way this ended is probably far less than the benefit gained by millions of viewers worldwide who saw God in action in Lakeland, many of whom were touched in their own bodies. Anyway, it is before God and their own accountability partners that Rory and Wendy should be giving account, and so it is not for me or any other outsiders to judge them.

As for the wider role of Christian TV, I understand Rupert’s concerns, but for the reasons I gave in my first comment on his post I don’t think it should be stopped. My conclusion there can also serve to conclude this post:

For all my ambivalence about God TV I do at least believe that Rory and Wendy Alec’s hearts are in the right place, not looking for personal gain or spreading false teaching but genuinely (to quote from their website) “taking the message of the Gospel and the heart of God to the nations of the world”. I hope they are learning lessons from Lakeland.

Mark Strauss on Obama and Palin

I have just discovered the Zondervan blog koinōnia: biblical-theological conversations for the community of Christ. This is where the quiz I just took on the NT use of the OT was posted. And it seems to be bursting with interesting posts, especially this one: Obama, Palin, and the Complementarian-Egalitarian Debate by Mark L. Strauss. It is not only the bloggers at koinōnia who are heavyweights: the first commenter on this post is none other than Craig Blomberg. I won’t say much about this post (as I am trying not to spend much time blogging!) except that it is an excellent take on the issues I raised here and here. Read Strauss’ post!

Quiz on New Testament use of the Old Testament

I’m not doing very well at blogging less so far. My excuse is that at least this week Saturday is the only day when I have significant time to give to this, so I am taking my chance.

I just took an interesting quiz about the different views of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. This quiz is presented by Zondervan in connection with a forthcoming book. Thanks to ElShaddai for the link. I score a bare majority of 51% for the Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents view described below, and 43% for the Fuller Meaning, Single Goal view for which ElShaddai posted the description. I must say I find the distinction between these two views to be very subtle, but then perhaps I should read the book.

NT Use of the OT — Test Your View!
Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents view 

You seem to be most closely aligned with the Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents view, a view defended by Darrell L. Bock in the book “Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament” (edited by Kenneth Berding and Jonathan Lunde, Nov. 2008). This view affirms the singular nature of the meanings intended by the OT and NT authors when OT texts are cited in the NT. In spite of this essential unity in meaning, however, the words of the OT authors frequently take on new dimensions of significance and are found to apply appropriately to new referents and new situations as God’s purposes unfold in the larger canonical context. Often, these referents were not in the minds of the OT authors when they penned their texts. For more info, see the book, or attend a special session devoted to the topic at the ETS Annual Meeting in Providence, RI (Nov. 2008); Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Darrell L. Bock, and Peter Enns will all present their views.

Fun quizzes, surveys & blog quizzes by Quibblo

Cutting down on blogging

My life has been getting busier in recent weeks, as tends to happen in September. And I want to spend more of my limited spare time with real friends. But I have also been finding an increasing number of posts on the blogs I like to read. I don’t have time to keep up with reading them, let alone commenting when I want to, as well as writing my own posts.

So I have decided to cut down on my blogging and blog reading. I will be taking some blogs off my regular reading list, and perhaps also my blogroll. And I will be posting less often here, as already seen this week. But I won’t go away completely.

For the same reason I have also decided not to attend the Godblogs event next week.

I will continue to read Reimagining Church and to report here on anything interesting I find. I will also be keeping up with and reporting any significant developments relating to Todd Bentley.

At least, this is my current intention. We’ll see how things go.

"It is time to turn our swords into ploughshares"

These are the words of Morgan Tsvangirai, new Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, in his speech in Harare today. This is how the BBC reports this:

In a gesture of reconciliation, Mr Tsvangirai quoted a speech on reconciliation made by Mr Mugabe in 1980, saying “it is time to turn our swords into ploughshares”.

The quotation is of course a biblical allusion, to Micah 4:3 and Isaiah 2:4 (two closely parallel passages) – but I won’t use this biblical allusion as people have used biblical allusions in US politicians’ speeches, as somehow indicating that they are Christians.

I don’t think anyone would expect this biblical vision of the end times to be literally fulfilled in Zimbabwe in the near future. But now at last there is real hope for reconciliation and recovery from years of conflict and poverty. The new power sharing agreement allows the country to set out on what will certainly not be an easy path. But perhaps it is even more hopeful than if Tsvangirai had won the presidential election and then attempted to assert his authority over Mugabe’s supporters.

I hope that the international community will be able to accept this deal, and that both they and the Zimbabwean government will open the way for the kind of aid that the country needs to get itself back on its feet as quickly as possible. But first the more radical supporters of both sides must heed this call to put away their swords and get back to ploughing their country so they can reap a rich harvest.

We must continue to pray for Zimbabwe.