Books for sale – not mine!

Blogger Graham Old has over 1000 Christian books for sale, at prices starting from £1. At least most of the books listed are Christian, although some (such as ones by Don Cupitt) only marginally so. Graham clearly has very broad interests and tastes. He has asked other bloggers to pass on the news, and I am happy to oblige – after taking a look myself first!

These books are in the UK, and so probably not economically available to my American book-loving blogger friends.

The Translation of "My Name is Red"

I am in the middle of reading My Name is Red by the Nobel Prize winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. This is a more highbrow type of novel than I usually read, but I admit to buying it because it was displayed at a bargain price at my local Tesco’s, which is more or less the UK equivalent of Walmart (although not to be confused with its rival Asda, which belongs to Walmart).

The display was presumably of books suggested for summer reading. But it was interesting in that The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins was in what otherwise looked like a fiction section. And then a few days later I saw a very similar display in Heffers, the major academic bookshop in Cambridge. Are the staff trying to tell us something about The God Delusion?

Back to My Name is Red. I have now read about half of it. And I am enjoying it, although finding it harder going than the kinds of thriller that I usually read – even though it is technically a thriller, based on murder among miniaturist artists. In some ways I regret not reading this book in the original Turkish, which I could more or less manage with some help from a dictionary, but of course only the English translation was on special offer at Tesco’s. But reading the translation has brought up some interesting points for me as a Bible translator.

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Kiwis respond to "Pierced for Our Transgressions"

I posted earlier about Reuben and Andrew’s initial reactions from New Zealand to the book Pierced for Our Transgressions.

Since then Andrew has posted seven times in response to this book: his first impressions; on the word hilasterion; on penal substitution in the early church; on a comparison with the Ransom from Satan model; and on the views of the atonement of Gregory Nazianzus, Athanasius, and Anselm and Aquinas – all these in just three days! He has certainly been busy, and is justifying his blog name Theo Geek. All very worthwhile background material, showing how one-sided is the evidence presented in the book.

And now his flatmate Reuben, a generally much less prolific blogger at Notions Incognito, has posted the first part of his full review of Pierced for Our Transgressions. The conclusion he comes to from chapter 2 is that there is indeed reasonable biblical evidence for the doctrine of penal substitution, but that this is much less widespread and certain than the authors claim, and there is no proper basis for their insistence that it is a central theme throughout the Bible. He also notes, concerning chapters 2 and 3, that they have “omitted all views and doctrines which do not fit with PS”; so effectively they presuppose rather than argue their point that “it is the foundation of all Christian theology”. His notes on chapter 5 reflect and summarise (but do not reference) what Andrew has written about the history of the doctrine. Reuben rounds up his review of Part I by agreeing with NT Wright’s assessment that the book is “deeply, profoundly, and disturbingly unbiblical.”

I look forward to the forthcoming second part of this review.

Andrew and Reuben are certainly getting value for money out of their shared copy of the book!

Post-Christendom

Tim Chesterton, a Canadian Anglican priest on sabbatical in England, has written the thought-provoking (especially in the last third) first part of a review of the book Post-Christendom by Stuart Murray. It leads me to ask myself and my church leaders, how far are we keeping up with vestiges of Christendom and how far are we disentangling ourselves from it? Do we “concede that Christendom inoculates people against real Christianity rather than evangelizing them”? I look forward to a review of the strategy suggestions in part two.

UPDATE 27th April: part two is now here, concluding the book and still well worth reading.

UPDATE 1st May: Tim has now posted his own reflections on this book.

Stackhouse and Slippery Slopes

Thank you to Suzanne for pointing me to an interesting article by Susan Wise Bauer. The article starts with a review of John Stackhouse’s book Finally Feminist. This book is one I would like to read if I get the chance, as it seems to get behind the detailed exegetical arguments to a proper theological understanding of gender issues. Bauer’s article moves into a thorough refutation of the slippery slope argument, originally and still a logical fallacy, which is so much loved by conservative Christians who argue that any change to the status quo is the first step towards theological and social liberalism.

Moshe's Search For Truth

I can’t match Ben Witherington or Tim Chesterton by blogging my own novel (by the way, both of these authors would do well to provide a contents page for their novel with links to each chapter). But I can point you to a short story written by my friend, actually my vicar’s (pastor’s) wife, Sally Farah. This story, “Moshe’s Search For Truth”, is intended for children but is also interesting for adults. It is about a boy’s experiences in Jerusalem at the time when Jesus died.

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Gradually breaking through

I have taken a break from my series Kingdom Thermodynamics partly because I needed to give some more thought to the theological side of this issue, and partly because I have been rather busy with my Bible translation work. I hope that this post will have some relevance to that series, but also be less technical and so accessible to all my readers.

I was prompted to begin that series by what I had been reading from the book Breakthrough about which I posted on 28th October. I have been continuing to read it, although slowly, and gathering from it material relevant to my series.

Here is an extract which is of some relevance, from the chapter on the Parables of the Kingdom, p.112:

We usually speak of ‘the present and the future’ because we orientate ourselves in the present and look towards the future. But Jesus speaks of the present from the future. He stands with God in the ultimate future of his kingly reign and speaks into the present. This is one of the reasons for saying that Jesus addresses men [sic] as God. Only God can speak from the future.

Then from pp.113-114:

This future impinges on the present with such force that the ‘now’ is filled with significance. Right now the Son of Man is preaching the word of the kingdom (Matthew 13:37); good and bad seed are sown together; the mustard seed looks insignificant; the fish are encircled by the great net, and the seed is being scattered abroad (Mark 4:26-29). …We should be aware that we live in a pregnant present overshadowed by an ultimate future. The danger is that we will be mystified by the hidden way in which the future is being manifest now and miss its overpowering significance. How does the little bit of leaven affect all the meal (Matthew 13:33)? How can the mustard seed become a great tree? How can a Galilean carpenter be the Messiah of the age to come? Why is there a delay before the bridegroom appears? If we conclude that the urgency has passed, we are seriously mistaken. There is no time to allow a tree to fail to bear fruit. If it does not bear within one more season, chop it down (Luke 13:6-9)!

Becoming snagged on the exact relationship between the present and the future will do us no good. We have to accept that it is a mystery. …

Well, I need to bear these last comments in mind on the subject of Kingdom Thermodynamics. I can’t claim to be be able to discover “the exact relationship between the present and the future”. But I hope it will do some good to look into it a bit more closely, when I have the time!

Now for some extracts from the chapter on Kingdom Lifestyle, first from the section “Entering the Kingdom”, p.121:

This leads to one of the most fundamental principles in kingdom theology. The call to repentance is uttered in the context of kingdom intervention. The kingdom is here, therefore repent! Repentance is part of our response to the good news that the kingdom is near. The presence of the kingdom must initiate repentance and not vice versa. Only when the powers of the age to come are present in the announcement of the gospel can one anticipate true repentance. …… The rabbinical concept of repentance placed the initiative with man and his responsibility to repent. Jesus placed the initiative with God and the dynamic intervention of his reign. When Jesus preached repentance, the offer of grace was no mere verbal promise. When Jesus spoke, things happened. His words were events. When he announced liberty, people were set free. It was in this context, with the power of the Holy Spirit evident amongst the people, that Jesus demanded the most uncompromising repentance. This suggests that the greater the evidence of the power of God, the greater the possibility of deep repentance. When God’s power is not evident, a powerful call to repentance only produces legalism.

And then from the section “Living in the Kingdom”, pp.125-126:

The beatitudes can only be understood against the background of the presence of the future. Christians are people who have met Jesus, and to meet Jesus is to meet the end. We have been taken out of this present world and already live by the powers of the age to come. Yet at the same time we live in this world. We are caught in the tension between two worlds, but the power, reality and values of the kingdom determine our lives rather than the standards of this world….

If the Sermon on the Mount were taken as the moral standard men have to attain, no one could ever hope to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus is not prescribing a new set of rules. He is describing what happens to those who pass out of this age and begin to live in the age to come. A revolutionary change takes place in our lives when we are overtaken by the powers of the age to come. … It is a description of the lifestyle of the new man in Christ, the new creature for whom the old has passed away and everything has become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Finally, at the end of the chapter, p.136:

… If we could escape from this world and live completely in the kingdom, it would be great. If we could forget about the kingdom and live only in this world, things would be safe. But neither is possible. We will continue to be part of both kingdoms at the same time. Our lives are disturbed in a most wonderfully upsetting way so that we can never see anything in quite the same way again.

My reading gradually continues!