True Christian Manliness: On the Acts of St Andrew

Here in St Andrews, oddly enough, we mark St Andrews Day in various ways—this year I shall be at a graduation ceremony and, in best Hobbit style, at two formal luncheons. To mark it on a blog, I turn the to apocryphal Acts of Andrew, or rather to what we have left of them. Attributed by Pope Innocent I to a pair of ‘philosophers’ named Xenocharides and Leonidas, and a century and some earlier by Pilaster of Brescia to ‘disciples who followed the apostle’, we have a set of fragments in various languages, together with an apparently-garbled Latin summary by Georgius Florentius Gregorius, which together were reconstructed in the 1980s into two slightly different versions of the text by Jean-Marc Prieur (whose edition is published in CCSA 5 & 6) and Dennis...

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An Evangelical approach to sexual ethics

I am just back from the annual meeting of the American Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in San Antonio, TX. It is only the second time in my life I have been to the ETS conference, but they offered a slot for us to launch a book, Two Views on Homosexuality, that I’ve contributed to, and I decided quickly that I owed it to the publishers (who have been very generous) and to my fellow contributors (who in the process of arguing our points have become friends) to be there. I don’t suppose that it is a state secret that we were offering the launch around the conferences. If we’d got at slot at AAR/SBL, Wes Hill and I, who argued the conservative side of the question, would have been under fire, and would have looked to Megan DeFranza and Bill Loader, who argued...

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95 Verses: The Reformation in 19 limericks

October 31st is marked by at least some churches as ‘Reformation Day’, it being the day on which, in 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses questioning the practice of selling indulgences. Next year will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Next year we will properly celebrate and evaluate the contribution of Luther. Next year we will necessarily look again at the divisive doctrinal divisions, reflect, repent, and seek renewal. Next year we will mourn the brokenness of Christ’s body and recommit ourselves to unity in truth. Next year we will ask whether we have lost sight of the gospel just as our forebears once did. That’s all for next year. This year, surely, a somewhat more saturnalian attitude is required of us…...

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Religious liberty and the European Union

In a Facebook conversation a few weeks back Eddie Arthur asked me if I could see any religious liberty angle on the EU debate. At the time I said no, since religious liberty seemed fairly firmly enshrined both sides of the English Channel  and I didn’t see that changing however we voted. That claim stands, of course, but there is another religious liberty angle that I have only this week thought of, and it is (for me) a very strong argument to be pro-EU. Let me tell you about three friends, all missionaries. Call them Anna, Bridget, and Claire, because in one case I cannot put her real name on the web. Twenty five years ago, Anna was working across Eastern Europe, including Albania and ‘Another Eastern European Country’. The collapse of the Soviet...

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In memoriam John Webster

Readers of this blog will probably by now have heard that my senior colleague John Webster died suddenly yesterday morning. I had the privilege of writing a brief obituary for our School website, which reads as follows: The Revd Professor John Bainbridge Webster, DD, FRSE 1955-2016 It is with enormous sadness that the School announces the sudden death on Wednesday 25th May of our friend and colleague John Webster, Professor of Divinity. John was amongst the leading English-language theologians of his generation. Twelve monographs, four major edited volumes, and a host of shorter publications would have established his reputation on their own; when his extensive service to his discipline and the wider academy—founding the International Journal of Systematic...

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Our story begins in exile: ‘Baptist social theology’ and the EU referendum

One of the books I have recently been reading with interest and profit is Anglican Social Theology (ed. Malcolm Brown) (London: Church House Publishing, 2014). Apart from the intrinsic interest in tracing significant contributions to political theology that happened to come from within the Church of England, I was struck by the contributors’ awareness that the project, or projects, they were tracing were distinctively ‘Anglican’. As Brown puts it in an early prospectus: We have chosen to speak of an Anglican social theology with a deliberate intention of echoing the concept of Catholic social teaching because we recognise that the latter is much better known as a theological school or tradition that informs practice. Our contention … is that a distinctively...

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On sensory metaphors for revelation

An interesting, but inconclusive, dialogue is sporadically happening between two of America’s most interesting theologians, Robert W. Jenson and Katherine Sonderegger. As is well known, Jenson proposes that theology has been too focused on visual metaphors, which (he claims) allow a detachment from the object observed. He proposes instead that ‘faith comes by hearing’ and so we should describe our engagement with the divine in auditory, not visual, terms. Sonderegger, particularly in the recent first volume of her systematics, pushes back at this, arguing that visual metaphors are appropriate, and need not be about detachment, instead creating space for an appropriately affective knowledge. At root this debate is about the primary sensory...

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