The Scottish Baptist Theological Society…

…was launched last night. Andrew Rollinson has made this happen, for which we are very grateful. The intention is to meet three times each year, in Glasgow, Edinburgh, & ‘one other’ (I’m guessing it won’t be Kirkwall very often …), with the centrepiece of each meeting being a lecture from one of the members or an invited guest. The Society is founded on four core values: * A desire to explore Christian truth with integrity and honesty *A commitment to having a particular focus on renewing Baptist identity in a Scottish context *A freedom to debate, doubt and disagree without our unity in Christ ever being questioned *A willingness wherever possible to attend, prepare for and contribute to each debate I had the enormous...

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Swinburne Evolved

We had Richard Swinburne in town on Wed, offering an interesting seminar paper, the stated thesis of which was ‘it is impossible to offer scientific explanation of the evolution of humanity’ – he did pause to reassure us that he is very happy with a (neo-)Darwinian account of evolution by natural selection, &c., to account for speciation. So why the problem? The basic argument relied on a particular take on the philosophy of science. We may usefully divide properties/events into ‘physical’ and ‘mental’, according to Swinburne, and science necessarily deals with only physical properties/events. (He defined an event as ‘a substance having a particular property at a particular time’.) However, what it is to...

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The Ecclesiology of a Pilgrim

Talking with a student about Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress reminded me of the old canard about the basic problem of the book being its lack of ecclesiology. For all Bunyan’s brilliance, he paints a picture, the complaint goes, of a solitary Christian, working out his own salvation, with no mention of the church at all. This is a gross misrepresentation. There are images of the local congregation in the text: House Beautiful, for one. But the centrality of ecclesiology to the book is not found there. Throughout the text, Christian hardly walks a step of his way alone. His pilgrimmage is constantly shared with, and guided by, other pilgrims, notably Hopeful and Faithful, but also Evangelist, The Interpreter, Watchful, the Shepherds, the House...

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‘A debate belonging more to grammar than theology…’

…such was the judgement of Sergius of Constantinople on the monoenergist controversy. I don’t want to argue the rightness or wrongness of Sergius’ case here, but reflect on a more recent discussion. There is little doubt that Stuart Townend is one of our more gifted writers of worship music at present. His masterpiece thus far is probably ‘In Christ Alone’, which succeeds in offering a full and striking re-telling of the narrative of salvation in four stanzas (I also like his ‘From the Squalor of a Borrowed Stable’, in a similar vein, and unjustly unknown, in my opinion). One phrase in the lyric, however, has achieved a certain level of controversy, and become something of a touchstone in popular-level debates over penal...

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Preaching of the people, to the people, with the people

I have just finished a short course on homiletics, a subject I always enjoy teaching on. During it, a thought crystalised, a thought that I do not recall seeing developed in any homiletics text I have read. Discussion of the primary pronouns used by a preacher is fairly common, but it always seems related only to rhetorical style. This is of course not wrong: there is a great gulf between developing and declaring the thesis ‘you are all sinners’ and developing and declaring the thesis ‘we are all sinners’, and a preacher really should instinctively feel that difference, and make a conscious choice which voice she will adopt. But the choice goes deeper than that; it betrays the preacher’s theological convictions about the nature of...

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