The benefits of smallness

(This is a thought I have offered in conversation to various friends, several of whom seem to have found it helpful and/or convincing. One day I might see if there is actually any evidence to support it, and write a proper paper. For now, it belongs here…) British evangelical institutions seem less ready to separate themselves from each other than their American counterparts, either through internal splits, or through the formation of factions separated by mutual condemnation. Several of my American friends have observed this, and questioned whether there might be a reason. I would love to say that our version of the tradition is more mature or irenic, or better understands the primary gospel demand to maintain the bond of peace, but I fear that none of...

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‘the fuel for mission’s flame’?

I was on a website recently (no url, to protect the guilty…); in the corner was a counter, which purported to tell the visitor how many people had died and gone to hell since s/he arrived, with a brief homily underneath suggesting that active participation in evangelism would be an appropriate response. The crowning glory of this particular piece of crassness was the fact that whichever cheap/free html counter the website owner had borrowed counted to one decimal place. When I left, apparently, 153.7 people had been irretrievably damned during my visit. This came back to mind as I drove my daughters to school and nursery this morning. Matt Redman’s Facedown was in the car CD player, and I listened to the penultimate track: Let worship be the fuel for...

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‘Biblical’ family life

(I was preaching in our university chapel yesterday, where we didn’t make much of the celebration of Mothering Sunday, but the fact that it was that day prompted me to finish off this post, which I have had sitting around in draft since mid-January.) I read something today – it doesn’t matter what; it was a denominational statement from overseas, and so not very relevant – that made a fairly familiar gesture demanding support for ‘Biblical’ patterns of family life which, in this case, included support for the vocation of motherhood and a resistance to cultural pressures that encouraged mothers to go out to work, an encouragement not to limit numbers of children borne within the nuclear family, and a claim that, within the...

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Curtis Freeman on prophetic women in C17th Baptist life

Curtis Freeman of Duke has a fascinating article in the latest Baptist Quarterly, entitled ‘Visionary Women among Early Baptists’ (BQ 43 (Jan 2010), pp.260-83). He reflects on the (well established, but not well known) history of women exercising public teaching ministries amongst the radical protestants under the Commonwealth, examining particular examples from Baptist life. The sociological context is significant, of course: Curtis notes in concluding ‘[r]evolutionary forces had destabilized the centres of power and dislodged the mechanisms of social control that long had kept women in their place [sic!]. The social space that opened up enabled women, not just to think for themselves, but to speak their minds.’ (279) We might add that...

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The objectivity of theology

This post passed largely unremarked for some while, then Shiva added a comment suggesting that if the claim that theology was necessarily built on a discipline of prayer, and submissive to exegesis, it was ‘not very objective’. This struck me as interesting enough to warrant some reflection, not least because it captures something that is a persistent worry for most of us who study theology in a university, a worry that expresses itself in two distinct directions. On the one hand, we worry that, because of its nature, theology is not a ‘proper’ university subject – not adequately wissenschaftlich. On the other, we worry that we compromise something of the true nature of theology if we conform to broader standards of what it is to be...

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