The Manchester Passion

I have just discovered that a video of the whole of this is online. It was broadcast live Good Friday 2006, a modern-day passion play set amongst the streets of Manchester, and using music from the city’s club scene to convey the story. Even for a live outside broadcast, the sound was sometimes not great, and the decision to do some vox pops interviews was regrettable, but the whole remains still the single best piece of religious broadcasting I have seen – imaginative and thought-provoking. Odd bits of the setting are powerful (Jesus, arrested, is dressed in the orange jump-suit of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner) or funny (check out the kebab van owner at the last supper reading the Da Vinci Code!), but it is the surprising and powerful selection of music...

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How new is the ‘new perspective’?

I am no expert on the ‘new perspective on Paul’. I’ve read the obvious things – Sanders, Dunn, Wright, &c., although not Doug Campbell’s new book yet – and routinely use commentaries that presume or argue for the position; I’ve even preached and taught in ways that¬† broadly assumed the correctness of the NPP;¬† but I’ve never given the arguments the time or attention they no doubt deserve. I have long harboured a suspicion, however, that at least a part of what is going on under the headline is a comprehensive and massive exercise in deconstructing a straw man. From Sanders down to Campbell, the NPP writers have had in their sights an account of pauline soteriology (‘justification theory’) claimed to...

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The BUGB affirmation of the ministry of women 2: practicality

The BUGB Council decision was not to walk apart from those who cannot accept the ministry of women; rather it was to be more intentional about affirming the Union’s support of the ministry of women. If this does not mean exclusion, the question has rightly been asked, what does it mean? What difference can this make on the ground? One way of thinking about this, it seems to me, is in terms of a hierarchy of doctrinal truths. We might distinguish between four levels in which a doctrine might fall: A. If you do not believe this, you are not adequately Christian; B. If you do not believe this, you are not adequately Baptist; C. If you do not believe this, your position is eccentric within the Baptist community; D. You can believe any way you like about this....

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Local churches, not the local church?

‘The local church is the hope of the world’ – so Bill Hybels, on any number of occasions. Hybels represents (to borrow a phrase from Rob Warner) the ‘entrepreneurial’ wing of the Evangelical movement, and others from a similar perspective could be found claiming the same thing – Rick Warren, perhaps. The point is surprisingly general amongst high-profile American Evangelical leaders, however – whether in the focus on authentic community found in the vision of Rob Bell or Brian McLaren, or the commitment to constructing a Biblical model of the local fellowship and its leadership in John Piper, Mike Horton, or Mark Dever. UK examples are less high-profile, but no more difficult to find. Of course, there’s lots to like...

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A call for conceptual clarity about conceptual clarity

(A title of which Doyeweerd would have been proud…) The collection Analytic Theology (OUP, 2009; ed. by Oliver Crisp and Mike Rea) contains several excellent and entertaining pieces, clustered around a claim that theologians ought to be attentive to the turn to explication of core Christian doctrines by analytic philosophers of religion. The claim seems to me a necessary one; as Thomas McCall puts it elsewhere ‘[s]ome theologians are surprised to learn that theological issues are under consideration at all in the analytic community, while other theologians are skeptical – to say that they are dubious that any good could come out of Notre Dame is to put it mildly.’ (Whose Trinity? Which Monotheism? (Eerdmans, 2010; p.1). For me, ever since...

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