Being a theologian for the church

(Phil. 3:12: ‘not that I have already achieved all this…’) Over the past week, in a variety of ways, a number of connected strands of conversation, each of which I regularly find myself overhearing or involved with, have all come to notice or prominence. All relate to the question of the connection of ‘theologians’ to the life of the church. Often there is an expressed sadness or concern that the various churches – particularly, in my hearing, the Evangelical and Baptist churches that I have the privilege to serve – are not willing, or at least not willing enough, to hear or to use the insights of theologians. As I drove back from giving a lecture in a church conference, in could see in my head a somewhat angry...

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Old style evangelical gender politics

This¬†post, by Mark Sayers, is well worth a read (ht Mike Bird on FB). It reflects briefly on the transformation of masculinity that occurred as part of the broader evangelical attempts at social transformation in the first half of the nineteenth century. Writing about the same phenomenon, John Wolffe comments: Evangelical concepts of manliness were a challenge to contemporary secular male values, whether among [sic] those of the British gentry, landowners in the American South, or convicts forcibly resettled in Australia. Emphasis on ‘honour’, machismo and lineage was confronted by a stress on ‘calling’, moral virtue and the family as a spiritual community of mutual affection rather than merely an expression of patriarchal...

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Books on gender and ministry from an evangelical perspective

I’ve been asked by several people in recent months to recommend books on this subject. I can’t claim to have read everything on the topic, and I probably have a bias to British authors, but here are a few suggestions – not necessarily all the best books, but a selection that, taken together, will open up most of the standard arguments well. I’d welcome other suggestions in the comments. Lis Goddard & Clare Hendry, The Gender Agenda¬†(IVP, 2010): Lis and Clare are both Anglican ministers, but take different sides on this debate; the book is a series of emails they exchanged exploring many of the standard issues and arguments. It is accessible to the general reader, without being simplistic, and offers sympathetic presentations of two...

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If you don’t want Tim Tebow, we’ll have him!

OK, the ‘Tebowing’ thing has been on the edge of my consciousness for a while now, mentioned on Twitter feeds and the like every so often. I could see various American friends getting exercised about it, concerned that it promoted ‘slot machine prayer’ theology, in which public intercession by a quarterback could be expected to ensure divine aid for his side in winning the game. Of course this isn’t good theology, but a not-dissimilar belief in the efficacy of prayer in promoting selfish wants is almost universal in Christian piety in my pastoral experience, and this example seemed less awful than some others (unless you happen to be a Steelers fan, I guess…) I confess that I didn’t get why everyone is so excited about...

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Why Baptists can’t (currently) be ‘complementarians’

I gestured at this argument in an introductory book on Baptist theology I have coming out soon; reading the proofs, it occurred to me that a more substantial discussion would not be out of place. Probably, I ought to write a journal article – ‘had we but world enough and time…’ One of the themes of the book is the extensiveness of ecclesiology; I argue (contra various people) that Baptists are distinguished only by their ecclesiology, but then argue (contra various other people) that ecclesiology is actually quite far-reaching, and so our distinctiveness here makes (or should make) us a quite distinct body of believers. I illustrate this in various ways, with various arguments, as the discussion proceeds; one has to do with the question of...

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