Improvising in the key of gospel

My friend Wesley Hill (who blogs, with others, wonderfully here, incidentally) shared a story about Pope John Paul II on Twitter today – do read the link, but the essence is that the Holy Father encountered a priest who had deserted his vocation and had been reduced to begging, and then restored him by asking the fallen priest to hear his – the Pope’s – confession. (There seems to be some evidence that the story is factual, not hagiographic, incidentally.) The story grabbed me: I added it to a small group of tales I know, only some of which I can tell (the most personal I can’t, online, because of the people involved. But ask me why I just love baby showers one day when we’re alone). Tony Campolo’s famous tale that ends...

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‘Has the world gone mad, or is it me?’ Reflections on still believing in conversion

I was talking to a group of friends recently about a project I hope you will hear a lot more of soon. One, who is a very successful evangelist, said in passing, ‘I met with another evangelist recently, and he started the conversation asking me if I still believed in conversion, because too many don’t!’

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The bare minimum gospel?

I’ve been involved in a discussion recently, connected to the excellent Evangelical Alliance Confidence in the Gospel campaign, which raised, amongst other issues, the question ‘what is essential to a gospel presentation?’ I understood the reason the question was on the table – are their certain things that, if they are not included, make an account of the Christian gospel simply inadequate – a ‘bare minimum gospel’? – and I sympathise with the concern: of course there are ways of calling people to faith that are so misleading, or just so anaemic, that they need to be criticised. That said, this way of presenting the question was one I struggled with. The good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ His Son, the...

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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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Justice and the gospel: Bruce Longenecker on Paul and the poor.

Joel Willits offers a review of my former colleague Bruce Longenecker’s recent book Remember the Poor: Paul, Poverty, and the Greco-Roman World (Eerdmans) over at Euangelion. I have not yet seen a copy, but Bruce was working in these directions before he left St Andrews for Baylor, and I think I can guess something of how the argument goes: although there is not an enormous amount of emphasis in the NT texts on Paul’s ongoing concern for the collection for the church in Jerusalem, or for caring for economically-disadvantaged members of the community, there is some; if we consider the then-prevalent assumption amongst devout diaspora Jews (like Paul…) that charity was an essential component of acceptable worship, then we can reconstruct on the...

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