This collection of eighteen essays, edited by Regent University’s Distinguished Professor of New Testament Graham Twelftree, examines miracles from a range of perspectives. It includes critical approaches (involving authors skeptical about miracles as well as others who engage with historical figures like Hume, Spinoza, and Voltaire), religiously-informed approaches (that accept the actuality of such occurrences on the basis of their tradition-based and philosophical reasonings with historical proponents like Aquinas in Christianity, Vasubandhu in Buddhism, and Maimonides in Jewish thought), and interdisciplinary approaches (explaining miracles in philosophical debates, and its application for those in palliative care, i.e., care-givers to patients who desire miraculous cures for their ailments). While not organized as sections dealing with critical, confessional/religious, and interdisciplinary approaches, this threefold categorization helped me as a reader to appreciate the complexity behind the volume’s efforts in making sense of the miraculous. Read the rest of this entry »
Author Archive for Timothy Lim Teck Ngern
Flynn presents a compelling case for transformational preaching as a catalyst for renewal in a way unlike a number of dominant publications. In four of eight chapters, he focuses on the primary importance of the preacher’s inner journey towards personal transformation (chs. 1, 3-5), two chapters are dedicated to sermon preparation and preaching techniques (chs. 6-7), one chapter on the incarnational ministry of Jesus (chs. 2), and a concluding chapter on experiences and anecdotal lessons. In a way, this structure reflects Flynn’s own conviction that the most effective preaching occurs in the preacher’s inner life, and only twenty-five percent of the labor reflects the external work of the preacher. Most homiletic literature devotes the weightiest part to the technicalities of preparing sermons. In fact, one can rarely find a chapter on the preacher’s inner life. Perhaps the closest sources to Flynn’s emphasis on transformational preaching are Barbara Lundblad’s Transforming the Stone (2001) and James Lemler’s Transforming Preaching (2010) albeit not in an overarching manner as Flynn’s Words That Transform.
The book presents a realistic vision of transformational preaching ministry. Flynn emphasizes that effective transformational preaching depends on the pastor’s experience of God’s transformative message in his or her own life . This includes the influence of irritation, pressure, pain and life’s setbacks as God’s way to mature and shape the preacher towards genuine transformation in order that a ready preacher may become a conduit of God’s message. He calls this a bitter-sweet journey of a preacher’s life as the personal price of preaching! Preachers wrestle with God in many ways – they serve even amidst their own sinfulness, they sometimes fear that God does not speak to them about the message for each Sunday and that life circumstances and the rigors of the pastoral ministry stand as obstacles in the way of the preacher’s preparation. But still, Flynn affirms the calling and undertakings of those who aspire to the preaching ministry and suggests that if a preacher will be open to God’s voice, then God will always show-up to guide the preacher as to what he or she ought to be saying.In this way preaching becomes the power to change lives, alter destinies, renew minds, bring hope and encouragement and a legacy for future generations.
In light of his theme, Flynn develops a theory of transformative sermon preparation according to which the preacher learns to be sensitive to God’s transformational message for the preacher in the course of the preacher’s daily life, and especially by attending to God’s open book and “dazzling theatre” – creation. Nature and life experiences are after all “powerful teachers of truth” and powerful metaphors and bridge-builders for communicating God’s word in preaching (p.86). In this manner, Flynn discusses healthy components of a preacher’s life that aid in the construction of transforming message. These components include the cultivation of virtues, forgiving attitude, humility, creativity, imagination, rest and rejuvenation. As a process in the crafting of sermons, Flynn recommends that preachers pay attention to the art and science of shaping sermons, giving priority the eyes (focus), skeleton (structure), heart (emotive), joints (transitions/connectives), flesh (multisensory experience in stories, testimonies and metaphors), and muscles (that introduces and drives home the point of the sermon) of a sermon. Throughout his book, Flynn never fails to capture his readers with well-chosen stories, metaphors, ideas, backed-up by words and historical studies presented in simple-formats so as to drive home his points! These should entice anyone to read Flynn’s work seriously since so much content and ideas are packed in a 200-page publication.
In order to articulate a broad and transformative vision of life as the context in which God speaks,Flynn would find some assistance in St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. The discernment of God is grounded in a healthy distinction of life’s possessions from God including those we love and treasure the most so that everything in life and creation are the context by which God speaks! Nonetheless, I wonder if to some degree Flynn has over-extended the transformational dimension of preaching. Just as we do not remember every good meal we have consumed through the years, it is also unlikely that we can expect transformational preaching to occur each week for every participant (even if I assume that all are walking uncompromisingly and are equally desirous, hungry, and zealous of God). In other words, God’s transformational work can also occur in silence and in ways unknown to the consciousness of the preacher and the receiving audience: sometimes even in the most unlikely settings. Although Flynn shows that God works in mysterious ways, he appears to favor the view that transformational preaching is to be expected. But, can we really expect that God’s transformative work is always manifested in tangible ways ? If not, then the conviction Flynn puts forth needs a slight modification: even messages that appears not to be transformational can be transformational as God would direct in ways unknown to the audience and the preacher. Here we would have to probe more deeply in the dimensions that answer what truly qualifies as transformational. The assumption of what counts as transformational really defines how he frames the preaching ministry. This direction may enlarge Flynn’s own project to the many other facets of the pastoral experience. It is time to expand the Renewal perspective on a pneumatologically-open agenda toward other elements of pastoral ministry.
Pentecostalism and Christian Unity is a remarkable collation of fourteen essays by nine international scholars. The 277-page volume discusses Pentecostalism’s affinity with predicaments regarding the pursuit of Christian unity. In my opinion, the book shows promise as a textbook on Pentecostal ecclesiology and ecumenism. Following an editorial introduction to the nature of Pentecostal involvement in ecumenism, part 1 contains six essays analyzing the heritage of Pentecostalism and the ecumenical movement. Historian Douglas Jacobsen examines the perspectives of eight early North American Pentecostal theologians on Christian dis/unity. Historical theologian and ecumenist Harold Hunter investigates to what end global Pentecostalism and the modern ecumenical movement represent “two movements of the Holy Spirit.” Carmelo E. Alvarez recounts the struggle of Pentecostal Church of Chile and the Pentecostal Mission Church of Chile in joining the World Council of Churches. Paul van der Laan draws from Pentecostals’ long and successful dialogue with the Reformed communities in the Netherlands as a model for moving from rejection (of the other) to that of acceptance and choosing unity. Raymond Pfister’s chapter focuses on a Pentecostal pedagogy for reconciling Christian divisions. Finally, Cecil Robeck Jr. shares lessons from his long-standing involvement in the International Roman Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue, a must read for Pentecostals serious about the potentials and pitfalls for ecumenical participation. Read the rest of this entry »