Archive for the ‘Faith & Culture’ Category

Book Review: The Wisdom of the Spirit

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Mark Cartledge

Martyn Percy and Pete Ward, eds., The Wisdom of the Spirit: Gospel, Church and Culture, Contemporary Ecclesiology series (Farnham, UK, and Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, 2014). xii + 216 pp. Hardback, $104.95, ISBN: 9781472435651.

Only a close reading of the back-cover endorsements, the inside-front-cover-flap description, or the table of contents will make clear what the title of the book does not: that this is a festschrift for Andrew Walker, Emeritus Professor of Theology, Culture & Education at King’s College London and Ecumenical Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Walker burst on the theological scene thirty years ago with his sociological and theological study, Restoring the Kingdom: The Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement (Hodder & Stoughtoon, 1985), which by now has gone into multiple reprintings and editions, and since then he has been at the forefront of the sociology of religion in general and the sociology of Christianity in particular, engaged in ongoing exploration of new forms of the Christian faith especially in Western Europe in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and guiding and directing doctoral researchers in these and related areas. The contributors to this honorary volume include a few former students and a who’s who of those working on contemporary ecclesiological trends, broadly understood, particularly in the United Kingdom (besides the editors: Alister McGrath, Keith Chappell, William Kay, James Heard, Kirstin Aune, Robert Warner, Dave Tomlinson, Nigel Wright, David Martin, and American Methodist theologian and philosopher, William Abraham). The volume concludes with an interview of Walker by David Hilborn, although unfortunately it lacks the honoree’s bibliography of published writings.

Readers of this blog will not be motivated to purchase the book for their personal library because of the exorbitant prices of Ashgate hardback monographs, but those working in the arena of renewal studies will want at some point, sooner better than later, to look at it carefully. If Walker’s primary, even if by no means singular, contribution emerged at what might he understood in historical hindsight as one of the crests of renewalist waves on the British scene in the mid-1980s – he may have been led down this scholarly path in part as a recovering pentecostal preacher’s kid and adult convert to Orthodoxy – then the scholarship that seeks to build on and extend his reach since has been able not only to apply the tools he so expertly deployed (Walker being one of the first to foray in an interdisciplinary manner, combining sociology and theology primarily, into the contemporary study of the church, what is now known as congregational studies), but to also track the sociological unfolding – or ebbing and flowing – of trajectories charted over the last three decades. Scholars of renewalism will especially appreciate two related aspects of this book: that various case studies update the whence from and perhaps where to of church movements barely incipient at or (some slightly) antedating Walker’s groundbreaking study (including Roman Catholic charismatic renewal, classical Pentecostal denominations, the Alpha program, the house churches, etc.), and that of more sociologically informed but nevertheless non-reductionist assessments of evangelical Christianity in its various permutations looking into the latter part of the second decade of this third millennium (e.g., the post-evangelicalism phenomenon, current trends in evangelical theology, fatherhood in evangelical Christianity). In a number of instances, the tone of analysis is sober: the heyday of Evangelicalism in the British world lies in the past, and movements of renewal, revival, and restoration will need to creatively and courageously engage in and with an uncertain future.

Scholars of global renewal ought not to minimize the relevance of a book focused on renewalism in the British context as if to believe that majority world and other globalization dynamics will prove these nay-sayers wrong like they currently appear to have promoters of the secularization thesis half a century ago. Most if not all of the contributors to this volume, like Walker, are committed to the church and in that respect, are not heralds of Evangelicalism’s (which is inclusive for the varied and many movements discussed in the volume) demise for the sake of wanting to conduct a quick burial, but seek through their analyses to probe about the nature of Christian faith and what that might look like precisely through the transnational and postmodern flows that characterize our contemporary global village. In the end, then, there is something subtly at work in the title of the book that gestures to its quest – the path of inquiry precipitated by Walker and now pursued upon by those who have written appreciatively in his wake – for a fresh breeze of the divine wind that might enable the church to emerge anew from out of the present malaise. Readers of The Wisdom of the Spirit may thus be in a better position than others to innovate forms of the gospel for the next generation.

Amos Yong

Professor of Theology & Mission

Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California

The Mountain of Faith

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 by Wolfgang Vondey

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus promises that “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Who doesn’t wish to have that kind of faith? The problem is, nowhere in Scripture do we find anyone moving a mountain. There is no record in history, that anybody ever moved a mountain. Jesus is not speaking about moving literal mountains–Jesus is speaking about spiritual mountains.

We all have mountains in our lives that need to be moved. Watch the video below and follow Moses as a guide up the mountain to learn how to move the mountains in your life and what it takes to have faith as a mustard seed. Your mountain will probably still be there, after these 30 minutes, but I pray that the word of God will give you hope, courage, and determination to change your circumstances and to learn that the only way to move a mountain is up!

 

Pneumatological Assist of Music in Theological Writing

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 by Nimi Wariboko

musicIntellectuals often talk about various kinds of envy. Radical scholars accuse neoclassical economists of physics envy. Freudians accuse young girls of penis envy. I accuse myself of music-envy. It is my ambition to write theology as a great classical music or jazz. It is to find the music in the theological. For instance, I hope that one day my theology will sound as good as Schubert’s Ave Maria, Verdi’s Nabucco—Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, or Monk’s Blue Monk. This hope exists not only because good theology is a sublime music to the divine and beautiful to read, but also because all good theologians are slaves to dead or obscure musicians. In an adaptation of the rhetorical flourish of John Maynard Keynes, let me say this: The ideas of theologians, both when they are right and when they wrong are derived from music, exquisite sensibility to beautiful, harmonious movements of sound and silence than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world of theology is ruled by little else. Non-music envy theologians, who believe their thoughts to be above any musical influences, are usually slaves to some obscure musician.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Call of Pentecostal Praise and Worship

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 by Nimi Wariboko

praise-dancersThere was always sound, joy, and anointing as a mighty rushing stream in Brooklyn. Far away from the place, I hear your call! I hear it break the walls of these deaf classrooms.[1] I want to feel your touch again and feel your warm embrace or at your deep set myself free, dance, and inhale the glory. Like the chrysalis I want to unfold my being and fill my days with the sun of righteousness, with songs from the lips of angels. I hear your ecstatic call, I hear it coming through; invoking the Spirit, coming from where your children hail your miracles and your power flows. My praise and worship is calling me! Its ceaseless drumming, rhizomatic rhythms, joyous voices, and endless halleluiahs impel my heady head and swift legs down its stream. And each concluding lecture brings near the spirit-call, the wooing and cooing that make my flesh tremble and burn the constraints of crouching dead walls. O enveloping Spirit, shall my years of praise and worship be my pilot to my final destiny. O my all-knowing God?

The Pentecostal praise and worship is a power that draws me to God wherever I am; a powerless power that awakens me in the morning, a glorious power that sets the sun of my day into the abyss of darkness. It calls me by my name, by my village name, by my secret name. It calls me with my mother’s accent. Are its ways with me too wonderful to understand?   Read the rest of this entry »

Awe and Wonder: Whither Theological Education?

Friday, April 4th, 2014 by Nimi Wariboko

aweAn important dimension of any religion is the feelings of awe that arise with encounters with the holy and the beautiful. Otto Rudolf in his 1917 book, The Idea of the Holy, argues that the experience of the numinous, the sacred, the holy is the ineffable core of religion. When persons encounter and experience the sacred they develop a sense of dependency on something objective, external, and greater than them. The experience of the numinous takes two related forms: (a) terrifying experience of the “wholly other,” and (b) fascination. Where can we encounter these experiences? Read the rest of this entry »

African Pentecostal Kinetic Preaching, Part 2

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 by Nimi Wariboko

african_preaching_2In Part I of this essay, I examined the kinetic nature of African Pentecostal preaching.  We discussed the sheer energetic force of preaching as a full-blooded dramatic performance. The performance requires an ensemble of skills that draws the people to one another, to the preacher, and to God. In that very act of centripetal collation and knitting of emotions and foci, there is a subtle mastery of centrifugal energy fashioned to maintain a circle of aura around the preacher. This is what I want to discuss today. My guiding question remains: are seminaries in the North America adequately preparing their students for this kind of preaching?  Read the rest of this entry »