Archive for the ‘scholarship’ 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 Holy Spirit, Renewal, and Interdisciplinarity

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 by Wolfgang Vondey

ShowJacketThe idea of interdisciplinarity is widely debated among a number of disciplines. The recent study of renewal, understood in the broadest sense as the study of manifestations of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, has not yet defined itself in interdisciplinary terms. Publications with focus on the Holy Spirit and the Christian life, pentecostalism, charismatic movements and other realms of renewal that invite and engage interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, exist only in the early stages. Can we afford this neglect? If the question asked by Psalm 139, “Where can I go from your Spirit?” is: “nowhere,” does this not suggest that manifestations of the Spirit of God can be found potentially in all places of life? My answer, of course, is, yes! And yet, to say that the Spirit of God is present everywhere is far from saying that we encounter the Spirit everywhere. What then are potential directions for interdisciplinary study of renewal?

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Christ and the Writing of History

Monday, September 30th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

icon_VersionHistoryA recent question from a friend on Facebook about Mark Noll’s book Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind prompted some reflections.

Having gone through the book again, my primary objection would be that it does too little in its drawing out the implications of a commitment to Christ in relation to learning.

For Noll, what really matters is an affirmation of the creeds leading up to Chalcedon and a particular understanding of the atonement he takes from John Stott. These twin affirmations are placed within a solidly Reformed framework to tease out their implications.

For example, in dealing with history Noll is less concerned with drawing out any of the implications of Christology for one’s approach to history than with affirming creedal Christianity as a means of steering between historical skepticism and a naive belief that the past can be objectively and fully reconstructed.

The basis of this affirmation is the creedal insistence that Christianity is historical and the dual natures of the incarnation, which affirms universality and particularity. Noll then deals with the question of providence on the basis of a distinction between general revelation and special revelation that supports his Kuyperian appeal to the presuppositions of the historian.

One wonders how different this would look if the starting point were Irenaeus of Lyons’ understanding of Christ’s work, which sees the Incarnation as the re-living of human history in order to heal humanity and bring them to perfection (deification). The narrative structure of the creeds points toward the narrative of salvation that Irenaeus describes.

On Irenaeus of Lyons’ view, the eternal Son becomes flesh and through a process of growth and development overcomes temptations and subdues the demonic in order to achieve perfection. This was all made possible by the Spirit of the Son at work within the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

What are some possible implications of this different starting point? Read the rest of this entry »

Retrieving the Past, Forging the Future of Renewal Studies

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Here at Regent School of Divinity our aim is to cultivate a brand of scholarship that consciously interacts with or draws from issues related to the global pentecostal-charismatic movement. We call what we do Renewal studies because we are interested in exploring all dimensions of renewal as a historical, social scientific, and theological phenomenon.

To focus on renewal as a method does not limit us to the study of global pentecostalism because renewal encompasses a broad array of historical phenomena including populist movements, spirituality, periods of renaissance, etc. For more on renewal and what we do at the Regent School of Divinity, go here.

To that end, here are the latest explorations from our faculty. Read the rest of this entry »

Not Jesus the Miracle Worker, But Paul and the Miraculous

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Regent School of Divinity’s Graham Twelftree  has a new book coming out with Baker Academic, Paul and the Miraculous: A Historical Reconstruction.

Recently he was interviewed on the Baker Academic Blog about his new book and the difference between Paul and Jesus on miracles.

For Twelftree, “The main problem is how to explain the high profile of miracles in the Jesus traditions, while Paul, who claimed to be his apostle, appears to say little to nothing on the topic. Furthermore, our reading of Paul is complicated by Luke attributing considerable miracle-working to Paul. I also wanted to test what seems increasingly obvious: the miraculous was more important in early Christianity than is generally reflected in the scholarly literature.”

Read the rest of part I of the interview here.

And, part II here.

Dr. Twelftree is Charles L. Holman Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity and Director of Doctor of Philosophy Program.

Noll, the Evangelical Mind, and the Elephants in the Room

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Elephant in the roomWhen Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind hit the market in the early 1990s it created a “title” wave that continues to move out in multiple directions. This fact alone means that if evangelicalism is going to reboot its examination of its own intellectual resources–a process already begun in the cultural liturgies series of James K. A. Smith–then it must grapple with Noll’s critique.

In my previous post I tried to set Noll’s work within the context of American religious historiography.

In this post I want to highlight some elephants in the room of Noll’s analysis.

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