Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Imago Dei

One morning, God was staring at the wall. Not a blank wall, but not patterned either. It was a wall of chaos: bright colours, dark colours, swirling patterns, eternally dark and infinitely bright both at the same time. God wondered what could be made of the wall, so he reached out a hand and swirled the colours around. Soon order and pattern began to emerge: luscious pastoral greens coalesced, deep aqua blues combined, and this new creation seemed very pleasing to God.

After contemplating the wall for a while longer, God began to wonder what to do next, so he spoke gently to the wall, and a lustrous sheen began to appear. The wall became shiny, as if a layer of glass had been laid over the top of it. As God continued to stare at the wall, he could now see his own reflection within it. He saw himself inside his creation. When he moved his hand, the image of God waved back. When God smiled, his image smiled back. When God blew at the wall, the image blew a kiss back. God loved the image in the wall, and was happy with all that he had made.

But then something unexpected happened. The image of God reached out and punched the wall from the inside, and the shiny surface of the wall now had a flaw in it, like a stone-chip on a car windscreen. Suddenly the image of God didn’t look quite so much like God anymore: the flaw in the surface had damaged the reflection. The order that God had brought to the wall was distorted, and God was very sad. But still he stood there, staring at the wall and not turning away. Then the image hit the wall again, this time harder and angrier, as if trying to get out, trying to get at God. God flinched, but still he stared at the wall. The surface was by now crazed with cracks, and the image continued to fragment into lots of tiny, sharp fragments. God contemplated walking away from the wall, but knew that if he did so his image would vanish from the wall forever. Distorted as it was, it was still his image; it was still the image he had loved, waved at, and blown kisses to.

God wondered what to do next. And then had an idea. He took a few steps back, and threw himself violently at the wall. The force of the impact stunned him and shook the wall, and the millions of tiny sharp fragments ripped at his skin. Powered forward by the momentum of his run-up, God seemed for a moment to merge into the wall. His blood streaked the surface, and the mark of the impact was clear to see. But God himself had vanished.

After a while it was just possible to make out the faint image of God through the crazed, blood-stained, fragmented surface. God had gone into the wall. Gradually the image of God grew stronger and larger, as God walked up to the wall from the inside. He reached out his hand and carefully joined two broken shards together, and then two more, and then two more. Gradually, slowly, God began to repair the wall from within. As God repaired the wall, he looked at it very carefully, and started to see his own image reflected back.

The end.

(c) Simon Woodman, 2011.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Postcards from the wall #26

Review of "The Book of Revelation"

When John Henson produced 'Good as New', his 'radical retelling of the scriptures' (get your copy here) he controversially omitted the Book of Revelation, suggesting that it "is contrary to the mind of Jesus" (p.18). So it was with some trepidation that I started to read his review of my commentary on the Apocalypse. I was delighted to discover a review which engages in depth and with care. Thank you John.

Review - 'The Book of Revelation' Simon Woodman. 

I come to the 'Book of Revelation' as very much a non-fan. Revelation is, and will always be, I fear, the happy hunting ground for religious weirdos of the 'we are the only ones' type. Like Luther I find it difficult to reconcile the Jesus of Revelation with the Jesus of the gospels. I squirm at its shameless triumphalism which alas characterizes much Christian spirituality today. Simon's commentary is intended for second and third year theology students. In my view it is also suitable for all mature and thinking Christians. It needs a Simon Woodman to make sure that our future leaders have a proper understanding of 'The Book of Revelation'. Simon has done an excellent job. I expect his commentary to become the standard work for some time to come.

Unlike previous academic commentaries, Simon does not dismiss the Nostradamuses with a wave of the hand. Painstakingly and sympathetically he devotes a whole chapter to them. He examines the conflicting schemes that emerge from the literalistic approach that seeks to match the imagery with events in past, current or future history. Simon explains why this is a misguided and misleading method of interpretation. Simon's own approach is not a dogmatic one. He provides us throughout with alternatives.

Simon goes some way to answering the reservations of people like me. I particularly like the way he brings out the Visionary's way of contrasting what is heard and what is seen. We hear about the exclusive 144 thousand; we see the multitude which no one can number. We hear about the warrior on the horse; we see the still wounded lamb. The Wedding Banquet is to be understood as a beginning rather than an end. Offspring are assumed. The Church rules with rod of iron; Jesus rules with the staff of a shepherd. The lake of fire and brimstone symbolizes not vindictive punishment, but purification and healing. Revelation cannot be used as a handbook for exclusivism and predestinarianism. Those who think so do not look closely enough. "Whosoever will may come."

Good stuff. I don't think I will ever be convinced though. I appreciate Revelation's subversive descriptions of worldly power and authority, corrupt religion, and the capitalist system, highly relevant today. But it is not sufficient to say that the language of weapons, armies, battles and conquest should be understood as spiritual rather than literal war. The militartarist mindset itself is not Jesus. The militarist language of Revelation has encouraged the Church to adopt agressive attitudes and practices in its methods of promotion. You do not only have to think of the Crusades and the 'Christian' conquest by the sword of Central and South America. The mindset is still expressed in triumphalist worship songs about dominion and power and authority. I also doubt that apocalyptic will ever be an ace way of communicating, especially not in these days of realism in the arts. It was only a minority interest in Jesus' day. Jesus used its material sparingly. Revelation was intended for those being persecuted, as comfort and perseverance, carrot and stick. But Jesus and Paul's answer to enemies was to love them rather than triumph over them. So next time Christians enter a period of severe persecution I hope it will be the Gospels that inspire them rather than the Apocalypse.

John Henson.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Thursday, 6 October 2011

My book on Kindle

My Revelation Core Text is now available on Kindle!

How cool is that?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Looking forward to Christmas yet?

From altd

Postcards from the wall #25

The story of Women in Ministry in the Baptist Union of Great Britain

I was delighted to receive my copy this morning of "The Story of Women in Ministry in the Baptist Union of Great Britain".

This is the published version of a report I prepared for Baptist Union Council a couple of years ago, and provides an introduction to the history, theology and personalities involved in the debate amongst Baptists as to whether women should be ministers of our churches. It is my hope that this will offer a helpful voice in the ongoing conversations between those who disagree, and that as a Union we will continue to find a way forwards with grace and unity.

Copies will be available shortly from the Baptist Union Website, or from the Faith and Unity Department at Baptist House 01235 517700.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Postcards from the wall #24

Here's another postcard from my study wall:

This one eminds me of the supermarket label:
"Made From Reformed Chicken"

Monday, 15 August 2011

An offer I can't refuse???

I received this invitation from Amazon yesterday... are they trying to tell me something?

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the trade-in value is £7.35...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Postcards from the wall #23

Here's another postcard from my study wall:

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Postcards from the wall #22

Here's another postcard from my study wall:

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Baptist Hermeneutics Books arrive!

After what feels like a lifetime of waiting, I finally got my hands on The 'Plainly Revealed' Word of God: Baptist Hermeneutics in Theory and Practice this week.

The book is beautifully produced, and it's been a privilege to be involved in this project.

Andy Goodliff has published an Interview with Helen Dare and myself, so if you're wondering what all the excitement is about, have a read...

Then buy a copy!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Postcards from the wall #21

Here's another postcard from my study wall:

It's our new recruitment campaign poster...

Monday, 20 June 2011

Prayers of the People

I was sitting in my study at the College last year, when John Weaver suddenly popped his head around the door. ‘Why is it that churches only ever seem to pray for themselves, and for their own enjoyment in worship?’ he said with frustration in his voice. He continued, ‘if the prayers don’t get beyond the pews, what’s the point in going back?’.

Little did he realise that just 15 minutes earlier, Karen Smith and I had been hatching the idea of publishing a book of prayers to mark the occasion of John’s retirement.

John’s passion for public prayer has run through his ministry; whether as the pastor of a church, as a College Tutor and Principal, as the President of the Baptist Union, as an environmental advocate, or as a practical theologian, John’s ministry has revolved around leading the people of God in prayer for the world. His gift has been lifting the eyes of the congregation above the horizon of the church to encompass the world beyond.

When I innocently asked what it was that he thought ought to be included in the leading of public prayer, he replied, ‘Oh, I’m just an old traditionalist really: Prayers should include Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Petition and Intercession.’

And so Prayers of the People was born.

This volume includes prayers from nearly a hundred contributors, who between them encompass the depth and breadth of British Baptist life. What they have in common is a sense of gratitude to God for the ministry of John Weaver. Included are prayers of gathering, adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, intercession, sending out, as well as prayers for special seasons and services. This volume will be useful in public worship as well as private devotion. The prayers are offered to the glory of God, for the enrichment of the church and in thanksgiving to God for John.

Having managed to keep the volume a secret from John, it was a delight to surprise him with it at the College Valedictory Service on Thursday night last week. Many of those who had contributed were able to be there, and were invited to stand as the book was presented to John. For the first time in my memory, John was temporarily lost for words...

However, he recovered sufficiently a few minutes later to preach: In a sermon punctuated with sparkling anecdotes drawn from his life and ministry, John preached an inspiring sermon in which he challenged those present to undergo three conversions: firstly a conversion to Christ, putting Christ at the centre of our lives and not confining our faith to Sunday worship; secondly a conversion to the Church of Christ, expressing commitment to one another as we become a kingdom people; and thirdly a conversion to the world for which Christ died, caring for god's creation and those who live in it. John encouraged the congregation from Romans 12.1-21 to above all live in love: love of Christ, love of one another, and love of the world. He called for a culture shift to challenge the sacred/secular divide, leading to whole-life Christians, in a whole-life church, living as whole-life disciples, engaged in whole-life mission.

It has been a privilege to share ministry with John for the last seven years, and on a personal note I will miss his wisdom, friendship, and the early morning coffee.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Postcards from the wall #20

Here's another postcard from my study wall:

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

I am the pastor of this Baptist church

Following on from my re-working of the 'Modern Major General' song a few weeks ago, my friend Rosa Hunt has composed this:

I am the Captain of the Pinafore!
I am the pastor of this Baptist church

And a right good captain, too!
And a right good pastor too!

We're very, very good,
My sermons are quite good
And be it understood,
But be it understood
I command a right good crew.
You should not act as I do.

We're very, very good,
Her sermons are quite good
And be it understood,
But be it understood
He commands a right good crew.
We should not act as she do.

Though related to a peer,
For my words are insincere
I can hand, reef, and steer,
I can simper, I can sneer
And ship a salvagee;
And snub a refugee
I am never known to quail
I am never known to cry
At the fury of a gale,
When one of you should die
And I'm never, never sick at sea!
And I never wash the mugs up after tea!

What, never?
What, never?

No, never!
No never!

What, never?
What, never?

Well – Hardly ever!
Well – Hardly ever

He's hardly ever sick at sea!
She hardly ever washes up with me!
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
Then – give three cheers and a chorus line
For the hardy Captain of the Pinafore!
For the worthy pastor in the pulpit fine,
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
Yes, give three cheers and a chorus line
For the Captain of the Pinafore!
For the pastor in the pulpit fine!

You're exceedingly polite,
You’re a very moderate crew
And I think it only right
And it really would not do
To return the compliment.
To encourage you to pray.
Bad language or abuse,
Theology and thinking
I never, never use,
Are for those whose boat is sinking
Whatever the emergency;
Platitudes the order of my day!
Though "bother it" I may
Though my phrases are fine-sounding
Occasionally say,
And my doxologies resounding,
I never use a big, big D
I never read the big big B.

What, never?
What, never?

No, never!
No, never!

What, never?
What never?

Well – hardly ever!
Well – hardly ever

Hardly ever swears a big, big D...
Hardly ever reads the big big B…
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
Then give three cheers and a chorus line
For the well-bred Captain of the Pinafore!
For the worthy pastor in the pulpit fine,
Then give three cheers, and one cheer more,
Yes, give three cheers and a chorus line
For the Captain of the Pinafore!
For the pastor in the pulpit fine!

Rosa Hunt

When searching for the image to use, I also came across this post, which for G&S Theology fans is worth a look:  “We are the Model of Today’s Episcopalian

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Regent's Reviews

The latest issue of Regent's Reviews is now out, and can be downloaded from here.

Congratulations to Andy for another excellent and fascinating edition.

My own contribution is three reviews on the following books:

J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John. The New International Commentary on
the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).

Ben Witherington III, Revelation and The End Times: Unravelling God’s Message
of Hope (Nashville: Abingdon Press/Alban , 2010).

Christopher Morse, The Difference Heaven Makes: Rehearing the Gospel as News
(London: T&T Clark, 2010).

Saturday, 16 April 2011

A class of theologians

A video taken by Polly of me playing the Rowan Atkinson schoolmaster for a class of theologians (script below).

And here's the original:

Right. Quiet.
Ambrose. Basil. Barth. Calvin. Dogma.
Eschaton Major. Eschaton Minor. Flacius. Gnostic.
Hermeneutic. Jerome. Kerygma.
Latitudinarian. Millennium.
Niebuhr R. Niebuhr H.R.

Come on, settle down.
Pericope. Saint. Schism.
Tao. Tao?
Underhill. Zwingli. Absent

All right, your essays.

Discuss the contention that Bathsheba had the body of a roll-top desk and the mind of a duck. Oxford and Cambridge Board O Level paper, 1976.

Don't fidget, Barth.

The answer: yes.

Jerome, Niebuhr R., Schism and Underhill see me afterwards.
Most of you of course didn't write nearly enough.
Eschaton Major, your answer was unreadable.

Put it away, Pericope! If I see it once more this period, Pericope, I shall have to tweak you. Do you have a solicitor, Pericope? You're lying, so I shall tweak you anyway. See me afterwards to be tweaked. Yes, isn't life tragic! Don't sulk, boy. Has matron seen those boils? Horrid little twerp.

Barth, Eschaton Major, Gnostic, Kerygma: plagiarism.

Calvin: answer upside down. Do you do it deliberately, Calvin? You're a moron. A carbuncle on the backside of humanity.

Don't snigger, Jerome! It's not funny. Second Samuel is not a funny book. If God had meant it to be funny, he would have put a joke in it. There is no joke in Second Samuel, you'd know that if you'd read it, wouldn't you, Jerome? Pest!

What book of the Bible does have a joke in it? Anyone? The book of Leviticus! It’s full of them. It’s not that funny, Barth

Basil? BASIL! Leave Ambrose alone! What a lot.

Right, for the rest of this period you will write about Metempschosis. Underhill, just try and write Metempsychoss. Usual conditions, no conferring, no eating, no cheating, no looking out of windows, no slang, no slide rules. Use ink only, via a nib, if possible. You may use dividers, but not on each other.

Millennium, you're in charge. For now...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I Am The Very Model Of A Liberal Millennial

I am the very model of a modern Major-General
I am the very model of a liberal millennial
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral
I've information biblical and not at all heretical
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
I know the kings of Judah, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical
From Midian to Jericho, in ordering canonical

I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters systematical
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical
I understand Aquinas, and his Summa Theological
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news
About the fate of evil ones I find I always must enthuse
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse
With many cheerful facts about the sharing of the Lord's good news

With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse
With many cheerful facts about the sharing of the Lord's good news
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse
With many cheerful facts about the sharing of the Lord's good news
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotepotenuse
With many cheerful facts about the sharing of the Lord's the Lord's good news

I'm very good at integral and differential calculus
I'm very good at integrating different theologies
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous
I know the proofs from reason in Tertullian's apologies
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral
In short, in matters biblical and not at all heretical
I am the very model of a modern Major-General
I am the very model of a liberal millennial

In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral
In short, in matters biblical and not at all heretical
He is the very model of a modern Major-General
He is the very model of a liberal millennial

I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's
I know our mythic history, King David's and Metheuselah's
I answer hard acrostics, I've a pretty taste for paradox
I answer hard agnostics, and can disprove what Confucius says
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of the Herodians
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous
In doctrine I can floor peculiarities Pelagian

I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies
I can tell undoubting Protestants from Gerald Coates to John Hagee
I know the croaking chorus from the Frogs of Aristophanes
I know those wretched choruses and ditties from the seventies
Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard the music's din afore
I find I cannot help but sing whatever Graham Kendrick says
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore
And whistle all the tunes from that infernal songbook Mission Praise

And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore
And whistle all the tunes from that infernal songbook Mission Praise
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore
And whistle all the tunes from that infernal songbook Mission Praise
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinapinafore
And whistle all the tunes from that infernal songbook Mission Mission Praise

Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform
Then I can write a thesis now in Babylonic cuneform
And tell you ev'ry detail of Caractacus's uniform
And tell you ev’ry detail of the Canaanitic land reform
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral
In short, in matters biblical and not at all heretical
I am the very model of a modern Major-General
I am the very model of a liberal millennial

In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral
In short, in matters biblical and not at all heretical
He is the very model of a modern Major-General
He is the very model of a liberal millennial

For my next project:
The Doctrine of the Trinity as 'Three little maids from school are we'

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Unforgiveable Sin

OK here’s the rant, and I should warn you, it’s been a long time coming...

About five years ago, the powers that be in the road transport industry became convinced that in the name of safety it would be in all our interests to replace the corrugated metal crash barriers which run down the centre of our motorways. These tried and tested barricades, with built in ‘give’ to absorb the impact of a crash, were, it seemed, passé. So they replaced them for a while with what those of us who ride motorbikes (a Honda VFR750F if you’re interested) call ‘human cheese wire’. Eventually, they saw the error of their ways and started to remove the wire, to replace it with a more functional alternative: our motorways are now divided by state-of-the-art barriers which I call ‘concrete walls’. You’ve probably noticed this. I still can’t work out how careering into a concrete wall at 70+mph is a safer bet than a carefully engineered crash barrier, but there you go, you can’t argue with progress. However, that is not the object of my rant. It is merely the starting point for the sequence of actions which led to my discovery, this morning, of a physical manifestation of the Unforgiveable Sin.

I live in Bristol and work in Cardiff. It is a journey of 36 miles, and should take me 36 minutes door-to-door. A very acceptable commute, I feel. It’s motorway almost all the way, and I like driving. No problems. I do blanche slightly at having to pay every day to use the Second Severn Crossing. It was £3.70 when I started this journey on a regular basis in 2004, and it’s now £5.70. I can’t see that it’s £2 per day better, but you can’t argue with progress. On the subject of paying to use motorways, though, if I might digress for a moment... a) what is my road tax for if not to pay for the roads I use? and b) if I do have to pay to use a road, I really really really really expect that the act of paying for it should not make the experience of using it worse. If I pay for something that should by rights be free at the point of use, I want a better experience and not a worse one. If I were to choose not to have my operation with the NHS, and to go to a BUPA hospital instead (I wouldn’t, that that’s beside the point), I would expect that the BUPA experience would exceed that of the NHS one, not the opposite. So, to motorways. On the whole (this morning excepted, but I’m coming to that), motorways allow me to travel at 70mph, uninterrupted, and efficiently. It’s a great idea: a long, straight road, with lanes for the slow people, and lanes for me and my speed-loving compatriots. No roundabouts, no T-junctions, no in-built obstacles. All for free (or at least, paid for by my road tax). But then we get to the Second Severn Crossing, or the Dartford Crossing, both of which I use regularly. At this point I have to pay extra. So what do I get for my money? Can I travel at 100mph on this bit of road? No I flipping well can’t! What I get is a long queue whilst I wait to give them my money. It’s outrageous. There should be a law passed which states that if the queue to pay to use the road exceeds a waiting time of, oh I don’t know, 30 seconds, the barriers should be opened until the queue has dissipated. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I’m fairly sure they’d quickly find a way of billing me without making me wait for the privilege. They can fine me if I exceed 50mph in an average speed camera zone, and that happens when I speed up. So surely there’s a way of billing me to use the road which doesn’t require me to slow down, stop, wait in a queue, and then hand over cash or wait for the machine to read my Tag?

Anyway, to the M4. The process of replacing crash barriers with concrete walls has been rolling out across the UK with relative ease. A few weeks of roadworks, warnings of ‘possible delays until November’ (that long?) and hey presto, you’ve got a nice unforgiving concrete wall to hit. However, not so on the stretch of the M4 to the north of Newport. There, about four years ago, they put in 15 miles of ‘average speed cameras’ (could they not afford good ones?), limiting us all to 50mph. They removed the old corrugated metal barriers, and employed a couple of guys to begin the process of building the new concrete wall one pebble at a time. Mile after mile of restricted speed, but with no obvious sign of work taking place for 95% of that length. About a year ago, they realised that there was no discernable progress being made, and so instituted overnight M4 closures north of Cardiff, between 8pm and 6am. I frequently travel home after 8pm, and now have to use the SDR (Southern Distributor Road) round the south side of Newport. OK. As long as they’re making progress. But are they? After a year of overnight closures, coupled with years of speed restriction, still, very little is happening.

Part of the ‘improvements’ (building concrete walls, filling in pot-holes, re-painting the white lines) has involved the installation of incredibly sophisticated advanced traffic management warning systems. Or, as I call them, ‘large dot matrix screens’. It’s not a bad idea. If there’s a problem, they can use the screen to let me know, and I can take a decision to go another way. So, this morning, at 7.00am, I’m travelling along the M4, and all is well with the world. The dot matrix screens are blank. Suddenly, I hit the back of a queue. All stop. What? There must have been a terrible accident, I thought. How dreadful. A rush-hour fatal accident in the tunnels perhaps? It’s happened before. I put on the local radio, and waited for a traffic report. And when one came, I received my insight into the Unforgiveable Sin.

Apparently, the overnight roadworks had ‘overrun’. What??? Scheduled, planned roadworks, that have been ongoing for years, overrun to the extent that the entire M4 has to be closed in the morning rush-hour. This simply should never happen. There is no excuse. I, and thousands and thousands of other motorists sat in a queue for an hour, waiting to filter down to the hard shoulder to get round the ‘overrun’ roadworks. Vast amounts of money were lost this morning to the economy of South Wales due to the late arrival at work of thousands of commuters. Why? Because the roadworks had ‘overrun’. So I queued, and queued, and queued. Eventually, like grain of sand in the egg-timer of the M4, I reached the ‘overrun’ roadworks. As I drew level with the blockage, I expected to find a motorway full of highway engineers, all working frantically to resolve the problem caused by their nocturnal incompetence. But no. The entire motorway was coned off, but there was not a lorry, not a digger, not a road roller or concrete mixer to be seen; in fact there was no sign of any work being undertaken whatsoever. Simply two guys, wearing yellow jackets, wandering around where the fast lane, my lane, ought to be; pondering whether to remove the cones and open the motorway. This is the Unforgiveable Sin.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Questions of Identity

I've been part of a conspiracy recently...

A book has been in production to honour Brian Haymes, and yesterday was the day when some of us who have contributed chapters made our way to Manchester to surprise Brian with a formal presentation.

He was preaching at his home church in Didsbury, and emerged from the vestry to be confronted with several rows of family and friends who had come for the occasion. One he had got over the shock, and realised that he had not in fact gatecrashed his own funeral, Ruth Gouldbourne and Alan Kreider offered some words of appreciation for Brian's ministry and friendship, and then presented him with a copy of the book. Anthony Cross also spoke as co-editor of the volume with Ruth, and Sean Winter sent a video message.

Brian then recovered sufficiently to preach on the first two chapters of Jonah, reminding us that there is nowhere we can go to escape the presence of God. He also said that Jonah was in his top three amusing biblical books, which left me wondering what the other two are...? (Leviticus?) It was a privilege to receive his ministry once again, and I am reminded why it is that I frequently tell people that he is the greatest Baptist preacher I have ever heard.

Here is the cover of the book (click to enlarge):

Here is the blurb:

Throughout the Baptist tradition issues of Baptist identity are being explored and widely debated. The Rev. Dr Brain Haymes is the former Principal of Northern and Bristol Baptist Colleges, and President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. He has lectured widely and influenced many contemporary discussions of Baptist life and thought in Britain and further afield. He has been a great encourager of both established and younger scholars and ministers, and this collection of essays takes up themes in his many and various writings. Not only is it fitting to honour one of our leading Baptist pastor-scholars, but also to explore issues of widespread importance to Baptists in the early twenty-first century.

Contributors are: Faith Bowers, John E. Colwell, Anthony R. Cross, Paul S. Fiddes, Barry Harvey, Stephen R. Holmes, Ruth Gouldbourne, Alan Kreider, Robert Parkinson, Michael J. Quicke, Christopher Rowland, Sean F. Winter, Simon Woodman, and Nigel G. Wright.

‘Brian Haymes’ ministry epitomises the very best of the tradition of the scholar-pastor, moving easily between the worlds of seminary and pastorate. Here an international team of authors in articles, both searching and relevant, pay tribute to a man who has himself done so much to enrich our understanding of Baptist identity, here explored in splendid diversity.’
John H.Y. Briggs is Professor Emeritus, the University of Birmingham, and Research Professor, the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague

‘These essays provide a rich combination of scholarly and pastoral insight, a most appropriate tribute to a Baptist whose long ministry has testified to the dual importance of rigorous academic study allied to the actual practice of ministry. But they are also immensely worth reading in their own right as examples of lively engagement with biblical, historical and theological issues stimulated by our current questions of religious identity.’
Keith W. Clements is a writer, and former Tutor at Bristol Baptist College, Co-ordinating Secretary for International Affairs, Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland, and General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches

‘This Festschrift honours a much treasured scholar, Baptist minister and personal friend, Brian Haymes. Its chapters explore many of the passions that have shaped his distinguished ministries as preacher, pastor and theological educator. They properly reflect the richness of Brian’s contribution to Baptist and wider ecumenical life, and are themselves good examples of the scholarship to which he has been so deeply committed.’
Richard L. Kidd is Co-Principal of the Northern Baptist Learning Community in Manchester

‘Baptists around the world have been fortunate to call Brian Haymes their teacher and friend. Now some of them are honouring him by giving a gift to all Baptists. These essays will inspire and instruct Baptists, and extend Brian’s work in the process. They reflect those subjects that have animated his thought and work: scripture and its interpretation; sacramentality; proclamation; morality; education; Anabaptism; and conscience. In so doing, they offer a winsome picture of Baptist identity, issuing a call to live Christian life at full stretch, growing as persons and communities into the fullness of Christ.’
Philip E. Thompson is Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Heritage, Sioux Falls Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

And finally, here is the abstract for my own chapter:

Turn or Burn!
A Nonviolent Reading of Fire and Burning in the Book of Revelation

From Richard Baxter and Charles Spurgeon to contemporary fundamentalist preachers, the book of Revelation has been a fruitful resource for those seeking to espouse a ‘turn or burn’ theology. From its imagery of heavenly fire which consumes the nations of the earth, to the fire and sulphur which torment those who worship the beast, Revelation can seem to depict an unambiguously fiery end to those who will not turn to God. The question addressed in this paper concerns whether such a reading is the only way of encountering this imagery, or whether an alternative reading emerges when the text is approached from the perspective of a nonviolent hermeneutic. To this end, the tradition of Anabaptist nonviolence will be utilised as a hermeneutical key to engage the imagery of fire and burning in the book of Revelation.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Plainly Revealed Word of God?

The Plainly Revealed Word of God?
Baptist Hermeneutics in Theory and Practice
Helen Dare and Simon Woodman

A twenty-first-century discussion of the nature of Baptist Hermeneutics

In January 2009, an international group of Baptist theologians met in Cardiff, UK, for a colloquium to explore the theory and practice of Baptist hermeneutics. Drawing primarily from the British Baptist community, the group’s work was enhanced by insights from participants from the USA and Eastern Europe.
Participants brought a diversity of scholarly and pastoral interests to the colloquium, and through presentation and discussion explored together the nature of Baptist hermeneutics.

The resulting volume addresses five core thematic areas. The first section surveys the way in which Baptists have engaged with the Bible both in their early history and more recent past. Section two analyzes some specific examples of Baptist hermeneutics in practice, while the third section turns attention to an exploration of theoretical approaches to the hermeneutical task in Baptist contexts. The problem of how to negotiate interpretative difference within Baptist reading communities is addressed in the fourth section. Finally, concluding responses to the project from two non-Baptist theologians challenge both contributors and readers to consider the wider implications of the volume for contemporary Baptist life.

Check out the Amazon page here.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Postcards from the wall #19

Here's another postcard from my study wall: