Monday, 24 December 2012

Review of 'Can the Book of Revelation be a Gospel for the Environment?'

Matthew Coomber's excellent edited volume 'Bible and Justice: Ancient Texts, Modern Challenges', in which I have a chapter, has been reviewed by Shannon E. Baines in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures.

Of my chapter, she says:

The third and final section of the volume, “Prospects for Applications of Bible and Justice,” comprises papers written by J. W. Rogerson, David Horrell, Simon Woodman, Diana Lipton, and Matthew Coomber...

Woodman, in his essay, “Can the Book of Revelation Be a Gospel for the Environment?,” views Revelation as containing both negative and positive images about the environment. The book describes environmental destruction which will result from God's judgment on evil but is limited to Babylon (i.e., Rome). The destruction entails the removal of oppressive systems and liberates all of creation. Woodman believes that the four creatures worshipping at the throne in Rev 4 represent all creation, human and non-human, as only one of the creatures has human facial features. He concludes that the book of Revelation is “good news” in that it “revolve[s] around God's justice: justice against evil, justice for righteousness, and justice for creation” (p. 191).

Review of Baptist Hermeneutics in The Expository Times

Michael O'Neil, of Vose Seminary, Perth, Western Australia, has written a great review in the Expository Times of The ‘Plainly Revealed’ Word of God? Baptist  Hermeneutics in Theory and Practice

He says:

This outstanding collection of essays is the fruit of a 2009 colloquium in which a group of international scholars met in Cardiff, UK, to explore the theory and practice of Baptist hermeneutics. The book contains fifteen essays including one response and two reflection papers contributed after the conference.

The essays examine how Baptists have used and interpreted Scripture, how they have understood the nature, authority and function of Scripture, and how they might navigate the troubled waters of inevitable ‘pervasive interpretative plurality,’ especially given the traditional Baptist conviction of freedom of conscience in matters of biblical interpretation.

The essays brim with historical, theological and hermeneutical insights and portray a tradition in which Baptist exegesis is ‘rich, complicated,conflicting and conflicted … a living, evolving, self-correcting hermeneutical tradition that creates space for both an emerging consensus and dissent to that consensus’ (p. 25). As such they provide a welcome alternative to the trend in some Baptist circles, which would limit interpretative possibilities to approved confessional or doctrinal positions...

The editors, publisher and sponsoring institutions are to be commended for bringing this excellent collection to publication, and one hopes it will enjoy a wide readership, not only amongst those specialists interested in Baptist history and theology, or hermeneutics more generally, but also theological and ministerial educators, and especially amongst pastors, churches and lay leaders in hope that it may indeed contribute toward the renewal of radical, prophetic, Christ-centred and Spirit-filled congregations, not least amongst Baptists.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Bible Society re-publish Book of Revelation (day after 'world end'!)

Bible Society are so confident that the world ISN'T going to end on 21.12.12 that they are re-releasing The Book of Revelation the day after.

Re-published for 2012 with a new foreword by Simon Woodman, The Book of Revelation has been interpreted as the book of the end time.

However, Bible Society are so certain that nobody other than God can predict the end of the world, that they’ve chosen to release the book on Saturday 22nd December 2012 – the day after the ‘end of the world’!

Executive Director of Charity Paul Woolley says: "Ah, the futile frenzy of trying to guesstimate a date for the end of the world! Jesus said that 'no-one knows the day or the hour', so maybe we should trust him. On 21 December I'm planning to celebrate my wedding anniversary in London with a good meal - it won't be the last supper!"

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dictionary of the Bible and Western Culture

Today I received notice that the long-awaited Dictionary of the Bible and Western Culture edited by Mary Ann Beavis and Michael J. Gilmour (Sheffield Phoenix Press, Sheffield: 2012) has been published. It's on Amazon here.

This is a major work, involving a large number of contributors. It's not cheap, but it will be a significant resource for those who are interested in the relationship between the Bible and Culture.

My own articles are: 666, Apollyon, Lion of Judah, Morning Star, and The Book of Revelation.

You can't really see it on the picture here, but the words 'The Book of Revelation' feature prominently in the background text of the front cover.

Wisdom, Science and the Scriptures

Last week I was privileged to be at the presentation of Ernest Lucas's Festschrift, 'Wisdom, Science and the Scriptures' ed. Steve Finamore & John Weaver (Centre for Baptist History and Heritage, Oxford: 2012).

Ernest taught me when I was a student at Bristol Baptist College, where he has had a long and distinguished career as both and academic and College Tutor involved in the formation of women and men for Baptist ministry.

He was greatly surprised and touched to receive the volume, which contains a fascinating selection of essays that reflect Ernest's interests as both biblical scholar and scientist.

I am proud to have a chapter in this volume. It will be available to purchase from Regent's Park College via their website in due course.

 Part 1 - Wisdom in the Bible
Gordon Wenham, 'Creation in the Psalms'
John Bimson, 'Fierce Beasts and Free Processes: a Proposed Reading of God's Speeches in the Book of Job'
Hillary Nyika, 'The Traditional Israelite Legal Settings: Social Contexts in Proverbs?'
Knut M. Heim, 'Personified Wisdom in Early Judaism'

Part 2 - Science and Christian Faith
Paul S. Fiddes, 'Ancient and Modern Wisdom: The Intersection of Clinical and Theological Understanding of Health'
Brian Haymes, 'The Way of Practical Modesty'
Elaine Storkey, 'The Environment and the Developing World'
John Weaver, 'Hopeful Disciples in a Time of Climate Change'
Robert S. White, 'Take Ten: Scientists and their Religious Beliefs'

Part 3 - The Scriptures
Simon Woodman, 'The Evolving Agenda of Biblical Studies'
Mike Pears, 'Moving Towards a Theological Perspective on 'Place' by Using Cresswell's Notion of Doxa and Deviance as a Hermeneutical Tool for Place-based Readings of Mark's Gospel'
Stephen Finamore, 'Not Made With Hands: the Heavenly Temple in Hebrews and Revelation'

Part 4 - ...and Cricket
Robert Ellis, ''Play Up! Play Up! And Play the Game!' Cricket and Our Place in the World'

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Job opportunity at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church

Please pass the word around that we are advertising for a live-in church manager at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church.

Advert is here:

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Ruth Gouldbourne on Radio 4 'Beyond Belief'

My friend and colleague Ruth Gouldbourne is one of the 'prominent Baptists' who will be on Radio 4's flagship religious affairs programme Beyond Belief next week.

It'll be worth a listen, and will be available afterwards as a podcast.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Review of Baptist Hermeneutics

A great review of our Baptist Hermeneutics book in the latest Journal for the Study of the New Testament 34.5 August 2012...

to quote...

" Is there a distinctive Baptist approach to hermeneutics? This question runs like a thread through this collection... The general conclusion is that... there is a distinctive emphasis which combines a radical Christological reading of scripture with a radical commitment to Christian discipleship"

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Jesus Creed review, part II

Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog has now published the second part of the review of the Baptist Hermeneutics volume:

Monday, 16 July 2012

Baptist Hermeneutics discussion and review

A good review, and interesting discussion, of the Baptist Hermeneutics volume on Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog:

SCM 'The Book of Revelation' on offer

SCM are offering my Core Text on 'The Book of Revelation' at a sale price of £6 - go on, you know you want to...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Review of 'The story of women in ministry in the Baptist Union of Great Britain'

It seems to be the week for reviews of things I've written / been involved with!

This time it's the reader on Women in Ministry that I produced for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, reviewed by Rosa Hunt in the latest volume of the Baptist Ministers' Journal (April 2012 volume 314).

The review concludes:

"This book is a lively, thoughtful, well researched and comprehensive attempt to replace that negative opinion [of women in ministry] by positive affirmation... I would thoroughly recommend it, not only for its excellent contribution to the debate, but also because the arguments it raises about the inherent tension between collective Baptist policy and individual freedom of conscience touch the very heart of what it means to be a Baptist."

Review of Questions of Identity

The latest Regent's Reviews also contains a fine review by Neil Brighton of Questions of Identity, the festschrift produced for Brian Haymes' 70th birthday and edited by Ruth Gouldbourne and Anthony Cross (in which I have a chapter).

Neil writes:

"This excellent collection of essays, written in honour of Brian Haymes, is an example of health in contemporary Baptist life. Most of the essays are by Baptist scholars, some of whom are in pastorate and others in academic roles, with helpful contributions from the Mennonite Alan Kreider and Anglican Christopher Rowland.

"Whether you are a Baptist or an Anglican, with Anabaptist sympathies, academic leanings or simply someone who wants to think about what it means to be part of the church of Christ this is a book which is worth the read."

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Regent's Reviews - latest issue available

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

There's a great review of The 'Plainly Revealed' Word of God? in there, reviewed by Anthony Clarke.

You can read the full review for free online, but he concludes:

"This is a stimulating book which repays the time given to it, but it is perhaps most important not to see this as something finished, but as the invitation to further reflection and discussion. As the book notes, how we read the Bible together has changed in church worship over recent decades and is one of the most pressing questions our churches face. William [John] Lyons, who finds the discussion here exciting and stimulating, begins the very last chapter by wondering why it has taken the Baptist tradition so long to produce something like this volume. The greatest challenge now is to enable the discussion continue in such a way that it draws in an ever wider circle to reflect on our Baptist practice."

Monday, 30 April 2012

Happy 65th Birthday Paul Fiddes

Today is Paul Fiddes' 65th birthday, and I'd like to add my voice to those of others (Sean and Andy) firstly in wishing him many happy returns of the day, and secondly in voicing appreciation for him as a person, and as a Baptist scholar.

I first encountered Paul when visiting various Baptist Colleges to try and decide where to train for Baptist ministry, and I clearly remember the meeting Liz and I had with him in his study at Regents Park College in Oxford, and the encouragement that he gave us. Ultimately I chose Bristol (no offence meant, Paul), but for some years he still seemed to think I had actually studied at Regents!

I have had the privilege on two occasions of publishing essays by Paul in books I've edited, and I have to say he is a joy to work with. His writing is superb, and his essay on Prophecy, Corporate Personality, and Suffering was so meticulously proof read before it arrived that my co-editor (Helen Dare) and I had to look long and hard to find anything at all to justify our editorial claims.

Paul has been an encouragement, inspiration and friend, and I am grateful to God for him.

It is perhaps best to let his own words speak for themselves, so...

On Baptist hermeneutics:

               The authority of scripture is its intrinsic power to grasp and shape human lives; it witnesses to a human experience of God, and this experience continues in the present through the activity of the Spirit. Wheeler Robinson suggests that Baptists are committed to this understanding of the witness of the Spirit in scripture through their commitment to believers’ baptism, which is both an expression of faith and a baptism of the Spirit.  This is, we might say, a baptismal hermeneutics.
               Our Baptist interpreters are committed to history and the critical-historical method; they have some confidence in finding the intention of the writer in his historical context; but they also think that the meaning of the text is not confined to these aspects. What we now call ‘reader-response’ is essential for the meaning of the text, but this response includes a movement of faith and obedience. The reader does not just contribute to the meaning of the text, but is engaged in a search for truth. This aspect is valid, I suggest, even if we drop the quest for an ‘enduring principle’ within the form, and even if we raise some doubts about how much of an author’s experience we can uncover. Faced with the text, the reader is challenged to discern the truth of God…
               We may return finally then to the question of hermeneutics, as discussed earlier, in the light of recent insistence that interpretation can only be done in community.  Out of the context of their community and their corporate memory Baptist interpreters are called to make a value-judgement about truth as they read scripture, and the truth they have often found there is the redemptive suffering of God. They are called to make their own judgement in faith, and they are able to make it through the Spirit of God. But they are not imprisoned in memories. If we follow H. Wheeler Robinson’s perceptions into the activity of the Spirit in all human consciousness, and the kinship of all humanity with God, this interpretation will always be open to hear the discoveries of other communities too.

Fiddes, Paul S. "Prophecy, Corporate Personality, and Suffering: Some Themes and Methods in Baptist Old Testament Scholarship." In The 'Plainly Revealed' Word of God? Baptist Hermeneutics in Theory and Practice, edited by Helen Dare and Simon Woodman, 72-94. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2011, pp. 84-5, 94.

And on the theology of prayer:

               In intercession we find that we are being pulled into a zone of inter-connection. This kind of prayer is supremely social. We are being swept into a current in which nothing is separated from anything else, no one from anyone else. We find we are being urged by the Spirit to pray for those far away in the world, some of whom we have never met; we find that we can enter with empathy into the experience of the hungry and needy of the world, and that this opens up an awareness of the hungry and needy parts of ourselves. We who pray for others find that we too are being prayed for as we enter the community of prayer…
               If divine activity takes the form of partnership between God and the world, then as we pray we can add the persuasive power of our love to God’s. That is, in praying for others we are expressing our love and concern for them, and God takes that desire into the divine desire for their well-being. God wants to create a response within persons at every level (conscious and unconscious), to entice them into an openness to new possibilities that will promote healing, to woo them into cooperating with initiatives of grace. Our hopes, expectations and longings for someone are assumed into God’s own persuasion, augmenting and amplifying the urgings of God’s Spirit, so that together God and the interceders begin to work transformation. Whether we want someone to act justly and generously, or to be comforted, or to be strong in the face of adversity, God is the means of communicating this desire to them, and of making it effective within God’s own pressure of grace where on their own our wishes could achieve little. At the same time, of course, the one praying is becoming attuned to the desires of God, prompted to act appropriately, and where possible, to change the situation with practical deeds of help…
               In intercession, then the two patterns of dialogue and dance interweave. We respond to the revealing of God’s purpose (dialogue), and we are drawn into the communion (or dance) in God where we can affect the lives of others. In making prayers of intercession, it is appropriate to include some details of the situation for which we are praying, and not just to be vague, as long as the result is not a set of instructions (or a ‘shopping-list’) for the way that God should operate. A realistic understanding of the needs faced by people will help us to empathize with them, entering imaginatively into their situation, and so enabling us to enter more deeply into God’s transforming love towards them. Our prayer is also informed by hope, as we imagine what it would be like for our desires to be fulfilled. There is a serious playfulness, a festive note as we live in imagination in a situation that has not yet happened, praying ‘your kingdom come ... as in heaven, so on earth’.

Fiddes, Paul S. "A Theology of Public Prayer." In Prayers of the People, edited by Karen E. Smith and Simon P. Woodman, 1-16. Oxford: Centre for Baptist History and Heritage and South Wales Baptist College, 2011, pp. 11, 12, 13.

Friday, 27 April 2012

A new life begins

On the whole things have been a bit quiet on this blog for a while now - largely due to the huge changes that Liz and I have been through over the last few months: Leaving our house and friends in Bristol, Liz leaving her job and starting to look for a new one in London, me leaving South Wales Baptist College and starting at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London.

But we're here, were in, and I'm already at the end of week 1. The books are unpacked and my study is up and running, Sunday's sermon is in the bag, and I've even worked out where the toilets are.

I can see why people say that moving house and job is one of the more stressful things in life, even when you're as sure as you can be that it's the 'right' thing to do.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing some old friends next weekend here in London for the Baptist Assembly - it's not too late to book to come, but our house is now officially full for the weekend, so you'll need to find your own accommodation!

p.s. in the photo above, my study is the two small windows in the tower to the left of the rose window.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Thanks to Andy Goodliff for drawing my attention to a review by John Briggs of the Baptist Hermeneutics volume.

Andy writes:

John Briggs has reviewed The 'Plainly Revealed' Word of God? Baptist Hermeneutics in Theory and Practice edited by Helen Dare and Simon Woodman in the Journal for Theological Studies (April 2012). He ends his review by saying
'But lest it be thought that the essays here presented represent just a celebration of distinctively Baptist perspectives, John Colwell emphasizes the purpose of the exercise must be ‘with the goal of enriching the whole rather than further entrenching the past’, that is, the search is to make a contribution to the catholic rather than to defend a particular confession. At the end of the day fine words are not enough and so one of the external observers questions whether there is a mismatch between Baptist ideals and much Baptist practice, noting that ‘the disjunction between the radical ideals of the Baptist churches and their concrete realisation on the ground’ lead him to conclude that Baptists are too often ‘a people of unfulfilled promise’, a criticism which he turns into a challenge that Baptists serious about their identity should read this book and act upon it.'

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

John Finnemore on Religion from The Now Show

Baptist Cookbook

If you're a Baptist, and if you like cooking, then the Baptist Cookbook is for you!

Download the PDF and share the Baptisty Goodness...

Thanks to Fran B. for finding this...

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Babylon is in Manchester!

Tattooing! Revelation 13:16-17
Tarot! Sorcery! Revelation 21:8
Nice hair! Revelation 9:8
Food! Revelation 2:20
Red sea! Revelation 16:3
Thai massage! Revelation 14:8

It's all there in Manchester...

Thanks to Lou for spotting this!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Nothing new under the sun

The Rev. J. R. Wood, of London, was then called upon to make an interim statement as to the arrested progress in the Baptist churches. He said the Committee which had the matter in hand were not yet in a position to present a report. They had held three meetings, and they asked for further time for consideration of this complex and exceedingly grave question. He did not think there was any question immediately before them of greater importance than this was. Speaking for himself, he might say that the arrest in their progress was real. The fact was that while the population was increasing the Baptist Church membership was decreasing. It was no comfort to them that this arrest was general, and that other denominations were suffering quite as much as they were. That made the matter all the more distressing. However, he did not think they ought to be unduly discouraged. There had been bad times in the Churches before now, and yet there had been a revival. They should get rid of the idolatry of numbers. Numbers mattered little; quality was everything.

The Manchester Guardian, Wednesday, October 6, 1909
Report of the BUGB Assembly, held in Reading.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Pause for Thought

Pausing for Thought on Radio 2 again this morning, on the Richard Allinson show (in case you missed it)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Pause for Thought 2012 01 07

I was presenting Pause for Thought on this morning's Zoe Ball show, in case you missed it...