Friday, October 17, 2008

Foundations Spring 2008

Foundations: a journal of evangelical theology, 59, Spring 2008, Published by Affinity

Yes, I know that it's not exactly spring time, so it's a little late to be highlighting the most recent edition on Foundations. But my excuse is that the journal wasn't published until July, and what with holidays n'all, I've only just finished reading it. The reason for delay in publication is that a new editor has yet to be appointed to replace Ken Brownell. Jonathan Stephen, head honcho at Affinity therefore acted as temporary editor for this edition. It was worth the wait though, as the journal is full of interesting articles.
Stephen Clark discusses The Doctrine of the Lesser Evil. With his lawerly mind and highly developed theological nous, he brings a welcome sharpness and clarity to a subject that is often frought with fuzzy thinking.
Anthony McRoy draws attention to The Theology of Arius. With conspiracy theorists such as Dan Brown and Muslim apologists suggesting that the church pronounced a human Jesus God at the Council of Nicaea, McRoy gives careful attention to the issues that were really at stake in 325AD. Arius did not believe that Jesus was a mere man. He accepted his pre-existence as Son of God, a divine figure, but not as divine as God the Father. Nicaea clarified the church's understanding of the relation between the Father and the Son in the godhead. Contrary to Arius' teaching that the Son had a different nature to the Father, the Council of Nicaea insisted that the Son was homoousios, consubstantial with the Father. McRoy also considers Arius' teaching on the role of the Son in salvation. He held that at the incarnation, the Son, who was less than fully God, took a human body, but not a human soul and mind. Arianism therefore gives us a Jesus who was neither truly divine or authentically human. Such a Jesus is incapable reconciling lost human beings to God. In this well-argued essay, McRoy convincingly explodes the conspiracy theories that swirl around the Council of Nicaea.
Mike Plant examines The Call to the Ministry, drawing attention to the historical debate between R. L. Dabney and J. H. Thornwell, two heavyweights of 19th century American Presbyterianism. Dabney disliked the idea of men receiving an "immediate call" to the ministry. He was given to urging men whom he thought fulfilled the biblical criterion to consider entering the ministry of the Word, whether they felt a subjective sense of call or not. Thornwell however, taught that while the church has an important role in discerning whether a man has the necessary gifts and graces to be a Minister, a sense of calling is indispensable. Versions of these two views are still around today, and Plant's foray into historical theology helps to throw welcome light on contemporary deliberations. This is no academic issue, as Evangelical and Reformed Churches in the UK are facing a serious shortfall on candidates for the ministry.
Chris Kelly helps us to get to grips with the underlying structure of the second Gospel in his article, Towards an Outline of Mark's Gospel. His five-part analysis is well worth considering.
Kieran Beville has an article on Preaching that Persuades. He wrestles with the biblical material and ponders how we can preach persuasively in the postmodern world. Beville argues that preachers need to be convinced of the truth and the gospel must be proclaimed boldly. But this must not be confused with arrogance or tub-thumping demagoguery on the part of the preacher. We need to be humble and aware of our own weakness and fallibility even as we declare the Word of the Lord. Thought-provoking stuff.
The journal is rounded off by Alistair Wilson's New Testament Literature Survey 2007-8. He offers comment on various recently published books under the headings; Introductory Issues, Biblical Theology, Gospel Studies, Pauline Studies, Commentaries, and General NT Studies. He concludes with the wise words, "I leave my readers to consider how they should spend their time and money in the face of an overwhelming array of literature. May the Lord grant that the books we read, whether in (reflective) agreement or (fair and loving) disagreement, press us to re-examine the authoritative texts of Scripture and may his Spirit lead us to the viewpoints which may truly be described as biblical."
I haven't a clue when the Autumn 2008 edition of the Foundations will be published. Be nice to get it before Christmas!

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