The Forgiveness of Sins by Tim Carter

ForgsinsGreat to see this new book from Tim Carter, a Baptist minister in Horsham and a New Testament scholar. He first book was on the language of sin in Paul, published as Paul and the Power of Sin (Cambridge, 2002) and based on his PhD. This new book The Forgiveness of Sins (James Clarke, 2016) explores the language of 'forgiveness of sins' as it is found in the New Testament and early church fathers. Tim is one of a very few Baptist ministers in pastoral charge of a church (see also Ed Pillar, Simon Woodman) who also continue to research and publish academically. We need more like him.   


Some Book Delights forthcoming for 2016

The most awaited book in Pauline scholarship is surely now Beverly Gaventa's commentary on Romans. Later this year she publishes When in Romans: An Invitation to the Linger with the Gospel According to Paul, which will accompany her early Our Saint Paul and get us closer to the final commentary appearing. This new book will probably collect her essays on various texts and issues in Romans over the last few years.

Douglas A. Campbell is working on a new book, which might see the light of day before 2016 is finished. This new book is an attempt to set out Paul's theology as he reads it and in a style that will reach a wider audience than The Deliverance of God

In 2014 at SBL, Ben Blackwell and others organised a set of papers on Paul and Apocalyptic, and they will be published this year as Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination

NT Wright never has a year off and before the end of the year he will have published The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus' Crucifixion, which sounds another addition to his 'series' of studies that include Surprised By Hope, Virtue Reborn and How God Became King.

Richard Hays, who underwent treatment for cancer last year, is scheduled to publish Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels this year. It is a sequel of sorts to Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul and is the fuller version of the shorter Reading Backwards that came out in 2014.

Outside of biblical scholarship, fans of Rowan Williams will be able to enjoy a collection of essays On Augustine, although I'm more interested in Being Disciples, a sequel to his excellent Being Christian.

Robert Jenson has new introduction to theology A Theology in Outline: Can these Dry Bones Live? (Oxford), based on the set lectures he used to delivered to undergraduates at Princeton.

Baptists should be looking forward to Steven Harmon's Baptist Identity and the Ecumenical Future (Baylor) and the third volume of James McClendon's Collected Works (also Baylor). This final volume will be a collection of sermons. 

James K. A. Smith is publishing You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Baker) which will pick up themes from Desiring the Kingdom and work them for a wider audience.

As the likes of Sarah Coakley and Katherine Sonderegger are working on systematic theologies (first volumes already out), Graham Ward publishes How the Light Gets in: Ethical Life (Oxford), which is the first in a four-volume project systematic theology.

Also to look forward to is a new book from John Flett: Apostolicity: The Ecumenical Question in World Christian Perspective (IVP) and Alan Kreider on the growth of the early church in The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (Baker)


Forthcoming Books in 2015

1. The Work of Theology by Stanley Hauerwas (Eerdmans) - latest collection of essays; topics to include humour, writing theology, the Holy Spirit and a response to Nick Healy's critical introduction

2. The Nazareth Manifesto by Sam Wells (Wiley-Blackwell) - Wells on community engagement, justice and poverty and the importance of being with.

3. A Free Corrector: Colin Gunton and the Legacy of Augustine by Joshua McNall (Fortress) - great to see another book on Gunton's theology to join work by David Hohne, Bradley Green, William B. Whitney, Hans Schaeffer and Lincoln Harvey. 

4. Lila by Marilynne Robinson (I know this is already out, but waiting for ppb)

5. Into Your Hand: Confronting Good Friday by Walter Brueggemann (Cascade) - This is Brueggemann on the seven words from the cross, which will be a good addition to ones on my shelf by Hauerwas, Seitz, Rutledge, Willimon and Radcliffe

6. Blue Labour edited by Ian Geary and Adrian Pabst (I. B. Tauris) - with essays by Luke Bretherton and Maurice Glasman and a number of Labour MPs

7. The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge (Eerdmans)

8. Paul and the Gift by John Barclay (Eerdmans)  

9. The State of Believing by Pete Ward (Fortress) 

10. Sharing Friendship by John B. Thompson (Ashgate) 

2014 Reading Highlights

1. Stations of the Heart - The year began by reading Richard Lischer's account of his son Adam's dying. A powerful and challenging read.

2. Born of a Virgin? - This is an excellent detailed exploration by Andrew Lincoln, Professor of New Testament at the University of Gloucester, on the question of whether the New Testament affirms a doctrine of the virgin birth and whether it is a necessary doctrine. 

2. Honey From the Lion - The referundum on Scottish independence dominated 2014, in Scotland at least, the rest of the UK only took notice during the last four weeks, which probably says a lot about the Scottish-English relationship. Honey From the Lion was Doug Gay's well-timed engagement with the question of the ethics of nationalism. Gay argues for the possibility of an ethical nationalism and came out in favour of Scottish independence. This was a book on how political theology should be written.

3. Beyond Old and New Perspectives - A collection of essays edited by Chris Tilling responding to Douglas Campbell's The Deliverance of God, plus responses to the responses from Douglas himself. The soul of Pauline theology is currently a battle between Douglas and Tom (Wright) - see there recent public conversation at Duke here. Beyond Old and New is a great introduction to Douglas' work.

4. A Brief Theology of Sport - Lincoln Harvey's book was brief, almost too brief, but made a great argument for sport theologically, rooting it in the doctrine of creation. Sport and theology have rarely be brought together, at least favourably, and so Harvey's book is a welcome introduction to how a Christian theologian can be an Arsenal season-ticket holder.   

5. Hauerwas: A (Very) Critical Introduction - If Harvey's book is brief, this critical introduction to Hauerwas by Nicholas Healy is equally brief (160 pages). It is certainly provocative as Healy labels Hauerwas as another Schleiermacher, although fans of Hauerwas will probably not be too worried, although John Webster thinks Healy has Hauerwas on the ropes.

6. Ten by John Pritchard - this is a simply conceived book. It is a collection of ten things to say about a variety of topics that concern the Christian faith - why believe in God, relationship to science, key beliefs about Jesus, cliches to avoid. Pritchard, whose just retired as Bishop of Oxford, has yet again written an excellent little and very readable book that helpfully thinks about Christianity.

7. Baptists and the Communion of Saints - Paul Fiddes, Brian Haymes and Richard Kidd have work together on this book (2 chapters each), exploring how Baptists can and should understand and live in light of the doctrine of the communion of the saints. This has never been a big doctrine in the church, and even more so amongst Baptists, so much to enjoy, question, and reflect on.

8. Dominion - This was the major novel I read over the summer. C. J. Samson is the author of a gripping story that explores what might happened if Churchill had not become Prime Minister in 1940 and Great Britain had made peace with Hitler. 

8. Contesting Catholicity - Curtis Freeman gives a tour de force in arguing to both Baptist and non-Baptists of the treasures in Baptist theology that sit them within the wider catholic tradition, at the same time, offering something of what it is to be church that cannot be ignored.

9. The State of Africa - I read this account of the continent of Africa since the 1960s by Martin Meredith during Advent. It left me clinging to the two advent prayers of 'how long?' and 'your kingdom come' as I read about the horrific actions of various colonial and cold war powers as well as a terrible collection of African despots.

10. Walking Backwards From Christmas - a fresh engagement with the overly familiar characters of nativity story from Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford

Walking Backwards to Christmas

Nativity-with-Burning-Bush-1991-Albert-Herbert-1925-2008Stephen Cottrell has written some fantastic books in recent years - 

The Things He Carried: A Journey to the Cross

The Nail: Being Part of the Passion

Christ in the Wilderness: Reflecting on the Paintings of Stanley Spencer

The Things He Said: The Story of the First Easter

 All written for Lent and Easter.

Walking Backwards to Christmas is his first book for Advent and Christmas. 

It's brilliant. In resembles The Nail as it offers a series of monologues from different characters in the story. However rather than telling the story from beginning to end, he tells it from the end to the beginning, beginning with Anna in the temple (Luke 2), and the journeying backwards through Rachel  (a mother who has lost a child to Herod's massacre), Herod, Casper, David (a shepherd), Martha (innkeeper), Joseph, Elizabeth, Mary and back further to Isaiah and finally Moses. Cottrell's inspiration comes from a painting by Albert Herbert, pictured on the front cover called Nativity With the Burning Bush.

Cottrell's imaginative imagining of each character's feelings and choices pushes the traditional story in new directions. Particularly powerful are the chapters on Anna, Rachel, Martha, Elizabeth and Mary - the grief and pain, the conviction and faith.

I used edited selections for our Carols by Candlelight service. It's probably too late to read this book now in Advent, but would make a great read for the 12 days of Christmas, or to wait until next year. 

Preaching the Creed

Picking up again this Sunday after a break for Lent and Easter* a series on the Apostles' Creed. About a year ago a fellow Baptist minister was a doing a similar series and all I could recommend was Van Harn, Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostle's Creed. Having started my own series, have found lots of excellent books. I list below 12, one for each apostle!
  1. Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostles' Creed edited by Roger E. Van Harn (2004)
  2. The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters by Luke Timothy Johnson (2003)
  3. Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief by Rowan Williams (2007)
  4. Nicene Christianity edited by Christoper R. Seitz (2001)
  5. The Rhythm of Doctrine by John Colwell (2013)
  6. Dogmatics in Outline by Karl Barth (1949)
  7. Faith Seeking Understanding by Daniel L. Migliore (2nd Ed., 2004)
  8. The Christian Faith by Colin Gunton (2001)
  9. Loyalty to God: The Apostle's Creed in Life and Liturgy by Theodore W. Jennings, Jr. (1992)
  10. The Apostles' Creed for Today by Justo L. Gonzalez (2007) 
  11. Faith and Film: Theological Themes at the Cinema by Bryan P. Stone (2000)
  12. Reading is Believing: The Christian Faith through Literature and Film by David S. Cunningham (2002)

Others I would like to read, but have not got round to getting a copy are:

    Three Ways in One God: A Reading of the Apostle's Creed by Nicholas Lash

    Christian Doctrine by Mike Higton

* I know we're still officially in Easter!

New Books from British Baptists

Good to see Wipf & Stock supporting British Baptist scholarship.

Over the last few months they have published

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Rob Ellis' book on theology and sport: The Games People Play: Theology, Religion, and Sport

Anne Clements' PhD thesis: Mothers on the Margin? The Significance of the Women in Matthew’s Genealogy

Joshua Searle's PhD thesis: The Scarlet Woman and the Red Hand: Evangelical Apocalyptic Belief in the Northern Ireland Troubles (wins prize for best title!)


Peter Morden's PhD thesis (already published in the UK by the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage): Communion with Christ and His People: The Spirituality of C. H. Spurgeon

In addition, Ian Stackhouse (and Oliver Crisp) have edited Text Message: The Centrality of Scripture in Preaching.

Stations of the Heart: Parting With a Son

Seven days into the new year and just finished my first book. It was Stations of the Heart: Parting With a Son by Richard Lischer (professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School), which is an account of the final ninety-five days of his son's life having being diagnosed with terminal cancer. A strange book perhaps to start the year with. I read it because death and dying shaped 2013 in a particular way and my life as a minister is never far from being with someone who is approaching death or grieving the loss of a loved one. I read it because I'm wanting to read theological memoir more and more ... Hannah's Child by Stanley Hauerwas, The Pastor by Eugene Peterson, Untying the Knots by Paul Vallely (his biography of the Pope Francis) and Kathryn Spinks' The Miracle, The Message and the Story (her biography of Jean Vanier). Stations of the Heart lays bare the journey of both father and son (and family) towards death and grief. It is though a profoundly faith-full book, as Adam (Richard's son) is a witness of dying well, if dying too soon for a life so young.

Nine Other Books on Paul's Theology

As N. T. Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God (2 Vol.) is about to be published, here are nine other important books on Paul's theology all written in the last twenty years (so why no Sanders, Beker, Kasemann, etc)

1. The Deliverance of God by Douglas Campbell

2. Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith by Francis Watson

3. Galatians (and Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul) by J. Louis Martyn

4. The Theology of Paul the Apostle by James Dunn

5. Our Mother Saint Paul by Beverly Gaventa

6. The Conversion of the Imagination by Richard B. Hays

7. Inhabiting the Cruciform God by Michael Gorman

8. Paul and the Gift by John Barclay (forthcoming)

9. Perspectives Old and New on Paul by Stephen Westerholm


Two Books

Over the summer I read Eugene Peterson's The Pastor, his memoir of being a pastor for thirty years. Peterson always writes well and this doesn't disappoint as expected. The book is a must-read alongside Marilynne Robinson's fictional account of John Ames in Gilead for any soon to be, new and probably even old, pastor. Just over three years ago I was ordained as a Baptist minister and Peterson's account of pastoral life, especially after his first three years in a church, feels timely. Like him, I have found that being part of a 'company of pastors' is vital to this life.

Over the last three days, I've read Paul Vallely's Pope Francis: Untying the Knots, which gives an account of the life the new Pope, from Jesuit Priest, to Bishop and Archbishop and now to Pope. The book addresses some of the controversy around Jorge Mario Bergoglio earlier priestly life and argues that a new man emerged, chastened by mistakes, but equipped in terms of character and vision to offer hope for the Roman Catholic church and also for Christianity in a wider sense.