Archive for March, 2011

Who is it that you seek?

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

We seek the Lord our God.

Do you seek Him with all your heart?

Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Do you seek Him with all your soul?

Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Do you seek Him with all your mind?

Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Do you seek Him with all your strength?

Amen. Christ, have mercy.

Some of the readers will immediatelly recognise this part of the morning prayer of the Northumbria Community, with whom we share a warm bond of friendship for a few years already. Part of that friendship is an annual visit of the friends from the  Community to IBTS to hold a Northumbria Week, which has been happening this week. It’s great as always to see Roy, Ken and Jean who were doing classes and workshops for CAT students and others who wanted to join in, and it was good to welcome their friends Andy and Corine Lang who stayed for one night. Andy is a pastor and musician who plays Celtic music on his harp and guitar, so on Tuesday night we had a concert in our local Jeneralka restaurant – the idea was to make it open to folk from the neighbourhood (who would not respond to an invitation to visit us on site!). We were quite a crowd from IBTS, and there were also two visitors who were very curious about who’s going to play what and how and stayed throughout the whole evening with us. The waiters and some other visitors of the restaurant seated in another room were peering in, but trying to look as if they were busy with something else, not standing just for listening.

I think the idea itself – to have a concert in a local eatery/gathering place – was an important one regardles of ‘results’. After all, so many churches struggle with expressions of faith or life of a faith community taken out into a public space, unless for strictly evangelistic or humanitarian purposes. So it was a great exercise – to show that it’s not easy, as people won’t necessarily stream in rows, but worthwile nevertheless, as it conveys a right spirit, and indeed shapes a disposition which goes out to the world rather than expecting pagan folk to turn up in the church, promptly in time for Sunday worship.

The role of Sunday worship was also discussed in the postgraduate seminar Roy Searle led on Wednesday afternoon. The following idea from that seminar stuck with me: how in today’s world, public worship could be helpfully seen as a consequence of coming to Christ, not the starting point. So we spent quite a bit of the discussion time on how worship should inspire (kick?) the followers of Jesus to go out and look for (safe) spaces where others can encounter the God they do not yet know – and also to create such spaces, but that is a topic for another blog entry.

– Lina

Response: We seek the Lord our God.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your heart?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your soul?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your mind?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.
Call: Do you seek Him with all your strength?
Response: Amen. Christ, have mercy.Response: We seek the Lord our God.

Call: Do you seek Him with all your heart?

Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Call: Do you seek Him with all your soul?

Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Call: Do you seek Him with all your mind?

Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Call: Do you seek Him with all your strength?

Response: Amen. Christ, have mercy.

A European Census

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Centuries ago, so the Apostle Luke tells us, the Roman Empire wanted to discover who was where, for the basic desire to make sure they had the right number of people under the control of the Emperor – and that their taxes were being paid!

Today, a European initiative encourages countries to conduct a census in 2011. Across Europe most of us should all fill in census forms, so we can work out how many citizens our countries have and what we believe and what we are all doing and what standard of education we have.

What differs across countries is exactly what information is required. Is it only the United Kingdom that has a question 17 for instance “there is no question 17 – go to question 18”?

Then there is belief. In Britain there is a humanist campaign “For God’s sake say no” as the Census supremo tries to discover how many Muslims, Buddists, Hindus and Christians there are. On the Czech form one cannot be simply “Christian”—about fourteen different denominations are options. So one can declare oneself a member of “Brotherly Union of Czech Baptists” – will there be more than 4000 of us? The form for Lithuania, the country of the last pagans in Europe, suggests choosing from five Christian denominations besides the Catholic, plus Jewish, Muslim, or Karaite faiths. Baptists, being more than ten times smaller compared to the 4000 of the Czech lands, will have to do with specifying the category of “Other.” There is an option, however, of ignoring this question altogether.

And then in education Europeans are generally asked about the highest level of education they have reached. The British as well as Lithuanian forms are rather disparaging at this point. The British, though being the longest form of those surveyed, eventually after stumbling over the non-question 17 suggests putting down Bachelor, Master or Doctor. The Czech form thinks Bachelor isn’t worth the effort but if you are an Engineer, Magister or one of countless Doctors—Medicine, Veterinary Science, Jurisprudence, Philosophy, Theology or Arts—you have an array of choices.

For most of us at IBTS the questions about travel to work will no doubt be easiest.

A detailed examination of the census forms of all EU and EEA countries would reveal many interesting cultural and ethnic obsessions which could provide much food for thought and theological reflection. In the meantime, one of the authors of this blog post is disappointed that in the question “how do you describe yourself” the options only include “British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish” – why not Yorkshire?

– Keith and Lina

What about baptistic theology?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Firstly, an apology – my last post of over one month ago created reactions – I apologise that due to the exigencies of the circumstances people have had to wait for a response! Mia culpa!

What is baptistic theology and where can it be found? It’s easier to start with where it cannot be found!

It cannot be found in the study of a legalistic systematic theologian who sits surrounded by books  thinking great thoughts and writing them down (the Calvin model).

It cannot be found in the monk’s cell reading the Scriptures and worrying about how I am saved and then expressing this to academia (the Luther model)

It might be found with Hubmaier and Zwingli sat down with other pastors and the community worrying about the application of the Word of God to everyday life in community of believers.

In the radical reformation there was that New Testament affirmation that women and men meeting in the community of faith might have the ability by the Holy Spirit to confer together and work out (theologise) the mind of Christ.

So, baptistic theologising does not begin in Oxford, Fuller, Yale, Harvard, IBTS or Spurgeon’s, but in covenanted communities of faith discussing the Word together and singing the faith. This is primary theology – the theology from which we build.

There may be a secondary theology from that primary theology which can be discussed amongst so-called academics, but we need to be clear it is a secondary theology.

This secondary theology is expounded helpfully in the three volumes of Systematic Theology by the late lamented James William McClendon Junior. It starts in a baptistic way with Ethics and only then proceeds to Doctrine.

It is to be discovered in the articles of the Journal of European Studies (now produced over eleven years and available on line via Ebsco) and in Baptistic Theologies. It is to be found in the publications of the Baptist Union of the Netherlands seminary. It can hardly be found in writings of the current generation of Anglo-American Baptist scholars, though Nigel G Wright does take hold of many issues.  E A Payne is an example of someone who took this baptistic/ anabaptistic tradition seriously.

Hopefully, more secondary theological writing will be produced in coming years to challenge the Protestant academic tradition to which many are enthralled.

– Keith