Friday, 22 August 2008

Jonathan Edward's works online

Since 1953 Yale university has been publishing the works of the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Yale received a donation of Edward's papers in 1901. The publishing program was completed in 2007 with 26 beautifully presented volumes. However there are still numerous unpublished manuscripts. Now the centre has opened a beta trial version of Edwards' works online. Incredibly they plan to make available all Edwards' works, including the previously unpublished papers, as well as lots of secondary literature. It really is worth having a look at what is available already on the site, which includes all Edwards' major works. This will be a wonderful resources for scholarship as well as browsing.

The picture is of Edward's house in Stockbridge where he lived as a missionary to the Indians after leaving Northampton.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Information Night - Marriage: Why Bother?

Last night we discovered marriage is definitely worth bothering with - and so is PTC!

Wednesday night 20th August was Information Night 2008, and about 50 men and women came to hear an "Introduction to the PTC" and a sample lecture from John McClean titled "Marriage Why Bother?"

John 'talked up' the value of Ethics as a theological discipline, (as the place where our theology is brought down from the abstract to the real lives Christians live.) Then in his paper 'Marriage Why Bother?', John presented an overview of his own method in Ethics, as well as a demonstration of it in a compelling defence of marriage as foundational to society.

During the night we also heard about the ministry of PTC, with up dates on the latest news (e.g. the new M.A. Units and Ministry Training for Women being offered in 2009.) Along with that we enjoyed singing, prayers and interviews with students.

As I promoted info night 2008 this year I boldly promised great things from John McClean's lecture and so I was rather relieved when he lived up to all my (and our) expectations. I thought I would finish this post with some of the ideas he presented in his sample lecture:
  • Marriage is indeed foundational in our human communities and human experience.
  • Marriage is not for sex. Instead, sex is for marriage.
  • Marriage is the norm in the Old Testament - but something radical happens with the arrival of Jesus. In the New Testament, whilst marriage is still very good and important, singleness becomes an important vocation too.
  • In the eschaton, the goal of human marriage will finally be reached when we enjoy union with the bridegroom, gathered together around Jesus Christ as his perfect bride.
  • Whilst we wait for that day, our singleness and our marriages are important gifts from God to be enjoyed as his servants.
So there it is - while we wait for the return of Christ we should definitely keep on 'bothering '.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Ministry Training for Women Launch

On Friday night we launched our new Ministry Training for Women program. It was a great night and the Knox Room was full with about 80 people from a lot of different churches. People obviously think that MTW will meet a need for flexible, ministry focussed training. MTW  will integrate with any of your awards so we're encouraging women to supplement the MTW material with Biblical and Theological subjects as well as other ministry units. Some women will find that MTW is enough at present and take it as a stand alone. Here is a picture of the crowd enjoying supper and of Carmelina interviewing Fiona Wright.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Information Night - Marriage: Why Bother?

Info night at PTC is next Wednesday night!

John McClean will be speaking at the free public lecture on ‘Marriage: Why bother?’ This will be a great way to help the people in your church to defend their belief in marriage in the market place of ideas.

It’s also a great way to put theological training on the agenda for your church’s emerging leaders.

Open night is a night to explore options for training at PTC, and to hear a lecture which will have practical value for Christians living today.

Information Night
Presbyterian Theological Centre

Wednesday 20 August 2008

If you have any questions, please phone or email me at the college.

I hope we see you there,

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Psalm 23

John McClean asked (in a comment on my recent Carnival posting with reference to David Clines’ recent SBL paper) if I would post on Psalm 23. There is not a lot in how I exegete the Psalm that is original to me, but I have taken on board some of the work of scholars such as D. N. Freedman and Michael Barr√© and John Kselmann (I’ll chase up the references if anyone wants them). I don’t see the Psalm as an extended metaphor about sheep. The only faint “watermark” relating to sheep I see is in the word shepherd, which is such a commonplace ANE term for a king or leader that it has virtually lost all its sheepness in this sort of a context. There may be some double entendres going on with the grass and water, though this language is primarily picking up on exodus language, and applying what in the tradition was the experience of Israel in the wilderness to the individual psalmist. This avoids the awkward shift to the table imagery of v. 5. (We are surely not to think of people being portrayed as sheep who are being portrayed as people!)
Most or all of the expressions of the Psalm are taken from the book of Exodus, or other passages (e.g. Ps. 78:19) which reflect on the exodus experience of God’s people. The “green pastures” is Exodus 15 language for the “abode” God led his people to, etc.
Where I might build on the work of others a bit is in locating the sentiments of the exodus theology in a Biblical-theological trajectory which offers the prospect of eternal security.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Latest Biblical Studies Carnival

John Hobbins is hosting the Biblical Studies Carnival this month - a roundup of recent blogs on matters of interest to biblical scholars and students. This one is helpfully subdivided into three sections and contains lots of useful information and comment, some of which I may find time to get back and comment on later: (1) Rock Hard Rockin’ Scholarship based on Primary Sources; (2) Controversies; and (3) Posts on Specific Texts.

Covenant Theology & McGowan

All this week Andrew McGowan has been teaching an MA subject on "Scottish Covenant Theology". He has been working through a century a day and today will come to the 20th century. At the end of the course he is going to outline his ideas for the future of covenant theology and I know he has suggestions about reformulating it.

During the week he has been able to explore all sorts of issues in the history of the Presbyterian churches in Scotland. Yesterday he shared with the class a complicated chart of all the schisms and reunions since 1560!

It has been great for students to hear about all this history from someone who lives among it and who brings a careful evangelical assessment to it all. There have been about 30 students doing the course. The intensive is a hard form for everyone and I'm sure Andrew and the students will be exhausted by the end of today.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Getting excited about Spurgeon

Last night Andrew McGowan gave the Eliza Ferrie Annual Lecture, looking at "C.H. Spurgeon: Lessons from a Reformed Baptist". He outlined the remarkable life of Spurgeon including being a pastor at 17, the rapid growth of New Park Baptist Church in London when he came a pastor and some of the controversies he was involved in.

The lessons Andrew pointed to were: Spurgeon's concern for the conversion of the lost, his devotion to prayer in his own life and in the church, his commitment to scripture and the centrality of preaching scripture in his ministry, his practical Christianity and concern for the poor and his readiness to stand for truth in controversy.

In middle of a long week of teaching Andrew was very energetic and animated. Given the controversy over his book on Scripture I am sure that other people noticed his vigourous approval of Spurgeon's commitment to the absolute truthfulness of Scripture and his description of the Bible as "inerrant in all it affirms". I don't think it is fair to accuse Andrew of seeking to lead any sort of "downgrade" in the Reformed view of scripture.

There were about 200 people in St James Burwood for the lecture (though I was at the front and did not do a head count, maybe someone else has a better idea of the numbers).

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

PTC on street view

Google maps launched Streetview for Australia today and PTC is there. I don't see how to give a direct link, but if you go to here and enter 77 Shaftesbury Rd, Burwood, NSW you'll see us. You'll also see that we don't present an overwhelming front to the street. Our international and interstate friends might be interested to see where we are in Sydney. If you are ever walking here from the station it might help as well.

The OT and NT and Calvin

One issue which I find myself coming back to regularly is the question of the relation of the Old Testament and the New. Over the last few years I have increasingly appreciated the importance of stressing continuity between the two and working from that as a 'bass line'. Last week I preached in chapel on Jesus as priest and that got me thinking about the fact that the we should not see the temple as something we are freed from but something which we have even more fully, since Christians share in Christ's worship and reign in the heavenly temple.

So I was struck by the following  quote in Calvin on the sacraments, "we must utterly reject that Scholastic dogma … which notes such a great difference between the sacraments of the old and new, as if the former only foreshadowed God's grace but the latter give it as a present reality" (Inst VI.xiv.23). (The word translated 'foreshadow' is "adumbrarint" which can mean outline, but can have the connotation of "screen" or even "obscure", and it has that kind of sense here.) Calvin goes on to make his point from the opening verses of 1 Cor 10, arguing that Paul's point there is based on equality of the Jewish and Christian experience of the sacraments.

The quote struck me because what Calvin calls a "Scholastic dogma" is a very common view in evangelical circles. So often the only relationships between the OT and NT are promise-fulfillment and a relationship of contrast. Calvin reminds us that there is another relationship of continuity. The book of Hebrews illustrates each of these relationships (see Heb 4:1; 11:40; 12:18-29). 

Monday, 4 August 2008

Ministry Training for Women

We have an exciting new development at PTC next year. We are starting a training strand for women, with the creative title Ministry Training for Women (MTW). The idea is that often theological training is designed by men and for men, so here is a strand which is designed for women. Carmelina Read, our Dean of Women, has had a large role in getting this started and we have recruited an advisory board of fine spiritually mature women who will help us shape things. They meet tonight for the first time to cast their eye over the plans.

MTW will mesh in with any study program a woman wants to pursue, from a certificate to an MDiv (or even an MA). It will focus on developing insight and skills for church and evangelistic, teaching and pastoral service; and will be a 'safe' place for women to think and learn about issues which affect how they experience church life. It is not primarily for 'vocational' ministry, but will be part of the training for women who want preparation for that (including our deaconess candidates). As well as lectures and seminars over four years, we will also provide or support mentoring and field education. Students will also be able to work on a project relevant to women's ministry.

MTW has received a fair bit of interest and we are having a launch on Friday 15th August at PTC. Anyone interested is welcome to join us. Let us know if you're coming (so we have enough desert and coffee!). There was an article in the August edition of the Pulse (the magazine of PCNSW) with more details.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Andrew McGowan visit

Andrew McGowan will be at PTC next week and it should be fun. He has been in Australia for a week or so now enjoying some R&R. Next week he will be teaching an MA intensive on Covenant Theology. He wrote his dissertation on Thomas Boston and I expect Boston and the Marrow controversy will get a good run as well as the Torrance critique of covenant theology (which I know Andrew rejects). I am hoping to sit at the back of the class for most of the week and listen  in.

Covenant Theology is a strange beast for many people in Sydney evangelical circles. In my undergraduate training I was never exposed to it in depth, but rather to "Biblical Theology" (√† la Graeme Goldsworthy). I value that approach and make constant use of it. But I never had sufficient exposure to classic covenant theology to be able to compare the two and think about their relationship. It has taken me quite a few years of working on all this to start to put it together in my own mind in a way which gives me some satisfaction. I feel like I can explain it in class sufficiently now days, and I have tried writing some pieces (none have seen the light of day yet). What I'll be interested to see the week is how students interact with Andrew's presentation and what biblical questions they raise and how he deals with them.

On Wednesday night Andrew will give the annual Ferrie Lecture. He will be looking at Charles Spurgeon and asking what lessons we can learn from this great preacher and pastor. It should be an interesting evening. It is on at St James Presbyterian Church Burwood starting at 7:30pm.

There has been a fair bit of controversy about Andrew's recent book The Divine Spiration of Scripture. Ian was positive about it when he read it a few months ago but there have been plenty of negative reviews. Rowland Ward gave a balanced but critical review and Guy Davies has a more positive though still wary approach. Doctrine of Scripture is not going to be the focus of the week, but I expect that we will hear a bit about Andrew's motivation for writing and his reflections on the responses.