Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The book that had to be written!

In the PTC library the other day I picked up a new book: Power and Poverty by Dewi Hughes. It brings together two very disparate themes. The front cover tells you that it is about global poverty. But the table of contents is redemptive historical and shouts "biblical theology". The structure is what you might expect in a biblical theology - Genesis 1-11, Abraham, government in Israel, laws in the Mosaic covenant; Christ as ruler, teacher and judge, the gift of the Spirit; and then the church and its place in God's world. Books on Biblical theology often show the rich thematic connections in Scripture, but do not have a strong connection with ethics, espcially social ethics. There are exceptions to this in the work Brian Rosner, Craig Blomberg, Tim Chester and Chris Wright.

Hughes continues in the trajectory of Chris Wright, and looks at the theme of power and poverty in the Bible. Often studies of those themes are entirley focussed on social ethics and do not relate the themes to wider redemptive history. Hughes does this well. Not only does he look at the social ethics of the Old Testament he relates that to God's purpose for Israel, and considers Israel in its biblical-theological position. More than that he traces these themes into the New Testament through Christology and then into the church.

Hughes makes the case that poverty and injustice are Biblical concerns and are not impositions from an illict political perspective. I went through a stage when I thought that a faithful Christian had to be apolitical, but over time I kept noticing that so many passages demand that we should take notice of political issues. That does not mean taking strong views in party politics, but it does mean a concern for justice and care for the poor. I've also seen more and more of that Christian social ethics has to come through the church. The church must be a community of justice and mercy. When it is this it is a witness to the world of what it should be, an anticipation of the new creation and a centre from which justice and mercy may flow. I've seen this, not by moving away from Biblical Theology, but by reflecting on the Bible as it present redemptive history. It is exciting to read Hughes making this case so well.

Hughes does not claim that Power and Poverty answers the practical questions of addressing poverty. What he aims to do is to show that Bible believing Christians have to be concerned about it, and that the Bible gives us very important perspectives on global political issues.

Hughes is the Theological Advisor for Tearfund in the UK and a member of The Lausanne Movement's Theology Working Group.

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